Ancient Philosophers: The Ionians, Thales

Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of Western Philosophy

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

I. The Ionians: Thales, I

Thales was born at Miletus about the year 624 B.C., and lived until about 546. Mathematician, astronomer, businessman — to him are attributed many voyages and many discoveries. The more probable of these is that he was the first to foretell an eclipse.

For Thales the principle of things is water, which should not be considered exclusively in a materialistic and empirical sense. Indeed it is considered that which has neither beginning nor end — and active, living, divine force. It seems that Thales was induced to proffer water as the first principle by the observation that all living things are sustained by moisture and perish without it.

Further, Thales affirms that the world is “full of gods.” It is not easy to see how this second affirmation agrees with the first. It may be that he was induced by the popular belief in polytheism to admit the multiplicity of gods.

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.

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