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Neurology & Stroke

Editorial Volume 10 Issue 6

Anaximander: The early way to nurosciences and neurophilosophy

Stavros J Baloyannis

Professor Emeritus, Research Institute for Alzheimer’s disease, Aristotelian University, Greece

Correspondence: Stavros J Baloyannis, Professor Emeritus, Research Institute for Alzheimer’s disease, Aristotelian University, Angelaki 5, Thessaloniki 54621, Greece, Tel +302310270434, Fax +302310270434

Received: November 30, 2020 | Published: December 10, 2020

Citation: Baloyannis SJ. Anaximander: The early way to nuroscience and neurophilosophy. J Neurol Stroke. 2020;10(6):210-212. DOI: 10.15406/jnsk.2020.10.00441

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Anaximander, neurosciences, neurophilosophy, infinity, cosmogony, evolution, human brain


Anaximander from Miletus, in the sixth century BC, introduced the revolutionary issue that the universe was originated from the infinite, the boundless (άπειρον, apeiron)1 in opposition to widely accepted mythological Hesiodian theories on cosmogony.

In that era the majority of the pre-Socratic philosophers, from Thales onward, searched for a reasonable explanation of the origin of the universe, introducing the concept that the roots (ριζώματα)2 of the creation of the Earth, as well as of the celestial bodies and all the living entities were simple natural elements, namely the air, the water, the fire and the earth.

Anaximander held the very original view that the infinite (apeiron) created everything on earth and it was the unique generating power of cosmogony, offering therefore a reasonable explanation of the existence of everything in the world.3

According to Anaximander the apeiron is a boundless lasting stuff, an eternal substance, infinite, unaltered, incorruptible, everlasting (aidion), indestructible, immortal (athanaton) and inexperienced, which acts as the unique generating energy, without any limitation of time and space, steering all the natural phenomena.4

The apeiron is therefore the source of creativity, it is the origin (ἀρχή) of each existent entity,5 the real cause of the continuous evolution of the living world and of frequent alterations of the biological systems. Many centuries before Darwin (1859)6 who suggested that species evolve, Anaximander claimed that the evolution affected all living beings and described the evolution of the animals, that arising in a water environment, being covered with spiny skin, crawled later onto land and survived under continuous transfiguration.

 It is reasonable, that the contribution of Anaximander in Philosophy and Science by formulating the infinite (apeiron) and introducing the theory of the evolution of species is enormous7 particularly in an Era that any theory on chemical reactors and prebiotic systems chemistry was inexistent.8,9

Anaximander son of Praxiades10 was a member of the Ionian school of philosophy, on the western coast of Asia Minor, which included among others the three eminent Milesian physical philosophers Thales, Anaximenes and Anaximander, who were characterized as pathfinders of the modern science.11

According to Hippolytus Anaximander was a student and disciple of Thales, who was the first of the real philosophers, according to Nietzsche.12 Thales searching for natural, empirical arguments for the creation of the universe, claimed, from a pragmatic point of view, that everything was originated from the water, which is the material cause of all things, being the main physical power with generating and revitalizing properties.10

Anaximander following the Milesian philosophical tradition wrote a book “On nature”, from which only a fragment survived, through the centuries, which was characterized by Heidegger as the ‘oldest fragment of Western thinking’.13 However, his philosophical concepts and reflections exercised a marked influence upon Aristotle, Theophrastus, Eratosthenes and Apollodoros.

Many years later, in 530 AD, fragments from Anaximander’s book on nature were copied from Theophrastus’ dissertations by the Neoplatonic Simplicius and were incorporated in his commentary on the Aristotle’s Physics,14 continuing thus to contribute for years as rich sources of philosophical inspiration, since the role of Simplicius as doxographer in the transmission of Presocratic philosophy was crucial.15

In addition to philosophy, Anaximander wishing to describe the Earth and the physical environment drew a map of the world, which was the first map of the known world, been finalized later by Anaximander’s ‘pupil’ Hecataeus (c.560-c.480 BC).16

In the field of modern philosophy Martin Heidegger characterized Anaximander as one of the first thinkers13,17 who passed the borders of the concrete and perceptible and entered in the space of the immense, endless and undetermined apeiron.18 According to Heidegger Anaximander’s apeiron is an infinitive and indeterminate being.19 It is also worth to mention that Karl Jaspers in the first volume of his Philosophy, based on Anaximander’s concept of apeiron and his theory that the universe grounded in metaphysics, characterized him as the first real metaphysian.20

In the fields of Astronomy and Cosmology, Anaximander introduced the idea that the Earth, which was described as been round as a disk or a cylinder, like a segment of a stone column, is located in the center of the Universe,21 being equidistant from all the points of the universal circumference and floats suspended over the void. That concept would be characterized as a portentous idea of substantial value in the history of natural philosophy and cosmology.22

It is clearly realized that Anaximander was the author of the model of geocentric universe,23 which was later on surpassed by Aristarchus’ heliocentric model.24 According to Anaximander the Universe and the Celestial bodies or spheres are in everlasting motion, "eternal motion", as wheels of fire, around the Earth, which remains stable and motionless in the center of Cosmos.25 In addition, Anaximander conceptualized that on earth there is a universal low of justice which establishes order and enables everything to go back in its initial condition.26

Trying to make a metaphor from the fields of Cosmology and Astronomy to the field of Neurosciences we would reasonably hypothesize that the geocentric theory by Anaximander symbolizes the encephalocentric theory in which the brain, the “hegemonicon”,27 the source of being and becoming , the principal organ which rules and controls all the functions and the activities of the human body and soul28 remains stable in the center of the human existence, giving the life force to the body,29 motivating and controlling all the activities of the human being and adjusting properly the human behavior.

In addition, the functional capacities of the brain approach to Anaximander’s apeiron30 not only from the quantitative viewpoint but mostly from the qualitative dimension, since the brain possess’ an infinite range of possibilities in mental activities, conscious and unconscious processes, as well as a wide spectrum of continuous psychological and behavioral evolutions.31

The enormous number of neurons in some areas of the brain, such as the granule cells in the cerebellar cortex and in the hippocampus and the utilization of a large number of neurotransmitters may induce enormous functional modulations in the multi-dynamic neuronal networks, which would be studied and verified in vivo mainly by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)32 and functional nearinfrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). In addition neuronal and glial plasticity,33–35 which is a substantial factor for homeostatic equilibrium36 enlarges constantly the range of the functional capacities of the brain, which may be theoretically approaching to apeiron.

In is worth to underline that by studying Anaximander’s fragments in our epoch of quantum revolution and analyzing all his concepts on apeiron, cosmology, earth37 and universe, we remind parallel recent theories on philosophy and science expressed by Pauli38 Hawking.39 In addition, Anaximander’s theory on biological evolution, which is similar to Darwin’s observations and evolutionary concepts,40 advocates for the reasonable conclusion that Anaximander must be regarded, not only as physical philosopher, metaphysician, real scientist but also as a main theoretical pioneer in the field of Neuroscience and Neurophilosophy, clarifying that science is a continuous effort for unceasing thinking and theoretical quest for approaching the truth.41



Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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