Chapter 2: The Milesian School

*This blogpost is one of my reading summary of History of Western Philosophy. And today let's continue on Chapter 2: The Milesian School. For chapter 1, you can read here.*

Book 1: Ancient Philosophy
Part 1: The Pre-Socratics
Chapter 2: The Milesian School

If you're wondering what The Milesian School is and what it has anything to do with philosophy, well, it was a school of thought that was founded in 6th century B.C. in Miletus, Asia Minor. Miletus was a home to our ancient philosophers: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. Before we discuss the three philosophers, let me explain Miletus briefly.

picture was taken from Wikipedia

Miletus was ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia, in what is today Aydin Province of Turkey. Miletus was a flourishing commercial city and was considered as the greatest and wealthiest of the Greek cities before the Persian invasion. There was a large slave population and fights between the rich and poor. People was killing wives and children of aristocrats, then the aristocrats burned their opponents alive.

Miletus had economical and political development. At first, political power belonged to aristocracy, but then was replaced by plutocracy of merchants. Then, they were replaced by a tyrant who had support from democratic party. 

Russell argued "Philosophy begins with Thales." His dates were unknown. According to consensus he was born around 620 B.C and according to Apollodorus of Athen he was dead at the age of 78.

Thales was famous for predicting an eclipse in 585 B.C. He acquired this knowledge from Babylonian astronomers. It's no surprise because his hometown was allied with Lydia and Lydia had cultural relations with Babylon. He travelled to Egypt and brought geometry to Greece. He used geometry to calculate the distance of the ships from the shore and to estimate the height of a pyramid from the length of its shadow.

The Milesian philosophers defined all things by their substances of which world was formed and which was the source of everything. Thales thought everything was made from water and Earth was floating on water. He also said magnet had a soul in it, because it moved the iron and he said all things are full of gods. (p. 34) Thales was one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece.

picture was taken from Wikipedia

The second philosopher of Milesian School is Anaximander. He was said to have been 64 years old in 546 B.C. If Thales held that the single material substance of everything was water, Anaximander said that it wasn't water or any other of substances that we know. It is infinite, eternal and ageless, and it encompasses all the worlds, because he thought our world wasn't the only one. Confused? Don't worry. So am I. :O

Russell wrote:

Anaximander had an argument to prove that the primal substance could not be water, or any other element. If one of these were primal, it would conquer the others. Aristotle reports him as saying that these known elements are in opposition to one another. Air is cold, water is moist, and fire is hot. "And therefore, if any of them were infinite, the rest would have ceased to be by this time." The primal substance, therefore, must be neutral in this comic strife. (p. 36)

Anaximander said that there was an eternal motion. It was related to the origin of the world. He thought the world was not created, but instead it evolved. There was an evolution in animal kingdom, too. Man was descended from fishes. 

Anaximander is considered to be the first man who made a map. According to him the world was shaped like a cylinder and he placed Earth at the center of the universe.

We have been acquainted with Thales, the father of philosophy, and Anaximander. Now we will be acquainted with Anaximenes, the last philosopher of Milesian School.

picture was taken from Wikipedia

Anaximenes' dates were uncertain. He was considered to be a friend or a student of Anaximander. He thought the primal substance was air. 

The soul is air; fire is rarefied air; when condensed, air becomes first water, then if further condensed, earth, and finally stone. ... He thought that the earth is shaped like a round table, and that air encompasses everything: "Just as our soul, being air, holds us together, so do breath and air encompasses the whole world." It seems the world breathes. (p.36)

At the end of this chapter, Russell concluded, "the Milesian School was important, not for what it achieved, but for what it attempted. It was brought into existence by the contact of the Greek mind with Babylonia and Egypt." (p. 36)

Next on chapter 3 we will meet Pythagoras. See you later! \m/

1 comment

  1. Begitulah, pemikiran para filsuf memang kadang sulit dipahami dan "tidak terjangkau" :D

    Usaha Thales dlm menjelaskan fenomena alam semesta dgn menghindari penjelasan berdasarkan mitologi merupakan gebrakan yg luar biasa, terlepas dari hasil pemikirannya yg kurang akurat. Tidak heran bila akhirnya ia disebut sbg bapak filsafat....


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