Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
108. Strife and Love 110. The Four Periods

From Chapter V., Empedokles of Akragas

109. Mixture and Separation
But, when Strife has separated the elements, what determines the direction of their motion? Empedokles seems to have given no further explanation than that each was "running" in a certain direction (fr. 53)., Plato severely condemns this in the Laws,90 on the ground that no room is thus left for design. Aristotle also blames him for giving no account of the Chance to which he ascribed so much importance. Nor is the Necessity, of which he also spoke, further explained.91 Strife enters into the Sphere at a certain time in virtue of Necessity, or "the mighty oath" (fr. 30); but we are told no more about that.

The expression used by Empedokles to describe the movement of the elements is that they "run through each other" (fr. 17, 34.). Aristotle tells us92 that he explained mixture in general by "the symmetry of pores." And this is the true explanation of the "attraction of like for like." The "pores" of like bodies are, of course, much the same size, and these bodies can therefore mingle easily. On the other hand, a finer body will "run through" a coarse one without becoming mixed, and a coarse body will not be able to enter the pores of a finer one at all. As Aristotle says, this really implies something like the atomic theory; but there is no evidence that Empedokles himself was conscious of that. Another question raised by Aristotle is even more instructive. Are the pores, he asks, empty or full? If empty, what becomes of the denial of the void? If full, why need we assume pores at all?93 These questions Empedokles would have found it hard to answer.

Burnet's Notes


90. Plato, Laws, x. 889 b. The reference is not to Empedokles exclusively, but the language shows that Plato is thinking mainly of him.

91. Arist. De gen. corr. B, 6. 334 a 1; Phys. Θ, 1. 252 a 5 (R. P. 166 k).

92. Arist. De gen. corr. A, 8. 324 b 34 (R. P. 166 h).

93. Arist. De gen. corr. A, 8. 326 b 6.

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