Milesian Measures: Time, Space, and Matter

Stephen A. White

in The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780195146875
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892112 | DOI:


Milesian Measures: Time, Space, and Matter

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Any attempt to trace the origin of Greek philosophy faces two complementary problems. One is the fact that evidence for the early philosophers is woefully meager. The other problem raises a question of what is to be counted as philosophy. Yet neither problem is insuperable. This article proposes to reorient the search for origins in two ways, corresponding to these two problems. First, rather than trying to reconstruct vanished work directly, this article focuses on a crucial stage in its ancient reception, in particular, the efforts by Aristotle and his colleagues in the latter half of the fourth century to collect, analyze, and assess the evidence then available for earlier attempts to understand the natural world. The other shift in focus this article makes is from philosophy to science; or rather, it focuses on evidence for the interplay between observation, measurement, and explanation in the work of three sixth-century Milesians.

Keywords: Greek philosophy; early philosophers; Aristotle; science; sixth-century Milesians

Article.  24573 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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