Philosophy of Thales

Updated: Jun 27

Thales (24–620 BCE—died c. 548–545 BCE), the mathematician, the scientist, the astrologists, and the philosopher, belonged to the period of Pre-Socrates. His greatest intuition at the time and the first affinitive approach (according to the record) endow him with the title of first scientist. Not just he used the reasoning to understand the phenomenon of nature, but moreover he incorporates the mathematical and geometrical logics into his work.

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He was the founder of Milesian school of Natural Philosophy, which produced great critical thinker such as Anaximander (one of Thales’s student). Thales’s work shows that he used to deeply observes the nature and about its fundamentals which govern it. He was the pioneer of Monism (the approach which claims that everything in universe is made up of from one matter).

At his time, polytheism was the primary religion in Greece due to which, the people affiliate all the natural events: whether beneficial or disaster, to the affairs happening between Gods. For instance, the war was considered when the Gods fight with each other, the people wage war. However, he wasn’t agreed with those established concepts rather he argued that there are certain logics and patterns in nature which cause the events, and these would continuously reoccur by the time.

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Thales was curious about the astronomical events such as lunar eclipse and solar eclipse. On one hand, where the people considered these as a God’s wrath, on the other hand, Thales was in search of patterns and behavior by which the eclipses happen. He, once, shocked the people when he accurately predicted the coming Solar eclipse. Now here the point to be noticed is that, for predicting the solar eclipse, the geo-centric model would not work. Contrary, it is believed that the pre-modern society always thought the earth is the center of the universe. Even the ancient philosophers had similar views, but estimating the exact time by the Thales, indicates that he also not accepted the geo-centrist views. However, it cannot be said with full authenticity that Thales was aware of geo-centrist reality, or maybe the sun-centrist solar system model was also used to accept by the Philosopher. But it is not, then it would be intrigued that how Thales exactly predicted the solar eclipse despite the old universe model is not workable. However, one thing is cleared Thales was exceptional in mathematics and geometry. Therefore, he could able to reach at exact day of solar eclipse.

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He had fanatic with the mathematics that he made considerable discoveries which are the core of various discipline. He was the first person who found the diameter of the circle. Thales said that any line which passed through the center of the circle and cut it into two halves is diameter (See fig:). However, he didn’t stop over there. He argued that after cutting the circle if you create a triangle by drawing the third point on circumference, the opposite angle of diameter will always be 90 degrees regardless of its position (See fig:). He further added that if two triangles which are symmetrical to each other, there area will also be equal (See fig:).

Thales went beyond the geometry and dived into the realm of trigonometry. He introduced his first theorem known as Thales Theorem wherein he stated that if we draw a triangle and cut the triangle in such a way that the line intersect parallel to the base line, the ration of both side will be equal. For instance, in (fig: ) if the AB is divided by BD, the ratio will be equal to when AC is divided by CE. His contributions in mathematics, geometry, and trigonometry placed the first block which later benefitted to the Greeks, Islamic and modern scientists.

In my views, Thales was the first who explored how to use theoretical concept into practical application. For instance, he measured the height of the Pyramid in Egypt without actually measuring its height. He proved that when the sun is aligned on a level where the height of a man becomes equal to the length of his shadow, on that particular time, any height could be measured by measuring the length of that object.

Thales didn’t restrict to the mathematics, but he, as mentioned above, was closely related to the nature. He analyzes the nature on metaphysics ground. According to him, everything in the universe is made of single matter, and everything contained a life within it. But, the question arises How did he came to this point? The answer is “soil.” When he observed that when the seed is being grained in the soil, the plants, vegetables, crops, are grown. These are growing without any human intervention which means these all contain life. Not just these, but also everything which exist in the universe has some sort of essence in them. With Humans, the animals, insects, and birds, all poses different kind of essence which shape their reality. However, the initial matter of their existence is same which is water.

The theory which talked about the single matter is called Monism which is the widely debated concept in today’s era as well. Even Einstein theory of relativity and matter coincide with same logic as Thales, but the difference is Thales called that matter is water. On the other hand, in Einstein case, element is not mentioned with name. Moreover, when the biology and evolution theory is combined, the same concept is witnessed. For instance, all diverse life on earth are linked, which proves (after inspecting DNAs) that the life began with same organism. However, the Thales concept that everything is made of water is also somewhat true because the earliest living thing arrived on earth came from water (ocean). However, the logic is failed when it is asked that from where that water formed.

Thales also worked on seismology and geology when he argued that the earthquakes occur due to the movement of water because the earth was considered staying on water, but unlike other contributions, this theory had not considerable empirical facts rather it was just a claim.