Thales: philosophy from the point of view of a natural approach

Thales: philosophy from the point of view of a natural approach
Thales: philosophy from the point of view of a natural approach

The ancient sage Thales, whose philosophy is still studied in universities around the world, was born in 620 BC. in the city of Miletus in Ionia. Aristotle, on whose works all the teachings of Thales were based, described his student as the first person to study the basic principles and questions of the origin of material substances. Thus, the thinker from Miletus became the founder of the school of natural philosophy. Thales was interested in almost everything, studying all known branches of knowledge: philosophy, history, natural sciences, mathematics, engineering, geography and politics. He put forward theories explaining many natural phenomena, primary matter, the support of the Earth and the causes of changes in the world. Thales of Miletus, whose philosophy later served as the source of many scholastic teachings, devoted his life not only to the study of the world around him through the prism of scientific knowledge - he also actively developed astronomical theorems and invented many explanations of cosmological phenomena, mainly relying on hisarguments for the naturalness of the processes, and not for the intervention of supernatural forces.

Thales philosophy

It was thanks to this man that ancient Greek astronomy arose - a science that seeks to know and rationally explain everything that happens in the distant sky. In that era, Thales was recognized as a daring innovator; Gradually, he retreated from involving divine forces in the theory and began to promote a scientific approach to the knowledge of the Universe. The thinker founded the Milesian school of natural philosophy and became an influential figure in the ancient world.

Water is the primary principle

Aristotle defined wisdom as the knowledge of specific principles and causes. He began his study of wisdom with the activities of thinkers who worked before him, and the first object of Aristotle's study was the principles of building the world, which Thales of Miletus adhered to. The philosophy of the predecessor made Aristotle think about the role of nature in the universe. Thales believed that the entire environment is water, "arche", the primary principle, a single material substance. Although Plato and Aristotle invented more innovative terminology, the latter wrote down the doctrines of the Milesian scholar in the words used by Thales himself in the relevant era. It is known that Aristotle did not doubt the correctness of his predecessor, however, when inventing reasons and arguments confirming these doctrines, he nevertheless began to show caution.

Thales of Miletus philosophy briefly


Some stillbelieve that the views of the sage are based on Greek or Middle Eastern religious beliefs. However, this opinion is erroneous. Thales, whose philosophy was considered ultra-modern in ancient times, very soon abandoned following traditions and ceased to trust arguments based on a mythological context.

He was probably familiar with Homer's assurances that the progenitors of the cosmos are divine beings, but Thales nevertheless never believed that it was the gods who organized or controlled the cosmos. Studying the theory of water as the primary nature of all things, Aristotle noted that the views of his predecessor have common features with traditional beliefs, but this does not mean that the ancient Greek philosophy of Thales is in any way dependent on mythology. The sage from Miletus expressed not outdated and primitive, but new, extraordinary views, on the basis of which a scientific approach to the study of natural phenomena subsequently arose. That is why Aristotle recognized Thales as the founder of natural philosophy.

ancient Greek philosophy of Thales

Key Ideas

The problem of the nature of matter and its transformation into millions of things from which the Universe was created, worried all adherents of the natural approach. Thales of Miletus also belonged to the latter. The philosophy, which briefly boils down to the basic principle "everything is water", explains how all things are born from liquid and then return to their original composition and state. Moreover, Thales argued that water has the potentialchange those millions of objects that make up the universe, including botanical, physiological, meteorological and geological aspects. Any cyclic process is based on fluid transformations.

Evidence base

Thales of Miletus philosophy

Long before the main hypotheses of Thales, people began to practice primitive metallurgy, so the philosopher knew perfectly well that heat could return the metal to a liquid state. Water initiates rational changes much more often than other elements, and can be observed at any time in three states: liquid, vapor and ice. The main evidence that Thales, as a sage and founder of ancient philosophy, cited in support of his views, was that water, when hardened, can form soil. The city of Miletus stood in the strait, in which over time - literally from the river water - an island grew. Now the ruins of a once prosperous city are located ten kilometers from the coast, and this island has long been part of a fertile plain. Along the banks of the Tigris, Euphrates and, of course, the Nile, a similar picture could be observed: the water gradually washed away the soil, and it seemed to contemplators that the earth comes from a liquid. Thales, whose philosophy was based on natural processes, was convinced of a single principle: water is able to create and nourish the entire cosmos.

Convincing hypothesis

Thales as a sage and founder of ancient philosophy

It is not known exactly how the thinker himself explained his idea of ​​the omnipotence of water, since his writtenthe works have not survived, and most of the evidence base was later provided by Aristotle. It is assumed that the main means of persuasion was the fact that Thales, whose philosophy at that time seemed like a real breakthrough in knowledge, was the first to deny the involvement of the Olympic gods in the creation of the world.


It wasn't until 1769 that the belief that water produced soil was dispelled by the experimenter Antoine Lavoisier. In the nineteenth century, Louis Pasteur disproved the idea of ​​spontaneous generation of matter.

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