Ancient ontology

Ancient ontology. Ontology has become the basis of everything we know, because thanks to it, knowledge models have been developed. Models that allow us to make use of valuable information to solve multiple complex situations or our daily lives.

In medicine, for example, ontology has been in charge of consolidating the use of concepts that allow us to make use of terms such as “syndrome”; without the need to go into more detail. This has been thanks to the elaboration of categories in medical ontology.

It is a branch that has managed to transform life as we know it, from its ability to link knowledge, and in this sense, systematize throughout the history of societies.

From this perspective, ontology has been an applied discipline to develop optimal lines of knowledge of great useful value.

Next, we are going to review the approaches that multiple philosophers would have raised for this branch of philosophy, each with their respective arguments and explanations about what ontology was for them.


Aristotle used the term “first philosophy” to refer to what would later be known as ontology, while his disciples would describe it as metaphysics at the time. In this regard, Aristotle spoke of the substance as the foundation that formed reality.

He argued that the substance was capable of transforming itself, of having an accident, and at the same time, remain part of a subject. In this way, the substance is what concretely defines an individual, being part of his immutable identity.


Socrates describes a reflective capacity that distinguishes the human being from the rest of the forms of life. He argued that the human being is the only one capable of asking himself the reason for his existence. He spoke of virtue, as the way to understand how to act correctly.

The rationality of the human being of being able to give a rational answer to any question, together with virtue, are the bases that have to define ontology according to Socrates. The constant search for rationality will be the only transcendental trait, practiced by human beings, being one of its most particular aspects in itself.


Plato spoke of the soul and the body as completely opposite entities to each other. On the one hand, he argued that the soul is always in search of perfection, but that it was the body, the main obstacle in achieving this perfection.

Through gaining knowledge, the soul approached perfection. In this way, Plato argued that the soul was the only thing that characterized the human and the essence of him. He explained that the body is nothing more than the instrument that allows the soul to operate at his command.

The imperfection of the human being occurred due to the body, and therefore, the soul and the body would keep in a constant fight. The soul will seek to leave the body to reach perfection, that is, its original state.


Parmenides argued that being is just as it is in nature. His characteristics are the essence of his identity above all things, and he must always stay on the same path, since when he deviates, he could lose himself.

“The being must be, and otherwise it can be lost.” Parmenides argued that being cannot stray from itself, so it should always be the first, even before air and water. Being is immutable, timeless and indivisible, therefore, it must not lose its essence.


Democritus explains a division into small parts, which he defines as atoms, and which, together, make up the human body. He cautions that these elements are not visible to human eyes, but affirmed their existence in his postulates.

Through the atoms, Democritus explained part of the characteristics of the human being such as immutability, describing them as particles that could not change shape or unfold with each other.


For Anaximenes, air represents the origin of being, since this is the element that keeps it alive, and therefore, the one that represents it. Air is part of life in humanity, which is why Anaximenes raises it as the most important substance in the whole world.

He defines it as the original principle, that is, what has given rise to all the elements that exist in the world, whether on land or in the sea. He explained that air can change by rarefaction and also by condensation.


Anaximander talks about the Apeiron, an element that has no shape and is also infinite. Despite this, he maintains that it can coordinate living beings and life throughout the world. He explains that there is a process that he has called the separation of opposites, in which different phenomena occur that participate in the same process originating in the world.

It speaks of a matter that has no form, that is primordial, and that can generate all the life that exists. He maintains that, as well as the origin, the Apeiron also represents the end, so that all beings will return to this element at the end of their existence. The Apeiron has no exact explanation, beyond being a perennially moving center of mass, which, since its eternal cataclysm, creates worlds at every moment.


In short, there is a range of premises in relation to ancient ontology. As we can see, multiple authors dedicated a large part of their studies to establishing a paradigm, in order to explain the origin and the end of knowledge itself.

Let us remember that these approaches correspond to the period of ancient ontology, therefore, they represent a pioneering theoretical body in what is currently defined as ontology and its multiple derivations.


  1. (S / F). Ancient Ontology. To philosophize has been said (in Spanish). Recovered from:
  2. (2021). Ontology. Wikipedia. Recovered from:

Read also:Ontology in medicine and nursing

This post is also available in: English Français (French) Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish) Dansk (Danish) Nederlands (Dutch) Svenska (Swedish) Italiano (Italian) Português (Portuguese (Portugal))