Essay by akk713College, Undergraduate February 2004

download word file, 4 pages 3.0

1. Anaximenes postulates air as the archê. This may seem to be a throwback to Thales, a step backward after Anaximander; but I will argue that is is not.

2. Anaximenes is offering a new world view:

1. Anaximander thought of the basic stuffs and qualities of the world as opposites in conflict.

2. Anaximenes had a different conception: the basic stuffs and qualities are not opposed, but different stages of a continuum.

3. Rarefaction and Condensation:

Read the fragments in Plutarch (21 = B1), Simplicius (16 = A5), and Hippolytus (18 = A7). This is the basic picture:

Fire AIR Wind Cloud Water Earth Stone

The green arrow represents condensation; the blue arrow represents rarefaction. Each kind of stuff in the continuum can rarefy or condense into either of its neighbors (e.g., water can rarefy into cloud, or condense into earth). As the diagram above shows, then, each kind can either condense or (eventually) rarefy into air.

4. Why is air the basic stuff in Anaximenes' view of the world? He might have picked any of the items in the continuum.

1. He rejected the apeiron (perhaps because it was unperceivable, and he could therefore not be certain of its existence).

2. Among the familiar elements, air is the most like the apeiron as Anaximander conceived it. Air is the most neutral of the elements.

3. He probably believed that air was the original element, out of which the others developed by the process of rarefaction and condensation.

5. In what sense is air the archê? There are two possibilities:

a. Cosmogony (explanation of the origin of the universe). The key concept: Y was made from X. In this case, Anaximenes' theory is that everything that exists developed out of the original air.

b. Constituent analysis.