Anaximander: A Survey of His Ideas

  • Dirk L. Couprie
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 374)


The history of Western philosophy begins with Anaximander of Miletus (610–547 B.C.), in Asia Minor, now Turkey. This is how he is treated, for instance, by Karl Jaspers in the first volume of his Die grossen Philosophen. Anaximander was the first Greek who wrote a treatise in prose that is referred to in the tradition under the title On Nature. Anaximander seems to have reflected on the discovery of writing, or more precise on the letters of the alphabet. It is said that Anaximander maintained that the letters of the alphabet stem from the Phoenicians and were introduced in Greece by Danaüs and not by Cadmus (DK 12C). In this context, the word στοιχεῖα means “letters” and not “elements,” as Dumont translates (1988: 40 and note on 1194). Diels qualifies this text as “Zweifelhaftes” and thinks that here another Anaximander is meant, namely, Anaximander the Younger, who lived about 400 B.C. (note at DK 12C). There are, however, reasons to believe that this text refers to the great Anaximander, as Panchenko has argued (2000: 418–420. He refers to arguments of Heidel 1921: 257–260. See also Naddaf 2003: 46).


Greek Word Relative Pronoun Karl Jasper Eternal Recurrence Presocratic Philosopher 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk L. Couprie
    • 1
  1. 1.MaastrichtNetherlands

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