Anaxagoras (Greek Ἀναξαγόρας Anaxagoras; * 499 BC; † 428 BC ) was a pre-Socratic philosophers from Klazomenai in Asia Minor. Being handed down only in fragments and mainly from Aristotle philosophical thinking is interpreted as a combination of the approaches of Heraclitus and the Eleatic. With Anaxagoras reached the ionic Enlightenment to Athens, for there he spent the most important years of his life and was the leading statesman Pericles as a philosophical teacher and consultant close. Even the tragic poet Euripides could be to introduce him into the philosophical thinking and research. As a mathematician, he was mainly concerned with the quadrature of the circle.


Anaxagoras was about the year 462 BC to Athens, where he made known his teachings and witnessed the political breakthrough for the developed Athenian democracy. According to Plutarch, he was the one who Pericles " that force those firm and steadfast courage to lead the people taught, and even raised his character to a special dignity and perfection ". Pericles, who admired Anaxagoras extraordinarily said to have been " taught the knowledge of earthly and heavenly things " from him. Through the teaching of Anaxagoras came Pericles " to a high way of thinking and a raised lectures, the feigned of all, to popular favor targeting claptrap was quite pure."

At about 430 BC accused of impiety, Anaxagoras was rescued by the influence of Pericles from the death penalty, but was exiled permanently. He spent his last two or three years of life in Lampsacus in exile. His work " On Nature " was sold for a drachma in Athens under the hand and also impressed Socrates.

Theory and criticism

Carl -Friedrich Geyer sees Anaxagoras in the tradition of the Ionian natural philosophers in search of the first reasons in the world and according to the ordering principle for the initially amorphous mass in the world. Anaxagoras start from a Urmischung in which an infinite number of small components of various types are included, the Homoiomerien. In contrast, Rapp casts doubt that Anaxagoras had ever used this term, and writes its origin rather the Anaxagoras - interpretation of Aristotle. After Rapp four principles form the core of Anaxagoras ' philosophical thought. They say that in the beginning it was all mixed together, that there is a portion of everything is in everything, that there is no smallest part of anything and that nothing arises from something that is not.

In addition to the mixed material Anaxagoras presented as a kind of second principle an impersonal world spirit ( nous ), which had set and separated into motion, which together rested before. In the relevant fragment B 12 states:

" The mind is the only mixed with any other thing, so only he exists for himself He is infinite and exists independently. He is the finest and purest of all things has knowledge of everything and has the greatest power. The mind is not only the cause of the cosmic circular motion, he has also planned and arranged everything. [ ... ] "

The sun did not consider Anaxagoras as many of his contemporaries as a deity, but as a red-hot stone, which was larger than the Peloponnese. As the first philosopher, he represented the realization that the moon does not light on its own, but only indirectly by being illuminated by the sun.

According to Aristotle (384-322 BC) Anaxagoras is said to have taken the view that human beings are the most intelligent because they have hands. So the hands are the reason that the man had been the smartest creatures. This materialistic explanation contradicted Aristotle, by opposing presented her his teleological explanation. According to this explanation, the people would have hands because they are the smartest creatures. The teleological explanation presupposes that the universe and nature are set up appropriate and meaningful. Thus, for Aristotle, " hands a tool, and nature exhibits, as well as a clever man any thing always belong to the person who can use it. " (Source: Aristotle, Parts of Animals IV 10, 687a 8-10). Anaxagoras ' explanation is coming, and what distinguishes them without this hard to be proven premise. In modern science is therefore the teleological been displaced again by the materialist explanation manner - instead of a final cause (purpose or final cause ) is asking for a efficient cause ( efficient cause ); although one could interpret the functionalism again as a further development of the final cause.

The investigation of natural phenomena on an experimental basis employed Anaxagoras. A water clock, called the clepsydra, served him to the supposed proof of non- existence of empty space. In Plato's dialogue Phaedo Socrates says ( 469-399 ), he had in his youth very interested in the natural sciences ( 96A ff) and was happy to have found in Anaxagoras a good teacher ( 97D ). He was then but again strayed from the philosophy of nature, as Anaxagoras had the crucial question can not be answered, what was the reason to which we owe our insights into the nature of nature. It is but a sham statement to say that someone from one place to another is issued because he had two legs. The statement must relate to the thoughts that cause someone to this change of location much more. This is the starting point of the Socratic revolution against the natural philosophers. This asked about the nature of nature, but Socrates asked about the nature of our thinking.


  • The Visible World opens the show into the invisible.
  • And everything mingled and secreted from each other and different, all recognized the spirit. And how things should be and how they were and how they are all arranged on the mind.

Text editions and translations

  • Hermann Diels, Walther Kranz: The fragments of the Presocratics. 6th edition, 1951, No. 59 digitized; Greek- German
  • Wilhelm Capelle: The Presocratics. The fragments and source reports. 9th Edition, Alfred Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-11909-4 ( source texts in German translation )
  • Patricia Curd (eds.): Anaxagoras of Clazomenae. Fragments and testimonia. A Text and Translation with Notes and Essays ( = The Phoenix Presocratics, 6 Phoenix Supplementary Volumes, 44). University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-0-8020-9325-7
  • Laura Gemelli Marciano (eds. ): The pre-Socratic philosophers. Volume 3, Artemis & Winkler, Mannheim, 2010, ISBN 978-3-538-03502-7, pp. 6-179 ( Greek source texts with German translation, notes and introduction to the life and work )