Anaxagoras

Anaxagoras

Overview
Anaxagoras was a Pre-Socratic
Pre-Socratic philosophy
Pre-Socratic philosophy is Greek philosophy before Socrates . In Classical antiquity, the Presocratic philosophers were called physiologoi...

 Greek philosopher
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

. Born in Clazomenae
Clazomenae
Klazomenai was an ancient Greek city of Ionia and a member of the Ionian Dodecapolis , it was one of the first cities to issue silver coinage.-Location:Klazomenai is located in modern Urla on the western coast of...

 in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

, Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to bring philosophy from Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

 to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipse
Eclipse
An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer...

s, meteor
METEOR
METEOR is a metric for the evaluation of machine translation output. The metric is based on the harmonic mean of unigram precision and recall, with recall weighted higher than precision...

s, rainbow
Rainbow
A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

s, and the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, which he described as a fiery mass larger than the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

. According to Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 he fled to Lampsacus
Lampsacus
Lampsacus was an ancient Greek city strategically located on the eastern side of the Hellespont in the northern Troad. An inhabitant of Lampsacus was called a Lampsacene. The name has been transmitted in the nearby modern town of Lapseki.-Ancient history:...

 due to a backlash against his pupil Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

.

Anaxagoras is famous for introducing the cosmological concept of Nous
Nous
Nous , also called intellect or intelligence, is a philosophical term for the faculty of the human mind which is described in classical philosophy as necessary for understanding what is true or real, very close in meaning to intuition...

 (mind), as an ordering force.
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Encyclopedia
Anaxagoras was a Pre-Socratic
Pre-Socratic philosophy
Pre-Socratic philosophy is Greek philosophy before Socrates . In Classical antiquity, the Presocratic philosophers were called physiologoi...

 Greek philosopher
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

. Born in Clazomenae
Clazomenae
Klazomenai was an ancient Greek city of Ionia and a member of the Ionian Dodecapolis , it was one of the first cities to issue silver coinage.-Location:Klazomenai is located in modern Urla on the western coast of...

 in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

, Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to bring philosophy from Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

 to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipse
Eclipse
An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer...

s, meteor
METEOR
METEOR is a metric for the evaluation of machine translation output. The metric is based on the harmonic mean of unigram precision and recall, with recall weighted higher than precision...

s, rainbow
Rainbow
A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

s, and the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, which he described as a fiery mass larger than the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

. According to Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 he fled to Lampsacus
Lampsacus
Lampsacus was an ancient Greek city strategically located on the eastern side of the Hellespont in the northern Troad. An inhabitant of Lampsacus was called a Lampsacene. The name has been transmitted in the nearby modern town of Lapseki.-Ancient history:...

 due to a backlash against his pupil Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

.

Anaxagoras is famous for introducing the cosmological concept of Nous
Nous
Nous , also called intellect or intelligence, is a philosophical term for the faculty of the human mind which is described in classical philosophy as necessary for understanding what is true or real, very close in meaning to intuition...

 (mind), as an ordering force. He regarded material substance as an infinite multitude of imperishable primary elements
Classical element
Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts and principles of which anything consists or upon which the constitution and fundamental powers of anything are based. Most frequently, classical elements refer to ancient beliefs...

, referring all generation and disappearance to mixture and separation respectively.

Biography


Anaxagoras appears to have had some amount of property and prospects of political influence in his native town of Clazomenae
Clazomenae
Klazomenai was an ancient Greek city of Ionia and a member of the Ionian Dodecapolis , it was one of the first cities to issue silver coinage.-Location:Klazomenai is located in modern Urla on the western coast of...

 in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. However, he supposedly surrendered both of these out of a fear that they would hinder his search for knowledge. Valerius Maximus
Valerius Maximus
Valerius Maximus was a Latin writer and author of a collection of historical anecdotes. He worked during the reign of Tiberius .-Biography:...

 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." "This is a sentence - says the Roman - denoting the most perfect wisdom". Although a Greek, he may have been a soldier of the Persian
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 army when Clazomenae was suppressed during the Ionian Revolt
Ionian Revolt
The Ionian Revolt, and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus and Caria, were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 BC to 493 BC...

.

In early manhood (c. 464–461 BC) he went to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, which was rapidly becoming the centre of Greek culture. There he is said to have remained for thirty years. Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

 learned to love and admire him, and the poet Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 derived from him an enthusiasm for science and humanity.

Anaxagoras brought philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry from Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

 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 eclipse
Eclipse
An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer...

s, meteor
METEOR
METEOR is a metric for the evaluation of machine translation output. The metric is based on the harmonic mean of unigram precision and recall, with recall weighted higher than precision...

s, rainbow
Rainbow
A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

s, and the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, which he described as a mass of blazing metal, larger than the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

. 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 he believed that it was inhabited. The heavenly bodies, he asserted, were masses of stone torn from the earth and ignited by rapid rotation. He explained that though both sun and the stars were fiery stones, we do not feel the heat of the stars because of their enormous distance from earth. He thought that the earth is flat and floats supported by 'strong' air under it and disturbances in this air sometimes causes earthquakes. These speculations made him vulnerable in Athens to a charge of impiety
Religious persecution
Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations or lack thereof....

. Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 reports the story that he was prosecuted by Cleon for impiety, but Plutarch says that Pericles sent Anaxagoras to Lampsacus for his own safety after the Athenians began to blame him for the Peloponnesian war.

About 450 BC, according to Laertius, Pericles spoke in defense of Anaxagoras at his trial. Even so Anaxagoras was forced to retire from Athens to Lampsacus
Lampsacus
Lampsacus was an ancient Greek city strategically located on the eastern side of the Hellespont in the northern Troad. An inhabitant of Lampsacus was called a Lampsacene. The name has been transmitted in the nearby modern town of Lapseki.-Ancient history:...

 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
Simplicius of Cilicia
Simplicius of Cilicia, was a disciple of Ammonius Hermiae and Damascius, and was one of the last of the Neoplatonists. He was among the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into...

 in the sixth century AD.

Cosmological theory



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
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

), 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
Nous
Nous , also called intellect or intelligence, is a philosophical term for the faculty of the human mind which is described in classical philosophy as necessary for understanding what is true or real, very close in meaning to intuition...

), was no less illimitable than the chaotic mass, but, unlike the logos
Logos
' is an important term in philosophy, psychology, rhetoric and religion. Originally a word meaning "a ground", "a plea", "an opinion", "an expectation", "word," "speech," "account," "reason," it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus ' is an important term in...

of Heraclitus
Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

, 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.

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 Socrates (Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, Phaedo, 98 B) accuses Anaxagoras of failing to differentiate between nous and psyche, while Aristotle ("Metaphysics, Book I") objects that his nous is merely a deus ex machina
Deus ex machina
A deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.-Linguistic considerations:...

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
Atomic theory
In chemistry and physics, atomic theory is a theory of the nature of matter, which states that matter is composed of discrete units called atoms, as opposed to the obsolete notion that matter could be divided into any arbitrarily small quantity...

.

Literary references


Anaxagoras appears as a character in The Ionia Sanction, by Gary Corby
Gary Corby
Gary Corby is an Australian author of historical mysteries set in the world of Classical Greece.His novels feature historical men and women from the time as recurring characters, notably Socrates, Pericles, and the priestess Diotima of Mantinea...


See also

  • Anaxagoras (crater)
    Anaxagoras (crater)
    Anaxagoras is a young lunar impact crater that is located near the north pole of the Moon. It lies across the larger and more heavily worn crater Goldschmidt. To the south-southeast is Epigenes, and due south is the worn remains of Birmingham....

     on the Moon
  • Squaring the circle
    Squaring the circle
    Squaring the circle is a problem proposed by ancient geometers. It is the challenge of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle by using only a finite number of steps with compass and straightedge...

  • Socialism, Utopian and scientific

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.
    Daniel Greenberg (educator)
    Daniel A. Greenberg , one of the founders of the Sudbury Valley School, has published several books on the Sudbury model of school organization, and has been described by Sudbury Valley School trustee Peter Grey as the "principal philosopher" among its founders...

     (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.
    W. K. C. Guthrie
    William Keith Chambers Guthrie was a Scottish classical scholar, best known for his History of Greek Philosophy, published in six volumes between 1962 and his death.-Early life and education:...

     (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.
    Geoffrey Kirk
    Geoffrey Stephen Kirk DSC, FBA was a British classical scholar, known for his books on Ancient Greek literature and mythology.-Life:...

    ; Raven, J. E.
    John Raven
    John Earle Raven , who published as J. E. Raven, was an English classical scholar, notable for his work on presocratic philosophy, and amateur botanist.-Early life and education:...

     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.) (1997). 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