Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
135. Cosmology 137. Perception

From Chapter VI., Anaxagoras of Klazomenai

136. Biology
"There is a portion of everything in everything except Nous, and there are some things in which there is Nous also" (fr. 11). In these words Anaxagoras laid down the distinction between animate and inanimate things. He tells us that it is the same Nous that "has power over," that is, sets in motion, all things that have life, both the greater and the smaller (fr. 12). The Nous in living creatures is the same in all (fr. 12), and from this it followed that the different grades of intelligence we observe in the animal and vegetable worlds depend entirely on the structure of the body. The Nous was the same, but it had more opportunities in one body than another. Man was the wisest of animals, not because he had a better sort of Nous, but because he had hands.70 This is in accordance with the previous development of thought upon the subject. Parmenides, in his Second Part (fr. 16), had already made the thought of men depend on the constitution of their limbs.

As all Nous is the same, we are not surprised to find that plants were regarded as living creatures. If we may trust the pseudo-Aristotelian Treatise on Plants71 so far, Anaxagoras argued that they must feel pleasure and pain in connexion with their growth and with the fall of their leaves. Plutarch says72 that he called plants "animals fixed in the earth."

Both plants and animals originated in the first instance from the πανσπερμία Plants arose when the seeds of them which the air contained were brought down by the rain-water,73 and animals originated in a similar way.74 Like Anaximander, Anaxagoras held that animals first arose in the moist element.75

Burnet's Notes


70. Arist. De part. an. Δ. 10. 687 a 7 (R. P. 160 b).

71. [Arist.] De Plant. A, 1. 815 a 15 (R. P. 160).

1. Diog. ii. 7 (R. P. 148). For the variation in the archon's name, see Jacoby, p. 244, n. 1, and for the chronology generally, see A. E. Taylor in Classical Quarterly, xi. 81 sqq., whose arguments appear to me convincing.

73. Theophr. Hist. Plant. iii. 1, 4 (R. P. 160).

74. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. ii. 14, 2 (R. P. 160 a).

75. Hipp. Ref. i. 8, 12 (Dox. p. 563).

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