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The Milesian school/ the Pre-Socratic philosophers

Explore the thought-provoking ideas of the Milesian School and discover how they revolutionized pre-Socratic philosophies. Get to know who the school's prominent figures were and what they contributed to knowledge. 

What is the Milesian School and its Philosophers? 

The Milesian School was a pre-Socratic school of philosophy founded in the Sicilian Greek city of Miletus. Its main figures were Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes—three of the first major philosophers to emerge in history. Their theories on cosmology, causation, and human nature shaped our understanding of the world today. Thales proposed that water is fundamental to all life; Anaximander theorized that the Earth began as an undifferentiated mass; while Anaximenes speculated that air is the primordial element to exist in the universe.  Thanks to these three philosophers and other Milesian thinkers who followed them, we have access to early revolutionary knowledge about our natural environment and our place within it.
What is the Milesian School and its Philosophers?
The Milesian school

Who were Milesian school philosophers ?

Miletus was a city state on the coast of the Aegean sea in Ionia (modern day Turkey) which had served as the center of the Ionian rebellion that sought freedom from the Persian Empire.

The Milesian School consisted of three philosophers: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. The Milesian School, a branch of Natural philosophy  philosophy based in the Asia Minor town of Miletus in the 6 century BC, produced three thinkers who together formed the basis of the later Western scientific method. 

About The Miletus

The Ionians were the first group of philosophers that we know of, and so remain historically important. Pre- Socrates philosophers all believed the world was made of a fundamental element called an arche ("archк",  substance),  who were all primarily interested in cosmology, and the origin and substance of the world. : Thales thought it was water; Anaximander called it "apeiron" (something infinite and indeterminate); Anaximenes settled on air. In general, they believed in hylozoism, the idea that all life is inseparable from matter, and that there is no distinction between the animate and the inanimate, between spirit and matter.

They were primarily invested in cosmology, the order and interaction of the elements, and observation of nature. Cosmologists thought that, although matter could change from one form to another, all matter had something in common which did not change. natural philosophers did not agree on what all things had in common, and did not experiment to find out, but used abstract reasoning rather than religion or mythology to explain themselves, thus becoming the first philosophers in the Western tradition.

 Content table

What is the importance of Milesian school?

The Milesian school is also called lonian school. The Milesian school is important, not for what it achieved, but for what it attempted. It was brought into existence by the contact of the Greek mind with Babylonia and Egypt. Miletus was a rich commercial city, in which primitive prejudices and superstitions were softened by intercourse with many nations. Ionia, until its subjugation by Darius at the beginning of the fifth century, was culturally the most important part of the Hellenic world. 

It was almost untouched by the religious movement connected with Bacchus and Orpheus; its religion was Olympic, but seems to have been not taken very seriously. The speculations of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes are to be regarded as scientific hypotheses, and seldom show any undue intrusion of anthropomorphic desires and moral ideas. The questions they asked  were good questions, and their vigour inspired subsequent investigators. 

Who are the Key Figures of The Milesian School? 

The Milesian School is remembered for three primary figures. Thales of Miletus is the founder and considered to be the “Father of Western Philosophy”; Anaximander, his student, was the first philosopher to propose that life on Earth evolved from simpler forms of life; and Anaximenes speculated that air is the primordial element in existence. Other prominent thinkers associated with The Milesian School include Xenophanes and Parmenides who furthered knowledge about nature and challenged traditional Greek mythology in doing so.

What was the Influence of The Milesian School on Early Thought? 

The Milesian School revolutionized pre-Socratic thought by introducing the idea of naturalism and challenging traditional Greek mythology. This school was the first to propose that nature was based on rational principles ordered by a logic that could be understood by humans. They discarded supernatural explanations for phenomena and instead proposed a framework of understanding that could be observed, tested and repeated. As a result, their theories still shape our understanding of natural law today.

How Did The Milesian School Impact Western Philosophy? 

The influence of the Milesian School on Western philosophy is undeniable. Many philosophers and philosophers-to-be were swayed by the Milesians’ groundbreaking theories, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Their ideas laid a strong foundation for deep philosophical inquiry and rationality in the Western world, establishing an understanding of how nature works that reverberates to this day.

What is the Legacy of The Milesian School's Ideas?

The Milesian School inspired the works of many great thinkers, particularly in regards to the question of the origin of life. Anaximander speculated on a source of unharmonious elements that represented a “divine” force behind nature; Thales was the first to propose a natural explanation for change in physical reality and water as an early representation of elemental forces; and Anaximenes found air as a meta-element that can explain the changes observed in nature. These speculations set precedence for future philosophical discourse and remain deeply entrenched in thought today.

Natural philosophers  

Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras and Heraclitus said ''No god can be like a human.'' Pre-Socratics were concerned with questions about the nature and origins of the world. Pre-Socratic were  primarily focused on natural science and did not pose the theoretical problems of being and cognition (therefore it is more correct to talk about its "naturalism". Pre-Socratic are first philosophers we definitely know of who wondered about the nature and origins of the universe, and not only wondered, but put forward ideas about them which are distinctively philosophical rather than religious or mythological in character.

 Pre-Socratic  became the first philosophical doctrine of ancient Greece, which began to examine moral issues. It came out of Greek mythology, but unlike it, the question was not about the one who gave birth to all that exists, but from what it came out, with almost no consideration of the moral side of human existence.

The "gods" of folk mythology are identified with the elements and luminaries (Anaximenes) or "countless worlds" (Anaximander), which originated from a single propriety, which itself is conceived as a higher and absolute "deity". The pantheism of the Ionian School  was more naturalistic (in contrast to Heraclitus). The Ionian School  for the first time abolished the mythological picture of the world, based on the opposition of the heavenly (divine) to the earthly (human), and introduced the universality of physical laws.

 In that era philosophers used to search for truth and reality. They don't want fame ,  money. They don't care whether people like their philosophy or not. It's labour of love for them. They said ''seek knowledge for the sake knowledge."

There was slavery at that time so philosopher don't like to work by hand. Philosophy had nothing to do practical world.  people still think that philosophy is not practical. 

old Greek philosophers, they thought all things are explained in terms of a single substance or reality. They are monism.

Pre-Socratic philosophers are less philosopher rather than they are scientists.

Even when the first major civilisations arose about 5000 years ago, people did not pursue a rational study of the natural world. “The shift from a religious worldview to a scientific one was radical and revolutionary.

All Greek philosophers

Greek philosophy classified into three parts. 

 1. Pre-Socratic (natural philosopher) 2. Socratic 3. Hellenistic

  • Pre-Socratic  philosopher - Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus so on
  • Socratic philosophy of  philosopher - Plato, Socratic, Aristotle.
  • Hellenistic philosopher -  Cynics, Stoics, Epicureans, Skeptics, Neo- Platonists.

Pre- Socratics philosophy classified into three parts

1. founders, 2. Challengers 3. Synthesizers 

  • Founders - Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, and  Parmenides.
  • Challengers - Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno, Mellssus
  • Synthesizers - Empedocles , Anaxagoras, Lucipp, Demoritus.

Those are Pre - Socrates (natural philosophers) . Below 👇















  Classical period philosophers and ancient classical philosophy



Plato utopia


idea theory







* Hellenistic period philosophy (Post Socrates philosophy)


A History of Western Philosophy Book by Bertrand Russell
Graham, D. W. (ed.), The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics, 2 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010
Barnes, J., The Presocratic Philosophers, 2nd edn, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982
Hussey, E., The Presocratics, London: Duckworth, 1995 Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven and M. Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers,
2nd edn, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984 Osborne, C., Presocratic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004


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