Ancient Philosophers

Question 1

Philosophers believe that the subject was born in a seaport town located some distance from Athens called Miletus, and thus they call philosophers from the western world the Milesians. The first philosophers of the world were Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, all of whom were born in Miletus. The three philosophers explained nature from three different perspectives.

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Thales Claims

Thales had three significant claims which stated that everything was made of water, everything was full of gods, and that magnets have souls. Aristotle tried to explain Thales’ speculation that everything had water stating that Thales noticed that all living things, including plants, needed water to grow as though water provided the solid nature of pants. Moreover, water was the only substance known to the people of Miletus that existed in three states of solid, liquid, and gas. An extension of this belief would be that water could become dense to form the earth or manifest itself in the form of air or fire. The traditional Greek belief could cause Thales’ next claim that magnets have souls that the possession of the soul is what makes something alive and active (O’grady, 2017). Thales might have noticed that, unlike other metals, magnets seem almost alive as they appear to be seeking out different things and are after accomplishing some goals. Thales claim that everything is full of gods indicates relates to that of magnets. Gods are known to be similar to souls which behave purposefully. As a result, he believed that everything had a purpose in nature, only that other things did not act as obvious as animals or magnets.    


Anaximander concurred with Thales that indeed, there existed one fundamental thing that was common to everything else in the world. He, however, disagreed that the thing could be anything familiar to humans, for instance, earth, water, air, or fire. According to him, the fundamental thing he called ‘apeiron,’ which means infinite or boundless. He, therefore, came up with a theory indicating that initially, there was nothing but the ‘apeiron,’ which rotated. As it rotated, all familiar elements humans see today, including the solar system, separated from it. Anaximander also noted that life was generated from moisture and that the ancestors of human beings were fish-like creatures. This conclusion came after observing that human infants are not independent and must be nursed to grow. Since there was no one to nurse the first humans, they must have gestated as fish and thus needed no nursing.


Anaximenes also agreed with Thales on the existence of a traditional element within all objects on earth, even though he believed the element in question was not water but air. People held different opinions about Anaximenes in comparison with Anaximander, with his supporters believing that his ideas were based on the belief that the concept of ‘apeiron’ was too obscure to be true. His critics, however, thought that he was a step backward from Anaximander by believing in the familiar things like Thales, who had lived many years before when Anaximander, who had lived after Thales, had given a more sophisticated approach to his claims.

The three philosophers believed in the existence of gods who influenced how nature behaved, among other things. They are considered the first philosophers because philosophy relies on reason and empirical evidence, and the three relied on the two elements to make claims. Anaximander is regarded as the most radical of the three as because even though he dispensed using familiar elements, he gave a full cosmological model in which the world was formed through mechanical action.

Question 2


Pythagoreans were the followers of a common philosopher known as Pythagoras. Most teachings of the brotherhood were ascribed to its founder though they were only communicated after his death.  According to the Pythagoreans, everything that existed in the world could be reduced to numbers. Numerals were fundamental elements of the universe and that the whole universe and the truth behind every event the world experienced lay in numbers. Pythagoras applied mathematics to discover affinities between numbers and existing objects and thus concluded that the elements of numbers were the elements of the objects (Goldin, 2016). According to Pythagoreans, elements of numbers are even which are unlimited and odd, which are limited. Starting with the limited and unlimited as the ultimate principles, odd-even “one,” which is a principle of number, was formed. The existence of the one, the limited, breathed in the unlimited, which was outside, causing a separation of things from one another.

The approach is idealistic in that the Pythagoreans believed that the truth behind all phenomena in this world lies in numbers. According to them, what human beings see as a natural physical world only exists in the senses of human beings. The approach, however, represents an advance beyond the Milesians in that they also believed that living things had a soul. The soul migrated from one being upon death and settled in another being during birth. The Pythagorean approach to the existence of nature paves the way to the modern method of understanding nature as indicates that they were aware of the relationship between planets, the moon, and the sun. Moreover, they believed the earth was in constant motion.   

Question 3

    Heraclitus’ physical theory is based on the belief that fire is the ultimate reality and that all other things in the world are a manifestation of reality. In his single statement theory of cosmology, Heraclitus states that no god nor man was involved in the creation of the world. Instead, all things result from an ever living fire which burns in measures and which is also being quenched in measures too. His theories are centered around human values. Heraclitus distinguished reality from appearance using the doctrine of Flux and unity of opposites (Neels, 2018). He stated everything on earth was constantly changing and that different things are identical, and therefore, everything exists and does not exist at the same time. Plato elaborates on the doctrines stating Heraclitus’s message was that all things go. He uses the example of a river saying that it was impossible to step into the same waters twice as once gone it is gone.   

Heraclitus’ theory of knowledge indicates that a significant number of human beings lack understanding. He states that men have proven to be uncomprehending before they hear and experience something since the traditional days. He adds that they still fail to comprehend events even after they hear. According to him, most people sleep-walk through their life and thus fail to understand what is going on around them. He further states that the experience of words and actions could enlighten individuals, but only if they could unveil the meaning of the experience and deeds.     


Goldin, O. (2016). Aristotle, The Pythagoreans, and Structural Realism. The Review of Metaphysics, 69(4), 687-707.

Neels, R. (2018). Elements and Opposites in Heraclitus. Apeiron, 51(4), 427-452.O’grady, P. F. (2017). Thales of Miletus: the beginnings of western science and philosophy. Routledge.

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