Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
128. "Everything in Everything" 130. Seeds

From Chapter VI., Anaxagoras of Klazomenai

129. The Portions
What are these "things" of which everything contains a portion? It once was usual to represent the theory of Anaxagoras as if he had said that wheat, for instance, contained small particles of flesh, blood, bones, and the like; but we have just seen that matter is infinitely divisible (fr. 3), and that there are as many "portions" in the smallest particle as in the greatest (fr. 6). That is fatal to the old view. However far we carry division, we can never reach anything "unmixed," so there can be no such thing as a particle of simple nature, however minute.,

This difficulty can only be solved in one way.42

In fr. 8 the examples given of things which are not "cut off from one another with a hatchet" are the hot and the cold; and elsewhere (frs. 4., 15), mention is made of the other traditional "opposites." Aristotle says that, if we suppose the first principles to be infinite, they may either be one in kind, as with Demokritos, or opposite.43 Simplicius, following Porphyry and Themistios, refers the latter view to Anaxagoras;44 and Aristotle himself implies that the opposites of Anaxagoras had as much right to be called first principles as the "homoeomeries."45

It is of those opposites, then, and not of the different forms of matter, that everything contains a portion. Every particle, however large or however small, contains every one of those opposite qualities. That which is hot is also to a certain extent cold. Even snow, Anaxagoras affirmed, was black;46 that is, even the white contains a certain portion of the opposite quality. It is enough to indicate the connexion of this with the views of Herakleitos (§ 8o).47

Burnet's Notes


42. See Tannery, Science hellène, pp. 283 sqq. I still think that Tannery's interpretation is substantially right, though his statement of it requires some modification. It is, no doubt, difficult for us to think of the hot and cold, dry and wet as "things" (χρήματα); but we must remember that, even when the notion of quality (ποιότης) had been defined, this way of thinking survived. Galen (De nat. fac. i. 2, 4) is still quite clear on the point that it is the qualities which are eternal. He says οἱ δέ τινες εἶναι μὲν ἐν αὐτῇ (τῇ ὑποκειμένῃ οὐσίᾳ) βούλονται τὰς ποιότητας, ἀμεταβλήτους δὲ καὶ ἀτρέπτους ἐξ αἰῶνος, καὶ τὰς φαινομένας ταύτας ἀλλοιώσεις τῇ διακρίσει τε καὶ συγκρίσει γίγνεσθαί φασιν ὡς Ἀναξαγόρας..

43. Arist. Phys. A, 2. 184 b 21, ἢ οὕτως ὥσπερ Δημόκριτος, τὸ γένος ἕν, σχήματι δὲ ἢ εἴδει διαφερούσας, ἢ καὶ ἐναντίας..

44. Phys. p. 44, :. He goes on to refer to θερμότητας . . . καὶ ψυχρότητας ξηρότητάς τε καὶ ὑγρότητάς μανότητάς τε καὶ πυκνότητας καὶ τὰς ἄλλας κατὰ ποιότητα ἐναντιότητας.. He observes, however, that Alexander rejected this interpretation and took διαφερούσας ἢ καὶ ἐναντίας closely together as both referring to Demokritos.

45. Phys. A, 4. 187 a 25, τὸν μὲν Ἀναξαγόραν ἄπειρα ποιεῖν τά τε ὁμοιομερῆ καὶ τἀναντία. Aristotle's own theory only differs from this in so far as he makes ὕλη prior to the ἐναντία.

46. Sext. Pyrrh. i. 33 (R. P. 161 b).

47. The connexion was already noted by the eclectic Herakleitean to whom I attribute Περὶ διαίτης, i. 3-4 (see above, Chap. III. p. 150, n. 2). Cf. the words ἔχει δὲ ἀπ' ἀλλήλων τὸ μὲν πῦρ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος τὸ ὑγρόν· ἔνι γὰρ ἐν πυρὶ ὑγρότης· τὸ δὲ ὕδωρ ἀπὸ τοῦ πυρὸς τὸ ξηρόν· ἔνι γὰρ καὶ ἐν ὕδατι ξηρόν.

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