What Is Nous, What Does It Mean?July 2, 2021
Nous means the natural movement, the natural movement that brings about creation. The concept of nous in Greek has been translated into Western languages and our language as intellect, intellect, spirit, intellectual principle, spiritual principle, etc. Although it has been translated with various equivalents such as “What is nous?” He cannot answer the question of the meaning attributed by Anaxagoras, one of the great philosophers of Ancient Greek thought.
What Is Nous According to Anaxagoras?
Anaxagoras, one of the most important names of ancient Greek thought, in his work “Nature”, “How is it possible for hair without hair to be meat, and meat without meat?” by asking, he wanted to support the idea that it is unthinkable to create a material world from non-material too. This statement shows that Anaxagoras thought that animals, humans, and the existential framework were created by a superhuman power (a spirit or a God).
Anaxagoras conceived of “a beginning in which everything coexisted, infinite in multiplicity and smallness” and asked “how did the heavens, stars, plants, animals, humans, in other words, the whole universe, come into being from this first and still mixture?” he asked. Why and under what conditions did the innumerable variety of beings that make up the universe appear and come into existence? Anaxagoras’ answer to these questions he asked himself is this: This cause is nous. It exists spontaneously from the inner necessity of nature, and according to Anaxagoras, it is the first mover of the “beginning” we mentioned at the beginning of the sentence. In other words, motion exists in nature; It is the “lightest, thinnest, most obscure, purest” matter of material nature.
Anaxagoras is the pioneering philosopher of the concept of nous.
Anaxagoras designs this motion first as a circle revolving around itself and then as a whirlwind spreading across the infinity of space. The separation and formation of objects from each other was realized by the mechanical effect of this movement. Anaxagoras says that “in everything, there is everything”. So there is meat in the bone and bone in the meat. What makes everything a certain thing is that there is a certain substance in it more than the others.
Although this thought of Anaxagoras is different from the understanding of Heraclitus, which explains becoming by increasing and decreasing, it is still an understanding of evolution. Increases and decreases are the result of the separation of objects that take place under the influence of motion and will take place endlessly.
Views of Philosophers on Nous
This term, which has been used since Thales, the first thinker of Ancient Greek philosophy, is understood by Ancient materialists as ‘the whole of the laws of society’.
The names that gave it the meaning of spiritual existence were Plato and Aristotle. In addition, Aristotle, one of the greatest names in the history of philosophy, not only used this concept in the sense of ‘spiritual being’, but also defined Anaxagoras as designing a creator.
The great English philosopher Bertrand Russell rightly said in his “History of Western Philosophy”: “There is no English word that can translate nous. It is appropriate to translate Logos with the word “us” because it prevents its use as a nous.”
Professor Macit Gökberk aptly commented, “Anaxagoras calls the principle that creates becoming nous because its work resembles that of the faculty of thought.” he speaks (History of Philosophy, 1961, p. 35).
The French thinker Georges Cogniot states the following about this concept in his valuable work “The Materialism of the Ancient Ages”: “Even Socrates, who was fascinated at first to see Anaxagoras as a regulative power of things, quickly spoke out when he realized that the theory of nous is not the explanation of reality by an immaterial principle This is what he explained in the Phedon dialogue.”
The concept of nous, deified in the language of Plotinos and Neoplatonists, is also a ‘ball of fire’ in the language of the atomist philosopher Democritus and is the main element that regulates the confusion of sensations.
Except for the famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant, all idealist thinkers understood the nous of Anaxagoras with the interpretation of Aristotle. Only Kant differed from other idealists on this issue by saying that Anaxagoras expressed a very subtle matter with this concept.
The German philosopher Hegel, after emphasizing Aristotle’s statement “What the soul is to Anaxagoras, is nous” in his famous “Lessons on the History of Philosophy”, tries to take advantage of this idealistically and says the following on Anaxagoras’s statement “Nous is the cause of the world and all kinds of order”: “Objective thought, reason in the world and, of course, nature; these are the universal. This reason itself is inherent in nature, just as the dog is an animal and this is its substantive side, it is the essence of nature. If such a reason were not immanent, nature would form a chair, just as humans would shape a chair. it couldn’t be formatted from the outside.”
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım