Anaxagoras Essay, Research Paper
Greek philosophy was first born in Ionia, where the main place of study, which produced the first great thinkers, was Miletus. The school of Miletus spawned the three first philosophers of the time. Anaxagoras was a philosopher from approximately 500 to 428. He used ideas from past philosophers to come up with ideas that contradicted as well as complemented views of philosophers from the past. These early philosophers had one thing on their minds, Overarching Principle. There was understanding the world on one hand, and how to live life as the second overall idea of philosophy. These thoughts have come to be some of the most prominent ideas that philosophy has accepted to this day. Many things brought Anaxagoras to come up with the philosophies that he did. Other Pre-Socratic philosophers influenced him to come up with the philosophies that he did.
In early Greek philosophy there were two dominant ideas that were used as general themes, how to live life and understanding the world. In the beginning of philosophy, the philosophers were trying to come up with one overarching
principle. There were tree main philosophers that started this thinking process.
Thales believed that everything in the world came from water or was a form of water, which in the end would eventually turn back into water. He thought that this one element comprised everything that held the universe together. This is what the early philosophers came to think of, something that was the basis for all existence. Next was Anaximander, who was a disciple of Thales. He knew that Thales’ belief that water composed everything couldn’t be plausible because water is only one substance that is limited. He believed in the “apeiron”, or the boundless. By this he meant that all life comes from infinite atmosphere, which is a perpetual vitality that governs all things. This could connect all things through a more infinite aspect than water. Reflecting on what Anaximander had come up with, Anaxemines thought that there was more to say than just the boundless. Anaximenes was in turn a deciple of Anaximander, he expanded on both of their ideas. He came up with another concept of how the world works. He believed that air was the main principle in holding the world together. He believed that air held the soul together with the world that we live in. Also he thought that Air could be comprised into Fire and Earth through rarefaction, and water through condensation. After these philosophers, there became one problem: Being and change. Being and change is classified into three main categories. The first one is
that Being is everything and change cannot occur. The second idea is that change is everything, and that Being cannot exist. The third idea is a combination of the previous two. It states that Being and change co-exist and support one another to comprise the world into a living thing.
Now that there is a basis for thinking, people started to think about how the world changes and what can affect that. First came the doctrine of permanence. These people were called the Eleatics who believed that the world was permanent and didn’t change. There were five of them that had major ideas in changing thought of the time. First was Xenophanes who believed that one divisible God existed, which is a precursor for most of the religions that we have now. Next we have Permenides who believed that Thought and Being are one; whereas Melissus of Samos who thought that being was interpreted materialistically. As a student of Permenides, Zeno had the notion that motion is not real and that Being, which to him is immutable matter, is alone real. Last is Gorgias of Leontitum, a nihilist, is a pupil of Zeno’s and denies the idea of motion and space and negates Being. On the other end of the spectrum are the Heracliteans. The Heracliteans take the opposite stance, and believe that there is no such thing as permanence, and that everything changes. First was Heaclitus, who believed that the world is made up of contrarieties, opposites and strifes, and that everything is a transformation of
fire. The other Heraclitean is Pythagoras. Pythagoras thought that Number is the
essence of the world, and that form is the crucial factor in the creation and being of things. The next group of thinkers are the Atomists, which include Anaxagoras.
The Atomists take a central stance on the problem of being and change. They are a mixture of both of the ideas, that all change is change of place. Before Anaxagoras, was Empedocles, who believed that everything came from the roots of the world: Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. His rationale for the motion of things was relatively simple compared to that of Anaxagoras. He thought that everything had an attraction or repulsion as a cause of motion and change, that everything was love and strife. Anaxagoras is the next philosopher in the series of thinkers.
Anaxagoras has one of the most unique views of how the world is and has come to be Anaxagoras is said to have the first ideas of the role of the Mind in the formation of the world. His view on creation was that there was a primal vortex that separated everything in the beginning like hot from cold and sea from dry land. This view of a vortex carried over into the Mind and creates the notion of “separation through motion.” In his look at matter, there is basically “part if everything in everything.” He uses the term seed to describe the world. When a tree grows from a seed the parts of the tree; leaves, trunk and branches, are not really new, they are just a larger portion of what was in the seed. The next part of
Anaxagoras’ theory is that of homoeomerous thought. This means that everything is a part of everything, no matter how trivial the object or part. He believes that everything is a blend of things. There is an infinitely amount of division in small things, as well as an infinitely large number of things that can be compared to the small things.
Anaxagoras was the first thinker to offer more than just a generalization on the world. He came up with an explanation on how the world was created by motion and a more understandable perception of how the world is created and thought of. He will pave the way for other great philosophers that quite frequently make mention of his views and his ideas.