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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

And Heraclitic in the claim of a real not being


RELATIVE POSITION OF THE ATOMISTIC PHILOSOPHY.--Hegel characterizes the relative position of the Atomistic Philosophy as follows, viz.:--"In the Eleatic Philosophy being and not-being stand as antitheses,--being alone is, and not-being is not; in the Heraclitic idea, being and not-being are the same,--both together, _i. e._ the becoming, are the predicate of concrete being; but being and not-being, as objectively determined, or in other words, as appearing to the sensuous intuition, are precisely the same as the antithesis of the fulness and the void. Parmenides, Heraclitus and the Atomists all sought for the abstract universal; Parmenides found it in _being_, Heraclitus in the _process_ of being _per se_, and the Atomists in the _determination_ of being _per se_." So much of this as ascribes to the Atomists the characteristic predicate of being _per se_ is doubtless correct,--but the real thought of the Atomistic system is rather analogous with the Empedoclean, to explain the possibility of the becoming, by presupposing these substances as possessing being _per se_, but without quality. To this end the not-being or the void, _i. e._ the side which is opposed to the Eleatic principle, is elaborated with no less care than the side which harmonizes with it, _i. e._ that the atoms are without quality and never change in their original elements. The Atomistic Philosophy is therefore a mediation between the Eleatic and the Heraclitic principles. It is Eleatic in affirming the undivided
being _per se_ of the atoms;--Heraclitic, in declaring their multeity and manifoldness. It is Eleatic in the declaration of an absolute fulness in the atoms, and Heraclitic in the claim of a real not-being, _i. e._ the void space. It is Eleatic in its denial of the becoming, _i. e._ of the arising and departing,--and Heraclitic in its affirmation that to the atoms belong movement and a capacity for unlimited combinations. The Atomists carried out their leading thought more logically than Empedocles, and we might even say that their system is the perfection of a purely mechanical explanation of nature, since all subsequent Atomists, even to our own day, have only repeated their fundamental conceptions. But the great defect which cleaves to every Atomistic system, Aristotle has justly recognized, when he shows that it is a contradiction, on the one hand, to set up something corporeal or space-filling as indivisible, and on the other, to derive the extended from that which has no extension, and that the consciousless and inconceivable necessity of Democritus is especially defective, in that it totally banishes from nature all conception of design. This is the point to which Anaxagoras turns his attention, and introduces his principle of an intelligence working with design.



1. HIS PERSONAL HISTORY.--Anaxagoras is said to have been born at Clazamena, about the year 500 B. C.; to have gone to Athens immediately, or soon after the Persian war, to have lived and taught there for a long time, and, finally, accused of irreverence to the gods, to have fled, and died at Lampsacus, at the age of 72. He it was who first planted philosophy at Athens, which from this time on became the centre of intellectual life in Greece. Through his personal relations to Pericles, Euripides, and other important men,--among whom Themistocles and Thucydides should be named--he exerted a decisive influence upon the culture of the age. It was on account of this that the charge of defaming the gods was brought against him, doubtless by the political opponents of Pericles. Anaxagoras wrote a work "_Concerning Nature_" which in the time of Socrates was widely circulated.

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