Thales of Miletus (~ 585 BC)
He was the first known Ionic thinker, and the only date known about him for certain is the year 585 BC, in which, according to what has been passed down in history, he predicted a solar eclipse.
As every other Ionian philosopher, Thales was interested in ‘Arche’, or ‘the beginning of everything’, perhaps influenced by the idea of universal unity seen in eastern religions.
The same as in eastern religions, philosophers wanted to find a 'need or law which governs everything'. The ideas of Thales have been kept by means of a few fragments later Greek authors have quoted. These are the following:
- WATER is the beginning of everything.
- The idea of a universal flow ("everything moves").
- The motor cause: the soul.
As you can see, there isn't anything new in regards to what had already been mentioned by ancient religions in Thales thoughts, except for the terminology employed.
The term ‘water’ could refer to fundamental CHAOS, also called “,are tenebrum” (= ‘sea of darkness’) in some religions. The idea of universal flow agrees perfectly with the 'universal return cycle'. Finally, the term soul could be ‘the intrinsic power of the chaotic origin principle’.
Anaximander of Miletus (610-547 BC)
Another Ionic thinker; student of Thales, some believe. We also know very little about him. His thoughts are more or less as follows:
The INFINITY (“apeiron” = ‘undetermined’), the beginning of things.
Perhaps, he referred to the idea of 'universal unity', or to the universal return cycle.
- Eternity and divinity of ‘infinity’
- Generation of beings as a separation of opposites.
We will see this last idea, which makes a clear reference to the fight between ‘CHAOS’ and ‘ORDER’, again when we talk about Greek thinkers which supported 'dialectics', such as Heraclitus.
- Eternal cycle of generation and dissolution of beings (eternal law of justice)
- Infinite succession between worlds
- Forming the world by means of spheres in flames
A curious thought: How could Anaximander know, 26 centuries ago, that planets were formed by a progressive cooling of star fragments and that perhaps this was the beginning of the universe (according to modern science)?
Of course, it is not the later ‘geocentric theory‘ of Aristotle and Ptolemy, as we will see in other lessons. It refers to the division of the universe, which we saw in Hesiod; in ‘HEAVEN’, ‘EARTH’ and ‘TARTARUS’.
- The forming of animal species in relationship to their possibilities of survival.
From this naive and even grotesque concept by Anaximander, spawned a concept which became of vital importance in the modern Evolution Theory (Darwin): it states the relationship established between organic formation and the possibilities of survival of a specific species.
It lacks the concept of slow and progressive changes for the gradual adaptation to life conditions.