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Milesian School Philosophy | Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes | Index

Milesian School Philosophy | Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes

Milesian School

It was not accidental that the first Western Philosophers, pre-Socratics were citizens of Miletus, a prosperous trading centre of Ionian Greeks on the Asiatic coast, where Greek and Oriental cultures met and mingled.

Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes were all from the city of Miletus in Ionia (now the western coast of Turkey) and make up what is referred to as the Milesian “school” of philosophy.

Tradition reports that Thales was the teacher of Anaximander, who in turn taught Anaximenes.

Aristotle begins his account of the history of philosophy as the search for causes and principles (in Metaphysics I) with these three.

The Milesian heritage included the myths and religious beliefs of their own people and their Eastern neighbours and also the store of Egyptian and Babylonian knowledge—astronomical, mathematical and technological.

The influence of this heritage was considerable:

Yet the Milesians consciously rejected the mythical and religious tradition of their ancestors, in particular its belief in the agency of anthropomorphic gods, and their debt to the knowledge of the East was not a philosophic one. That knowledge was limited because its aim was practical.

Astronomy served religion; mathematics settled questions of land measurement and taxation:

For these purposes the careful recording of data and the making of certain limited generalizations sufficed, and the realm of ultimate causes was left to dogmatism.

For the Greeks knowledge became an end in itself, and in the uninhibited atmosphere of Miletus they gave free play to the typically Greek talent for generalization, abstraction, and the erection of bold and all-embracing explanatory hypotheses.

Consciously, the revolt of the Milesian philosophers against both the content and the method of mythology was complete:

No longer were natural processes to be at the mercy of gods with human passions and unpredictable intentions. In their place was to come a reign of universal and discoverable law.

Milesian School of Philosophy | Intro

Milesian School of Philosophy | Intro Ancient tradition says that Thales of Miletus predicted an eclipse of the Sun: Although we know none of the details of this supposed prediction, the event (an eclipse in 585 BCE) has traditionally marked the beginning of philosophy and science in Western thought. Thales, the first philosopher, stands at the beginning of a great...

Milesian School of Philosophy

It was not accidental that the first Western Philosophers, pre-Socratics were citizens of Miletus, a prosperous trading centre of Ionian Greeks on the Asiatic coast, where Greek and Oriental cultures met and mingled. The Milesian heritage included the myths and religious beliefs of their own people and their Eastern neighbours and also the store of Egyptian and Babylonian knowledge. For...

Thales of Miletus | Milesian school

Thales of Miletus (c. 624 – c. 546 BCE) Thales of Miletus is widely depicted in ancient sources as a pioneering rationalist and the founding father of Greek philosophy, science, and mathematics. Famous for ingenuity in many areas, he was also numbered among the Seven Sages. Evidence for his life and thought is meagre and often questionable. Although written work...

Thales | by Ancient Philosophers

Thales appears on lists of the 7 sages of Greece, a traditional catalogue of wise men. The chronicler Apollodorus suggests that he was born around 625 BCE. Plato and Aristotle tell stories about Thales that show that even in Ancient Times philosophers had a mixed reputation for practicality: They say that once when Thales was gazing upwards while doing astronomy,...

Anaximander of Miletus | Milesian school

Anaximander (c. 610 BCE–546 BCE) Anaximander is the first Greek scientist and philosopher whose thought is known to us in any detail. He was born in Miletus c. 610 BCE and died shortly after 546 BCE. It is perhaps Anaximander who should be considered the founder of Greek astronomy and natural philosophy. For him, the term Apeiron meant “untraversable” or...

Anaximander | by Ancient Philosophers

Anaximander | by Ancient Philosophers Diogenes Laertius says that Anaximander was 64 years old in 547/6 BCE, and this dating agrees with the ancient reports that say that Anaximander was a pupil or follower of Thales. He was said to have been the first person to construct a map of the world. Anaximander makes the originating stuff of the cosmos...

Anaximenes of Miletus | Milesian school

Anaximenes (c. 585 – c. 528 BCE) Anaximenes was the 3rd and last member (the others were Thales and Anaximander) of what is traditionally called the Milesian school of natural philosophers. Although little is known about his life and work, fragments of ancient testimony credit him with the doctrine that Air is the underlying principle of the universe, changes in...

Anaximenes | by Ancient Philosophers

Anaximenes | by Ancient Philosophers Ancient sources say that Anaximenes was a younger associate or pupil of Anaximander: He agrees with Thales that there is a single cause: He calls this basic stuff aēr (usually translated “air,” although aēr is more like a dense mist than what we think of as air, which is ideally transparent). Aēr is indefinite enough...