Thursday, February 20, 2014

Socrates on Anaxagoras

In the section of the Phaedo dialogue we read for today, it appears that Socrates agrees with my opinions on Anaxagoras’ concept of Mind: he doesn’t like it. He says this about how he had hoped Anaxagoras would help him understand the way Mind acts on the world: “I never thought that Anaxagoras, who said that those things were directed by Mind, would bring in any other cause for them then that it was best for them to be as they are.” (98a). However, he discovers that Anaxagoras does not give an explanation of the Mind’s relation to the world. Instead, he “made no use of Mind, nor gave it responsibility for the management of things, but mentioned as causes air and ether and water and many other strange things.” (98c). This is about the same issue I have with Anaxagoras: his theory of everything explains the world nicely and is many years ahead of its time, but his vagueness when it comes to Mind’s role in it is a serious problem. The Mind is both something that began the revolution of the world, but also some kind of soul-like quality possessed by all living things in equal portions? That seems entirely implausible, and does not mix well with his other theories. Socrates takes issue further with the fact that Anaxagoras attributes the actions of people to physical things instead of the Mind. “He would mention other such causes for my talking to you: sounds and air and hearing, and a thousand other such things, but he would neglect to mention the true causes…” (98e).  I take issue with the vagueness of his Mind concept, while Socrates disagrees with his ideas concerning the root of human action.

1 comment:

  1. Good engagement with these ideas. Perhaps Socrates thinks there is a deeper explanation of human action that explains the final goal(s) humans have in doing what they do and that something like Anaxagoras' Mind helps with that?