9 julio, 2024

The 4 Most Important Pre-Socratic Schools

The presocratic schools They were those philosophical schools founded approximately in the 7th century BC in Greece. They are known by the name of presocratic since they are the schools of classical philosophy that existed before Socrates. Therefore, his approaches were not influenced by Socratic thought.

The first pre-Socratic school was the School of Miletus, founded by Thales of Miletus in the 7th century BC. After this came the Pythagorean schools (founded by Pythagoras), and the Eleatic (composed by Parmenides and Zeno).

Presocratic philosophy is born from the question of nature and it is Aristotle who indicates in his work Metaphysics that this philosophy begins when Thales of Miletus questions the nature or essence of all the subjects that make up the world.

All Presocratic schools were developed in the hometowns of their founders. On the other hand, all of them shared the characteristic of being rationalists, and their members presented an energetic spirit of search for true knowledge.

Presocratic schools, representatives and characteristics

School of Miletus or Ionian

According to Aristotle in his treatise on Metaphysics, pre-Socratic philosophy was founded by Thales of Miletus approximately in the 7th century BC. However, the approaches of this school were considered by later philosophers of the 6th and 5th centuries BC.

The Miletus school was founded in the Greek city of Miletus, on the shores of Ionia (now Asia Minor or Anatolia). Its main representatives were Thales of Miletus, Anaximenes and Anaximander.

These philosophers defended positions contrary to those held at the time about the way the world was organized.

The popular belief of this time indicated that the destiny of human beings was controlled by the will of superior beings with anthropomorphic features (gods). Therefore, every event that took place on earth was the responsibility of these figures.

The Milesians begin to debate these ideas, from a natural point of view. This is how they defend that nature is made up of entities that can be observed and that these entities are responsible for the changes that take place on earth.

The Miletus school is credited with the first scientific observations of nature. This is how the Milesians began to read natural phenomena and the stars, being able to predict certain phenomena such as solstices and eclipses.

The Milesians were the first Greeks to use the stars as a navigational tool.

Pythagorean school

The Pythagorean school was founded by one of the most representative philosophers of classical Greece: Pythagoras of Samos.

Pythagoras lived in the 6th century BC and was responsible for the founding of the Pythagorean current in the Greek city of Crotona. This city was recognized for being widely religious, however, Pythagoras found his first disciples there.

For the Pythagoreans, the universe had to be understood and studied as a whole or cosmos. On the other hand, matter had to be understood independently of its structure and form. Thus, the Pythagoreans were recognized for being both idealists and materialists.

However, with the passing of time, the Pythagoreans began to take a mainly idealistic cut. In this way, they pointed out that the body is the physical matter that is responsible for imprisoning the psyche.

For Pythagoras, the idea that there was life after death was indisputable. He thought that the soul could be eternal.

The studies of the Pythagoreans allowed the development of mathematical theories such as prime, even and odd numbers. Therefore, it is said that the Pythagorean theories laid the foundations of mathematics at a historical level.

Pythagoras’ theorem on the value of the hypotenuse of a triangle and his approach to the translational movement of the earth are examples of Pythagorean concepts valid to date.

Eleatic School

The Elea school or Eleatic school was founded by the Greek philosophers Parmenides and Zeno in the city of Elea, Italy. This school strongly influenced classical thought during the 6th and 5th centuries BC, having its greatest apogee during this time.

Those who belonged to the school of Elea were not supporters of the materialist philosophical approaches of the school of Miletus, and were openly opposed to the approach of the «universal flow» proposed by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

According to the Eleatics, the universe is itself an immutable whole, infinite through time and space, which cannot be understood through human senses or knowledge.

The universe itself can only be understood by making use of philosophical reflection, which allows reaching the unique and ultimate truth.

The followers of the Elea school considered that sensory observations were limited and unfocused, and prevented an accurate appreciation of reality from being had.

In this way, it can be said that all the Eleatic doctrine raised by Parmenides was metaphysical.


Heraclitus of Ephesus, Heraclitus the Dark or simply Heraclitus, is considered by some to be a follower of the school of Elea. However, his character was always arbitrary and his enigmatic musings, which is why he was nicknamed the «dark one».

Heraclitus lived in Ephesus during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. C. He came from an aristocratic family, however, he decided to give up all his properties to live in solitude and dedicate himself to philosophy.

It is said that he was the creator of a unique pre-Socratic philosophical style known as «aphorisms». Aphorisms are short statements that seek to define or explain a topic in a clear and punctual way. These seek to deal with a subject without leaving room for doubt and in a closed way, without going around the bush.

Among his approaches is the consideration of fire as the matter from which all things in the world originate.

Heraclitus also pointed out that reason must be recognized as the only judge of truth and the senses must be considered as witnesses of the truth whose judgments are doubtful until reason confirms them.


Bastidas, AC (June 1, 2012). Obtained from Presocratic Schools: filosofia9610.blogspot.com Kirk, GS, Raven, JE, & Schofield, M. (1983). The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P., V. (October 20, 2012). philosophy at hand. Obtained from PRESOCRATICS (VII): Heraclitus of Ephesus: filosofiaamano.blogspot.com Mozo, MC (January 19, 2012). Obtained from Characteristics of pre-Socratic philosophy: elarlequindehielo.obolog.es Patricia Curd, DW (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford.

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