Milesian school

Philosophy has its origin in Ancient Greece, after some thinkers proposed rational explanations about the origin and physical constitution of the world, moving more and more away from mythical explanations of nature.

It is in the Greek city of Miletus that three thinkers appeared who marked the history of philosophy. They make up the so-called Milesian school.

Founder of the Milesian school

Thales of Miletus was the first philosopher to propose a rational and empirical explanation for the origin and constitution of the world. For this reason, he is considered the founder of the Milesian school.

Thales sought to determine the principle (arche) responsible for the origin of all things. In his reflections, Thales noticed that water was an essential element for the world and for the conservation of life, and he designated it as the principle of everything.

Location of the city of Miletus, via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image.

The main philosophers of the Milesian school


Among the main philosophers of the Milesian school was its own founder, Thales of Miletus. After Thales, two other philosophers from the city of Miletus continued the philosophical investigation about the physis, presenting new ideas and theories. These thinkers had in common the naturalistic philosophical line, but they followed different paths.


Anaximander was a disciple of Thales. He defined that the apeiron, the unlimited and infinite principle, was the true principle (arche) responsible for the origin of everything, which was present in all things.


Anaximenes, a friend and disciple of Anaximander, defended air as the generating and primordial principle of everything. His theory said that all existing things, of the most varied forms, were generated through the condensation and rarefaction of air.

Key characteristics of the thinkers of Miletus

The Milesian school has as its main characteristics:

  • The search for a rational explanation of physis, that is, nature;
  • The attempt to establish a principle (arche) from which all things originate;
  • Explaining, through the arche, the process of birth, generation, and movement of things;

The interest of the philosophers of the Milesian school is fundamentally to explain the origin, structure, and physical and biological processes present in nature. For this reason, Aristotle called these thinkers physikoi, which in Greek means “physicists,” or “philosophers of nature”.

This philosophical characteristic of seeking to explain nature is also found in other Greek Schools of Philosophy, such as the Italic, Eleatic, and Atomistic Schools.


What were Milesians beliefs?

The philosophers of the Milesian School defended, among other things, the existence of a principle called arche that would be the cause of the origin of all things in the universe.

Who were the main philosophers of the Milesian School?

The main philosophers of this School were Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes.

What philosophical characteristic is common between the Milesian School and other Greek schools of philosophy?

The common philosophical characteristic between the Milesian School and other Greek schools of philosophy is the search for an explanation of nature and the physical and biological processes present in it. This characteristic is found in other schools, such as the Italic, Eleatic and Atomistic Schools.


DONINI, Pierluigi; FERRARI, Franco. (2012). O exercício da razão no mundo clássico, perfil de filosofia antiga. (M. G. G. Pina, Trad.). São Paulo: Annablume Clássica.

MARÍAS, Julián. (2004). História da Filosofia. (C. Berliner, Trad.). São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

Cite This Work

Vieira, S. (2023, February 19). Milesian school. Filosofia do Início. Retrieved from

Vieira, Sadoque. “Milesian school.” Filosofia do Início, February 19, 2023.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Milesian school.” Filosofia do Início, 19 Feb. 2023,


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