Anaxagoras

Anaxagoras (ăn´əksăg´ərəs), c.500–428 BC, Greek philosopher of Clazomenae. He is credited with having transferred the seat of philosophy to Athens. He was closely associated with many famous Athenians and is thought to have been the teacher of Socrates. His belief that the sun was a white-hot stone and that the moon was made of earth that reflected the sun's rays resulted in a charge of atheism and blasphemy, forcing him to flee to Lampsacus, where he died. Rejecting Empedocles' four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), Anaxagoras posits an infinity of particles, or "seeds," each unique in its qualities. All natural objects are composed of particles having all sorts of qualities; a preponderance of similar though not identical particles creates the difference between wood and stone. Anaxagoras' universe, before separation, was an infinite, undifferentiated mass. The formation of the world was due to a rotary motion produced in this mass by an all-pervading mind (nous). This led to the separating out of the "seeds" and the formation of things. Although Anaxagoras was the first to give mind a place in the universe, he was criticized by both Plato and Aristotle for only conceiving of it as a mechanical cause rather than the originator of order.

See D. E. Gershenson and D. A. Greenberg, Anaxagoras and the Birth of Physics (1964); M. Schofield, An Essay on Anaxagoras (1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Philosophy of Anaxagoras: An Attempt at Reconstruction
Felix M. Cleve.
King's Crown Press, 1949
FREE! The Classical Psychologists: Selections Illustrating Psychology from Anaxagoras to Wundt
Benjamin Rand.
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912
The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists
Robin Waterfield.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Anaxagoras of Clazomenae" begins on p. 116
Lectures on the History of Philosophy: Greek Philosophy to Plato
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; E. S. Haldane.
University of Nebraska Press, vol.1, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Philosophy of Anaxagoras" begins on p. 319
Greek Philosophy before Plato
Robert Scoon.
Princeton University Press, 1928
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "Anaxagoras"
The Worlds of the Early Greek Philosophers
J. B. Wilbur; H. J. Allen.
Prometheus Books, 1979
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Anaxagoras"
The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers
Werner Jaeger.
Clarendon Press, 1947
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IX "The Teleological Thinkers: Anaxagoras and Diogenes"
FREE! The Religious Teachers of Greece: Being Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Aberdeen
James Adam; Adela Marion Adam.
T & T Clark, 1909
Librarian’s tip: "From Parmenides To Anaxagoras" begins on p. 241
A Commentary on Plutarch's Pericles
Philip A. Stadter.
University of North Carolina Press, 1989
FREE! Greek Philosophy: Part I Thales to Plato
John Burnet.
MacMillan, 1914
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "The Pluralists - Anaxagoras"
FREE! Source Book in Ancient Philosophy
Charles M. Bakewell.
C. Scribner's Sons, 1907
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Anaxagoras"
The Presocratic Philosophers
Jonathan Barnes.
Routledge, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XVI "Anaxagoras and the Nature of Stuffs"
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