Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 

Greatest Minds and Ideas of the Western World

Website Created By Phil Norfleet

Home Philosophers Scientists Mathematicians Greatest Ideas 6th Century BC

 

Nine Great Thinkers of the Sixth Century B.C.

 

While reviewing the intellectual history of the Western World, I noted that an unusually large number of brilliant thinkers lived during the 6th Century B.C.  -- not only in the West but in Persia, India and China as well.  This era has been called the "Shower of Stars" by the historian Will Durant and is at the center of the "Axial Age" as defined by the philosopher Karl Jaspers. 

As is my custom, I have selected nine individuals who I believe represent the best thinking of the axial 6th Century B.C.  The nationality of the people selected are four Greeks, one Persian, two from India and two from China.  This page provides summary biographical information for each of the nine people selected.   The men are grouped by nationality, in chronological order, (beginning with the Greeks naturally!) and are each linked to a recommended web site (usually an academic site) that offers additional biographical information.

 

1.  Thales (624-547 B.C.)

Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  Greek

Place of Birth:  Ancient Miletus, Ionia

Most important Idea:  First person known to have explained natural phenomena by rational rather than by supernatural means.

Most Important Writing:  None

Recommended Web Page:  University of St. Andrews, Scotland

 

2.  Anaximander (610-545 B. C.)

Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  Greek

Place of Birth:  Ancient Miletus, Ionia

Most important Idea:  Ruling principle or arche' (απρχή)) of all things is boundlessness (απειρον), i.e., that which has no boundaries.

Most Important Writing:  None have survived

Recommended Web Page:  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 

3.  Pythagoras (569-475 B. C.)

Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  Greek

Place of Birth:  Ancient Samos, Ionia

Most important Idea:  Principles of music provide the key to understanding the nature of the Cosmos.

Most Important Writing:  None

Recommended Web Page:  Thoughts of Pythagoras

 

4.  Heraclitus (ca. 535-475 B. C.)

Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  Greek

Place of Birth:  Ancient Ephesus, Ionia

Most important Idea:  Concept of the Logos ( λόγος).

Most Important Writing:  On Nature (only fragments survive)

Recommended Web Page:  Philosophy of Heraclitus

 

5.  Zarathustra (ca. 630-550 B. C.)

Profession:  Prophet

Nationality:  Persian

Place of Birth:  Azerbaijan, Northern Persia (Iran)

Most important Idea:  Structure of the Cosmos is dualistic in nature.

Most Important Writing:  May have written some of the Gathas (hymns)

Recommended Web Page:  Shahriar Shahriari's Web Site

 

6.  Mahavira (599-527 B.C.)

Profession:  Religious Thinker

Nationality:  Indian

Place of Birth:  Kundalpura, Northeast India

Most important Idea:  Reformer of Jainism -- Mahavira believed the universe to be self-sustaining without a beginning; this universe is endless and operates in accordance with natural laws.

Most Important Writing:  None

Recommended Web Page:  Urantia Book Essay

 

7.  Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.)

Profession:  Psychologist (Founder of Buddhism)

Nationality:  Indian

Place of Birth:  Nepal

Most important Idea:  Believed that the phenomenal world was characterized by three basic principles:  1)

Most Important Writing:  None

Recommended Web Page:  Consciousness Concepts of the Buddha

 

8.  Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)

Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  China

Place of Birth:  Henan Province, China

Most important Idea:  Concept of the Tao (Dao) -- a cosmic unity underlying all phenomena.

Most Important Writing:  Tao te Ching (attributed to him)

Recommended Web Page:  Urantia Book Essay

 

9Confucius (551-479 B.C.)

Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  China

Place of Birth:  Province of Lu, China

Most important Idea:  Performance of appropriate music and dance allows the practitioner to create within oneself the wisdom concerning the order of the world and the heavens.

Most Important Writing:  None

Recommended Web Page:  Urantia Book Essay