Volume 9, Issue 2, Spring 2005
Special Issue: The Ancient Philosophy Society
James Eric Butler
Taking as a guiding theme his claim that “there are effluvia from all things that have come to be,” (DK B89), the author presents a reading of Empedocles that stresses the central role of effluvia in his natural philosophy. In presentations of Empedocles, the tradition has usually emphasized the importance of the elements—earth, air, water, fire, Love, and Strife. But as an alternative to that tradition, the author here argues that one must bring to the forefront the role of the effluvia, which give to Empedocles’ cosmology a fluid, viscous character. The history of western natural science has been dominated by a mechanics of solid bodies following, however indirectly, in the tradition of the atoms and void of early Greek atomism. Empedocles represents a forgotten exception to that history, and the present paper attempts to return to his philosophy, unearth its fluid mechanical foundations, and present a challenging alternative to the dominant physical paradigm.