Apeiron (cosmology)

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Apeiron is a Greek word meaning unlimited, infinite or indefinite[1] from a, "without" and peirar (Greek: πεῖραρ), "end, limit",[2] the Ionic Greek form of pera (Greek: "πέρα"), "beyond, further".[3]


Apeiron as an origin

The apeiron is central to the cosmological theory created by Anaximander in the 6th century BC. Anaximander's work is mostly lost. From the few existing fragments, we learn that he believed the beginning or ultimate reality (arche) is eternal and infinite, or boundless (apeiron), subject to neither old age nor decay, which perpetually yields fresh materials from which everything we can perceive is derived.[4] Apeiron generated the opposites, hot-cold, wet-dry etc., which acted on the creation of the world. Everything is generated from apeiron and then it is destroyed there according to necessity.[5] He believed that infinite worlds are generated from apeiron and then they are destroyed there again.[6]

His ideas were influenced by the Greek mythical tradition and by his teacher Thales (7th-6th century BC). Anaximander willing to find some universal principle assumed like the traditional religion that there was a cosmic order and tried to explain it rationally, using the old mythical language which ascribed divine control on various spheres of reality. This language was more suitable for a society which could see gods everywhere, therefore the first glimmerings of laws of nature were themselves derived from divine laws.[7] The word nomos (law) may originally have meant natural law and then it was used for a man-made law,[8] therefore the Greeks believed that the universal principles could also be applied to human societies.

Greek philosophy entered a high level of abstraction adopting apeiron as the origin of all things because this is something completely indefinite. This is a further transition from the previous existing mythical way of thought to the new rational way of thought which is the main characteristic of the archaic period (8th-6th century BC). This way of thought is a result of the new political conditions in the Greek city states during the 6th century BC.[9]

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