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Anaximander (c.610–after 546 BC)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A010-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Greek philosopher Anaximander of Miletus followed Thales in his philosophical and scientific interests. He wrote a book, of which one fragment survives, and is the first Presocratic philosopher about whom we have enough information to reconstruct his theories in any detail. He was principally concerned with the origin, structure and workings of the world, and attempted to account for them consistently, through a small number of principles and mechanisms. Like other thinkers of his tradition, he gave the Olympian gods no role in creating the world or controlling events. Instead, he held that the world originated from a vast, eternal, moving material of no definite nature, which he called apeiron (’boundless’ or ‘unlimited’). From this, through obscure processes including one called ‘separation off’, arose the world as we know it. Anaximander described the kosmos (world) and stated the distances of the celestial bodies from the earth. He accounted for the origin of animal life and explained how humans first emerged. He pictured the world as a battleground in which opposite natures, such as hot and cold, constantly encroach upon one another, and described this process as taking place with order and regularity.

Citing this article:
McKirahan, Richard. Anaximander (c.610–after 546 BC), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A010-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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