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Understanding history's greatest philosophers-Thales of Miletus

Updated on August 26, 2014


Thales of Miletus

We know that Thales lived 624 BCE-546 BCE, he lived in Miletus, on the cost of what is now known as Turkey. We know very little about his life but what we do know is that if he wrote any recordings, they were destroyed. dispite all of this he is remembered as one of Geek's first philosophers. Sometimes he is debated the first. He is referred by biographers of Aristotle and Diogenes Laertius. Evidence also shows that he was involved in politics and that he was a incredibly successful businessman. Thales is thought to have travelled, like other ancient Greek philosophers, throughout the Mediterranean and Egypt. He learned geometry and the basic deductive reasoning, plus he had a good grasp on astronomy. Thales is also rumoured to be the first teacher at the Milesain School. He and his pupils expanded on scientific theories, one is his pupils -Anaximenes- continued to do this and is thought to have taught the young mathematician, Pythagoras.

Thales's branch of philosophy was Metaphysics (what is now western philosophy). He lived in the time when Greece split up into different city-states. Greece also started to develop Metaphysics, alphabetical worrying and rational thought. Civilizations before Greece and the China/Nepal area had always relied on religion to answer the questions on life and the universe but in Thales' s time a new breed of rational thinkers came about. Thales s thought to have been the first of these philosophers. He is believed to have predicted the total eclipse of 585 BCE, he also led himself to believe that the world was not controlled by supernatural forces but of logic and reasoning.

The fundamental substance

Thales life was devoted to answering the big question of what is the most fundamental substance of the universe? This is the first proposal on western philosophy and he found that the answer to the question is water! To discover this he studied the way things moved, the way living things acted and he witnessed change. Water is essential to life and can change into a solid or a gas and then back to its original state, Thales didn't know that this is the same of pretty much any substance if given the right temperature. Thales need up concluding that all matter will have in some point of its formation (despite its current state) been water. He also notes that all landmass ends at the water's edge, from this he concludes that the whole planet is floating on water. If water unexpectedly tremors then we are experiencing an earthquake. He also stated that "specific weather conditions, not appeals to the gods, led to a high harvest of olives one year. Which is said to have brought up all local olive presses, therefore there are profitable renting olive groves out to meet an increased demand.

It is for these reasons that I see Thales of Miletus as one of greatest ancient philosophers of all time!

Water, water, everywhere

Everything is made of water!

Let me explain Thales' s theory in a little more detail. Thales pondered what the basic material of the cosmos, so he thought that it must be:

Something from which everything can be formed

Essential to life

Capable of motion

Capable of change.

He found the answer to this question to be water. Because most things have a small water quantity inside them, water is essential to life, water can move and water can change its physical form. Therefore everything is made of water.

The false remembrance of Thales

However, as incredibly interesting as Thales' s theory is, it is not the reason he is famous. No the reason he is seen as a major philosophical person is due to the fact that he is believed to be the first ever rational and naturalistic thinker of fundamental questions, instead of claiming it to be the whims of mystical gods. Later in history the Milesain School laid the foundation of philosophy of the modern western world.

Hub help

The following book helpers me a lot in the making of this hub and I hope that if you buy it that you also buy others in the series, which explains the things that people struggle with.


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