Abstract detail

Title Anaximander's Zoogony

Aetius (v, 19, 4) gives this account of Anaximander's views on the origins of life, the earliest we have from the ancient Greeks: "Anaximander said that the first living creatures were born in moisture enclosed in thorny bark; and that as their age increased they came forth on to the drier part and, when the bark had broken off, they lived a different kind of life for a short time." (Kirk, Raven and Schofield translation, p. 141 the Presocratic Philosophers) In this paper I argue that Anaximander's hypothesis is based on the life cycle of an existing type of fly, the Caddis fly of the order Trichoptera. If so, his account of zoogony is neither myth nor outright speculation, nor is it the 'genial fantasy' Barnes describes it as. It is a serious attempt to explain the origins of life by natural means, with observational support. Moving to dry land is not then an adaptation to a changing environment as Burnet and Kahn have suggested, nor need we take it that the first life forms were amphibians. We also need to re-assess the relation Anaximander's zoogony to his cosmogony and cosmology.

Primary author
Andrew Gregory