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What is Anaximander's Apeiron? ELIZABETH ASMIS FROM THE NUMEROUS STUDIES that have been devoted to Anaximander's apeiron by modern scholars there emerges a standard view. This is that Anaximander's apeiron is a kind of reservoir, or matrix, of matter which surrounds all generated things.' In this paper I want to challenge this view. I shall suggest that Anaximander's apeiron is not physically separate from generated things at all, but was conceived as identical with the succession of generated things. Accordingly I propose to replace the standard separatist view of Anaximander's physics with a monistic view: the everlasting deity which is the apeiron, I shall argue, is one with the endlessly repeated alternation of generated things. My first group of testimonies deals with the relationship of the apeiron to ' Some representative statements of this view are as follows. W. A. Heidel developed in detail the notion of the apeironas a reservoir, describing it as an "rQZ/Ix~ ml'~ lying about the world, from which it drew its sustenance (breath), into which it finally yielded up the 'ghost' " ("On Anaximander," ClassicalPhilology 7 [19121: ~8). John Burnet describes the apeironas a "boundless stock from which the waste of existence is continually made good" (Early Greek Philosophy,4th ed. [London: Adam & Charles Black, x93o], p. 53). Werner Jaeger endorses the description of the apeiron as an "endless, inexhaustible reservoir or stock" (The Theologyof the Early GreekPhilosophers[Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19471,p. 34). F. M. Cornford writes that the apeiron "remains outside the world as the 'eternal' background of the cycle of change and becoming" (Principiura Sapientiae [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 195u], p. 171). Charles H. Kahn claims that the apeiron is "primarily a huge, inexhaustible mass, stretching away endlessly in every direction" (Anaximanderand the Originsof GreekCosmology[New York: Columbia University Press, 196o], p. 233). W. K. C. Guthrie states that Anaximanderregarded the apeiron as an "enormous mass surrounding.., the whole of our world" (A Historyof Greek Ph~$ophy,vol. 1 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 19621,p..85). Most recently, Jonathan Barnes has assented to the viewof the apeironas a mass of stuff "distinct from any of the ordinary cosmic stuffs" (ThePresocraticPhilosophers,vol. I [London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 19791, p. 36). All interpreters, with the exception of P. J. Bicknell, are agreed that the apeiron materially envelops the world or worlds from the outside; Bicknell, while agreeing that the apeiron is a matrix from which all things are generated, proposes that it persists subsequent to the generation of the world as an environment within the world, surrounding individualheavenly "rings" ("oaS0ctvo~") but not extending beyond the final heavenly orbit ("TO AI1.EIPON, AIIEIPOX AHP and TO I1EPIEXON," Acta Classica9 [19661: 37-38, 44). [2791 280 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY other things. These testimonies are of two types. First, at Physics ~87aeo-23 Aristotle classifies Anaximander with those physical thinkers who suppose that pairs of opposites are separated from a unitary mixture: i. Aristotle Physics t87a~o-23 (DK t2 A 9) The others claim that the opposites are separated out of the one in which they are contained (~• xo0 ~vog ~volroctg rAtggvctvxuSx'q~ctg~xx01veo0c~t), as Anaximander says and all those who say that there are one and many, like Empedocles and Anaxagoras. For these too separate the rest from a mixture. Aristotle is here contrasting Anaximander and the rest with those thinkers who posit one of three elements--fire, air, or water--or a substance intermediate between fire and air, and suppose that all other things are generated from this by condensation and rarefaction. Thus Aristotle regards Anaximander as one who did not select certain of the physical opposites, such as hot or cold, or dry or wet, to characterize his single originative substance, but who supposed that all such opposites are both contained in the originatire substance and separated out from it. This view of Anaximander is echoed by Aristotle's commentators.' Secondly, the sources after Aristotle also rely on a different tradition, which is not found in Aristotle at all, according to which what emerges from the apeiron is not opposites but world orders 0~6otxo0. It is generally agreed that this tradition goes back to Theophrastus. The most...


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