Anaxagoras and Motherhood

Kathryn Rombs, Ph.D. // Metaphysics of Motherhood


December 25  

I have taught Anaxagoras since my first class as a grad student to the present.  Whenever I teach Plato’s Phaedo and give Socrates’ account of his conversion from “natural philosophy” to the development of his own “makeshift” theory of causation (read “Plato’s Forms”) I mention Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras and his theory of Mind were tantalizing to the young Socrates (although not for long).

Anaxagoras was a key Pre-Socratic philosopher in terms of taking up the topic of motherhood.  Anaxagoras was a cosmologist: he was mainly concerned with the cosmos, where it came from, and how things come to be.  Mind is immaterial, and organizes the seeds of matter and makes them into things.  The generation of the first parents is explained in this way: “The living beings [originated] first out of moist and warm and earth-like (substances), but later from one another” (Felix Cleve, The Philosophy of Anaxagoras, p. 42.  Cited in Allen, The Concept of Woman, p. 27).  Anaxagoras’ fragments include speculation about the seed of woman and man, and generation, or motherhood, is his main interest in the concept of woman (Allen, The Concept of Woman, p. 28).

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