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Anaximander (/æˌnæksɪˈmændər/; Greek: Ἀναξίμανδρος Anaximandros; c. 610 – c. 546 BC)[4] was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus,[5] a city of Ionia (in modern-day Turkey). He belonged to the Milesian school and learned the teachings of his master Thales. He succeeded Thales and became the second master of that school where he counted Anaximenes and, arguably, Pythagoras amongst his pupils.[6]

Little of his life and work is known today. According to available historical documents, he is the first philosopher known to have written down his studies,[7] although only one fragment of his work remains. Fragmentary testimonies found in documents after his death provide a portrait of the man.

Anaximander was an early proponent of science and tried to observe and explain different aspects of the universe, with a particular interest in its origins, claiming that nature is ruled by laws, just like human societies, and anything that disturbs the balance of nature does not last long.[8] Like many thinkers of his time, Anaximander's philosophy included contributions to many disciplines. In astronomy, he attempted to describe the mechanics of celestial bodies in relation to the Earth. In physics, his postulation that the indefinite (or apeiron) was the source of all things led Greek philosophy to a new level of conceptual abstraction. His knowledge of geometry allowed him to introduce the gnomon in Greece. He created a map of the world that contributed greatly to the advancement of geography. He was also involved in the politics of Miletus and was sent as a leader to one of its colonies.

Anaximander put forward the idea that humans had to spend part of this transition inside the mouths of big fish to protect themselves from the Earth's climate until they could come out in open air and lose their scales.[61] He thought that, considering humans' extended infancy, we could not have survived in the primeval world in the same manner we do presently.

Both Strabo and Agathemerus (later Greek geographers) claim that, according to the geographer Eratosthenes, Anaximander was the first to publish a map of the world. The map probably inspired the Greek historian Hecataeus of Miletus to draw a more accurate version. Strabo viewed both as the first geographers after Homer.

Maps were produced in ancient times, also notably in Egypt, Lydia, the Middle East, and Babylon. Only some small examples survived until today. The unique example of a world map comes from late Babylonian tablet BM 92687 later than 9th century BC but is based probably on a much older map. These maps indicated directions, roads, towns, borders, and geological features. Anaximander's innovation was to represent the entire inhabited land known to the ancient Greeks.

Such an accomplishment is more significant than it at first appears. Anaximander most likely drew this map for three reasons.[63] First, it could be used to improve navigation and trade between Miletus's colonies and other colonies around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. Second, Thales would probably have found it easier to convince the Ionian city-states to join in a federation in order to push the Median threat away if he possessed such a tool. Finally, the philosophical idea of a global representation of the world simply for the sake of knowledge was reason enough to d

Maps were produced in ancient times, also notably in Egypt, Lydia, the Middle East, and Babylon. Only some small examples survived until today. The unique example of a world map comes from late Babylonian tablet BM 92687 later than 9th century BC but is based probably on a much older map. These maps indicated directions, roads, towns, borders, and geological features. Anaximander's innovation was to represent the entire inhabited land known to the ancient Greeks.

Such an accomplishment is more significant than it at first appears. Anaximander most likely drew this map for three reasons.[63] First, it could be used to improve navigation and trade between Miletus's colonies and other colonies around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. Second, Thales would probably have found it easier to convince the Ionian city-states to join in a federation in order to push the Median threat away if he possessed such a tool. Finally, the philosophical idea of a global representation of the world simply for the sake of knowledge was reason enough to design one.

Surely aware of the sea's convexity, he may have designed his map on a slightly rounded metal surface. The centre or “navel” of the world (ὀμφαλός γῆς omphalós gẽs) could have been Delphi, but is more likely in Anaximander's time to have been located near Miletus. The Aegean Sea was near the map's centre and enclosed by three continents, themselves located in the middle of the ocean and isolated like islands by sea and rivers. Europe was bordered on the south by the Mediterranean Sea and was separated from Asia by the Black Sea, the Lake Maeotis, and, further east, either by the Phasis River (now called the Rioni) or the Tanais. The Nile flowed south into the ocean, separating Libya (which was the name for the part of the then-known African continent) from Asia.

The Suda relates that Anaximander explained some basic notions of geometry. It also mentions his interest in the measurement of time and associates him with the introduction in Greece of the gnomon. In Lacedaemon, he participated in the construction, or at least in the adjustment, of sundials to indicate solstices and equinoxes.[64] Indeed, a gnomon required adjustments from a place to another because of the difference in latitude.

In his time, the gnomon was simply a vertical pillar or rod mounted on a horizontal plane. The position of its shadow on the plane indicated the time of day. As it moves through its apparent course, the Sun draws a curve with the tip of the projected shadow, which is shortest at noon, when poi

In his time, the gnomon was simply a vertical pillar or rod mounted on a horizontal plane. The position of its shadow on the plane indicated the time of day. As it moves through its apparent course, the Sun draws a curve with the tip of the projected shadow, which is shortest at noon, when pointing due south. The variation in the tip's position at noon indicates the solar time and the seasons; the shadow is longest on the winter solstice and shortest on the summer solstice.

The invention of the gnomon itself cannot be attributed to Anaximander because its use, as well as the division of days into twelve parts, came from the Babylonians. It is they, according to Herodotus' Histories (II, 109), who gave the Greeks the art of time measurement. It is likely that he was not the first to determine the solstices, because no calculation is necessary. On the other hand, equinoxes do not correspond to the middle point between the positions during solstices, as the Babylonians thought. As the Suda seems to suggest, it is very likely that with his knowledge of geometry, he became the first Greek to accurately determine the equinoxes.

In his philosophical work De Divinatione (I, 50, 112), Cicero states that Anaximander convinced the inhabitants of Lacedaemon to abandon their city and spend the night in the country with their weapons because an earthquake was near.[65] The city collapsed when the top of the Taygetus split like the stern of a ship. Pliny the Elder also mentions this anecdote (II, 81), suggesting that it came from an "admirable inspiration", as opposed to Cicero, who did not associate the prediction with divination.

Interpretations

Bertrand Russell in the History of Western Philosophy interprets Anaximander's theories as an assertion of the necessity of an appropriate balance between earth, fire, and water, all of which may be independently seeking to aggrandize their proportions relative to the others. Anaximander seems to express his belief that a natural order ensures balance between these elements, that where there was fire, ashes (earth) now exist.[66] His Greek peers echoed this sentiment with their belief in natural boundaries beyond which not even the gods could operate.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, claimed that Anaximander was a pessimist who asserted that the p

Friedrich Nietzsche, in Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, claimed that Anaximander was a pessimist who asserted that the primal being of the world was a state of indefiniteness. In accordance with this, anything definite has to eventually pass back into indefiniteness. In other words, Anaximander viewed "...all coming-to-be as though it were an illegitimate emancipation from eternal being, a wrong for which destruction is the only penance". (Ibid., § 4) The world of individual objects, in this way of thinking, has no worth and should perish.[67]

Martin Heidegger lectured extensively on Anaximander, and delivered a lecture entitled "Anaximander's Saying" which was subsequently included in Off the Beaten Track. The lecture examines the ontological difference and the oblivion of Being or Dasein in the context of the Anaximander fragment.[68] Heidegger's lecture is, in turn, an important influence on the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.[69]

According to the Suda:[70]

  • On Nature (Περὶ φύσεως / Perì phúseôs)
  • Rotation of the Earth (