Next we look at Empedocles, who is influenced by his predecessors the Milesians, Pythagoras, Heraclitus as well as Parmenides. Empedocles holds that the soul is immoral, trapped in an earthly body of decay (think Pythagoras). The soul may purify itself and rise to higher and higher ranks of perfection. As for the material world, it is composed of four elements—earth, air, fire and water (think the Milesians). They do not coming into being or pass out of existence. Instead they mingle and then separate, always in flux. And what moves them? Two principles, named Love and Strife. So yes, even Hesiod shows up in Empedocles’ writings. Love and Strife are not physical realities, but principles of force, either drawing elements together (Love) or pushing them apart (Strife). Love, for example, keeps all the bones and limbs of a body together. While he sometimes speaks of Love and Strife in physical terms, often he does not. It is clearly a metaphysical insight bursting out of the ground and blooming like a sapling in early spring.
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Whenever I hear the readings for today’s Mass, I’m tempted by the grumbling to be discouraged all over again. In the First Reading, the whole Israelite community grumbled; in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he has to exhort the people not to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; and in …READ MORE