Article ID: CBB888264495

Anaxagoras and the Seeds of a Physical Theory (2000)


The physical theory of Anaxagoras, perhaps more than that of any other Presocratic, is seen to be exceedingly mysterious. The reason is not just the standard one, namely, that we have preciously few fragments; it is the content of the theory itself that is found to be at best opaque, and often wanting. This has the unfortunate consequence, among others, of throwing into question the development of post-Eleatic philosophy, since it is unclear just how (or even if) Anaxagoras is offering a response to the Eleatics, and how (or if) he might be influenced by, or an influence upon, other post-Eleatic thinkers, particularly Empedocles. I will discuss two issues central to any reconstruction of Anaxagorean physics. First, the meaning of the claim that 'in everything there is a portion of everything' (E in E), and what, if any, physical model best captures this meaning: second, the claim what seeds (sperma) are for Anaxagoras, and how they fit into the E in E doctrine. More specifically, I will argue that an important bit of information concerning the E in E doctrine has been ignored (and should be considered to be a 'new' fragment), and that seeds are, for Anaxagoras, mini homunculi1 of every individual organism that ever will be. I will then place this theory within the context of post-Eleaticism, arguing that Anaxagoras may have the most effective response to an important Eleatic challenge of those later Presocratics commonly thought to be offering such responses.

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Authors & Contributors
Curd, Patricia
Kingsley, Peter
Morel, Pierre-Marie
Pradeau, Jean-Françoise
Acerbi, Fabio
Sherry, David M.
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Classical Quarterly
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Organon: International Review
Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki
Université Marc Bloch
Editions Peeters
University of California Press
University of Toronto Press
Oxford University Press
Pre-Socratic philosophers
Matter theory
Philosophy of science
Natural philosophy
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae
Empedocles of Agrigentum
Thales of Miletus
20th century
10th century
6th century, B.C.
5th century

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