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A History of Science — Volume 1 by Williams

And unmixed particles are imbued with


he tells us that (at one stage of the world's development) "the dense, the moist, the cold, the dark, collected there where now is earth; the rare, the warm, the dry, the bright, departed towards the further part of the aether. The earth is condensed out of these things that are separated, for water is separated from the clouds, and earth from the water; and from the earth stones are condensed by the cold, and these are separated farther from the water." Here again the influence of heat and cold in determining physical qualities is kept pre-eminently in mind. The dense, the moist, the cold, the dark are contrasted with the rare, the warm, the dry, and bright; and the formation of stones is spoken of as a specific condensation due to the influence of cold. Here, then, we have nearly all the elements of the Daltonian theory of atoms on the one hand, and the nebular hypothesis of Laplace on the other. But this is not quite all. In addition to such diverse elementary particles as those of gold, water, and the rest, Anaxagoras conceived a species of particles differing from all the others, not merely as they differ from one another, but constituting a class by themselves; particles infinitely smaller than the others; particles that are described as infinite, self-powerful, mixed with nothing, but existing alone. That is to say (interpreting the theory in the only way that seems plausible), these most minute particles do not mix with the other primordial particles to form material substances
in the same way in which these mixed with one another. But, on the other hand, these "infinite, self-powerful, and unmixed" particles commingle everywhere and in every substance whatever with the mixed particles that go to make up the substances.

There is a distinction here, it will be observed, which at once suggests the modern distinction between physical processes and chemical processes, or, putting it otherwise, between molecular processes and atomic processes; but the reader must be guarded against supposing that Anaxagoras had any such thought as this in mind. His ultimate mixable particles can be compared only with the Daltonian atom, not with the molecule of the modern physicist, and his "infinite, self-powerful, and unmixable" particles are not comparable with anything but the ether of the modern physicist, with which hypothetical substance they have many points of resemblance. But the "infinite, self-powerful, and unmixed" particles constituting thus an ether-like plenum which permeates all material structures, have also, in the mind of Anaxagoras, a function which carries them perhaps a stage beyond the province of the modern ether. For these "infinite, self powerful, and unmixed" particles are imbued with, and, indeed, themselves constitute, what Anaxagoras terms nous, a word which the modern translator has usually paraphrased as "mind." Neither that word nor any other available one probably conveys

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