Thales’s View that the Earth Stands on Water

Thales’s View that the Earth Stands on Water

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

According to Aristotle, Thales says that the earth stands on water.

It can be thought that the origin of this understanding is the effect of the geography knowledge of the period. As a matter of fact, the strait, which is called ‘Gibraltar’ today and where the Mediterranean opens to the Atlantic Ocean, was accepted as the “end of the known world” in the Ancient Greek myth (Erhat, 1989: 72-73). In addition to the origin based on this geographical information, there are also very important mythological foundations.

When we look at the ancient Greek myth, all kinds of rivers, large and small, are divine. Because they are considered the children of Oceanos and Tethys. Besides these rivers, the earth is surrounded by the divine water called Oceanos. According to this understanding, Oceanus is the border of the world in the sense of land (Iliad, Xiv 200), and it was considered impossible to reach the limits of this water, which was in constant flow, due to deep eddies and currents. At the same time, the historical likeness of Oceanus, who is considered the father of all rivers and rivers, also stands out in Mesopotamian mythology.

According to Thales, the earth floats on water like a piece of wood or something like that. Aristotle criticizes this view of Thales in two ways. First, it states that air is lighter than water, and water is lighter than soil. Therefore, it states that it would be inherently impossible for the lighter one to be below the heavier one. Secondly, he criticizes this view of Thales, arguing, based on natural observation data, that the earth will have to be submerged in water because parts heavier than water are submerged in water (On the Sky, 294b5).

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook