Short on time?

Get essay writing help

Philosophy of Anaxagoras, Socrates’s Search for Own Theory and Plato’s Phaedo: Analytical Essay

Words: 1923
Pages: 4
This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Why is Socrates dissatisfied with the explanations given by Anaxagoras? What does he suggest instead in Plato’s Phaedo?

In this paper, I will first discuss the philosophy of Anaxagoras, particularly his theories on the infinite elements (chremata), and the Mind (nous). This will be followed by Socrates’s search for his own theory for the causes of how everything is the way everything is. I will raise questions in the irony within this theory and proceed on to discussing its inadequacy of it as a substitution to the theory of the Mind, rather being a broader extension to it.

On Plato’s Phaedo, readers encounter the last conversations Socrates has with his good friends. Socrates is again depicted as the ideal philosopher by Plato. Instead of showing fear toward death, he has a rather welcoming attitude, saying that death is the liberation of the soul from the confines of the body. He expands this theory of the two worlds (of the soul and the body) by proving that knowledge is never really gained but recollected as we grow. After exchanging some opposing thoughts with Cebes, he decides that this matter ‘requires a thorough investigation of the cause of generation and destruction (96a, Phaedo. Grube. 2002) This leads to an introduction of Socrates’ encounter with Anaxagoras’ philosophy and the reasons for his dissatisfactions regarding this.

Anaxagoras states that elements in the universe are unlimited and homoimerous things (uniform in structure) such as bone, flesh, and marrow, and what separates one from the other is the principle of predominance. (Curd, McKirahan. 1996) For instance, a grape and a dog both have a portion of everything such as hair, blood, and wood but these matters are contained in a certain proportion, so a grape contains more matters that make it a grape such as water or sweetness. I can empathize with Socrates on how he thought such Subsequently a dog will have a higher proportion of matters that make it a dog, such as blood and fur. It may be difficult for one living in the current age to comprehend this, as mankind have made a plethora of things since the time when Anaxagoras was alive (510- 480 BCE). I suspect that the most advanced invention created by man at this time was perhaps a crossbow or the catapult. Since then, we have moved on to making things such as light bulbs or mobile phones. Moreover, we have access to knowing exactly which materials were used and what process was taken in the production of such inventions. However, even in modern society, Anaxagoras’ theory can be applied as all man-made things can be broken down to the very simplest of elements that have always existed from, according to Anaxagoras, when Mind initiated motion and developed the cosmos. How the cosmos was exactly developed, we are not informed of in micro detail. But based on the limited amount of fragments left on Anaxagoras,

It is important to understand here that Anaxagoras’ Mind is of no means a god, albeit ‘having the greatest power’. The elements made by nous, those that are now mixed and rotating in their own unique motions, ‘have the cause of their existence in themselves, exactly as nous has the cause of its existence in itself.’ (p 29. Cleve. 1973) I have found it easy to connect this particular aspect of Mind with the gods explained in Epicureanism; though they exist, they pay no heed nor have any influence on our lives. Readers can now understand that Anaxagoras’s theory is not an entirely teleological one apart from the part where the Mind acts as the initial cause of the universe. Mind only goes to the extent of having a teleological purpose as ‘the molding and preserving principle’; in charge of the ‘primordial generation’, but from then on the evolving of the matters into ‘generation from one another of organisms’ is solely dependent on the physical and mechanistic laws. (p 81. Cleve. 1973) It now becomes clear how Socrates would have been dissatisfied with Anaxagoras’ work, as he had a more teleological principle in his philosophy.

When he first looked into the causes of natural science in the world, Socrates found much confusion with its physical causes. He talked about how man is larger than another ‘by a head’, or ten is larger than eight by ‘an extra two’. But he seems to be unsatisfied with how either ‘a head’, or ‘an extra two’ brings the same effect of making something larger. Nor could he compute how adding two of the same ones and taking apart a single one can both bring the same effect of making two things. In this context, Plato raises three principles in his study of causes. (i) Two opposite causes cannot have the same effect. (ii) The same cause cannot have opposite effects. (iii) A cause cannot be the opposite of the effect it has.

However, reading this particular part brings me to question whether it is valid to say that taking apart and putting together are opposites in the first place. There is no denying that in Socrates' example of using chalk, the two causes bring the same effect of making two. If there is a piece of chalk to be put together with another piece of chalk to make two, would it not be true to say that, drawing from Socrates’ theory, the single piece of chalk has already been put together by two different pieces of chalk? And each of the two pieces of chalk used to form the single piece of chalk which will be later put together with an identical other, further comprises of a continuous number of chalks? I will simplify this explanation in equations. If A is putting together, cause B is taking apart, and a piece of chalk as C,

  • C+ cause A + C= two bits of C
  • C (C+C) + C (C+C) = two bits of C
  • C {C(C+C)} + C{(C+C)} = two bits of C

However, we can also apply this to cause B. Each piece of chalk can be a combination of two bits of chalk, but may very well be a residue of a division of another piece of chalk.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order
  • C = C + cause B
  • C (C+cause B) + cause B = two bits of C

Here we can see that the effect (two bits of C) can contain both cause A and B. This is where I wonder if it is fair to say that if both causes draw the same effect, are they opposites at all? Will they not be simply differing causes within the many other possible causes included in that particular effect? It seems to me that Plato brings principle (i) without giving much explanation on this matter. Also, the three principles seem to contain the premise that cause always comes before effect. When y becomes x by a certain cause, that seems to be the end of being x. But if Socrates is really concerned about natural science above anything else, would it not be common to say that things have more to them before and after the coming of being from a single cause? The fact that Plato does not give much contemplation on this supports that his main interest lied in the teleological purpose of beings.

On his encounter with the theory of the Mind, Socrates made a basic misjudgment that the Mind would ‘arrange each thing in the way that was best’ (97d, Phaedo. Grube. 2002) Anaxagoras never mentions this in his writings. Though constantly using the Mind as the very generic and rough explanation to all foundational elements is the cosmos, Anaxagoras does not give responsibility to it for the management of elements. He does use the principle of predominance as a reason for why something is the way it is. But saying that hair is hair because it contains a higher proportion of stuff that make it hair does not exactly function as an adequate answer to the question of why hair comes to be hair. Plato’s Socrates was concerned with the latter.

Another matter that Socrates was dissatisfied with Anaxagoras is elaborated in 98c- 99b of Phaedo. “Again, he would mention other such causes for my talking to you: sounds and air and hearing, and a thousand other such things, but he would neglect to mention the true causes,” Socrates states it is lazy and careless to that the reason for him waiting to receive his death penalty rather than escaping his cell is because as his bones are hanging in their sockets, the relaxation and contraction of the sinews enable him to bend his limbs, causing him to be sat down. In this context, my focus drew to the phrase, ‘…Athenians decided it was better to condemn me, for this reason, it seemed best to me to…’ as it alludes to a strong principle that Plato has on things being the way that they are at their best. This is mainly the reason why he resulted with dissatisfaction with Anaxagoras’ philosophy. Searching for an answer to the causes of things, on the premise that each and everything is arranged in the way that was best and not in any alternative ways, is simply such a vague and broad matter.

So it is now clear that the primary aim that Anaxagoras and Socrates had in their theories fundamentally differ from each other. One was primarily concerned with the ‘plurality of ultimate elements of the world’ (p9. Cleve. 1973) and the other was concerned with a single pattern of explanation for all phenomena. A single principle that can explain all phenomena in the world. As stated in Phaedo, Socrates wanted to know such things as why things come to be and perish and why it exists (96b, p137. Bostock. 1986). To take an example, Socrates’ main concern has to do with why an orange has an orange color, why it is sphere-shaped, or why it decays after time rather than how it came to have the qualities that make it orange. He makes a more general inquiry on the reason behind why something is something, not the change that makes anything into something.

Regarding this concern, it does not require one to deeply ruminate to find why x becomes why y is due to the sharing of y-ness. For nothing that is not y can ever become y. A famous example raised in Phaedo is the cause of something beautiful being the property of beauty it has. This can also be applied to Socrates’ confusion on putting together and taking apart. A piece of chalk broken and two pieces of chalks put together both result in two pieces of chalks because of twoness. From this, the Theory of Forms is introduced, that being, the cause of a thing’s being P is always (it’s participation in) the form of P-hood.’ (p 152. Bostock. 1986) Therefore a piece of chalk can only be chalk through the chalk-ness it participates in. Many aspects of this recall the explanation of elements by Anaxagoras saying that all (things) have a portion of everything. However, Plato’s leaning toward searching for a single answer to causes leads to opposing Anaxagoras’ other opinion on the dual operation of elements.

I find it appropriate to mention at this point, what Anaxagoras’ take is on the soul and body; as this is the main subject that holds the text of Phaedo. Anaxagoras says,

Unfortunately, we are not left with many fragments by Anaxagoras that give details on how things work in his explanation to the rotation and evolution of elements in the cosmos.

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this Page

Philosophy of Anaxagoras, Socrates’s Search for Own Theory and Plato’s Phaedo: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Philosophy of Anaxagoras, Socrates’s Search for Own Theory and Plato’s Phaedo: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Philosophy of Anaxagoras, Socrates’s Search for Own Theory and Plato’s Phaedo: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2023].
Philosophy of Anaxagoras, Socrates’s Search for Own Theory and Plato’s Phaedo: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
Join 100k satisfied students
  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
hire writer

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.