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Chapter 3 - Empedocles

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2021

Tom Mackenzie
Affiliation:
University College London
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Summary

This chapter begins by tracing the implications of Empedocles’ philosophy for poetry, arguing that he valorises the medium against criticisms expressed by earlier Presocratics. His cosmology provides systematic explanation for poetic beauty as deriving from Love. He uses the imagery of craftsmanship for the composition of his poetry, making it seem analogous to the products of Love, the divine craftswoman. This point is significant for the history of Greek poetics, since some scholars have argued that the artisanal conception of poetry emerges only at a later period. The chapter then focuses on Empedocles’ use of narrative, arguing that two particular plot-types structure the surviving fragments: the wandering exile who arrives in triumph at a new destination and the process of mystic initiation. Finally, it explores the significance and effects of Empedocles’ use of these narratives. He expands to cosmic proportions the familiar pattern of the blood-exile who achieves purification on arrival at a new location through the instigation of new institutions. The process of being ‘initiated’ into Empedocles’ philosophy involves an initially fearsome but ultimately exhilarating and sublime emotional trajectory which results in the student/initiate gaining a deeper insight into the workings of the universe.

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Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
Reading Xenophanes, Parmenides and Empedocles as Literature
, pp. 102 - 176
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Empedocles
  • Tom Mackenzie, University College London
  • Book: Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
  • Online publication: 05 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108921084.004
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  • Empedocles
  • Tom Mackenzie, University College London
  • Book: Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
  • Online publication: 05 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108921084.004
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Empedocles
  • Tom Mackenzie, University College London
  • Book: Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
  • Online publication: 05 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108921084.004
Available formats
×