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Anaximenes (6th century BC)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A011-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Greek philosopher Anaximenes of Miletus followed Anaximander in his philosophical and scientific interests. Only a few words survive from his book, but there is enough other information to give us a picture of his most important theories. Like the other early Presocratic philosophers he was interested in the origin, structure and composition of the universe, as well as the principles on which it operates. Anaximenes held that the primary substance – both the source of everything else and the material out of which it is made – is air. When rarefied and condensed it becomes other materials, such as fire, water and earth. The primordial air is infinite in extent and without beginning or end. It is in motion and divine. Air generated the universe through its motion, and continues to govern it. The human soul is composed of air and it is likely that Anaximenes believed the entire kosmos (world) to be alive, with air functioning as its soul. Like other Presocratics, he proposed theories of the nature of the heavenly bodies and their motions, and of meteorological and other natural phenomena.

Citing this article:
McKirahan, Richard. Anaximenes (6th century BC), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A011-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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