|Behold an originator of scientific thought|
It might appear that Greek philosophy and intellectual endeavour appeared out of nowhere, in the 6th century BC without an evolutionary past. It seems to have burst on the intellectual stage of man without precursors. How could this be possible? Well, of course, it is not credible or possible. In fact what we consider Greek philosophy did not originate in Greece at all but with the Greek diaspora states of Asia Minor. Here thoughtful Greeks were exposed to the ancient 'wisdom' of the East and Egypt. Most of this so-called wisdom was complete bollocks full of mysticism and esoteric god lore. Perhaps, this reliance on divinity driven doctrine spurred the Greeks to seek rational causes for the complex tableau of existence. The exact details will be forever lost in the dust/mists of time and frankly, we will never know what really spurred the inception of original and exacting thought.
Philosophy begins with Thales in the late 6th century BC. We have a date of 585 BC when Thales predicted a solar eclipse. On that day, two and half thousand years ago we can confidently state that this day represented the birth of philosophy and science.
Thales was a native of Miletus in Asia Minor. His philosophy was crude, but it was a start. Thales pontificated that everything is water. This is not correct, as certain things or stuff are decidedly not composed of water. However, his thoughts were based on empirical observation and not mysticism and therefore his musings have the right to be called a scientific hypothesis. We know little of Thales, or his thought processes, as what we know is exclusively based on the writings of Aristotle.
The second Milesian philosopher of note is Anaximander. I would warrant that Anaximander is more intellectually interesting than Thales. We know that Anaximander was 64 in 546 BC and it is certain that he did not adhere to Thale's principle: 'that all is water'. He actually came up with a formal proof to show that everything was not derived from water. I will not consider his reasoning here- I suspect you wouldn't find his analysis convincing. Instead of water, he argued that everything is derived from a primal substance that becomes transformed to become other substances and that when combined they constitute different forms of matter. He understood that all matter consists of a compound of this transmuted primal substance and that these new substances were in a continual struggle for ascendance. However, no one transformed substance prevails, as 'natural law' (whatever that might be) kept all these substances in check, and thus a form of homeostasis ultimately prevails. In this hypothetical universe, the primal substance always remains neutral within the context of continual cosmic flux. He also stated that all life was derived from moisture and all animals, including man, were descended from fishes. What a fascinating hypothesis and mostly correct!
Clearly, Anaximander's ideas and analysis are more sophisticated than Thale's ruminations. He is full of scientific wonder and curiosity and where he is original he is rationalistic.
Anaximenes represents the last of the Milesian trio of philosophers and walked the earth prior to 494BC as in this year the city was destroyed by those pesky Persians. Anaximenes thought that the fundamental substance is air. Thus, the soul is made of air and fire consists of rarefied air. If air is condensed it turns into stone. Different things, therefore, are based on the degree of condensation of air. He considered that the earth to be shaped like a round table, without the legs, of course. Why he came up with this peculiar geometry we have no idea at all. The Milasian school remains important not for what it achieved but for what it attempted.
The coming of the Persians represents the end of Milesian philosophy. The torch would be picked up from the remnants of the burning city and retained by the mainland Greeks, mainly Athenians, and thus the bright flame of the torch would bring intellectual light where before there was nothing but darkness.
We should not be tempted to fall into the trap of intellectual hubris
Perhaps the greatest contribution to human thought provided by early rational thinkers was their willingness to consider non-mystical/mythical explanations and elements for causal processes of the material world. In this, they should be highly praised in an ancient world view full of demons and gods. A world which considered the hail of storms the province and causality of fickle deities. Their original thought proved a successful antidote to intellectually impoverished, ancient, mysticism. And for this reason alone, we should be eternally grateful.
antidote to mysticism