AnaximanderFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThis article is about the Pre-Socratic philosopher. For other uses, see Anaximander (disambiguation). Anaximander (Ἀναξίμανδπορ) Detail of Raphaels painting The School of Athens, 1510–1511. This could be a representation of Anaximander leaning towards Pythagoras on his left. Full name Anaximander (Ἀναξίμανδπορ) Born c. 610 BC Died c. 546 BC (aged around 64) Era Pre-Socratic philosophy Region Western Philosophy
School Ionian Philosophy, Milesian school, Naturalism Main interests Metaphysics, astronomy,geometry, geography Notable ideas The apeiron is the firstprinciple Influenced by[show] Influenced[show]Anaximander /əˌnæksɨˈmændər/ (Greek: Ἀναξίμανδπορ, Anaximandros; c. 610 – c. 546 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia; Milet in modern Turkey. He belonged tothe Milesian school and learned the teachings of his master Thales. He succeeded Thales and became thesecond master of that school where he counted Anaximenes and arguably, Pythagoras amongst his pupils.Little of his life and work is known today. According to available historical documents, he is the first philosopherknown to have written down his studies, although only one fragment of his work remains. Fragmentarytestimonies found in documents after his death provide a portrait of the man.Anaximander was one of the earliest Greek thinkers at the start of the Axial Age, the period from approximately700 BC to 200 BC, during which similarly revolutionary thinking appeared in China, India, Iran, the Near East,and Ancient Greece. He was an early proponent ofscience and tried to observe and explain different aspects ofthe universe, with a particular interest in its origins, claiming that nature is ruled by laws, just like humansocieties, and anything that disturbs the balance of nature does not last long.  Like many thinkers of his time,Anaximanders contributions to philosophy relate to many disciplines. In astronomy, he tried to describe themechanics of celestial bodies in relation to the Earth. In physics, his postulation that the indefinite (or apeiron)was the source of all things led Greek philosophy to a new level of conceptual abstraction. His knowledgeof geometry allowed him to introduce the gnomon in Greece. He created a map of the world that contributedgreatly to the advancement of geography. He was also involved in the politics of Miletus and was sent as aleader to one of its colonies.Anaximander claimed that an indefinite (apeiron) principle gives rise to all natural phenomena. Carl Saganclaims that he conducted the earliest recorded scientific experiment. Contents [hide]1 Biography2 Theories
o 2.1 Apeiron o 2.2 Cosmology o 2.3 Multiple worlds o 2.4 Meteorological phenomena o 2.5 Origin of humankind3 Other accomplishments o 3.1 Cartography o 3.2 Gnomon o 3.3 Prediction of an earthquake4 Interpretations5 Works6 See also7 Footnotes8 References o 8.1 Primary sources o 8.2 Secondary sources9 External links BiographyAnaximander, son of Praxiades, was born in Miletus during the third year of the 42nd Olympiad (610BC). According to Apollodorus, Greek grammarian of the 2nd century BC, he was sixty-four years old duringthe second year of the 58th Olympiad (547-546 BC), and died shortly afterwards.Establishing a timeline of his work is now impossible, since no document provides chronologicalreferences. Themistius, a 4th century Byzantine rhethorician, mentions that he was the "first of the knownGreeks to publish a written document on nature." Therefore his texts would be amongst the earliest writtenin prose, at least in the Western world. By the time of Plato, his philosophy was almost forgotten, and Aristotle,his successor Theophrastus and a few doxographers provide us with the little information that remains.However, we know from Aristotle that Thales, also from Miletus, precedes Anaximander. It is debatablewhether Thales actually was the teacher of Anaximander, but there is no doubt that Anaximander wasinfluenced by Thales theory that everything is derived from water. One thing that is not debatable is that eventhe ancient Greeks considered Anaximander to be from the Monist school which began in Miletus with Thalesfollowed by Anaximander and finished with Anaximenes. 3rd century Roman rhetorician Aelian depicts him asleader of the Milesian colony toApollonia on the Black Sea coast, and hence some have inferred that he was aprominent citizen. Indeed, Various History (III, 17) explains that philosophers sometimes also dealt with political
matters. It is very likely that leaders of Miletus sent him there as a legislator to create a constitution or simply tomaintain the colony’s allegiance. TheoriesAnaximanders theories were influenced by the Greek mythical tradition, and by some ideas of Thales – thefather of philosophy – as well as by observations made by older civilizations in the East (especially by theBabylonian astrologists). All these were elaborated rationally. In his desire to find some universal principle, heassumed like traditional religion the existence of a cosmic order and in elaborating his ideas on this he used theold mythical language which ascribed divine control to various spheres of reality. This was a common practicefor the Greek philosophers in a society which saw gods everywhere, therefore they could fit their ideas into atolerably elastic system.Some scholars saw a gap between the existing mythical and the new rational way of thought which is themain characteristic of the archaic period (8th to 6th century BC) in the Greekcity states. Because of this, theydidnt hesitate to speak for a Greek miracle. But if we follow carefully the course of Anaximanders ideas, wewill notice that there was not such an abrupt break as initially appears. The basic elements of nature(water, air, fire, earth) which the first Greek philosophers believed that constituted the universe represent in facttheprimordial forces of previous thought. Their collision produced what the mythical tradition hadcalled cosmic harmony. In the old cosmogonies – Hesiod (8th-7th century BC) andPherecydes (6th centuryBC) – Zeus establishes his order in the world by destroying the powers which were threatening this harmony,(the Titans). Anaximander claimed that the cosmic order is not monarchic but geometric and this causes theequilibrium of the earth which is lying in the centre of the universe. This is the projection on nature of a newpolitical order and a new space organized around a centre which is the static point of the system in the societyas in nature. In this space there is isonomy (equal rights) and all the forces are symmetrical andtransferrable. The decisions are now taken by the assembly of demos in the agora which is lying in the middleof the city.The same rational way of thought led him to introduce the abstract apeiron (indefinite, infinite, boundless,unlimited) as an origin of the universe, a concept that is probably influenced by the original Chaos (gapingvoid, abyss, formless state) of the mythical Greek cosmogony from which everything else appeared. It alsotakes notice of the mutual changes between the four elements. Origin, then, must be something else unlimitedin its source, that could create without experiencing decay, so that genesis would never stop. ApeironMain article: Apeiron (cosmology)The bishop Hippolytus of Rome (I, 5), and the later 6th century Byzantine philosopher Simplicius of Cilicia,attribute to Anaximander the earliest use of the word apeíron (ἄπειπον infiniteor limitless) to designate the
original principle. He was the first philosopher to employ, in a philosophical context, the term arkhế (ἀπχή),which until then had meant beginning or origin. For him, it became no longer a mere point in time, but a sourcethat could perpetually give birth to whatever will be. The indefiniteness is spatial in early usages asin Homer (indefinite sea) and as in Xenophanes (6th century BC) who said that the earth went down indefinitely(to apeiron) i.e. beyond the imagination or concept of men.Aristotle writes (Metaphysics, I III 3-4) that the Pre-Socratics were searching for the element that constitutes allthings. While each pre-Socratic philosopher gave a different answer as to the identity of this element (water forThales and air for Anaximenes), Anaximander understood the beginning or first principle to be an endless,unlimited primordial mass (apeiron), subject to neither old age nor decay, that perpetually yielded freshmaterials from which everything we perceive is derived. He proposed the theory of the apeiron in directresponse to the earlier theory of his teacher, Thales, who had claimed that the primary substance was water.The notion of temporal infinity was familiar to the Greek mind from remote antiquity in the religious concept ofimmortality and Anaximanders description was in terms appropriate to this conception. This arche is called"eternal and ageless". (Hippolitus I,6,I;DK B2)For Anaximander, the principle of things, the constituent of all substances, is nothing determined and not anelement such as water in Thales view. Neither is it something halfway between air and water, or between airand fire, thicker than air and fire, or more subtle than water and earth. Anaximander argues that water cannotembrace all of the opposites found in nature — for example, water can only be wet, never dry — and thereforecannot be the one primary substance; nor could any of the other candidates. He postulated the apeiron as asubstance that, although not directly perceptible to us, could explain the opposites he saw around him.Anaximander explains how the four elements of ancient physics (air, earth, water and fire) are formed, and howEarth and terrestrial beings are formed through their interactions. Unlike other Pre-Socratics, he never definesthis principle precisely, and it has generally been understood (e.g., by Aristotle and by Saint Augustine) as asort of primal chaos. According to him, the Universe originates in the separation of opposites in the primordialmatter. It embraces the opposites of hot and cold, wet and dry, and directs the movement of things; an entirehost of shapes and differences then grow that are found in "all the worlds" (for he believed there were many).Anaximander maintains that all dying things are returning to the element from which they came (apeiron). Theone surviving fragment of Anaximanders writing deals with this matter. Simplicius transmitted it as a quotation,which describes the balanced and mutual changes of the elements:Whence things have their origin,Thence also their destruction happens,According to necessity;For they give to each other justice and recompense
For their injusticeIn conformity with the ordinance of Time.Simplicius mentions that Anaximander said all these "in poetic terms", meaning that he used the old mythicallanguage. The goddess Justice (Dike) keeps the cosmic order. This concept of returning to the element oforigin was often revisited afterwards, notably by Aristotle, and by the Greek tragedian Euripides: "whatcomes from earth must return to earth." Friedrich Nietzsche, in his Philosophy in the Tragic Age of theGreeks, stated that Anaximander viewed "...all coming-to-be as though it were an illegitimate emancipationfrom eternal being, a wrong for which destruction is the only penance."CosmologyMap of Anaximanders universeAnaximanders bold use of non-mythological explanatory hypotheses considerably distinguishes him fromprevious cosmology writers such as Hesiod. It confirms that pre-Socratic philosophers were making an earlyeffort to demythify physical processes. His major contribution to history was writing the oldest prose documentabout the Universe and the origins of life; for this he is often called the "Father of Cosmology" and founder ofastronomy. However, pseudo-Plutarch states that he still viewed celestial bodies as deities.Anaximander was the first to conceive a mechanical model of the world. In his model, the Earth floats very stillin the centre of the infinite, not supported by anything. It remains "in the same place because of itsindifference", a point of view that Aristotle considered ingenious, but false, in On the Heavens. Its curiousshape is that of a cylinder with a height one-third of its diameter. The flat top forms the inhabited world, whichis surrounded by a circular oceanic mass.
Such a model allowed the concept that celestial bodies could pass under it. It goes further than Thales’ claim ofa world floating on water, for which Thales faced the problem of explaining what would contain this ocean,while Anaximander solved it by introducing his concept of infinite (apeiron).Illustration of Anaximanders models of the universe. On the left, daytime in summer; on the right, nighttime in winter.At the origin, after the separation of hot and cold, a ball of flame appeared that surrounded Earth like bark on atree. This ball broke apart to form the rest of the Universe. It resembled a system of hollow concentric wheels,filled with fire, with the rims pierced by holes like those of a flute. Consequently, the Sun was the fire that onecould see through a hole the same size as the Earth on the farthest wheel, and an eclipse corresponded withtheocclusion of that hole. The diameter of the solar wheel was twenty-seven times that of the Earth (or twenty-eight, depending on the sources) and the lunar wheel, whose fire was less intense, eighteen (or nineteen)times. Its hole could change shape, thus explaining lunar phases. The stars and the planets, locatedcloser, followed the same model.Anaximander was the first astronomer to consider the Sun as a huge mass, and consequently, to realize howfar from Earth it might be, and the first to present a system where the celestial bodies turned at differentdistances. Furthermore, according to Diogenes Laertius (II, 2), he built a celestial sphere. This inventionundoubtedly made him the first to realize the obliquity of the Zodiac as the Roman philosopher Pliny theElder reports in Natural History (II, 8). It is a little early to use the term ecliptic, but his knowledge and work onastronomy confirm that he must have observed the inclination of the celestial sphere in relation to the plane ofthe Earth to explain the seasons. The doxographer and theologian Aetius attributes to Pythagoras the exactmeasurement of the obliquity.Multiple worlds
According to Simplicius, Anaximander already speculated on the plurality of worlds, similarto atomists Leucippus and Democritus, and later philosopher Epicurus. These thinkers supposed that worldsappeared and disappeared for a while, and that some were born when others perished. They claimed that thismovement was eternal, "for without movement, there can be no generation, no destruction". In addition to Simplicius, Hippolytus reports Anaximanders claim that from the infinite comes the principle ofbeings, which themselves come from the heavens and the worlds (several doxographers use the plural whenthis philosopher is referring to the worlds within, which are often infinite in quantity). Cicero writes that heattributes different gods to the countless worlds.This theory places Anaximander close to the Atomists and the Epicureans who, more than a century later, alsoclaimed that an infinity of worlds appeared and disappeared. In thetimeline of the Greek history of thought,some thinkers conceptualized a single world (Plato, Aristotle, Anaxagoras and Archelaus), while others insteadspeculated on the existence of a series of worlds, continuous or non-continuous (Anaximenes,Heraclitus, Empedocles and Diogenes).Meteorological phenomenaAnaximander attributed some phenomena, such as thunder and lightning, to the intervention of elements,rather than to divine causes. In his system, thunder results from the shock of clouds hitting each other; theloudness of the sound is proportionate with that of the shock. Thunder without lightning is the result of the windbeing too weak to emit any flame, but strong enough to produce a sound. A flash of lightning without thunder isa jolt of the air that disperses and falls, allowing a less active fire to break free. Thunderbolts are the result of athicker and more violent air flow.He saw the sea as a remnant of the mass of humidity that once surrounded Earth. A part of that massevaporated under the suns action, thus causing the winds and even the rotation of the celestial bodies, whichhe believed were attracted to places where water is more abundant. He explained rain as a product of thehumidity pumped up from Earth by the sun.For him, the Earth was slowly drying up and water only remainedin the deepest regions, which someday would go dry as well. According to Aristotles Meteorology (II, 3),Democritus also shared this opinion.Origin of humankindAnaximander speculated about the beginnings and origin of animal life. Taking into account the existence offossils, he claimed that animals sprang out of the sea long ago. The first animals were born trapped in a spinybark, but as they got older, the bark would dry up and break. As the early humidity evaporated, dry landemerged and, in time, humankind had to adapt. The 3rd century Roman writer Censorinus reports:
Anaximander of Miletus considered that from warmed up water and earth emerged either fish or entirely fishlikeanimals. Inside these animals, men took form and embryos were held prisoners until puberty; only then, afterthese animals burst open, could men and women come out, now able to feed themselves.Anaximander put forward the idea that humans had to spend part of this transition inside the mouths of big fishto protect themselves from the Earths climate until they could come out in open air and lose their scales.  Hethought that, considering humans extended infancy, we could not have survived in the primeval world in thesame manner we do presently.Even though he had no theory of natural selection, some people consider him as evolutions most ancientproponent. The theory of an aquatic descent of man was re-conceived centuries later as the aquatic apehypothesis. These pre-Darwinian concepts may seem strange, considering modern knowledge and scientificmethods, because they present complete explanations of the universe while using bold and hard-to-demonstrate hypotheses. However, they illustrate the beginning of a phenomenon sometimes called the"Greek miracle": men try to explain the nature of the world, not with the aid of myths or religion, but withmaterial principles. This is the very principle of scientific thought, which was later advanced further by improvedresearch methods. Other accomplishmentsCartographyPossible rendering of Anaximanders world mapBoth Strabo and Agathemerus (later Greek geographers) claim that, according to thegeographer Eratosthenes, Anaximander was the first to publish a map of the world. The map probably inspired
the Greek historian Hecataeus of Miletus to draw a more accurate version. Strabo viewed both as the firstgeographers after Homer.Maps were produced in ancient times, also notably in Egypt, Lydia, the Middle East, and Babylon. Only somesmall examples survived until today. The unique example of a world map comes from late Babylonian tabletBM 92687 later than 9th century BCE but is based probably on a much older map. These maps indicateddirections, roads, towns, borders, and geological features. Anaximanders innovation was to represent theentire inhabited land known to the ancient Greeks.Such an accomplishment is more significant than it at first appears. Anaximander most likely drew this map forthree reasons.First, it could be used to improve navigation and trade between Miletuss colonies and othercolonies around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. Second, Thales would probably have found it easier toconvince the Ionian city-states to join in a federation in order to push the Median threat away if he possessedsuch a tool. Finally, the philosophical idea of a global representation of the world simply for the sake ofknowledge was reason enough to design one.Surely aware of the seas convexity, he may have designed his map on a slightly rounded metal surface. Thecentre or ―navel‖ of the world (ὀμφαλόρ γῆρ omphalós gẽs) could have been Delphi, but is more likely inAnaximanders time to have been located near Miletus. The Aegean Sea was near the maps centre andenclosed by three continents, themselves located in the middle of the ocean and isolated like islands by seaand rivers. Europe was bordered on the south by the Mediterranean Sea and was separated from Asia by theBlack Sea, the Lake Maeotis, and, further east, either by the Phasis River (now called the Rioni) or the Tanais.TheNile flowed south into the ocean, separating Libya (which was the name for the part of the then-known African continent) from Asia.GnomonThe Suda relates that Anaximander explained some basic notions of geometry. It also mentions his interest inthe measurement of time and associates him with the introduction inGreece of the gnomon. In Lacedaemon, heparticipated in the construction, or at least in the adjustment, of sundials toindicate solstices and equinoxes. Indeed, a gnomon required adjustments from a place to another becauseof the difference in latitude.In his time, the gnomon was simply a vertical pillar or rod mounted on a horizontal plane. The position of itsshadow on the plane indicated the time of day. As it moves through its apparent course, the sun draws a curvewith the tip of the projected shadow, which is shortest at noon, when pointing due south. The variation in thetip’s position at noon indicates the solar time and the seasons; the shadow is longest on the winter solstice andshortest on the summer solstice.
However, the invention of the gnomon itself cannot be attributed to Anaximander because its use, as well asthe division of days into twelve parts, came from the Babylonians. It is they, accordingto Herodotus Histories (II, 109), who gave the Greeks the art of time measurement. It is likely that he was notthe first to determine the solstices, because no calculation is necessary. On the other hand, equinoxes do notcorrespond to the middle point between the positions during solstices, as the Babylonians thought. Asthe Suda seems to suggest, it is very likely that with his knowledge of geometry, he became the first Greek toaccurately determine the equinoxes.Prediction of an earthquakeIn his philosophical work De Divinatione (I, 50, 112), Cicero states that Anaximander convinced the inhabitantsof Lacedaemon to abandon their city and spend the night in the country with their weapons because anearthquake was near. The city collapsed when the top of the Taygetus split like the stern of a ship. Pliny theElder also mentions this anecdote (II, 81), suggesting that it came from an "admirable inspiration", as opposedto Cicero, who did not associate the prediction with divination. InterpretationsBertrand Russell in the History of Western Philosophy interprets Anaximanders theories as an assertion of thenecessity of an appropriate balance between earth, fire, and water, all of which may be independently seekingto aggrandize their proportions relative to the others. Anaximander seems to express his belief that a naturalorder ensures balance between these elements, that where there was fire, ashes (earth) now exist. HisGreek peers echoed this sentiment with their belief in natural boundaries beyond which not even their godscould operate.Friedrich Nietzsche, in Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, claimed that Anaximander was a pessimistwho asserted that the primal being of the world was a state of indefiniteness. In accordance with this, anythingdefinite has to eventually pass back into indefiniteness. In other words, Anaximander viewed "...all coming-to-be as though it were an illegitimate emancipation from eternal being, a wrong for which destruction is the onlypenance". (Ibid., § 4) The world of individual objects, in this way of thinking, has no worth and should perish. Martin Heidegger lectured extensively on Anaximander, and delivered a lecture entitled "AnaximandersSaying" which was subsequently included in Off the Beaten Track. The lecture examines the ontologicaldifference and the oblivion of Being or Dasein in the context of the Anaximander fragment. Heideggerslecture is, in turn, an important influence on the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.Anaximander (c.610—546 BCE)
Anaximander was the author of the first surviving lines of Western philosophy. He speculated and argued about “the Boundless” as the origin of all that is. He also worked on the fields of what we now call geography and biology. Moreover, Anaximander was the first speculative astronomer. He originated the world-picture of the open universe, which replaced the closed universe of the celestial vault. Table of Contents1. Life and Sources2. The “Boundless” as Principle3. The Arguments Regarding the Boundless a. The Boundless has No Origin b. The Origin must be Boundless c. The “Long Since” Argument The Fragment The Origin of the Cosmos Astronomy. Speculative Astronomya. The Celestial Bodies Make Full Circlesb. The Earth Floats Unsupported in Spacec. Why the Earth Does Not Falld. The Celestial Bodies Lie Behind One Anothere. The Order of the Celestial Bodiesf. The Celestial Bodies as Wheelsg. The Distances of the Celestial Bodiesh. A Representation of Anaximander’s Universe Map of the World Biology Conclusion References and Further Reading 1. Life and Sources The history of written Greek philosophy starts with Anaximander of Miletus in Asia Minor, a fellow- citizen of Thales. He was the first who dared to write a treatise in prose, which has been called traditionally On Nature. This book has been lost, although it probably was available in the library of the Lyceum at the times of Aristotle and his successor Theophrastus. It is said that Apollodorus, in the second century BCE, stumbled upon a copy of it, perhaps in the famous library of Alexandria. Recently, evidence has appeared that it was part of the collection of the library of Taormina in Sicily, where a fragment of a catalogue has been found, on which Anaximander‟s name can be read. Only
one fragment of the book has come down to us, quoted by Simplicius (after Theophrastus), in thesixth century AD. It is perhaps the most famous and most discussed phrase in the history ofphilosophy.We also know very little of Anaximander‟s life. He is said to have led a mission that founded a colonycalled Apollonia on the coast of the Black Sea. He also probably introduced the gnomon (aperpendicular sun-dial) into Greece and erected one in Sparta. So he seems to have been a much-traveled man, which is not astonishing, as the Milesians were known to be audacious sailors. It isalso reported that he displayed solemn manners and wore pompous garments. Most of theinformation on Anaximander comes fromAristotle and his pupil Theophrastus, whose book on thehistory of philosophy was used, excerpted, and quoted by many other authors, the so-calleddoxographers, before it was lost. Sometimes, in these texts words or expressions appear that can withsome certainty be ascribed to Anaximander himself. Relatively many testimonies, approximately onethird of them, have to do with astronomical and cosmological questions. Hermann Diels and WalterKranz have edited the doxography (A) and the existing texts (B) of the Presocratic philosophers inDie Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Berlin 1951-19526. (A quotation like “DK 12A17″ means:“Diels/Kranz, Anaximander, doxographical report no.17″).2. The ―Boundless‖ as PrincipleAccording to Aristotle and Theophrastus, the first Greek philosophers were looking for the “origin” or“principle” (the Greek word “archê” has both meanings) of all things. Anaximander is said to haveidentified it with “the Boundless” or “the Unlimited” (Greek: “apeiron,” that is, “that which has noboundaries”). Already in ancient times, it is complained that Anaximander did not explain what hemeant by “the Boundless.” More recently, authors have disputed whether the Boundless should beinterpreted as spatially or temporarily without limits, or perhaps as that which has no qualifications,or as that which is inexhaustible. Some scholars have even defended the meaning “that which is notexperienced,” by relating the Greek word “apeiron” not to “peras” (“boundary,” “limit”), but to“perao” (“to experience,” “to apperceive”). The suggestion, however, is almost irresistible that Greekphilosophy, by making the Boundless into the principle of all things, has started on a high level ofabstraction. On the other hand, some have pointed out that this use of “apeiron” is atypical for Greekthought, which was occupied with limit, symmetry and harmony. The Pythagoreans placed theboundless (the “apeiron”) on the list of negative things, and for Aristotle, too, perfection becamealigned with limit (Greek: “peras”), and thus “apeiron” with imperfection. Therefore, some authorssuspect eastern (Iranian) influence on Anaximander‟s ideas.3. The Arguments Regarding the BoundlessIt seems that Anaximander not only put forward the thesis that the Boundless is the principle, butalso tried to argue for it. We might say that he was the first who made use of philosophicalarguments. Anaximander‟s arguments have come down to us in the disguise of Aristotelian jargon.Therefore, any reconstruction of the arguments used by the Milesian must remainconjectural. Verbatim reconstruction is of course impossible. Nevertheless, the data, provided theyare handled with care, allow us to catch glimpses of what the arguments of Anaximander must have
looked like. The important thing is, however, that he did not just utter apodictic statements, but alsotried to give arguments. This is what makes him the first philosopher.a. The Boundless has No OriginAristotle reports a curious argument, which probably goes back to Anaximander, in which it is arguedthat the Boundless has no origin, because it is itself the origin. We would say that it looks more like astring of associations and word-plays than like a formal argument. It runs as follows: “Everything hasan origin or is an origin. The Boundless has no origin. For then it would have a limit. Moreover, it isboth unborn and immortal, being a kind of origin. For that which has become has also, necessarily,an end, and there is a termination to every process of destruction” (Physics 203b6-10, DK 12A15).The Greeks were familiar with the idea of the immortal Homeric gods. Anaximander added twodistinctive features to the concept of divinity: his Boundless is an impersonal something (or “nature,”the Greek word is “phusis”), and it is not only immortal but also unborn. However, perhaps notAnaximander, but Thales should be credited with this new idea. Diogenes Laërtius ascribesto Thales the aphorism: “What is the divine? That which has no origin and no end” (DK 11A1 (36)).Similar arguments, within different contexts, are used by Melissus (DK 30B2) and Plato(Phaedrus 245d1-6).b. The Origin Must be BoundlessSeveral sources give another argument which is somehow the other way round and answers thequestion of why the origin should be boundless. In Aristotle’s version, it runs like this: “(The beliefthat there is something Boundless stems from) the idea that only then genesis and decay will neverstop, when that from which is taken what has been generated, is boundless” (Physics 203b18-20, DK12A15, other versions in DK12A14 and 12A17). In this argument, the Boundless seems to beassociated with an inexhaustible source. Obviously, it is taken for granted that “genesis and decaywill never stop,” and the Boundless has to guarantee the ongoing of the process, like an ever-floatingfountain.c. The ―Long Since‖ ArgumentA third argument is relatively long and somewhat strange. It turns on one key word (in Greek: “êdê”),which is here translated with “long since.” It is reproduced by Aristotle: “Some make this (namely,that which is additional to the elements) the Boundless, but not air or water, lest the others should bedestroyed by one of them, being boundless; for they are opposite to one another (the air, for instance,is cold, the water wet, and the fire hot). If any of them should be boundless, it would long since havedestroyed the others; but now there is, they say, something other from which they are all generated”(Physics 204b25-29, DK 12A16).This is not only virtually the same argument as used by Plato in his Phaedo (72a12-b5), but evenmore interesting is that it was used almost 2500 years later by Friedrich Nietzsche in his attempts toprove his thesis of the Eternal Recurrence: “If the world had a goal, it would have been reached. Ifthere were for it some unintended final state, this also must have been reached. If it were at all
capable of a pausing and becoming fixed, if it were capable of “being,” if in the whole course of itsbecoming it possessed even for a moment this capability of “being,” then again all becomingwould long since have come to an end.” Nietzsche wrote these words in his notebook in 1885, butalready in Die Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen (1873), which was not publishedduring his lifetime, he mentioned the argument and credited Anaximander with it.4. The FragmentThe only existing fragment of Anaximander‟s book (DK 12B1) is surrounded by all kinds of questions.The ancient Greeks did not use quotation marks, so that we cannot be sure where Simplicius, whohas handed down the text to us, is still paraphrasing Anaximander and where he begins to quotehim. The text is cast in indirect speech, even the part which most authors agree is a real quotation.One important word of the text (“allêlois,” here translated by “upon one another”) is missing in somemanuscripts. As regards the interpretation of the fragment, it is heavily disputed whether it means torefer to Anaximander‟s principle, the Boundless, or not. The Greek original has relative pronouns inthe plural (here rendered by “whence” and “thence”), which makes it difficult to relate them to theBoundless. However, Simplicius‟ impression that it is written in rather poetic words has beenrepeated in several ways by many authors. Therefore, we offer a translation, in which some poeticfeatures of the original, such as chiasmus and alliteration have been imitated:Whence things have their origin,Thence also their destruction happens,As is the order of things;For they execute the sentence upon one another- The condemnation for the crime -In conformity with the ordinance of Time.In the fourth and fifth line a more fluent translation is given for what is usually rendered rathercryptic by something like “giving justice and reparation to one another for their injustice.”We may distinguish roughly two lines of interpretation, which may be labeled the “horizontal” andthe “vertical.” The horizontal interpretation holds that in the fragment nothing is said about therelation of the things to the Boundless, whereas the vertical interpretation maintains that thefragment describes the relationship of the things to the Boundless. The upholders of the horizontalinterpretation usually do not deny that Anaximander taught that all things are generated from theBoundless, but they simply hold that this is not what is said in the fragment. They argue that thefragment describes the battle between the elements (or of things in general), which accounts for theorigin and destruction of things. The most obvious difficulty, however, for this “horizontal”interpretation is that it implies two cycles of becoming and decay: one from and into the Boundless,and the other caused by the mutual give and take of the elements or things in general. In otherwords, in the “horizontal” interpretation the Boundless is superfluous. This is the strongestargument in favor of the “vertical” interpretation, which holds that the fragment refers to theBoundless, notwithstanding the plural relative pronouns. According to the “vertical” interpretation,then, the Boundless should be regarded not only as the ever-flowing fountain from which everythingultimately springs, but also as the yawning abyss (as some say, comparable with Hesiod‟s “Chaos”)into which everything ultimately perishes.
The suggestion has been raised that Anaximander‟s formula in the first two lines of the fragmentshould have been the model for Aristotle’s definition of the “principle” (Greek: “archê”) of all thingsinMetaphysics 983b8. There is some sense in this suggestion. For what could be more naturalfor Aristotlethan to borrow his definition of the notion of “archê,” which he uses to indicate theprinciple of the first presocratic philosophers, from Anaximander, the one who introduced thenotion?It is certainly important that we possess one text from Anaximander‟s book. On the other hand, wemust recognize that we know hardly anything of its original context, as the rest of the book has beenlost. We do not know from which part of his book it is, nor whether it is a text the author himselfthought crucial or just a line that caught one reader‟s attention as an example of Anaximander‟spoetic writing style. The danger exists that we are tempted to use this stray text – beautiful andmysterious as it is – in order to produce all kinds of profound interpretations that are hard to verify.Perhaps a better way of understanding what Anaximander has to say is to study carefully thedoxography, which goes back to people like Aristotle and Theophrastus, who probably have hadAnaximander‟s book before their eyes, and who tried to reformulate what they thought were itscentral claims.5. The Origin of the CosmosThe Boundless seems to have played a role in Anaximander‟s account of the origin of the cosmos. Itseternal movement is said to have caused the origin of the heavens. Elsewhere, it is said that “all theheavens and the worlds within them” have sprung from “some boundless nature.” A part of thisprocess is described in rather poetic language, full of images, which seems to be idiosyncratic forAnaximander: “a germ, pregnant with hot and cold, was separated [or: separated itself] off from theeternal, whereupon out of this germ a sphere of fire grew around the vapor that surrounds the earth,like a bark round a tree” (DK 12A10). Subsequently, the sphere of fire is said to have fallen apart intoseveral rings, and this event was the origin of sun, moon, and stars. There are authors who have,quite anachronistically, seen here a kind of foreshadowing of the Kant-Laplace theory of the origin ofthe solar system. Some sources even mention innumerable worlds (in time and/or in space), whichlooks like a plausible consequence of the Boundless as principle. But this is presumably a latertheory, incorrectly read back into Anaximander.6. AstronomyAt first sight, the reports on Anaximander‟s astronomy look rather bizarre and obscure. Someauthors even think that they are so confused that we should give up trying to offer a satisfying andcoherent interpretation. The only way of understanding Anaximander‟s astronomical ideas, however,is to take them seriously and treat them as such, that is, as astronomical ideas. It will appear thatmany of the features of his universe that look strange at first sight make perfect sense on closerinspection.a. Speculative Astronomy
The astronomy of neighboring peoples, such as the Babylonians and the Egyptians, consists mainlyof observations of the rising and disappearance of celestial bodies and of their paths across thecelestial vault. These observations were made with the naked eye and with the help of some simpleinstruments as the gnomon. The Babylonians, in particular, were rather advanced observers.Archeologists have found an abundance of cuneiform texts on astronomical observations. Incontrast, there exists only one report of an observation made by Anaximander, which concerns thedate on which the Pleiades set in the morning. This is no coincidence, for Anaximander‟s merits donot lie in the field of observational astronomy, unlike the Babylonians and the Egyptians, but in thatof speculative astronomy. We may discern three of his astronomical speculations: (1) that thecelestial bodies make full circles and pass also beneath the earth, (2) that the earth floats free andunsupported in space, and (3) that the celestial bodies lie behind one another. Notwithstanding theirrather primitive outlook, these three propositions, which make up the core of Anaximander‟sastronomy, meant a tremendous jump forward and constitute the origin of our Western concept ofthe universe.b. The Celestial Bodies Make Full CirclesThe idea that the celestial bodies, in their daily course, make full circles and thus pass also beneaththe earth – from Anaximander‟s viewpoint – is so self-evident to us that it is hard to understand howdaring its introduction was. That the celestial bodies make full circles is not something he couldhave observed,but a conclusion he must have drawn. We would say that this is a conclusion that liesto hand. We can see – at the northern hemisphere, like Anaximander – the stars around the Polarstar making full circles, and we can also observe that the more southerly stars sometimes disappearbehind the horizon. We may argue that the stars of which we see only arcs in reality also describe fullcircles, just like those near the Polar star. As regards the sun and moon, we can observe that the arcsthey describe are sometimes bigger and sometimes smaller, and we are able to predict exactly wherethey will rise the next day. Therefore, it seems not too bold a conjecture to say that these celestialbodies also describe full circles. Nevertheless, it was a daring conclusion, precisely because itnecessarily entailed the concept of the earth hanging free and unsupported in space.c. The Earth Floats Unsupported in SpaceAnaximander boldly asserts that the earth floats free in the center of the universe, unsupported bywater, pillars, or whatever. This idea means a complete revolution in our understanding of theuniverse. Obviously, the earth hanging free in space is not something Anaximander couldhave observed.Apparently, he drew this bold conclusion from his assumption that the celestialbodies make full circles. More than 2500 years later astronauts really saw the unsupported earthfloating in space and thus provided the ultimate confirmation of Anaximander‟s conception. Theshape of the earth, according to Anaximander, is cylindrical, like a column-drum, its diameter beingthree times its height. We live on top of it. Some scholars have wondered why Anaximander chosethis strange shape. The strangeness disappears, however, when we realize that Anaximander thoughtthat the earth was flat and circular, as suggested by the horizon. For one who thinks, as Anaximanderdid, that the earth floats unsupported in the center of the universe, the cylinder-shape lies at hand.
d. Why the Earth Does Not FallWe may assume that Anaximander somehow had to defend his bold theory of the free-floating,unsupported earth against the obvious question of why the earth does not fall. Aristotle’s version ofAnaximander‟s argument runs like this: “But there are some who say that it (namely, the earth) stayswhere it is because of equality, such as among the ancients Anaximander. For that which is situatedin the center and at equal distances from the extremes, has no inclination whatsoever to move uprather than down or sideways; and since it is impossible to move in opposite directions at the sametime, it necessarily stays where it is.” (De caelo 295b10ff., DK 12A26) Many authors have pointed tothe fact that this is the first known example of an argument that is based on the principle of sufficientreason (the principle that for everything which occurs there is a reason or explanation for why itoccurs, and why this way rather than that).Anaximander‟s argument returns in a famous text in the Phaedo (108E4 ff.), where Plato, for the firsttime in history, tries to express the sphericity of the earth. Even more interesting is that the sameargument, within a different context, returns with the great protagonist of the principle of sufficientreason, Leibniz. In his second letter to Clarke, he uses an example, which he ascribes to Archimedesbut which reminds us strongly of Anaximander: “And therefore Archimedes (…) in his book Deaequilibrio,was obliged to make use of a particular case of the great Principle of a sufficient reason.He takes it for granted that if there be a balance in which everything is alike on both sides, and ifequal weights are hung on the two ends of that balance, the whole will stay at rest. This is becausethere is no reason why one side should weigh down, rather than the other”.One may doubt, however, whether the argument is not fallacious. Aristotle already thought theargument to be deceiving. He ridicules it by saying that according to the same kind of argument ahair, which was subject to an even pulling power from opposing sides, would not break, and that aman, being just as hungry as thirsty, placed in between food and drink, must necessarily remainwhere he is and starve. To him it was the wrong argument for the right proposition. Absolutepropositions concerning the non-existence of things are always in danger of becoming falsified oncloser investigation. They contain a kind of subjective aspect: “as far as I know.” Several authors,however, have said that Anaximander‟s argument is clear and ingenious. Already at first sight thisqualification sounds strange, for the argument evidently must be wrong, as the earth is not in thecenter of the universe, although it certainly is not supported by anything but gravity. Nevertheless,we have to wait until Newton for a better answer to the question why the earth does not fall.e. The Celestial Bodies Lie Behind One AnotherWhen Anaximander looked at the heaven, he imagined, for the first time inhistory, space. Anaximander‟s vision implied depth in the universe, that is, the idea that the celestialbodies lie behind one another. Although it sounds simple, this is a remarkable idea, because it cannotbe based on direct observation. We do not see depth in the universe. The more natural and primitiveidea is that of the celestial vault, a kind of dome or tent, onto which the celestial bodies are attached,all of them at the same distance, like in a planetarium. One meets this kind of conception in Homer,when he speaks of the brazen or iron heaven, which is apparently conceived of as something solid,being supported by Atlas, or by pillars.
f. The Order of the Celestial BodiesAnaximander placed the celestial bodies in the wrong order. He thought that the stars were nearestto the earth, then followed the moon, and the sun farthest away. Some authors have wondered whyAnaximander made the stars the nearest celestial bodies, for he should have noticed the occurrenceof star-occultations by the moon. This is a typical anachronism, which shows that it not easy to lookat the phenomena with Anaximander‟s eyes. Nowadays, we know that the stars are behind the moon,and thus we speak of star-occultation when we see a star disappear behind the moon. ButAnaximander had no reason at all, from his point of view, to speak of a star-occultation when he sawa star disappear when the moon was at the same place. So it is a petitio principii to say that for himoccultations of stars were easy to observe. Perhaps he observed stars disappearing and appearingagain, but he did not observe – could not see it as – the occultation of the star, for that interpretationdid not fit his paradigm. The easiest way to understand his way of looking at it – if he observed thephenomenon at all – is that he must have thought that the brighter light of the moon outshines themuch smaller light of the star for a while. Anaximander‟s order of the celestial bodies is clearly thatof increasing brightness. Unfortunately, the sources do not give further information of hisconsiderations at this point.g. The Celestial Bodies as WheelsA peculiar feature of Anaximander‟s astronomy is that the celestial bodies are said to be like chariotwheels (the Greek words for this image are presumably his own). The rims of these wheels are ofopaque vapor, they are hollow, and filled with fire. This fire shines through at openings in the wheels,and this is what we see as the sun, the moon, or the stars. Sometimes, the opening of the sun wheelcloses: then we observe an eclipse. The opening of the moon wheel regularly closes and opens again,which accounts for the phases of the moon. This image of the celestial bodies as huge wheels seemsstrange at first sight, but there is a good reason for it. There is no doxographic evidence of it, but it isquite certain that the question of why the celestial bodies do not fall upon the earth must have beenas serious a problem to Anaximander as the question of why the earth does not fall. The explanationof the celestial bodies as wheels, then, provides an answer to both questions. The celestial bodieshave no reason whatsoever to move otherwise than in circles around the earth, as each point on themis always as far from the earth as any other. It is because of reasons like this that for ages to come,when Anaximander‟s concept of the universe had been replaced by a spherical one, the celestialbodies were thought of as somehow attached to crystalline or ethereal sphere-shells, and not as free-floating bodies.Many authors, following Diels, make the image of the celestial wheels more difficult than isnecessary. They say that the light of a celestial bodies shines through the openings of its wheel “asthrough the nozzle of a bellows.” This is an incorrect translation of an expression that probably goesback to Anaximander himself. The image of a bellows, somehow connected to a celestial wheel, tendsto complicate rather than elucidate the meaning of the text. If we were to understand that everycelestial body had such a bellows, the result would be hundreds of nozzles (or pipes), extending fromthe celestial wheels towards the earth. Anaximander‟s intention, however, can be better understoodnot as an image, but as a comparison of the light of the celestial bodies with that of lightning.Lightning, according to Anaximander, is a momentary flash of light against a dark cloud. The light of
a celestial body is like a permanent beam of lightning fire that originates from the opaque cloudysubstance of the celestial wheel.h. The Distances of the Celestial BodiesThe doxography gives us some figures about the dimensions of Anaximander‟s universe: the sunwheel is 27 or 28 times the earth, and the moon wheel is 19 times the earth. More than a century ago,two great scholars, Paul Tannery and Hermann Diels, solved the problem of Anaximander‟snumbers. They suggested that the celestial wheels were one unit thick, this unit being the diameter ofthe earth. The full series, they argued, had to be: 9 and 10 for the stars, 18 and 19 for the moon, and27 and 28 for the sun. These numbers are best understood as indicating the distances of the celestialbodies to the earth. In others words, they indicate the radii of concentric circles, made by the celestialwheels, with the earth as the center. See Figure 1, a plane view of Anaximander‟s universe.These numbers cannot be based on observation. In order to understand their meaning, we have tolook at Hesiod‟s Theogony 722-725, where it is said that a brazen anvil would take nine days to fallfrom heaven to earth before it arrives on the tenth day. It is not a bold guess to suppose thatAnaximander knew this text. The agreement with his numbers is too close to neglect, for thenumbers 9 and 10 are exactly those extrapolated for Anaximander‟s star wheel. Hesiod can be seenas a forerunner to Anaximander, for he tried to imagine the distance to the heaven. In the Greekcounting system Hesiod‟s numbers should be taken to mean “a very long time.” Thus, Troy was
conquered in the tenth year after having stood the siege for nine years; and Odysseus scoured theseas for nine years before reaching his homeland in the tenth year. We may infer that Anaximander,with his number 9 (1 x 3 x 3) for the star ring, simply was trying to say that the stars are very faraway. Now the numbers 18 and 27 can easily be interpreted as “farther” (2 x 3 x 3, for the moon ring)and “farthest” (3 x 3 x 3, for the sun ring). And this is exactly what we should expect one to say, whohad discovered that the image of the celestial vault was wrong but that the celestial bodies werebehind one another, and who wished to share this new knowledge with his fellow citizens in alanguage they were able to understand.i. A Representation of Anaximander’s UniverseAlthough it is not attested in the doxography, we may assume that Anaximander himself drew a mapof the universe, like that in figure 1. The numbers, 9, 10, 18, etc., can easily be understood asinstructions for making such a map. Although Diogenes Laërtius reports that he made a “sphere,” thedrawing or construction of a three-dimensional model must be considered to have been beyondAnaximander‟s abilities. On the other hand, it is quite easy to explain the movements of the celestialbodies with the help of a plan view, by making broad gestures, describing circles in the air, andindicating direction, speed, and inclination with your hands, as is said of a quarrelbetween Anaxagoras and Oenopides (DK 41A2).Almost nothing of Anaximander‟s opinions about the stars has been handed down to us. Probablythe best way to imagine them is as a conglomerate of several wheels, each of which has one or moreholes, through which the inner fire shines, which we see as stars. The most likely sum-total of thesestar wheels is a sphere. The only movement of these star wheels is a rotation around the earth fromeast to west, always at the same speed, and always at the same place relative to one another in theheaven. The sun wheel shows the same rotation from east to west as the stars, but there are twodifferences. The first is that the speed of the rotation of the sun wheel is not the same as that of thestars. We can see this phenomenon by observing how the sun lags behind by approximately onedegree per day. The second difference is that the sun wheel as a whole changes its position in theheaven. In summer it moves towards the north along the axis of the heaven and we see a large part ofit above the horizon, whereas in winter we only observe a small part of the sun wheel, as it movestowards the south. This movement of the sun wheel accounts for the seasons. The sameholds mutatis mutandis for the moon. Today, we use to describe this movement of the sun(and mutatis mutandis of the moon and the planets) as a retrograde movement, from west to east,which is a counter-movement to the daily rotation from east to west. In terms of Anaximander‟sancient astronomy it is more appropriate and less anachronistic to describe it as a slower movementof the sun wheel from east to west. The result is that we see different stars in different seasons, untilthe sun, at the end of a year, reaches its old position between the stars.Due to the inclination of the axis of the heaven, the celestial bodies do not circle around the earth inthe same plane as the earth‟s – flat – surface, but are tilted. This inclination amounts to about 38.5degrees when measured at Delphi, the world‟s navel. The earth being flat, the inclination must be thesame all over its surface. This tilting of the heaven‟s axis must have been one of the biggest riddles ofthe universe. Why is it tilted at all? Who or what is responsible for this phenomenon? And why is ittilted just the way it is? Unfortunately, the doxography on Anaximander has nothing to tell us about
this problem. Later, other Presocratics like Empedocles, Diogenes of Apollonia,and Anaxagoras discuss the tilting of the heavens.Although there exists a report that says the contrary, it is not likely that Anaximander wasacquainted with the obliquity of the ecliptic, which is the yearly path of the sun along the stars. Theecliptic is a concept which belongs to the doctrine of a spherical earth within a spherical universe. Athree-dimensional representation of Anaximander‟s universe is given in Figures 2 and 3.7. Map of the WorldAnaximander is said to have made the first map of the world. Although this map has been lost, wecan imagine what it must have looked like, because Herodotus, who has seen such old maps,describes them. Anaximander‟s map must have been circular, like the top of his drum-shaped earth.The river Ocean surrounded it. The Mediterranean Sea was in the middle of the map, which wasdivided into two halves by a line that ran through Delphi, the world‟s navel. The northern half wascalled “Europe,” the southern half “Asia.” The habitable world (Greek: “oikoumenê”) consisted of tworelatively small strips of land to the north and south of the Mediterranean Sea (containing Spain,Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor on the one side, and Egypt and Libya on the other side), together withthe lands to the east of the Mediterranean Sea: Palestine, Assyria, Persia, and Arabia. The lands tothe north of this small “habitable world” were the cold countries where mythical people lived. Thelands to the south of it were the hot countries of the black burnt people.
8. BiologyThe doxography tells us that according to Anaximander life originated from the moisture thatcovered the earth before it was dried up by the sun. The first animals were a kind of fish, with athorny skin (the Greek word is the same that was used for the metaphor “the bark of a tree” inAnaximander‟s cosmology). Originally, men were generated from fishes and were fed in the mannerof a viviparous shark. The reason for this is said to be that the human child needs long protection inorder to survive. Some authors have, rather anachronistically, seen in these scattered statements aproto-evolutionist theory.9. ConclusionIt is no use trying to unify the information on Anaximander into one all-compassing and consistentwhole. His work will always remain truncated, like the mutilated and decapitated statue that hasbeen found at the market-place of Miletus and that bears his name. Nevertheless, by what we knowof him, we may say that he was one of the greatest minds that ever lived. By speculating and arguingabout the “Boundless” he was the first metaphysician. By drawing a map of the world he was the firstgeographer. But above all, by boldly speculating about the universe he broke with the ancient imageof the celestial vault and became the discoverer of the Western world-picture. Anaximander1. Introduction2. Philosophical Views 2.1. The Apeiron 2.2. Harmony of the Opposites 2.3. The Apeiron as Unconditioned and God1. IntroductionAnaximander was a younger contemporary of Thales, who also sought for thefirst material principle; he was a disciple and successor of Thales andphilosophized in dialogue with him. Anaximander was not mentioned until thetime of Aristotle, who classifies him as belonging the "physical" school ofthought of Thales. Unlike Thales, Anaximander wrote a philosophical work,entitled On Nature; unfortunately, neither this work nor any of his others has
survived. Information about his philosophy come from summaries of it by otherwriters, especially Aristotle and Theophrastus. Anaximander was said to havedrawn the first map of the inhabited world on a tablet, which was a marvel inhis day (Agathemerus I, 1)2. Philosophical Views2.1. The ApeironAnaximander shares Thales assumption that all things originate from oneoriginal element and ultimately are that element; to use Aristotles terminology,he holds that there is a first (material) principle (archê) of all things. UnlikeThales, however, Anaximander asserts that the first principle is not water, butwhat he calls theapeiron, translated as the Indeterminate orLimitless. Simplicius, drawing upon Theophrastus work, gives the followingaccount of Anaximanders view:Anaximander named the archê and element of existing things the apeiron, being the first to introduce thisname for the archê. He says that it is neither water nor any other of the so-called elements, but a differentsubstance that is limitless or indeterminate, from which there come into being all the heavens and theworlds within them. Things perish into those things out of which they have their being, according tonecessity. (Phys. 24. 13)For Anaximander, the archê, or first principle, is not any of the elements—earth, water, air or fire—but that which precedes the elements (and everythingelse), from which the elements emerge and which they all ultimately are (seealso Aristotle, Physics I.4; 187a 12: "something else which is denser than fireand rarer than air then generate everything else from this, and obtainmultiplicity by condensation and rarefaction"). From it comes all things, but it isnone of those things: "all the heavens and the worlds within them." Becausethis archê is no existing thing, but the source and foundation of them,Anaximander names it the apeiron, by which he means that the archê isindeterminate and has no characteristics: it is before and beyond alldistinctions made with respect to being. In the passage cited above,Simplicius says that Anaximander was the first to namethe archê the apeiron (see Hippolytus, Refut. 1.5.). The Christian apologistHippolytus similarly explains Anaximanders position as follows: "This mansaid that the originating principle of existing things is a certain constitution ofthe Infinite (apeiron), out of which the heavens are generated, and the worldstherein; and that this principle is eternal and undecaying, and comprising allthe worlds....This person declared the Infinite (apeiron) to be an originatingprinciple and element of existing things" (Refut. 1.5).
According to Simplicius (and previous interpreters), Anaximander reasonsthat the first principle (archê) cannot be one of the elements derivative of it,such as water: "It is clear that when he observed how the four elementschange into one another, he did not think it reasonable to conceive as one ofthese as underlying the rest, but posited something else" (Phys. 24. 13). If allfour elements change into one another, then the first principle cannot be oneof these elements but must be prior to all of them; in other words, there mustbe an source of the four elements that itself has no source, for only that whichis not any of the elements could give rise to them. It seems that Anaximanderput this forth as a necessary or logical truth: implicitly he is appealing to theimpossibility of infinite regress in explanation. Probably alluding toAnaximander, Aristotle explains, "There are some people who make this [abody distinct from the four elements] the infinite, and not air or water, in orderthat the other elements may not be annihilated by the element which isinfinite. They have contrariety with each other—air is cold, water moist, firehot; if one were infinite, the others by now would have ceased to be. As it is,they say, the infinite is different from them and is their source" (Physics.204b). By "infinity" in this passage, Aristotle means temporal infinity. If any ofthe elements were temporally infinite, and so the archê, there would no longerbe a balance between opposite elements, such as hot fire and cold earth,because the one infinite element would never be transformed into its opposite,but would remain eternally what it is. Instead, this infinite element would in thelong run destroy all the other elements without itself ever being destroyed. In probable dependence upon Theophrastus work, Simplicius explains thatin Anaximanders philosophy, the opposites emerge from the elements bybeing separated from it. He writes, "There is another method, according towhich they do not attribute change to matter itself, nor do they suppose thatgeneration takes place by a transformation of the underlying substance, butby separation; for the opposites existing in the substance which is infinitematter are separated, according to Anaximander" (Phys. 32 r; 150, 20).Likewise, Aristotle says of Anaximanders view: "The opposites are in the oneand are separated out" (Physics 187a 20). The idea of "separation" impliesthat the opposites were already present in the apeironbut not evident as such,because they were so thoroughly comingled with everything else. In otherwords, everything already exists in the apeiron but not as detectable. Thismeans that the apeiron is not something different from the opposites that areseparated from it but is precisely these opposites not yet separated out butmingled together. The second-century Christian theologian Irenaeus explainsAnaximanders position as follows: "Anaximander laid it down that infinitude(the apeiron) is the first principle of all things, having seminally in itself the
generation of them all, and from this he declares the immense worlds [whichexist] were formed" (Adv. Haer. 2.14.2). Anaximander may also have reasoned that there must be an infinite sourceof all things, in order that, as Aristotle says, "Becoming might not fail"(Physics. 203b 18; 208a 8). The apeiron is the undifferentiated source of allthings and, as such, is quantitatively infinite, because only as inexhaustiblecould it be possible for becoming to continue indefinitely. In other words,the apeiron is infinitely immense, having no limits on its volume. (Aristotlerefutes this idea, however, by pointing out that there is no need of an infinitebody to ensure perpetual becoming because "the passing away of one thingmay be the coming to be of another" [Physics 208a 8-9].)2.2. Harmony of the OppositesDependent upon Theophrastus, Simplicius says according to Anaximander,"Things perish into those things out of which they have their being, accordingto necessity; for they make just recompense to one another for their injustice,according to the ordinance [or assessment] of time—so he puts it insomewhat poetical terms" (Phys. 24. 13). He means that fromthe apeiron opposing pairs emerge (e.g., the wet/dry and the hot/cold) andcontend with one another, until one of the pair is annihilated, becoming theother. For example, day will be transformed into night or winter into summer.This is what Anaximander means when he says that things do injustices toone another. (He is personifying the elements of nature, which is whySimplicius says that Anaximanders language is poetic.) But when one thingovercomes its opposite, the way is prepared for its own assimilation by itsresurgent opposite. Of necessity, the opposites are kept in balance, since theorigin of these forces is the apeiron, the source of all things, which includes allopposites: the one by definition is unified and harmonious. So when day istransformed into night, in time it will be transformed into day, and so the cyclecontinues forever. This balance of opposing pairs is a reflection of the ultimateharmony that governs the universe.2.3. The Apeiron as Unconditioned and GodAnaximander identifies the apeiron as unconditioned and therefore as God.Aristotle explains:We cannot say that the apeiron has no effect, and the only effectiveness which we can ascribe to it is thatof a principle. Everything is either a source or derived from a source. But there cannot be a source ofthe apeiron, for that would be a limit of it. Further, as it is a beginning, it is both uncreatable andindestructible. For there must be a point at which what has come to be reaches completion, and also a
termination of all passing away. That is why, as we say, there is no principle of this, but it is this which isheld to be the principle of other things, and to encompass all and to steer all, as those assert who do notrecognize, alongside the infinite, other causes, such as Mind or Friendship. Further they identify it with theDivine, for it is deathless and imperishable as Anaximander says, with the majority of the physicists.(Physics 3.4; 203b)Everything is either as source or derived from a source. The apeiron is notderived from a source, but is the one source of all things; if it were not, itwould no longer be the apeiron, for it would be conditioned or caused to be bysomething else. It would therefore be something as distinct from other thingsand not the source of all things. The apeiron is not anything, which is why it iscalled the apeiron, the unlimited or indeterminate. While it is the source of allthat is created and destroyed, it is none of those things; if it were, it could notbe the source of those things. As the unlimited or indeterminate,the apeiron not only does not come into being but also does not perish, for, ifit did, it would be limited or conditioned by that which can destroy it. To useAristotles terminology, the apeiron is the (first) principle (archê) of all things,which owes its existence to no other principle. Similarly, as already noted,Hippolytus says that Anaximanders apeironas the archê "is eternal andundecaying, and comprising all the worlds" (Refut. 1.5). Likewise, Aetiusreports, "Anaximander...says that the first principle of things is the apeiron; forfrom this all things come, and all things perish and return to this" (Aet. 1.3). Consistent with Greek assumptions, since it is "uncreatable andindestructible," the apeiron must be God, for it is a assumed that whatever isimmortal is divine. Since it is god, the apeiron is no insentient volume ofmatter, but is aware and has will, so that, as Aristotle says, it "steers all," bywhich he means it gives direction to the unfolding of all things, which it itselfis. It does so while encompassing all (periechein), which seems to mean thatthe apeiron surrounds the world and contains it.Anaximenes (d. 528 BCE)
According to the surviving sources on his life, Anaximenes flourished in the mid 6th century BCE and died around 528. He is the third philosopher of the Milesian School of philosophy, so named because like Thales and Anaximander, Anaximenes was an inhabitant of Miletus, in Ionia (ancient Greece). Theophrastusnotes that Anaximenes was an associate, and possibly a student, of Anaximander‟s. Anaximenes is best known for his doctrine that air is the source of all things. In this way, he differed with his predecessors like Thales, who held that water is the source of all things, and Anaximander, who thought that all things came from an unspecified boundless stuff. Table of Contents1. Doctrine of Air2. Doctrine of Change3. Origin of the Cosmos4. Influence on later Philosophy5. References and Further Reading 1. Doctrine of Air Anaximenes seems to have held that at one time everything was air. Air can be thought of as a kind of neutral stuff that is found everywhere, and is available to participate in physical processes. Natural forces constantly act on the air and transform it into other materials, which came together to form the organized world. In early Greek literature, air is associated with the soul (the breath of life) and Anaximenes may have thought of air as capable of directing its own development, as the soul controls the body (DK13B2 in the Diels-Kranz collection of Presocratic sources). Accordingly, he ascribed to air divine attributes. 2. Doctrine of Change
Given his doctrine that all things are composed of air, Anaximenes suggested an interestingqualitative account of natural change:[Air] differs in essence in accordance with its rarity or density. When it is thinned it becomes fire, whilewhen it is condensed it becomes wind, then cloud, when still more condensed it becomes water, thenearth, then stones. Everything else comes from these. (DK13A5)Using two contrary processes of rarefaction and condensation, Anaximenes explains how air is partof a series of changes. Fire turns to air, air to wind, wind to cloud, cloud to water, water to earth andearth to stone. Matter can travel this path by being condensed, or the reverse path from stones to fireby being successively more rarefied. Anaximenes provides a crude kind of empirical support byappealing to a simple experiment: if one blows on one‟s hand with the mouth relaxed, the air is hot;if one blows with pursed lips, the air is cold (DK13B1). Hence, according to Anaximenes we see thatrarity is correlated with heat (as in fire), and density with coldness, (as in the denser stuffs).Anaximenes was the first recorded thinker who provided a theory of change and supported it withobservation. Anaximander had described a sequence of changes that a portion of the boundlessunderwent to form the different stuffs of the world, but he gave no scientific reason for changes, nordid he describe any mechanism by which they might come about. By contrast, Anaximenes uses aprocess familiar from everyday experience to account for material change. He also seems to havereferred to the process of felting, by which wool is compressed to make felt. This industrial processprovides a model of how one stuff can take on new properties when it is compacted.3. Origin of the CosmosAnaximenes, like Anaximander, gives an account of how our world came to be out of previouslyexisting matter. According to Anaximenes, earth was formed from air by a felting process. It began asa flat disk. From evaporations from the earth, fiery bodies arose which came to be the heavenlybodies. The earth floats on a cushion of air. The heavenly bodies, or at least the sun and the moon,seem also be flat bodies that float on streams of air. On one account, the heavens are like a felt capthat turns around the head. The stars may be fixed to this surface like nails. In another account, thestars are like fiery leaves floating on air (DK13A14). The sun does not travel under the earth butcircles around it, and is hidden by the higher parts of the earth at night.Like Anaximander, Anaximenes uses his principles to account for various natural phenomena.Lightning and thunder result from wind breaking out of clouds; rainbows are the result of the rays ofthe sun falling on clouds; earthquakes are caused by the cracking of the earth when it dries out afterbeing moistened by rains. He gives an essentially correct account of hail as frozen rainwater.Most commentators, following Aristotle, understand Anaximenes‟ theory of change as presupposingmaterial monism. According to this theory, there is only one substance, (in this case air) from whichall existing things are composed. The several stuffs: wind, cloud, water, etc., are only modifications ofthe real substance that is always and everywhere present. There is no independent evidence tosupport this interpretation, which seems to require Aristotle‟s metaphysical concepts of form andmatter, substratum and accident that are too advanced for this period. Anaximenes may havesupposed that the „stuffs‟ simply change into one another in order.
4. Influence on later PhilosophyAnaximenes‟ theory of successive change of matter by rarefaction and condensation was influentialin later theories. It is developed by Heraclitus (DK22B31), and criticized by Parmenides (DK28B8.23-24, 47-48). Anaximenes‟ general theory of how the materials of the world arise is adoptedby Anaxagoras(DK59B16), even though the latter has a very different theory of matter. Both Melissus(DK30B8.3) and Plato (Timaeus 49b-c) see Anaximenes‟ theory as providing a common-senseexplanation of change. Diogenes of Apollonia makes air the basis of his explicitly monistic theory.The Hippocratic treatise On Breaths uses air as the central concept in a theory of diseases. Byproviding cosmological accounts with a theory of change, Anaximenes separated them from therealm of mere speculation and made them, at least in conception, scientific theories capable oftesting.5. References and Further ReadingThere are no monographs on Anaximenes in English. Articles on him are sometimes ratherspecialized in nature. A number of chapters in books on the Presocratics are helpful.Anaximenes of MiletusFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaAnaximenes of MiletusAnaximenes (Greek: Άναξιμένηρ) of Miletus (b. 585 BCE, d. 528 BCE) was an ArchaicGreek Pre-Socratic philosopher active in the latter half of the 6th century BC.  One of thethree Milesian philosophers, he is identified as a younger friend or studentof Anaximander. Anaximenes, like others in his school of thought, practiced materialmonism. This tendency to identify one specific underlying reality made up of a materialthing constitutes the bulk of the contributions for which Anaximenes is most famed.
Contents [hide]1 Anaximenes and the Arche2 The Origin of the Cosmos3 Other Phenomena4 See also5 References6 Further reading7 External linksAnaximenes and the ArcheWhile his predecessors Thales and Anaximander proposed that the arche, the underlyingmaterial of the world, were water and the ambiguous substance apeiron, respectively,Anaximenes asserted that air was this primary substance of which all other things aremade. While the choice of air may seem arbitrary, he based his conclusion on naturallyobservable phenomena in the process of rarefaction and condensation. When aircondenses it becomes visible, as mist and then rain and other forms of precipitation, and asthe condensed air cools Anixemenes supposed that it went on to form earth and ultimatelystones. In contrast, water evaporates into air which ignites and produces flame when furtherrarefied. While other philosophers also recognized such transitions in states of matter,Anaximenes was the first to associate the quality pairs hot/dry and cold/wet with the densityof a single material and add a quantitative dimension to the Milesian monistic system. The Origin of the CosmosHaving concluded that everything in the world is composed of air, Anaximenes then usedhis theory to devise a scheme explaining the origins and nature of the earth as well as ofthe surrounding celestial bodies. Air felted to create the flat disk of the earth, which he saidwas table-like and behaved like a leaf floating on air. In keeping with the prevailing view ofcelestial bodies as balls of fire in the sky, Anaximenes proposed that the earth let out anexhalation of air that rarefied, ignited and became the stars. While the sun is similarlydescribed as being aflame, it is not composed of rarefied air like the stars but rather of earthlike the moon; its burning comes not from its composition but rather from its rapidmotion. The moon and sun are likewise considered to be flat and floating on streams ofair, and when the sun sets it does not pass under the earth but is merely obscured byhigher parts of the earth as it circles around and becomes more distant; the motion of the
sun and the other celestial bodies around the earth is likened by Anaximenes to the waythat a cap may be turned around the head.Other PhenomenaAnaximenes used his observations and reasoning to provide causes for other naturalphenomena on the earth as well. Earthquakes he asserted were the result either of lack ofmoisture, which causes the earth to break apart because of how parched it is, or ofoverabundance thereof, which also causes cracks in the earth because of the excess ofwater. In either case the earth becomes weakened by its cracks and hills collapse, causingearthquakes. Lightning is also caused by a violent separation, this time of clouds by windsto create a bright, fire-like flash. Rainbows are formed when densely compressed air istouched by the rays of the sun. These examples further show how Anaximenes like theother Milesians looked for the broader picture in nature, seeking unifying causes fordiversely occurring events rather than treating each one on a case-by-case basis orattributing them to gods or a personified nature.ThalesMula sa Tagalog na Wikipedia, ang malayang ensiklopedyaBusto ni Thales
Si Thalis ng Milito (Griyego: Θαλήρ ο Μιλήσιορ, Thalis o Milisios, Tales ng Mileto), higit na kilala saanyong Latin ng kaniyang pangalan naThales, ay ipinanganak sa Ionia sa lungsod ng Milito (624 BK–546 BK)ng Gresya noong mga 2500 taon na ang nakalilipas sa baybayin ngDagat Egeo, anak nina Examio atCleobulina. Ang kaniyang mga pangunahing pasyon ay matematika, astronomiya, at politika. Itinuturing siya naisa sa mga Pitong Paham ng Gresya. Siya rin ang kinikilala bilang unang dakilang siyentipiko. Siya ang unangnakatuklas ng magnetismodahil sa pagkakatagpo niya na nakahahatak o nakaakit ng mga piraso ng bakal oyero (iron sa Ingles) ang mineral na batong may balani(lodestone o loadstone sa Ingles). Kaugnay nito,natuklasan niya rin ang kuryente dahil sa pagdikit ng magagaang na mga bagay sa mga pirasong amber (electron sa Griyego at pinagmulan ng salitang "elektrisidad" o electricity sa Ingles) pagkaraanniyang kuskusin ang mga amber na ito.Thales of Miletus (c. 620 BCE – c. 546BCE) The ancient Greek philosopher Thales was born in Miletus inGreek Ionia. Aristotle, the major source for Thales‟s philosophy and science, identified Thales as thefirst person to investigate the basic principles, the question of the originating substances of matterand, therefore, as the founder of the school of natural philosophy. Thales was interested in almosteverything, investigating almost all areas of knowledge, philosophy, history, science, mathematics,engineering, geography, and politics. He proposed theories to explain many of the events of nature,the primary substance, the support of the earth, and the cause of change. Thales was much involvedin the problems of astronomy and provided a number of explanations of cosmological events whichtraditionally involved supernatural entities. His questioning approach to the understanding ofheavenly phenomena was the beginning of Greek astronomy. Thales‟ hypotheses were new and bold,and in freeing phenomena from godly intervention, he paved the way towards scientific endeavor. Hefounded the Milesian school of natural philosophy, developed the scientific method, and initiated thefirst western enlightenment. A number of anecdotes is closely connected to Thales‟ investigations ofthe cosmos. When considered in association with his hypotheses they take on added meaning andare most enlightening. Thales was highly esteemed in ancient times, and a letter cited by Diogenes
Laertius, and purporting to be from Anaximenes to Pythagoras, advised that all our discourse shouldbegin with a reference to Thales (D.L. II.4).1. The Writings of ThalesDoubts have always existed about whether Thales wrote anything, but a number of ancient reportscredit him with writings. Simplicius (Diels, Dox. p. 475) specifically attributed to Thales authorshipof the so-called Nautical Star-guide. Diogenes Laertius raised doubts about authenticity, but wrotethat „according to others [Thales] wrote nothing but two treatises, one On the Solstice and one On theEquinox„ (D.L. I.23). Lobon of Argus asserted that the writings of Thales amounted to two hundredlines (D.L. I.34), and Plutarch associated Thales with opinions and accounts expressed in verse(Plutarch, De Pyth. or. 18. 402 E). Hesychius, recorded that „[Thales] wrote on celestial matters inepic verse, on the equinox, and much else‟ (DK, 11A2). Callimachus credited Thales with the sageadvice that navigators should navigate by Ursa Minor (D.L. I.23), advice which may have been inwriting.Diogenes mentions a poet, Choerilus, who declared that „[Thales] was the first to maintain theimmortality of the soul‟ (D.L. I.24), and in De Anima, Aristotle‟s words „from what is recorded about[Thales]„, indicate that Aristotle was working from a written source. Diogenes recorded that „[Thales]seems by some accounts to have been the first to study astronomy, the first to predict eclipses of thesun and to fix the solstices; so Eudemus in his History of Astronomy. It was this which gained forhim the admiration of Xenophanes and Herodotus and the notice of Heraclitus and Democritus‟(D.L. I.23). Eudemus who wrote a History of Astronomy, and also on geometry and theology, mustbe considered as a possible source for the hypotheses of Thales. The information provided byDiogenes is the sort of material which he would have included in his History of Astronomy, and it ispossible that the titles On the Solstice, and On the Equinox were available to Eudemus. Xenophanes,Herodotus, Heraclitus and Democritus were familiar with the work of Thales, and may have had awork by Thales available to them.Proclus recorded that Thales was followed by a great wealth of geometers, most of whom remain ashonoured names. They commence with Mamercus, who was a pupil of Thales, and include Hippias ofElis, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Eudoxus of Cnidus, Philippus of Mende, Euclid, and Eudemus, afriend of Aristotle, who wrote histories of arithmetic, of astronomy, and of geometry, and manylesser known names. It is possible that writings of Thales were available to some of these men.Any records which Thales may have kept would have been an advantage in his own work. This isespecially true of mathematics, of the dates and times determined when fixing the solstices, thepositions of stars, and in financial transactions. It is difficult to believe that Thales would not havewritten down the information he had gathered in his travels, particularly the geometry heinvestigated in Egypt and his measuring of the height of the pyramid, his hypotheses about nature,and the cause of change.Proclus acknowledged Thales as the discoverer of a number of specific theorems (A Commentary onthe First Book of Euclid’s Elements 65. 8-9; 250. 16-17). This suggests that Eudemus, Proclus‟ssource had before him the written records of Thales‟s discoveries. How did Thales „prove‟ histheorems if not in written words and sketches? The works On the Solstice, On the Equinox, whichwere attributed to Thales (D.L. I.23), and the „Nautical Star-guide, to which Simplicius referred, mayhave been sources for theHistory of Astronomy of Eudemus (D.L. I.23).2. Possible Sources for Aristotle
There is no direct evidence that any written material of Thales was available to Plato and Aristotle,but there is a surprisingly long list of early writers who could have known Thales, or had access to hisworks, and these must be considered as possible sources for Plato, Aristotle, and the philosophersand commentators who followed them. Aristotle‟s wording, „Thales says‟, is assertive wording whichsuggests a reliable source, perhaps writings of Thales himself. Anaximander and Anaximenes wereassociates of Thales, and would have been familiar with his ideas. Both produced written work.Anaximander wrote in a poetical style (Theophr. ap. Simpl. Phys. fr. 2), and the writing ofAnaximenes was simple and unaffected (D.L. II.3). Other philosophers who were credited withwritten works, who worked on topics similar to those of Thales, and who may have provided materialfor later writers, are Heraclitus of Ephesus, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, Alcmaeon, Hippo of Samos,and Hippias of Elis.3. Thales says Water is the Primary PrincipleAristotle defined wisdom as knowledge of certain principles and causes (Metaph. 982 a2-3). Hecommenced his investigation of the wisdom of the philosophers who preceded him, with Thales, thefirst philosopher, and described Thales as the founder of natural philosophy (Metaph. 983 b21-22).He recorded: „Thales says that it is water‟. „it‟ is the nature, the archê, the originating principle. ForThales, this nature was a single material substance, water. Despite the more advanced terminologywhich Aristotle and Plato had created, Aristotle recorded the doctrines of Thales in terms which wereavailable to Thales in the sixth century BCE Aristotle made a definite statement, and presented itwith confidence. It was only when Aristotle attempted to provide the reasons for the opinions thatThales held, and for the theories that he proposed, that he sometimes displayed caution.4. Thales and MythologyThose who believe that Thales inherited his views from Greek or Near-Eastern sources are wrong.Thales was esteemed in his times as an original thinker, and one who broke with tradition and not asone who conveyed existing mythologies. Aristotle unequivocally recorded Thales‟s hypothesis on thenature of matter, and proffered a number of conjectures based on observation in favour of Thales‟sdeclaration (Metaph. 983 b20-28). His report provided the testimony that Thales supplanted mythin his explanations of the behaviour of natural phenomena. Thales did not derive his thesis fromeither Greek or non-Greek mythological traditions.Thales would have been familiar with Homer‟s acknowledgements of divine progenitors but he neverattributed organization or control of the cosmos to the gods. Aristotle recognized the similaritybetween Thales‟s doctrine about water and the ancient legend which associates water with Oceanusand Tethys, but he reported that Thales declared water to be the nature of all things. Aristotlepointed to a similarity to traditional beliefs, not a dependency upon them. Aristotle did not callThales a theologian in the sense in which he designated „the old poets‟ (Metaph. 1091 b4) and others,such as Pherecydes, as „mixed theologians‟ who did not use „mythical language throughout‟(Metaph. 1091 b9). To Aristotle, the theories of Thales were so obviously different from all that hadgone before that they stood out from earlier explanations. Thales‟s views were not ancient andprimitive. They were new and exciting, and the genesis of scientific conjecture about naturalphenomena. It was the view for which Aristotle acknowledged Thales as the founder of naturalphilosophy.5. Thales’s Primary Principle
The problem of the nature of matter, and its transformation into the myriad things of which theuniverse is made, engaged the natural philosophers, commencing with Thales. For his hypothesis tobe credible, it was essential that he could explain how all things could come into being from water,and return ultimately to the originating material. It is inherent in Thales‟s hypotheses that water hadthe potentiality to change to the myriad things of which the universe is made, the botanical,physiological, meteorological and geological states. In Timaeus, 49B-C, Plato had Timaeus relate acyclic process. The passage commences with „that which we now call “water” „, and describes a theorywhich was possibly that of Thales. Thales would have recognized evaporation, and have been familiarwith traditional views, such as the nutritive capacity of mist and ancient theories about spontaneousgeneration, phenomena which he may have „observed‟, just as Aristotle believed he, himself had(Hist. An. 569 b1; Gen. An. 762 a9-763 a34), and about which Diodorus Siculus (I.7.3-5; 1.10.6),Epicurus (ap. Censorinus, D.N. IV.9), Lucretius (De Rerum Natura , V.783-808) and Ovid(Met. I.416-437) wrote.When Aristotle reported Thales‟s pronouncement that the primary principle is water, he made aprecise statement: „Thales says that it [the nature of things] is water‟ (Metaph. 983 b20), but hebecame tentative when he proposed reasons which might have justified Thales‟s decision: „[Thaless]supposition may have arisen from observation . . . „ (Metaph. 983 b22). It was Aristotle‟s opinion thatThales may have observed, „that the nurture of all creatures is moist, and that warmth itself isgenerated from moisture and lives by it; and that from which all things come to be is their firstprinciple‟ (Metaph. 983 b23-25). Then, in the lines 983 b26-27, Aristotle‟s tone changed towardsgreater confidence. He declared: „Besides this, another reason for the supposition would be that thesemina of all things have a moist nature . . . „ (Metaph. 983 b26-27). In continuing the criticism ofThales, Aristotle wrote: „That from which all things come to be is their first principle‟ (Metaph. 983b25).Simple metallurgy had been practised long before Thales presented his hypotheses, so Thales knewthat heat could return metals to a liquid state. Water exhibits sensible changes more obviously thanany of the other so-called elements, and can readily be observed in the three states of liquid, vapourand ice. The understanding that water could generate into earth is basic to Thales‟s watery thesis. AtMiletus it could readily be observed that water had the capacity to thicken into earth. Miletus stoodon the Gulf of Lade through which the Maeander river emptied its waters. Within living memory,older Milesians had witnessed the island of Lade increasing in size within the Gulf, and the riverbanks encroaching into the river to such an extent that at Priene, across the gulf from Miletus thewarehouses had to be rebuilt closer to the water‟s edge. The ruins of the once prosperous city-port ofMiletus are now ten kilometres distant from the coast and the Island of Lade now forms part of a richagricultural plain. There would have been opportunity to observe other areas where earth generatedfrom water, for example, the deltas of the Halys, the Ister, about which Hesiod wrote (Theogony,341), now called the Danube, the Tigris-Euphrates, and almost certainly the Nile. This coming-into-being of land would have provided substantiation of Thales‟s doctrine. To Thales water held thepotentialities for the nourishment and generation of the entire cosmos. Aëtius attributed to Thalesthe concept that „even the very fire of the sun and the stars, and indeed the cosmos itself is nourishedby evaporation of the waters‟ (Aëtius, Placita,I.3).It is not known how Thales explained his watery thesis, but Aristotle believed that the reasons heproposed were probably the persuasive factors in Thales‟s considerations. Thales gave no role to theOlympian gods. Belief in generation of earth from water was not proven to be wrong until A.D. 1769following experiments of Antoine Lavoisier, and spontaneous generation was not disproved until thenineteenth century as a result of the work of Louis Pasteur.6. New Ideas about the Earth
Thales proposed answers to a number of questions about the earth: the question of its support; itsshape; its size; and the cause of earthquakes; the dates of the solstices; the size of the sun and moon.a. The Earth Floats on WaterIn De Caelo Aristotle wrote: „This [opinion that the earth rests on water] is the most ancientexplanation which has come down to us, and is attributed to Thales of Miletus (Cael. 294 a28-30).He explained his theory by adding the analogy that the earth is at rest because it is of the nature ofwood and similar substances which have the capacity to float on water, although not on air (Cael. 294a30-b1). InMetaphysics (983 b21) Aristotle stated, quite unequivocally: „Thales . . . declared that theearth rests on water‟. This concept does appear to be at odds with natural expectations, and Aristotleexpressed his difficulty with Thales‟s theory (Cael. 294 a33-294 b6).Perhaps Thales anticipated problems with acceptance because he explained that it floated because ofa particular quality, a quality of buoyancy similar to that of wood. At the busy city-port of Miletus,Thales had unlimited opportunities to observe the arrival and departure of ships with their heavier-than-water cargoes, and recognized an analogy to floating logs. Thales may have envisaged somequality, common to ships and earth, a quality of „floatiness‟, or buoyancy. It seems that Thales‟shypothesis was substantiated by sound observation and reasoned considerations. Indeed, Senecareported that Thales had land supported by water and carried along like a boat (Sen. QNat. III.14).Aristotle‟s lines in Metaphysicsindicate his understanding that Thales believed that, because waterwas the permanent entity, the earth floats on water.Thales may have reasoned that as a modification of water, earth must be the lighter substance, andfloating islands do exist. Herodotus (The Histories, II.156) was impressed when he saw Chemmis, afloating island, about thirty-eight kilometres north-east of Naucratis, the Egyptian tradingconcession which Thales probably visited. Seneca described floating islands in Lydia: „There aremany light, pumice-like stones of which islands are composed, namely those which float in Lydia‟(Sen. QNat., III.25. 7-10). Pliny described several floating islands, the most relevant being the ReedIslands, in Lydia (HN,II.XCVII), and Pliny (the Younger) (Ep. VIII.XX) described a circular floatingisland, its buoyancy, and the way it moved. Thales could have visited the near-by Reed Islands. Hemight have considered such readily visible examples to be models of his theory, and he could wellhave claimed that the observation that certain islands had the capacity to float substantiated hishypothesis that water has the capacity to support earth.Again it is understood that Thales did not mention any of the gods who were traditionally associatedwith the simple bodies; we do not hear of Oceanus or Gaia: we read of water and earth. The idea thatThales would have resurrected the gods is quite contrary to the bold, new, non-mythical theorieswhich Thales proposed.b. Thales’s Spherical EarthModern commentators assume that Thales regarded the earth as flat, thin, and circular, but there isno ancient testimony to support that opinion. On the contrary, Aristotle may have attributedknowledge of the sphericity of the earth to Thales, an opinion which was later reported by Aëtius(Aët. III. 9-10) and followed by Ps.-Plutarch (Epit. III.10). Aristotle wrote that some think itspherical, others flat and shaped like a drum (Arist. Cael. 293 b33-294 a1), and then attributed beliefin a flat earth to Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, and Democritus (Arist. Cael. 294 b14-15). If followingchronological order, Aristotle‟s words, „some think it spherical‟, referred to the theory of Thales.
Aristotle then followed with the theory of Thales‟s immediate Milesian successor, Anaximander, andthen reported the flat earth view of Anaximenes, the third of the Milesian natural philosophers.There are several good reasons to accept that Thales envisaged the earth as spherical. Aristotle usedthese arguments to support his own view (Arist. Cael. 297 b25-298 a8). First is the fact that during asolar eclipse, the shadow caused by the interposition of the earth between the sun and the moon isalways convex; therefore the earth must be spherical. In other words, if the earth were a flat disk, theshadow cast during an eclipse would be elliptical. Second, Thales, who is acknowledged as anobserver of the heavens, would have observed that stars which are visible in a certain locality maynot be visible further to the north or south, a phenomena which could be explained within theunderstanding of a spherical earth. Third, from mere observation the earth has the appearance ofbeing curved. From observation, it appears that the earth is covered by a dome. When observed froman elevated site, the sky seems to surround the earth, like a dome, to meet the apparently curvedhorizon. If observed over the seasons, the dome would appear to revolve, with many of the heavenlybodies changing their position in varying degrees, but returning annually to a similar place in theheavens. Through his work in astronomy Thales would almost certainly have become familiar withthe night sky and the motion of the heavenly bodies. There is evidence that he gave advice to navigateby Ursa Minor, and was so involved in observation of the stars that he fell into a well. As a result ofobservations made over a long period of time, Thales could have realized that the motions of thefixed stars could not be explained within the idea of the observable hemispherical dome. During thedetermination of the size of the rising sun, and again while watching its risings and settings duringhis work on fixing the solstices, Thales may have realized that much natural phenomena could beexplained only within the understanding of the earth as a sphere.From the shore, a ship can be seen to be descending, gradually, below the horizon, with the hulldisappearing from view first, to be followed by masts and sails. If one had a companion observingfrom a higher point, the companion would see the ship for a long period before it disappeared fromview.Aëtius recorded the different opinions of the shape of the earth that were held by Thales,Anaximander and Anaximenes (III.9-10; III.10; and III.10). Cicero attributed to Thales the earliestconstruction of a solid celestial globe (Rep. I.XIII.22). Thales‟s immediate successors proposedtheories about the shape of the earth which were quite different from each other, but that is noreason to reject the view that Thales hypothesized a spherical earth. It is not the only occasion onwhich Anaximander and Anaximenes failed to follow the theories of Thales. That they did not do sois the main argument in favour of accepting that the scientific method commenced in the MilesianSchool. There is testimony that Thales knew the earth to be spherical, but no evidence to suggest thathe proposed any other shape.c. Earthquake TheoryThales‟s theory about the cause of earthquakes is consistent with his hypothesis that earth floatsupon water. It seems that he applied his floating on water simile to the natural phenomena ofearthquakes. Aëtius recorded that Thales and Democritus found in water the cause of earthquakes(Aët. III.15), and Seneca attributed to Thales a theory that on the occasions when the earth is said toquake it is fluctuating because of the roughness of oceans (QNat. III.14; 6.6). Although the theory iswrong, Thales‟s hypothesis is rational because it provides an explanation which does not invokehidden entities. It is an advance upon the traditional Homeric view that they resulted from an angrysupernatural god, Poseidon, shaking the earth through his rapid striding.
7. All Things are Full of GodThe question of whether Thales endowed the gods with a role in his theories is fundamental to hishypotheses. The relevant text from Aristotle reads: „Thales, too, to judge from what is recorded of hisviews, seems to suppose that the soul is in a sense the cause of movement, since he says that a stone[magnet, or lodestone] has a soul because it causes movement to iron‟ (De An. 405 a20-22); „Somethink that the soul pervades the whole universe, whence perhaps came Thales‟s view that everythingis full of gods‟ (De An. 411 a7-8). In reference to the clause in the first passage „to judge from what isrecorded of his views‟, Snell convincingly argued that Aristotle had before him the actual sentencerecording Thales‟s views about the lodestone (Snell, 1944, 170). In the second passage the „some‟ towhom Aristotle refers are Leucippus, Democritus, Diogenes of Apollonia, Heraclitus, and Alcmaeon,philosophers who were later than Thales. They adopted and adapted the earlier view of Thales thatsoul was the cause of motion, permeating and enlivening the entire cosmos. The order in whichAristotle discussed Thales‟s hypothesis obscures the issue.The source for Aristotle‟s report that Thales held all things to be full of gods is unknown, but somepresume that it was Plato. Thales is not mentioned in the relevant lines in Plato, but there is apopular misconception that they refer to the belief of Thales. This is wrong. Thales had rejected theold gods. In a passage in Apology(26 C) Socrates identified the heavenly bodies as gods, and pointedout that that was the general understanding. In Cratylus(399 D-E) Plato had Socrates explain arelationship between soul as a life-giving force, the capacity to breathe, and the reviving force.In Timaeus 34B) Plato had Timaeus relate a theory which described soul as pervading the wholeuniverse. Then, in Laws Plato has the Athenian Stranger say: „Everyone . . . who has not reached theutmost verge of folly is bound to regard the soul as a god. Concerning all the stars and the moon, andconcerning the years and months and all seasons, what other account shall we give than this verysame, – namely, that, inasmuch as it has been shown that they are all caused by one or more souls . .. we shall declare these souls to be gods . . .? Is there any man that agrees with this view who willstand hearing it denied that „all things are full of gods‟? The response is: „No man is so wrong-headedas that‟ (Laws, 899 A-B). Plato had the Athenian Stranger extend his ideas into a theological theory.He used a sleight of hand method to express his own ideas about divine spiritual beings. With theexception of gods in the scheme of things, these passages reflect the beliefs which formed theThalean hypothesis, but Plato did not have the Athenian Stranger attribute the crucial clause „allthings are full of gods‟ to Thales. Thales is not mentioned.Aristotle‟s text not the earliest extant testimony. Diogenes preserved a report from Hippias: „Aristotleand Hippias affirm that, arguing from the magnet and from amber, [Thales] attributed a soul or lifeeven to inanimate objects‟ (D.L. I.24). This early report does not mention godly entities. The latercommentators, Cicero (Nat. D. I.X.25), and Stobaeus (Ecl. I.1.11) included gods in Thales‟s theory.However, their views post-date Stoicism and are distorted by theistic doctrines.Plato converted the idea of soul into a theory that „all things are full of gods‟, and this may have beenAristotle‟s source, but the idea of gods is contrary to Thales‟s materialism. When Thales definedreality, he chose an element, not a god. The motive force was not a supernatural being. It was a forcewithin the universe itself. Thales never invoked a power that was not present in nature itself, becausehe believed that he had recognized a force which underpinned the events of nature.8. Thales’s Astronomya. The Eclipse of Thales
Thales is acclaimed for having predicted an eclipse of the sun which occurred on 28 May 585 BCEThe earliest extant account of the eclipse is from Herodotus: „On one occasion [the Medes and theLydians] had an unexpected battle in the dark, an event which occurred after five years of indecisivewarfare: the two armies had already engaged and the fight was in progress, when day was suddenlyturned into night. This change from daylight to darkness had been foretold to the Ionians by Thalesof Miletus, who fixed the date for it within the limits of the year in which it did, in fact, take place‟(Hdt. I.74). The vital points are: Thales foretold a solar eclipse; it did occur within the period hespecified. How Thales foretold the eclipse is not known but there is strong opinion that he was ableto perform this remarkable feat through knowledge of a cycle known as the Saros, with someattributing his success to use of the Exeligmos cycle. It is not known how Thales was able to predictthe Eclipse, if indeed he did, but he could not have predicted the Eclipse by using the Saros or theExeligmos cycles.In addition to Herodotus, the successful prediction of the eclipse was accepted by Eudemus in hisHistory of Astronomy and acknowledged by a number of other writers of ancient times (Cicero,Pliny, Dercyllides, Clement, Eusebius). This is how Diogenes Laertius recorded the event: „[Thales]seems by some accounts to have been the first to study astronomy, the first to predict eclipses of thesun, and to fix the solstices; so Eudemus in his History of Astronomy. It was this which gained forhim the admiration of Xenophanes and Herodotus and the notice of Heraclitus and Democritus‟(D.L. I.23). Diogenes asserted that Herodotus knew of Thales‟s work, and in naming Xenophanes,Heraclitus, and Democritus, he nominated three of the great pre-Socratics, eminent philosopherswho were familiar with the work of Thales.Modern astronomy confirms that the eclipse did occur, and was total. According to Herodotus‟sreport, the umbra of the eclipse of Thales must have passed over the battle field. The “un-naturalness” of a solar eclipse is eerie and chilling. All becomes hushed and there is a strong uncannysensation of impending disaster, of being within the control of some awful power. In ancient times,the awesome phenomenon must have aroused great fear, anxiety and wonder. The combatants sawthe eclipse as disapproval of their warfare, and as a warning. They ceased fighting and a peaceagreement was reached between the two kings.It is not known why Thales turned away from the traditional beliefs which attributed all naturalevents and man‟s fortunes and misfortunes to the great family of Olympian gods, but Miletus was themost prosperous of the Ionian cities, and it cannot be doubted that the flourishing merchantsbelieved that their prosperity resulted from their own initiative and endeavours. Thales‟s greatphilosophical pronouncement that water is the basic principle shows that Thales gave noacknowledgement to the gods as instigators and controllers of phenomena. Thales‟s hypothesesindicate that he envisaged phenomena as natural events with natural causes and possible ofexplanation. From his new perspective of observation and reasoning, Thales studied the heavens andsought explanations of heavenly phenomena.It is widely accepted that Thales acquired information from Near-Eastern sources and gained accessto the extensive records which dated from the time of Nabonassar (747 BCE) and which were laterused by Ptolemy (Alm. III.7. H 254). Some commentators have suggested that Thales predicted thesolar eclipse of 585 BCE through knowledge of the Saros period, a cycle of 223 lunar months (18years, 10-11 days plus 0.321124 of a day) after which eclipses both of the sun and moon repeatthemselves with very little change, or through knowledge of the Exeligmos cycle which is exactlythree times the length of the Saros (Ptolemy, Alm. IV.2. H270). The ancients could not havepredicted solar eclipses on the basis of those periodic cycles because eclipses of the sun do not repeatthemselves with very little change. The extra 0.321124 of a day means that each recurring solareclipse will be visible to the west, just under one-third of the circumference of the earth, being aperiod of time of almost 7.7 hours. This regression to the west could not have been known to the
ancient astrologers, a fact which seems not to have been taken into account by the philosophers whoattribute Thales‟s success to application of one of those two cycles.The following important fact should be noted. Some commentators and philosophers believe thatThales may have witnessed the solar eclipse of 18th May 603 BCE or have had heard of it. Theyaccepted that he had predicted the solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BCE and reasoned from theastronomical fact of the Saros cycles and the fact that the two solar eclipses had been separated bythe period of 18 years, 10 days, and 7.7 hours, and concluded that Thales had been able to predict asolar eclipse based upon the knowledge of that cycle. Two facts discount rebut those claims. First,recent research shows that the solar eclipse of 18th May 603 BCE would not have been visible inEgypt, nor in the Babylonian observation cities where the astronomers watched the heavens forexpected and unusual heavenly events. The eclipse of 603 passed over the Persian Gulf, too far to thesouth for observation (Stephenson, personal communication, March 1999; and Stephenson, “Long-term Fluctuations”, 165-202). Even if the eclipse of 603 had been visible to the Near-Easternastronomers, it is not possible to recognize a pattern from witnessing one event, or indeed, fromwitnessing two events. One may suggest a pattern after witnessing three events that are separated byequal periods of time, but the eclipse which preceded that of 603, and which occurred on 6th May621, was not visible in Near-Eastern regions. Consequently, it could not have been recorded by theastrologer/priests who watched for unusual heavenly phenomena, and could not have been seen asforming a pattern.It is quite wrong to say that eclipses repeat themselves with very little change, because each solareclipse in a particular Saros occurs about 7.7 hours later than in the previous eclipse in the sameSaros, and that is about 1/3 of the circumference of the earth‟s circumference. Adding to the difficultyof recognizing a particular cycle is the fact that about forty-two periodic cycles are in progresscontinuously, and overlapping at any time. Every series in a periodic cycle lasts about 1,300 yearsand comprises 73 eclipses. Eclipses which occur in one periodic cycle are unrelated to eclipses inother periodic cycles.The ancient letters prove that the Babylonians and Assyrians knew that lunar eclipses can occur onlyat full moon, and solar eclipses only at new moon, and also that eclipses occur at intervals of five orsix months. However, while lunar eclipses are visible over about half the globe, solar eclipses arevisible from only small areas of the earth‟s surface. Recent opinion is that, as early as 650 BCE theAssyrian astronomers seem to have recognized the six months-five months period by which theycould isolate eclipse possibilities (Steele, “Eclipse Prediction”, 429).In other recent research Britton has analysed a text known as Text S, which provides considerabledetail and fine analysis of lunar phenomena dating from Nabonassar in 747 BCE The text points toknowledge of the six-month five month periods. Britton believes that the Saros cycle was knownbefore 525 BCE (Britton, “Scientific Astronomy”, 62) but, although the text identifies a particularSaros cycle, and graphically depicts the number of eclipse possibilities, the ancient commentary ofText S does not attest to an actual observation (Britton, “An Early Function”, 32).There is no evidence that the Saros could have been used for the prediction of solar eclipses in thesixth century BCE, but it remains possible that forthcoming research, and the transliteration of moreof the vast stock of ancient tablets will prove that the Babylonians and Assyrians had a greaterknowledge of eclipse phenomena than is now known.The Babylonian and Assyrian astronomers knew of the Saros period in relation to lunar eclipses, andhad some success in predicting lunar eclipses but, in the sixth century BCE when Thales lived andworked, neither the Saros nor the Exeligmos cycles could be used to predict solar eclipses.
It is testified that Thales knew that the sun is eclipsed when the moon passes in front of it, the day ofeclipse – called the thirtieth by some, new moon by others (The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, 3710). Aëtius(II.28) recorded: [Thales] says that eclipses of the sun take place when the moon passes across it in adirect line, since the moon is earthy in character; and it seems to the eye to be laid on the disc of thesun‟.There is a possibility that, through analysis of ancient eclipse records, Thales identified anothercycle, the lunar eclipse-solar eclipse cycle of 23 1/2 months, the fact that a solar eclipse is a possibility23 1/2months after a lunar eclipse. However, lunar eclipses are not always followed by solar eclipses.Although the possibility is about 57% it is important to note that the total solar eclipse of 28th May,585, occurred 23 1/2months after the total lunar eclipse of 4th July, 587. The wording of the report ofthe eclipse by Herodotus: „Thales . . . fixed the date for the eclipse within the limits of the year‟ isprecise, and suggests that Thales‟s prediction was based upon a definite eclipse theory.b. Setting the SolsticesA report from Theon of Smyrna ap. Dercyllides states that: „Eudemus relates in the Astronomy thatThales was the first to discover the eclipse of the sun and that its period with respect to the solsticesis not always constant‟ (DK, 11 A 17). Diogenes Laertius (I.24) recorded that [Thales] was the first todetermine the sun‟s course from solstice to solstice, and also acknowledged the Astronomy ofEudemus as his source.Solstices are natural phenomena which occur on June 21 or 22, and December 21 or 22, but thedetermination of the precise date on which they occur is difficult. This is because the sun seems to„stand still‟ for several days because there is no discernible difference in its position in the sky. It isthe reason why the precise determination of the solstices was so difficult. It was a problem whichengaged the early astronomers, and more than seven centuries later, Ptolemy acknowledged thedifficulty (Alm. III.1. H203).It is not known how Thales proceeded with his determination, but the testimony of FlaviusPhilostratus is that: „[Thales] observed the heavenly bodies . . . from [Mount] Mycale which was closeby his home‟ (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius , II.V). This suggests that Thales observed the risingand setting of the sun for many days at mid-summer and mid-winter (and, necessarily, over manyyears). Mount Mycale, being the highest point in the locality of Miletus, would provide the perfectvantage point from which to make observations. Another method which Thales could have employedwas to measure the length of the noon-day sun around mid-summer and mid-winter. Again thiswould require observations to be made, and records kept over many days near the solstice period,and over many years.c. Thales’s Discovery of the SeasonsFrom Diogenes Laertius we have the report: „[Thales] is said to have discovered the seasons of theyear and divided it into 365 days‟ (D.L. I.27). Because Thales had determined the solstices, he wouldhave known of the number of days between say, summer solstices, and therefore have known thelength of a solar year. It is consistent with his determination of the solstices that he should becredited with discovering that 365 days comprise a year. It is also a fact that had long been known tothe Egyptians who set their year by the more reliable indicator of the annual rising of the star Siriusin July. Thales may have first gained the knowledge of the length of the year from the Egyptians, andperhaps have attempted to clarify the matter by using a different procedure. Thales certainly did not„discover‟ the seasons, but he may have identified the relationship between the solstices, the
changing position during the year of the sun in the sky, and associated this with seasonal climaticchanges.d. Thales’s Determination of the Diameters of the Sunand the MoonApuleius wrote that „Thales in his declining years devised a marvellous calculation about the sun,showing how often the sun measures by its own size the circle which it describes‟. (Apul. Florida, 18).Following soon after Apuleius, Cleomedes explained that the calculation could be made by running awater-clock, from which the result was obtained: the diameter of the sun is found to be one seven-hundred-and-fiftieth of its own orbit (Cleomedes, De Motu circulari corporum caelestium, II.75).The third report is from Diogenes: „According to some [Thales was] the first to declare the size of thesun to be one seven hundred and twentieth part of the solar circle, and the size of the moon to be thesame fraction of the lunar circle‟ (D.L. I.24). Little credence can be given to the water-clock methodfor reaching this determination, because there is an inbuilt likelihood of repeated errors over the 24hour period. Even Ptolemy, who flourished in the second century A.D., rejected all measurementswhich were made by means of water-clocks, because of the impossibility of attaining accuracy bysuch means (Alm. V.14. H416).In his work in geometry, Thales was engaged in circles and angles, and their characteristics, and hecould have arrived at his solution to the problem by applying the geometrical knowledge he hadacquired. There is no evidence to support a suggestion that Thales was familiar with measurementsby degrees but he could have learnt, from the Babylonians, that a circle is divided into 3600. Thefigure of 720, which was given by Diogenes for Thales, is double 360, and this is related to theBabylonian sexagesimal system. To establish the dates of the solstices, Thales probably maderepeated observations of the risings and settings of the sun. From such experiments he could haveobserved that the angle which was subtended by the elevation of the rising sun is 1/20 and with 3600in a circle, the ratio of 1:720 is determined.Of the report from Diogenes Laertius (D.L. I.24) that Thales also determined the orbit of the moon inrelation to the size of its diameter, Thales would repeat the method to calculate the orbit of themoon.e. Ursa MinorCallimachus (D.L. I.22) reported that Thales „discovered‟ Ursa Minor. This means only that herecognized the advantages of navigating by Ursa Minor, rather than by Ursa Major, as was thepreferred method of the Greeks. Ursa Minor, a constellation of six stars, has a smaller orbit thandoes the Great Bear, which means that, as it circles the North Pole, Ursa Minor changes its positionin the sky to a lesser degree than does the Great Bear. Thales offered this sage advice to the marinersof Miletus, to whom it should have been of special value because Miletus had developed a maritimetrade of economic importance.f. Falling into a WellIn Theaetetus (174 A) Plato had Socrates relate a story that Thales was so intent upon watching thestars that he failed to watch where he was walking, and fell into a well. The story is also related byHippolytus (Diels, Dox. 555), and by Diogenes Laertius (D.L. II.4-5). Irony and jest abound in Plato‟s
writing and he loved to make fun of the pre-Socratics, but he is not likely to have invented theepisode, especially as he had Socrates relate the event. Aristotle wrote that viewing the heavensthrough a tube „enables one to see further‟ (Gen. An. 780 b19-21), and Pliny (HN, II.XI) wrote that:„The sun‟s radiance makes the fixed stars invisible in daytime, although they are shining as much asin the night, which becomes manifest at a solar eclipse and also when the star is reflected in a verydeep well‟. Thales was renowned and admired for his astronomical studies, and he was credited withthe „discovery‟ of Ursa Minor (D.L. I.23). If Thales had heard that stars could be viewed to greateradvantage from wells, either during day or night, he would surely have made an opportunity to testthe theory, and to take advantage of a method that could assist him in his observations. Thepossibility that the story was based on fact should not be overlooked. Plato had information whichassociated Thales with stars, a well, and an accident. Whether Thales fell into a well, or tripped whenhe was getting in or out of a well, the story grew up around a mishap.9. MathematicsThe practical skill of land measurement was invented in Egypt because of the necessity frequently toremeasure plots of land after destructive inundations. The phenomena is well described byHerodotus (II.93-109). Egypt was believed to be the source of much wisdom and reports tell us thatmany Greeks, including Thales, Pythagoras, Solon, Herodotus, Plato, Democritus, and Euclid, visitedthat ancient land to see the wonders for themselves.The Egyptians had little to offer in the way of abstract thought. The surveyors were able to measureand to calculate and they had outstanding practical skills. In Egypt Thales would have observed theland surveyors, those who used a knotted cord to make their measurements, and were known asrope-stretchers. Egyptian mathematics had already reached its heights when The RhindMathematical Papyrus was written in about 1800 BCE More than a thousand years later, Thaleswould have watched the surveyors as they went about their work in the same manner, measuring theland with the aid of a knotted rope which they stretched to measure lengths and to form angles.The development of geometry is preserved in a work of Proclus, A Commentary on the First Book ofEuclid’s Elements (64.12-65.13). Proclus provided a remarkable amount of intriguing information,the vital points of which are the following: Geometry originated in Egypt where it developed out ofnecessity; it was adopted by Thales who had visited Egypt, and was introduced into Greece by himThe Commentary of Proclus indicates that he had access to the work of Euclid and also to TheHistory of Geometry which was written by Eudemus of Rhodes, a pupil of Aristotle, but which is nolonger extant. His wording makes it clear that he was familiar with the views of those writers whohad earlier written about the origin of geometry. He affirmed the earlier views that the rudiments ofgeometry developed in Egypt because of the need to re-define the boundaries, just as Herodotusstated.a. The Theorems Attributed to ThalesFive Euclidean theorems have been explicitly attributed to Thales, and the testimony is that Thalessuccessfully applied two theorems to the solution of practical problems.Thales did not formulate proofs in the formal sense. What Thales did was to put forward certainpropositions which, it seems, he could have „proven‟ by induction: he observed the similar results ofhis calculations: he showed by repeated experiment that his propositions and theorems were correct,and if none of his calculations resulted in contrary outcomes, he probably felt justified in accepting
his results as proof. Thalean „proof‟ was often really inductive demonstration. The process Thalesused was the method of exhaustion. This seems to be the evidence from Proclus who declared thatThales „attacked some problems in a general way and others more empirically‟.DEFINITION I.17: A diameter of the circle is a straight line drawn through the centre and terminatedin both directions by the circumference of the circle; and such a straight line also bisects the circle(Proclus, 124). >PROPOSITION I.5: In isosceles triangles the angles at the base are equal; and if the equal straightlines are produced further, the angles under the base will be equal (Proclus, 244). It seems thatThales discovered only the first part of this theorem for Proclus reported: We are indebted to oldThales for the discovery of this and many other theorems. For he, it is said, was the first to notice andassert that in every isosceles the angles at the base are equal, though in somewhat archaic fashion hecalled the equal angles similar (Proclus, 250.18-251.2).PROPOSITION I.15: „If two straight lines cut one another, they make the vertical angles equal to oneanother‟ (Proclus, 298.12-13). This theorem is positively attributed to Thales. Proof of the theoremdates from the Elements of Euclid (Proclus, 299.2-5).PROPOSITION I.26: „If two triangles have the two angles equal to two angles respectively, and oneside equal to one side, namely, either the side adjoining the equal angles, or that subtending one ofthe equal angles, they will also have the remaining sides equal to the remaining sides and theremaining angle equal to the remaining angle‟ (Proclus, 347.13-16). „Eudemus in his history ofgeometry attributes the theorem itself to Thales, saying that the method by which he is reported tohave determined the distance of ships at sea shows that he must have used it‟ (Proclus, 352.12-15).Thales applied this theorem to determine the height of a pyramid. The great pyramid was alreadyover two thousand years old when Thales visited Gizeh, but its height was not known. Diogenesrecorded that „Hieronymus informs us that [Thales] measured the height of the pyramids by theshadow they cast, taking the observation at the hour when our shadow is of the same length asourselves‟ (D.L. I.27). Pliny (HN, XXXVI.XVII.82) and Plutarch (Conv. sept. sap. 147) also recordedversions of the event. Thales was alerted by the similarity of the two triangles, the „quality ofproportionality‟. He introduced the concept of ratio, and recognized its application as a generalprinciple. Thales‟s accomplishment of measuring the height of the pyramid is a beautiful piece ofmathematics. It is considered that the general principle in Euclid I.26 was applied to the ship at seaproblem, would have general application to other distant objects or land features which poseddifficulties in the calculation of their distances.PROPOSITION III.31: „The angle in a semicircle is a right angle‟. Diogenes Laertius (I.27) recorded:„Pamphila states that, having learnt geometry from the Egyptians, [Thales] was the first to inscribe aright-angled triangle in a circle, whereupon he sacrificed an ox‟. Aristotle was intrigued by the factthat the angle in a semi-circle is always right. In two works, he asked the question: „Why is the anglein a semicircle always a right angle?‟ (An. Post. 94 a27-33; Metaph. 1051 a28). Aristotle described theconditions which are necessary if the conclusion is to hold, but did not add anything that assists withthis problem.It is testified that it was from Egypt that Thales acquired the rudiments of geometry. However, theevidence is that the Egyptian skills were in orientation, measurement, and calculation. Thales‟sunique ability was with the characteristics of lines, angles and circles. He recognized, noticed andapprehended certain principles which he probably „proved‟ through repeated demonstration.10. Crossing the Halys
Herodotus recorded „the general belief of the Greeks‟ that Thales assisted Croesus in transporting histroops across the Halys river (Hdt. I.75) on his advance into Capadoccia to engage the great Persianconqueror, Cyrus who threatened from the east. Herodotus provided a detailed description of thereported crossing which many of the Greeks supposed had been accomplished through Thales‟sengineering skills and ingenuity (Hdt. I.75). Herodotus had been told that Thales advised Croesus todivide the river into two parts. The story is that Thales directed the digging so that the river wasdiverted into two smaller streams, each of which could then be forded. The story from Herodotusdescribes a formation similar to an oxbow lake. The work could have been undertaken by the men ofCroesus‟s army, and directed by Thales. With both channels then being fordable, Croesus could leadhis army across the Halys. This description complies with „the general belief of the Greeks‟ whichHerodotus related.However, Herodotus did not accept that story, because he believed that bridges crossed the river atthat time (I.74). Herodotus‟s misgivings were well founded. There is considerable support for theargument that Croesus and his army crossed the Halys by the bridge which already existed andtravelled by the Royal Road which provided the main access to the East. Herodotus explained that atthe Halys there were gates which had to be passed before one crossed the river, which formed theborder, with the post being strongly guarded (Hdt. V.52).The town of Cesnir Kopru, or Tcheshnir Keupreu, is a feasible site for a crossing. Before theindustrialization of the area, a mediaeval bridge was observed, underneath which, when the river waslow, could be seen not only the remains of its Roman predecessor but the roughly hewn blocks of amuch earlier bridge (Garstang, 1959, 2). Any clues that may have helped to provide an answer to thequestion of whether there were bridges in the time of Croesus are now submerged by thehydroelectric plants which have been built in the area. Herodotus recorded the details that he hadobtained, but used his own different understanding of the situation to discount the report.11. The Possible Travels of ThalesEstablishing whether or not Thales travelled and what countries he visited is important because wemay be able to establish what information he could have acquired from other sources.In Epinomis 987 E) Plato made the point that the Greeks took from foreigners what was of value anddeveloped their notions into better ideas.Eudemus, who was one of Aristotle‟s students, believed that Thales had travelled to Egypt (Eudemusap. Proclus, 65.7). A number of ancient sources support that opinion, including Pamphila who heldthat he spent time with the Egyptian priests (D.L. I.24), Hieronymus from whose report we learnthat Thales measured the height of the pyramids by the shadow they cast (D.L. I.27), and Plutarch(De Is. et Os. 131). Thales gave an explanation for the inundation (D.L. I.37). He may have devisedthis explanation after witnessing the phenomena, which Herodotus later described (Hdt. II.97).By 620 BCE, and perhaps earlier, Miletus held a trading concession at Naucratis (Hdt. II.178, Strab.17.1.18) on the Canopic mouth of the Nile, and it is possible that Thales visited Egypt on a tradingmission. Travel to Egypt would not have been difficult. Homer had Ulysses sailing from Crete to theNile in five days, and Ernle Bradford recently made a similar journey, proving the trip to be feasible(Bradford, Ulysses Found, 26, and passim). The wealth of Miletus was the result of its success as atrading centre, and there would have been no difficulty in arranging passage on one of the manyvessels which traded through of Miletus.Josephus (Contra Apionem I.2) wrote that Thales was a disciple of the Egyptians and the Chaldeanswhich suggests that he visited the Near-East. It is thought that Thales visited the Babylonians and
Chaldeans and had access to the astrological records which enabled him to predict the solar eclipseof 585 BCEMiletus had founded many colonies around the Mediterranean and especially along the coasts of theBlack Sea. Pliny (HN, V.31.112) gives the number as ninety. The Milesians traded their goods for rawmaterials, especially iron and timber, and tunny fish. Strabo made mention of „a sheep-industry‟, andthe yield of „soft wool‟ (Strabo, 12.3.13), and Aristophanes mentioned the fine and luxurious Milesianwool (Lysistrata, 729; Frogs, 543). The Milesian traders had access to the hinterland. The landaround the mouth of the Halys was fertile, „productive of everything . . . and planted with olive trees‟(Strabo, 12.3.12-13). Thales was associated with a commercial venture in the production of olive oil inMiletus and Chios, but his interests may have extended beyond those two places. Olive oil was a basicitem in the Mediterranean diet, and was probably a trading commodity of some importance toMilesian commerce.It is likely that Thales was one of the „great teachers‟ who, according to Herodotus, visited Croesus inthe Lydian capital, Sardis (Hdt. I.30). From Sardis, he could have joined a caravan to make the three-month journey along the well used Royal Road (Hdt. V.53), to visit the observatories in Babylonia,and seek the astronomical knowledge which they had accumulated over centuries of observation ofheavenly phenomena. In about 547 BCE late in his life, Thales travelled into Cappadocia withCroesus, and, according to some belief, devised a scheme by which the army of Croesus was able tocross the River Halys. Milesian merchantmen continually plied the Black Sea, and gaining a passagecould have been easily arranged. From any number of ports Thales could have sought information,and from Sinope he may have ventured on the long journey to Babylonia, perhaps travelling alongthe valley of the Tigris, as Xenophon did in 401-399 BCEIn a letter purported to be from Thales to Pherecydes, Thales stated that he and Solon had bothvisited Crete, and Egypt to confer with the priests and astronomers, and all over Hellas and Asia(D.L. I.43-44). All that should be gleaned from such reports, is that travel was not exceptional, withmany reports affirming the visits of mainly notable people to foreign lands. Alcaeus visited Egypt‟(Strabo, 1.2.30), and his brother, Antimenidas, served in Judaea in the army of the Babylonianmonarch, King Nebuchadrezzar. Sappho went into exile in Sicily, her brother,Charaxus, spent sometime in Egypt, and a number of friends of Sappho visited Sardis where they lived in Lydian society.There must have been any number of people who visited foreign lands, about whom we knownothing.Very little about the travels of Thales may be stated with certainty, but it seems probable that hewould have sought information from any sources of knowledge and wisdom, particularly the centresof learning in the Near-East. It is accepted that there was ample opportunity for travel.12. Milesian SchoolThales was the founder of a new school of philosophy (Arist. Metaph. 983 b20). His two fellowMilesians who also engaged in the new questioning approach to the understanding of the universe,were Anaximander, his disciple (D.L. I.13), and Anaximenes, who was the disciple of Anaximander(D.L. II.2). Anaximander was about ten years younger than Thales, but survived him by only a year,dying in about 545. Anaximenes was born in 585 and died in about 528. Their lives all overlapped.Through their association they comprised the Milesian School: They all worked on similar problems,the nature of matter and the nature of change, but they each proposed a different material as theprimary principle, which indicates that there was no necessity to follow the master‟s teachings orattribute their discoveries to him. Each proposed a different support for the earth. Thales was held inhigh regard for his wisdom, being acclaimed as the most eminent of the Wise Men of Ancient Greece,
but he was not regarded as a god, as Pythagoras was. Anaximander and Anaximenes were free topursue their own ideas and to express them in writing. This surely suggests that they engaged incritical discussion of the theories of each other. The Greeks are a sociable people, and theirwillingness to converse brought rewards in knowledge gained, as Plato remarked (Epinomis, 987E).Critical discussion implies more than familiarity with other views, and more than mere disagreementwith other theories. It is the adoption, or in this case, the development, of a new style of discussion.It is a procedure which encourages questioning, debate, explanation, justification and criticism.There was a unique relationship between the three Milesians and it is highly probable that thecritical method developed in the Milesian School under the leadership of Thales.13. The Seven Sages of Ancient GreeceThe earliest reference to the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece is in Plato‟s Protagoras in which he listedseven names: „A man‟s ability to utter such remarks [notable, short and compressed] is to be ascribedto his perfect education. Such men were Thales of Miletus, Pittacus of Mitylene, Bias of Priene, Solonof our city [Athens], Cleobulus of Lindus, Myson of Chen, and, last of the traditional seven, Chilon ofSparta. . . . and you can recognize that character in their wisdom by the short memorable sayings thatfell from each of them‟ (Protagoras, 342 E-343 A).Diogenes recorded that „Thales was the first to receive the name of Sage in the archonship ofDamasias at Athens, when the term was applied to all the Seven Sages, as Demetrius of Phalerum[born. ca. 350 B.C] mentions in his List of Archons (D.L. I.22). Demetrius cannot have been thesource for Plato, who died when Demetrius was only three years old. Perhaps there was a sourcecommon to both Plato and Demetrius, but it is unknown.Damasias was archon in 582/1. It may be significant that at this time the Pythian Games were re-organized. More events were added and, for the first time, they were to be held at intervals of fouryears, in the third year of the Olympiad, instead of the previous eight-yearly intervals. Whether thereis an association between the re-organization of the Pythian Games and the inauguration of theSeven Sages in not known but, as Pausanias indicates, the Seven were selected from all aroundGreece: „These [the sages] were: from Ionia, Thales of Miletus and Bias of Priene; of the Aeolians inLesbos, Pittacus of Mitylene; of the Dorians in Asia, Cleobulus of Lindus; Solon of Athens and Chilonof Sparta; the seventh sage, according to the list of Plato, the son of Ariston is not Periander, the sonof Cypselus, but Myson of Chenae, a village on Mount Oeta‟ (Paus. 14.1). The purpose of Damasiasmay have been aimed at establishing unity between the city-states.It is difficult to believe that the Seven all assembled at Delphi, although the dates just allow it. Platowrote that their notable maxims were featured at Delphi: „They [the Sages], assembled together anddedicated these [short memorable sayings] as the first-fruits of their lore to Apollo in his Delphictemple, inscribing there those maxims which are on every tongue – “Know thyself‟ and “Nothingovermuch” „ (Pl. Prt. 343 A-B).Plato regarded wise maxims as the most essential of the criteria for a sage, and associated them withwisdom and with good education, but he has Socrates say: „Think again of all the ingenious devices inarts or other achievements, such as you might expect in one of practical ability; you might rememberThales of Miletus and Anacharsis the Scythian‟ (Respublica , 600 A). Practical ability was clearlyimportant.Several other lists were compiled: Hippobotus (D.L. I.42); Pittacus (D.L. I.42); and Diogenes (D.L.I.13. They omitted some names and adding others. In his work On the Sages, Hermippus reckonsseventeen, which included most of the names listed by other compilers.
Many commentators state that Thales was named as Sage because of the practical advice he gave toMiletus in particular, and to Ionia in general. The earlier advice was to his fellow Milesians. In 560,the thirty-five year old Croesus (Hdt. I.25) succeeded his father Alyattes and continued the effortsbegun by his father to subdue the Milesians, but without success. Diogenes tells us that „whenCroesus sent to Miletus offering terms of alliance, [Thales] frustrated the plan‟ (D.L. I.25). Thesecond occasion was at an even later date, when the power of Cyrus loomed as a threat from the east.Thales‟s advice to the Ionian states was to unite in a political alliance, so that their unified strengthcould be a defence against the might of Cyrus. This can hardly have been prior to 550 BCE which isthirty years later than the promulgation of the Seven Sages. Thales was not named as a Sage becauseof any political advice which is extant.One of the few dates in Thales‟s life which can be known with certainty is the date of the Eclipse of585 BCE It brought to a halt the battle being fought between Alyattes and the Mede, Cyaxares and, inaddition, brought peace to the region after „five years of indecisive warfare‟ (Hdt. I.74). The Greeksbelieved that Thales had predicted the Eclipse, and perhaps even regarded him as being influential incausing the phenomenon to occur. This was reason enough to declare Thales to be a man of greatwisdom and to designate him as the first of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece.14. Corner in OilThales‟s reputation for wisdom is further enhanced in a story which was related by Aristotle.(Politics,1259 a 6-23). Somehow, through observation of the heavenly bodies, Thales concluded thatthere would be a bumper crop of olives. He raised the money to put a deposit on the olive presses ofMiletus and Chios, so that when the harvest was ready, he was able to let them out at a rate whichbrought him considerable profit. In this way, Thales answered those who reproached him for hispoverty. As Aristotle points out, the scheme has universal application, being nothing more than amonopoly. There need not have been a bumper harvest for the scheme to have been successful. It isquite likely that Thales was involved in commercial ventures, possibly the export of olive oil, andPlutarch reported that Thales was said to have engaged in trade (Plut. Vit. Sol. II.4).15. The Heritage of ThalesThales is the first person about whom we know to propose explanations of natural phenomena whichwere materialistic rather than mythological or theological. His theories were new, bold, exciting,comprehensible, and possible of explanation. He did not speak in riddles as did Heraclitus, and hadno need to invent an undefined non-substance, as Anaximander did. Because he gave no role tomythical beings, Thales‟s theories could be refuted. Arguments could be put forward in attempts todiscredit them. Thales‟s hypotheses were rational and scientific. Aristotle acknowledged Thales asthe first philosopher, and criticized his hypotheses in a scientific manner.The most outstanding aspects of Thales‟s heritage are: The search for knowledge for its own sake; thedevelopment of the scientific method; the adoption of practical methods and their development intogeneral principles; his curiosity and conjectural approach to the questions of natural phenomena –In the sixth century BCE Thales asked the question, „What is the basic material of the cosmos?‟ Theanswer is yet to be discovered.