I finally passed the first chapters of my pretty old (1961) Philosophy Overview book and found a nice compilation of what happened around the time 600 BC in different parts of the world:

  • 550 BC: greek philosophy started
  • 609-517 BC: Lao Tse and Konfuzius lived
  • 599-527 BC: Mahavira invented Jainism
  • 563-483 BC: Buddha lived
  • 600 BC Jeremia lived in Jerusalem
  • 580 BC: Hesekiel lived in Babylon

The chances that all this happened at the same time are pretty small. Are there any new developments since 1961 why this all happened back then?

  • Jainism is quite a bit older. – prash Dec 31 '13 at 9:31
  • @prash that's what the book I'm reading says. Any suggestions? Maybe "invented" is not correct... – draks ... Jan 8 '14 at 23:00
  • Mahavira was the 24th and last of the "great holy men" of Jainism, which is thought to be a couple of hundred years older. – prash Jan 9 '14 at 1:30
  • A post may be of related interests: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/12594/… – wonderich May 17 '14 at 1:26

A few other people have noticed this. Karl Jaspers calls it the axial age when he says that several civilisations laid down the spiritual foundations of humanity.

One should note I think that the phenomena is restricted to the Eurasian continent.

  • the restriction is indeed interesting...+1 – draks ... Dec 31 '13 at 14:27
  • @draks...: I would suppose that the restriction is a strong hint that it was a cultural phenomenon not unlike the European enlightenment, which was transmitted by simple means of travel and communication. – Niel de Beaudrap Jan 6 '14 at 7:55
  • @NieldeBeaudrap so much travel back then? – draks ... Jan 8 '14 at 23:01
  • @draks: not 'so much, but 'enough' – Mozibur Ullah Jan 9 '14 at 3:47
  • @draks...: Merchants. It doesn't have to be one person doing a journey to distant lands, so long as the participants communicate with one another. And the 'outbreak' may be a symptom of thinking which had been steeping in a somewhat distributed fashion over a century or more. – Niel de Beaudrap Jan 9 '14 at 11:35

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