Anaximenes of Miletus

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. McKirahan, Jr., "Philosophy Before Socrates" (Hackett, 1994) 48.]


Anaximenes held that air (Greek "aer", translates closer to mist) is the most basic element. [Richard D. McKirahan, Jr., 48.] It is the source of all that exists (the "arche"). Everything is air at different degrees of density, and under the influence of heat, which expands, and of cold, which contracts its volume, it gives rise to the several phases of existence.Hippolytus, "Refutation of All Heresies", i.8.1-8] The process is gradual, and takes place in two directions, as heat or cold predominates; this is called rarefaction and condensation. Through rarefaction, the ultimate result is fire, whereas condensation tends toward stone. In this way was formed a broad disk of earth, floating on the circumambient air. Similar condensations produced the sun and stars; the flaming state of these bodies is due to the velocity of their motions.

He is reported to have said "As our souls, being air, hold us together, so breath and air embrace the entire universe." [Pseudo-Plutarch, "Opinions of the Philosophers", 876AB; Phillip Wheelwright, "The Presocratics" (MacMillan, 1966) 60.]

In Context

What makes the three Milesian philosophers, Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes, stand out is that the theoretical human has become a reality. The way of thinking has in its basic form moved away from the mythological thinking (or "mythos") and into the domain of the theoretical thinking (or "logos"). From now on it is about explaining the universal and the general. Everything in the universe can now be approached by the thoughts of humans. This notably influenced the Pythagoreans.

ee also

* The Anaximenes crater on the Moon was named in his honour.
* Philosophy
* Material monism



Further reading

* cite encyclopedia
last = Taran
first = L.
title = Anaximenes of Miletus
encyclopedia = Dictionary of Scientific Biography
volume = 1
pages = 151-152
publisher = Charles Scribner's Sons
location = New York
year = 1970
isbn = 0684101149

*cite book
last = Freeman
first = Kathleen
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers
publisher = Harvard University Press
year = 1978
location =
pages =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0674035003

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