By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood
Timeline

The Book Timeline: 30 Philosophers

Every person and event in book from 2600 BCE to 1980.

Companion Timeline: “30 Philosophers”

This timeline encapsulates the lives and contributions of the philosophers discussed within “30 Philosophers: A New Look at Timeless Ideas,” offering a curated overview aligned with the book’s content.

Bonus Companion Timelines for “30 Philosophers:” 
Included below are three additional timelines that extend the exploration begun in “30 Philosophers.” They serve as bridges between the philosophical discussions within “30 Philosophers” and the broader scientific context that frames our quest for understanding.

  • The Philosophy Timeline: An expanded exploration of philosophical history.
  • The Big Bang Timeline: Chapter 1 delves into humanity’s origin story, beginning with the Big Bang. This timeline expands on that narrative, tracing the cosmic events that set the stage for our existence.
  • The Evolution Timeline: Although Charles Darwin does not serve as the anchor of a specific chapter, his ideas and their implications permeate the book. This timeline highlights key moments in the story of evolution, underscoring our understanding of life’s complexity and diversity.

Michael Crichton once remarked,

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”

In the spirit of connecting historical leaves to their broader tree, this timeline aims to contextualize the ideas and individuals that have shaped philosophical thought.

Note on Generations: Within this timeline, a ‘generation’ is defined as spanning 25 years, aiding in the chronological arrangement and understanding of historical progressions.

30 Philosophers Timeline
Switch To: All | Anchors | People | DocsTouchstones | History | Pre-Sumer 

Big Bang Expansion
Big Bang Expansion
13.8 Billion Years Ago
Verified. Empirically supported and rationally deduced.

Immediately following the state of the singularity, the universe entered a phase of rapid expansion and cooling, known as the Big Bang Expansion. This critical period signifies not an explosion in space but the very expansion of space itself, from an incomprehensibly dense point to the vast cosmos we observe today. The Big Bang Expansion describes the universe’s evolution from this hot, dense beginning to the formation of fundamental particles, atoms, and subsequently, the stars and galaxies that light up our night sky. It marks the unfolding of cosmic history, from the very fabric of space and time being woven into existence, to the complex structures that make up the universe 13.8 billion years later.

Venus of Tan-Tan
Venus of Tan-Tan
300,000 BCE
Africa; 300,000 to 500,000 years ago

Found in Morocco, this natural pebble with human-like features is possibly the oldest known example of a figurine or representation of the human form.

Bhimbetka Petroglyphs, Cupules
Bhimbetka Petroglyphs, Cupules
Before 290,000 BCE
Hominins; 290,000 to 700,000 years ago

Found in central India, these cupules (circular hollows on rock surfaces) are among the earliest known forms of rock art.

Blombos Cave Engravings
Blombos Cave Engravings
75,000 BCE

Located in South Africa, the cave contains engraved ochre pieces, which are among the earliest known forms of abstract art.

Oldest Known Bracelet
Oldest Known Bracelet
70,000 BCE
2,880 Generations Ago

Denisovan: This bracelet dates from 70,000 to 40,000 BCE. It was discovered inside the Denisova Cave beside ancient human remains. The Denisova Cave is a cave located in Siberia, Russia. Other cave finds include woolly mammoth and woolly rhino bones. Scientists say there is evidence that the bracelet’s maker used a drill. This is the earliest known example of advanced drilling in the world.

Head of the museum Irina Salnikova said: ‘The skills of its creator were perfect. Initially we thought that it was made by Neanderthals or modern humans, but it turned out that the master was Denisovan.” This has led to speculation that these earliest humans, Denisovans, were more technologically advanced than previously thought. If true, it might be that the Denisovans were more skilled than Homo sapiens and Neanderthals of the time.

Like Neanderthal DNA, Denisovan DNA exists in modern humans. Non-African East Asians and Europeans have about 2% Neanderthal DNA. Modern Melanesians derived about 5% of their DNA from Denisovans.

 

Neanderthal Art: Symbolic Thought
Neanderthal Art: Symbolic Thought
Before 64000 BCE
Upper Paleolithic

It’s clear: neanderthals created art. The discovery of cave paintings in Spain, dated to over 64,000 years ago, marked a profound shift in our understanding of Neanderthals. Found in sites such as La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Ardales, these artworks — comprising abstract symbols, geometric patterns, and hand stencils — are attributed to Neanderthals, predating the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe. This corrected the longstanding perception that Neanderthals lacked symbolic thought and artistic expression.

The presence of these ancient artworks, along with evidence of personal ornaments like decorated shells, suggests that Neanderthals engaged in behaviors once thought exclusive to modern humans. This includes the creation of art and the use of symbolic communication, indicating a level of cognitive sophistication and cultural complexity previously unrecognized. These findings not only expand our understanding of Neanderthal capabilities but also blur the lines between them and our own ancestors, highlighting a shared capacity for creativity and symbolic thinking in the human lineage.

Sulawesi Cave Art
Sulawesi Cave Art
circa 41,900 BCE

Discovered in Indonesia, these hand stencils and depictions of animals are among the oldest known figurative artworks.

Chauvet Cave Paintings
Chauvet Cave Paintings
30,000 BCE

Located in France, the cave contains hundreds of wall paintings of animals, abstract symbols, and hand prints.

Advanced Sewing Needles
Advanced Sewing Needles
28,000 BCE
28,000 to 21,000 BCE
1,200 Generations Ago

Humans used bone and ivory needles like these about 28,000 BCE to sew warm, closely fitted garments. These bone needles are from Xiaogushan, Liaoning Province, China, and are dated to about 28,000 to 21,000 BCE.

The Invention of Bread
Assortment of baked bread
Before 14,400 BCE
Middle East

Since grain is easy to grow, does this suggest agriculture might have started a few thousand years earlier? Under study, but the discovery of bread-making from around 14,000 years ago indeed suggests that humans were experimenting with grains before the widespread adoption of agriculture, which is traditionally dated to about 12,000 years ago with the Neolithic Revolution. 

In the shadow of history, nestled within the Black Desert of northeastern Jordan, lies the cradle of one of humanity’s most enduring culinary and cultural achievements: the invention of bread. Around 14,000 years ago, long before the dawn of agriculture and the domestication of cereal grains, the Natufian hunter-gatherers embarked on a gastronomic adventure that would forever change the course of human society.

Tell Abu Hureyra
Tell Abu Hureyra
circa 11,500 BCE
Evidence of farming: rye seeds

Located in modern-day Syria, this is an important site because of the evidence demonstrating a likely pattern from hunter-gatherer to farming. It provides evidence of one of the earliest known villages. The leading interpretation is that they were settled in the area and practiced hunting and gathering before about 11,500 BCE. Around 11,500 BCE there is clear evidence of farming. While it’s likely they still hunted and perhaps gathered, it was around this time at least part of their food was from farming. This site provides insights into the transition from nomadic to settled life, showcasing early domestication of plants and permanent structures.

Göbekli Tepe (circa 9600 BCE)
Göbekli Tepe (circa 9600 BCE)
circa 9600 BCE

Located in modern-day Turkey, Göbekli Tepe is one of the world’s oldest known temples. This site features massive carved stones and complex architectural structures that predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The sophistication and scale of Göbekli Tepe suggest that the community was able to coordinate large-scale projects, indicating a high level of social organization and spiritual or communal life. Without evidence of permanent residential structures from this site, these people were more likely hunter-gatherers that stuck to the area, and not farmers.

Corn
Glass Gem Flint Corn
Before 9000 BCE
Mexico

In the highlands of Mexico, the story of maize, or corn, begins with its ancestor, teosinte. Through centuries of selective breeding, Indigenous peoples transform this humble grass into corn.

Plaster Invented
wall, decay, plaster
before 9000 BCE

The earliest known use of plaster dates back to around 9000 BCE, with evidence from the ancient site of Çatalhöyük in modern-day Turkey. Here, Neolithic inhabitants utilized plaster made from lime to coat the floors, walls, and even ceilings of their mud-brick houses. This early application of plaster represents a significant technological innovation, indicating a sophisticated understanding of construction materials and their protective and aesthetic properties. The use of plaster enhanced the durability and appearance of architectural structures and had practical health benefits, such as preventing infestations and regulating indoor climates.

Phenotype Variation: Blue Eyes
Photo of Woman With Blue Eyes and Black Hair
8000 BCE
Genetic Mutation from the Neolithic Era

Blue eyes emerged

stands out as a striking example of a genetic mutation that spread across populations. Traced back to a single individual living between 6,000 and 8,000 BCE in the region near the Black Sea, this genetic adaptation marks a notable divergence in the genetic makeup of modern humans. The mutation involved is a specific change in the OCA2 gene, which alters the way melanin is produced in the iris. Originally, all humans had brown eyes, but this mutation led to the reduction of melanin in the iris, resulting in blue eyes.

This change likely occurred during the Neolithic period, a time of significant human development and migration. As communities expanded and migrated from the Near East into Europe, the gene for blue eyes spread, becoming particularly prevalent among European populations. The spread of this trait exemplifies how a single genetic mutation can influence the physical characteristics of populations over thousands of years.

The occurrence of blue eyes in a single ancestor highlights the interconnectedness of human populations and the shared genetic heritage that links diverse groups back to common ancestors. This story not only reflects the complexity of human genetics but also the way in which our aesthetic and phenotypic diversity has evolved over millennia from relatively small genetic changes.

The Domestication of Rice
Bali Rice Fields
circa 8000 BCE
China

In the lush, fertile lands of the Yangtze River Valley in ancient China, early inhabitants achieved a milestone that would revolutionize human society: the domestication of rice. Around 8,000 BCE, these innovative communities began to cultivate wild rice, laying the groundwork for sedentary agriculture and complex civilizations. This agricultural breakthrough not only provided a stable food source but also spurred social and technological advancements, leading to the rise of sophisticated cultures and the eventual emergence of the Chinese civilization, one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures.

Ain Ghazal Statues: Early Plaster Art
Ain Ghazal Statues: Early Plaster Art
circa 7200 BCE
Jordan

The Ain Ghazal statues, dating back to around 7200 BCE, are among the earliest known examples of human figures crafted from plaster, highlighting an advanced use of materials in the Neolithic period. This technique involved applying plaster, made from lime and powdered limestone, over a core of reeds and twine to create lifelike statues with detailed facial features and expressive eyes made from bitumen. The use of plaster for such artistic and possibly ritualistic purposes at Ain Ghazal predates many other known uses of the material in sculpture. While plaster had been used in simple construction and repair tasks even earlier, the sophisticated application at Ain Ghazal marks a significant development in the artistic capabilities of Neolithic societies.

City of Catalhoyuk
City of Catalhoyuk
7,100 BCE
7,100 to 5,700 BCE

The city of Çatalhöyük was a very large Neolithic city in the southern Anatolia peninsula in modern day Turkey. The population of 5,000 to 10,000 lived in mudbrick buildings. Some of the larger buildings have ornate murals. A painting of the village, with the twin mountain peaks in the background is frequently cited as the world’s oldest map, and the first landscape painting.

No sidewalks nor streets were used between the dwellings. The clustered honeycomb-like maze of dwellings were accessed by holes in the ceiling and by doors on the side of houses. The doors were accessed by ladders and stairs. The rooftops were effectively streets. I can imagine on good whether days the rooftop of the massive honeycomb building was similar to a Roman forum some 5,000 years in the future–a place to meet, socialize, and perform business.

 

 

Sumerian Civilization
Sumerian Civilization
6500 BCE
2,000 Generations Ago

Human DNA today is the same as 50,000 BCE. There is no doubt there were many dozens and perhaps thousands of civilizations prior to the Sumer civilization, but Sumer is the earliest known, or at least the earliest well known. The Sumer civilization first established between 6500 and 4100 BCE. We know quite a bit about the Sumerians because they immortalized their writing in clay tablets which will be around long after all the paper books on Earth right now have deteriorated. Sadly, we know almost nothing about prior civilizations because very little evidence survived the test of time. The Sumerians spoke and wrote Sumer and starting several millennia into their civilization they started immortalizing their culture on clay. They had an advanced democracy with elected officials, religion, art, wheel, math, philosophy, and language. The Cuneiform script was in use until 100 CE.

Cheese
Delicious Cheese board. Assortment of cheese, camembert, brie, Gorgonzola, parmesan, olives
Before 5500 BCE
Poland

In the Neolithic villages of Poland, milk, a nourishing gift from domesticated animals, is left to curdle, giving rise to the earliest form of cheese.

King Shuruppak (circa 2600 BCE)
King Shuruppak (circa 2600 BCE)
2600 BCE
Sumerian Tradition
185 Generations Ago (from 2020 CE)

30 Phil, Chapter 2: Shuruppak and Paternal Wisdom
Touchstones: Knowledge Frameworks & Philosophy

King Shuruppak, circa 2625 BCE to 2550 BCE. Author of the “Instructions of Shuruppak.” It comes to us from around 2600 BCE, perhaps a century or so after the time of Gilgamesh. It is one of the oldest surviving works of literature in the world. This fatherly advice provides valuable insights into his views, and a glimpse into Sumerian philosophy, which is why he’s the first philosopher, the first chapter anchor, of “30 Philosophers.”

We know about King Shuruppak from the Sumerian King List, an ancient text where he appears as the last king before a great flood. Although the list mixes historical kings with mythical figures, it places him at about 2600 BCE. 

Pictured is the Ziggurat of Ur, about 70 miles from Shuruppak. The city of Shuruppak had a similar ziggurat. The Sumerian civilization consisted of over 30 city-states, among which Ur and Shuruppak were among the more prominent.

My favorite sayings:

  • Be loyal and faithful to your friends, they are a source of support.
  • Do not cheat or deceive others, for it is a breach of trust.
  • Do not be envious of others, for it leads to bitterness.
  • Be diligent in your work, for it brings success.
  • You should not pass judgment when you drink beer.
Major Religion: Hinduism
Major Religion: Hinduism
2300 BCE
172 Generations Ago

Hinduism was founded sometime between 2300 and 1500 BCE, but does not have a founder so the exact date is difficult to specify. Like most ancient religions, it is a synthesis of various traditions. Hinduism today is generally centered around the Vedas, ancient sacred texts.

Some of my favorite Hindu sayings:

  • Every day you should sit quietly and affirm, with deep conviction.
  • You become that which you believe you can become.
  • The entire universe is to be looked upon as the Lord.
Rigveda Samhita, Veda Book 1 of 4
Rigveda Samhita, Veda Book 1 of 4
1,700 BCE
148 Generations Ago

The Rigveda, Sanskrit for “praise knowledge”, is a collection of sacred texts of Hinduism first written down between 1700 and 1100 BCE. The sounds and texts of Rigveda have been orally transmitted since at least circa 2000 BCE. It discusses cosmology, praises deities, and covers philosophical questions including…

  • 1.164.34: “What is the ultimate limit of the earth?”, “What is the center of the universe?”, “What is the semen of the cosmic horse?”, “What is the ultimate source of human speech?”;
  • 1.164.34: “Who gave blood, soul, spirit to the earth?”, “How could the unstructured universe give origin to this structured world?”;
  • 1.164.5: “Where does the sun hide in the night?”, “Where do gods live?”;
  • 1.164.6: “What, where is the unborn support for the born universe?”;
  • 1.164.20 is a parable of the Body and the Soul.

The other three books of the Veda were written centuries later:

  • Yajurveda, circa 1000 BCE
  • Samaveda, circa 1000 BCE
  • Atharvaveda, circa 700 BCE
Gargi Vachaknavi (circa 800 BCE)
Hindu god Ganesha on white wooden table. Candles on background
circa 800 BCE
Vedic Tradition
112 Generations Ago (from 2020 CE)

30 Phil, Chapter 3: Gargi and the Concept of Holism
Touchstones: Ontology & Holism

Gargi lived in India around 800 BCE, give or take a century, but we do not know her lifespan. We know about her from early Vedic Tradition, specifically from the early Vedas. Gargi is one of the earliest known female philosophers. Although the specifics of her timeline are unclear, she emerged around 800 BCE. Gargi’s life unfolded in the kingdom of Videha, present-day Bihar in eastern India. Her family belonged to the Brahmin caste, who have historically been the custodians of knowledge in Indian society. In this capacity, they played a vital role in the cultural transmission of knowledge.

Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BCE)
Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BCE)
624 BCE
105 Generations Ago

Thales of Miletus was a Greek philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. Considered by many including Aristotle to be the first philosopher in the Greek tradition. He is also considered the father of science by many.

Some of my favorite translated sayings are:

  • Know thyself.
  • A multitude of words is no proof of a prudent mind.
The Birth of Logic
The Birth of Logic
624 BCE
Circa 624-546 BCE

In the vibrant intellectual climate of Ancient Greece, the 6th century BCE marks the embryonic stage of formal logic, attributed to the philosopher Thales of Miletus (around 624-546 BCE). Thales, recognized as the first of the Seven Sages of Greece, embarked on a quest that laid the foundational stones of logical thought. He shifted the explanation of natural phenomena away from mythological interpretations towards rational principles.

Laozi (604-517 BCE)
Laozi (604-517 BCE)
circa 604 BCE
Daoism
105 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 4: Laozi and Daoist Philosophy
Touchstones: Non-action, Authenticity, Yin and Yang, & Unknowable Dao

Pictured is the statue of Laozi at the base of mountQingyuan in China. The life of Laozi is shrouded in mystery, but he is the first philosopher in “30 Philosophers” that attempts to construct a precise biography. The Spring and Autumn Period of China spanned nearly three centuries starting in 770 BCE, and Laozi lived about in the middle of that era. He was born about 604 BCE . His native language was Old Chinese, he authored the Dao De Jing, and founded the Daoist philosophy. Some stories indicate he was married and had at least one son. 

Spherical Earth
Realistic Earth Planet against the the star sky
600 BCE

The Greeks knew the Earth is spherical. For example, Pythagoras (570-495 BCE), Aristotle (384-322 BCE), and Euclid (circa 450 BCE) wrote about the Earth as a sphere. Eratosthenes (276-194 BCE) even calculated the circumference of the Earth to within 1%. He also wrote about the idea that India could be reached by sailing westward from Spain.

Nearly 2,000 years later during the time Columbus sailed the ocean blue, most religious nuts believed the Earth was flat and he would fall off. What happened to truth? Although many educated people knew all along, the dogma of the brainwashed religious nuts over the centuries suppressed and terrorized the masses into believing things like the Earth is flat, the Earth is only a few thousand years old, women are property, and other such nonsense. The harm caused by formal religions over the eons is incalculable.

Pythagoras (570-495 BCE)
Pythagoras (570-495 BCE)
103 Generations Ago

The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was born in Ancient Greece on the island Samos which is about a mile off the coast of modern Turkey. History looks at Pythagoras as an educator and philosopher as well as a cult leader. He discovered the musical octave, used deductive reasoning, and embraced an early version of forms which was a stepping stone to Plato’s forms. His early theories on math as the answer to the universe are elementary and off course, but these first attempts led the path for future mathematicians to explore. He is most remembered for his Pythagorean theorem which states the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides

As a cult leader, he spent his life brainwashing anyone who would follow him. Like Jesus, he said he was the son of God. His cult had strange rules including that you had to be silent for five years before you could join. A clever trick that meant only true believers who would not tell others of the crazy could get in. The crazy ran deep. You must spit on your finger clippings. You cannot urinate toward the sun. They sacrificed an ox whenever they proved a mathematical formula.

Pythagoras never wrote anything down or at least none of his writings survived so we have to rely on what others say he said and did, but we’re likely never to know what was Pythagoras’ pure ideas from the evolved or altered ideas of later writers. 

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to Pythagoras:

  • Reason is immortal, all else mortal.
  • There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.
  • As soon as laws are necessary for men, they are no longer fit for freedom.
  • Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.
Confucius (551-479 BCE, died age 72)
Confucius (551-479 BCE, died age 72)
551 BCE
Confucianism
103 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 5: Confucius and Confucianism
Touchstones: Normalcy and Schemas

Confucius is remembered for his practical applied philosophy. His sayings are a reflection of many centuries of common sense sayings making his philosophy deeply Chinese.

My favorite sayings:

  • The man who knows he can, and the man who knows he cannot, are both correct.
  • Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
  • The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.
  • You are what you think.
  • All people are the same; only their habits differ.
  • Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.
  • Respect yourself, and others will respect you.

Gautama Buddha (circa 563-486 BCE)
Gautama Buddha (circa 563-486 BCE)
563 BCE
Buddhism
103 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 6: Gautama Buddha and Buddhism
Touchstones:
Non-self and Nondualism-Dualism

Pictured: Gautama Buddha statue in Buddha Park of Ravangla, Sikkim. Showing after Confucius just to group Laozi & Confucius together.

In a much simpler time, the royal family of the Shakya dynasty lived in a palace located at the capital of the Shakya kingdom in present-day Nepal. Around 563 BCE, a boy named Siddhartha Gautama was born in the palace. At the age of 29, he left the luxury of his palace, and became one of the many wandering ascetics. After six years of wandering, in a flash, he suddenly attained enlightenment at the age of 35 under a Bodhi tree. Over the centuries, Buddhist Councils reorganized and revised the Canon, eventually adding the third text containing philosophical and psychological analysis. The degree to which these revisions deviated from the Buddha’s original words remains unknown. It was not until the 1st century BCE that the orally transmitted Pali Canon was finally committed to writing. 

Heraclitus (circa 535-475 BCE)
Heraclitus (circa 535-475 BCE)
535 BCE
Pre-Socratic Philosophy
102 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 7: Heraclitus and Your Worldview
Touchstones:
Impermanence, Worldview, and Identity

Pictured: Bust of an unknown philosopher. Some believe this might be Heraclitus. This bust is in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, but the museum makes no such identity assumption.

As Eastern luminaries contemplated the rhythm and flow of nature, their counterparts in the West were embarking on an equally significant intellectual path. The pre-Socratic philosophers, guided by a new rational perspective, challenged the stronghold of mythology, and propelled human thought onto a trajectory marked by reason.

Little is known for sure about Heraclitus. Born around 535 BCE, storied indicated he lived about 60 years. Heraclitus hailed from noble lineage, destined for a prominent position, perhaps even a kingship. With conviction in his heart, choosing philosophy, he rejected sovereignty in favor of his brother.

My Favorite Sayings:
  • Everything is in Flux.
  • No man ever steps in the same river twice.
Socrates (469 – 399 BCE)
Marble statue of the ancient Greek Philosopher Plato.
469 BCE
99 Generations Ago

Socrates was a Greek philosopher and is frequently credited as the founder of Western philosophy. He left no writings, but his student Plato documented his philosophy.

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to Socrates:

  • Enjoy yourself — it’s later than you think.
  • He who is not content with what they have will not be content with more.
  • Do not praise someone wealthy until you known how they employ it.
  • We should hear and see more than we speak.
  • False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
  • He is rich who is content with the least.
  • Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior.
Plato (428-347 BCE)
Plato (428-347 BCE)
428 BCE
Platonism
98 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 8: Plato and Rationalism
Touchstones: Reflective Inquiry and Ignorance is Bliss

Plato was a Greek philosopher born in Athens. He was a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle. Plato’s Theory of Forms asserts that the reality is only a shadow, or image, of the true reality of the Realm of Forms — abstract, perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space.

My favorite sayings:

  • Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. 
  • If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.
  • If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.
  • Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
  • Reality is created by the mind, we can change our reality by changing our mind.
  • Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.
  • If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)
Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)
384 BCE
Aristotelianism
96 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 9: Aristotle and Empiricism
Touchstones: Syllogisms, Rationalism, Empiricism, Logic, Logical Fallacies, & Eudaimonia

Aristotle was the greatest Greek philosopher and covered nearly all subjects including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics, meteorology, geology, and government. His Aristotelian philosophy characterized by deductive logic and an analytic inductive method.

Some of my favorite translated sayings are:

  • The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.
  • It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
  • Happiness depends upon ourselves.
  • Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.
  • The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.
  • Quality is not an act, it is a habit.
Pyrrho (360-270 BCE)
Pyrrho (360-270 BCE)
360 BCE
Skepticism
95 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 10: Pyrrho of Elis and Skepticism  
Touchstones: Skepticism and Social Constructs

Pyrrho, the skeptic, believed no one knows anything. Everything can be questioned. The best approach is to keep an open mind. Like Socrates, Pyrrho himself left no writings. We know of his teachings through his students and later writers. 

Phrases that best represent skeptics:

  • Question everything.
  • Do not trust your senses.
  • What difference does it make if you are alive or dead?

There’s a big difference between a pure skeptic questioning literally everything, and a moderate skeptic who evaluates everything with an open mind. Pyrrho is reported to have been a pure skeptic, I’m more of a moderate skeptic.

Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
341 BCE
Epicureanism
94 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 11: Epicurus and Epicureanism
Touchstones: Agnosticism and Pleasure

Epicurus founded Epicureanism in 307 BCE. The goal of Epicureanism is to help people attain a happy (eudaimonic), tranquil life characterized by ataraxia (free from fear) and aponia (free from pain). He authored over 300 books, scrolls, none of which survived the test of time.

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to him:

  • Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not
  • Death is not something experienced in life.
  • Fear of death is a waste of time.

My favorite saying is the Epicurean epitaph “Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo.”

  • I was not; I was; I am not; I do not mind.

I sometimes refer to myself as an epicurean stoic. A balance between enjoy the journey, and duty to yourself and others. Enjoying the complimentary yin and yang of my journey on Earth.

Zeno of Citium (334-262 BCE)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paolo_Monti_-_Servizio_fotografico_(Napoli,_1969)_-_BEIC_6353768.jpg
334 BCE
Stoicism (Founder)
94 Generations Ago

Zeno is considered the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy. When events occur in life, people react. Life is a series of events and immediate reactions. A stoic introduces a third middle step, a judge step. On their life journey, a stoic strives for a series of event-judge-react experiences. When you introduce a judge step, you can frequently change your reaction to a healthier reaction.

Philo of Alexandria (circa 20 BCE to circa 55 CE)
Philo of Alexandria (circa 20 BCE to circa 55 CE)
circa 20 BCE
Judaism
94 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 12: Philo and Abrahamic Philosophy
Touchstones: Allegorical interpretation

Pictured: Portrait from 1500s. He likely did not look like this.

Philo of Alexandria, was born in the dynamic environment before the split of Judaism and Christianity. He was born around the year 20 BCE and became an important Jewish leader delving into the enigmatic world of Hellenistic Jewish religion.

 

Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE)
Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE)
4 BCE
80 Generations Ago

The stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger has the distinction that more of his writings survived the test of time and is therefore a valuable primary source for stoic philosophy. 

Some of my favorite translated Seneca quotes:

  • Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
  • All cruelty springs from weakness.
  • Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
  • We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.
  • If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.
  • No man was ever wise by chance.
  • Only time can heal what reason cannot.
Epictetus (50-135 CE)
50 CE
78 Generations Ago

Epictetus stressed that philosophy is a way of life and not simply analytical. The stoic philosopher Epictetus was cited by Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations. Epictetus was one of the future emperor’s teacher’s during childhood up to the age of 14. Although no writings by Epictetus are known, his students documented his beliefs and sayings well. Epictetus is my favorite philosopher. I like nearly all the quotes attributed to him.

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to him:

  • It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
  • The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you.

 

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE)
Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE)
121 CE
Stoic Tradition
76 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 13: Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism
Touchstones: Cognitive Reframing, Negative Visualization, and Cognitive Distancing

Some of my favorite translated meditations include:

  • Learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.
  • The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
Badarayana, from circa 400 BCE to circa 400 CE
sand sculpture of Ganesha in Hinduism, the god of wisdom and well-being with the head of an elephant
200 CE
Hinduism
73 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 14: Badarayana and Karma
Touchstones: Cause and Effect, and Cognitive Biases

Badarayana is the sage who wrote the Brahma Sutras. Badarayana is placed at circa 200 CE, but the truth is, we don’t know when he lived. In my research, I found dates ranging from the 4th century BCE to the 4th century CE . While scholarly consensus leans towards an earlier date, I chose a reference year of 200 CE so I could group the Greco-Roman philosophers together on our mostly chronological journey.

Badarayana composed the “Brahma Sutras” as a guide to the Upanishads, a foundational text in Vedanta philosophy. The text was written in Classical Sanskrit and in an aphoristic style: short sentences expressing an idea. This style, popular between 500 BCE and 500 CE , gives me a modicum of comfort with the 200 CE date I’ve chosen.

Unfortunately, little is known about Badarayana’s personal life and background. 

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE)
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE)
354 CE
Christian Neoplatonism
67 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 15: Augustine, Time, and War
Touchstones: Chronoception and Eternity

Augustine is known as the father of Western religious scholarship. He reconciled the science and philosophy of Aristotle with church beliefs.

My favorite quotes: 
  • The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
  • Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.
  • There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.
 
Al-Farabi (872-950)
Al-Farabi (872-950)
872 CE
Islamic Neoplatonist
46 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 16: Al-Farabi and Intellect
Touchstones: Intellect and Existence

Pictured: Artist impression.

Al-Farabi was born along the Silk Road circa 872 CE in the city of Farab, in present-day Kazakhstan. Al-Farabi’ thought was rooted in Platonic and Aristotelian frameworks, yet it seamlessly wove in elements of Islamic thinking. He imagined an ideal society, steered by virtuous leaders akin to Plato’s philosopher-kings, guiding them towards a virtuous existence. In his vision, true wisdom was the foundation of an intellectual civilization.

Alhazen (965-1040)
Alhazen (965-1040)
965 CE
Islamic Polymath
42 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 17: Alhazen and the Senses
Touchstones: Senses and Perceptions

Pictured: Artist impression.

Alhazen was born in Basra around 965 CE, a city located in present-day Iraq. In his 30s, Alhazen faced the challenge of his life. He was “commissioned” to produce a solution for regulating the unpredictable and deadly flooding of the Nile. As he delved into the problem, it became clear the task was impossible. The “emission theory,” the prevalent theory before Alhazen, asserted that light originates from your eyes, hits objects, and is then reflected back. In “Book of Optics,” he explored aspects of vision and light, including reflection and refraction. He disproved the emission theory and proved the intromission theory. 

Touchstone: Senses & Perceptions
Olfaction or Sense of Smell Study.

How we perceive an external world starts to become clear. A 30 Philosophers touchstone: Chapter 17, “Alhazen and the Senses.” Since Alhazen and his pioneering work around 1020 CE, we have made significant advancements in understanding our senses and perceptions. Prior to Alhazen, most people on Earth believed in magical light-emitting-flashlight eyes.

Peter Abelard (1079-1141)
Peter Abelard (1079-1141)
38 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 18: Peter Abelard and Universals
Touchstones: Intent, Object-Oriented Nature, Pattern Recognition, and The Idea of Ideas

Born in 1079 in Le Pallet, a small village in France, Peter Abelard hailed from a noble lineage. His father, a knight of the local lord, intended for his son to follow in his footsteps. Instead, Peter chose a path of knowledge. His brilliance propelled him to the forefront of the intellectual circles in Paris, where he challenged established ideas. Early philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, noticed patterns in nature including things in common between objects. Remember schemas? The categories, groups, and patterns we notice in life. In the realm of philosophy, these patterns are “universals.” Abelard’s conceptualism is a middle ground.

Guru Nanak (1469-1539)
Guru Nanak (1469-1539)
22 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 19: Guru Nanak and Sikhism
Touchstone: The Five Thieves

Nanak was born in a village in Pakistan, on April 15, 1469. In 1499, at age 30, Nanak experienced a transformative spiritual event. While working as a storekeeper, he would often bathe in a nearby river. One fateful day, he submerged and remained missing for three days. Upon his unexpected re-emergence, Guru Nanak was born.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
18 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 20: Francis Bacon and the Scientific Method
Touchstones: Absolute Truth, Truth Hammers, and The Scientific Method

Pictured: Portrait circa 1618, Francis was about 57.

Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561, in London to a prominent and influential family. The young Francis Bacon received a comprehensive education, attending the prestigious Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of 12. Bacon is the Father of the Scientific Method, but notice he is not the inventor. Bacon laid the foundation for his major work in “Novum Organum.” Published in Latin in 1620 when he was 59 years old. Bacon’s method pioneered inductive reasoning, but he didn’t invent it, but he did develop it into a method, and it gave birth to the scientific method.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
18 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 21: Galileo and the Scientific Revolution
Touchstones: Relativity, the Infinitesimal, and Modern Cosmology

Pictured: Portrait circa 1638, Galileo was about 74.

Galileo Galilei, more of a scientist than a traditional philosopher, forever altered our understanding of nature. He was born on February 15, 1564. Galileo was a great scientist in his time. His “way,” his method, of performing science helped push us toward our modern approach. The story of Galileo is also the story of Copernicus, and the story of modern cosmology. This is the era in which humanity started to learn about the fundamental structure of the universe. Galileo’s book “Two New Sciences,” published in 1638, contains his most significant contributions to science, particularly his work on motion and the strength of materials. Galileo was a master mathematician, and his contributions to mathematics were both scientific and philosophical. Galileo’s ideas about the infinitesimal were so clear, within decades, both Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz independently developed calculus. Still under house arrest, he passed away at the age of 78 in January 1642.

Rene Descartes (1596-1649)
Rene Descartes (1596-1649)
17 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 22: Descartes and Cartesian Dualism
Touchstones: Mind-Body Dualism, Idea Modeling, and Pragmatism

René Descartes was born into minor nobility in the Kingdom of France on March 31, 1596. In 1637, Descartes published “Discourse on the Method,” he sought to identify certain knowledge by using doubt to strip away uncertain beliefs. Cartesian Skepticism is a system of doubt aimed at identifying certainties by dismissing all beliefs susceptible to even the slightest uncertainty. On February 11, 1650, in the presence of a small circle of friends, he exhaled his last breath.

Roger Williams (1602ish-1683)
Roger Williams (1602ish-1683)
17 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 23: Roger Williams and Liberalism
Touchstones: Separation of Church and State, and Liberalism.

Pictured: None exist of Roger Williams. This artist impression represents his fond relations with Native Americans.

Roger Williams was born in England around 1602, in Smithfield, situated at the heart of London. Williams officially founded Providence Plantations in 1636 with an informal agreement with the local Native American leaders. It became the fifth American colony and the second in the New England region. In 1644, he published a series of pamphlets, the more contentious ones anonymously, leading up to penning what would become his magnum opus: “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution,” or “Bloody Tenet.” More than a historical or religious treatise, the Bloody Tenet is a seminal work. It launched a full-throttle assault on the prevailing norms of religious and political intolerance that plagued both Old and New England. Williams passionately argued for the separation of church and state.

John Locke (1632-1704)
John Locke (1632-1704)
16 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 24: Locke and Natural Rights
Touchstones: Natural Rights, Due Process, The Social Contract, Checks and Balances, and Law

John was born on August 29, 1632 into a Puritan family in England. During his life, John Locke was focused on empiricism. He goes on to become a key figure in the empiricist revolution, with a dedication to the doctrine that experience is how knowledge is acquired. One of his popular ideas he published under his name was “tabula rasa,” in his work “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Locke’s “tabula rasa” translates to blank slate, and this idea is central to individual rights and freedoms. 

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677, aged 44)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spinoza_(cropped).jpg
16 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 25: Spinoza and Monism
Touchstones: Monism and the Material-Spiritual Framework

The Dutch philosopher Spinoza was a lens grinder by profession, a proponent of Rationalism, and an early founder of Enlightenment. My favorite concept of Spinoza’s is that God is nature, and nature is God. For me, whenever I read God in prayers and such I substitute the word nature. That concept I attribute to Spinoza. The concept doesn’t mean God does not exist, nor vice versa, it’s simply an acknowledgment of all interpretations of God, Gods, and nature and the fact, by my account, that we have no proof God exists or not.

Some of my favorite translated quotes include:

  • I call him free who is led solely by reason.
  • Whatsoever is contrary to nature is contrary to reason, and whatsoever is contrary to reason is absurd.
  • Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
  • The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.
Book: The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution
Book: The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution

In 1644, Williams published The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution. Historians consider it his most famous work. He wrote Bloudy after arriving in London in midsummer 1643. It was on sale by July 15, 1644. It is a fierce attack on religious and political intolerance in both Old England and New. He advocated for free thought and belief because he felt that punishing those that did not believe was not part of his faith and government should be separate from religion. Roger advocated for a “hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world” in order to keep the church pure. His ideas raised questions and challenges but his ideas endured over time.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Voltaire (1694-1778)
13 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 26: Voltaire and Modern Journalism
Touchstones: Fourth Estate and Journalism

Voltaire was a French Enlightenment philosopher born François-Marie Arouet. He was an advocate of civil liberties and satirized intolerance, and religious dogma in a time one was punished with censorship, jail, banishment, or worse.

Some of my favorite Voltaire quotes translated from French:

  • Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
  • Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.
  • In the case of news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation.
David Hume (1711-1776)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_Hume.jpg
12 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 27: Hume and Skeptical Empiricism
Touchstones: Skeptical Empiricism, The Problem of Induction, and Hume’s Fork

The Scottish Enlightenment philosopher and historian Hume was a leading exponent of empiricism. The belief that all human knowledge derives solely from experience.

Some of my favorite Hume quotes:

  • “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” -A Treatise of Human Nature, 1739
  • “The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.”
  • “Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.”
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
12 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 28: Kant and Kantianism
Touchstones: Transcendental Idealism and Categorical Imperative

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a central figure of the Enlightenment which put reason as the tool of choice when discussing God, nature, and humanity. 
Some of my favorite translated quotes include:

  • All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.
  • Nothing is divine but what is agreeable to reason.
  • We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.
  • It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
9 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 29: Mill and Utilitarianism
Touchstone: Harm Principle

John Stuart Mill was born on May 20, 1806, in London, to James Mill, a Scottish-born philosopher and economist, and Harriet Barrow. His Greatest Happiness Principle lies at the core of utilitarianism, advocating for actions that maximize utility, generally understood as producing the greatest well-being for the most people, but how do you measure or evaluate this “utility” or “happiness?” On May 8, 1873, at age 66, surrounded by a few friends and his stepdaughter Helen, John Stuart Mill took his final breaths. 

 

 

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
7 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 30: Nietzsche and Nihilism
Touchstones: Nihilism, Übermensch, and Eternal Recurrence

Friedrich was born on October 15, 1844, on the 49th birthday of the Prussian King, after whom he was named. In 1869, at the age of 24, Nietzsche was appointed as a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel in Switzerland. The mustachioed-musician-philosopher Nietzsche shows us that his life was not solely confined to the rigor of intellectual quests; it also embraced the landscapes of creative artistry and a fervor for living a life well-lived.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
5 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 31: Sartre and Existentialism
Touchstones: Anxiety, Consciousness, and Bad Faith

Jean-Paul Sartre arrived in the Material World on June 21, 1905. Born in Paris to a modest family. Sartre, the chain-smoking existentialist who frequented Parisian cafes, is most remembered as an activist writer and for his idea of “bad faith.” 

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