In order to arrive at the notion of mind, Anaxagoras looks to the human analogy, drawing once again on the microcosm/macrocosm principle. In the human sphere, he reasons, when things are in confusion, it is by an activity of mind that they are set in order. The human mind sorts out the confusion, distinguishing one thing from another and putting them all in their proper place. So in the cosmos it must be a mind, which is somehow active in nature, that orders and controls. As we would expect from this analogy, Anaxagoras's mind is characterized primarily by the power to distinguish and separate one thing from another and thereby to create order in the universe.

Anaxagoras's idea of mind probably served as the inspiration for Aristotle's notion of a final cause or telos. Aristotle bases his entire scientific enterprise on the idea that there is a purpose within nature, and that all motion can be explained in terms of the striving of each individual object to fulfill that purpose. The idea of a controlling rationality within nature, that acts as the source of all motion, first found its voice in Anaxagoras.