What Is Arjé? Most Important Features

The arjé or arché is a philosophical concept originating in ancient Greece. Its meaning is linked to the beginning of the universe or the genesis of all things. The term comes from the Greek language and means origin or beginning.

According to Aristotle, it was all that self-sufficient, that it does not need anything else to exist since it uses itself.

The Greek philosopher described it as the primal or fundamental element of something, which despite its intangible and indemonstrable nature, offered the conditions of existence of that thing.

For the Greek philosopher and mathematician Thales of Miletus, the arche was water. This is considered to be the first relevant explanation of the physical world.

Concept history

Thales of Miletus conceived the arche or arché as the apeiron, that is, that which has no limits and is indeterminate. One of his disciples, Anaximenes, considered air or mist to be arche.

On the other hand, Pythagoras, another Greek philosopher and mathematician, related the concept to mathematics by linking it to numbers.

For the Pythagorean school the numbers were not abstractions (as it is currently considered) but real elements.

They were even considered the most real of things in the world. For this reason they believed that the arche was the constitutive principle of all things.

Instead, Heraclitus later linked it again to natural elements, but instead of air or water, he proposed that the arché was fire due to its dynamic nature.

But he believed that the original principle was the word (logos), which could only be compared to fire.

For this Greek philosopher, fire was similar to logos, since fire “is kindled on and goes out with measure.”

Monism, another philosophical current, believes in the existence of only one type of arché, while pluralism, among whose representatives is the philosopher Empedocles, established that there was not a single cause or primary substance, but several.

Empedocles viewed reality as cyclical. Like this, the philosopher Anaxagoras maintains that the universe is made up of air, water, fire, earth and many more elements.

In addition to admitting plurality and permanent change in nature, this thinker affirms that in nature everything is the result of the combination of various elements or principles, which he called seeds.

The arche and the atom

The philosophers Leucippus of Miletus and his disciple Democritus were the first to link the concept of arche with that of the atom.

They believed in the existence of atoms as particles of various kinds that could neither be created nor destroyed. These particles clumped together and made up matter .

Democritus, who was a contemporary of Socrates, thought that although everything changes there should be a stable element in the universe, which is why the arche proposes.

According to Democritus, the arche did not have properties like any other element (flavor, color, etc.), but it did have three dimensions: length, height, and depth. It is precisely this element that he calls an atom: something indivisible, which has no parts.


  1. Arche. Retrieved December 15, 2017 from merriam-webster.com
  2. Arjé. Consulted of atlasdefilosofia.wikispaces.com
  3. The arche or arché of Democritus are the atoms. Consulted from prezi.com
  4. Arché. Consulted of es.wikipedia.org
  5. Atomism – Greek Philosophy. Consulted of e-torredebabel.com
  6. The pre-Socratics and the arche or fundamental principle. Consulted of lospresocraticosyelarje.blogspot.com

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