Article

Anaxagoras

Patricia Curd

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online May 2014 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0141
Anaxagoras

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The Presocratic philosopher Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (in Ionia, now western Turkey) was active in the mid-5th century bce. He was probably the first of the early Greek philosophers to live in Athens, where he was said to be a friend of Pericles (we do not know if he knew Socrates, who was born in Athens in about 469). Anaxagoras is renowned both for his scientific and his more philosophical views. He claimed that the heavenly bodies were stones, not divinities, and was said to have predicted the fall of a meteorite. He argued that everything is in everything and that there is no largest or smallest share of anything. All the things that humans perceive are mixtures of all ingredients, and are ontologically dependent on the ultimate reality of those ingredients. In addition, he claimed that the rotation that caused and explains the development of the cosmos is itself caused by Mind or Intelligence (Nous). Nous is the only unmixed thing in Anaxagoras’ theory, and it is unlike and unaffected by any other thing. Anaxagoras also seems committed to the possibility of there being “other worlds,” which, although they develop independently, are like our own. As with some other early Greek philosophers, Anaxagoras’ views seem to have been known to Herodotus, and are reflected in some of the works of Euripides and in Aristophanes’ Clouds. Some have seen him as influential on Diogenes of Apollonia and on the author of the Derveni Papyrus (a late-5th- or 4th-century naturalistic and allegorizing interpretation of Orphic claims). His philosophical theories posed problems for and are discussed by both Plato (who seems to have been impressed by Anaxagoras’ theory of mixture and predominance) and Aristotle (who explores the implications of Anaxagoras’ account of Mind). Note: Anaxagoras’ views constitute a tightly connected system; whereas later thinkers would separate various parts of their accounts into what had become standard divisions in philosophy and science, the Presocratics combined the various parts in order to provide a unified explanation of everything. Most of the works listed in this bibliography will have something to say about more than one aspect of Anaxagoras’ thought, and also include comprehensive bibliographies.

Article.  10392 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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