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Anaxagoras

Anaxagoras, part of a fresco in the National University of Athens.
Full name Anaxagoras
Born c. 500 BC
Clazomenae
Died c. 428 BC
Lampsacus
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Pluralist school
Main interests Natural philosophy
Notable ideas Cosmic mind (Nous) ordering all things

Anaxagoras (Greek: Ἀναξαγόρας, Anaxagoras, "lord of the assembly"; c. 500 BC – 428 BC) was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae in Asia Minor, Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to bring philosophy from Ionia to Athens. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows, and the sun, which he described as a fiery mass larger than the Peloponnese. He was accused of contravening the established religion and was forced to flee to Lampsacus.

Anaxagoras is famous for introducing the cosmological concept of Nous (mind), as an ordering force. He regarded material substance as an infinite multitude of imperishable primary elements, referring all generation and disappearance to mixture and separation respectively.

Contents

Biography

Anaxagoras appears to have had some amount of property and prospects of political influence in his native town of Clazomenae in Asia Minor. However, he supposedly surrendered both of these out of a fear that they would hinder his search for knowledge. Although a Greek, he may have been a soldier of the Persian army when Clazomenae was suppressed during the Ionian Revolt.

In early manhood (c. 464–461 BC) he went to Athens, which was rapidly becoming the centre of Greek culture. There he is said to have remained for thirty years. Pericles learned to love and admire him, and the poet Euripides derived from him an enthusiasm for science and humanity.

Anaxagoras brought philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry from Ionia to Athens. His observations of the celestial bodies and the fall of meteorites led him to form new theories of the universal order. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows, and the sun, which he described as a mass of blazing metal, larger than the Peloponnese. The heavenly bodies, he asserted, were masses of stone torn from the earth and ignited by rapid rotation. However, these theories brought him into collision with the popular faith; Anaxagoras' views on such things as heavenly bodies were considered "dangerous."

About 450[1] Anaxagoras was arrested by Pericles' political opponents on a charge of contravening the established religion (some say the charge was one of Medism). It took Pericles' power of persuasion to secure his release. Even so he was forced to retire from Athens to Lampsacus in Troad (c. 434–433 BC). He died there in around the year 428 BC. Citizens of Lampsacus erected an altar to Mind and Truth in his memory, and observed the anniversary of his death for many years.

Anaxagoras wrote a book of philosophy, but only fragments of the first part of this have survived, through preservation in work of Simplicius of Cilicia in the sixth century AD.

Cosmological theory

Anaxagoras, depicted as a medieval scholar in the Nuremberg Chronicle

All things have existed from the beginning. But originally they existed in infinitesimally small fragments of themselves, endless in number and inextricably combined. All things existed in this mass, but in a confused and indistinguishable form. There were the seeds (spermata) or miniatures of wheat and flesh and gold in the primitive mixture; but these parts, of like nature with their wholes (the homoiomereiai of Aristotle), had to be eliminated from the complex mass before they could receive a definite name and character. Mind arranged the segregation of like from unlike; panta chremata en omou eita nous elthon auta diekosmese. This peculiar thing, called Mind (Nous), was no less illimitable than the chaotic mass, but, unlike the logos of Heraclitus, it stood pure and independent (mounos ef eoutou), a thing of finer texture, alike in all its manifestations and everywhere the same. This subtle agent, possessed of all knowledge and power, is especially seen ruling in all the forms of life.[citation needed]

Mind causes motion. It rotated the primitive mixture, starting in one corner or point, and gradually extended until it gave distinctness and reality to the aggregates of like parts, working something like a centrifuge, and eventually creating the known cosmos. But even after it had done its best, the original intermixture of things was not wholly overcome. No one thing in the world is ever abruptly separated, as by the blow of an axe, from the rest of things.

It is noteworthy that Aristotle accuses Anaxagoras of failing to differentiate between nous and psyche, while Socrates (Plato, Phaedo, 98 B) objects that his nous is merely a deus ex machina to which he refuses to attribute design and knowledge.

Anaxagoras proceeded to give some account of the stages in the process from original chaos to present arrangements. The division into cold mist and warm ether first broke the spell of confusion. With increasing cold, the former gave rise to water, earth and stones. The seeds of life which continued floating in the air were carried down with the rains and produced vegetation. Animals, including man, sprang from the warm and moist clay. If these things be so, then the evidence of the senses must be held in slight esteem. We seem to see things coming into being and passing from it; but reflection tells us that decease and growth only mean a new aggregation (synkrisis) and disruption (diakrisis). Thus Anaxagoras distrusted the senses, and gave the preference to the conclusions of reflection. Thus he maintained that there must be blackness as well as whiteness in snow; how otherwise could it be turned into dark water?

Anaxagoras marked a turning-point in the history of philosophy. With him speculation passes from the colonies of Greece to settle at Athens. By the theory of minute constituents of things, and his emphasis on mechanical processes in the formation of order, he paved the way for the atomic theory. .

See also

Notes

  1. ^ A.E. Taylor, "On the date of the trial of Anaxagoras" Classical Quarterly 11 (1917), pp 81–87.

References

Further reading

  • Bakalis Nikolaos (2005) Handbook of Greek Philosophy: From Thales to the Stoics Analysis and Fragments, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC., ISBN 1-4120-4843-5
  • Barnes J. (1979) The Presocratic Philosophers, Routledge, London, ISBN 0-7100-8860-4, and editions of 1982, 1996 and 2006
  • Burnet J. (1892) Early Greek Philosophy A. & C. Black, London, OCLC 4365382, and subsequent editions, 2003 edition published by Kessinger, Whitefish, Montana, ISBN 0-7661-2826-1
  • Cleve, Felix M. (1949) The Philosophy of Anaxagoras: An attempt at reconstruction King's Crown Press, New York OCLC 2692674; republished in 1973 by Nijhoff, The Hague, as The Philosophy of Anaxagoras: As reconstructed ISBN 90-247-1573-3
  • Curd, Patricia (2007) Anaxagoras of Clazomenae : Fragments and Testimonia : a text and translation with notes and essays University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 978-0-8020-9325-7
  • Gershenson, Daniel E. and Greenberg, Daniel A. (1964) Anaxagoras and the birth of physics Blaisdell Publishing Co., New York, OCLC 899834
  • Graham, Daniel W. (1999) "Empedocles and Anaxagoras: Responses to Parmenides" Chapter 8 of Long, A. A. (1999) The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 159–180, ISBN 0-521-44667-8
  • Guthrie, W. K. C. (1965) "The Presocratic tradition from Parmenides to Democritus" volume 2 of A History of Greek Philosophy Cambridge University Press, Cambridge OCLC 4679552; 1978 edition ISBN 0-521-29421-5
  • Kirk G. S.; Raven, J. E. and Schofield, M. (1983) The Presocratic Philosophers: a critical history with a selection of texts (2nd ed.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, ISBN 0-521-25444-2; originally authored by Kirk and Raven and published in 1957 OCLC 870519
  • Taylor, C. C. W. (ed.), Routledge History of Philosophy: From the Beginning to Plato, Vol. I, pp. 192 – 225, ISBN 0-203-02721-3 Master e-book ISBN, ISBN 0-203-05752-X (Adobe eReader Format) and ISBN 0-415-06272-1 (Print Edition).
  • Teodorsson, Sven-Tage (1982) Anaxagoras' theory of matter Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, Göteborg, Sweden, ISBN 91-7346-111-3, in English
  • Zeller, A. (1881) A History of Greek Philosophy: From the Earliest Period to the Time of Socrates, Vol. II, translated by S. F. Alleyne, pp. 321 – 394

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ANAXAGORAS, Greek philosopher, was born probably about the year 500 B.C. (Apollodorus ap. Diog. Laert. ii. 7.) At his native town of Clazomenae in Asia Minor, he had, it appears, some amount of property and prospects of political influence, both of which he surrendered, from a fear that they would hinder his search after knowledge. Nothing is known of his teachers; there is no reason for the theory that he studied under Hermotimus of Clazomenae, the ancient miracle-worker. In early manhood (c. 464-462 B.C.) he went to Athens, which was rapidly becoming the headquarters of Greek culture. There he is said to have remained for thirty years. Pericles learned to love and admire him and the poet Euripides derived from him an enthusiasm for science and humanity. Some authorities assert that even Socrates was among his disciples. His influence was due partly to his astronomical and mathematical eminence, but still more to the ascetic dignity of his nature and his superiority to ordinary weaknesses - traits which legend has embalmed. It was he who brought philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry from Ionia to Athens. His observations of the celestial bodies led him to form new theories of the universal order, and brought him into collision with the popular faith. He attempted, not without success, to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows and the sun, which he described as a mass of blazing metal, larger than the Peloponnesus; the heavenly bodies were masses of stone torn from the earth and ignited by rapid rotation. The ignorant polytheism of the time could not tolerate such explanation, and the enemies of Pericles used the superstitions of their countrymen as a means of attacking him in the person of his friend.

Anaxagoras was arrested on a charge of contravening the established dogmas of religion (some say the charge was one of Medism), and it required all the eloquence of Pericles to secure his acquittal. Even so he was forced to retire from Athens to Lampsacus (434-433 B.C.), where he died about 428 B.C., honoured and respected by the whole city.

It is difficult to present the cosmical theory of Anaxagoras in an intelligible scheme. All things have existed in a sort of way from the beginning. But originally they existed in infinitesimally small fragments of themselves, endless in number and inextricably combined throughout the universe. All things existed in this mass, but in a confused and indistinguishable form. There were the seeds (o IppaTa) or miniatures of corn and flesh and gold in the primitive mixture; but these parts, of like nature with their wholes (the opocoAEprl of Aristotle), had to be eliminated from the complex mass before they could receive a definite name and character. The existing species of things having thus been transferred, with all their specialities, to the prehistoric stage, they were multiplied endlessly in number, by reducing their size through continued subdivision; at the same time each one thing is so indissolubly connected with every other that the keenest analysis can never completely sever them. The work of arrangement, the segregation of like from unlike and the summation of the 6poco j Ep7? into totals of the same name, was the work of Mind or Reason; 71-aura Xpihuara iv 6,ua � et-ra vas iXecnv ai ra &eau:41170-E. This peculiar thing, called Mind (vous), was no less illimitable than the chaotic mass, but, unlike the Intelligence of Heraclitus, it stood pure and independent (povvos E4' Ecwvrov), a thing of finer texture, alike in all its manifestations and everywhere the same. This subtle agent, possessed of all knowledge and power, is especially seen ruling in all the forms of life. Its first appearance, and the only manifestation of it which Anaxagoras describes, is Motion. It originated a rotatory movement in the mass (a movement far exceeding the most rapid in the world as we know it), which, arising in one corner or point, gradually extended till it gave distinctness and reality to the aggregates of like parts. But even after it has done its best, the original intermixture of things is not wholly overcome. No one thing in the world is ever abruptly separated, as by the blow of an axe, from the rest of things. The name given to it signifies merely that in that congeries of fragments the particular "seed" is preponderant. Every a of this present universe is only a by a majority, and is also in lesser number b, c, d. It is noteworthy that Aristotle accuses Anaxagoras of failing to differentiate between vas and >/ivXi, while Socrates (Plato, Phaedo, 98 B) objects that his vas is merely a dens ex machina to which he refuses to attribute design and knowledge.

Anaxagoras proceeded to give some account of the stages in the process from original chaos to present arrangements. The division into cold mist and warm ether first broke the spell of confusion. With increasing cold, the former gave rise to water, earth and stones. The seeds of life which continued floating in the air were carried down with the rains and produced vegetation. Animals, including man, sprang from the warm and moist clay. If these things be so, then the evidence of the senses must be held in slight esteem. We seem to see things coming into being and passing from it; but reflection tells us that decease and growth only mean a new aggregation (viPyrcpcvcs) and disruption (&arcpco-Ls). Thus Anaxagoras distrusted the senses, and gave the preference to the conclusions of reflection. Thus he maintained that there must be blackness as well as whiteness in snow; how otherwise could it be turned into dark water?

Anaxagoras marks a turning-point in the history of philosophy.

With him speculation passed from the colonies of Greece to settle at Athens. By the theory of minute constituents of things, and his emphasis on mechanical processes in the formation of order, he paved the way for the atomic theory. By his enunciation of the order that comes from reason, on the other hand, he suggested, though he seems not to have stated explicitly, the theory that nature is the work of design. The conception of reason in the world passed from him to Aristotle, to whom it seemed the dawn of sober thought after a night of disordered dreams. From Aristotle it descended to his commentators, and under the influence of Averroes became the engrossing topic of speculation.

AuTnoRITIEs

The fragments of Anaxagoras have been collected by E. Schaubach (Leipzig, 1827), and W. Schorn (Bonn, 1829); see also F. W. A. Mullach, Fragmenta Philos. Graec. i. 243-252; A. Fairbanks, The First Philosophers of Greece (1898). For criticism see T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers (Eng. trans., L. Magnus, 1901), bk. ii. chap. 4; E. Bersot, De controversis quibusdam Anaxagorae doctrinis (Paris, 1844); E. Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen (Eng. trans., S. F. Alleyne, 2 vols., London, 1881); J. M. Robertson, Short History of Freethought (London, 1906); W. Windelband, History of Philosophy (Eng. trans., J. H. Tufts, 1893); J. I. Beare, Greek Theories of Elementary Cognition (1906); L. Parmentier, Euripide et Anaxagore (1892); F. Lortzing, "Bericht fiber die griechischen Philosophen vor Sokrates" (for the years 1876-1897) in Bursian's Jahresbericht fiber die Fortschritte der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, cxvi. (1904), with references to important articles in periodicals.

(W. W.; J. M. M.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

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Etymology

From Ancient Greek Ἀναξαγόρας (Anaksagoras).

Proper noun

Singular
Anaxagoras

Plural
-

Anaxagoras

  1. An ancient Greek philosopher (c. 500 BC – 428 BC) from Clazomenae, who is famous for introducing the cosmological concept of Nous (mind), as an ordering force.

Translations


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|200px|Anaxagoras]]

Anaxagoras (Greek: Ἀναξαγόρας, c. 500 BC – 428 BC) was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He introduced the concept of Nous (mind), the ordering force.

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