Anaxagoras' Parmenidean Cosmology: Worlds within Worlds within the One

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<ul><li><p>Anaxagoras' ParmenideanCosmology: Worlds within Worldswithin the OneJohn E. Sisko</p><p>The aim of this paper is to suggest a limited solution to a long-standingpuzzle regarding the history of Pre-Socratic philosophical cosmology.The puzzle concerns the development of post-Parmenidean pluralism.Specifically, it concerns the relationship between Parmenides' accountof existence and the physical theories advanced by Democritus, Empe-docles and Anaxagoras.</p><p>Parmenides argues that all that is is one, an ungenerable, imperish-able, and unchangeable whole (DK 28 B 8.3, 8.6 &amp; 8.38). Further, heasserts that all that is is continuous, lacking in nothing, and full of whatis (DK 28 B 8.6 &amp; 8.24). Debate over the precise nature of Parmenides'theory continues, but it is widely accepted that he advances a thesis of'real monism': numerical monism.1 According to Parmenides, there is,</p><p>This view is endorsed in Montgomery Furth, 'Elements of Eleatic Ontology', inA.P.D. Mourelatos, ed., The Presocratics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press1974), 241-70; G.E.L. Owen, 'Eleatic Questions' 1986 (/1960); rev. ed. reprinted inOwen, Logic, Science and Dialectic (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1986), 3-26;D.J. Furley, 'Melissus of Samos', in K. Boudouns, ed., Ionian Philosophy (Athens:International Association for Greek Philosophy 1989), 114-22; David Gallop, Par-memdes ofElea: Fragments (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1984), esp. 40 n 81;David Sedley, 'Parmenides and Melissus' in A.A. Long, ed., The Cambridge Compan-ion to Early Greek Philosophy (Cambndge: Cambridge University Press 1999), 113-33;Aryeh Finkleberg, 'Parmenides: Material and Logical Monism', Archiv fr Geschichteder Philosophie 70 (1988), 1-14; Theo Sinnige, Matter and Infinity m the PresocraticSchools and Plato (Assen: Van Gorcum 1971), esp. 45; John Malcolm, 'On Avoiding</p><p>APEIRON a journal for ancient philosophy and science0003-6390/2003/3602 87-114 $21.00 Academic Printing &amp; Publishing</p><p>Brought to you by | St Josephs UniversityAuthenticated |</p><p>Download Date | 9/3/13 2:35 PM</p></li><li><p>88 John E. Sisko</p><p>within physical reality, numerically one thing and what this one thing isit has always been and shall always be. It is an immobile, unalterable,and homogeneous whole. At first blush, this theory seems paradoxical;for, when we look to the world of appearance, we see that there is morethan just one thing, we see that objects are created and destroyed, andwe see that various items move and undergo qualitative change. How-ever, according to the widely accepted view, this seeming paradox failsto give Parmenides pause. For he is an arch-rationalist: he is willing tofollow what he understands to be the requirements of reason no matterwhere they might lead. Consequently, Parmenides considers the worldof appearance to be an illusion and he thinks that those who trust in sucha world amount to nothing more than a dazed, ignorant, horde of meremortals (DK 28 B 6.4-9).</p><p>Parmenides advances persuasive arguments in support of his theory.His initial argument centers on the unintelligibility of negation. Heargues that no thing can be nothing and no thing can be fruitfullydescribed as not-a-thing (DK 28 B 2). From his critique of negation,Parmenides advances the thesis of 'No Becoming'. He argues that thereis no thing which comes-to-be, for such a thing would have to come-to-beout of what is not (or out of what it is not) and 'not' is unintelligible (DK28 B 8.19-21). Further, he holds, that there is no thing which ceases-to-be,for, presumably, such a thing would have to perish into what is not (orinto what it is not) and, again, 'not' is unintelligible. In addition, Par-menides utilizes his own critique of negation in order to advance thethesis of 'real monism'. He argues that what exists is both one andcontinuous, for what is cannot be spatially contiguous with or hindered</p><p>the Void', Oxford Studies m Ancient Philosophy 9 (1991), 75-94; G.S. Kirk, J E. Raven&amp; M. Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers. (Second edition). (Cambridge. Cam-bridge University Press 1983), 250-4; R. McKirahan, Philosophy Before Socrates (Indi-anapolis: Hackett Publishing Company 1994), esp. 175. Some argue that Parmenidesdoes not advance a thesis of 'real monism'. See Jonathan Barnes, Tarmenides andthe Eleatic One', Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie 61 (1979a), 1-21; A.P.D. Moure-latos, The Route of Parmenides (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1971), esp130-3; Patricia Curd, Tarmenidean Monism', Phronesis, 35 (1991), 241-64, and P.Curd, The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought (Prince-ton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1998). I concur with the widely accepted viewBut, for the purpose of this paper, it need only be supposed that Anaxagorasunderstood Parmenides to be a numerical monist.</p><p>Brought to you by | St Josephs UniversityAuthenticated |</p><p>Download Date | 9/3/13 2:35 PM</p></li><li><p>Anaxagoras' Parmenidean Cosmology 89</p><p>by what is not (or by what it is not), since, once again, 'not' is unintelli-gible (DK 28 B 8.22-25 &amp; 8.46-48).</p><p>Several philosophers from the generation subsequent to Parmenides'own incorporate the thesis of 'No Becoming' into their own cosmologicaltheories. While these philosophers, unlike Parmenides, are pluralists,each thinks that the basic constituents of the cosmos are imbued withwhat has now come to be called 'Parmenidean Being'. That is, each holdsthat there are basic material stuffs which are eternal and unchanging intheir essential nature. For Democritus the basic constituents of the cos-mos are atoms and void (DK 68 A 37); for Empedocles these are the fourelements: earth, air, fire, and water (DK 31 B 17); and for Anaxagorasthese are many, indeed, quite many things. Among those mentioned inthe surviving fragments are the wet and the dry, the hot and the cold,the bright and the dark, colours, flavours, earth, flesh and seeds (DK 59B 4a.l-4,4b.3-6 and 10.1-2).2</p><p>These philosophers embrace the thesis of 'No Becoming', but they alsoassert plurality, and this brings us to the long-standing puzzle. For, whenwe look to the surviving fragments of the pluralists, we find, in each case,that something is conspicuously absent. What is absent is an argumentthat is meant to justify pluralism. The pluralists accept the thesis of 'NoBecoming', which Parmenides derives from his own critique of negation.Yet, they seem to simply posit their own pluralism, even though Par-menides rejects pluralism in light of his critique of negation. The plural-ists appear to beg the question against Parmenides. So, the relationshipbetween Parmenides and the pluralists presents historians of philosophywith an interesting puzzle: Why do the pluralists so readily reject mo-nism, while endorsing key features of the account which leads Par-menides to embrace monism?</p><p>There is a substantial body of literature on Anaxagoras' understanding of seeds. Ifollow Jonathan Barnes and Malcolm Schofield in supposing that the account ofseeds is nothing more than an elaboration on Anaxagoras' Principle of UniversalMixture (discussed below). On this interpretation the claim that a seed of X is in means that may grow from X (as any type of substance may emerge from anyother type of substance on Anaxagoras' account). See Jonathan Barnes, ThePresocrattc Philosophers, v.2 (London 1979b), 21 and Malcolm Schofield, An Essay onAnaxagoras (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1980), 130-1. For a recentcriticism of this view see Eric Lewis, 'Anaxagoras and the Seeds of a PhysicalTheory', Apeiron 33 (2000), 1-24.</p><p>Brought to you by | St Josephs UniversityAuthenticated |</p><p>Download Date | 9/3/13 2:35 PM</p></li><li><p>90 John E. Sisko</p><p>I wish to propose a limited solution to this puzzle. My solutionconcerns only the relationship between Anaxagoras' physical theory andParmenides' arguments. I suggest that Anaxagoras has little need toargue against Parmenides, because Anaxagoras' own cosmology beginsright where Parmenides' cosmology leaves off. Anaxagoras accepts thebasic tenets that Parmenides draws from the critique of negation, but hethen proceeds to show how a specific sort of plurality might be broughtto light within Parmenides' One.3 That is, Anaxagoras develops a plu-ralistic cosmology which is consistent with Parmenides' foundationalclaims about the One.</p><p>Now, even the more charitable reader shall not, at first, find this thesisto be especially plausible. Such a reader is likely to judge the thesis to beat most half right. For, it is well known that Anaxagoras ostensiblydivides the history of the cosmos into two periods, an initial staue periodand a subsequent dynamic period. And, while the initial period theperiod of the Primordial Chaos has features that are taken to suggesta possible kinship with Parmenides' One, the latter period the periodof the Whirl is, universally, held to be overtly and objectively dissimi-lar to the One.4 In this paper, I hope to correct certain broadly heldmisconceptions about Anaxagoras' cosmology. I shall argue thatAnaxagoras' cosmos, in each of its purported periods, conforms with thebasic definitional requirements for Parmenides' One: the PrimordialChaos is Parmenides' One under an alternate description, and the Whirl the dynamic period of the cosmos in which the world, as we know it,has come to be formed meets the fundamental requirements forParmenides' One. Anaxagoras provides a substantially Parmenidean</p><p>3 In this paper, I follow the practice of calling the numerical unity, which constitutesall that exists on Parmenides' account, 'the One'. However, it should be noted that,while Parmenides attributes unity to that which exists (see DK 28 B 8.6), he does notexplicitly call this unitary being 'the One'</p><p>4 Some scholars accept the view that Anaxagoras' Primordial Chaos is meant to beequivalent to Parmenides' One. See C.D.C. Reeve, 'Anaxagorean Panspermism',Ancient Philosophy 1 (1981), 89-108, esp. 102, n 56; and D. Graham, 'Empedocles andAnaxagoras: Responses to Parmenides', in A.A. Long, ed., 1999,159-80. Others rejectthis view. See, for example, Jonathan Barnes, 1979b, 38. Yet, even those scholars whoaccept that the Primordial Chaos meets the definitional requirements for the One,tend to argue that the cosmos of the dynamic period violates basic Parmenideanprinciples. See C.D C. Reeve, 1981,104 and D. Graham, 1999,173.</p><p>Brought to you by | St Josephs UniversityAuthenticated |</p><p>Download Date | 9/3/13 2:35 PM</p></li><li><p>Anaxagoras' Parmenidean Cosmology 91</p><p>account of the existence of our world within the heavens. Yet, he does agreat deal more. Anaxagoras not only argues for a world of pluralitywithin a Parmenidean framework, he argues for a plurality of worldswithin this selfsame framework. Anaxagoras maintains that our worldis one among many, possibly infinitely many, worlds nested within theheavens and, interestingly, the existence of such a plurality of worldsdoes nothing to violate the basic definitional requirements for Par-menides' One. So, all in all, I shall show that Anaxagoras' cosmology isuniquely Parmenidean: it is a cosmology of worlds within worlds withinthe One.5</p><p>Parmenides</p><p>Let us agree that, for Parmenides, there is numerically one thing inexistence: the One. This unity possesses a number of salient features andcertain of these features are basic insofar as they issue directly fromParmenides' reflections on negation. In order to avoid positing either athat-which-is-not simpliciter or a that-which-is-not-the-One, Parmenidesmaintains that the One cannot fail to be complete in respect to time orspace, or even quality. He argues that the One is (1) eternal, (2) spatiallyunbounded (as a material plenum), and (3) predicationally saturated (itpossesses all predicates, of a given sort, everywhere throughout itself).In addition, Parmenides maintains that the One is (4) immobile, (5)unalterable and (6) phenomenally homogeneous. These latter featuresof the One are non-basic insofar as they do not issue directly fromParmenides' reflections on negation. Since a firm grasp of the salientfeatures of the One is crucial to the project of discerning Anaxagoras'Parmenidean commitments, let us consider each feature in rum.</p><p>(1) The One is eternal. The One is without generation or destruction.Parmenides advances a pair of arguments against generation (but heleaves it to the reader to supply analogous arguments against destruc-tion). First, he appeals to the thesis of 'No Becoming', which is derived</p><p>I borrow the phrase 'worlds within worlds' from D. Graham, 'The Postulates ofAnaxagoras', Apeiron 27 (1994), 77-121, esp. 105. Graham compares the infiniteregress of ingredients in Anaxagorean substances to Leibniz' account of worldswithin worlds in the Monadology. Graham does not suggest that, for Anaxagoras,our world is one among a plurality of worlds within the cosmos.</p><p>Brought to you by | St Josephs UniversityAuthenticated |</p><p>Download Date | 9/3/13 2:35 PM</p></li><li><p>92 ]ohn E. Sisko</p><p>from his own critique of negation. He argues that no thing can come-to-be out of what is not (or out of what it is not), since 'not' is unintelligible(see DK 28 B 8.3-9). Second, he argues against the possibility of a firstevent. Parmenides asks, if what-is is to be generated, 'what could havemade it grow later rather than sooner?' (DK 28 B 8.9-10). His argumentrests on a particular application of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.Admitting the possibility of time distinctions, Parmenides suggests thatif there had been a first event (the generation of what-is) at some time f,then there must be a sufficient reason for this event having occurred atf and not at some earlier time f-n.6 Since there is no such reason, therecould not have been a first event at t, nor, for that matter, could there havebeen such an event at any other time. Thus, having shown that a firstevent is impossible (and having supposed that a last event is similarlyimpossible), Parmenides concludes that the One is complete insofar asit has neither a temporal beginning nor a temporal end.</p><p>(2) The One is an infinitely extended material plenum. Parmenides arguesthat the One is spatially complete. He states,</p><p>... [it] is completed,From every direction like the bulk of a well-rounded sphere,Equally balanced in every way from the center; for [it] must not</p><p>be any largerOr any smaller here or there;For there is not what-is-not, which could stop it from reaching[its] like ... (DK 28 B 8.42-7, Trans. Gallop with slight changes)</p><p>Here I take up a line of interpretation that was introduced in G.E.L. Owen, 1974(/1966), 'Plato and Parmenides on the Timeless Present', reprinted in A.P.D. Moure-latos, ed., 1974,279-82. Owen ultimately rejects this line and instead maintains thatParmenides attacks the very notion of temporal distinctions. According to Owen,Parmenides does not think that the One is eternal, rather he thinks that it exists ina 'timeless present'. One reason why Owen rejects the view that Parmenides admitstime-distinctions is that Anaxa...</p></li></ul>