Like Empedocles, Anaxagoras denied that there could be any coming into being or
passing away (
The Greeks are wrong to accept coming to be and perishing, for no
thing comes to be, nor does it perish, but they are mixed together
from things that are and they are separated apart. And so they would
be correct to call coming to be being mixed together, and perishing
being separated apart.
And, like Empedocles, he thinks that there is genuine qualitative difference among
things. But, unlike Empedocles, he does not limit himself to 4 elements. In their place,
he helps himself to an
of different stuffs.
For Anaxagoras, not only Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, but also blood, gold, hair, bone,
etc., are all
, not reducible to more primitive parts.
Why does he hold this? Cf. Robinson (p. 176):
According to Empedocles, bone is made up of earth, air, fire, and water, blended in a certain
proportion. It should be possible, therefore, to break it down again into these elements. The
difficulty is that when this is done the bone ceases to be bone any longer; and if Parmenides
is right, this is impossible. If bone
, it cannot cease to be.
Moreover, Anaxagoras seems to have reasoned that if bone is made up of those
elements in that proportion, you should be able to
bone out of something
else, that is
bone. But Anaxagoras tried to be a good Parmenidean. As he writes
For how could hair come from not hair or flesh from not flesh?
How does Anaxagoras propose to get out of this difficulty? Robinson again:
Anaxagoras sought to evade this difficulty by insisting that bone is
made up of parts having the same nature as the whole. No matter how far it is broken down,
what remains is bone.