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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 21, Issue 2, Spring 2017

Michael M. Shaw
Pages 273-288
DOI: 10.5840/epoche201721875

Parataxis in Anaxagoras
Seeds and Worlds in Fragment B4a

This paper examines parataxis and ring composition in Anaxagoras Fragment B4a, arguing that this ostensibly prose philosopher employs these poetic techniques to capture his thought. Comparing the fragment with Homeric similes and his description of Achilles’s Shield from Ililad XVIII reveals an immanent poetics within the Anaxagorean text. Lying between two instances of "πολλά τε καὶ παντοῖα" (many things of all kinds) most of fragment constitutes a single sentence. Such ring composition advises that no part of the paratactic clause should be read independently from any other. This supports reading the discussion of "seeds" (σπέρματα) and "compacted" (συμπαγῆναι) human beings in B4a as yielding a conception of infinitely proliferating microcosmic worlds each undergoing its own separation within a single cosmos.