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Who is Thales of Miletus?
Thales was born in the Greek city of Miletus to a noble family with possible Phenicican origins around 620 BC. Not much is known about his earlier life but he had one amazing moment recorded in history where he showed his skills.
Thales ‘thug life’ moment
In those days, philosophers were looked at as a low-level profession. People believed that philosophers were all poor and just did not do any work and sat in a place just thinking and writing.
According to this story, Thales studied the celestial bodies and predicted that the yield for Olive farms will be greater than expected. He then went on to invest in Olive pressing farms.
As time passed, his prediction would turn out to be correct and that made him a lot of money. He then later went on to claim that philosophers have unique abilities that would help them make a shit ton of money, but that was not the aim of any philosopher and that their poverty is a choice rather than forced.
Moreover, Thales Philosophy was worthy enough for Plato to include him in the seven sages of antiquity list which comprised Thales, Pittacos, Bias, Solon, Cleovoulos, Periandros, and Chilon.
Death of Thales
There are two recorded instances that shed light on his death. One story goes that he died of heatstroke. But another story goes that he fell into a well as he was walking and looking at the sky studying the stars and constellations.
Given Thales’s desire for knowledge and Thales Philosophy, I am picking the second scenario.
What is the concept behind Thales philosophy involving water?
In ancient times people made sense of the world through stories. Although those stories involved objects and items you could find around you, they generally invoked a series of ‘why’ questions.
For example, in a story involving a person climbing a hill,
why did he climb? to see beyond the seas,
why did he want to see beyond the seas? Because he wanted to see the edge of the earth.
a series of why questions could go on as anybody could just ask why on any answer given to them. This series of why questions will always lead to one solution, that is God.
God is the reason for everything.
So although these stories talked highly about important values they failed to separate logic from imagination.
Thales was the first person who separated logic from anything supernatural and formed a philosophy for the world based on water.
Water is the most essential thing on earth and the entire world is filled with water. The land on which we walk and run is just floating on water and the earthquakes are caused by disturbances in the oceans.
This argument is very true and very profound given this argument was formed around 650 BC.
Water being the most important resource for man is correct as a man can go 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 30 days without food.
So water is more important for survival than food.
This arises an even more important question,
How did Thales philosophy arrive at this conclusion?
It would have been evident that his body demanded water more than it demanded food.
Being an old age philosopher he lived in poverty and food and other resources would have been scarce around him. So he would have realized the importance of water more than food during the days when he did not have food.
Also, Thales had a vivid knowledge and understanding of the cosmos. What you discover there, is a common pattern; water is highly revered as a force of regeneration. Even the most important Greek poet, Homer, considers gods of water like Oceanus and Tethys the parents of all gods.
So we can assume that Thales philosophy got its roots in these possible scenarios.
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