Three Philosophers and Their Ideas
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Three Philosophers and Their Ideas
The advancement of philosophical thought has been noted as one of the key influences directing the course of a culture. Countless people have contributed to this study of the meaning behind life itself; many possessing ideas in common with those of their peers, mentors, and fellow philosophers who have come before them. Granted, Anaxagoras, John Locke, and Edmund Husserl varied distinctly in their overall philosophies. However, all three men, though living in completely different time periods, posses one specific bond among their many, diverse ideas. Each of them embraced the notion of the mind influencing certain aspects of reality.
Anaxagoras was one of the early Greek philosophers who lived around 400 BC. He was strongly influenced by the Milesian school where he was educated, and especially by Anaximenes; he is said by some to have been Anaximenes’ pupil, but it seems more likely that he received his instruction at second-hand from Miletus refugees (Freemen 261). He believed the Nous (the mind) provided matter with order and is responsible for what is, and what shall be. He stated in his book On Natural Science, “. . . it [the mind]. . . has the greatest power. All things which have life, both the greater and the less, are ruled by the Mind. . . And whatever they [things] were going to be, and whatever things were then in existence that are not now, and all things that now exist and whatever shall exist-- all were arranged by Mind” (Kaufmann 57).
Anaxagoras also is credited for being the first Greek philosopher to understand the Principle of Infinite Divisibility. He stated that things are indeed infinite in quantity and at the same time infinitely small. However, they can go on becoming smaller to infinity without becoming mere point without magnitude (Guthrie 289). This was an original idea, and changed the way Greeks looked at the world from being categorized into groups of large things and small things, to everything possessing an equal number of portions in the large and the small.
This new notion of infinity relates to Anaxagorus’ theory of everything containing a portion of everything else, also known as his opposites theory. He stated one cannot know cold without knowing hot, or dark without knowing light. However, there is no such thing as complete darkness or complete coldness. His general line of though was that nothing comes out of nothing, yet everything appears to be generated out of everything else; therefore everything must contain everything else. “How”, he asks, “could hair come from what is not hair , or flesh from what is not flesh?” (Guthrie 287).
Anaxagoras’ opposites theory coincided with his explanation of the origin of the cosmos. It later became known as his theory of the Process of Separation. Anaxagorus believed that in the beginning there was aer and aither. Aer contained what is predominantly dense: the cold, the wet, and the dark, and aither what is predominantly rare or diffused: hot, dry, and bright. All these and other contraries were together and in a condition in which none of them were distinct. The Mind introduced motion to the opposites and they began to collect and separate into what was dense and what was rare. However, no one thing was ever completely divided or isolated from its opposite. The only thing left pure was the Mind. He continued to say that the cosmos rotates in a cylindrical fashion and is continually growing by drawing in more of the infinite surrounding it. This idea parallels that of the Pythagoreans who said the cosmos grew from a seed by drawing in the infinite in its various forms of breath, time and void. It is also similar to the ideas of Anaximander who stated the growth of the universe was cylindrical and that a separation between substances had occurred.
Lastly, Anaxagorus believed that one shouldn’t based knowledge solely on the senses, because to him they were inadequate. He elaborated on this idea by using color as an example. If one was to take two colors, black and white, and pour one into the other drop by drop, one’s sight will not be able to pick up the gradual alterations although they already existed in reality. The key to finding truth was
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Presocratic philosophy, Ancient Greek philosophers, Milesian school, Ancient Greek philosophy, Nous, Anaxagoras, Anaximenes, Philosophy, Matter, Edmund Husserl, Milesians, Miletus
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