Anaximenes Of Miletus


Anaximenes Of Miletus

▪ Greek philosopher
flourished c. 545 BC

      Greek philosopher of nature and one of three thinkers of Miletus traditionally considered to be the first philosophers in the Western world. Of the other two, Thales held that water is the basic building block of all matter, whereas Anaximander chose to call the essential substance “the unlimited.”

      Anaximenes substituted aer (“mist,” “vapour,” “air”) for his predecessors' choices. His writings, which survived into the Hellenistic Age, no longer exist except in passages in the works of later authors. Consequently, interpretations of his beliefs are frequently in conflict. It is clear, however, that he believed in degrees of condensation of moisture that corresponded to the densities of various types of matter. When “most evenly distributed,” aer is the common, invisible air of the atmosphere. By condensation it becomes visible, first as mist or cloud, then as water, and finally as solid matter such as earth or stones. If further rarefied, it turns to fire. Thus hotness and dryness typify rarity, whereas coldness and wetness are related to denser matter.

      Anaximenes' assumption that aer is everlastingly in motion suggests that he thought it also possessed life. Because it was eternally alive, aer took on qualities of the divine and became the cause of other gods as well as of all matter. The same motion accounts for the shift from one physical state of the aer to another. There is evidence that he made the common analogy between the divine air that sustains the universe and the human “air,” or soul, that animates people. Such a comparison between a macrocosm and a microcosm would also permit him to maintain a unity behind diversity as well as to reinforce the view of his contemporaries that there is an overarching principle regulating all life and behaviour.

      A practical man and a talented observer with a vivid imagination, Anaximenes noted the rainbows occasionally seen in moonlight and described the phosphorescent glow given off by an oar blade breaking the water. His thought is typical of the transition from mythology to science; its rationality is evident from his discussion of the rainbow not as a goddess but as the effect of sun rays on compacted air. Yet his thought is not completely liberated from earlier mythological or mystical tendencies, as seen from his belief that the universe is hemispherical. Thus, his permanent contribution lies not in his cosmology but in his suggestion that known natural processes (i.e., condensation and rarefaction) play a part in the making of a world. This suggestion, together with Anaximenes' reduction of apparent qualitative differences in substances to mere differences of quantity, was highly influential in the development of scientific thought.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Anaximenes of Miletus — Anaximenes ( el. Άναξιμένης) of Miletus (c. 585 BC c. 525 BC) was a Greek Pre Socratic philosopher from the latter half of the 6th century, probably a younger contemporary of Anaximander, whose pupil or friend he is said to have been. [Richard D …   Wikipedia

  • Anaximenes of Miletus — (fl. 546 bc) Greek philosopher Anaximenes was the last of the great Milesian philosophers. He was probably a pupil of Anaximander of Miletus and, like Thales before him, he identified one of the tangible elements as the primal substance. For… …   Scientists

  • Anaximenes of Miletus — (fl. c. 546 BC) The junior member of the Miletian school, and probably a pupil of Anaximander . His astronomy was relatively unsophisticated, but he is remembered for the doctrine that one primary substance, aer, produces all others either by… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Anaximenes — of Miletus …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Anaxímenes — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Anaxímenes de Mileto (Αναξιμένης ο Μιλήσιος) Anaxímenes de Mileto Filosofía occidental Filosofía presocrática …   Wikipedia Español

  • Anaximenes — may refer to: *Anaximenes of Lampsacus (4th century BC), Greek rhetorician and historian *Anaximenes of Miletus (6th century BC), Greek pre Socratic philosopher *Anaximenes (crater), a lunar crater …   Wikipedia

  • Miletus — • A titular see of Asia Minor, suffragan of Aphrodisias, in Caria Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Miletus     Miletus     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Miletus — This article is about the ancient city of Anatolia. For other uses, see Miletus (disambiguation). Miletus Μίλητος   Ancient Polis   Turkish transcription(s)  – Modern name Milet …   Wikipedia

  • Miletus — Milet (ionisch: Μίλητος Miletos, dorisch: Μίλατος Milatos, äolisch: Μίλλατος Millatos, lateinisch: Miletus, hethitisch Millawanda), auch Palatia (Mittelalter) und Balat (Neuzeit) genannt, war eine antike Stadt an der Westküste Kleinasiens, in der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Miletus — /muy lee teuhs/, n. 1. Class. Myth. a son of Apollo and Aria, and the founder of the city of Miletus. 2. an ancient city in Asia Minor, on the Aegean. * * * Ancient Greek city of western Anatolia. Before 500 BC it was the greatest Greek city in… …   Universalium


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.