Thales

Thales (thā´lēz), c.636–c.546 BC, pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Miletus and reputed founder of the Milesian school of philosophy. He is the first recorded Western philosopher. Thales taught that everything in nature is composed of one basic stuff, which he thought to be water. Prior to Thales, mythology had been used to explain the nature of the physical world; the significance of Thales thus lies not in his answer but in his approach. Although he apparently wrote nothing, he is believed to have introduced geometry into Greece and to have been a capable astronomer. It is said he predicted an eclipse of the sun in 585 BC Thales studied practical as well as speculative problems and was acknowledged one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece for his exhortation to unity among the Ionian Greeks.

See G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers (1957).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists
Robin Waterfield.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "The Milesians: Thales of Miletus, Anaximander of Miletus, Anaximenes of Miletus" begins on p. 3
Greek Philosophy before Plato
Robert Scoon.
Princeton University Press, 1928
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes"
Lectures on the History of Philosophy: Greek Philosophy to Plato
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; E. S. Haldane.
University of Nebraska Press, vol.1, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Thales" begins on p. 17
Greek Philosophy. Part I, Thales to Plato
John Burnet.
MacMillan, 1920
Librarian’s tip: Chap. I "The Ionians"
The Greek Philosophers: From Thales to Aristotle
W. K. C. Guthrie.
Methuen, 1950
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "Matter and Form (Ionians and Pythagoreans)"
The Worlds of the Early Greek Philosophers
J. B. Wilbur; H. J. Allen.
Prometheus Books, 1979
Librarian’s tip: "Thales" begins on p. 32
The Presocratic Philosophers
Jonathan Barnes.
Routledge, 1989
Librarian’s tip: "Thales on Magnets and Water" begins on p. 5
History of Philosophy: Eastern and Western
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan; Ardeshir Ruttonji Wadia; Dhirendra Mohan Datta; Humayun Kabir.
George Allen & Unwin, vol.2, 1953
Librarian’s tip: "Thales and Anaximenes" begins on p. 28
Presocratic Reflexivity: The Construction of Philosophical Discourse C. 600-450 BC
Barry Sandywell.
Routledge, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Thales and the Origins of Ionian Cosmology"
The Idea of Nature
R. G. Collingwood.
Clarendon Press, 1945
Librarian’s tip: "Thales" begins on p. 30
The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers
Werner Jaeger.
Clarendon Press, 1947
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "The Theology of the Milesian Naturalists"
The Growth of Physical Science
Sir James Jeans.
University Press, 1948
Librarian’s tip: "Thales" begins on p. 18
The Great Mathematicians
Herbert Westren Turnbull.
New York University Press, 1961
Librarian’s tip: Chap. I "Early Beginnings: Thales, Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans"
A Short History of Philosophy
Robert C. Solomon; Kathleen M. Higgins.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Thales begins on p. 25
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