There are many arguments by philosophers in which they prove which element is the most crucial in life. Some fight that fire is the most important, while others say air, water, or earth is. Metaphysics is the study or theory of reality. The question of metaphysics is what is real? (Miller 2006, 5) Those elements: fire, air, water, and earth are what different philosophers are trying to prove as the most important element in reality. Thus, what is being studied in metaphysics relates to the nature of reality.
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One of the Pre- Socratic philosophers that promoted fire as the most important element, was a person named Heraclitus. He was said to be the most influential and creative philosopher before Socrates. One author said, “Heraclitus challenged people to come to the terms with the fact that they are living in a world that “no god or human has made”, a world he describes as “an ever-living fire kindling in measures and going out in measures”. (Long, 2005, 366-367) He states that fire constitutes and symbolizes both the process of nature in general and the light of intelligence. He says a “fiery” soul equips people to look into themselves and discover the formula of nature and live by that. (Long 2005, 366-367) This is why he thought that fire was the most important.
Another important Pre-Socratic philosopher named Anaximenes thought that air, not fire, was the most important element in life. He was interested in the origin of this universe and the principles on how it operates. He argued that the source of everything and what it is made up of is air. He taught that when air is condensed, it becomes other substances. Air has no beginning or end. Air generated the universe, through its motion. Anaximenes believed the human soul is composed of air and at one point he believed the whole world to be alive with air as its main “soul”. (Mckirahan, 2005, 15)
Thirdly the philosopher that said the earth and the “god like being” is the most important element in life, was a man named Xenophanes. He was a Greek philosopher that said there is a god who is not like all other human beings; he has power through his thoughts. He states that all phenomena in the skies from the sun, moon and stars, is simply a cloud formation. This is based on Xenophanes’ belief in the oneness and utter immobility of God. (A.P.D.M. 2005, 984)
The philosopher Thales, believed the most important element was water. He said all matter was constituted from one element, which was water. Thales attempted to provide a natural account for this. (Martin 2002, 299) He based everything on reason and nature rather then tradition or myth. He said that water was the basic material, that in all things are full of gods and that all things possess soul. (Mckirahan 2005, 1015)
Many people agree with Thales, water is the most important element in life. It is present in most things, it is necessary in all living things and it is everywhere and it can exist in different forms. Also, according to Genesis, water was in existence before any other thing created.
Water is necessary in all living things, whether it be humans, animals or plants we are talking about. All of them need water to survive. Our bodies are roughly 50-65% water. That is roughly 45 quarts. Infants are said to be made up of 75% of water. If our bodies are mostly water, it would make sense that we need it to live. We need to constantly be drinking water to live. It is stated and proved that if a person goes more then three days without water, their organs and body will start to shut down and eventually die. People need to drink water to live. People can last longer without eating food, than they can without water. Plants, as well, are absolutely dependent upon water. Have you ever planted a seed or flower? The few things it needs to survive are: water, sun and soil. Without water, it will die. A seed can’t grow without water. Just like humans need it as well. Think of the desert for example, there are few plants and wildlife simply because it is dry and has no-to-limited water supply. Rain, which is water, is needed for things to grow. Also, all the foods we eat are made up of water in one way or another. Without water there would be no food for us to live and without food we would not be surviving.
Water comes in three different forms. Liquid, solid and gas are the three forms. No other element comes in different forms. Think of fire, it doesn’t come in a solid form or gas or liquid. Having water available in three forms is very helpful and important to people. It reminds me of the water cycle which is crucial for our world. Evaporation, condensation and precipitation. This is needed in our weather, in our food cycle-which gives water to the animals we eat, and also keeps our water moving, which is a good thing to keep our water from getting “stale”. (Perlman, 1984) Water in its liquid form helps us to live because we drink it and aids in the growth of plants. In its solid form it helps us with cuts and burns, and with hibernation purposes. Also it’s important in its gas form, because it is in the air which we breathe. Without hydrated oxygen, we wouldn’t be here today, therefore water is very important.
Another reason that water is the most important element is because the very world we live, in is largely made up of water. Roughly 70% of the world is covered in water, that’s well more then half the world. Water fills our oceans, rivers, lakes, glaciers and even air vapor. However, water is also in the ground, saturating the soil we walk upon. There is more water than there is dry land on this earth. “Although surface water is used more to supply drinking water and to grow crops, groundwater is vital in that it not only helps to keep rivers and lakes full, it also provides water for people in places where visible water is scarce” says (Perlman 1984). Where would the water animals live without water? How would we stay alive? Or what would happen to the water cycle with no water?
Water is literally in almost everything you can think of. A door for example is made up of water; water is used to make the tree grow which the wood comes from to make the door. Our houses are made up of water. Water is in the plaster used in drywall to make a foundation for houses. Water is in our bodies, food, animals, physical objects you see and hold. Water is in the oxygen that we breathe in. Water is in soil, in clouds and so many things. Even in outer space there is water.
Water existed before anything else did in this world. It is proved in Genesis one, verse two when it says the earth was empty and formless and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. After this light was created and then the separation between the water and water and then water and sky. Therefore, before earth or light or the sky or anything, water already existed.
Reality would not even exist without water. There would be no such thing as reality, and people wouldn’t be able to argue it. People say what reality is, but without water there are no people, and therefore no reality.
Some people may argue, “Well how is water in everything?” People would say there is no water in fire, because water is what is used to put out fires.
However, I would disagree with this. Water is in fire, fire is a gas in which oxygen is needed. Water is in oxygen, thus being in fire. People may also say there is no water in the sun. But, once again, the particles/atoms used to make up the hot burning sun includes hydrogen and oxygen which includes water in them.
As mentioned above, water is necessary for everything. Everything is made up of it and we need it to survive, without it there would be no people or earth or even reality. Thales had it right when saying it is the most important element in reality. Far more important then any other element argued.
APDM. 1995. “Xenophanes.” In The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy Second edition, by Robert Audi Ed., 984. Cambridge, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.
Long, A.A. 2005. “Heraclitus.” In The Shorter routledge encyclopedia of philosophy, by Edward Craig Ed., 366-367. Abingdon: Routledge.
Mckirahan, Richard. 2005. “Anaximenes.” In The Shorter Routledge encycolpedia of philosophy, by Edward Craig Ed., 15. Abingdon: Routledge.
Mckirahan, Richard. 2005. “Thales.” In The Shorter routledge encycolopedia of philosophy, by Edward Craig, 1015. Abingdon: Routledge.
Miller, Ed. L. 2006. Questions that Matter:An invitation to philosophy. Boston: The Mcgraw-Hill Companies.
n.a. How long can humans live without water? june 29, 2006. http://ask.metafilter.com/41162/How-long-can-humans-last-without-water (accessed Febuary 7, 2013).
N/A. Body Water. Febuary 5, 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_water (accessed Febuary 7, 2013).
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Perlman, Howard. January 10, 2013. How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth? http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html (accessed Febuary 7, 2013).
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