What is Natural Philosophy?

What is Natural Philosophy?

June 29, 2021 Off By Felso

We can answer the question of what is natural philosophy as follows: Natural philosophy is the philosophical orientation in which nature was considered as the central theme at the beginning of Ancient Greek philosophy in the history of philosophy.

Researching what is the cause of existing things and starting to think of nature as the main issue of thought with this orientation formed the framework of natural philosophy.

Thales, who is known as the first philosopher in the history of philosophy, was the first thinker to reveal the understanding of investigating the existing and their first causes by going beyond religion and mythology. In this sense, Thales is considered to be the founding name of philosophy and therefore the understanding of natural philosophy, and the philosophical thought that started with him is considered as natural philosophy or philosophy of being. Names such as Anaximandros and Anaximenes followed Thales (See: What is Miletus School?)


Natural philosophers have adopted a general approach, although they have been contextualized in different ways; This way of approach stems from the multiplicity that they encounter when they examine nature and the idea of ​​the basic source (arkhe), which they think is at the root of it and originating from it.

In this sense, the basic principle of the philosophy of nature is to find or determine the first matter from which the beings in the outer world come from.

The main ingredient for Thales is water; is a specific item. Anaximander replaces it with the infinite, because water is limited in quality and quantity; According to him, the source from which everything comes from his cat must be infinite.

It specifies this indefinite and abstract entity principle as apeiron. Anaximenes, his disciple, also argues that the arkhe must have the quality of unity and infinity; However, from here on, he separated from his teacher and developed a more close thought to Thales.

Like Thales, he considers the main substance as a specific substance; according to him, arkhe is air. Air is both a tangible specific entity and an intangible infinity entity. Air is the basic substance of life and soul (See: Miletus School and Arche Problem).

Thus, a certain understanding of materialism begins to emerge. Later on, this will gradually evolve into abstract ideas.

In the Pythagoreans, for example, the main substance or the basis of existence will be indicated as numbers. In the Elea School, the single and unchangeable principle called The One will come to the fore. Empedocles sought a main principle that tried to unify the developments in these two directions.

He talks about the basic elements or elements, and according to him, these are indicated as air, earth, water and fire. These four elements are the elements of the structure of the universe. From their union or dissolution everything else occurs. Anaxagoras includes the idea of ​​a regulative principle and states the basic principle of becoming as nous (See: First Cause and First Change Thoughts in Philosophy).

Four Elements

Natural philosophy occupies a very important place in pre-Socratic philosophy; After the first natural philosophers, other schools also emerged that continued the philosophical problem of natural philosophy. It is possible to specify them as follows:

Miletus School: Thales, Anaximandros, Anaximenes.

Pythagoreanism: Pythagoras

Elea School: Parmenides, Zenon

Ephesus School: Heraclitus

Atomism: Democritus

School of Pluralism: Empedocles, Anaxagoras

All of these schools acted from different and fundamentally opposite views and were in argument with each other. However, the problem of existence has been maintained as a central issue in all of them.

For example, while the Miletus School sought an answer to what the basic substance was, the Pythagoreans focused on form; Heraclitus and the Elea School focused on the problem of change; Pluralists and Atomists, on the other hand, have attempted to give answers to the basic existence or the basis of existence on the axis of multiplicity and materiality. An attempt to explain nature and the universe, the basis of existence and life on this basis, has been put forward.

They were interested in the formation of the universe, the problem of ontology and they worked on this subject.
They sought an answer to the question of what is the first element of the universe, the first main substance (arkhe).
They tried to connect many and various events that occur in nature to a single basis.
The common aspect of all of them; they searched for the first item, the main item.
They relied on reason, experiment and observation in their research and acted independently of traditions and customs.
Since they show the first cause of nature as material elements, their approach can be considered as materialism.
In short, the philosophy of thinkers who focus on the problem of “first cause” by turning to nature through reason and trying to base their results with experiment and observation is called natural philosophy.

Starting from the end of the Middle Ages, with the Renaissance, a new revival began in the field of philosophy and important developments were recorded in the sciences. During this period, nature