From wandering limbs to limbless Gods: δαίμων as Substance in Empedocles

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Abstract

This study offers a unified interpretation of Empedocles’ thought, based on his concept of the δαίμων. Following Simplicius’ testimony to B 59, the case is made for understanding each δαίμων not only as a compound, but as an instance of a natural kind, a pre-Aristotelian material substance. Its two main attested instances are limbs or body parts (B 59) and long-lived but ‘limbless’ gods (B 29 and especially B 134). The case for limbs as substances is confirmed by a review of Aristotle’s various criticisms of Empedocles and new evidence for Empedocles’ embryology in section c of the Strasburg papyrus. The link between limbs and limbless gods, it is then suggested, is mediated by an Empedoclean scale of nature based on a hierarchy of elemental blends. This in turn makes it possible to identify the reincarnated δαίμων of B 115 as an intermediate between the other two: a body part whose blend is superior to the limbs, so that it endures from one body to the next, but which remains too contaminated by Strife to escape from further reincarnation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172–210
JournalApeiron
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Empedocles
  • substance
  • biology
  • theology
  • reincarnation
  • Plato
  • Aristotle

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