Theology as the limit of science: Anaximander's discovery of metaphysics and the Milesian concept of divinity

Gligorijevic, Kosta
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University of Guelph

This thesis explores the role the concept of divinity played in the physical theories of Anaximander of Miletus (c.610 – c.546 BCE), arguing that his work anticipated and helped create the metaphysical theories of Aristotle and subsequent thinkers. Focusing on Anaximander’s notion of the apeiron (the indefinite), the thesis claims: (1) that Anaximander used theological terms to describe a physical and ontological principle well before such concepts were elucidated by Aristotle himself; that he thereby (2) anticipated Aristotle’s potentiality-actuality distinction; and (3) identified the central flaws of the mode of explanation current in 6th-century BCE Miletus. The argument is supported by a conceptual schema which shows that Anaximander advanced an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful metaphysical theory that assigned the apeiron both temporal and ontological priority, thereby serving as an early alternative to Aristotle’s Prime Mover.

Presocratic, Anaximander, Apeiron, Theology, Metaphysics, Religion, Philosophy