Pre-Socratic Philosphy

How important do you think the pre-Socratic philosophers were?  Despite how seldom the early pre-Socratic philosophers’ knowledge is talked about, the foundation for change, using reason instead of oral belief, cannot be over looked by this elite group.  Much of their beliefs are considered strange for their time, but without their initial theories there wouldn’t be an age of knowledge and Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle may have never been as instrumental to philosophy as we are accustomed.  It is important to highlight of the many pre-Socratic philosophers, Thales and Anaximander’s philosophies are the most important due to their interesting observations and creative theories.  Likewise; understanding how beneficial the Asia Minor location was to helping the early pre-Socratic philosophers as well as the difference between mythology and traditional philosophy.

Mythology is the study of understanding the world but often times it’s communicated through word of mouth and has no reason or knowledge it is often defines as a fallacy. Philosophy is as simple as having your own beliefs, the key is having your “own” beliefs contrary to mythology where one person’s belief is to be passed down within a family or group.  One can have a philosophy and use it to explain problems and questions about reality and knowledge.  “Unlike philosophy, myths share four common characteristics that separate from philosophy; self-justifying, non-argumentative, irrefutable, and no knowledge” (Carboni, 2014, notes). Self-Justification is having a belief centered on yourself, it is not important to others neither are people important to your life.   Non-argumentative is a great description of mythology because something non-argumentative is to say something is perfect, there is no questions, there all already answered.  As we all know, nothing in this world is perfect or good, so why claim perfection?  To support myth’s being non-argumentative one can state, “Myths are fairytales, there simply perfect stories with meaning!”  Along with myths being non-argumentative there also Irrefutable meaning there with certainty and clarity.  Faith is a common practice in myths but people don’t understand that having faith is merely a subjective practice meaning it is open to question.  How can you have faith in something you can’t see? Believing something isn’t seeing something, and how can you believe without knowledge?  There are many things irrefutable but the law seems to be the most irrefutable to date.  Myths must be irrefutable if there non-argumentative because for instance you simply can’t argue your way out of the court of law, rather you can prove your innocence using logic and evidence just as philosophy practices.  Lastly, myths contain no knowledge at least applicable knowledge, knowledge that is useful.  Nothing in myths can help to support a reason for something, everything is made up.  One can further argue, why should I listen to myths? How do I know whoever wrote such claims is even right? –You don’t.  Myths use circular reasoning to justify beliefs and this is simply not an effective or logical way to support claims.  There is no epistemological or metaphysical reasoning to suggest the relevance of mythical traditions.  Living a life believing what others before you have believed isn’t wise rather seeing the world you see it and observing is the best philosophy and many philosophers have followed this principle or else all philosophers would be the same and there would be no philosophy because there would be a definite way to live life. One can’t observe or rationalize myths because myths have no knowledge of what is real and what isn’t.  One can only speculate when using circular reasoning, because there is nothing to question, propose, or even argue.  Self-justifying, non-argumentative, irrefutable, and no knowledge help characterize mythology and separate from philosophy giving nothing in common and a lot to speculate around.

During the time of the early pre-Socratic philosophers location played a huge role in creating a shift and movement away from the traditional mythic traditions.  “Specifically Ionia or Asia Minor (Greece) was the location of early pre-Socratic philosophers and was instrumental in giving the ability for these philosophers to express, question, and conclude about the world because at the time there was no government or council responsible for containing the people like in other known parts of the world” (Carboni, 2014, notes).  Essentially it was a free for all in a free land.  In other known parts of the world structure, religion, and government were present to help foster society and to give answers by forcing beliefs, standards, and rules on the people but in Greece at the time there was nothing close to a government.  Furthermore; being in Greece would have also helped in business and trading, which would have brought people from all over the world to one location.  Greece became a hub of commerce and it was easy for people to come together from different backgrounds and start to question the mythic traditions.  How could they question the norm without the freedom? Other known parts of the world may have killed for talking against the gods or government.  One can say the location was the arche or reason for the birth of early philosophy, it was easy and convenient at the time to change thoughts and observe the world.  For these reasons being in Greece was extremely advantageous to the development of reason because without this people there would be no knowledge of using reason to support claims rather than faith.


Of the many pre-Socratic philosophers Thales and Anaximander are the first philosophers to make claims and create “arche.” The term arche is another word for reason, it explains an observation, for many of these philosophers it explains change and why.  Change is an interesting topic, Thales would agree because if were not changing than were the same.  Thales believed in arche but his arche was “The One” or the soul.  “Some say that [soul] is mixed in the whole universe.  Perhaps that is why Thales thought that everything was full of gods” (Barnes, 2001, 12).  He believed the soul was in motion and even that the world contained a soul, Thales would be considered a panpsychist for this belief.  Likewise; he believed everything had life or movement this is theory is the most unclear because how could he know everything?  Everything is a very vague term and using it is dangerous because how could one know the limit or if a limit exists?  Maybe Thales’ student Anaximander would help with these questions.

Thales also turned to nature the first of his generation.  One of Thales’ most common principles is about the sky.  He believed in a sky vortex containing the elements of fire, air, water, and earth.  Not much is known about this theory but one can present many questions to lead to a fair conclusion.  What does a sky vortex have anything to do with living a life?  How can a sky vortex help me? One can also guess and suspect that at the time when Thales had this theory there was not much to do but rather time allowed people to look up at the sky and make hypotheses.  Also life of the Greeks at the time may have led to little being known scientifically about the world so Thales was really the first to make scientific claims, despite the fact that they are false.  Thales obviously presents subjective observations like many philosophers, there isn’t a right or wrong from his ideas.  Looking more closely at Thales one can compare his beliefs with his student, Anaximander.

thales philosophy

Anaximander was Thales’ student and the first person to actually write down fragments, crucial in containing his work and now having knowledge about his work can be better studied.  Much like Thales, Anaximander believed in an arche but instead of the soul, Anaximander believed in the “boundless.”  Just as the word everything is a vague word so to is boundless, not much is known and understood about the boundless.   It’s hard to understand what the boundless means without understanding six important concepts about the boundless that help understand what Anaximander meant.  “1. Given any state of the thing ‘X’, it had a beginning 2. To explain its beginning we must suppose a prior state of things ‘W’ 3. But ‘W’ must also have a beginning 4. Can this go on forever?- No 5. So there must be something that itself has no ‘beginning’ 6.  We call this the ‘boundless’” (Carboni, 2014, notes).  These concepts explain what Anaximander meant when he said the “boundless” this theory does relate to Thales because just as Thales believed in life in everything so to must be true about no beginning.  How could everything have no beginning?  Saying something has no beginning is the same as saying everything has life because there never was a start to start with, who could of created life?  No one because there never was a beginning.  Just as Thales and Anaximander’s arches relate they also pose differences.  It seems as though Thales is trying to understand the form of life and its existence versus Anaximander who is trying to understand time or no such as time.  One can argue if Anaximander believes in the boundless he must not believe in time because time has a start and an end.  The life of Greeks at the time was very different from Thales and Anaximander.  Greeks at the time were not thinking of the sky or the boundless, this what separated them from the Greeks.  Thales and Anaximander would have been looked at weird and even laughed at during their time.  Greeks were most likely following mythic traditions and believing everything someone close to them would have believed.  Thales and Anaximander set the stage for contemporary reason and without their early questions we wouldn’t have philosophers after to define western philosophy.



Thales and Anaximander were the first philosophers to question and state claims, which is important because they set the bar for future philosophers to come.  Location also played a huge role in philosophy during the pre-Socratic philosophers because it gave them the freedom to speak their wisdom and share ideas that were of interest.  Lastly myth and philosophy were nothing alike and must be defined to help understand the thought process behind philosophy.  Mythology offers little to the development of humans and follows an outline of something made up.  Pre-Socratic philosophers helped to establish all these traits and gave a start and change to what was already happening, something was created not yet thought of before and enhanced with more philosophers.


Contact for Sources, although, most are lecture notes


  1. Kathy Murrison says:

    The early greek philosophers certainly paved the way for a very interesting course of change in the world. If everything stays the same and there’s no change or question of change then we essentially are just robots living in a cage. Encouraging though fullness and questioning reason are all very important. Logic and reason should be at the forefront of any decision in my opinion because without it were just living a life full of lies.

    1. utahsunovens says:

      So many of us actually studied about the teachings of some of these Greek Philosophers in school, its surely a wonder that many of their ideas or passed off or forgotten in our society. We still have a lot to learn from our past.

  2. Johnathon Bannister says:

    I remember learning about some of these philosophers. I don’t know about the beliefs about the air, wind, and sun. Certainly during that time the sun seemed to be a serious fascination among the philosophers and philosophers to come after the pre-socractics. It’s very interesting to dive into the minds of some of these philosophers because in today’s government and system we need a lot more people thinking and using logic and reason more than just a few extra bucks. Minds now seem to be just like old minds, brain-washed and controlled by pre-determined ideologies.

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