Empedocles and the Four Elements

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Werner Horvath: “The pre-Socratic Philosopher Empedocles and the Four Elements” – Oil on canvas, 100 x 70 cm, 2016

Empedocles was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles’ philosophy is best known for originating the cosmogenic theory of the four classical elements. He also proposed forces he called Love and Strife which would mix as well as separate the elements. These physical speculations were part of a history of the universe which also dealt with the origin and development of life. (Wikipedia)

The four elements are Fire, Earth, Water and Air. His theory of developmment of life can be seen as an early theory of evolution.

Influenced by the Pythagoreans, Empedocles was a vegetarian who supported the doctrine of reincarnation. He is generally considered the last Greek philosopher to have recorded his ideas in verse. Some of his work survives, more than is the case for any other pre-Socratic philosopher. Empedocles’ death was mythologized by ancient writers (suicide in Mount Etna?), and has been the subject of a number of literary treatments.

“There are forces in nature called Love and Hate. The force of Love causes elements to be attracted to each other and to be built up into some particular form or person, and the force of Hate causes the decomposition of things.”

This painting is the middle part of a triptych entitled “Pre-Socratic Philosophers and the Four Elements”:

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Peace Heroes Walk Vienna

I am very happy that I could accompany the “Peace Heroes Walk Vienna” with my pictures! The route led from Stephansplatz to the university, the mood was great. My special thanks go to Dr. Klaus Renoldner, President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, as well as to Liska Blodgett and Ali Ahmad, both Peace Museum Vienna.

Werner Horvath

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