Anaximenes flourished in the mid 6th century BC and died around 528. He was the third philosopher of the Milesian School of Philosophy.
He was a Philosophical Pragmatist who believed that a philosophical theory and concepts should be backed up with tangible representations of how they related to real life events.
An inhabitant of Miletus in Ancient Greece, he was best known for his Doctrine Of Air that defended Air as the source of all things; as opposed the Philosopher Thales, who held the doctrine that water was the source of all things.
Anaximenes Doctrine of Air
He thought of Air as a kind of neutral stuff found everywhere and always available to stimulate physical processes. Anaximenes believed that natural forces, constantly acting on the air, transformed air into other materials that came together to form the organised world. In early Greek literature, air was associated with the soul via the breath of life. So it would come as no surprise to many thinkers of the time, that Anaximenes would relate air to the capability of directing its own development. Likening his air
theories to the soul, generally accepted at the time as in control of the body, Anaximenes was able to transcend air into everything known about life.
Anaximenes Doctrine of Natural Change
Furthering his Doctrine of Air, Anaximenes also developed a Doctrine of Natural Change linking his firm belief that all things were composed of air to the natural changing processes of all life, the heavens included. Anaximenes doctrine of natural change supported his doctrine of air which he backed up with commonly believed pragmatisms about the world. Those common beliefs were when air is thinned it becomes fire. When air is condensed it becomes wind then cloud. When air is condensed it becomes water, then earth, then stones. From these observations and others, Anaximenes was able to conclude that everything experienced in the world had to come from the air. Therefore, using two contrary, but accepted processes of rarefaction and condensation,
Anaximenes was able to rationally demonstrate how air was the force behind all organised, natural and earthly changes. Fire turns to air. Air turns into wind. Wind turns into cloud. Cloud turns into water. Water turns into earth. Earth turns into stone. Anaximenes rationalised that matter can travel this path by being condensed and that matter can travel a reverse path from stones to fire by being rarefied. He provided pragmatic evidence with a simple blowing of air onto the back of his hand.
"if one blows on one’s hand with the mouth relaxed, the air is hot; if one blows with pursed lips, the air is cold’
Anaximenes demonstrated to his peers.
As now known by history, this demonstration won the hearts of many an audience.
Anaximenes was the first recorded. educated thinker to provide a widely accepted theory of change supported with commonly understood, pragmatic demonstrations thereby linking his theory to real life events.
The Philosopher Anaximander, had also described a sequence of changes. Where boundless‘stuff’ underwent changes to form different ‘stuffs’ in the world. But Anaximander gave no observable demonstrations in support of his reasons for the changes. He
also did not describe any mechanism by which they might come about.
Anaximander provided little theoretical competition for Anaximenes, who was an outstanding philosophical pragmatist in his
day. He did this by providing processes familiar to industrial experience to account for how air brought about material change. The real life event Anaximenes used was the industrial process of felting, where animal wool was compressed to make fabrics for
garments and household goods. This industrialised process provided Anaximenes with a commonly understood model of how one stuff can take on new properties when air exists.
Anaximenes and the origin of the cosmos.
Both Ancient Greek Philosophers Anaximenes and Anaximander provided their world with an account of how the modern world was formed. Anaximenes believed the Earth was formed from air through a natural felting process. In his educated view, the Earth began merely as a flat disk and from the air of the flat disk, fiery bodies arose which came to be all that was on the earth as well as in the heavens. Through philosophical pragmatism. Alexander was able to demonstrate, using the felting process as a guide, how the earth was floating on a cushion of air. The heavenly bodies of the Sun and the Moon were also explained as flat bodies that
floated on cushions of air. Anaximenes articulation of the heavens as being like a felt cap that turns around the head with the heavenly stars attached to the cap with air nails was widely accepted by those who were able to link Anaximenes theories of air and change to the felting process. Pragmatists everywhere were now able to understand that under Anaximenes, the stars were like fiery leaves floating on air. The Sun did not travel under the Earth but circled around it and at night, the Sun was hidden by the higher parts of the ‘felted’ Earth causing darkness. Lightning and thunder resulted from wind breaking out of clouds. Rainbows were the result of the rays of the Sun falling on clouds. Earthquakes are caused by the cracking of the earth when it dried out after being moistened by rains. Hail was frozen rainwater and Air was the substance of all of this creation.
Philosophers following Aristotle aligned Anaximenes Doctrine Of Change as presupposing material monism. Monism was an accepted Early 500 BC Ancient Greek Philosophical Theory about one substance being the reason for the composition all existing things. In Anaximenes view that one substance was clearly air because air was everywhere. It was the ever present soul of all things.
How Anaximenes changed the world.
Anaximenes determination that matter was naturally changed through rarefaction and condensation was influential in later theoretical works. It was further developed by Heraclitus and criticized by Parmenides. It was adopted by Anaxagoras and
furthered into a different theory of matter. It was accepted by Melissus and Plato who integrated it into their explanations of natural change. Diogenes of Apollonia also made air the basis of his explicitly monistic theory. However, the greatest advancement on Anaximenes Doctrine of Air and Doctrine of Natural Change was Hippocrates with his treatise On Breaths.
On Breaths considered Anaximenes theories on Air and Change as valuable to Hippocrates Theory of Diseases.
Throughout the ages, the method used by Anaximenes to defend his doctrines about air and change, provided a foundation from which all educated thinkers could grow philosophical thought.
Anaximenes was not only an innovator of original thought, but he also introduced another way of showing how philosophy materialised through the use of real life examples.
Today his methods of demonstration would be well placed as scientific hypothesis.