11 - All You Need is Love, and Five Other Things: Empedocles

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Peter discusses the Presocratic philosopher Empedocles and his principles: Love, Strife, and the four “roots,” or elements.



Further Reading

P. Curd, “A New Empedocles? Implications of the Strasburg Fragments for Presocratic Philosophy,” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 17 (2001), 27-50.

X. Gheerbrant, Empédocle: une poétique philosphique (Paris: 2017).

D.W. Graham, “Symmetry in the Empedoclean Cycle,” Classical Quarterly 38 (1988), 297-312.

B. Inwood, The Poem of Empedocles (Toronto: 1992).

A. Martin and O. Primavesi, L'Empédocle de Strasbourg (Berlin: 1999).

D. O’Brien, Empedocles’ Cosmic Cycle (Cambridge: 1969).

D. O’Brien, “Empedocles Revisited,” Ancient Philosophy 15 (1995), 403–470.

O. Primavesi, “The Structure of Empedocles’ Cosmic Cycle: Aristotle and the Byzantine Anonymous,” in A.L. Pierris (ed.), The Empedoclean Kosmos: Structure, Process and the Question of Cyclicity (Patras: Institute for Philosophical Research, 2005), 245-64.

S. Trépanier, Empedocles: an Interpretation (New York: 2004).

M.R. Wright, Empedocles: the Extant Fragments (New Haven: 1981).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Empedocles

Classic Persuasion: Empedocles


Renee Vaughn on 5 May 2014

Very Bosch

As in Hieronymus.

How cool to have discovered the original work. Call me a geek, but I got chills.

Good reference for book nerds- all about how our brains had to develop to read and the inventions that helped us do it (and shaped society as a result). And science still has no clue how we do it!

A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel

Is there a reference for the paintings you use? I recognize some.

In reply to by Renee Vaughn

Peter Adamson on 5 May 2014


I get pretty much all the images off of Wikicommons, which makes free-to-use material available (they have music and other media too).

Hawa on 20 February 2015


Are you trying to include a reference to giraffes in every podcast? Thank you for a great series.



In reply to by Hawa

Peter Adamson on 21 February 2015


No, actually there are quite a few episodes where giraffes don't get mentioned. But they do come up a lot, I suppose because of the long necks.

Gus on 20 February 2016

Philosophers, ancient and not so!

Dear Peter,

I am absolutely in awe and transfixed by what you have done/are trying to achieve with your wonderful website!

Could I possibly be so bold as to suggest you have a read of a 'modern day philosopher' from Australia called Jeremy Griffith. He has written a wonderful (in my opinion) book called 'Freedom - The End of the Human Condition' as yet to be published but available for free on the website. He is a thinker at the highest level and I hope you can make a connection with his work.

With kind regards and respect for what you have done with your website!


Ron on 17 September 2018

Empedocles, father & son

Hello Prof. Adamson,

Am making my way through your excellent podcast series. Thanks very much. G8 joy.

On the episode about Empedocles you told the story about the father slaying his son, with the idea of incarnation as an animal sacrificed on the altar.

During the Jewish high Holidays, it is customary to read or refer to the story of the binding of Issac. The similarity between these stories, including the ram that saved Issac is obvious.

Do you know of any study into this question?


Many thanks,


In reply to by Ron

Jamie Bronstein on 19 February 2021

Ron, I had the same thought

So we have the binding of Isaac, and then within Empedocles's own lifetime, assertions that he could raise people from the dead. It seems like in ancient times there was a ton of mythology floating around, waiting to be stuck together randomly into new forms.

Omar on 17 April 2021

Hold on, we shouldn’t eat…

Hold on, we shouldn’t eat meat because a loved one could come back as an animal? Well, if Empedocles was once a bush, shouldn’t that mean your loved ones could also come back as fruits and vegetables?

In reply to by Omar

Peter Adamson on 17 April 2021

Loved ones as plants

Yes, good point! Maybe the thought is that if the loved one is a plant, it can't experience being eaten?

Actually Porphyry, in his late ancient treatise on vegetarianism, raises the question why we should even eat plants since that still involves killing, and answers that to refrain from eating entirely would be suicide, which is a worse sin. So he takes the issue seriously.

Louis on 24 May 2021

Is the link broken?

Just heard episode 10 and had to skip to episode 12. Looks like this one is not working.

In reply to by Louis

Peter Adamson on 24 May 2021


Seems ok to me, are you still having trouble with it? You mean the streaming link here on the website, right? Sometimes these seem to stop working temporarily but then fix themselves, which is rather mysterious.

Joanna Sheldon on 21 January 2022

Oxen mating with Oxen??

I'm enjoying the podcast. Just want to point out that oxen are male cattle used for work so they're almost always castrated. This makes it doubly impossible for oxen to mate with oxen. Thanks again for your good work.

In reply to by Joanna Sheldon

Peter Adamson on 22 January 2022

Oxen and oxen

Oh dear, good point. I wonder if you are the first person to notice this! The podcast episode has been out there for more than a decade...

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