Anaxagoras

Last updated
Anaxagoras
Anaxagoras Lebiedzki Rahl.jpg
Anaxagoras; part of a fresco in the portico of the National University of Athens.
Bornc.500 BC [1]
Diedc.428 BC
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Pluralist school
Main interests
Natural philosophy
Notable ideas
Cosmic Mind ( Nous ) ordering all things
The Milky Way (Via Lactea) as a concentration of distant stars [2]

Anaxagoras ( /ˌænækˈsæɡərəs/ ; Greek : Ἀναξαγόρας, Anaxagoras, "lord of the assembly"; c.500 [3]  – c.428 BC) was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae at a time when Asia Minor was under the control of the Persian Empire, Anaxagoras came to Athens. According to Diogenes Laërtius and Plutarch, in later life he was charged with impiety and went into exile in Lampsacus; the charges may have been political, owing to his association with Pericles, if they were not fabricated by later ancient biographers. [4]

Contents

Responding to the claims of Parmenides on the impossibility of change, Anaxagoras described the world as a mixture of primary imperishable ingredients, where material variation was never caused by an absolute presence of a particular ingredient, but rather by its relative preponderance over the other ingredients; in his words, "each one is... most manifestly those things of which there are the most in it". [5] He introduced the concept of Nous (Cosmic Mind) as an ordering force, which moved and separated out the original mixture, which was homogeneous, or nearly so.

He also gave a number of novel scientific accounts of natural phenomena. He deduced a correct explanation for eclipses and described the Sun as a fiery mass larger than the Peloponnese, as well as attempting to explain rainbows and meteors.

Biography

Anaxagoras is believed to have enjoyed some wealth and political influence in his native town of Clazomenae. However, he supposedly surrendered this out of a fear that they would hinder his search for knowledge. [6] The Roman author Valerius Maximus preserves a different tradition: Anaxagoras, coming home from a long voyage, found his property in ruin, and said: "If this had not perished, I would have"—a sentence described by Valerius as being "possessed of sought-after wisdom!" [7] [8]

Anaxagoras was a Greek citizen of the Persian Empire and had served in the Persian army; he may have been a member of the Persian regiments that entered mainland Greece during the Greco-Persian Wars. [9] Though this remains uncertain, "it would certainly explain why he came to Athens in the year of Salamis, 480/79 B.C." [9] Anaxagoras is said to have remained in Athens for thirty years. Pericles learned to love and admire him, and the poet Euripides derived from him an enthusiasm for science and humanity. [6]

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, and to prediction of the impact of meteorites. Plutarch [10] says "Anaxagoras is said to have predicted that if the heavenly bodies should be loosened by some slip or shake, one of them might be torn away, and might plunge and fall down to earth". According to Pliny [11] he was credited with predicting the fall of the meteorite in 467. [12] 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; his theories about eclipses, the Sun and Moon may well have been based on observations of the eclipse of 463 BCE, which was visible in Greece. [13] He was the first to explain that the Moon shines due to reflected light from the Sun. He also said that the Moon had mountains and believed that it was inhabited. The heavenly bodies, he asserted, were masses of stone torn from the Earth and ignited by rapid rotation. [6] He was the first to give a correct explanation of eclipses, and was both famous and notorious for his scientific theories, including the claims that the Sun is a mass of red-hot metal, that the Moon is earthy, and that the stars are fiery stones. [14] He thought the Earth was flat and floated supported by 'strong' air under it and disturbances in this air sometimes caused earthquakes. [15] These speculations made him vulnerable in Athens to a charge of asebeia (impiety). Diogenes Laërtius reports the story that he was prosecuted by Cleon for impiety, but Plutarch says that Pericles sent his former tutor, Anaxagoras, to Lampsacus for his own safety after the Athenians began to blame him for the Peloponnesian war. [16]

The charges against Anaxagoras may have stemmed from his denial of the existence of a solar or lunar deity. [17] According to Laërtius, Pericles spoke in defense of Anaxagoras at his trial, c.450. [18] Even so, Anaxagoras was forced to retire from Athens to Lampsacus in Troad (c.434 433). He died there in around the year 428. Citizens of Lampsacus erected an altar to Mind and Truth in his memory, and observed the anniversary of his death for many years. They placed over his grave the following inscription: Here Anaxagoras, who in his quest of truth scaled heaven itself, is laid to rest. [lower-alpha 1]

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 6th century AD.

Philosophy

Anaxagoras, depicted as a medieval scholar in the Nuremberg Chronicle Anaxagoras Nuremberg Chronicle.jpg
Anaxagoras, depicted as a medieval scholar in the Nuremberg Chronicle

According to Anaxagoras all things have existed in some 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. [6] There was an infinite number of homogeneous parts (ὁμοιομερῆ) as well as heterogeneous ones. [20]

The work of arrangement, the segregation of like from unlike and the summation of the whole into totals of the same name, was the work of Mind or Reason (νοῦς). Mind is no less unlimited than the chaotic mass, but it stood pure and independent, 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. [21] Its first appearance, and the only manifestation of it which Anaxagoras describes, is Motion. It gave distinctness and reality to the aggregates of like parts. [6]

Decrease and growth represent a new aggregation (σὐγκρισις) and disruption (διάκρισις). However, the original intermixture of things is never wholly overcome. [6] Each thing contains in itself parts of other things or heterogeneous elements, and is what it is, only on account of the preponderance of certain homogeneous parts which constitute its character. [20] Out of this process arise the things we see in this world. [20]

Literary references

Anaxagoras is mentioned by Socrates during his trial in Plato's "Apology". In the Phaedo, Plato portrays Socrates saying of Anaxagoras that as a young man: 'I eagerly acquired his books and read them as quickly as I could'. [22]

In a quote which begins Nathanael West's first book The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931), Marcel Proust's character Bergotte says, "After all, my dear fellow, life, Anaxagoras has said, is a journey."

Anaxagoras appears as a character in Faust, Part II by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Anaxagoras appears as a character in The Ionia Sanction, by Gary Corby.

Anaxagoras is referred to and admired by Cyrus Spitama, the hero and narrator of Creation , by Gore Vidal. The book contains this passage, explaining how Anaxagoras became influential:

[According to Anaxagoras] One of the largest things is a hot stone that we call the sun. When Anaxagoras was very young, he predicted that sooner or later a piece of the sun would break off and fall to earth. Twenty years ago, he was proved right. The whole world saw a fragment of the sun fall in a fiery arc through the sky, landing near Aegospotami in Thrace. When the fiery fragment cooled, it proved to be nothing more than a chunk of brown rock. Overnight Anaxagoras was famous. Today his book is read everywhere. You can buy a secondhand copy in the Agora for a drachma. [23]

William H. Gass begins his novel, The Tunnel (1995), with a quote from Anaxagoras: "The descent to hell is the same from every place."

He is also mentioned in Seneca's Natural Questions (Book 4B, originally Book 3: On Clouds, Hail, Snow) It reads: "Why should I too allow myself the same liberty as Anaxagoras allowed himself?"

Dante Alighieri places Anaxagoras in the First Circle of Hell (Limbo) in his Divine Comedy ( Inferno , Canto IV, line 137).

Chapter 5 in Book II of De Docta Ignorantia (1440) by Nicholas of Cusa is dedicated to the truth of the sentence "Each thing is in each thing" which he attributes to Anaxagoras.

See also

Related Research Articles

Anaximander Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher

Anaximander, was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia. He belonged to the Milesian school and learned the teachings of his master Thales. He succeeded Thales and became the second master of that school where he counted Anaximenes and, arguably, Pythagoras amongst his pupils.

Democritus Ancient Greek philosopher, pupil of Leucippus, founder of the atomic theory

Democritus was an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher primarily remembered today for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe.

Empedocles Ancient Greek philosopher

Empedocles was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a native citizen of Akragas, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for originating the cosmogonic theory of the four classical elements. He also proposed forces he called Love and Strife which would mix and separate the elements, respectively.

Heraclitus Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher

Heraclitus of Ephesus son of Bloson, was a pre-Socratic Ionian Greek philosopher, and a native of the city of Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey and then part of the Persian Empire.

Plato Classical Greek Athenian philosopher, founder of Platonism

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Parmenides Ancient Greek philosopher

Parmenides of Elea was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia. He is thought to have been in his prime around 475 BC.

Protagoras pre-Socratic Greek philosopher

Protagoras was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with inventing the role of the professional sophist.

Pre-Socratic philosophy philosophers active before and during the time of Socrates

Pre-Socratic philosophy is ancient Greek philosophy before Socrates and schools contemporary to Socrates that were not influenced by him. In Classical antiquity, the pre-Socratic philosophers were called physiologoi. Their inquiries spanned the workings of the natural world as well as human society, ethics, and religion, seeking explanations based on natural principles rather than the actions of supernatural gods. They introduced to the West the notion of the world as a kosmos, an ordered arrangement that could be understood via rational inquiry. Coming from the eastern and western fringes of the Greek world, the pre-Socratics were the forerunners of what became Western philosophy as well as natural philosophy, which later developed into the natural sciences. Significant figures include: the Milesians, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Zeno of Elea, and Democritus.

Ancient Greek philosophy Philosophical origins and foundation of western civilization

Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC and continued throughout the Hellenistic period and the period in which Greece and most Greek-inhabited lands were part of the Roman Empire. Philosophy was used to make sense out of the world in a non-religious way. It dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, mathematics, political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric and aesthetics.

Diogenes of Apollonia was an ancient Greek philosopher, and was a native of the Milesian colony Apollonia in Thrace. He lived for some time in Athens. His doctrines are known chiefly from Diogenes Laërtius and Simplicius. He believed air to be the one source of all being, and, as a primal force, to be intelligent. All other substances are derived from it by condensation and rarefaction. Aristotle has preserved a long passage by Diogenes concerning the organization of the blood vessels.

Xenophanes Presocratic philosopher

Xenophanes of Colophon was a Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and social and religious critic. Xenophanes is seen as one of the most important presocratic philosophers. Eusebius quoting Aristocles of Messene says that Xenophanes was the founder of a line of philosophy that culminated in Pyrrhonism. This line begins with Xenophenes and goes through Parmenides, Melissus of Samos, Zeno of Elea, Leucippus, Democritus, Protagoras, Nessas of Chios, Metrodorus of Chios, Diogenes of Smyrna, Anaxarchus, and finally Pyrrho. It had also been common since antiquity to see Xenophanes as the teacher of Zeno of Elea, the colleague of Parmenides, and generally associated with the Eleatic school, but common opinion today is likewise that this is false.

Aspasia Milesian woman, involved with Athenian statesman Pericles

Aspasia was an influential immigrant to Classical-era Athens who was the lover and partner of the statesman Pericles. The couple had a son, Pericles the Younger, but the full details of the couple's marital status are unknown. According to Plutarch, her house became an intellectual centre in Athens, attracting the most prominent writers and thinkers, including the philosopher Socrates. Aspasia is mentioned in the writings of Plato, Aristophanes, Xenophon and others.

Philolaus ancient Greek philosopher

Philolaus was a Greek Pythagorean and pre-Socratic philosopher. He argued that at the foundation of everything is the part played by the limiting and limitless, which combine together in a harmony. He is also credited with originating the theory that the Earth was not the center of the Universe. According to August Böckh (1819), who cites Nicomachus, Philolaus was the successor of Pythagoras.

The Apology of Socrates, written by Plato, is a Socratic dialogue of the speech of legal self-defence which Socrates spoke at his trial for impiety and corruption in 399 BCE.

Idomeneus of Lampsacus was a friend and disciple of Epicurus.

Archelaus was an Ancient Greek philosopher, a pupil of Anaxagoras, and may have been a teacher of Socrates. He asserted that the principle of motion was the separation of hot from cold, from which he endeavoured to explain the formation of the Earth and the creation of animals and humans.

Aeschines of Sphettus or Aeschines Socraticus, son of Lysanias, of the deme Sphettus of Athens, was a philosopher who in his youth was a follower of Socrates. Historians call him Aeschines Socraticus—"the Socratic Aeschines"—to distinguish him from the more historically influential Athenian orator also named Aeschines. His name is sometimes but now rarely written as Aischines or Æschines

Thucydides, son of Melesias was a prominent politician of ancient Athens and the leader for a number of years of the powerful conservative faction. While it is likely he is related to the later historian and general Thucydides, son of Olorus, the details are uncertain; maternal grandfather and grandson fits the available evidence.

Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher, the second of the trio of ancient Greeks including Socrates and Aristotle said to have laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture.

Theodorus the Atheist, of Cyrene, was a philosopher of the Cyrenaic school. He lived in both Greece and Alexandria, before ending his days in his native city of Cyrene. As a Cyrenaic philosopher, he taught that the goal of life was to obtain joy and avoid grief, and that the former resulted from knowledge, and the latter from ignorance. However, his principal claim to fame was his alleged atheism. He was usually designated by ancient writers ho atheos, "the atheist."

References

Footnotes

  1. Ancient Greek: ἐνθάδε, πλεῖστον ἀληθείας ἐπὶ τέρμα περήσας οὐρανίου κόσμου, κεῖται Ἀναξαγόρας. [19]

Citations

  1. Graham, Daniel W. (2010). The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics, Part 1. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 314. ISBN   978-0-521-73763-0.
  2. DK 59 A80: Aristotle, Meteorologica 342b.
  3. Graham, Daniel W. (2010). The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics, Part 1. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 314. ISBN   978-0-521-73763-0.
  4. Filonik, Jakub (2013). "Athenian impiety trials: a reappraisal". Dike (16): 26–33. doi:10.13130/1128-8221/4290.
  5. Anaxagoras (2011-03-11). "Anaxagoras of Clazomenae". In Curd, Patricia (ed.). A Presocratics Reader. Hackett. ISBN   978-1-60384-305-8. B12
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wallace, William; Mitchell, John Malcolm (1911). "Anaxagoras"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 943.
  7. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae: Fragments and Testimonia : a text and translation with notes and essays. University of Toronto Press. 2007. ISBN   9780802093257.
  8. Val. Max., VIII, 7, ext., 5: Qui, cum e diutina peregrinatione patriam repetisset possessionesque desertas vidisset, "non essem – inquit "ego salvus, nisi istae perissent." Vocem petitae sapientiae compotem!
  9. 1 2 Copleston 2003, p. 66.
  10. Life of Lysander 12.1
  11. Natural History 2.149
  12. Couprie, Dirk (2004). "How Thales Was Able to "Predict" a Solar Eclipse Without the Help of Alleged Mesopotamian Wisdom". Early Science and Medicine. 9 (4): 321–337. doi:10.1163/1573382043004631. ISSN   1383-7427.
  13. "NASA - Total Solar Eclipse of -462 April 30".
  14. Anaxagoras biography
  15. Burnet, John (2003). Early Greek Philosophy 1892. Kessinger. ISBN   978-0-7661-2826-2.
  16. Plutarch, Pericles
  17. Smith, Homer W. (1952). Man and His Gods . New York: Grosset & Dunlap. p.  145.
  18. Taylor, A.E. (1917). "On the date of the trial of Anaxagoras". Classical Quarterly. 11 (2): 81–87. doi:10.1017/s0009838800013094.
  19. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, § 2.15
  20. 1 2 3 PD-icon.svg  Schmitz, Leonhard (1870). "Anaxagoras". In Smith, William (ed.). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology . 1.
  21. Diels, Hermann, ed. (1912). Die fragmente der Vorsokratiker griechisch und deutsch. Berlin, Weidmannsche buchhandlung. B12
  22. Plato, Phaedo, 85b
  23. Vidal, Gore, Creation: restored edition, chapter 2, Vintage Books (2002)

Sources

Further reading

Editions of the fragments

  • Curd, Patricia (ed.), Anaxagoras of Clazomenae. Fragments and Testimonia: A Text and Translation with Notes and Essays, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.
  • Sider, David (ed.), The Fragments of Anaxagoras, with introduction, text, and commentary, Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2005.
  • 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

Studies

  • 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
  • Davison, J. A. (1953). "Protagoras, Democtitus, and Anaxagoras". Classical Quarterly. 3 (n.s) (1–2): 33–45. doi:10.1017/s0009838800002585.
  • Filonik, Jakub. (2013). "Athenian impiety trials: a reappraisal". Dike: rivista di storia del diritto greco ed ellenistico 16. doi:10.13130/1128-8221/4290
  • 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
  • Guthrie, W. K. C. (1962). A History of Greek Philosophy. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Luchte, James (2011). Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN   978-0567353313.
  • Mansfield, J. (1980). "The Chronology of Anaxagoras' Athenian Period and the Date of His Trial". Mnemosyne . 33 (1–2): 17–95. doi:10.1163/156852580X00271.
  • Sandywell, Barry (1996). Presocratic Reflexivity: The Construction of Philosophical Discourse, c. 600–450 BC. 3. London: Routledge.
  • Schofield, Malcolm (1980). An Essay on Anaxagoras . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Taylor, A.E. (1917). "On the Date of the Trial of Anaxagoras". Classical Quarterly. 11 (2): 81–87. doi:10.1017/S0009838800013094. Zenodo:  1428584.
  • Taylor, C. C. W. (ed.) (1997). Routledge History of Philosophy: From the Beginning to Plato, Vol. I, pp. 192–225, ISBN   0-415-06272-1
  • Teodorsson, Sven-Tage (1982). Anaxagoras' Theory of Matter. Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, Göteborg, Sweden, ISBN   91-7346-111-3
  • Torrijos-Castrillejo, David (2014) Anaxágoras y su recepción en Aristóteles . Romae: EDUSC, ISBN   978-88-8333-325-5 (in Spanish)
  • Wright, M.R. (1995). Cosmology in Antiquity. London: Routledge.
  • 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