The Difference Between Life and Death

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers: Thales 1.35-37

“These sayings are also attributed to him:

God is the oldest of all things in existence, since god* was never born.

The most beautiful thing is the universe, since it is god’s creation and it contains everything.

Mind is the fastest thing since it runs through everything.

Compulsion is the strongest thing, since it overpowers everything.

The wisest thing is time, since it uncovers all.

Thales claimed that there was no difference between death and being alive. When someone asked why he didn’t die then, he said “because it would make no difference.”


φέρεται δὲ καὶ ἀποφθέγματα αὐτοῦ τάδε· πρεσβύτατον τῶν ὄντων θεός· ἀγένητον γάρ. κάλλιστον κόσμος· ποίημα γὰρ θεοῦ. μέγιστον τόπος· ἅπαντα γὰρ χωρεῖ. τάχιστον νοῦς· διὰ παντὸς γὰρ τρέχει. ἰσχυρότατον ἀνάγκη· κρατεῖ γὰρ πάντων. σοφώτατον χρόνος· ἀνευρίσκει γὰρ πάντα.
οὐδὲν ἔφη τὸν θάνατον διαφέρειν τοῦ ζῆν. σὺ οὖν, ἔφη τις, διὰ τί οὐκ ἀποθνήσκεις; ὅτι, ἔφη, οὐδὲν διαφέρει.


* god appears to be gendered neuter here.


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