And yet she moves! – The earth rests on water: Thales on the role of water in Earth’s mobility and in nature’s transformations

Thomas Heyd 1
  • 1 University of Victoria – Philosophy, P.O.Box 3045 Stn Central, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3P4, Canada


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.

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Apeiron is dedicated to the study of ancient philosophy, ancient science, and problems that concern both fields. The journal publishes high-quality research papers in these areas of ancient Greco-Roman intellectual history; it also contains papers dealing with the reception of ancient philosophical and scientific ideas in the later western tradition. The articles meet the highest standards of scholarship and philosophical insight.