Pre-Socratics: Philosophy and Philosophers

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Pre-Socratic Philosophy

Feelosofi – Pre-Socratic philosophy is an early period in the history of ancient Greek philosophical thought that mainly covers the period before Socrates emerged as a central figure in the development of philosophy. During this period, philosophers first attempted to systematically answer fundamental questions regarding the universe, nature, and human existence.
Pre-Socratic philosophy viewed the world from a rational point of view and attempted to free the world from myths and supernatural explanations. Pre-Socratic philosophers such as Thales, Anaximander, and Heraclitus focused on studying nature and trying to find the basic principles underlying existence. They also gave rise to various philosophical approaches, such as pluralism, atomism, and concepts, that became the foundation for subsequent developments in the history of philosophy.

In the course of history, the contributions of these pre-Socratic figures were very important in forming the basis of philosophical thought that would develop later, and this period was an early milestone that inspired Socrates and subsequent ancient Greek philosophers.

History of Pre-Socratic Philosophical Thought

The History of Pre-Socratic Philosophical Thought reflects an important period in ancient Greek intellectual history that intrigued human thinking about the universe and existence before the emergence of Socrates as a central figure in the development of philosophy. This period was the stage for the first thinkers who systematically tried to answer fundamental questions about the world, nature, and human nature using a careful rational approach.

Pre-Socratic philosophers attempted to free human understanding from mythical explanations and supernatural concepts that dominated previous thought. They view the world through the lens of rationality and logic, trying to formulate a more structured and scientific understanding of the universe.

Figures such as Thales, Anaximander, and Heraclitus were among the prominent thinkers of this period. Thales, for example, developed the view that water was the basic element underlying all things. Anaximander tried to understand the fundamental principles that govern the universe, while Heraclitus emphasized change and resistance as the main elements in the physical world.

During this era, early philosophical concepts began to emerge, and various schools of thought developed. Pluralism, represented by Empedocles, proposed that the universe consists of four basic elements, namely earth, water, air, and fire. Atomism, promoted by Leucippus and Democritus, stated that the world was formed from unbreakable atoms.

Pre-Socratic philosophy had a major impact on the subsequent development of philosophical thought. This created a strong foundation for rational thought, which later influenced Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, as well as being an early milestone for the exploration of philosophical thought in the history of ancient Greece and the western world as a whole. This era not only inspired future philosophers but also emphasized the importance of critical thinking and a rational approach to understanding the world and human existence.

Pre-Socratic Philosophers

Zeno dari Elea


Overall, philosophy and the philosophers before Socrates provided the foundation for the development of Western philosophy by exploring fundamental questions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and ethics. These early philosophers, often referred to as pre-Socratic philosophers, were concerned with understanding the world through natural explanations rather than relying on myth and religious belief. They made important contributions to metaphysics, cosmology, and ethics, and their ideas influenced the development of later philosophy.

Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, for example, were some of the first to propose materialistic explanations for the universe. Heraclitus introduced the concepts of change and constant change as fundamental aspects of reality, while Parmenides argued for the existence of a stable and unchanging reality. Pythagoras explored the role of mathematics in understanding the cosmos, and Empedocles introduced the idea of combining fundamental elements to explain natural phenomena.

In conclusion, the pre-Socratic philosophers collectively laid the foundations for the development of rational and systematic philosophy, and their research into the nature of the universe and human existence formed the basis for the philosophical inquiry and dialogue that would be undertaken by Socrates and his followers in ancient Greece.


Who were some of the leading pre-Socratic philosophers?

Some of the leading pre-Socratic philosophers include Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Empedocles, and Leucippus. They were active in the period around the 6th and 5th centuries BC in ancient Greece.

What are the main differences in their views?

Pre-Socratic philosophers held a variety of views. For example, Thales believed that water was the basic element of all things, while Heraclitus argued that change was a fundamental feature of the universe. Parmenides, on the other hand, claimed that reality is stable and unchanging. Pythagoras emphasized the role of mathematics, while Empedocles combined the four elements to explain natural phenomena.

How did the contributions of pre-Socratic philosophers influence the development of philosophy?

Pre-Socratic philosophers formed the basis of Western philosophy by propounding rational thought and natural explanation, which replaced myth and religious belief as a way to understand the world. Their contributions in the fields of metaphysics, cosmology, and ethics influenced the subsequent development of philosophy in ancient Greece and subsequently became the foundation for philosophical thought in Western history.


  • The Presocratic Philosophers” – Kirk, G. S., Raven, J. E., & Schofield, M. (1983)
  • “The Milesians: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes” – Rapp, C. (2019)
  • Parmenides and Presocratic Philosophy” – Palmer, J. A. (2010)
  • “Empedocles: An Interpretation” – Kingsley, P. (1995)
  • “Heraclitus: The Cosmic Fragments” – Kahn, C. H. (2011)
  • “Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History” – McKirahan, R. D. (2018)
  • “Anaxagoras and the Birth of Physics” – McKirahan, R. D. (2015)
  • “Xenophanes of Colophon: Fragments” – Lesher, J. H. (2001)
  • “Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for His Life, Writings, Thought and Influence” – Fortenbaugh, W. W. (1992)
  • The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts” – Barnes, J. (1982)

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Raymond Kelvin Nando, "Pre-Socratics: Philosophy and Philosophers," Feelosofi, 8 November 2023,
Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast