A reading from this week that especially interested me was “Anaxagoras of Clazomenae” found in A Presocratics Reader. While a good bulk of the passage explains Anaxagoras’ background and his life as a philosopher and as an associate of politics, I found it particularly interesting how nonconformist his views and beliefs truly were. Anaxagoras had theories unlike any other philosophers of the time, and for this reason, was exiled for his controversial beliefs. He claimed that “the heavenly bodies are stones and that none is a god”, and repeatedly mentions the cosmos, which in their original state, he believes “All things were together”, as well as the fact that “Mind” (which he refers to as “Nous”) is the only thing that is homogenous and pure, and has control over all things.
This idea of “Nous” confused me, for even after reading the passage, I could not come to a conclusion on what Nous actually is. It was clear to me that Nous is the only thing in existence that is homogenous. However, for me it was unclear if Nous is a state of mind or being or a spiritual figure. Nous is explained as being omniscient and omnipotent as if Nous were a god (or gods) of some sort, however, Anaxagoras does not support the theory that a god and/or gods have control of the cosmos. Additionally, Anaxagoras claims Nous is the only homogenous thing, but he also says flesh, bones, marrow, etc. are also homogenous and that elements like air and fire are mixtures of these elements. This claim also seemed contradictory to me, unless of course, for Anaxagoras, flesh and bones are actually one with Nous.
I, personally, felt I could not truly relate to this text, because, being brought up as a Christian who believes God set the world in motion, it was hard to imagine a being or state other then God (or even pagan gods) having control over the cosmos/universe. In addition, it was difficult for me to fully comprehend Anaxagoras’ theory that flesh and bone are homogenous elements while fire, water, and air, the things most people from that time period would assume are the only pure things in the world, are not. While Anaxagoras was correct in assuming that the natural elements such as water, air, etc. are composed of several elements (unknown chemical elements at the time), I was unsure of his thought process on why flesh and bones would be categorized differently.