Diogenes of Apollonia

Biography of Diogenes of Apollonia

Diogenes was the last pre-Socratic philosopher, the son of Apollothemis, born in Apollonia in the second half of the 5th century B.C. He was a contemporary of Anaxagoras and, according to ancient sources, was a disciple of Anaximenes. Besides being a philosopher, he was also a physicist and physician. He elaborated a very eclectic philosophy.

He was one of the last philosophers of physis. The philosophy of physis aimed to establish, philosophically, the principle by which everything originated. This principle became known as the arche.


It is not known exactly how many books Diogenes wrote. According to the testimony of Simplicius, Diogenes wrote four books, namely:

  • Against the Sophists;
  • Meteorology;
  • On the Nature of Man;
  • On Nature;

However, only fragments of his work On Nature have come down to us.

The Philosophy of Diogenes of Apollonia

Diogenes of Apollonia elaborated a very eclectic philosophy, combining the philosophical theses of Anaximenes, who affirmed that the arché is air, and Anaxagoras, who defended the existence of a Cosmic Intelligence (Nous) that ordered the primordial elements.

Diogenes affirmed that the principle, that is, the arche, would be air-intelligence, of infinite nature. Everything that exists in the world has its origin in this single principle, which is air. For this reason, Diogenes’ philosophical system is characterized as monism.

Air as arche

According to the monist philosophical theory of Diogenes of Apollonia, unlimited and immobile air is the main element that, in greater or lesser density, generates the worlds through condensation and rarefaction.

Air is also the cause of our sense, intelligence, thought and life. Without air there would be no life. Says Diogenes in one of his fragments:

Men and other animate beings live by breathing the air. And this is for them soul and intelligence; for if it is taken away from them, they die and their intelligence is extinguished.

The air-intelligence

Anaxagoras had already defended an intelligent principle, the Nous. Diogenes similarly adapted Anaxagoras’ Nous to his theory, and thus argued that air possesses intelligence and is divine. He says:

And it seems to me that what men call air possesses intelligence, and that all things are governed by it, and that it has power over them all. For it is precisely this that I take to be God, who reaches everything, disposes of everything, and is in everything.

We can see that things exist differently in the world, sometimes warmer, sometimes colder, wetter or drier, moving fast or slower. For the philosopher from Apollonia, all these differentiations are variations of the air.

Because of the infinite variations, beings are also multiform and many, having no similarities either in their way of life or in intelligence. Here, Diogenes is contradicting the thesis of Melissus of Samos, who defended the being as one, homogeneous, immobile, etc. Says the philosopher:

All things are differentiations of the same thing and are the same thing. For if the things that are now in this world – earth, water, air and fire, and the other things that manifest themselves in this world – if any of these things were different from any other, and if they did not remain the same thing in their many changes and differentiations, then the things could not, in any way, mix with each other.

Cite This Work

Vieira, S. (2021, November 29). Diogenes of Apollonia. Filosofia do Início. Retrieved from https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/diogenes-of-apollonia/.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Diogenes of Apollonia.” Filosofia do Início, November 29, 2021. https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/diogenes-of-apollonia/.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Diogenes of Apollonia.” Filosofia do Início, 29 Nov. 2021, https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/diogenes-of-apollonia/.


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