(Kirk and Raven, Wilhelm Windelband)
1) Use of a concept (to apeiron, the indefinite) as the source of things
2) Introduces a notion of rule or law describing/prescribing the process of change
[this law eventually corrects the injustice which allows opposites to predominate ] --> "natural law".
"A concept of physis emerges here -- one characteristic of later PreSocratic Greek philosophy -- as a totality which is the source of everything, which is free from change and plurality, which is distinguished from individual things." This physis, moreover, can be known solely by mind and is arrived at by argument.
--> related problems of:
the One // Many
the Changeless // Changing things
3) Gives a mathematical basis to the world
4) Offers the first "evolutionary" conception of human beings
Succeeded Thales as the leader of the Milesian school toward the middle of the 6th ct.
The first to leave writings that we know of -- and "the first of whom we have concrete evidence that he made a comprehensive and detailed attempt to explain all aspects of the world of man's [sic] experience." (K&R)
A number of mathematical and astronomical inventions (use of the gnomen; marking solstices/equinoxes -- which, as in Thales' case, is likely to have been imported from the Babylonians) are attributed to him -- as is drawing the first map of the world.
The principle (arche) and element (stoixeios) is the indefinite (Kirk and Raven's translation), the infinite, the unlimited (the apeiron).
[The indefinite: "without limit, boundary, definition" -- spatial in its early uses.]
Out of this arche, things come to be and then cease to be -- but the indefinite endures because it is independent of and superior to these individual changes.
More precisely (from Theophrastus):
And the source of coming to be (genesis) for existing things (tois ousi) is that into which destruction, too, happens "according to necessity: for they pay penalty and retribution to each other for their injustice according to the assessment of Time," as he describes it in these rather poetical terms.
[ --> anticipates the poem of Parmenides]
Things are created through a process of separation -- first cold and warm, and then other things. [This is a process of separation off -- not out -- of the Indefinite: K&R, 130. As well, this is the first appearance of the concept of opposed natural substances --> Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, early Pythagoreans.]
This process is an injustice -- adikia; the unjust predominance of one thing over another -- warm over cold, damp over dry, etc. Individual things maintain their predominance by means of this injustice.
But there is a natural law which makes things return to an ultimate end that is without injustice -- to the apeiron in which opposites do not predominate over one another.
TIME is the means by which this natural law is realized. Time will make things return to this unity -- to the quietude and irresolution of the physis,from which they have unjustly departed.
[E.g., the injustice of summer has to be made good within the roughly equal period of winter, - of night during the day., etc.
Perhaps this contains a sense of inevitability. (K&R)]
K&R interpret this as: the indefinite initiated the world in such as away as to provide a continuing rule or law of change. It is feasible that the control involved was through the law of retribution between opposites. IF this interpretation is sound, then Anaximander is already making a critical distinction between "stuff" and a "law" which describes/prescribes the process of change which this "stuff" undergoes.
Why the indefinite? According to Aristotle:
1) if the fundamental arche were identified with a specific element, the primary substance would overshadow the other elements and never let them develop.
2) an infinite source-material ensures that coming-to-be in the world will not fail for lack of material.
Further, the indefinite is all-enfolding (all-controlling?), divine and immortal. [--> Power and immortality are the chief attributes of the Homeric gods]
An idea of nature emerges here, then -- one to be characteristic of later Greek PreSocratic philosophy: a totality which is the source of everything, which is free from change and plurality, and which is distinguished from (if not in opposition to) individual things.
Moreover, notice the use of justice and law as images/metaphors (fundamental explanatory entities) for the process of change. We are strongly tempted to say: Anaximinder is projecting human experience and concepts onto a conception of "nature." Or: Anaximander exploits here the Milesian assumption of an analogy between the human and the natural orders.
[K&R: "The constant interchange between opposed substances is explained by Anaximander in a legalistic metaphor derived from human society." (119) What the opposites A. had in mind is unclear: the hot/coldopposition was first identified by Heracleitus.]
Further comment: notice how much richer this theory is. It now includes an account of the process of change -- one that incorporates and explains TIME as an element of experience.
[K&R: a notion of "innumerable world" belongs more to Theophrastus than to Anaximander.]
COSMOGONY: (see K&R, 133)
The earth is as drum; it is stable because of its equilibrium -- it is in a stable place, equidistant from other bodies.
[According to Aristotle: because it is centered and central (K&R, 134)].
There are fire-wheels circling the earth -- constituting the stars, moon, and sun, as these are visible through "breathing holes."
[Reference to Homer? K&R, 10)
PRESUMES A MATHEMATICAL BASIS UNDERLYING THE STRUCTURE OF THE WORLD:
The sun and moon are each an aperture in separate solid rings like the felloes of cartwheels. These rings consist of fire surrounded by air (regarded as concealing mist), and out of the single aperture in each of them fire emerges like air from the nozzle of a bellows....Eclipses, and phases of the moon, are due to a total or partial blocking of the aperture....The aperture of the sun is the same size as the surface (presumably) of the earth (fr. 129)....the diameter of its wheel is twenty-seven times as great as this (twenty-eight times in fr. 128). The moon-wheel is nineteen earth-diameters (or eighteen, presumably) across....The star-wheels ...were presumably of nine (or ten) earth-diameters, being nearest to the earth (fr.127). (Kirk & Raven, 146)
This develops an assumption in Homer and Hesiod (but not, for example,in Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh) that the world is orderly (a kosmos, to use the later Pythagorean technical term) and determinable. His notion of proportionate distances may have influenced Pythagoras [K&R, 136]
Winds produced by the finest vapors of the air being separated and set and motion.
Rain produced from an "exhalation" issuing upward from things beneath the sun.
Lightning occurs whenever wind breaks out, cleaves the clouds (K&R, 138)
The earth is drying up. (This was actually happening in Ionia in 6th ct. B.C.E.)
[Aristotle: the notion of the "Great Year," great summer/ winter postulated by Xenophanes, one generation after Anaximander.]
ZOOGONY/ANTHOPOGONY (a kind of evolutionary theory):
The first living creatures were born in moisture, enclosed in thorny barks. As they got older, they lived on the drier part; bark broke off.
In the beginning, humankind was born from creatures of a different kind -- because other creatures are soon self- supporting, but man alone needs prolonged nursing. Hence he could not have survived if this had been his original form.
Life arises from heated water/earth -- either fish or creatures like fish. In these man grew, like embryos, until puberty -- the fish-like creatures burst and men and women who could nourish themselves emerged.
THE FIRST ATTEMPT WE KNOW OF TO EXPLAIN THE ORIGIN OF HUMANKIND, AS WELL AS OF THE WORLD, RATIONALLY.
[--> COMMENT on the assumed meaning of a "rational explanation" --> Ockham's razor]
Anaximander's account of nature, though among the earliest such accounts, is also among the broadest in scope and most imaginative of all.
Miscellaneous comments - conceptual development.
Instead of water as the source of all things, to apeiron -- the unlimited. "The first purely rational concept of Greek philosophical thought." The nature of the apeiron is described in a rational manner, rather than in terms of matter and experience.
In other terms -- we have here the first full-blown metaphysics, over against what we might call empirical science -- the attempt to derive the origin and character of things on the basis of reason, and in terms that are rational -- e.g., abstract from the basic data of experience, referring to things which are perhaps even unknowable in experience. And the claim here is that this unknowable abstraction -- known only by mind -- is in fact the ultimate basis of things. Why should we believe such a claim? Because that is what the logos -- the argument / our reason -- tells us.
The historian Wilhelm Windelband further emphasizes the monistic tendency of the Milesians -- the effort to reduce the diversity of all things to one underlying unity. This, he thinks, distinguishes early Greek philosophy/ science from (a) mythological consciousness, and (b) especially the polytheism of myth.
As we shall see: there is also an argument implicit here between:
Anaximander -- whose assertion is roughly that the arche, as the source of all "stuffs," cannot itself be any one stuff
Anaximenes -- who replies that the arche must be itself a "stuff," because the indefinite as such is no-thing. But this further requires Anaximenes to postulate an on-going cycle of change -- the injustice of one stuff dominating another -- in order to avoid the problem which Anaximenes' apeiron solves -- i.e., that to say the arche is one stuff makes the presence of other stuffs puzzling.
[This in fact points towards Heraclitus, who will develop a synthesis of these earlier views.]