A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Ed. by Wildberg, Christian / Morison, Benjamin
And yet she moves! – The earth rests on water: Thales on the role of water in Earth’s mobility and in nature’s transformations
Thales often is regarded as the first philosopher and as one of the first empirical scientists of the Western tradition. In classical times Thales was also famed for astronomical observations, the prediction of an eclipse, as well as for political acumen, the application of geometrical techniques to practical problems and an astute investment in an agricultural process (olive presses). It is argued here that better sense can be made of two key extant claims attributed to him if they are less considered as grand metaphysical theses or as systematic scientific conclusions than as speculative hypotheses aimed at resolving particular puzzles raised by everyday experience. In this sense, the analysis presented here argues that the claims concerning water attributed to Thales ought to be seen as pronouncements reflecting a kind of speculative engineering, grounded in the observational givens of his time, common sense and practical concerns.