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Thales was a native of Miletus in Asia Minor He flourished in 585 BCE the date of an eclipse he is reputed to have predicted No fragments of his work have survived only testimony Aristotle attributes the following four views to Thales 1 The earth rests on water De Caelo 294a28 2 Water is the arch of all things Metaph 983b18 3 The magnet has a soul De Anima 405a19 4 All things are full of gods De Anima 411a7 This seems like a very bizarre collection of very strange views What makes these views philosophically or scientifically interesting We will begin with 1 It seems very likely that Thales was offering an hypothesis to explain a puzzling phenomenon why are there earthquakes If the earth floats on water then we can understand what happens the earth is rocked by the wave action of the water on which it floats like a boat or a log At this point we are more interested in seeing that this is an attempt at explanation than in evaluating it To understand 2 we need to examine its source Arch is Aristotles word it means beginning or source or principle cf archaic archaeology architect Aristotle is here talking about what he called the material arch which can be either the stuff from which something originated or the stuff of which it is composed Thus Thales thought Aristotle tells us that everything either originated in water cosmogony or is actually now made of water constituent analysis So what is the scientific or philosophical interest of Thales ruminations about water He is attempting to provide a theory which is 1 General it covers a whole range of similar cases not just a single one 2 Based on observation although it transcends all observations 3 Makes no appeal to supernatural causes This last point is worth dwelling on Many people before Thales had offered explanations of
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