In the books of essays by Popper, titled the The World of Parmenides, he writes the following:

However this may be, Thales beautiful theory of the support and suspension of the Earth and of earthquakes, although is in no way inspired by observation, is at least inspired by empirical or observational analogy; but even this is no way true of the theory proposed by Thales great pupil, Anaximander. Anaximander's theory of the suspension of the Earth is still highly intuitive, but it no longer users observational analogies. In fact, it might be described as counter-observational. According to Anaximanders theory:

The Earth ... is held up by nothing, but remains stationary owing to the fact that it is equally distant to all other things. It's shape is like a drum ... We walk upon one of its flat surfaces, while the other is on the opposite side (A11)

The drum of course an observational analogy. But the idea of the earths free suspension in space, and the explanation of its stability, have no analogy whatever in the whole field of observable facts.

Putting aside the fact that Popper immediately contradicts himself (he says that Anaximander uses no observational analogies and then says Anaximanders drum is such an analogy), what can we make of a Poppers assertion that the idea of the "earth free suspension space" has "no analogy whatever in the whole field of observable facts".

Actually Rovelli makes the same assertion in his book on Anaximander. Yet it seems to me that there is an obvious observation that is missing from both accounts that helps justify the theory, and that is both the moon and the sun appear to hang in space supported by nothing.

Of course one can say this is not supported by anything written by Anaximander himself, yet this did not stop Rovelli speculating how Anaximander came by such a theory.

So is Popper correct to say that Anaximanders theory is "counter-observational" and additionally (I have my own ideas on this), what does he mean by that the theory is highly intuitive?


I can try a (more or less) intelligent guess..

First, Anaximander's theory is counter - observational because there are no similar observations (of a static body suspended in mid air) here on earth. The sun and the moon are weak counter examples because (1) we (as ancients) do not know whether they are suspended in mid air or not. It's a matter of another cosmological theory or speculation, beside the question about the position of the earth. Furthermore (2) we (as ancients) usually believe that the whole sky revolves around the earth, and this does not seem consistent with the sun and the moon being just suspended in mid air. It would seem to us more likely that they are fixed on transparent spheres..

Second, saying thst Anaximander's theory is highly intuitive seems to be a praise for the theory. It seems to mean that (1) the theory is imaginative; that (2) it prima facie succeeds in explaining what it was supposed to explain; and that (3) it respects some important constraints, such that it does not involve any reference to gods, or other intentional beings.

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