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Empedocles Cosmic Cycle

Empedocles Cosmic Cycle

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Empedocles' Cosmic CycleAuthor(s): Denis O'BrienSource:
The Classical Quarterly,
New Series, Vol. 17, No. 1 (May, 1967), pp. 29-40Published by:
on behalf of
Stable URL:
Accessed: 18/12/2010 22:08
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EMPEDOCLES'COSMICCYCLE
HITHERTO
reconstructionsofEmpedocles'cosmiccyclehaveusuallybeenoffered aspartof alargerwork,acompletehistoryof Presocraticthought,oracomplete studyofEmpedocles.Consequentlythere hasperhapsbeenalackofthoroughnessincollectingandsiftingevidencethat relatesexclusivelytothe mainfeaturesofthe cosmiccycle.Thereis in factprobablymoreevidenceforEmpedocles'main viewsthanfor those ofanyotherPresocraticexceptParmenides in hisWayofTruth.From a close examinationof thefragmentsand ofthesecondarysources,principallyAristotle,Plutarch,andSimplicius,therecanbeformedareasonablycompletepictureofthe maintemporalandspatialfeaturesofEmpedocles'cosmiccycle.'IInfr.17Empedoclesdescribeshow the worldgrowsto be one frommanyand thenagaingrows apartto bemanyfrom one. Thisallowsus todistinguishinitiallytwoprocessesofunificationandseparationandtwostatesofcom-pletedunityandcompleted separation.But wemustkeepanopenmindontherelative duration ofthesetimesand ontheconditionof the worldparticularlyatthetwo terminal states ofcompleteunityandcomplete separation.In thePhysicsAristotle tellsusthatEmpedocles'world moved and wasatrestinturn.z Thatthere ismovementwhen the elements arebecomingoneorbecoming manyisclearbothinitselfandfrom what Aristotletellsus:
KLVELUOL
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EK
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ut itisnotclear whether the worldisatrest forboth
inbetweentimes,completeunityandcompleteseparation,orforonlyone.
Aristotle'suseofsingularandplural,T•vpe-aeTXpdvov4anddv
-0ot-'ET-aV
Xpdvos,5s no indicationeitherway.Thereforethe sense of Aristotle'sremarkshas to bedeterminedfrompassageselsewhereinhis works.In the Degeneratione
etcorruptioneAristotlesaysthat theelementsarosefromtheSphere
uta
77/1vKLV•7wa
.6This mostnaturallyimpliesthatseparationandmovement
begantogether.Itwould bepossiblebutlesssimpletosupposethatbeforetheelementswereseparatedtheSpherewasmovingin somelessgeneticfashion.In the DecaeloAristotletwiceimpliesthat at theotherterminalpoint,com-pleteseparation,theelementsweremoving.Heisarguingforthepriorityofnaturalmovement.7Without a world orbeforethe worldbegantherecouldnotbe,asPlato and theAtomistssupposed,disorderedmovementexistingonitsown.Therecould notbeanymovement,onlyrest.ThusAnaxagorasisrightinprincipleto start hiscosmogonyfrom aunitythatwas atrest. Aristotle
continues:
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8E
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Thisarticlesummarizes the results ofalongerworkpreparedunderthesupervisionofProfessorW. K.C.Guthrie,whohasverykindlymadeoneortwocorrectionsto thepresentessay.Ishouldperhapsremark thatthisarticlewascompletedbeforetheap-pearanceofU.H61lscher,'Weltzeiten undLebenszyklus,eineNachpriifungderEm-
pedokles-Doxographie',ermesciii(1965),7-33.H61scher'senialofanycyclic repeti-tioninEmpedocleseems tomeverymis-guided.
2
250ob26-251a5
and
252a5-32.
3
250a27-29.
4
252a9.
s
250b29.
6315a22.73ooa20ff
 
30D. O'BRIEN
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a.hecontextclearlyimpliesthatEmpedocleswascommitted tostartingthegenerationofincreasingLovefromelementsthat wereseparateandmoving.Given thecontext,therewould be nopointin thecriticismifthe elementshadbeenseparateand at rest.Alittleearlier inthesamediscussionAristotlecriticizes thebirthofanimalpartsunderincreasingLoveimmediatelyaftercriticizingthe randomprecosmicmovementofthe Timaeus:
E'
8~
rouoi3TovEr7TawEpOLT
v
rL&, tOTEpovvvarvo
ooX
vOlTV7V7LVOjvaEtL aKtClKalcotlyvvuOattLavlls aiELsAgEVtai,eCrOvoCfAritoratleaKark
S
wouLVnVVthLisECL
xa4cli7a,E'
'
8olov
orrd
at
U'apKas,KauarEpEpkT4TE8oKASbr77fy•tE•aOa
tT
t
7j9S
ObtAo'7-rog-
AE'YEL
ya%w"
"roAAct'
LE'VKOPcYELGvavXEvEsg
fAacrr?7aav".
Aristotle'sremarkfairlyclearlypresupposesthatbeforeEmpedocles'elementsaremadeinto flesh andbonetheyarealready moving.Theirmovementis
dTaKT••9
becauseatthebeginningof Love'sworld movementis stilllargelycontrolledbyStrife.3Againthepointof Aristotle'sremarkwouldinthiscontext belargelylost if themovement ofthe elements atthebeginningofincreasingLovehadbeen initiatedfromatime ofrest.Thesetwopassagesfrom theDecaeloconfirmtheinterpretationof the Degenerationetcorruptione.If the elements undercompleteStrifeweremoving,there is notime whentheycanhave been atrestexceptin theSphere.Simpliciusspeaksoftworestperiodsin eachcycle,restundercompletemovementandrest at thetimeofcompleteseparation.4Simplicius'extensivequotations,sandhisabilitytoillustratetopicssuch asthe role of Love6 or theadmission ofchance7withquotationsofhis ownchoosing,makeitvery likelythathe had accessto thewholeofthephysicalpoem.Butthealternation intime betweenthe oneandthemanydoesnotseriouslyengage Simplicius'attention:forEmpedocles'alternationSimpliciussees asdescribingnmythicaltermsthedifferencebetweentheintelligibleandthe sensibleworld.8Em-pedoclesneverreallyintended thereto be atime whenStrifewouldbeincompletecontroloftheworldand theelementswouldbefully separated.9Consequentlyit is not unnaturalforSimpliciusto let himselfbeguidedonthedetailsofalternaterestandmovementbywhat hesupposesAristotleissaying.Butwehave seenthatAristotlein thePhysicssambiguous.He doesnot makeitclear whetherheisthinkingofonerestperiodin eachcycleor of two.Itiseasyto seewhySimpliciuschoosestheinterpretationthathedoes,thewronginterpretationasithappens.Foron Aristotelianprinciples,betweenopposedmovementsrestmust
intervene;o?
andbecomingonefrommanyandmanyfromone areopposedmovementsparexcellence."aterSimpliciusshowsclearly
I
30ai4-i8.300b25-31*
3Cf.Degen.et corr.333bi6-2oandb22-33.
Thepointofthispassageis thatinitiallyAristotleexpectsLovetobethecauseofnaturalmovementandStrifethecauseofunnaturalmovement.Hearguesthatinfact thereverseturns outtobe thecase,forhispurposeis to indicatea lackofcon-sistencyinEmpedocles'system.4 Phys.I125-15-22.
5
Simpliciusquotesovera hundredandfiftyversesorpartversesof thephysicalpoem.Thiswould accountforfromseventoeight percent. of thewholework,if weacceptthefigurein theSuda,s.v.
'E1rrE0o-
KAS9,f
2,000
versesforthephysicalpoem.
6
De
caelo
528.
29-530.I-.
7
Phys. 330. 31-331.I6.8Sample passagesarePhys.31.18-34.17,16o.
22-161.
13,
1123.25--1124.
18,I186.30-35;DecaeloI40.25-141.II,294.10-13,530.12-16,590.19-591.6.9Decaelo530.22-26,cf.Phys.I12I.17-21.
10
Phys.26Ia3I--b26."I
Phys.229a7-b22.

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