Xenophanes In existographies, Xenophanes (c.560-475BC) (IQ:175|#230) (FA:4) (EvT:3|21+) (ACR:19) (CR:29) was a Greek philosopher, anti-theist, and evolutionist, noted for []

Religion | Morality
Xenophanes was a critic of Greek god-based morality; for example: [2]

Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods all sorts of things that are matters of reproach and censure among men: theft, adultery, and mutual deception, as they sang of numerous illicit divine deeds: theft, adultery, and mutual deceit.”

He, supposedly, advocated some type of proto-monotheism.

Horses | Anthropomorphism
The famous atheism quote “if horses could draw” quote, supposedly, originated with in the fragments of Xenophanes:

“If horses and oxen had hands and could draw pictures, their gods would look remarkably like horses and oxen.”
— Xenophanes (c.510BC), in fragment [B15] [2]

Montaigne says ‘Man is not able to be other than he is, nor imagine but after his capacity; let him take what pains he may, he will never have a knowledge of any soul but his own.’ Xenophanes said, ‘If the ox or the elephant understood either sculpture or painting, they would not fail to represent the divinity under their own peculiar figure; that in this, they would have as much reason as Polyclitus or Phidias, who gave him the human form.’ It was said to a very celebrated man that ‘god made man after his own image’; ‘Man has returned the compliment’, replied the philosopher; and L'amotte le Vayer used to remark, that ‘theanthropy (Ѻ) was the foundation of every system of Christianity.
Baron d’Holbach (1770), The System of Nature (pg. 181)

“If cattle and horses and lions had hands they would depict gods like cattle and horses.
— Xenophanes (c.510BC) version according Patrick Walsh (1997) [3]

“If horses could draw, god would have four limbs and run very fast.”
Empedocles (c.450), either mis-attributed aphorism or re-statement (Ѻ)

Latin scholar Patrick Walsh (1997) says the statement comes from Xenophanes and that he is best known for attacking anthropomorphism with this technique.
Xenophanes (Greek philosophy genealogy)
The location of Xenophanes in the Greek philosophy genealogy intellectual tree; generally being a Anaximander, Pythagoras, and product of Telagues, with possible association with Heraclitus.

In 45BC, Cicero, in his On the Nature of the Gods, summarized Xenophanes view of god as follows: [3]

Xenophanes argued that the whole world had a ‘mind’ attached to it, and was god because it was ‘unbounded’. On this concept of mind as god, he will be subject to the same censure as his predecessors; on god’s infinity, the criticism will be even more severe, for what is infinite can have neither sensation nor connect with anything outside itself.”

In 1997, Patrick Walsh, in footnote commentary on Cicero’s view of Xenophanes, he states: [3]

Xenophanes posits, instead [of anthropomorphized gods], a single god ‘greatest among gods and men, not like men in form and thought, remaining motionless in the same place, shaking all things by the thought of his mind’.”


Xenophanes taught that all organisms originate from earth and mud. [1] He observed fossil fishes and shells, and concluded that the land where they were found had been underwater at some time; he taught that the world formed from the condensation of water and ‘primordial mud’, and was the first person known, supposedly, to have used fossils as evidence for a theory of the history of the earth. (Ѻ)

Xenophanes was a disciple of Anaximander (Ѻ) and also, supposedly, of the lineage of Pythagoras or the Pythagorean school.

Quotes | By
The following are quotes by Xenophanes:

“It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man.”
— Xenophanes (c.475), comment (Ѻ) made, according to Laertius (c.230), to Empedocles who remarked: “it is impossible to find a wise man!” (see: genius recognizes genius)

1. Oparin, Alexander. (1936). The Origin of Life (introduction and translation: Serguis Morgulis) (pg. 6). Dover, 1965.
2. (a) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pg. 4; horses, pg. 7). HarperOne.
(b) Kirk G.S., Raven, J.E., and Schofield, M. (1957). The Presocratic Philosophers (pgs. 168-69). Cambridge University Press.
(c) Xenophanes – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
3. Cicero. (45BC). The Nature of the Gods (Introduction, translation, and notes: Patrick Walsh) (pgs. 13, 153). Oxford University Press, 1998.

Further reading
● Xenophanes (c.485BC). Xenophanes of Colophon: Fragments: a Text and Translation with a Commentary (editor: James Lesher) (Empedocles, 5+ pgs). Publisher.

External links
Xenophanes – Wikipedia.

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