Monday, May 14, 2007

Research: Anaximander

The Father of recorded philosophy, Anaximander of Miletos was Thales' student. One of the pre-socratic philosophers, Anaximander was the philosopher who wrote his discoveries down while Thales did not. Anaximander succeeded Thales over the Milesian school of thought and counted Anaxamenes and Pythagoras as his pupils.

Though we know little of his life, Anaximander gave to the world such concepts as:
  • The concept of the infinite Universe.
  • The Obliquity of the eliptic.
  • The first attempt to describe the motion of the Planets (which was eventually superceded by Sir Issac Newton by way of Calculus.)
  • He tried to explain the Cosmos in a natural way, without using any mythological reference. A "godless" cosmology.
  • Gave the first attempt to describe the Meteorological phenomenae such as thunder and lightning in natural process other than through the action of the god Zeus (pronounced "Zevs").
  • Anaximander also speculated on a non-miraculous origin of Mankind. While still abiogenesis, his theories will lead to Louie Pasteur's discovery of Biogenesis (Life begets Life).
  • Anaximander is said to pioneer the discipline of Cartography. Cartography is the discipline of drawing maps of the geosphere. Which is probably why Jason used an astrograph to sail to Colchis instead of a cartograph.
  • Finally, Anaximander invented the Gnomon. This little invention consists of was simply a vertical pillar or rod mounted on a horizontal plane. The position of its shadow on the plane indicated the time of day. As it moves through its apparent course, the sun draws a curve with the tip of the projected shadow, which is shortest at noon, when pointing due south. The variation in the tip’s position at noon indicates the solar time and the seasons; the shadow is longest on the winter solstice and shortest on the summer solstice.

    However, the invention of the gnomon itself cannot be attributed to Anaximander because its use, as well as the division of days into twelve parts, came from the Babylonians. It is they, according to Herodotus' Histories (II, 109), who gave the Greeks the art of time measurement. It is likely that Anaximander was not the first to determine the solstices, because no calculation is necessary. On the other hand, equinoxes do not correspond to the middle point between the positions during solstices, as the Babylonians thought. As the Suda seems to suggest, it is very likely that Anaximander, with his knowledge of geometry, became the first Greek to accurately determine the equinoxes.

Anaximander's major contribution to Western thought was that he developed the framework with which early Greek Philosophy managed to develop from start to finish. This is something that Chinese philosophers like Mencius and Confucius would do in their own Civilization. This framework started Western Civilization on a course that would explain the World through basic observation and logical reasoning -- a search for the Truth without relying on superstition.

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