Major Presocratic Philosophers

© by Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised: September 21, 2012

All but one of these major "Presocratics" are philosophers of nature, or "naturalists."

How to read this table

The "Basic Principle" column indicates the fundamental causes or explanatory principle(s) invoked by the thinker at the left. The "Material Cause" and "Moving Cause" columns indicate whether the basic principles are material causes or moving causes. Qualifications are noted in the Notes column.

PhilosopherLife    Basic Principle(s)Material Cause(s)?    Moving Cause?    Notes
Thales624-545      WaterYesProbably
Anaximander    610-545ApeironYesProbably
Heraclitus540-480Fire/LogosProbablyYesLogos is sometimes like a formal cause.
Parmenides515-450?The One? Being?NoNoP. is not really a philosopher of nature
Love and Strife
EWAFLove and Strife
Anaxagoras492-432elements and the Nous    elementsNous
Democritus460-370atoms and the voidatomsatoms

For more information on Presocratic thinkers, see

Items 1-3 under Online Articles.

Edward Hussey, The Presocratics. Scribners, 1972.
G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge University Press, 1963.
Richard D. McKirahan, Philosophy Before Socrates. Hackett, 1994.