Ancient Philosophers: The Ionians, Anaximander

Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of Western Philosophy

Ancient Philosphers: The Philosophy of the Early Greek Naturalists, by Jonathan Dolhenty

I. The Ionians: Anaximander

Anaximander was born at Miletus about the year 611 B.C., and died about 547. Probably a disciple of Thales, he also was a mathematician and astronomer, philosopher and poet. He was the author of a poem entitled Peri physeos, of which only a fragment is extant.

For Anaximander the first principle of all things is the “indeterminate” — apeiron. There are no historical data to enlighten us as to what Anaximander may have meant by the “indeterminate”; perhaps it was the Chaos or Space of which physicists speak today. Whatever may be the answer to the this question, it is necessary to keep in mind that the problem consists in the search for a metaphysical principle which would give an account of the entire empirical world, and hence the apeiron is not to be confused with any empirical element.

All things originate from the Unlimited, because movement causes within that mysterious element certain quakes or shocks which in turn bring about a separation of the qualities contained in the Unlimited.

The first animals were fish, which sprang from the original humidity of the earth. Fish came to shore, lost their scales, assumed another form and thus gave origin to the various species of animals. Man thus traces his origin from the animals. Because of this, Anaximander has come to be considered the first evolutionist philosopher.

The late Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at The Moral Liberal. The Moral Liberal has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work.