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Empedocles, 17th-century engraving
|Born||c. 490 BC|
|Died||c. 430 BC (aged around 60)|
Mount Etna, Sicily
|Main interests||Cosmogenesis, ontology, epistemology|
|Notable ideas||All matter is made up of four elements: water, earth, air and fire|
The cosmic principles of
Philotes ("Love") and Neikos ("Repulsion")
Theories about respiration
Empedocles' philosophy is best known for being the origin of the cosmogenic theory of the four classical elements in the Western world. He also proposed powers called Love and Strife which would act as forces to bring about the mixture and separation of the elements. These physical speculations were part of a history of the universe which also dealt with the origin and development of life.
Influenced by the Pythagoreans, he supported the doctrine of reincarnation. Empedocles is generally considered the last Greek philosopher to record his ideas in verse. Some of his work still survives today, more so than in the case of any other Presocratic philosopher. Empedocles' death was mythologized by ancient writers, and has been the subject of a number of literary treatments.