Early Greek Philosopher – Anaximander for Competitive Exams

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Early Greek Philosopher Anaximander

Complete Video at - Early Greek Philosopher: Introduction of Anaximander and Cosmology (Philosophy)


  • Anaximander was a 6th century pre-Socratic philosopher from Miletus, a city of Ionia.
  • He belonged to the Ionian school and was a pupil of Thales.
  • Anaximander was an Ionian philosopher. He is one of the three chief thinkers of the Ionian school. The other two are Thales and Anaximenes.
  • The Ionians believed that the primal source of the universe or the fundamental stuff or the arche of the universe is matter.
  • According to Thales, the primal source was water. For Anaximander, the primal stuff was formless, indefinite and infinite matter. Lastly, for Anaximenes, the arche was air. Hence, the three main Ionians were materialists.
  • The Ionians were also known as Milesians. That is because they hailed from Miletus, which was one of the major Ionian city and the inhabitants of the city were called Milesians.

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  • Anaximander like his master Thales believed that the ultimate principle of the universe is matter.
  • But unlike his master, he regarded the ultimate or the fundamental stuff to be Apeiron and not water.
  • Apeiron is the Greek word which means that which is unlimited, boundless, infinite and indefinite.
  • Etymologically, the word Apeiron means without any limitations, boundaries or end.
  • In other words, he believed that the ultimate reality is eternal, formless, characterless and infinite or boundless.
  • It is neither subjected to decay nor destruction.
  • Hence, everything generates from apeiron and returns back to it.
  • According to him, the formless, infinite, eternal mass is the fundamentals stuff of which the world is constituted.
  • In other words, he believed that the formless general principle can account for the particulars, but not vice-versa.
  • For example, the formless mass can be converted into earthen pitcher, bricks, tiles, etc. But the earthen pitcher for instance cannot be converted into tiles or bricks or any other object.
  • In-order to give rise to bricks or tiles, the earthen pitcher has to be reduced again to the formless mass.
  • This distinction of formless mass and particulars is further explained in detail by Aristotle.


  • Anaximander was a cosmologist.
  • According to him, earth was not a flat disc floating on water, nor was it spherical in shape.
  • It was cylindrical in shape and he believed that men lived on the top of the cylinder.
  • He also believed that Earth is cylindrical in shape and it moved freely in space.
  • It can be said that the theory propounded by him of earth being cylindrical in shape and moving freely in space is a foreshadow of the theory of gravitation.
  • According to Anaximander, the world has evolved in due course.
  • At one time, according to him, there was only water everywhere and there were as a result only water creatures.
  • By drying up of water, land appeared and the sea creatures were left on the dry land.
  • Those creatures then had to adapt themselves to dry land in-order to survive.
  • From this theory, one can easily see the germ of organic evolution in the theory of evolution by Anaximander.






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