Anaxagoras: Atheist Philosopher
Anaxagoras was one of ancient Greece’s first atheistic philosophers whose claims about reality and the way it worked were very convincing, while also lacking adequate explanation to give them sufficient clout. When compared to traditional Greek religion, Anaxagoras’ position on the phenomena of human life was less anthropomorphic and considerably revolutionary. Additionally, Anaxagoras’ view on reality, specifically concerning nous, was a glimpse into the future of physics despite being grounded in a type of universal anthropogenesis. Anaxagoras was one of the first Greek philosophers to attempt to explain the world’s workings separate from influence of the gods. Some examples of what Anaxagoras theorized was: the moon did not produce its own light but instead was visible due to reflections of light from the sun, as opposed to the Greek goddess of the moon, Selene; and that rainbows were also reflections of sunlight, however on clouds, whereas traditional Greek mythology held that Iris was the goddess of the rainbow. From the perspective of the ancient Greeks, this was sacrilegious, impious, and atheistic.
However, previous Greek philosophers also made similar observations about humanity and their place in the universe such that Anaxagoras’ views were a logical step from preceding philosophers. Before Anaxagoras, there were several philosophers that got away from the anthropomorphic explanations of reality that the poets offered. Thales explained that there was a first principle of nature, that it was material (not supernatural), and that it was water. Anaximander declared that reality was not water, but apeiron, or “the limitless.” All things, the earth and the heavens, came from the apeiron so that it could be said to precede even the gods. To an ancient Grecian’s mind, preceding the gods could be construed as heretical and impious. A contemporary of both Thales and Anaximander, Anaximenes said that everything was...
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