These pages are part of what I hope will be a lifelong continuation of an intellectual adventure. Philosophy can give added meaning to life. I have recently begun re-organizing this page to make it a systematic response to basic questions. Please let me know what you think... and thanks!
Albert's History of Philosophy Timeline and Resources
The Basic Questions of Life and Philosophy
|1. How can we be happy? Click HERE for answers or resources|
|2. How can we be wise?|
|3. What are the meanings of life?|
|4. What is truth or knowledge?|
|5. What are the right or moral courses of action?|
|6. How can the interests of the individual, society and the family be balanced?|
If you have thoughts to offer, comments, or corrections to my wrong-headedness, do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
I enjoyed studying philosophy in college. Now, I am returning to it. With a friend, I recently began a study of the history of Philosophy - not an in-depth study, but an overview of various thinkers, with special emphasis on those who seemed important, relevant or interesting.
Resources: The following are some of the general or encyclopedic resources we are using in our club and studies. If we have sources to recommend for particular philosophers or schools of thought, we will list them in that section.
The highest goal of philosophy, as I see it, is to help people achieve happiness.
Happiness Is It
Oneness and Multiplicity
On disaster and fatality
On altruism and philanthropy
Thales of Miletus
He is the Father of Greek Philosophy. Also, he is the father of materialism.
Miletus is on the western coast of modern-day Turkey, also called Ionia.
He was revered and considered one of the great Seven Sages of Greek antiquity.
Thales believed in the primacy of water, that it was the origin of all living things. Even today, that assessment is not so far off the mark, as living things are mostly composed of water.
He monopolized olive trade in a time of shortage and thus got rich. I don't know if this means he got rich from the great misfortunes of others; I believe beans were thee main staple and olives a valued extra food.
Thales on friendship
(about 540-480 B.C.).
Heraclitus is for me a philosopher who makes many assertions I disagree with. Yet what he says is very interesting and usually contains a valuable truth buried in an excessive generalization.
Heraclitus on change
Several views of Heraclitus - I love the dreamy look and even the disappeared nose in some views. Is this the same Heraclitus? Has his shape changed too much?
Heraclitus on wisdom
Heraclitus on war
Heraclitus on organization and leadership
Heraclitus on Fear of the Unknown
"Man's character is his fate."
Everything is in flux.
Epicurus seems to me to be he greatest and wisest of the Greek philosophers, apart from Aristotle. He was the wisest of the pre-Socratics because, he worked out a worldly system for happiness.
For him, pleasure is the absence of pain, a somewhat constricted view. He believe that ethically, we should aspire to "quietude of mind and steadfastness of faith."
He believed in the ethical goals of simple pleasure, friendship and retirement. (I take retirement to mean the simple life of reflection, and absence from politics, but I am not certain.)
Voltaire - The Portable Voltaire, edited by Ben Ray Redman, Penguin Books
Thoughts by Albert Fried-Cassorla 2-15-05
This book is a compilation containing parts of many of Voltaire's works. Here are reflections on a tiny selection from the book
The Lisbon Earthquake
The Lisbon Earthquake is a 3-page work that concludes the collection. This poem has particular resonance for today. By today, I mean 2005, right after the great tsunami that took over 150,000 lives recently.
The earthquake of the poem's title took place in 1755 and took about 40,000 lives.
In the poem, Voltaire, who was a believer, questions God's wisdom in killing all of these people.
He asks: "Should not God towards mercy be inclined?"
In so doing, he presaged modern questioning of belief that followed the recent tsunami disaster.
In the Philosophic Dictionary, Voltaire dispenses his views on a variety of subjects in series, all done in alphabetic order.
He is very charming and of course very learned. How his factual knowledge holds up in the light of modernity, I am not sure. Yet he said in his essay on atoms, that it "appears" that they are indivisible. He was wise enough to hedge his bet with that qualifier. Pretty smart for an 18th century man (an understatement).
Voltaire on Destiny
Destiny - Voltaire seems to believe that whatever has happened has happened by necessity. Frankly, I find the truth or non-truth of this to be puzzling. But I do think that human will in many past situations could have been different and therefore could have yielded different outcomes.
I COULD have chosen in the past to say or do something differently. The result would have been different. But perhaps I did NOT say something differently because of the build-up to who I was psychologically at that last time. In that case, I could not have done nothing in the past differently, even though I might in similar circumstances do something differently in the FUTURE.
So in pondering this, I think I agree with Voltaire in this: all that happened in the past had to happen that way by necessity, or destiny.
This is very different from saying either:
This is the best of all possible worlds. Or
All that will happen is destined. So using WILL is futile.
Voltaire on Dog
Note, not dogs plural, but dog singular, as in the character of a dog.
Who can disagree of Voltaire's assessment of the creature that is man' best friend and guardian?
No wonder he expostulated against such derogation as as: "You French dog!" or "Turkish dog!" Now as a dog owner, I understand Voltaire's affection for these great animals more directly.
The Problems of Philosophy - By clicking on the hypertext link to the left, you will get a copy of the book in Word form. This book chiefly reflects on epistemological, or theory of knowledge, questions. Within that field, it gives a good introduction. You need to have an appetite for careful investigations into such questions as:
Those are interesting questions, but they are limited in scope compared to the totality of philosophy, and Russell admits to this in his introduction. The reading is lucid if difficult. However, his final chapter is extremely eloquent and wise. That is chapter 15: The Value of Philosophy. It begins on page on page 103 and ends on page 119 in the book, as I have paginated it for you.
This is broad and almost reads like a Nobel Prize speech, along the lines or copy of say, William Faulkner's. So if you can only read one part of the hook, do read these 16 most worthwhile pages!