How Ancient China’s Mengzi Came Up with Something Better Than the Golden Rule

Care about me because you see how I am not really so different from others you already love. There’s something I don’t like about the ‘Golden Rule’, the admonition to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Consider this passage from the ancient Chinese philosopher Mengzi (Mencius): That which people are[…]

Lex Naturalis: A History of ‘Natural Law’ Philosophy

Natural law theory attempts to define a “higher law” on the foundation of a universal understanding of “good” and “evil”. Introduction Natural law or the law of nature (Latin lex naturalis) is law whose content derives naturally from human nature or physical nature, and therefore has universal validity. In natural law jurisprudence, the content of[…]

Galen: Greek Physician, Author, and Philosopher in Ancient Rome

Much of our knowledge of early medicine comes from Galen’s writings. Introduction Galen (129-216 CE) was a Greek physician, author, and philosopher, working in Rome, who influenced both medical theory and practice until the middle of the 17th century CE. Owning a large, personal library, he wrote hundreds of medical treatises including anatomical, physiological, pharmaceutical,[…]

Plato’s Euthyphro: Piety, Pretension, and a Playwright’s Skill

In reading Plato as Plato-the-Philosopher, one misses the nuances of Plato-the-Artist. Introduction The Dialogues of the Greek philosopher Plato (l. 428/427-348-347 BCE) have exerted such an extraordinary influence over western thought and culture for the past 2,000 years that readers in the modern day frequently approach his works as philosophical icons. The Republic is routinely taught in college classes as the blueprint for[…]

Being and Drunkenness: How to Party Like an Existentialist

Sartre loved the imaginative playfulness that alcohol facilitated. Existentialism has a reputation for being angst-ridden and gloomy mostly because of its emphasis on pondering the meaninglessness of existence, but two of the best-known existentialists knew how to have fun in the face of absurdity. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre spent a lot of time[…]

Mary Moody Emerson Was a Scholar, a Thinker, and an Inspiration

The woman Thoreau once called the “youngest person in Concord”. Henry David Thoreau isn’t usually known for flattering comments about women. But after a few hours of conversation with the 77-year-old Mary Moody Emerson, one November evening in 1851, he complimented both her intellect and her youthful spirit. The aunt of his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mary[…]

An Atheist’s Eternity

Contemporary physics aligns smoothly with the doctrine of the eternal return suggested by Nietzsche. By Duane Altheide If death is a deep sleep, then eternity is as one night Plato This philosophical letter offers atheism a solace for death based on recent support for the multiverse―a set of multiple universes. Contemporary physics aligns smoothly with[…]

Musonius Rufus: Stoic Teacher of Epictetus

Rufus is primarily known today as the teacher of Epictetus, the slave who became a famous Stoic teacher. Introduction Gaius Musonius Rufus (c. 30 CE – c. 101 CE) was an influential 1st-century CE Stoic philosopher. While in modern times he is best known for being the teacher of Epictetus (c. 50 CE – c. 130 CE),[…]

Epicurean Ideas and the Challenges of Modern Secular Life

Epicureanism competed with Stoicism to dominate Greek and Roman culture. By Temma Ehrenfeld ‘The pursuit of Happiness’ is a famous phrase in a famous document, the United States Declaration of Independence (1776). But few know that its author was inspired by an ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus. Thomas Jefferson considered himself an Epicurean. He probably found[…]

Why Spinoza Was Excommunicated

He was an upstanding member of the Talmud Torah congregation – until he wasn’t. Bento de Spinoza was a young merchant in Amsterdam, one of many Sephardic Jews in that city involved in overseas trade in the early 1650s. The specialty of his family’s firm, which he and his brother Gabriel had been running since their father’s death in 1654,[…]

Was the Real Socrates More Worldly and Amorous than We Knew?

The typically idealized picture of Socrates is not the whole story, and it gives us no indication of the genesis of his ideas. Socrates is widely considered to be the founding figure of Western philosophy – a thinker whose ideas, transmitted by the extensive writings of his devoted follower Plato, have shaped thinking for more[…]

The Art of Thinking in Other People’s Heads

And what is a feuilleton? Introduction The complaint that technology and media have distorted our culture, politics, our very understanding of reality is by now well-worn. They direct us to mere appearances, satisfy (and create) near-narcotic compulsions, splinter communities into defensive cells of mutual incomprehension and disgust, and generally leave us screen-addled and manipulated. These[…]

The Thinker Who Believed in Doing

William James and the philosophy of pragmatism. “Be not afraid of life, believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” “The martial type of character can be bred without fear.” —William James On a late September morning in 1891, William James walked reluctantly to his class in Harvard College’s[…]

Consulting Cicero on Steadfast Moral Fortitude

Cicero’s life was marked by a tension between the life of a politician and that of a philosopher. I’m often impressed by the fortitude displayed by some of the philosophers and statesmen of the Classical world. Socrates,Musonius Rufus, Seneca, Cato, and many others faced incredible challenges. The magnitude of the events they experienced – war, imprisonment,[…]

The Science and Biology of Aristotle

Aristotle studied developing organisms, among other things, in ancient Greece, and his writings shaped Western philosophy and natural science for greater than two thousand years. By Dorothy Regan Haskett, Valerie Racine, and Joanna Yang Aristotle spent much of his life in Greece and studied with Plato at Plato’s Academy in Athens, where he later established[…]

A History of Virtue as a Philosophy since the Ancient World

In philosophy, the notion of virtue played a central role in ethical theory up until the Enlightenment. Introduction A virtue is a trait or disposition of character that leads to good behavior, for example, wisdom, courage, modesty, generosity, and self-control. There are also public virtues that characterize the spirit of a nation, such as justice, honor, and peace. Every culture has[…]

The Lyceum: Aristotle and Beyond

The Lyceum had been used for philosophical debate long before Aristotle and stood long after. Introduction The Lyceum (Ancient Greek: Λύκειον, Lykeion) or Lycaeum was a temple dedicated to Apollo Lyceus (“Apollo the wolf-god”[1]). It was best known for the Peripatetic school of philosophy founded there by Aristotle in 334 / 335 BCE. Aristotle fled Athens in 323 BCE, but the school[…]

Plato and Liberal Education

Plato conceived education as an art of perfecting human beings. By Br. Francis Maluf What Is Education? Plato conceived education as an art of perfecting man. According to this view, education is possible because man is a perfectible being. Nobody ever talks about perfecting God, because God is not perfectible, but perfect; nor do we[…]

How ‘The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ Inspired Victorian Hedonists

There began a cult of Khayyám that lasted at least until the First World War. By Roman KrznaricPublic Philosopher How did a 400-line poem based on the writings of a Persian sage and advocating seize-the-day hedonism achieve widespread popularity in Victorian England? The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was written by the eccentric English scholar Edward FitzGerald, drawing[…]

Marcus Aurelius: Philosopher Emperor or Philosopher-King?

Marcus’ goal was to become the best – most virtuous – person that he was able to become. Introduction It is very common to hear in both academic circles, as well as more close-knit Stoic circles, Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE) being referred to as the philosopher king. This is not an idea that is heavily[…]

Culture War and the Völkischer Beobachter: How the Nazi Party Recast Nietzsche

High culture played an important political role in Hitler’s Germany. References to music, history, philosophy, and art formed a key part of Nazi strategy. High culture played an important political role in Hitler’s Germany. References to music, history, philosophy, and art formed a key part of the Nazi strategy to reverse the symptoms of decline[…]

Machiavelli Wasn’t Machiavellian: Nuances between Compromise and Contradiction

Machiavelli’s earlier book, Discourses on Livy, displayed strong support for free speech, a republican form of government, and compromise. By Paul MeanyStudent of Ancient and Medieval History and CultureTrinity College Dublin If you have ever studied Shakespeare, you might have heard your teacher use the word “Machiavellian” to describe amoral characters such as Iago from Othello or[…]

The Quest for a Poetics of Goodness in Plato and Aristotle

Comparing the different approaches towards artistic activity of Plato and Aristotle. By David OrozcoProfessor of PhilosophyPontificia Universidad Javeriana, Columbia Abstract The paper, which compares Plato and Aristotle’s different approaches towards artistic activity, is divided into three parts. The first part discusses Plato’s Ion on mimesis and technē, as well as the role that poetry plays[…]

A History of Substance in Philosophy

For anything to exist, it must serve as a missing connection to reality. By Dr. Bassey Samuel Akpan and Dr. Charles Clement OdohoediAkpan: Professor of Philosophy, University of CalabarOdohoedi: Professor of Philosophy, University of Ibadan Abstract A lot of words investigated by philosophers get their inception for conventional or extra-philosophical dialect. Yet the idea of[…]

Thomas Jefferson’s Fear of Monarchism (and Hume)

Thomas Jefferson was deeply distrustful of the potential abuses of monarchy. By Dr. M. Andrew Holowchak To Benjamin Hawkins (4 Aug. 1787), Jefferson derides monarchy by relating Aesop’s tale of frogs who wished for a king. Zeus sent them a large block of wood that floated in their pond. At first placated, they grew angry and[…]

Freedom and Destiny in Ancient Greek Thought

Examining the ancient Greek interpretation of freedom and its collateral of responsibility. Scientific Deliberation and Practical Wisdom―Exclusive Skills? In the history of ancient Greek thought the question of how to live a livable life is the principal arouser of those who dedicate time to think about the meaning and sense of the human being and[…]

On G.H. Lewes’s ‘Problems of Mind’, 1874-1879

Positioning Problems Problems into its nineteenth-century psychological and philosophical tradition, as understood by Lewes. By Scott C. ThompsonPhD Student in LiteratureTemple University Abstract In Problems of Life and Mind (1874—79), George Henry Lewes posits his theory of “Scientific psychology,” which is founded on a synthesis between the objective study of the mind practiced in physiology[…]

Denis Diderot and Science: Enlightenment to Modernity

Diderot was not a practicing scientist, but was as close to one as he could be. A key Enlightenment figure, many of Diderot’s ideas were avant-garde and foreshadowed many concepts in modern science. Diderot was not a practising scientist, but was as close to one as he could be. His first major publication was a[…]

Obligation to Society, Loyalty to Community

Exploring the distinction between a found community and a community of choice. By Dr. John RiserFormer Professor of Philosophy in the U.S., Canada, and Rusia Abstract Obligation is displayed toward rules or requirements of formalized roles stemming from membership in society, whereas loyalty is shown to persons and is founded upon communal commitment to them.[…]