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Anaximenes of Miletus - Quotes

Anaximenes regarded air as the first principle.

Aristotle. Metaphysics (i. 3; 984 a 5) . 4th century BC.

Anaximenes and Anaxagoras and Demokritos say that the breadth of the earth is the reason why it remains where it is.

Simplicius. de Coelo (ii. 13 ; 294 b13). 5th century AD.

Most of the earlier students of the heavenly bodies believed that the sun did not go underneath the earth, but rather around the earth and this region, and treat it disappeared from view and produced night, because the earth was so high toward the north.

Simplicius. Meteorology (ii . 7 ; 354 a 28). 5th century AD.

Anaximenes says that the earth was wet, and when it dried it broke apart, and that earthquakes are due to the breaking and falling of hills ; accordingly earthquakes occur in droughts, and in rainy seasons also; they occur in drought, as has been said, because the earth dries and breaks apart, and it also crumbles when it is wet through with waters.

Simplicius. Meteorology (ii . 7 ; 354 a 28). 5th century AD.

He regarded the first principle as unlimited, but not as undefined, for he called it air, thinking that air had a sufficient adaptability to change.

Simplicius. de Coelo (273 b 45). 5th century AD.

Of this one writer alone, Theophrastos, in his account of the Physicists, uses the words "GREEK" of texture. The rest, of course, spoke of "GREEK".

Simplicius of Cilicia. Physica Auscultatio (32 r 149, 32.). 5th century AD.

Some say that the universe always existed, not that it has always been the same, but rather that it successively changes its character in certain periods of time; as, for instance, Anaxi- menes and Herakleitos and Diogenes.

Simplicius of Cilicia. Physica Auscultatio (2,57v). 5th century AD.

Anaximenes of Miletos, son of Eurystratos, a companion of Anaximandros, agrees with him that the essential nature of things is one and infinite, but he regards it as not indeterminate but rather determinate, and calls it air; the air differs in rarity and in density as the nature of things is different; when very attenuated it becomes fire, when more condensed wind, and then cloud, and when still more condensed water and earth and stone, and all other things are composed of these; and he regards motion as eternal, and by this changes are produced.

Theophrastos. Physics (6r 24, 26). 3rd or 4th century BC.

Thales, the son of Examyas, has met an unkind fate in his old age. He went out from the court of his house at night, as was his custom, with his maidservant to view the stars, and, forgetting where he was, as he gazed, he got to the edge of a steep slope and fell over. In such wise have the Milesians lost their astronomer. Let us who were his pupils cherish his memory, and let it be cherished by our children and pupils; and let us not cease to entertain one another with his words. Let all our discourse begin with a reference to Thales.

Anaximenes in a letter to Pytagoras. Diogenes Lartius, “Lives of the Eminent Philosophers”, book 2, Anaximenes, 3. 3rd century AD.

You were better advised than the rest of us when you left Samos for Croton, where you live in peace.

Anaximenes in a letter to Pytagoras. Diogenes Lartius, “Lives of the Eminent Philosophers”, book 2, Anaximenes, 3. 3rd century AD.

For the sons of Aeaces work incessant mischief, and Miletus is never without tyrants. The king of the Medes is another terror to us, not indeed so long as we are willing to pay tribute; but the Ionians are on the point of going to war with the Medes to secure their common freedom, and once we are at war we have no more hope of safety.

Anaximenes in a letter to Pytagoras. Diogenes Lartius, “Lives of the Eminent Philosophers”, book 2, Anaximenes, 3. 3rd century AD.

How then can Anaximenes any longer think of studying the heavens when threatened with destruction or slavery?

Anaximenes in a letter to Pytagoras. Diogenes Lartius, “Lives of the Eminent Philosophers”, book 2, Anaximenes, 3. 3rd century AD.

Meanwhile you find favour with the people of Croton and with the other Greeks in Italy; and pupils come to you even from Sicily.

Anaximenes in a letter to Pytagoras. Diogenes Lartius, “Lives of the Eminent Philosophers”, book 2, Anaximenes, 3. 3rd century AD.

Anaximenes arrived at the conclusion that air is the one, movable, infinite, first principle of all things. For he speaks as follows : Air is the nearest to an immaterial thing; for since we are generated in the flow of air, it is necessary that it should be infinite and abundant, because it is never exhausted.

Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs. Livre i., p. 83, II. 7-10, Olympiodoros. Paris 1887.

Just as our soul, being air, holds us together, so do breath and air encompass the whole world.

Anaximenes of Miletus. the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica . 1911.



No one can read the history of astronomy without perceiving that Copernicus, Newton, Laplace, are not new men, or a new kind of men, but that Thales, Anaximenes, Hipparchus, Empodocles, Aristorchus, Pythagorus, Oenipodes, had anticipated them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Conduct of Life. 1904.



Anaximenes ... also says that the underlying nature is one and infinite ... but not undefined as Anaximander said but definite, for he identifies it as air; and it differs in its substantial nature by rarity and density. Being made finer it becomes fire; being made thicker it becomes wind, then cloud, then (when thickened still more) water, then earth, then stones; and the rest come into being from these.

Simplicius. Commentary on Aristotle's Physics, (24, 26-31), quoting Theophrastus on Anaximenes. 5th century AD.



Anaximenes and Anaxagoras and Democritus say that its [the earth's] flatness is responsible for it staying still: for it does not cut the air beneath but covers it like a lid, which flat bodies evidently do: for they are hard to move even for the winds, on account of their resistance.

Aristotle. On the Heavens (294b, 13). 4th century BC.



Anaximenes son of Eurystratus, of Miletus, was a pupil of Anaximander; some say he was also a pupil of Parmenides. He said that the material principle was air and the infinite; and that the stars move, not under the earth, but round it. He used simple and economical Ionic speech. He was active, according to what Apollodorus says, around the time of the capture of Sardis, and died in the 63rd Olympiad.

Diogenes Laertius. Life of the eminent Philosophers. 3rd century AD.



Anaximenes ... declared that air is the principle of existing things; for from it all things come-to-be and into it they are again dissolved. As our soul, he says, being air holds us together and controls us, so does wind [or breath] and air enclose the whole world.

Aetius. Doxography. latest 1st century BC.

In opposition to Thales, Ionian physics later claimed, like Anaximenes, that air was the origin of all things. Later, Heraclitus opted for fire. Others, like Empedocles, even later, considered the four elements.water, air, fire and earth.to be the root of all. In all of these theories the principle is reduced to something concrete, determinable and local, as large as one wishes.drop, bubble, spark or clod.

Michel Serres. Anaximander: A Founding Name in History, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger, David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.

When fire transforms the solid earth into liquid water, and then into fluid air, or inversely, when cold or the absence of heat makes them move in the opposite direction in the same cycle of evaporation and condensation, with each perceptible change comes an intermediate state where the substrata, freed of any limits, can call itself either gaseous or liquid, water or air, one or the other, indifferently or indefinitely, that is, each of the underlying principles chosen with unparalleled profundity by Thales or Anaximenes. There is no discernible boundary between these fundamental and original states to which the Ionian colleagues (rightly) attribute everything that exists in the universe. This is […] the origin of physics.

Michel Serres. Anaximander: A Founding Name in History, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger, David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.

Yet Heidegger, writing retrospectively of his early engagement with the Greeks, does not ascribe such orientation only to Aristotle but extends it to "Greek thinking as a whole," thus concluding that "what phenomenological investigations rediscovered as the supporting attitude of thinking proves to be the fundamental trait (Grundzug) of Greek thinking." What about this extension? Is the bond to the things themselves in their manifestness decisively operative in Greek thinking as a whole? Does the force of the Empedoclean injunction extend back even to the beginning of Greek thought? Can a trace of it be discerned even in that remote beginning that is supposed to have been accomplished in the sixth century B.C. in the city of Miletus? What about Anaximenes, in particular?

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.

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Of Anaximenes' life and activities virtually nothing is known aside from his having been a pupil and/or companion of Anaximander. The doxographical testimony to this connection serves to confirm the unmistakably audible echoes of Anaximander's thought in what the tradition has preserved of the words and thought of Anaximenes.

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



Not that much remains: there is perhaps less than in the case of any other early Greek thinker accorded comparable significance in the ancient tradition. Only one short fragment has any claim to reproducing the words of Anaximenes himself, and even in this case there are, as commentators have noted, serious difficulties in substantiating the claim.

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.

For interpreting his basic thought, one has no choice but to rely on a few passages from much later authors that summarize his thought, these summaries in turn relying in most cases on still earlier reports, especially those by Aristotle's pupil, Theophrastus. Consequently, Anaximenes' thought as transmitted through these reports and summaries is cast for the most part in an Aristotelian language and conceptuality that almost certainly could not have been proper to it originally.

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



But in this case can one seriously suppose that a bond to things in their manifestness could have been operative? After all, Anaximenes is supposed to have theorized that everything comes from air. What could be less attached, less attentive, to things in their manifestness than such seemingly empty theorizing? And yet, in this very supposition, in the way that later reports as well as present-day commentaries formulate it, there is much that calls for suspicion and must indeed be suspended if there is to be hope of genuine access to Anaximenes' thought.

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



Is it at all certain what is to be understood by air? Is it indeed even certain that is to be translated by air? What would be the sense of translation in this case, considering that the Anaximenean „air“ can be identified neither with air in the sense determined by modern physics (as a mixture of gases) nor with the element („air“) that comes to be designated by this name in Aristotle?

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.

The report continues by marking a point that differentiates Anaximenes from Anaximander: Anaximenes does not consider the unlimited one (from which every-thing simple comes forth) to be indeterminate but rather takes it to be determinate […]

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



Everything depends on how the doubling is understood, on how it is that each thing manifest as fire, wind, cloud, water, earth, or stone is also „air“. How is „air“ with such things, especially considering that it remains nonmanifest as such?

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



For then Anaximenes would be saying: as „air“ empowers the coming of things into their manifestness, so does it, as soul, gather each of us and draw us to that manifestation in such a way that we are gifted with the power of apprehending what comes to presence.

John Sallis. Doubles of Anaximenes, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



Kahn remarks correctly that in what follows the atmosphere, i.e., air, is missing, that is, precisely that which was essential to the Ionic cosmic wisdom and provided its intuitive ground (in Thales and Anaximenes). Likewise, he appears to me to be right that here the most extreme opposite to fire, the sea, is named as its other. The earthly sea approaches the heavenly fire as its extreme counterpart.

Hans-Georg Gadamer. Hereclitus Studies, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



Thus, it seems to me that Heraclitus with his doctrine of fire asked questions that went beneath the Ionic cosmogony. Not the transformations of water (Thales) or air (Anaximenes) but rather the transformations of fire is what is described here.

Hans-Georg Gadamer. Hereclitus Studies, in: The Presocratics after Heidegger David C. Jacobs (ed). 1999.



The Ionian coastal cities and the neighboring islands were the meeting place of the surviving pre -Hellenic culture with Asiatic culture; and from this focal region, the vital mixture spread over the southern semicircle of isles to the west of the Greek mainland and further to Sicily and southern Italy. From the outside this vast semicircle was hemmed in by the Lydians, Persians, and Phoenicians to the east, by the Egyptians in the south, and by the Carthaginians and Etruscans in the southwest and west. In this border circle appeared, besides Homer, the travellers and historians Hecataeus and Herodotus; the poets Alcaeus, Sappho, Callinus, and Alcman; the philosophers Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Xenophanes, Parmenides, Pythagoras, and Anaxagoras. Here was the frontier of contacts and conflicts with Asiatic forces which dominated Hellenic pragmatic history; and here also must the Iliad have received the pointed interpretation, that was taken for granted by Herodotus, as the epic of the great struggle between Europe and Asia.

Eric Voegelin. The World of the Polis. 1957.



The earliest literary documents convey the impression of a decline of the old aristocratic order rather than of a strong consciousness of the polis. On the mainland, the work of Hesiod (c.yoo B.C.) is the magnificent beginning of articulate concern about right order, but with regard to the polis, however important in other respects, it is rather negative. For Hesiod was in the position of a victimized subject. He complained about the princes whose corruption endangered his property; he expressed the ethos of work; but he had nothing to say about rulership and constitutional order. The pathos of the polis was not alive in him. In Ionia, the century of lyric from Archilochus (c./oo) to Sappho (c.6oo) marks the beginning of the life of the soul. But again, it a tests the decline of an aristocratic order of life, setting the individual soul free, rather than betraying a new political will. Nor does the Milesian speculation of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes (c.6$o-550) suggest anything but a new intellectual freedom as it will unfold when style and tension of a political culture dissolve.

Eric Voegelin. The World of the Polis. 1957.



The same style of intellectual adventure characterized the philosophizing of the great Milesians, of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, when they replaced the divine figures of the myth, in their search of origins, with symbols drawn from objects and substances of the world of sense perception. Unfortunately we know entirely too little about their work because the Persian conquest, as we have indicated, apparently interrupted the formation of a tradition.

Eric Voegelin. The World of the Polis. 1957.



The memory of Thales was preserved through anecdotes; his works were so thoroughly lost, that one cannot be quite sure he ever wrote a treatise. Anaximander and Anaximenes were completely forgotten. Their names came to light again when Aristotle and his school undertook a search for predecessors; practically all that we know about their work stems from the excerpts which Aristotle and Theophrastus made from a manuscript they must have obtained. That is not to say that the work of the Milesians remained without effect.

Eric Voegelin. The World of the Polis. 1957.