eclectic combination four-element scheme


Senior Member
From "The sociology of philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change," by Randall Collins, 1998:

"External political forces broke up this local structure in the late 500s. Xenophanes left in the Persian conquest of Ionia in 545 (DSB, 1981: 14:536), Pythagoras perhaps 15 years later. The shift in philosophy that came with the move to Magna Graecia is not a matter of geographical determinism. The “Italian” or “Eleatic” schools were continuations of the Ionian networks; the “Italian” (actually Sicilian) Empedocles produced an eclectic combination four-element scheme (earth, air, fire, water) by recombining the material elements of Ionian cultural capital."

I have two questions about this segment. What does 'number-element scheme' stand for? It think it can simply mean a scheme consisting of a given number of elements, but it might be referring to something more technical in this context, true? The other point is that I understand 'combination' to be a noun. Is it grammatically correct to insert a noun between two adjectives? Like that [electic (adj) combination (n) four-element (adj) scheme (n)] If yes, what would that noun mean?
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  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yes, a 'four-element scheme' is one composed of four elements. In this case, it consists of the four elements listed in parenthesis.

    A noun may be used as an adjective, and a 'combination scheme' is a scheme produced by combining two or more schemes. In this case, it is eclectic: it combines the elements used in previous philosophical systems, systems which may have had a different number of elements or included elements not included in the system Empedocles adopted.

    Element here has the meaning: substance regarded as the fundamental constituent of the world in ancient and medieval philosophy. Although our dictionary lists the four elements given in your text, other ancient philosophers had different ideas about the number of elements and what they were.


    Senior Member
    ইংরেজি - আমেরিক
    The construction looks perfectly normal to me: an eclectic combination in apposition to a four-element scheme. A four-element scheme is a scheme that has four elements. The author even lists those four elements.

    Added: Cross-posted with Cagey.
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