Like other Pre-Socratic philosophers, Empedocles was interested in understanding what the world was made of. Unlike other philosophers who claimed that one element was the basis for everything, Empedocles claimed all four elements—water, air, earth, and fire—stood on equal terms as basic elements of the earth. For Empedocles, the interweaving of these elements was caused by two forces—love and strife.
Empedocles also held to a crude form of evolution in which chance formed matter into isolated body parts: unsocketed eyes, heads without necks, and arms without shoulders. By chance, these body parts came together and linked into living organisms. In fact, there could have been ox-headed humans at one time.
Empedocles believed in the transmigration of souls. He told his followers to not eat animals since their bodies were the dwelling places of punished souls. He, himself, believed he had experienced transmigration himself: “I was once in the past a boy, once a girl, once a tree. Once too a bird, once a silent fish in the sea.”
Empedocles was an active politician and physician. He used magic and drugs to heal people. It was once reported that he raised a woman to life who had been dead 30 days. Empedocles claimed to be a god and threw himself into the volcano Etna to establish his divinity.