Born in Athens in 469 BCE, Socrates was the son of a stonemason and a midwife. It is likely that he pursued his father’s profession, and had the opportunity to study philosophy, before he was called up for military service. After distinguishing himself during the Peloponnesian War, he returned to Athens, and for a while involved himself in politics. However, when his father died he inherited enough money to live with his wife Xanthippe without having to work.
Little is known about Pythagoras’s life. He left no writings himself, and unfortunately, as the Greek philosopher Porphyry noted in his Vita Pythagorae, “No one knows for certain what Pythagoras told his associates, since they observed an unusual silence.” However, modern scholars believe that Pythagoras was probably born on the island of Samos, off the coast of modern-day Turkey.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was born to a Calvinist family in Geneva. His mother died only a few days after his birth, and his father fled home following a duel a few years later, leaving him in the care of an uncle. Aged 16, he left for France and converted to Catholicism. While trying to make his name as a composer, he worked as a civil servant and was posted to Venice for two years, but on his return he began to write philosophy. His controversial views led to his books being banned in Switzerland and France, and warrants being issued for his arrest. He was forced to accept David Hume’s invitation to live in England for a short time, but after they quarrelled he returned to France under a false name. He was later allowed to return to Paris, where he lived until his death at the age of 66.
Maybe the departure of ideals from our lives is all to the good. Surely ideals are dangerous: those […]
At the dawn of history, God was a she—or so it appears. Our paleolithic forebears, thirty or more millennia ago, conceived of Nature or the Divine as a cosmic female. They delighted in immortalizing her image on cave walls and in the form of statuettes carved out of stone, bone, ivory, or coal. Undoubtedly, they also used more perishable materials to depict the Great Mother, though these did not survive the ravages of time. The belief in the universal Female was deeply ingrained and vital. However, it underwent a significant transformation during the neolithic age. For, as human experience and conceptual capacities leaped forward, the Great Mother became increasingly personified. She was endowed with special characteristics, a personal if legendary history, and a name.
Each of us human beings has an invisible friend and guide to accompany us on our journey through life and death. Whether it manifests as a still-small voice, an innate urge, vivid intuition or an actual entity, each one of us has a teleos, or purpose, particular to our own soul’s journey, negotiating the relationship between Self and ego according to our uniqueness.
The ancient warrior culture of Japan produced a sophisticated martial philosophy that we know today as Bushido—the Way of the Warrior. There are eight virtues of Bushido, the code of the samurai: justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, honor, loyalty, and self-control. These virtues comprise the essence of Japanese cultural beliefs, which are still present today.
Until the eighteenth century, it was assumed that human beings are unequal by nature — i.e., that there was a natural human hierarchy. This postulate collapsed with the advent of the idea of natural right and its assumption of an equality of natural order among all human beings.
Plato’s critique of democracy is that democracy does not place a premium on wisdom and knowledge seeking as an inherent good, much like timocracy and oligarchy. Instead, democracy suffers from the failures of the aforementioned systems insofar as it prioritizes wealth and property accumulation as the highest good.