Catherine Rowett: "Which Things have Divine Names in Empedocles and Why?"

Catherine Rowett (East Anglia): "Which Things have Divine Names in Empedocles and Why?". Listen to the talk here.

For a handout complementing Catherine's talk click here


This paper starts from the hunch that when Empedocles uses a personal name, and a divine one in particular, for something, this indicates that the item in question is not inert matter, but rather is an agent or power with capacities of its own, including the ability to alter its behaviour at will, by becoming more affectionate or less affectionate for instance. My hypothesis is that, with a few exceptions, the cosmic changes that Empedocles is interested in, which affect the world and all that is in it, are voluntary: they are deliberate changes adopted by personal agents in the cosmos and motivated by their changing attitudes and desires. Empedocles’ ontology is therefore not an ontology of things or stuffs, but an ontology of spirits or agents.

To test my hypothesis in the paper, I shall examine in turn the names that Empedocles uses for (a) Love and Strife, (b) the four roots, and (c) the heavenly bodies. In sections four and five I shall investigate his references to (d) the traditional Olympian gods, and (e) the Muse and some lists of other obscure divinities and powers. Hopefully I shall also manage to mention the Sphairos at some point.