Eduardo Nasser: “Considerations on Nietzsche’s Use of Anaxagoras in His Quarrel with Eleatism”

8 November, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) Online

In this presentation, I intend to examine the way Nietzsche uses Anaxagoras in the context of his intellectual quarrel with Eleatic philosophy, in Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks (1873). In this writing, Nietzsche for the first time, resolutely takes a stand against the Eleatic tradition (Parmenides and Zeno), raising objections of considerable impact. One such objection, which I intend to deal with, referred to by Nietzsche as the “mobile thought” (bewegten Denken) or “mobile reason” (bewegten Vernunft) objection, was conceived in opposition to the Eleatics’ postulation of the identity between being and thought, and indirectly, their denial of the reality of motion. Nietzsche’s argument for this objection is as follows: if rational thought through concepts is real, and rational thought is in motion because concepts are in motion, it follows that motion and multiplicity are real. This is not a new type of argument, being know in circles of debates surrounding Kantian philosophy. It was used by opponents of the Kantian thesis of the ideality of time (Lambert, Mendelssohn, Schultz), a controversy with which Nietzsche was familiar through Thought and Reality (1873), by Afrikan Spir, whose discussion around the validity of the argument, including a series of improvements to it, is strategically incorporated in Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. However, for Nietzsche, the objection of mobile thought, including its argument, does not have a modern origin; he ascribes it to the ancient pluralists, particularly Anaxagoras, whom he designates as its legitimate creator. This is a statement that causes perplexity, since not only do we not find in the Anaxagorean fragments, or in the testimonies of the doxographers, any sign of direct criticism of Parmenides or Zeno, but most scholars in the field consider Anaxagoras as a loyal disciple of Parmenides, who fully embraces his teachings (especially those who support the reading of Parmenides as a “predicative monist”). Furthermore, even scholars who acknowledge the possibility of implicit criticisms of Eleatic philosophy within Anaxagoras’ fragments do not identify in any of them anything like a version of the mobile thought objection. With this in mind, I intend to propose in this presentation that Nietzsche arrives at the aforementioned assertion at the expense of an i) heterodox and ii) anachronistic interpretation of the Anaxagorean concept of Nous. Regarding the first point, we will see that Nietzsche finds support for characterizing Anaxagoras as the creator of the objection of mobile thought by relying on two fragments that are not commonly recognized by specialists as potentially anti-Eleatic, namely, fragments B12 and B13. Based on these fragments, which discuss Nous as the cause of the rotational motion that imparts order to the primordial mixture, Nietzsche suggests that motion must necessarily be inherent in Nous, which poses a challenge for the Eleatic identification between being and thought (Noeîn). Regarding the second point, I will try to show that the recognition of movement as inherent to Nous does not imply its characterization as composed of representations and/or concepts in movement. This interpretation proposed by Nietzsche, hinges upon a prior commitment not only to an intellectualized treatment of Nous (teleological), which is debatable in itself, but also to a modern understanding of intellect, of a Kantian bias.


The seminar seeks to explore the dialogue between Nietzsche and early Greek philosophy during the period when he was Professor of Philology at the University of Basel. This is a subject that has not been studied in a systematic way, although there are some decisive contributions showing its importance for understanding Nietzsche’s philological and philosophical thinking. Our purpose is to provide a platform on which contributions from specialists in Nietzsche and ancient philosophy can be presented, debated, and complemented to fill this gap in Nietzschean studies. Key topics of the sessions will be Nietzsche’s activity as a scholar of ancient doxography on early Greek philosophy, his general conception of what he called the “pre-Platonic philosophers”, as well as his interpretation of some of these philosophers. The body of texts to be studied during the sessions includes not only the published ones, but also Nietzsche’s lectures, notebooks, and correspondence. The seminar is part of the activities of the Lisbon Nietzsche Group and the Research Group on Ancient Philosophy (CultureLab/IFILNOVA). It is the result of a collaboration between IFILNOVA, the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique, and the École Normale Supérieure (Paris). It will take place monthly starting from October 2023 and will have nine sessions. It will be open to all interested parties, who will be able to register for each session by contacting the organizers (, For more details, please see the programme below.


Org. Paulo Lima (Lisbon Nietzsche Group/Research Group on Ancient Philosophy/IFILNOVA) and Carlotta Santini (CNRS/ENS, Paris)


Session 14 October, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

Rafael Carrión Arias (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), “The Democritus Studies of 1867: Nietzsche’s Discovery of the New Philological Method”


Session 28 November, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

Eduardo Nasser (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco), “Considerations on Nietzsche’s Use of Anaxagoras in His Quarrel with Eleatism”


Session 36 December, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

Babette Babich (Fordham University), “To Hell and Back: Nietzsche’s Empedocles, Nietzsche’s Pythagoras, and Zarathustra”


Session 417 January, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

Matthew Meyer (University of Scranton), “The Unity of Opposites: A Fundamental Principle in Antiquity and Today”


Session 531 January, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

Helmut Heit (Klassik Stiftung Weimar), “Nietzsche and Protagoras”


Session 628 February, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

Anne Merker (Université de Strasbourg), “Nietzsche, Heraclitus, and Polemos”


Session 727 March, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

Yannick Souladié (ENS, Paris), “The ‘Tremendous Leap of Anaximander’: Nietzsche’s New Understanding of the Apeiron”


Session 88 May, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) |

André Laks (Universidad Panamericana, México/Sorbonne Université, Paris): “Nietzsche doxographus”


Session 95 June, 4 PM (Lisbon) | 5 PM (Rome) | f

Daniel Conway (Texas A&M University), “How Socrates Became What he Was: The Evolution of a Diagnosis”

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