can be termed dis-divinization and divinization.37 The mechanism is also a reflection of the fact that God is transcendent and yet connected to the world. Physical things are parts of the Apeiron that acquire their physical individuality by becoming separated from the Apeiron. But at the end of their existence, they resolve into the Apeiron. Destruction thus amounts to divinization of sorts. Individuality of physical beings is destroyed when the matter from which they are built is reclaimed by the Apeiron.


Anaximenes, a pupil of Anaximander, in the spirit of his Milesian predecessors, also establishes a foundation of the universe with his choice of the arche. Unlike Thales, he makes “ἀήρ rather than water, the material principle above the other simple bodies” (Aristotle, Met. 984a5 = 13A4). Unlike Anaximander, he “posits a single infinite underlying substance of things,” which is not indeterminate in character like Anaximander’s, but “determinate calling it aer” (Theophrastus ap. Simplicius, In Phys. 24.26–28 = A5).38

What is the nature of aer? When evenly distributed, most uniform (ὁμαλώτατος) aer is invisible. But “it is revealed by the cold and the hot and the damp and by movement” (Hippolytus, Ref. 1.7.2 = A7), that is, motion is a necessary condition of aer’s visibility. Aer can become a source of all bodies filling the world through the means of the condensation-rarefaction mechanism that makes visible properties that are in potentia in aer.39 Its motion triggers the mechanism which, in turn, leads to the emergence of such properties as coldness, hardness, liquidity, and so on. And so, for Anaximenes, “the origin of existing things was aer, for from it all things come to be and into it they are resolved again; ‘just as our soul (ψυχή)’ he says ‘which is aer, holds us together (συγκρατεῖν), so pneuma and aer surround (περɩέχεɩ) the whole cosmos’ (aer and pneuma are thus used as synonyms).”40

Cosmic aer surrounds the cosmos, but it is also inside it since everything emerged from aer. Aer inside the cosmos – atmospheric air – is, as it were, lesser aer, lesser than aer outside the cosmos. Outer aer, aer proper, directly corresponds to Anaximander’s divine Apeiron that oversees and steers the events in the world. Outer aer is alive, and this life is transferred to the world that becomes a living entity whose soul, the world soul, is cosmic aer that encompasses it.


37 In a different context, the neologism de-deification has also been proposed, Charles Pichon, The Vatican and Its Role in World Affairs (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1969 [1946]), p. 64.

38 Adam Drozdek, ‘Anaximenes: theology and physics’, Eranos 102 (2004), pp. 40–45.

39 See also Marcel de Corte, ‘Anaximène’, Laval théologique et philosophique 18 (1962), p. 50.

40 Aetius 1.3.4 = B2. The authenticity of the quotation is questioned because of anachronistic terminology it uses: for example, Aram M. Frenkian, ‘Les doxographies et les fragments des Milésiens’, Studii Clasice 6 (1964), pp. 14–15. However, the late compound word συγκρατεῖν can be considered a rendering of the original “good Presocratic” word κρατεῖν, Karin Alt, ‘Zum Satz des Anaximenes über die Seele’, Hermes 101 (1973), p. 160. It seems that, notwithstanding later terminology used in the quotation, it correctly reflects Anaximenes’ views. Cf. Walther Kranz, ‘Gleichnis und Vergleich in der frühgriechischen Philosophie’, Hermes 73 (1938), p. 111; Jaeger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, pp. 207–208 note 62; Walter Bröcker, Die Geschichte der Philosophie vor Sokrates (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1965), p. 20.