Ionian  School  of  Philosophy

                     The Ionian School includes the earliest Greek philosophers, who lived at Miletus,
                     an Ionian colony in Asia Minor, during the sixth century B.C., and a group of
                     philosophers who lived about one hundred years later and modified the doctrines
                     of their predecessors in several respects. It is usual to distinguish, therefore, the
                     Earlier Ionians and the Later Ionians.

                     Earlier Ionians

                     This group includes Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, with whom the
                     history of philosophy in Greece begins. They are called by Aristotle the first
                     "physiologists", that is "students of nature". So far as we know they confined
                     their philosophical enquiry to the problem of the origin and laws of the physical
                     universe. They taught that the world originated from a primitive substance, which
                     was at once the matter out of which the world was made and the force by which
                     the world was formed. Thales said that this primitive substance was water;
                     Anaximander said that it was "the boundless" (to apeiron); Anaximenes said that
                     it was air, or atmospheric vapour (aer). They agreed in teaching that in this
                     primitive substance there is an inherent force, or vital power. Hence they are said
                     to be Hylozoists and Dynamists. Hylozoism (q.v.) is the doctrine of animated
                     matter, and Dynamism (q.v.) the doctrine that the original cosmothetic force was
                     not distinct from, but identical with, the matter out of which the universe was
                     made. From the scanty materials that have come down to us -- a few fragments
                     of the writings of the early Ionians, and allusions in Aristotle's writings -- it is
                     impossible to determine whether these first philosophers were Theists or
                     Pantheists, although one may perhaps infer from their hylozoistic cosmology that
                     they believed God to be at once the substance and the formative force in the

                     Later Ionians

                     This group includes Heraclitus Empedocles, and Anaxagoras, who lived in the
                     fifth century B.C. These philosophers, like the early Ionians, were deeply
                     interested in the problem of the origin and nature of the universe. But, unlike their
                     predecessors, they distinguished the primitive world forming force from the
                     primitive matter of which the world was made. In Heraclitus, however, and, to a
                     certain degree, in Empedocles, this mechanism -- the doctrine that force is
                     distinct from matter -- is expressed hesitatingly and in figurative language.
                     Anaxagoras is the first Greek philosopher to assert definitely and unhesitatingly
                     that the world was formed from a primitive substance by the operation of a force
                     called Intellect. For this reason he is said by Aristotle to be "distinguished from
                     the crowd of random talkers who preceded him" as the "first sober man" among
                     the Greeks. Heraclitus was so impressed with the prevalence of change among
                     physical things that he laid down the principle of panmetabolism: panta rei, "all
                     things are in a constant flux". Empedocles has the distinction of having
                     introduced into philosophy the doctrine of four elements, or four "roots", as he
                     calls them, namely, fire, air, earth, and water, out of which the centripetal force of
                     love and the centrifugal force of hatred made all things, and are even now making
                     and unmaking all things. Anaxagoras, as has been said, introduced the doctrine
                     of nous, or Intellect. He is blamed however, by Socrates and Plato for having
                     neglected to make the most obvious application of that doctrine to the
                     interpretation of nature as it now is. Having postulated a world-forming Mind, he
                     should they pointed out, have proceeded to the principle of teleology, that the
                     Mind presiding over natural processes does all things for the best. None of these
                     early philosophers devoted attention to the problems of epistemology and ethics.
                     Socrates was the first to conduct a systematic inquiry into the conditions of
                     human knowledge and the principles of human conduct.

                     William  Turner
                     Transcribed by Tomas Hancil

                                       The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII
                                    Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company
                                    Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
                                 Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
                                 Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

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