Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

he devoted himself to the pursuits of science, and in the midst of the vicissitudes of fortune, preserved an equal mind. When one of his friends expressed regret on account of his banishment from Athens, he said, “ It is not I who have lost the Athenians, but the Athenians who have lost me.” Being asked, just before his death, whether he wished to be carried for interment to Clazomene, his native city, he said, “ It is unnecessary ; the way to the regions below is every where alike open.” In reply to a message sent him, at that time, by the senate of Lampsacus, requesting him to inform them in what manner they might most acceptably express their respect for his memory after his decease, he said, “ By ordaining that the day of my death may be annually kept as a holiday in all the schools of Lampsacus." His request was complied with, and the custom remained for many centuries. He died about the age of seventy-two years. The inhabitants of Lampsacus expressed their high opinion of his wisdom, by erecting a tomb, with an ivscription signifying that his mind explored the paths of truth; and two altars were raised in honour of his memory, one dedicated to TRUTH, the other to Mind, which latter appellation was given him on account of the doctrine which he taught concerning the origin and formation of nature.

The material world was conceived by Anaxagoras to have originated from a confused mass, consisting of different kinds of particles. Having learned in the Ionic school, that bodies are composed of minute parts, and having observed in different bodies different, and frequently contrary, forms and qualities, he concluded, that the primary particles, of which bodies consist, are of different kinds; and that the peculiar form and properties of each body depend upon the nature of that class of particles, of which it is chiefly composed. A bone, for instance, he conceived to be composed of a great number of bony particles, a piece of gold, of golden particles; and thus he · supposed bodies of every kind to be generated from similar particles, and to assume the character of those particles. Notwithstanding the difficulties and absurdities which obviously attend this system, the invention of it was a proof of the author's ingenuity, who doubtless had recourse to the notion of similar particles, in hopes of obviating the objections which lay against the doctrine of atoms, as he had received it from Anaximenes.

But the most important improvement which Anaxagoras made upon the doctrine of his predecessors, was that of separating, in his system, the active principle in nature from the material mass upon which it acts, and thus introducing a distinct intelligent cause of all things. The similar particles of matter, which he supposed to be the basis of nature, being without life or motion, he concluded that there must have been, from eternity, an intelligent principle, or infinite mind, existing separately from matter, which, having a power of motion within itself, first communicated motion to the material mass, and, by uniting homogeneal particles, produced the various forms of nature.

That Anaxagoras maintained an infinite mind to be the author of all motion and life, is attested by many ancient authorities. Plato expressly asserts, that Anaxagoras taught the existence of “a disposing mind, the cause of all things.” Aristotle gives it as his doctrine, that mind is the first principle of all things, pure, simple, and unmixed; that it possesses within itself the united powers of thought and motion ; and that it gives motion to the universe, and is the cause of whatever is fair and good. Plutarch confirms this account of the doctrine of Anaxagoras, and shews wherein it differed from that of his predecessors. “ The Ionic philosophers,” says he, “who appeared before Anaxagoras, made fortune, or blind necessity, that is, the fortuitous or necessary motion of the particles of matter, the first principle in nature; but Anaxagoras affirmed that a pure mind, perfectly free from all material concretions, governs the universe.” From these and other concurrent testimonies it clearly appears, that Anaxagoras was the first among the Greeks who conceived mind as detached from matter, and as 'acting upon it with intelligence and design in the formation of the universe. The infinite mind, or deity, which his predecessors had confounded with matter, making them one universe, Anaxagoras conceived to have a separate and independent existence, and to bé simple, pure intelligence, capable of forming the eternal mass of matter according to his pleasure. Thus he assigned an adequate cause for the existence of the visible world.': '.. .. ii

s Several doctrines are ascribed to Anaxagoras, which might seem to indicate no inconsiderable knowledge of nature: such as, that the wind is produced by the rarefac

Vol. IL

[ocr errors]

M

tion of the air; that the rainbow is the effect of the re. flection of the solar rays from a thick cloud, placed opposite to it like a mirror ; that the moon is an opaque body, enlightened by the sun, and an habitable region, divided into hills, vales, and waters; that the comets are wandering stars; and that the fixed stars are in a region exterior to those of the sun and moon. But the writers who report these particulars have mixed with them such strange absurdities, as weaken the credit of their whole relation. When we are told, that Anaxagoras thought the sun to be a flat circular mass of hot iron, somewhat bigger than the Peloponnesus; and the stars to have been formed from stones whirled from the earth by the violent circumvolution of its surrounding ether, we cannot but suspect that in the course of traditionary report, his opinions must have been ignorantly misconceived, or designedly misrepresented.' i ANAXANDRIDES, a Greek comic poet, born at Cawirus, in the isle of Rhodes, flourished in the 101st olympiad, B. C. 400, and was the first, if Suidas may be credited; who introduced love adventures on the stage, which Bayle thinks doubtful. . He was a man conceited of his person,' wore rich apparel, and affected pomp and gran. deur to such a degree, that being once engaged to read a poem at Athens, he went to the appointed place on horseback, and rehearsed part of his performance in that posture. Such a behaviour renders probable what is further said of him, viz. that he was extremely grieved when his pieces did not carry the prize. He never used, like other poets, to polish or correct them, that they might appear again in a better condition ;'and this disrespect for his spectators occasioned the loss of several fine comedies. Owing to the same circumstance, he won the prize but ten times, whereas we find above twenty of his plays quoted, and he wrote in all sixty-five. The Athenians condemned him to be starved for censuring their government. None of his productions are extant, but some of them are mentioned by Aristotle and other authors. ?.); it ',; • ANAXARCHUS, a philosopher of Abdera, in the 110th olympiad, B. C. 340, was the favourite of Alexander the Great, and used a liberty, in speaking to him, that was worthy of the philosophy of Diogenes. That prince being

1 Almost literally from the abridgment of Brucker. Diogenes Laertius.-.. Gen. Dict. Fenelon's Lives of the Philosophers. " . Gen. Dict.Moreri.--Saxii Onomasticon, in

... :

wounded, Anaxarchus put his finger to the wound, and looking him in the face, said, “ This is human blood; and not of that kind which animates the gods.” Once this prince asked him at table, what he thought of the feast? He answered, “ that there was but one thing wanting, the head of a great nobleman, which ought to have been served in a dish:” and in saying this, fixed his eyes on Nicocreon, tyrant of Cyprus. After the death of Alexander, this Nicocreon, in his turn, caused him to be put in a mortar, and beat with iron pestles. The philosopher told the tyrant to pound his body as much as he pleased, but he had no power over his soul. Nicocreon then threatened to have his tongue cut out. “ Thou shalt not do it, wretch !” said Anaxarchus; and immediately spit it in his face, after having bit it in two with his teeth. Anaxarchus was of the sect of the Sceptics. Such is the common account of this philosopher, but it is wholly inconsistent with his character, which was that of a man softened by effemi. nate pleasure, and a flatterer of kings. The same story is told of Zeno.'

ANAXIMANDER, an ancient philosopher, was the first who taught philosophy in a public school, and is therefore often spoken of as the founder of the Ionic sect. He was born in the third year of the 42d olympiad, or B. C. 610. Cicero calls him the friend and companion of Thales; whence it is probable, that he was a native of Miletus. That he was employed in instructing youth, may be inferred from an anecdote related concerning him; that, being laughed at for singing (that is, probably, reciting his verses) ill, he said, “We must endeavour to sing better, for the sake of the boys.” Anaximander was the first who laid aside the defective method of oral tradition, and · committed the principles of natural science to writing. It

is related of him, which, however, is totally improbable, that he predicted an earthquake. He lived sixty-four years.

The general doctrine of Anaximander, concerning nature and the origin of things, was, that infinity is the first principle of all things; that the universe, though variable in its parts, as one whole is immutable; and that all things are produced from infinity, and terminate in it. What this philosopher meant by infinity, has been a subject of a dis

1 Brucker.-Moreri. --Biog. Universelle.---Luzac's Lectioncs Atticæ, Leja den, 1809, 4to.

pute productive of many ingenious conjectures, which are, however, tvo feebly supported to merit particular notice. The most material question is, whether Anaximander understood by infinity the material subject, or the efficient cause, of nature. Plutarch asserts, the infinity of Anaximander to be nothing but matter. Aristotle explains it in the same manner, and several modern writers adopt the same idea. But neither Aristotle nor Plutarch could have any better ground for their opinion than conjecture. It is more probable, that Anaximander, who was a disciple of

Thales, would attempt to improve, than that he would entirely reject, the doctrine of his master. If, therefore, the explanation, given above, of the system of Thales be admitted, there will appear some ground for supposing, that Anaximander made use of the term infinity to denote the humid mass of Thales, whence all things arose, together with the divine principle by which he supposed it to be animated. This opinion is supported by the authority of Hermias, who asserts, that Anaximander supposed an eternal mover or first cause of motion, prior to the humid mass of Thales. And Aristotle himself speaks of the infinity of Anaximander as comprehending and directing all things. After all, nothing can be determined, with cera tainty, upon this subject.

There can be little doubt, that mathematics and astronomy were indebted to Anaximander. He framed a connected series of geometrical truths, and wrote a summary of his doctrine. He was the first who undertook to delineate the surface of the earth, and mark the divisions of land and water, upon an artificial globe. The invention of the sun-dial is ascribed to him ; but it is not likely that mankind had remained, till this time, unacquainted with so useful an instrument, especially considering how much attention had, in many countries, been paid to astronomy, and how early we read of the division of time into hours. Herodotus, with much greater probability, ascribes this invention to the Babylonians. Perhaps he made use of a gnomon in ascertaining, more correctly than Thales had done, the meridian line, and the points of the solstices. Pliny says, that he first observed the obliquity of the ecliptic; but this cannot be true, if Thales was acquainted with the method of predicting eclipses, which supposes the knowledge of this obliquity.

Other opinions ascribed to Anaximander are, that the

« ZurückWeiter »