Freud and Empedocles, Part 1

By Ryan Smith

“No one can foresee in what guise the nucleus of truth contained in the theory of Empedocles will present itself to later understanding.” – Freud: Analysis Terminable and Interminable §6

Empedocles (ca. 490-430 BCE) is the earliest Western thinker to whom Freud ever referred.[1] Just as Heraclitus was Jung’s favorite Empedocleredopre-Socratic, so Empedocles was Freud’s archaic muse. Like Freud, Empedocles was not only a theoretical thinker, but also a practical healer. Both men drew a substantial part of their identities from being physicians (or at least from considering themselves as such) while at the same time both of their oeuvres went far beyond the scope of pursuits that were purely medical. ...

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