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Hermann Diels on the Presocratics: Empedocles' double destruction of the cosmos (Aetius ii 4.8)

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Stobaeus records a placitum where Empedocles says that the world is destroyed by the domination in turn of Love and of Strife. The placitum makes perfectly good sense in the context of Empedocles' belief that Love and Strife produce, in turn, a non-cosmic state of total unity (Love) and of total separation (Strife). But for over two hundred years scholars have been unable to hear that simple message.

Sturz (1805) emended the text so as to make it fit the non-cyclical interpretation of Empedocles that he had taken over from the pages of Tiedemann (1791). When Diels included Stobaeus' text in his edition of Aetius, in the Doxographi graeci (1879), he failed to remove the emendation, although his own reconstruction of the chapter heading in Aetius made the emendation impossible. Twenty years later, Diels saw the light, and printed Stobaeus' placitum, unemended, in his Poetarum philosophorum fragmenta (1901) and in successive editions of his Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (from 1903 onwards). But Kranz resurrected the emendation in the Nachträge to his sixth edition of the Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (1951). The emended placitum is used again by Uvo Hölscher (1965) to support a non-cyclical interpretation of Empedocles and is repeated in the latest collection of the fragments and testimonia (Brad Inwood, 1992).

Hölscher fails to appreciate that the text that he uses to support his reconstruction is merely Sturz's translation into Greek of the non-cyclical interpretation of Empedocles proposed by Tiedemann at the end of the eighteenth century.


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