Ancient Philosophy

Greek Pre-Socratics

What was the gossip about Thales?

Not only did Thales rely on water or moisture to explain the universe. When Thales was not philosophizing, he was shrewd about practical affairs. In a dry year, after he predicted good weather for the next season’s olive crop, he bought up all the olive presses. He was said to have made a fortune when the bumper crop came, and he was the only one who could process the olives into oil. It was reported, doubtlessly ironically, that Thales died of dehydration while watching an athletic event.

Socrates, in Plato’s Theatetus, tells of “the clever witty Thracian handmaid who mocked Thales when he fell into a well when gazing up at the stars. She said that he was so eager to know what was going on in heaven that he could not see what was before his feet.” Socrates goes on to say: “This is a jest which is equally applicable to all philosophers. For the philosopher is wholly unacquainted with his next-door neighbor; he is ignorant, not only of what he is doing, but he hardly knows whether he is a man or an animal; he is searching into the essence of man.”


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