Anaxagoras and Plato: From Natural Science to Socratic Humanism

Bowe Geoffrey S.

I wish to offer some considerations that may add to a preponderance of evidence for those who wish to see the dramatic date of Plato’s Republic as 429 B. C. It is not my purpose to argue at length for the dramatic date of 429 along traditional lines, but rather to illustrate that Plato sees the Republic as marking the passing of the old natural science conception of philosophy represented by Anaxagoras, to the dawning of a new era of humanist philosophy that he is embarking on, marked by the transition from Republic I to Republic II. I believe that the considerations which follow add a significant and different dimension in support of this claim. The first part of the article looks at the fact that Pericles and Anaxagoras die in or around the year that Plato was born, suggesting that Plato sees his birth as ushering in a new philosophical era. I then examine Plato’s assessment of Anaxagoras’ philosophy as a physicalist theory that is left wanting in the face of Socrates’ ethical inquiry. Finally, I address three types of symbolism in the Republic, namely what is symbolically implied by the structural movement from the Moon to the Sun, the contrast between the family of Cephalus and the family of Plato, and the battles that took place in the Piraeus that brought the Peloponnesian war to a close end.

Keywords: Socrates, Anaxagoras, Plato’s philosophy, Peloponnesian War, Bendis

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