Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Samuel Scheffler, Anaxagoras and Stuart Glennan

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31 ideas

6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 5. The Infinite / k. Infinitesimals
Things get smaller without end [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: Of the small there is no smallest, but always a smaller.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE], B03), quoted by Gregory Vlastos - The Physical Theory of Anaxagoras II
     A reaction: Anaxagoras seems to be speaking of the physical world (and probably writing prior to the emergence of atomism, which could have been a rebellion against he current idea).
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 1. Nature of Existence
Nothing is created or destroyed; there is only mixing and separation [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: No thing comes into being or passes away, but it is mixed together or separated from existing things. Thus it would be correct if coming into being was called 'mixing', and passing away 'separation-off''.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE], B17), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 163.20
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / f. Primary being
Anaxagoras's concept of supreme Mind has a simple First and a multiple One [Anaxagoras, by Plotinus]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras, in his assertion of a Mind pure and unmixed, affirms a simplex First and a sundered One, though writing long ago he failed in precision.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Plotinus - The Enneads 5.1.09
     A reaction: The crunch question is whether the supreme One or Mind is part of Being, or is above and beyond Being. Plotinus claims that Anaxagoras was on his side (with Plato, against Parmenides).
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 6. Fundamentals / a. Fundamental reality
Basic is the potentially perceptible, then comes the contrary qualities, and finally the 'elements' [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: We must recognise three 'originative sources': first that which is potentially perceptible body, secondly the contrarities (e.g hot and cold), and thirdly Fire, Water, and the like. Only thirdly, however, for these bodies change into one another.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]), quoted by Aristotle - The History of Animals 529a34
     A reaction: The 'potentially perceptible' seems to be matter. The surprise here is that the contraries are more basic than the elements, rather than being properties of them. Reality is modes of matter, it seems.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 1. Perception
Snow is not white, and doesn't even appear white, because it is made of black water [Anaxagoras, by Cicero]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras not only denied that snow was white, but because he knew that the water from which it was composed was black, even denied that it appeared white to himself.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by M. Tullius Cicero - Academica II.100
     A reaction: Not ridiculous. Can you deny that red and yellow balls look orange from a distance? A failure of discrimination on your part. It sounds okay to say 'what I am really perceiving is red and yellow'. [see 'Anaxagoras' poem by D.H.Lawrence!]
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
The senses are too feeble to determine the truth [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: Owing to the feebleness of the sense, we are not able to determine the truth.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE], B21), quoted by Patricia Curd - Anaxagoras 5.1
     A reaction: Anaxagoras offers a corresponding elevation of the power of mind (Idea 13256), so I now realise that he is, along with Pythagoras and Parmenides, one of the fathers of rationalism in philosophy. They probably overrate reason.
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 2. Types of Scepticism
We reveal unreliability in the senses when we cannot discriminate a slow change of colour [Anaxagoras, by Sext.Empiricus]
     Full Idea: Our lack of sureness in the senses is shown if we take two colours, back and white, and pour one into the other drop by drop, we are unable to distinguish the gradual alterations although they subsist as actual facts.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Sextus Empiricus - Against the Logicians (two books) I.090
     A reaction: [Sextus calls Anaxagoras 'the greatest of the physicists'] I'm not sure what this proves. People with bad eyesight can distinguish very little, but that doesn't prove scepticism. And there are things too small for anyone to see.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 2. Aim of Science
Empiricist theories are sets of laws, which give explanations and reductions [Glennan]
     Full Idea: In the empiricist tradition theories were understood to be deductive closures of sets of laws, explanations were understood as arguments from covering laws, and reduction was understood as a deductive relationship between laws of different theories.
     From: Stuart Glennan (Mechanisms [2008], 'Intro')
     A reaction: A lovely crisp summary of the whole tradition of philosophy of science from Comte through to Hempel. Mechanism and essentialism are the new players in the game.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / i. Explanations by mechanism
Unlike the lawlike approach, mechanistic explanation can allow for exceptions [Glennan]
     Full Idea: One of the advantages of the move from nomological to mechanistic modes of explanation is that the latter allows for explanations involving exception-ridden generalizations.
     From: Stuart Glennan (Mechanisms [2008], 'regular')
     A reaction: The lawlike approach has endless problems with 'ceteris paribus' ('all things being equal') laws, where specifying all the other 'things' seems a bit tricky.
Modern mechanism need parts with spatial, temporal and function facts, and diagrams [Glennan]
     Full Idea: Modern champions of mechanisms say models should identify both the parts and their spatial, temporal and functional organisation, ...and the practical importance of diagrams in addition to or in place of linguistic representations of mechanisms.
     From: Stuart Glennan (Mechanisms [2008], 'Discover')
     A reaction: Apparently chemists obtain much more refined models by using mathematics than they did by diagrams or 3D models (let alone verbal descriptions). For that reason, I'm thinking that 'model' might be a better term than 'mechanism'.
Mechanisms are either systems of parts or sequences of activities [Glennan]
     Full Idea: There are two sorts of mechanisms: systems consist of collections of parts that interact to produce some behaviour, and processes are sequences of activities which produce some outcome.
     From: Stuart Glennan (Mechanisms [2008], 'Intro')
     A reaction: [compressed] The second one is important because it is more generic, and under that account all kinds the features of the world that need to be explained can be subsumed. E.g. hyperinflation in an economy is a 'mechanism'.
Mechanistic philosophy of science is an alternative to the empiricist law-based tradition [Glennan]
     Full Idea: To a significant degree, a mechanistic philosophy of science can be seen as an alternative to an earlier logical empiricist tradition in philosophy of science that gave pride of place to laws of nature.
     From: Stuart Glennan (Mechanisms [2008], 'Intro')
     A reaction: Lovely! Someone who actually spells out what's going on here. Most philosophers are far too coy about explaining what their real game is. Mechanism is fine in chemistry and biology. How about in 'mathematical' physics, or sociology?
17th century mechanists explained everything by the kinetic physical fundamentals [Glennan]
     Full Idea: 17th century mechanists said that interactions governed by chemical, electrical or gravitational forces would have to be explicable in terms of the operation of some atomistic (or corpuscular) kinetic mechanism.
     From: Stuart Glennan (Mechanisms [2008], 'Intro')
     A reaction: Glennan says science has rejected this, so modern mechanists do not reduce mechanisms to anything in particular.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / a. Mind
Nous is unlimited, self-ruling and pure; it is the finest thing, with great discernment and strength [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: Nous is unlimited and self-ruling and has been mixed with no thing, but is alone itself by itself. ...For it is the finest of all things and the purest, and indeed it maintains all discernment about everything and has the greatest strength.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE], B12), quoted by Patricia Curd - Anaxagoras 3.3
     A reaction: Anaxagoras seems to have been a pioneer in elevating the status of the mind, which is a prop to the rationalist view, and encourages dualism. More naturalistic accounts are, in my view, much healthier.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / c. Features of mind
Mind is self-ruling, pure, ordering and ubiquitous [Anaxagoras, by Plato]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras says that mind is self-ruling, mixes with nothing else, orders the things that are, and travels through everything.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Plato - Cratylus 413c
     A reaction: This elevation of the mind in the natural scheme of things by Anaxagoras looks increasingly significant in western culture to me. Without this line of thought, Descartes and Kant are inconceivable.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Nature of Free Will
Anaxagoras says mind remains pure, and so is not affected by what it changes [Anaxagoras, by Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras says that intellect (which is a cause of change) is not affected by or mixed in with anything else; for this is the only way in which it can cause change, while being itself changeless, and control things without mixing with them.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Aristotle - Physics 256b24
     A reaction: I suggest that this is the germ of the original concept of freewill - of the mind as somehow outside the causal processes of the world, so that it can initiate change without itself being affected by other causes. Aristotle says he's right; I disagree.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / g. Consequentialism
If the aim is good outcomes, why are killings worse than deaths? [Scheffler, by Foot]
     Full Idea: It is not clear why, in the measurement of the goodness of states of affairs or total outcomes, killings for instance should count so much more heavily than deaths.
     From: report of Samuel Scheffler (The Rejection of Consequentialism [1982], pp.108-12) by Philippa Foot - Utilitarianism and the Virtues p.61
     A reaction: Or drunken drivers worse than careless drivers. Or stolen bracelets than lost bracelets. The point is that morality is about the behaviour of people, and not about consequences.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / g. Contemplation
Anaxagoras said a person would choose to be born to contemplate the ordered heavens [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: When Anaxagoras was asked what it was for which a person would choose to be born rather than not, he said it would be to apprehend the heavens and the order in the whole universe.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE], 1216), quoted by Aristotle - Eudemian Ethics 8 'Finality'
     A reaction: [Anaxagoras, quoted by Aristotle, quoted by Korsgaard, quoted by me, and then quoted by you, perhaps]
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / a. Final purpose
For Anaxagoras the Good Mind has no opposite, and causes all movement, for a higher reason [Anaxagoras, by Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras says the good is a principle as the source of movement, in the form of Mind. However it does it for the sake of something else, which is a further factor. And he allows no opposite to the good Mind.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Aristotle - Metaphysics 1075b
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / a. Greek matter
Mind creates the world from a mixture of pure substances [Anaxagoras, by ]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras assumed that Mind, which is God, is the efficient principle, and the multi-mixture of homoeomeries is the material principle.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by - I.6
     A reaction: The choice of homoeomeries as basic is a good one. They are much better candidates than materials which are made of parts of a quite different kind, where the parts are a better candidate than the whole.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / c. Ultimate substances
Anaxagoras said that the number of principles was infinite [Anaxagoras, by Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras said that the number of principles was infinite.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Aristotle - Metaphysics 984a
The ultimate constituents of reality are the homoeomeries [Anaxagoras, by Vlastos]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras contrasts with other thinkers in the formula that his 'elements' were not the air of Anaximenes or the fire of Heraclitus or the roots of Empedocles or the atoms of Leucippus, but the infinite variety of homoiomereia.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Gregory Vlastos - The Physical Theory of Anaxagoras III
     A reaction: Not sure about the 'roots' of Empedocles. Anaxagoras is particularly thinking of the basic stuffs that make up the body, such as hair, bone and blood. It is plausible to reduce everything to stuffs that seem to have no further structure.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / f. Ancient elements
Anaxagoreans regard the homoeomeries as elements, which compose earth, air, fire and water [Anaxagoras, by Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The followers of Anaxagoras regard the 'homoeomeries' as 'simple' and elements, whilst they affirm that Earth, Fire, Water and Air are composite; for each of these is (according to them) a 'common seminary' of all the homoeomeries.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Aristotle - Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) 314a28
     A reaction: Compare Idea 13207. Aristotle is amused that the followers of Empedocles and of Anaxagoras have precisely opposite views on this subject.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation
Anaxagoras says mind produces order and causes everything [Anaxagoras, by Plato]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras asserted that it is mind that produces order and is the cause of everything.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Plato - Phaedo 097d
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 4. Naturalised causation
Since causal events are related by mechanisms, causation can be analysed in that way [Glennan]
     Full Idea: Causation can be analyzed in terms of mechanisms because (except for fundamental causal interactions) causally related events will be connected by intervening mechanisms.
     From: Stuart Glennan (Mechanisms [2008], 'causation')
     A reaction: This won't give us the metaphysics of causation (which concerns the fundamentals), but this strikes me as a very coherent and interesting proposal. He mentions electron interaction as non-mechanistic causation.
27. Natural Reality / G. Biology / 1. Biology
Germs contain microscopic organs, which become visible as they grow [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: In the germ there are hair, nails, arteries, sinews, bones, which are not manifest because of the smallness of their parts, but become distinct little by little as they grow. For how could hair come from not-hair, or flesh from non-flesh.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE], B10), quoted by Gregory Vlastos - The Physical Theory of Anaxagoras I
     A reaction: Compare Aristotle's apparent view that the physical world has no microscopic structure, and Democritus's view that hair can come from not-hair by the organisation of atoms. Is this the first suggestion that we need to know what is microscopic?
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 1. God
When things were unified, Mind set them in order [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: All things were together, and Mind came and set them in order.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE])
     A reaction: This is presumably the source for the passionate belief of Plato in the importance of order. Existence seems like chaos, with order residing beneath it, but we can wonder whether if we go even deeper it is chaos again.
Anaxagoras was the first to say that the universe is directed by an intelligence [Anaxagoras, by Cicero]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras, pupil of Anaximenes, was the first to maintain that the form and motion of the universe was determined and directed by the power and purpose of an infinite intelligence.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by M. Tullius Cicero - On the Nature of the Gods ('De natura deorum') I.26
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / b. Teleological Proof
Past, present and future, and the movements of the heavens, were arranged by Mind [Anaxagoras]
     Full Idea: Whatever was then in existence which is not now, and all things that now exist, and whatever shall exist - all were arranged by Mind, as also the revolution followed now by the stars, the sun and the moon.
     From: Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE], B12), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 164.24
28. God / C. Attitudes to God / 5. Atheism
Anaxagoras was the first recorded atheist [Anaxagoras, by Watson]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras was the first recorded atheist.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Peter Watson - Ideas Ch.25
     A reaction: He was a very lively character, right in the middle of the Athenian golden age.
Anaxagoras was charged with impiety for calling the sun a lump of stone [Anaxagoras, by Plutarch]
     Full Idea: Anaxagoras was charged with impiety because he called the sun a lump of stone.
     From: report of Anaxagoras (fragments/reports [c.460 BCE]) by Plutarch - 14: Superstition 9
     A reaction: The point is that he was supposed to say that the sun is a god.