Democritus

Democritus, ancient Greek philosopher. Public Domain

Democritus was a philosopher from ancient Greece, who is sometimes referred to as ‘the laughing philosopher’.

He is largely associated with being the first to put together the theory of atomism. The word atom comes from the ancient Greek word ‘atomos’, tomos meaning “cuttable” and the prefix of a meaning “not”.

His theory was that everything is made of these uncuttable atoms and void (empty space).

Together with his teacher Leucippus, they proposed that the sensation of various things were down to the shapes of the atoms that they were made from. For example, they believed water atoms were smooth and slippery (as such couldn’t hold onto each other, and flowed), that salt atoms were sharp and pointed (as they tasted sour), and that iron atoms were rough and hooked shaped (allowing them to cling tightly together).

That’s my quick summary of what I learnt about Democritus!


Sources: Philosophize This! (http://www.philosophizethis.org) | Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com) | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://www.iep.utm.edu) | Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/biography)

Anaximander

anaximander
Anaximander, Detailansicht in “Die Schule von Athen”, 1510/11. Public Domain

Anaximander was a philosopher from Miletus in Ancient Greece, who learned the teachings of Thales in the Milesian school.

Anaximander’s contributions spread across different disciplines, such as astrology and geometry. He is considered the first philosopher to use the word apeíron (ἄπειρον “infinite” or “limitless”). For this he is considered the first metaphysican. Although he did not explain precisely what he meant by the word, he associated it with the thing that all things come from.

In the area of cosmology, he was the first to put together a mechanical model of the world. In this model he thought the world to be a cylinder in shape, and the world to be floating without attachment in the centre of the ‘infinite’. This was pretty big considering the belief at the time.

Lastly, he is also considered to be the first person to draw a map of the world.

That’s my summary of learning about Anaximander. As last time I’ll leave you with something to look into – his belief that humans came from fish!


Sources: Philosophize This! (http://www.philosophizethis.org) | Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com) | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://www.iep.utm.edu)

Thales of Miletus

394px-illustrerad_verldshistoria_band_i_ill_107
By Ernst Wallis et al – own scan, Public Domain

Thales is known to be the first philosopher (by the majority of people, anyway). He came from Miletus in Ancient Greece, and is also known for being a mathematician and astronomer.

He existed in a time where most of the beliefs generally involved everything being attributed to a divine force. Thales questioned these beliefs, and came up with rational explanations for various phenomena.

There is an anecdote about Thales involving olive presses. At the time, most of the people associated good harvests with a god being happy or sad with them. Thales linked it instead to the weather, and predicted a good harvest ahead. He then went out and bought all the olive presses, and when the harvest turned out to be great, reaped in the profits. Apparently, he didn’t do it for the money, but to prove that philosophy could be useful!

There arem’t any writings by Thales that survived, however another philosopher (Aristotle) described one of Thales’ theories; the theory that everything is made up from particles of water.

‘Thales says that it [the nature of things] is water” (Metaphysics 983 b20)

His idea was probably based around the fact that water can change into different states (i.e. water exists as a liquid, as a solid in the form of ice, and as a gas in the form of steam). He also believed that the earth was floating on water.

‘Thales . . . declared that the earth rests on water” Metaphysics (983 b21)

Although he was wrong about water being the fundamental thing that everything else is made from, it’s fascinating he thought about this considering the knowledge and thoughts at the time.

Well, that’s my brief summary of what I learnt about Thales. I’ll leave you to go and find out about his mathematical theorems, and maybe even the statements about magnets being alive!


Sources: Philosophize This! (http://www.philosophizethis.org) | Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com) | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://www.iep.utm.edu/thales)