Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Presocratic Philosophy

Thales of Miletus –Founder of Natural Philosophy – born 625 BC

Quoted from Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius, as presented in Jonathan Barnes’ Early Greek Philosophy, Penguin Putnan Inc., New York, 2001, pgs.15-17,

The following aphorisms are ascribed to him [Thales].

1. Of existing things, god is the oldest – for he is ungenerated.

2. The world is the most beautiful – for it is god’s making.

3. Space is the greatest – for it includes everything.

4. Mind is the swiftest – for it runs through everything.

5. Necessity is the strongest – for it controls everything.

6. Time is the wisest – for it discovers everything.

7. He said that death is no different from life.  “Then why don’t you die?” someone asked him.  ‘Because death is no different,’ he replied.

8. When someone asked him which came first, night or day, he answered, ‘Night came first – by a day.’

9. When someone asked him whether a man can escape the notice of the gods if he does wrong, he replied: ‘Not even if he thinks of doing wrong.’ 

10. An adulterer asked him if he should swear that he had not committed adultery: he replied, ‘Perjury is no worse than adultery.’

11.  When asked what is difficult, he said, ‘To know yourself’;

12. what is easy, ‘To give advice to someone else’;

13. what most pleasant, ‘Success’;

14. what divine, ‘What has neither beginning nor end’.

15. When asked what was the strangest thing he had seen, he said: ‘An old tyrant.’

16. How can we bear misfortune most easily? – If we see our enemies fairing worse.

17. How can we live best and most justly? – If we do not ourselves do the things we blame others for doing. 

18. Who is happy? – One who has a healthy body, a well-stocked soul and a cultivated nature. 

19. He says that we should remember our friends both present and absent,

20. and that we should not beautify our appearance but be beautiful in our practices.

21. ‘Do not be rich by evil means,’ he says,

22. ‘and let not words set you against those who have had your trust.’

23. ‘Expect from your children the same provision you made for your parents.’

23. [His motto] – Know thyself!


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