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What is infinite is something other than the elements, and from it the elements arise.

Anaximander (Greek: Ἀναξίμανδρος, Anaximandros; c. 610 – c. 546 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia; Milet in modern Turkey. He belonged to the Milesian school and learned the teachings of his master Thales, succeeding him to become the second master of that school where he counted Anaximenes and arguably, Pythagoras amongst his pupils.


  • There cannot be a single, simple body which is infinite, either, as some hold, one distinct from the elements, which they then derive from it, nor without this qualification. For there are some who make this (i.e. a body distinct from the elements) the infinite, and not air or water, in order that the other things may not be destroyed by their infinity. They are in opposition one to another — air is cold, water moist, and fire hot—and therefore, if any one of them were infinite, the rest would have ceased to be by this time. Accordingly they say that what is infinite is something other than the elements, and from it the elements arise.
  • The Earth is cylindrical, three times as wide as it is deep, and only the upper part is inhabited. But this Earth is isolated in space, and the sky is a complete sphere in the center of which is located, unsupported, our cylinder, the Earth, situated at an equal distance from all the points of the sky.
    • As quoted in "Science Attests the Accuracy of the Bible" in The Watchtower (1 October 1980)

Quotes about Anaximander[edit]

  • Anaximander relies on the accuracy of geometry in matters beyond the range of any kind of verification—in its application to cosmic proportions—and also in contradiction to appearance, which suggests that the sun is about as large in diameter as the width of a human foot. The concept of geometrical similarity is also the precondition for Anaximander's attempt to construct a map of the world.
  • The big bang and the steady state debate in some ways echoed that between the ideas of Anaximander and Anaxagoras from two and a half millennia earlier. Anaxagoras had envisaged that at one time "all things were together" and that the motive force for the universe originated at a single point... Anaximander on the other hand wanted a universe determined by "the infinite" and needed an "eternal motion" to explain the balancing process of things coming into being and passing away in an eternal universe... ancient philosophy was debating the alternatives of a creation event starting the universe from a single point versus a continuous creation in an eternal universe.
    • David H. Clark & Matthew D. H. Clark, in Measuring the Cosmos: How Scientist Discovered the Dimensions of the Universe (2004)
  • Anaximander displays all the symptoms of the intellectual fever spreading through Greece. His universe is no longer a closed box, but infinite in extension and duration. The raw material is none of the familiar forms of matter but a substance without definite properties except for being indestructible and everlasting. Out of this stuff all things are developed, and into it they return... infinite multitudes of other universes have already existed, and been dissolved again into the amorphous mass. The earth is a cylindrical column, surrounded by air; it floats upright... without support or anything to stand on, yet it does not fall because, being in the centre, it has no preferred direction... if it did, this would disturb the symmetry and balance of the whole. The spherical heavens enclose the atmosphere "like the bark of a tree", and there are several layers... to accommodate the various stellar objects. ...The sun is merely a hole... the moon... it phases... due to recurrent partial stoppages of the puncture, and so are the eclipses. The stars are pin-holes in a dark fabric through which we glimpse the cosmic fire filling the space between two layers of "bark". is the first approach to a mechanical model of the universe. ...yet the machinery looks like it had been dreamed up by a surrealist painter... closer to Picasso than to Newton.
    • Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe (1959, 1963)
  • Anaximander the Milesian, affirmed the infinite to be the first principle, and that all things are generated out of it, and corrupted again into it. His infinite is nothing else but matter.
    • Plutarch, as quoted by Benjamin Franklin Cocker in Christianity and Greek Philosophy; Or, The Relation Between Spontaneous and Reflective Thought in Greece and the Positive Teaching of Christ and His Apostles (1872)
  • Anaximandros... pupil and companion of Thales, was like him an astronomer, geographer, and physicist, seeking for a first principle (for which he invented the name); affirming an infinite material cause, without beginning and indestructible, with an infinite number of worlds;—and still showing the Chaldean impulse—speculating curiously on the descent of man from something aquatic, as well as on the form and motion of the earth (figured by him as a cylinder), the nature and motions of the solar system, and thunder and lightning. It seems doubtful whether, as affirmed by Eudemus, he taught the doctrine of the earth's motion; but that this doctrine was derived from the Babylonian schools of astronomy is so probable that it may have been accepted in Miletos in his day.

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Ancient Greek schools of philosophy
Pre-Socratic AnaxagorasAnaximanderAnaximenesDemocritusEmpedoclesHeraclitusLeucippusMelissusParmenidesProtagorasPythagorasThalesZeno of Elea
Socratic AntisthenesAristippusAristotleDiogenes of SinopeEuclid of MegaraPhaedo of ElisPlatoSocrates
Hellenistic Apollonius of TyanaAugustineEpictetusEpicurusJohn PhiloponusLucretiusPlotinusProclusPyrrhoSextus EmpiricusZeno of Citium