The current week is Week 38.
Selected philosopher by week
Week 1 view - talk - edit - history
Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher. He wrote on diverse subjects, including physics, poetry, zoology, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, and biology. Aristotle, his teacher Plato, and his teacher Socrates, are generally considered the most influential of ancient Greek philosophers. They transformed Presocratic Greek philosophy into the foundations of Western philosophy as we know it. The writings of Plato and Aristotle founded two of the most important schools of Ancient philosophy.
Aristotle was a polymath. He not only studied almost every subject possible at the time, but made significant contributions to most of them. In science, Aristotle studied anatomy, astronomy, economics, embryology, geography, geology, meteorology, physics, and zoology. In philosophy, Aristotle wrote on aesthetics, ethics, government, metaphysics, politics, psychology, rhetoric and theology. He also dealt with education, foreign customs, literature and poetry. His combined works practically constitute an encyclopedia of Greek knowledge...
Week 2 view - talk - edit - history
Plato was an immensely influential ancient Greek philosopher, a student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens where Aristotle studied. Plato lectured extensively at the Academy, and wrote on many philosophical issues, especially politics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. The most important writings of Plato are his dialogues. It is believed that all of Plato's authentic dialogues survive.
Socrates is often a character in Plato's dialogues. How much of any given dialogue is Socrates' point of view, and how much of it is Plato's, is heavily disputed, since Socrates himself did not write anything; this is often referred to as the "Socratic problem". However, Plato was doubtless strongly influenced by Socrates' teachings, so many of the ideas presented, at least in his early works, were probably borrowings or adaptations...
Week 3 view - talk - edit - history
Socrates was an ancient Greek philosopher who is widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. He was born and lived in Athens, where he spent most of his time in enthusiastic pursuit of wisdom (philosophy). He "followed the argument" in his personal reflection, and in a sustained and rigorous dialogue between friends, followers, and contemporary itinerant teachers of wisdom. Later in his life he became known as the wisest man in all of Greece.
Opinions about Socrates were widely polarized, drawing very high praise or very severe ridicule. He had many devoted followers (such as Plato), and many angry detractors. As an old man, he fell into grave disrepute with the Athenian state powers, and was commanded to stop his public disputes, and his associations with young aristocrats. He carried on as usual. Finally, he was arrested and accused of corrupting the youth, inventing new deities (heresy), and disbelieving in the divine (atheism). According to traditional accounts, he was sentenced to die by drinking poison. Presented with an opportunity to leave Athens, he...
Week 5 view - talk - edit - history
William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, from Ockham, a small village in Surrey, near East Horsley. He is considered, along with Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, one of the major figures of medieval thought and found himself at the center of the major intellectual and political controversies of the fourteenth century. Although commonly known for Ockham's Razor, the methodological procedure that bears his name, William of Ockham also produced significant works on logic, physics, and theology. A pioneer of nominalism, some consider him the father of modern epistemology, because of his strongly argued position that only individuals exist, rather than supra-individual universals, essences, or forms, and that universals are the products of abstraction from individuals by the human mind and have no extra-mental existence. He denied the real existence of metaphysical universals and advocated for the reduction of ontology.
Week 6 view - talk - edit - history
Martin Heidegger, was the German philosopher who wrote Being and Time. He was one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, and his ideas have penetrated into many areas. His discussion of ontology has led to his being often cited as one of the founders of existentialism. His ideas inspired major philosophical works, e.g., Sartre's Being and Nothingness, although Heidegger insisted that Sartre misunderstood him. His philosophical work was taken up throughout Germany, France, and Japan and has gained, since the 1970s, a fair following in North America as well. Heidegger's work was scorned and dismissed, however, by many of his contemporaries, such as the Vienna Circle, Theodor Adorno, the Hegelians, and Anglo-American philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and A. J. Ayer.
Week 7 view - talk - edit - history
John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, whose thoughts and ideas have been greatly influential in the United States and around the world. He, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophical school of Pragmatism. He is also known as the father of functional psychology; he was a leading representative of the progressive movement in U.S. education during the first half of the 20th century.
Dewey was born in Burlington, Vermont of modest family origins. He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1879. He received his PhD from the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in 1884. From 1904, he was professor of philosophy at both Columbia University and Teachers College, Columbia University.
Along with the historian Charles A. Beard, economists Thorstein Veblen and James Harvey Robinson, Dewey is one of the founders of The New School for Social Research. Dewey's most significant writings were "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology" (1896), a critique of a standard psychological concept and the basis of all his further work; Human Nature and Conduct (1922), a study of the role of habit in human behavior; The Public and its Problems (1927), a defense of democracy written in response to Walter Lippmann's The Phantom Public (1925); Experience and Nature (1929), Dewey's most "metaphysical" statement; Art as Experience (1934), Dewey's major work on aesthetics; A Common Faith (1934), a humanistic study of religion; Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), an examination of Dewey's unusual conception of logic; and Freedom and Culture (1939), a political work examining the roots of fascism. While each of these works focuses upon one particular philosophical theme, Dewey wove in all of his major themes into everything he wrote.
In 1937, Dewey chaired a Commission of Enquiry which cleared Trotsky of the charges brought against him by Stalin.
Week 8 view - talk - edit - history
Blaise Pascal (pronounced [blez pɑskɑl]), (June 19, 1623 – August 19, 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father. Pascal's earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the construction of mechanical calculators, the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote powerfully in defense of the scientific method.
He was a mathematician of the first order. Pascal helped create two major new areas of research. He wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of sixteen and corresponded with Pierre de Fermat from 1654 and later on probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science.
Following a mystical experience in late 1654, he abandoned his scientific work and devoted himself to philosophy and theology. His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres provinciales and the Pensées. However, he had suffered from ill-health throughout his life and his new interests were ended by his early death two months after his 39th birthday.
Week 9 view - talk - edit - history
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James.
William James was born in New York City, son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics.
James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Charles Sanders Peirce, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, James Frazer, Henri Bergson, H. G. Wells, G. K. Chesterton, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, and Carl Jung.
Week 10 view - talk - edit - history
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832
Jeremy Bentham (IPA: ['benθəm]) (February 15, 1748 – June 6, 1832) was an English gentleman, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He is best known as an early advocate of utilitarianism and animal rights.
Bentham was one of the most influential (classical) liberals, partially through his writings but particularly through his students all around the world, including James Mill, who was his secretary, his son John Stuart Mill, and several political leaders (and Robert Owen, who later became the founder of socialism). He is believed to be the innovator of classical liberalism, a term first coined in the 19th century.
He argued in favor of individual and economic freedom, including the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, animal rights, the end of slavery, the abolition of physical punishment (including that of children), the right to divorce, free trade, and no restrictions on interest. But, he was not a libertarian, and supported inheritance tax, restrictions on monopoly power, pensions, and health insurance.
Bentham was born in Spitalfields, London, into a wealthy Tory family. He was a child prodigy and was found as a toddler sitting at his father's desk reading a multi-volume history of England. He began his study of Latin at the age of three.
He went to Westminster School, and in 1760 his father sent him to Queen's College, Oxford, where he took his Bachelor's degree in 1763 and his Master's degree in 1766. He trained as a lawyer and was called to the bar in 1769. He became deeply frustrated with the complexity of the English legal code, which he termed the "Demon of Chicane".
Week 11 view - talk - edit - history
Nārāyana Guru (नारायण गुरु,നാരായണ ഗുരു) (1856 - 1928) was a great sage and social reformer of India. Born in Ezhava/Thiyya (Ezhavas were a middle rung caste and have to face social injustices.) caste he revolted against the brahminical dominance and thereby transformed the social face of Kerala.
Nārāyana Guru is revered for his Vedic knowledge, poetic proficiency, openness to the views of others, non-violent philosophy and most importantly his unnerving resolve to rebel and change wrongdoing in society. Nārāyana Guru was instrumental in setting the spiritual foundations for social reform in the current State of Kerala (erstwhile states of Travancore, Kochi and Malabar) and was arguably one of the most successful social reformers that tackled caste in India. He demonstrated a path to social emancipation without invoking the dualism of the oppressed and the oppressor.
In contrast to certain other reformers who criticized Brahmins and upper caste Hindus for the conditions of the lower castes, Nārāyana Guru stressed on the upliftment of a community through its own efforts by the establishment of schools and temples. In the process he brushed aside the Hindu religious conventions based upon Chaturvarna. His transformation of the social face of Kerala relied on emphasizing the Advaita philosophy.
Week 12 view - talk - edit - history
Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German mathematician who evolved into a logician and philosopher. He helped found both modern mathematical logic and analytic philosophy.
Frege's father was a schoolteacher whose specialty was mathematics. Frege began his studies at the University of Jena in 1869, moving to Göttingen after two years, where he received his Ph.D. in mathematics, in 1873. According to Sluga (1980), the nature of Frege's university education in logic and philosophy is still unclear. In 1875, he returned to Jena as a lecturer. In 1879, he was made associate professor, and in 1896, professor. Frege had but one student of note, Rudolf Carnap. His children all having died before reaching maturity, he adopted a son in 1905.
Week 13 view - talk - edit - history
Benedictus de Spinoza was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher. He is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy and, by virtue of his magnum opus the Ethics, one of the definitive ethicists. His writings, like those of his fellow rationalists, reveal considerable mathematical training and facility. Spinoza was a lens crafter by trade, an exciting engineering field at the time because of great discoveries being made by telescopes. The full impact of his work only took effect some time after his death and after the publication of his Opera Posthuma. He is now seen as having prepared the way for the 18th century Enlightenment, and as a founder of modern biblical criticism. 20th century philosopher Gilles Deleuze referred to Spinoza as "The absolute philosopher, whose Ethics is the foremost book on concepts" (Deleuze, 1990).
Week 14 view - talk - edit - history
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who contributed several ground-breaking works to modern philosophy, primarily on the foundations of logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mind. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. 
Although numerous collections from Wittgenstein's notebooks, papers, and lectures have been published since his death, he published only one philosophical book in his lifetime — the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in 1921. Wittgenstein's early work was deeply influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, and by the new systems of logic put forward by Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege. When the Tractatus was published, it was taken up as a major influence by the Vienna Circle positivists. However, Wittgenstein did not consider himself part of that school and alleged that logical positivism involved grave misunderstandings of the Tractatus...
Week 15 view - talk - edit - history
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell was an influential British logician, philosopher, and mathematician, working mostly in the 20th century. A prolific writer, Bertrand Russell was also a populariser of philosophy and a commentator on a large variety of topics, ranging from very serious issues to the mundane. Continuing a family tradition in political affairs, he was a prominent liberal as well as a socialist and anti-war activist for most of his long life. Millions looked up to Russell as a prophet of the creative and rational life; at the same time, his stances on many topics were extremely controversial.
Born at the height of Britain's economic and political ascendancy, he died of influenza nearly a century later when the British Empire had all but vanished; its power dissipated in two victorious, but debilitating world wars. As one of the world's best-known intellectuals, Russell's voice carried enormous moral authority, even into his early 90s. Among his other political activities, Russell was a vigorous proponent of nuclear disarmament and an outspoken critic of the American war in Vietnam.
In 1950, Russell was made a Nobel Laureate in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought".
Week 16 view - talk - edit - history
Machiavelli, c. 1500
, in the robes of a Florentine public official.
Niccolò Machiavelli (May 3, 1469 – June 21, 1527) was a Florentine political philosopher, musician, poet, and romantic comedic playwright. Machiavelli was also a key figure in realist political theory, crucial to European statecraft during the Renaissance.
Machiavelli was born in Florence, the second son of Bernardo di Niccolò Machiavelli and his wife Bartolommea di Stefano Nelli. His father was a lawyer of some repute and belonged to an impoverished branch of an influential old Florentine family.
Week 19 view - talk - edit - history
David Kellogg Lewis (September 28, 1941 – October 14, 2001) is considered to have been one of the leading analytic philosophers of the latter half of the 20th century. Born in the United States of America, he taught there (at UCLA and then Princeton) for his career but is also closely associated with Australia, whose philosophical community he visited almost annually for more than thirty years. He is most famous for his theory of modal realism but also made ground-breaking contributions in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, general metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophical logic.
Lewis was born in Oberlin, Ohio, to a Professor of Government at Oberlin College and a distinguished medieval historian. He was known later in life for his formidable (even intimidating) intellect; this intelligence was already manifest during his years at Oberlin High School, when he attended college lectures in chemistry. He went on to Swarthmore College, and spent a year at Oxford (1959-1960), where he was tutored by Iris Murdoch and attended lectures by Gilbert Ryle, H.P. Grice, P.F. Strawson, and J.L. Austin. It was his year at Oxford that played a seminal role in his decision to study philosophy, and which made him the quintessentially analytic philosopher that he would be for the rest of his life. Lewis went on to receive his Ph.D from Harvard in 1967, where he studied under W.V.O. Quine, many of whose views he came to repudiate. It was there that his connection with Australia was first established when he took a seminar with J.J.C. Smart, a leading Australian philosopher. "I taught David Lewis," Smart would say in later years, "Or rather, he taught me."
Week 20 view - talk - edit - history
Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan (April 13, 1901 – September 9, 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist. His work, like most psychoanalytic work, owes a heavy, explicit debt to Sigmund Freud, but also drew from a number of other fields, including linguistics, philosophy, and mathematics. This interdisciplinary focus in his work has led him to be an important figure in many fields beyond psychoanalysis - particularly within critical theory.
His central idea was that the human subject is a creation of its use of language. From this understanding Lacan develops his study of psychoanalysis and his treatment strategies. His work, while controversial, continues to influence the development of psychoanalysis worldwide. In France and elsewhere various "schools" of Lacanian thought have emerged.
Week 21 view - talk - edit - history
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855), a 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian, is generally recognized as the first existentialist philosopher. He bridged the gap that existed between Hegelian philosophy and what was to become Existentialism. Kierkegaard strongly criticised both the Hegelian philosophy of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church. Much of his work deals with religious problems such as the nature of faith, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with existential choices. Kierkegaard's work resists definite interpretation, since he wrote most of his early work under various pseudonyms, and often these pseudo-authors would comment on and critique the works of his other pseudo-authors.
Week 22 view - talk - edit - history
Michel Foucault (October 15, 1926 – June 25, 1984) was a French philosopher who held a chair at the Collège de France, which he gave the title The History of Systems of Thought. His writings have had an enormous impact on other scholarly work: Foucault's influence extends across the humanities and social sciences, and across many applied and professional areas of study.
Foucault is known for his critiques of various social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, and the prison system, and also for his theories on the history of sexuality. His general theories concerning power and the relation between power and knowledge, as well as his ideas concerning "discourse" in relation to the History of Western thought, have been widely discussed and applied. Foucault was also critical of social constructs that implied an identity, from the identity of male/female and homosexual to that of criminals and political activists.
Week 24 view - talk - edit - history
Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883 London) was an immensely influential German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary organizer of the International Workingmen's Association. While Marx addressed a wide range of issues, he is most famous for his analysis of history in terms of class struggles, summed up in the opening line of the introduction to the Communist Manifesto: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle."
Marx's thought was strongly influenced by:
Marx believed that he could study history and society scientifically and discern tendencies of history and the resulting outcome of social conflicts. Some followers of Marx concluded, therefore, that a communist revolution is inevitable. However, Marx famously asserted in the eleventh of his Theses on Feuerbach that "philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it", and he clearly dedicated himself to trying to alter the world. Consequently, most followers of Marx are not fatalists, but activists who believe that revolutionaries must organize social change.
Week 25 view - talk - edit - history
Confucius (551 BCE - 479 BCE)
Confucius (Chinese Kong Fuzi, literally "Master Kong", traditionally September 28, 551 BCE–479 BCE) was a famous thinker and social philosopher of China, whose teachings have deeply influenced East Asia. Living in the Spring and Autumn period, he was convinced of his ability to restore the world's order, but failed.
After much travelling around China to promote his ideas among rulers, he eventually became involved in teaching disciples. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values gained prominence in China over other doctrines such as Legalism or Taoism during the Han dynasty. Used since then as the imperial orthodoxy, Confucius' thoughts have been developed into a vast and complete philosophical system known in the West as Confucianism. They were introduced to Europe by the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who was the first to Latinise the name as "Confucius".
The Analects is a short collection of his discussions with disciples, compiled posthumously. It contains an overview of his teachings.
Week 26 view - talk - edit - history
Michael Ruse (born June 21, 1940 in Birmingham, England) is a philosopher of science, working on the philosophy of the biology, and is well known for his work on the argument between creationism and evolutionary biology. He was born in England, took his undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol (1962), his master's degree at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario (1964), and Ph.D. at the University of Bristol (1970). Ruse taught at the University of Guelph Canada for 35 years. Since his retirement from Guelph, he has taught at Florida State University and is, since 2000, the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy. In 1986, he was elected as a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Bergen, Norway (1990) and the McMaster University, Ontario, Canada (2003).
Week 29 view - talk - edit - history
Blessed John Duns Scotus (c. 1266 – November 8, 1308) was a theologian, philosopher, and logician. He is considered one of the most important Franciscan theologians and was the founder of Scotism, a special form of Scholasticism. Some argue that during his tenure at Oxford, the systematic examination of what differentiates theology from philosophy and science began in earnest. He was known as Doctor Subtilis due to his subtle merging of differing views. Later philosophers were not so complimentary about his work, and the modern word dunce comes from the name "Dunse" given to his followers.
Week 32 view - talk - edit - history
Roger Bacon (c.1214 – 1294), also known as Doctor Mirabilis (Latin: "astounding teacher"), was one of the most famous Franciscan friars of his, or, indeed, any time. He was an English philosopher who placed considerable emphasis on empiricism, and has been presented as one of the earliest advocates of the modern scientific method in the West; though later studies have emphasized his reliance on occult and alchemical traditions. He was intimately acquainted with the philosophical and scientific collections of the Arab world which, having conquered the ancient centers of knowledge of Syria and Egypt, controlled access to many works of antiquity.
Week 35 view - talk - edit - history
Thomas Hobbes (April 5, 1588–December 4, 1679) was an English philosopher, whose famous 1648 book Leviathan set the agenda for nearly all subsequent Western political philosophy.
Although Hobbes is today best remembered for his work on political philosophy, he contributed to a diverse array of fields, including history, geometry, theology, ethics, general philosophy and what would now be called political science. Additionally, Hobbes's account of human nature as self-interested cooperation has proved to be an enduring theory in the field of philosophical anthropology.
Week 36 view - talk - edit - history
Thomas More (7 February 1478 — 6 July 1535), posthumously known also as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, author, and statesman. During his lifetime he earned a reputation as a leading humanist scholar and occupied many public offices, including that of Lord Chancellor from 1529 to 1532. More coined the word "utopia", a name he gave to an ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in a book published in 1516. He is chiefly remembered for his principled refusal to accept King Henry VIII's claim to be the supreme head of the Church in England, a decision which ended his political career and led to his execution as a traitor.
In 1935, four hundred years after his death, More was canonized in the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI, and was later declared the patron saint of lawyers and statesmen. He shares his feast day on 22 June in the General Roman Calendar with Saint John Fisher, the only bishop during the English Reformation to maintain his allegiance to the Pope, at the cost of his life. More was added to the Anglican Churches' calendar of saints in 1980.
Week 37 view - talk - edit - history
Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, a German philologist and philosopher, produced critiques of religion, morality, contemporary culture, and philosophy, centered around what he viewed as a fundamental question regarding the life-affirming and life-denying qualities of different attitudes and beliefs. Nietzsche's works feature unique, free-form stylization – combined with a wide philosophical breadth – through the use of, for example, analyses, etymologies, punning, parables, paradoxes, aphorisms, and contradictions, employed to demonstrate the inadequacies of normative modes of thought. Although largely overlooked during his short yet productive working life, which ended with a mental collapse in 1889, Nietzsche received recognition during the first half of the 20th century in German, French, and English intellectual circles, and by the second half of the 20th century he became regarded as a highly significant and influential figure in modern philosophy...
Week 39 view - talk - edit - history
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (German pronunciation: [ˈɡeɔʁk ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈheːɡəl]) (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher born in Stuttgart, Württemberg, in present-day southwest Germany. His influence has been widespread on writers of widely varying positions, including both his admirers (F. H. Bradley, Sartre, Hans Küng, Bruno Bauer), and his detractors (Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Schelling). His great achievement was to introduce for the first time in philosophy the idea that History and the concrete are important in getting out of the circle of philosophia perennis, i.e., the perennial problems of philosophy. He was also the one who, for the first time in the history of philosophy, realised the importance of the Other in the coming to be of self-consciousness...
Week 40 view - talk - edit - history
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian, as well as an important figure of Western philosophy and of the Scottish Enlightenment. Hume was heavily influenced by empiricists John Locke and George Berkeley, along with various Francophone writers such as Pierre Bayle, and various figures on the Anglophone intellectual landscape such as Isaac Newton, Samuel Clarke, Francis Hutcheson, and Joseph Butler. One of Hume's most important ideas dealt with human ideas and impressions.
Hume believed that all human knowledge comes to us through our senses. Our perceptions, as he called them, can be divided into two categories: ideas and impressions. He defines these terms thus in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: "By the term impression, then, I mean all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will. And impressions are distinguished from ideas, which are the less lively perceptions, of which we are conscious, when we reflect on any of those sensations or movements above mentioned." He further specifies ideas, saying, "It seems a proposition, which will not admit of much dispute, that all our ideas are nothing but copies of our impressions, or, in other words, that it is impossible for us to think of anything, which we have not antecedently felt, either by our external or internal senses." This forms an important aspect of Hume's skepticism, for he says that we cannot be certain a thing, such as God, a soul, or a self, exists unless we can point out the impression from which the idea of the thing is derived.
Week 41 view - talk - edit - history
Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He is most famous for his work The World as Will and Representation. Schopenhauer formulated a double-aspect theory to our understanding of reality, that of the world existing simultaneously but separately as will and representation. He is commonly known for having espoused a sort of philosophical pessimism that saw life as being essentially evil, futile, and full of suffering. However, upon closer inspection, in accordance with Eastern thought, especially that of Hinduism and Buddhism, he saw salvation, deliverance, or escape from suffering in aesthetic contemplation, sympathy for others, and ascetic living. His ideas profoundly influenced the fields of philosophy, psychology, music, and literature.
Week 42 view - talk - edit - history
Abū-Yūsuf Ya’qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī, also known by the Latinised version of his name Alkindus to the Western world (Arabic: أبو يوسف يعقوب ابن إسحاق الكندي, was a Muslim Arab scientist, mathematician, physician, and a talented musician.
Al-Kindī was born in Kufa, a centre of world learning at the time. Al-Kindi's father was the governor of Kufa, as his grandfather had been before him. Al-Kindi was descended from the Kinda tribe which had migrated from Yemen. This tribe had united a number of tribes and reached a position of prominence in the 5th and 6th centuries, but then lost power from the middle of the 6th century. Al-Kindī's education took place first in Kufa, then in Basrah, and finally in Baghdad. Knowledge of his great learning soon spread, and the Caliph al-Ma'mun appointed him to the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, which was a recently established centre for the translation of Greek philosophical and scientific texts. (He was also well known for his beautiful calligraphy, and at one point was employed as a calligrapher by al-Mutawakkil.)
Week 43 view - talk - edit - history
Auguste Comte (full name Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte) (January 17 (recorded January 19), 1798 - September 5, 1857) was a French thinker who coined the term sociology. He is remembered for being the first to apply the scientific method to the social world.
One universal law that Comte saw at work in all sciences he called the 'law of three phases'. It is by his statement of this law that he is best known in the English-speaking world; namely, that society has gone through three phases: Theological, Metaphysical, and Scientific. He also gave the name "Positive" to the last of these because of the polysemous connotations of the word.
Week 46 view - talk - edit - history
Jean-Paul Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic.
The basis of Sartre's existentialism is found in The Transcendence of the Ego. To begin with, the thing-in-itself is infinite and overflowing. Any direct consciousness of the thing-in-itself, Sartre refers to as a "pre-reflective consciousness". Any attempt to describe, understand, historicize etc. the thing-in-itself, Sartre calls "reflective consciousness". There is no way for the reflective consciousness to subsume the pre-reflective, and so reflection is fated to a form of anxiety, i.e. the human condition. The reflective consciousness in all its forms, (scientific, artistic or otherwise) can only limit the thing-in-itself by virtue of its attempt to understand or describe it.
Week 47 view - talk - edit - history
Ayn Rand was a Russian-born American novelist and philosopher best known for developing Objectivism and for writing the novels We the Living, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and the novella Anthem. A broadly influential figure in post-WWII America, her work attracted both enthusiastic admiration and scathing denunciations.
Rand's writing emphasizes the philosophic concepts of objective reality, reason, rational egoism, and laissez-faire capitalism, while attacking what she saw as the irrationality and immorality of altruism, collectivism, and communism. She believed that people must choose their values and actions by reason; that the individual has a right to exist for his or her own sake, neither sacrificing self to others nor others to self; and that no one has the right to take what belongs to others by physical force or fraud, or impose their moral code on others by physical force. Her politics have been described as minarchism and libertarianism, though she never used the first term and detested the second.
Week 48 view - talk - edit - history
Charles Sanders Peirce (pronounced purse) was an American polymath, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although educated as a chemist and employed as a scientist for 30 years, it is for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy, and the theory of signs, or semiotics, that he is largely appreciated today. The philosopher Paul Weiss, writing in the Dictionary of American Biography for 1934, called Peirce "the most original and versatile of American philosophers and America's greatest logician" (Brent, 1).
Peirce was largely ignored during his lifetime, and the secondary literature was scant until after World War II. Much of his huge output is still unpublished. Although he wrote mostly in English, he published some popular articles in French as well. An innovator in fields such as mathematics, statistics, research methodology, the philosophy of science, epistemology, and metaphysics, he considered himself a logician first and foremost. While he made major contributions to formal logic, "logic" for him encompassed much of what is now called the philosophy of science and epistemology. He, in turn, saw logic as the formal branch of semiotics, of which he is a founder. In 1886, he saw that logical operations could be carried out by electrical switching circuits, an idea used decades later to produce digital computers.
Week 49 view - talk - edit - history
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, was an English philosopher, statesman and essayist but is best known for leading the scientific revolution with his new 'observation and experimentation' theory which is the way science has been conducted ever since. He was knighted in 1603, created Baron Verulam in 1618, and created Viscount St Albans in 1621; though both peerage titles became extinct upon his death. Bacon did not propose an actual philosophy, but rather a method of developing philosophy; he wrote that, whilst philosophy at the time used the deductive syllogism to interpret nature, the philosopher should instead proceed through inductive reasoning from fact to axiom to law.
He began his professional life as a lawyer, but he has become best known as a philosophical advocate and defender of the scientific revolution. His works establish and popularize an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method. Induction implies drawing knowledge from the natural world through experimentation, observation, and testing of hypotheses. In the context of his time, such methods were connected with the occult trends of hermeticism and alchemy.
Week 50 view - talk - edit - history
Moritz Schlick was a German philosopher and the founding father of logical positivism and the Vienna Circle. Schlick worked on his Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre (General Theory of Knowledge) between 1918 and 1925, and, though later developments in his philosophy were to make various of his epistemological contentions untenable, the General Theory is perhaps his greatest work in its acute reasoning against synthetic a priori knowledge. Between 1926 and 1930, Schlick labored to finish Fragen der Ethik (Problems of Ethics), in which he surprised some of his fellow Circlists by including ethics as a viable branch of philosophy. Also during this time, the Vienna Circle published The Scientific View of the World: The Vienna Circle as an homage to Schlick. Its strong anti-metaphysical stance crystallized the viewpoint of the group.
With the rise of the Nazis in Germany and Austria, many of the Vienna Circle's members left for America and the United Kingdom. Schlick, however, stayed on at the University of Vienna: when visited by Herbert Feigl in 1935, he expressed dismay at events in Germany. On June 22, 1936, Schlick was ascending the steps of the University for a class when he was confronted by a former student, Johann Nelböck, who drew a pistol and shot him in the chest. Schlick died very soon afterward.
Week 51 view - talk - edit - history
Sir Isaac Newton
was an English physicist
, and natural philosopher
, regarded by many as the greatest scientist in the history of science
. His treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica
, published in 1687
, described universal gravitation
and the three laws of motion
, laying the groundwork for classical mechanics
. By deriving Kepler's laws of planetary motion
from this system, he was the first to show that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial
bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws. The unifying and deterministic
power of his laws was integral to the scientific revolution
It was Newton’s conception of the universe based upon Natural and rationally understandable laws that became the ideological seed for the Age of Enlightenment, during which it (along with the works of Galileo and Robert Boyle) became the inspiration for the application of the singular concept of Natural Law to every physical and social field of the day. Locke and Voltaire applied concepts of Natural Law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights; the physiocrats and Adam Smith applied Natural conceptions of psychology and self-interest to economic systems and the sociologists criticised the current social order for trying to fit history into Natural models of progress. Monboddo and Samuel Clarke resisted elements of Newton's work, but eventually rationalised it to conform with their strong religious views of nature.
Week 52 view - talk - edit - history
John Locke (August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704) was an influential English philosopher. In epistemology, Locke has often been classified as a British Empiricist, along with David Hume and George Berkeley. He is equally important as a social contract theorist, as he developed an alternative to the Hobbesian state of nature and argued a government could only be legitimate if it received the consent of the governed through a social contract and protected the natural rights of life, liberty, and estate. If such consent was not given, argued Locke, citizens had a right of rebellion. Locke is one of the few major philosophers who became a minister of government.
Locke's ideas had an enormous influence on the development of political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and contributors to liberal theory. His writings, along with those of many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, influenced the American revolutionaries as reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.