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EMPEDOCLES OF AGRIGENTUM:

Greek philosopher and disciple of Pythagoras; flourished in the fifth century B.C.

Empedocles' system, modified by the Neoplatonic school, entered into Arabic philosophy, and found exponents among the Jewish philosophers of Spain of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. A certain Mohammed ben Abdallah ibn Masarrah, at thebeginning of the tenth century, brought from the Orient to Spain divers works wrongly attributed to Empedocles.

The most renowned representative of the pseudo-Empedocles' system among Jewish philosophers was Ibn Gabirol. Universal matter, embracing all simple and composite substances, to which the immediate action of the will of God was confined, forms the basis of his "Meḳor Ḥayyim"; and Shem-Ṭob, its Hebrew translator, expressly says that Gabirol expounded therein the theories contained in Empedocles' "On the Quintessence" (Munk, "Mélanges de Philosophie Juive et Arabe," p. 3). Moses ibn Ezra, in his "'Arugat ha-Bosem" ("Zion," ii. 134), cites the opinion of Empedocles to the effect that attributes can not be ascribed to God. Judah ha-Levi, in the "Cuzari" (iv. 358, v. 406), mentions several times the school of Empedocles, which he criticizes, as he does also those of the other philosophers. Joseph ibn Ẓaddiḳ ("'Olam Ḳaṭan," p. 52) recommends the works of Empedocles on the primal will; while Maimonides ("Pe'er ha-Dor," p. 28b), as a pure Aristotelian, advises Ibn Tibbon not to waste his time on the works of Empedocles.

Many traces of Empedocles' teachings are found in the Cabala. The divine principle of love, which plays so great a part in his system, is emphasized in the Zohar. "In love," says the Zohar, "is found the secret of divine unity; it is love that unites the higher and lower stages, raising the lower to the level of the higher, where all must be one" (Zohar, Wayaḳhel, ii. 216a; see Jew. Encyc. iii. 476, s.v. Cabala).

Bibliography:
  • Shahrastani, Kitab al-Milal, pp. 261 et seq.;
  • Munk, Mélanges de Philosophie Juive et Arabe, p. 241;
  • Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. xiii. 16;
  • Kaufmann, Die Attributenlehre in der Jüdischen Religionsphilosophie des Mittelalters, pp. 125, 128, 309;
  • idem, Studien über Salomo Ibn Gabirol, 1899.
K. I. Br.
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