Voltaire (1694-1778)

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)

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.”

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677, aged 44)

16 Generations Ago 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..Read More/Comment,_1969)_-_BEIC_6353768.jpg

Zeno of Citium (334-262 BCE)

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.

Pythagoras (570-495 BCE)

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..Read More/Comment

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE)

Augustine is known as the father of Western religious scholarship. He reconciled the science and philosophy of Aristotle with church beliefs. Contrary to modern racists who portray Augustine as a white man, Augustine was a North African black man. That fact is sure to make the racist religious right’s heads explode! My favorite translated Augustine 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..Read More/Comment

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

20 Generations Ago Montaigne was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance. In addition to furthering skepticism, he also extended stoicism. He also extended literary style by promoting the essay format and by breaking norms of his day. For example, talking about himself in his own writing. My favorite translated Montaigne quotes:  Obsession is the wellspring of genius and madness. He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears. What do I know? My art and profession is to live.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

12 Generations Ago 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.

Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE)

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..Read More/Comment

Cicero (106-43 BCE)

The stoic philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero was one of Rome’s greatest orators and had an immense influence on the Latin language. Some of my favorite translated Cicero quotes: If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief. Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error. Silence is one of the great arts of conversation. Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body. Love is the attempt to form a..Read More/Comment

Epictetus (50-135 CE)

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..Read More/Comment

Epicurus (341-270 BCE)

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..Read More/Comment

Pyrrho (360-270 BCE)

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.

Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)

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…Read More/Comment

Plato (428 – 347 BCE)

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. OOP Note: Similar to the concept of design classes and instantiated objects in object oriented programming.  Some of my favorite translated sayings are: Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice.  If women are expected to do the same work as men, we..Read More/Comment

Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BCE)

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.

Marble statue of the ancient Greek Philosopher Plato.

Socrates (469 – 399 BCE)

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..Read More/Comment

Sumerian Civilization

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..Read More/Comment

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE)

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.

Confucius (551 – 479 BCE, died age 72)

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. Some of my favorite translated sayings are: 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,..Read More/Comment

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