Philosophy Timeline

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This timeline of philosophy starts with a few notable events in human history. The purpose of these events is to give one a sense of how long humans have been asking philosophical questions. We honor a few and these well known philosophers do stand as a reminder and symbol for all the other great unknown philosophers throughout time. We understand it is very likely there were thousands, perhaps millions, of humans male and female that had wonderful breakthrough epiphanies they shared with their community throughout history and prehistory. These few documented here stand in honor of their various camps of philosophy.

“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.”
–Michael Crichton

Generation Note: for the purpose of this timeline, a generation is 25 years.

700,000 BCE28,000 Generations Ago

First Speakers: Homo Heidelbergensis

First Speakers: Homo Heidelbergensis

Homo Heidelbergensis lived from about 700,000 to 200,000 BCE. Several species evolved from this common ancestor and the last known species identified as Heidelbergensis species became extinct about 28,000 BCE. Homo heidelbergensis lived in Africa, Europe, and possibly Asia. They had some of our human characteristics including large brains, small teeth, bipedality, and used tools.

Could Heidelbergensis speak? We believe they had the physical ability to speak (a Hyoid bone), and a complex lifestyle that would require at least simple conversations. For more information, explore archaeological research into the Hyoid bone which is unique to humans today and is required to duplicate our speech.

  Male Female
Avg. Height 5’9″ 5’2″
Avg. Weight 136 lbs 112 lbs
70,000 BCE2,880 Generations Ago

Oldest Known Bracelet

Oldest Known Bracelet

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.

 

60,000 BCE2,400 Generations Ago

“The” Human DNA

Spiral strands of DNA on the dark background

The modern human DNA evolved sometime between 71,000 and 51,000 BCE. Imagine that. A human baby born today, and a human baby born in 60,000 BCE have nearly indistinguishable DNA. There are differences but essentially humans are the same now as they were then. The popular website 23andme.com focuses on 23 changes in DNA that signify your ancestors recent migration. 23andMe.com, ancestry.com, and many others identify differences for their customers. Finally, the medical community is currently in an intense wave of identifying genetic differences that lead to medical problems with the idea of early diagnosis, prevention, and through the use of mRNA correction.

Through mtDNA sequencing, we currently believe the most recent common ancestor of all the Eurasian, American, Australian, Papua New Guinean, and African lineages dates to between 73,000 and 57,000 years ago.

6500 BCE2,000 Generations Ago

Sumerian Civilization

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 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.

2300 BCE172 Generations Ago

Major Religion: Hinduism

Major Religion: Hinduism

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.
1,700 BCE148 Generations Ago

Rigveda Samhita, Veda Book 1 of 4

Rigveda Samhita, Veda Book 1 of 4

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
624 BCE105 Generations Ago

Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BCE)

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.
103 Generations Ago

Pythagoras (570-495 BCE)

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 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.
551 BCE103 Generations Ago

Confucius (551 – 479 BCE, died age 72)

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, not destinations.

  • Respect yourself, and others will respect you.

469 BCE99 Generations Ago

Socrates (469 – 399 BCE)

Marble statue of the ancient Greek Philosopher Plato.

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.
428 BCE98 Generations Ago

Plato (428 – 347 BCE)

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 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.
384 – 322 BCE96 Generations Ago

Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)

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.
  • The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.
  • Quality is not an act, it is a habit.
360 BCE95 Generations Ago

Pyrrho (360-270 BCE)

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.

341 BCE94 Generations Ago

Epicurus (341-270 BCE)

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 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.

334 BCE94 Generations Ago

Zeno of Citium (334-262 BCE)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paolo_Monti_-_Servizio_fotografico_(Napoli,_1969)_-_BEIC_6353768.jpg

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.

106 BCE84 Generations Ago

Cicero (106-43 BCE)

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 friendship inspired by beauty.
4 BCE80 Generations Ago

Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE)

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 time can heal what reason cannot.
50 CE78 Generations Ago

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 with people who uplift you.

 

121 CE76 Generations Ago

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE)

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.
354 CE67 Generations Ago

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 a future.
 
1533
1533

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

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.
1632
1632

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677, aged 44)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spinoza_(cropped).jpg
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 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.
1644
1644

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.

1694
1694

Voltaire (1694-1778)

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.
1711
1711

David Hume (1711-1776)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_Hume.jpg

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.”
1724
1724

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

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.
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