Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking

The Enlightenment Luminary Voltaire on Ancient Philosophy

ancient philosophy March 17th, 2018

I have spent nearly forty years of my pilgrimage in two or three corners of this world seeking the philosopher’s stone that is called Truth.” With those interesting words, Voltaire, the 18th-century writer, skeptic, and iconoclast begins an interesting essay about ancient philosophers. It is actually the submission to The Philosophical Dictionary, a project of tremendous importance to the Enlightenment, and it is entitled “Precis of Ancient Philosophy.” Alongside Denis Diderot’s and Jean d’Alembert’s Encyclopedia, published starting in 1751, France was churning out some incredible works of Enlightenment nonfiction. Considering this was during the reign of King Louis the whatever and Pope whomever, the use of the pen was actually dangerous business. We should all take our hats off to these men of great courage and vision. And be happy Switzerland existed.

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Quotes About Philosophy, by Modern Philosophers

quotes about philosophy March 16th, 2018

Quotes about philosophy, by philosophers, is the subject of this blog. I myself have been collecting philosophical quotes for 25 years now, but obviously the hobby goes way back. In fact, I have a penchant for collecting old books of quotes, and it’s really neat to open a book from the ’30s or ’40s and see what quotes about philosophy, science, politics, and values were like. I believe that a short collection of some intriguing quotes about philosophy by modern philosophers (mostly) is a cool idea, so here I go! Enjoy. 

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Meaning in Life is About Involvement

meaning in life March 7th, 2018

I was reading a piece by the very influential philosopher (and fellow generalist!) Robert Nozick, as part of my class on meaning in life. The excerpt comes from his book Philosophical Explanations. In this blog, I want to share some of my understanding of Nozick’s approach to finding meaning in life. In a word, it’s about connectedness to things outside yourself which have intrinsic value. People, pursuits, ideas, causes – it’s about getting out there and transcending yourself. The quotes set apart in blue are his, though not necessarily from this book. Just relevant thoughts by the late, mostly-great philosopher, Robert Nozick.

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Fulfillment and Happiness Are Worthy Goals

fulfillment and happiness March 5th, 2018

According to half of the population, it’s all about happiness. Whatever gets you through the night, as it were. Football, nachos, sex, rest, hanging out by the pool – these are considered lower-level forms of happiness. The extremely influential 19th-century philosopher and more-or-less libertarian John Stuart Mill, however, noted that in this “utilitarian” pursuit of the greatest happiness by the greatest number, much is lost. He favored higher pleasures, and noted that it is better to be Socrates unsatisfied than a pig satisfied. American writer George Will put it this way: “Modern Americans travel light, with little philosophic baggage other than a fervent belief in the right to the pursuit of happiness.” We can do better, and go deeper; somewhere between pigs and philosophers lies the truth. In this blog, I will explore the fundamentals of finding fulfillment and happiness, considering them as worthy goals for a person who wishes to live life in the best possible way. Psychology and philosophy will assist me, as usual!

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Humility is the Opposite of Certitude

humility February 22nd, 2018

We are smack-dab in the middle of the white-hot debate about guns, mass murder, 2nd Amendment rights, the power of gun manufacturers, democracy, and peace in America as of this writing. I sometimes lock horns with my intellectual and erudite interlocutor, Robert L. Lloyd, Ph.D., and this topic is no different. Though we both own, gosh, ten guns between us, I tend to be less of a 2nd Amendment supporter and I see public violence a bit differently. The larger issue  beyond what works and what doesn’t, how politics either facilitates or impedes social progress, or whether America is looking at a bright future or if we are witnessing the sclerotic attempts at social change that characterize all empires in decline  is virtues of civility and humility. In this blog, I recapitulate a bit of our dialogue on guns specifically, but conceptualize the heart of the matter as certitude, intellectual humility, willingness to hear the other, compromise, and unity. Many additional quotes about humility, quotations on certitude, and tolerance quotes are brought to the fore.

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Meaning in Life According to Irving Singer

meaning February 21st, 2018

Irving Singer (1925-2015) was a prominent philosopher at MIT. I read his book Meaning in Life: The Creation of Value, and liked it about a B+ on an A-F scale. It is rife with quotes about meaning, fulfillment, ethics, value, values, philosophy, and self-examination. In this blog, I will reflect on a few quotations, but will also provide all the quotes about meaning I found in the book, which are many. Enjoy! 

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American History Reflects Certain Values

American February 13th, 2018

I came across a quote that really moved me, and I was getting into it with a friend about whether liberals are biased and whether conservatism is just a bit odious. I want to “sketch out” why I am a liberal (a political designation, but also the more philosophical meaning of the term), and why, therefore, I criticize America. To that end, I will use quotations, not by crafting sentences and paragraphs. I think of it like a mosaic – every piece is made of a small piece of glass, but together it makes sense to the eye. It’s going to read like social criticism mixed with a clear-eyed recognition of some American strengths. In so doing, I will look to history’s intellectuals, artists, and fighters for social justice to do the talking for me.

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Socrates, Russell, & Voltaire: Profound Provocateurs

Voltaire February 10th, 2018

In this blog, I compare and contrast three of history’s most trenchant and profound provocateurs: Socrates the Greek, Bertrand Russell the Englishman, and Voltaire the French philosophe. In addition to a bit of historical information, you will find Socrates quotes, quotations by Bertrand Russell, and an array of unvarnished insights by Voltaire.

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Meaninglessness and Finding Meaning

meaning of life February 10th, 2018

This blog is an analysis of the short essay of Richard Taylor’s, “The Meaning of Life”, from his book Good and Evil (2000). Questions of meaninglessness, meaning, will, existentialism, free will, determinism, despair, and hope are touched on. In the end, the questions are asked, what a human is meant for, what makes him truly happy; what makes her have the will to go on? It is an easy argument to follow, and the culmination is fairly hopeful. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus is integral to the essay. Quotes about meaning bookend it.

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Scientist & Philosopher Jacob Bronowski Quotes

Bronowski quotes February 9th, 2018

Jacob Bronowski (1908 – 1974) lived for nearly 70 years before I was born. This genius was a Polish-born mathematician, historian of science, playwright, poet, and inventor. Bronowski is primarily responsible for the 1973 12-part exploration of creativity, ingenuity, vision, integration, science, and progress, The Ascent of Man, and the accompanying book. It was very careful, rational, and aspirational. He seems like a great man, a real scientist, and one of humanity’s greatest losses. He did say and write many important things, and I will now present you with the fifty or sixty Jacob Bronowski quotes that are a valued part of The Wisdom Archive, which is yours to search for free. Enjoy.

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