Thales of Miletus


Thales of Miletus is considered to be the first philosopher. He was born in Miletus at the end of the seventh century. Besides being a philosopher, he was also an accomplished astronomer, mathematician, engineer, and politician.

One of his most notable achievements, in astronomy, was to have predicted a total eclipse of the sun on May 28, 585 B.C. In geometry, he is also known for his theorem that bears his name (Thales’ theorem).

Despite having left his name marked in the history of philosophy, he left us no written work. It is through indirect oral tradition that we get to know his thought

Thales of Miletus inaugurated what we call the philosophy of physis, that is, the philosophy of nature, which is characterized by the search for a principle (arche) from which all things proceed.

Anaximander and Anaximenes, both from the city of Miletus, followed the philosophy of the great master Thales, and proposed new theories about the arche of the cosmos.

Thales of Miletus and water as arche

According to Thales of Miletus the original principle of everything is water.

He observed that the food and nourishment of things is moist. The earth, seeds and germs have a humid nature. From this, he concluded that dryness would be death. Therefore, there is a close relationship between life and moisture. He then concluded that the principle of life is water.

All existing things proceed from water, endure thanks to water, and are enclosed in water. We can see that he does not arbitrarily state that water is the arché, he seeks to base his thesis on logical and empirical arguments, which is why he is considered the first philosopher.

At first sight, Thales’ philosophy might seem banal and absurd if we consider that the water he refers to is that physical-chemical element that we drink.

In fact, water here has a deeper meaning, it should be thought of as a totalizing principle, from which all things proceed. The water we drink would be just one of the infinite forms of manifestation of the originator principle.

Thales of Miletus on God

Thales’ conception of god is connected with his theory of water. He said that “everything is full of gods,” referring to the originary principle of everything.


Thales of Miletus advocated the theory of panpsychism which states that everything has soul/life.

To demonstrate this, he cites the example of the magnet attracting iron, this would prove that all things are animate (in the sense of having life). The attraction of the magnet is proof of its soul.

Quotes By Thales

  • Nothing is more active than thought, as it travels through the universe, and nothing is stronger than necessity, as all must submit to it.
  • Time is the wisest of all things that exist; for it brings everything to light.
  • An infinity of words is no proof of a prudent mind.
  • Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.
  • The place is the greatest thing, for it contains all things.
  • The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.
  • Hope is the only good that is common to all men; those who have nothing else still have hope.
  • The strongest is Necessity, because it governs all things.

The doxography of Thales of Miletus

As we have already said, Thales wrote nothing, not a single fragment. In this topic we will cover what the ancient philosophers said about the philosophy of Thales. It is worth pointing out that it is not known exactly if everything they said about his philosophy really represents what he thought.

Thales claimed that the earth floats on water. It would move like a ship.


Thales of Miletus asserted that water is the principle (arche). Sensible appearances led him to this conclusion, for that which is hot needs humidity in order to live, and that which is dead dries up; all germs, as well as all food, are humid; and it is natural that each thing nourishes itself from that from which it comes; water, therefore, is the principle of humid nature, which maintains all things.


Thales supposed that the soul is mobile, just as he believed that the magnet has a soul because it moves iron / Thales held that the soul is mixed with the universe and that all things are filled with gods.


Thales said that water is the principle from which all things originate and that god is that intelligence that makes everything out of water.


Cite This Work

Vieira, S. (2021, August 29). Thales of Miletus. Filosofia do Início. Retrieved from

Vieira, Sadoque. “Thales of Miletus.” Filosofia do Início, August 29, 2021.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Thales of Miletus.” Filosofia do Início, 29 Aug. 2021,

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