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Notes for Class Thirteen The Milesians I Thales of Miletos c 580 BC was the first thinker in the West to provide a rational explanation of things By claiming that everything can be explained in terms of water he proposes that there is a way to make sense of our experience of changes in the world Behind the appearance of change he suggests is something constant a one behind the many in terms of which everything is to be understood This turn from myth to reason is significant in three ways it focuses on a natural rather than a supernatural explanation it suggests that reality is different from appearances and it describes not only the fundamental nature of reality as water but also how things in nature change as a result of internal forces II Anaximander of Miletos c 545 BC disagrees with Thales about the fundamental material principle of reality because he argues it does not make sense to say that something that is the opposite of water--namely that which is dry--must be explained in terms of water Instead of saying that any contrary must be explained in terms of its opposite Anaximander says that the ultimate principle of being must have no discernible characteristics or properties it is the Unlimited or the Indeterminate the apeiron It is the substance of which everything is made but it is never experienced by itself It appears as various combinations of earth air fire and water whose changes are regulated according to rhythms or harmonies that correct the injustice created by extremes of contrary qualities such as hot-cold wet-dry rough-smooth light-dark Anaximander moves beyond Thales in two ways he describes ultimate reality abstractly in terms that are not tied to what one sensually experiences thus elevating the mind over the senses and he accounts for observed natural changes in terms of law-like necessity III Anaximenes of Miletos c 545 BC rejects Anaximanders notion of
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