The Birth and Emergence of Philosophy: How and Where Did Philosophy Emerge?

The Birth and Emergence of Philosophy: How and Where Did Philosophy Emerge?

October 16, 2020 Off By Felso

The birth of philosophy can be explained with the answer to the question of how philosophy originated. Philosophy was first described in BC. It emerged in the city of Miletos (Milet), which was an important trade center and port city in the Ionian civilization in the 7th century.

The reason for everything was sought in mythology in the period from pre-Christ to the birth of philosophy. While explaining things, interpretations of events and objects would be developed by making inferences on religious grounds. For example, events such as lightning strikes that occur as a natural phenomenon were interpreted as angering of the Gods to people on a religious basis. In other words, it was perceived as the gods shouting and throwing spears into the earth.

The philosophy that would later emerge in the Ionian civilization sought another reason for the occurrence of this lightning bolt. He tried to provide a logical explanation for this situation. This is the first spark of philosophy.


In the 6th century BC, ancient Greece lived in the style of city-states with developed economies on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts of today’s Greece and Anatolia. They have taken the activities of other civilizations in fields such as thought, science, technique and mathematics. They synthesized these values ​​they acquired with their own products in this field. The fusion of this synthesis with the mythology, which was the belief of that period, revealed philosophy. Thales is regarded as the first philosopher of philosophy, which is the common accumulation of humanity.


Ionia, which is accepted as the place where philosophy originated, is the name given to the coastline of today’s İzmir and Aydın provinces in Anatolia in Antiquity. It is a civilization established around Milet, Ephesus, Foça and İzmir by the Achaeans who escaped from Greece as a result of the Dor invasion.

Important thinking systems were also developed in the lands dominated by Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India and Turks before Ionia. However, since the religious and mystical (mythological) components are present in the structures of these thinking systems, they are not called philosophy. The main reason why the Ionian thought system is described as a philosophy is that this system of thought is independent of religious and mythological explanations and is based on reason.

Ionia; Milet is a civilization established around Ephesus, Foça and Izmir. Miletos, known as the birthplace of philosophy, is located in this region.

Ionia; Milet is a civilization established around Ephesus, Foça and Izmir. Miletos, known as the birthplace of philosophy, is located in this region.


It is not the work of coincidence that the philosophical mindset first emerged in Ionia as a systematic and only rational thought system. Namely, the city of Miletus, which was heavily influenced by Mesopotamia, Egypt, Iran and Phoenician cultures, is a busy port city where agriculture and maritime are highly developed. In addition, the soundness of its economic structure brought the development of social knowledge and tolerance in this city. In other words, the environment in the city of Miletus is tolerant enough to allow different beliefs and opinions. Science, commerce etc. without pressure. The people of Miletus, who turned to things, created the birth of philosophy in this free environment.

This favorable environment has made it possible for thinkers like Thales to emerge. In this process, which started with Thales (624-546 BC), natural events were tried to be explained by natural reasons and the belief that the human mind was sufficient was tried to be achieved.

According to all these, the emergence of philosophy took place depending on some conditions.


The emergence of philosophy is the result of the achievement of a high level of prosperity (People should have time to think about people, society, life, etc.).
Philosophy; It has existed as a result of cultural wealth, knowledge and open-mindedness.
The existence of an environment of tolerance that will allow different beliefs and opinions has been extremely effective in the emergence of philosophy.
Finally, the human factor comes to the fore as an indispensable part of philosophy. Human factor; It is a premise based on one’s curiosity, astonishment, and hunger for knowledge.
Ionia, which has these conditions exceedingly, is a cradle for philosophy, and philosophy first emerged here based on these reasons. At that time, the first person to realize this condition was Thales of Miletli. Thales did not content himself with the explanations of Greek religion and mythology and developed a system based on reason, and by making his explanations with this system, he sought an answer to the question of what the first main substance of the universe (Arkhe) is.


There can be more than one beginning for philosophy. The historical sequence of events is tried to be done by coming from the past to the present, and more from the present to the past. “What is to be searched for?” The question shows which subject is being thought around rather than the time problem. Whatever is deemed valuable for philosophy, these can be regarded as separate beginning for cultures that process problems and try to reach the correct information.

First of all, since creating any culture requires knowing what you are doing more or less, there are examples of a sufficient level of consciousness, that is, “thinking over” which is the most important feature of philosophy. In this sense, it is possible to think that all cultures are influential in the beginning of philosophy within the broad definition of philosophy.

Secondly, more systematic thinking beyond free associations about being-being, knowledge, and value can be regarded as the beginning of philosophy. For example, “wisdom” or “sophia” as it is known as it contains practical wisdom. In many civilizations there are counsels of virtue and right living.

Third, and more distinctively, philosophy is “theoria”. In this sense, although philosophy makes use of all kinds of experiences, metaphors and associations, including everyday life, it concentrates around a problem and tries to understand the various dimensions of the problem mentally. Philosophy; It is to be aware of the rational and the irrational. It is an attempt to comprehend what is happening universally (finding its essence, determining common principles).

The emergence of philosophy as “theoria” can be considered as a common result of many cultures and civilizations. Especially, it is possible to see the epics of the Egyptian and Sumerian Civilizations, and the knowledge in fields such as mathematics, geometry and astronomy in the foundations of philosophy. In addition, the beliefs, wisdoms and teachings of true living in Ancient Chinese, Indian, and Iranian civilizations have been the source of philosophy. Along with all these, philosophy became systematic with Ancient Greece, with the effects of Eastern wisdom and knowledge.

Some civilizations from which philosophy emerged are shown on the map.

Prepared by: Ömer Yıldırım
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and “Introduction to Sociology” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Other Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM), MEB Philosophy Textbook