Ancient Philosophers: The Pluralists, Anaxagoras

Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of Western Philosophy

 Ancient Philosophers: The Philosophy of the Early Greek Naturalists, by Jonathan Dolhenty

 V. The Pluralists: Anaxagoras

Anaxagoras, who was of Ionic origin, was born about 500 B.C. Invited by Pericles, he went to Athens, where he remained about thirty years. Accused of impiety, he was obliged to leave the city in 431 B.C., and went to Lampsacus, where he founded a school. He died in 428 B.C. Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to enter Athens. He wrote a work entitled Peri physeos, of which large fragments are extant.

Parmenides’ being is constituted, according to Anaxagoras, of an infinite number of particles, homogeneous but qualitatively different. Aristotle called this agglomerate “homoeomeries,” that is, homogeneous parts. They enter to make part of every becoming, and the prevalence of a given quality of particles over another is the reason for the qualitative difference of things. Such particles are endowed with an immanent intelligence, which Anaxagoras designated with the name “Nous.” The “Nous” gathers and distinguishes the “homoeomeries” of the original Chaos; for this reason the “Nous” is the cause of their distinctions and groupings.

No matter how often Anaxagoras had admitted that to give a reason for the distinctions and groupings of an infinite number of particles it was necessary to have recourse to intelligence, every time he explains becoming he fails to make use of the “Nous” and runs to the conduct of natural laws. Hence he is reproved by Plato and Aristotle for not having known how to use his discoveries in the determination of final causes.

The late Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at Self-Educated American. Self-Educated American has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work. “Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of the Western World” was designed and organized by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D. Copyright ©1992 -2011 The Radical Academy. Copyright renewed in © 2011 -2013 The Radical Academy (a project of Self-Educated American).

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