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[1000a] [1] Hence just as, if the elements of language1 were limited in number, the whole of literature would be no more than those elements—that is, if there were not two nor more than two of the same <so it would be in the case of existing things and their principles>.2

(ix.) There is a difficulty, as serious as any, which has been left out of account both by present thinkers and by their predecessors: whether the first principles of perishable and imperishable things are the same or different. For if they are the same, how is it that some things are perishable and others imperishable, and for what cause?The school of Hesiod, and all the cosmologists, considered only what was convincing to themselves, and gave no consideration to us. For they make the first principles Gods or generated from Gods, and say that whatever did not taste of the nectar and ambrosia became mortal—clearly using these terms in a sense significant to themselves;but as regards the actual applications of these causes their statements are beyond our comprehension. For if it is for pleasure that the Gods partake of them, the nectar and ambrosia are in no sense causes of their existence; but if it is to support life, how can Gods who require nourishment be eternal?

However, it is not worth while to consider seriously the subtleties of mythologists; we must ascertain [20] by cross-examining those who offer demonstration of their statements why exactly things which are derived from the same principles are some of an eternal nature and some perishable. And since these thinkers state no reason for this view, and it is unreasonable that things should be so, obviously the causes and principles of things cannot be the same.Even the thinker who might be supposed to speak most consistently, Empedocles, is in the same case; for he posits Strife as a kind of principle which is the cause of destruction, but none the less Strife would seem to produce everything except the One; for everything except God3 proceeds from it.At any rate he says

From which grew all that was and is and shall be

In time to come: the trees, and men and women,

The beasts and birds and water-nurtured fish,

And the long-living Gods.4

And it is obvious even apart from this;

1 Or "letters of the alphabet." Cf. Aristot. Met. 1.9.36n.

2 For the answer to the problem see Aristot. Met. 12.4-5, Aristot. Met. 13.10.

3 The expressions "the One" and "God" refer to Empedocles' Sphere: the universe as ordered and united by Love. Cf. Empedocles, Fr. 26-29 (Diels).

4 Empedocles, Fr. 21. 9-12.

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