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.
Philosopher Life Basic Principle(s) Material Cause(s)? Moving Cause? Notes Thales 624-545 Water Yes Probably Anaximander 610-545 Apeiron Yes Probably Anaximenes 580-500 Air Yes Probably Heraclitus 540-480 Fire/Logos Probably Yes Logos is sometimes like a formal cause. Parmenides 515-450? The One? Being? No No P. is not really a philosopher of nature Empedocles 492-432 EWAF,
Love and Strife
EWAF Love and Strife Anaxagoras 492-432 elements and the Nous elements Nous Democritus 460-370 atoms and the void atoms atoms
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.