Guthrie (vol. I, pp. 44-5) puts it succinctly: The questions which excited [the Milesians] were of this kind: Can this apparently confused and disordered world be reduced to simpler principles so that our reason can grasp what it is and how it works? What is it made of? How does change take place? . . . They abandoned mythological and substituted intellectual solutions. . . . [It] was no longer satisfying to say that storms were roused by the wrath of Poseidon, or death caused by the arrows of Apollo or Artemis. A world ruled by anthropomorphic gods of the kind in which their contemporaries believed — gods human in their passions as well as in their outward form — was a world ruled by caprice. Philosophy and science start with the bold confession of faith that not caprice but an inherent orderliness underlies the phenomena, and the explanation of nature is to be sought within nature itself. . . . Thus, Thales had the brilliant insight that one could understand natural phenomena-and nature
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