The ancient Greek Skeptics, Stoics, and Epicureans all had a common task: the search for ataraxia (tranquility), or a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety.Continue reading “Sextus Empiricus and the Search for Intellectual Tranquility”
Reading a great book (specifically nonfiction) is to acquire, within a matter of hours, the insights and knowledge that the author spent months, years, and sometimes decades developing. In this sense, books are knowledge multipliers, shortcuts to years of research and thinking, and the more books you read, the more hard-won knowledge you accumulate in a fraction of the time.
The Enchiridion, or Handbook of Epictetus, stands as one of the most influential and concise presentations of Stoicism ever published. Written by Epictetus’s student Arrian in 135 CE (Epictetus wrote nothing down himself), the Enchiridion is a succinct summary of Epictetus’s more practical ethical teachings.Continue reading “8 Stoic Principles from the Handbook of Epictetus”
Stoicism is a version of eudaimonic virtue ethics that asserts that the practice of virtue is both necessary and sufficient to achieve happiness and contentment.
According to Epicurus (341–270 B.C.E.), an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of Epicureanism, the path to living the good life is self-evident. At bottom, there is something that we all seek for its own sake, and that is pleasure, just as we all seek to avoid the opposite of pleasure, pain. Since we all know with relative certainty the kinds of things that bring us both pleasure and pain, we can use this knowledge as the foundation for living the best possible life.
An exceptional fact about the ancient Greeks is that they were the first group of thinkers to move beyond the particulars of their own culture to search for universal truths that transcend time and place. This is why they remain perennially relevant and valuable to us today.
While the case can be made that Plato essentially invented the discipline of philosophy as we know it today, one … Continue reading Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma and the Birth of Humanistic Ethics
Democritus, born around 460 BCE, was a younger contemporary of Socrates. Known as “the laughing philosopher” and “the mocker,” he was predisposed to finding amusement in human foolishness.
Wetsern philosophy does not start with Socrates; that distinction belongs to the Presocratic philosophers who collectively invented critical rationalism, as I covered in the last post. But Socrates does represent a turning point in philosophy, for a few reasons.Continue reading “Socrates on Intellectual Humility and the Philosophical Quest”
Thales of Miletus, a Presocratic philosopher born in 626 BCE, proposed that the underlying, fundamental substance of all matter was water, while his student Anaximander thought the substance was an indefinite material called Apeiron. Anaximenes, Anaximander’s student, disagreed with both and thought the fundamental substance was air, while Heraclitus disagreed with everyone and thought the substance was fire.