Who is Thales? Thales of Miletus

Who is Thales? Thales of Miletus

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Thales is an Ancient Greek thinker who lived in the pre-Socratic period and is known as the first philosopher or the first sage. Thales Miletos or the founder of the Ionian School, is the first philosopher in the history of thought.

Known as the “Seven Sages” and the golden age of Ancient Greek civilization, BC. Thales, who is also mentioned among the seven philosophers who left their mark on the 7th and 6th centuries BC. He is thought to have lived in the first half of the 6th century.

Thales is an outstanding representative of the scientist-philosopher type typical of this period. He is considered to have made important studies especially in mathematics and astronomy. Aside from his scientific activities, Thales’ philosophical significance stems from his reflection on the question of “what really exists”.


Thales, who does not aim to make a list of the things that exist in nature and tries to find a permanent reality because he is affected by the fact that things come into existence and then disappear, distinguishes appearance-reality, multiplicity-unity, and distinguishes between things or phenomena that are in constant change. concluded that it was not true.

In other words, the only way to answer the question of “what really exists” was to express satisfactorily the relationship between unity and multiplicity, or between appearance and reality, in his eyes.

Accordingly, he believed that behind the chaos and multitude created by visible individual beings and changes, there is a permanent and permanent reality that can be understood with the mind. Thales argued that this unity behind diversity, from which multiplicity derives, is “water”.


We know that Thales was born and lived in Miletos, on the coast of modern-day Turkey, but we know very little about his life. No written documents have survived of him, but his reputation as one of the most important of the early Greek thinkers seems not to be unjustified.

His name is mentioned with some details in the sources of both Aristotle and the 3rd century biographer of ancient Greek philosophers, Diogenes Laertios.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that, apart from being a philosopher, Thales was also deeply involved in politics and was also a very successful businessman. He is thought to have learned the practical geometry that underpins his system of inferential reasoning while traveling frequently in the eastern Mediterranean and visiting Egypt.

Thales is the first of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece.

But Thales is a teacher above all else; He is one of the first teachers of Miletos Philosophy School. His student Anaximandros furthered his scientific theories and later became the teacher of Anaximenes, who is believed to have taught the young mathematician Pythagoras.

Our knowledge about Thales’ life, personality and philosophical views is based on indirect sources, not direct sources. In each of these indirect transmissions, there are many rumors about Thales’ life, personality and philosophy. It is stated that Thales, a Phoenician, lived between 624 BC and 548-545 BC during the time of Thrasybulos, the tyrant of Miletus, and belonged to a good family of the city where he lived (Diogenes Laertius, 2004: I. 38).

If we look at the narration in Plato’s dialogue Theaitetos, Thales appears as a representative of the philosopher who broke away from the living environment while investigating the true essence of beings, as he fell into a well, unable to see his way while examining the stars, and thus became the subject of ridicule for a servant (Theaitetos, 174a-174b).

On the other hand, according to a narrative by Aristotle, Thales is described as a person who can make commercial profits in the field of olive cultivation by following the celestial events (Aristotle, 1990: 25).

Again, according to Herodotos, Thales; He is a good astronomer who is interested in nautical astronomy, closely follows celestial events and can predict solar eclipses (Herodotos, 1991: I. 74).

An engineer who can produce practical solutions for crossing a river in wartime, such as suggesting that the river be divided into two with canals and lowering the water level (Herodotos: 1991. I. 75), a mathematician who developed a mathematical method to measure the distance between ships at sea, (Barnes, 1982: 13). At the same time, in addition to his identity as a politician who suggested to the Ionians to establish a joint assembly to solve their political problems, in Plato’s words; appears as a master in the arts (State, 600-600b).

It is also reported that he was the founder of geometry in the ancient Aegean world, received information about geometry and mathematics from Egypt and made new contributions to them, and found the way to measure the heights of the pyramids from their shadow lengths. In addition to all these, Thales is mentioned among the Seven Sages and it is stated that the word know thyself belongs to him.

According to Thales, the main substance of the universe is water.

Philosophy-making activity is an Ionian cat circa 600 BC.