Milesian school

Milesian school

Overview
The Milesian school was a school of thought founded in the 6th century BC. The ideas associated with it are exemplified by three philosophers from the Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

n town of Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

, on the Aegean coast of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

: Thales
Thales
Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristotle, regard him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition...

, Anaximander
Anaximander
Anaximander was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia; Milet in modern Turkey. He belonged to the Milesian school and learned the teachings of his master Thales...

, and Anaximenes
Anaximenes of Miletus
Anaximenes of Miletus was an Archaic Greek Pre-Socratic philosopher active in the latter half of the 6th century BC. One of the three Milesian philosophers, he is identified as a younger friend or student of Anaximander. Anaximenes, like others in his school of thought, practiced material monism...

. They introduced new opinions contrary to the prevailing viewpoint on how the world was organized, in which natural phenomena were explained solely by the will of anthropomorphized
Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is any attribution of human characteristics to animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s...

 gods. The Milesians presented a view of nature in terms of methodologically observable entities, and as such was one of the first truly scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 philosophies.

Note: It is important to make a distinction between the Milesian school and the Ionian, which includes the philosophies of both the Milesians and other distinctly different Ionian thinkers such as Heraclitus
Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Milesian school was a school of thought founded in the 6th century BC. The ideas associated with it are exemplified by three philosophers from the Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

n town of Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

, on the Aegean coast of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

: Thales
Thales
Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristotle, regard him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition...

, Anaximander
Anaximander
Anaximander was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia; Milet in modern Turkey. He belonged to the Milesian school and learned the teachings of his master Thales...

, and Anaximenes
Anaximenes of Miletus
Anaximenes of Miletus was an Archaic Greek Pre-Socratic philosopher active in the latter half of the 6th century BC. One of the three Milesian philosophers, he is identified as a younger friend or student of Anaximander. Anaximenes, like others in his school of thought, practiced material monism...

. They introduced new opinions contrary to the prevailing viewpoint on how the world was organized, in which natural phenomena were explained solely by the will of anthropomorphized
Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is any attribution of human characteristics to animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s...

 gods. The Milesians presented a view of nature in terms of methodologically observable entities, and as such was one of the first truly scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 philosophies.

Note: It is important to make a distinction between the Milesian school and the Ionian, which includes the philosophies of both the Milesians and other distinctly different Ionian thinkers such as Heraclitus
Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

. See also Pre-Socratic philosophy
Pre-Socratic philosophy
Pre-Socratic philosophy is Greek philosophy before Socrates . In Classical antiquity, the Presocratic philosophers were called physiologoi...

.

Philosophy of nature


These philosophers defined all things by their quintessential substance (which Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, perhaps being anachronistic, called the / arche
Arche
Arche is a Greek word with primary senses 'beginning', 'origin' or 'first cause' and 'power', 'sovereignty', 'domination' as extended meanings. This list is extended to 'ultimate underlying substance' and 'ultimate undemonstrable principle'...

) of which the world was formed and which was the source of everything. Thales
Thales
Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristotle, regard him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition...

 thought it to be water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

. But as it was impossible to explain some things (such as fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

) as being composed of this element
Classical element
Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts and principles of which anything consists or upon which the constitution and fundamental powers of anything are based. Most frequently, classical elements refer to ancient beliefs...

, Anaximander chose an unobserved, undefined element, which he called apeiron
Apeiron (cosmology)
Apeiron is a Greek word meaning unlimited, infinite or indefinite from ἀ- a-, "without" and πεῖραρ peirar, "end, limit", the Ionic Greek form of πέρας peras, "end, limit, boundary".-Apeiron as an origin:...

(ἄπειρον "having no limit"). He reasoned that if each of the four traditional elements (water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, air, fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

, and earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

) are opposed to the other three, and if they cancel each other out on contact, none of them could constitute a stable, truly elementary form of matter. Consequently, there must be another entity from which the others originate, and which must truly be the most basic element of all.The notion of temporal infinity was familiar to the Greek mind in the religious conception of immortality and Anaximander's description was in terms appropriate to this conception.This arche is called "eternal and ageless"(Hippolitus I,6,I;DK B2). The unspecified nature of the apeiron upset critics, which caused Anaximenes to define it as being air, a more concrete, yet still subtle, element. Anaximenes held that by its evaporation
Evaporation
Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs only on the surface of a liquid. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which, instead, occurs on the entire mass of the liquid....

 and condensation
Condensation
Condensation is the change of the physical state of matter from gaseous phase into liquid phase, and is the reverse of vaporization. When the transition happens from the gaseous phase into the solid phase directly, the change is called deposition....

, air can change into other elements or substances such as fire, wind, clouds, water, and earth. However, our modern concept of energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

 is much more similar to Anaximander's apeiron.

Cosmology


The differences between the three philosophers was not limited to the nature of matter. Each of them conceived of the universe differently. Thales held that the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 was floating in water. Anaximander placed the Earth at the center of a universe composed of hollow, concentric wheels filled with fire, and pierced by holes at various intervals, which appeared as the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, the moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

, and the other stars. For Anaximenes, the sun and the moon were flat disks traveling around a heavenly canopy, on which the stars were fixed.

See also

  • Ionian School (philosophy)
  • Pre-Socratic philosophy
    Pre-Socratic philosophy
    Pre-Socratic philosophy is Greek philosophy before Socrates . In Classical antiquity, the Presocratic philosophers were called physiologoi...

  • Ionian Enlightenment
    Ionian Enlightenment
    The Ionian Enlightenment is a term used to describe the advances in scientific thought, naturalistic explanations, and the application of rational and scientific criticisms to all spheres of life in Ionia of ancient Greece in 6th century BC. The Ionian Enlightenment received its origins in both...