Alan Watts was one of the greatest scholars of Eastern thought and remains to this day one of my most influential philosophers. His “Philosophies of Asia” was the first lecture of his I ever studied, when I was twelve years old. He was the first (aside from my parents) to encourage me to study philosophy. I couldn’t understand it very well at that age, but I am still learning from him even now. Enjoy.
Some words of wisdom written by Albert Einstein regarding God and Religion:
"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near to those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems."
—Einstein, in a letter to Murray W. Gross, Apr. 26, 1947
This quote from Einstein appears in Science, Philosophy, and Religion, A Symposium, published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941.
"The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events.
"To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.
"But I am convinced that such behavior on the part of representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress.
"In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task…"
Here is an EXCELLENT article I found on NewScientist.com, posted on his birthday. It is a tribute to Albert Einstein. Check it out! He was a rebellious genius who just barely earned his Ph.D. He aggravated his professors, was once locked out of a university library and reminds us all to question everything—one of the most valuable lessons I think he could have provided us, all scientific theory aside.
"Celebrating the Real Einstein": http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/03/celebrating-the-real-einstein.php
The following article, by Professor Barry Smith, is the best article I have found online regarding the Ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides. Anyone interested in Greek philosophy ought to also look at the other articles featured on this website. The ancient and very fundamental rationalism of Parmenides in particular catches my attention. Parmenides is certainly one of my favorites of the pre-Socratic philosophers.
I’ve also included a link to his actual work (fragments) entitled On Nature. It is excellent, and I will include a personal interpretation of it in a separate essay. The influence of his philosophy in Ancient Greek thinking is undeniable. Plato himself referred to Parmenides as “our father, Parmenides” in his dialogue Sophist.
by Max Maxwell
A superb modern Socratic Dialogue demonstrating brilliantly that faith is not a real source of morality or moral behavior. Read it here.
A decent and brief introduction to the ideas of Karl Popper, one of the greatest philosophers of science, can be found here.
I’ve also included one of his works, simply because I was able to find it online. It is Volume One of his two part series, “The Open Society and its Enemies,” where he deals out a devastating criticism of the doctrines of Plato. View it here. Scientists and philosophers alike all need to read Popper at some point in their lives.
Wallace Thornhill and his team have a message for the scientific community that it needs to hear. The gist of that message is expressed in this excellent piece of literature summarizing the view of the Electric Universe proponents. Whether one agrees with the theory or not, there is also another matter at hand and that is the compromise of critical dialogue within the scientific community. Because we are all so human, dogma and its propagation is difficult to avoid. The greater issue that Holoscience addresses is the reminder to keep dogma in check with questions and a healthy amount of skepticism, which, ironically, Einstein himself emphasized. (It is interesting to note that, while EU theory disagrees heavily with Relativity, its proponents are in fact maintaining the value Einstein attributed to the questioning of authority). Yet, regrettably, we occasionally see in the scientific community characteristics reminiscent of religious institutions and their reluctance to question their own doctrines. Granted, crackpot theories come a dime a dozen. But the outright refusal to engage in a dialogue with someone who challenges our views on no other grounds but personal bias and prejudice is an enormous obstacle against learning. It has not been uncommon in the past—and presently—for scientific “dissenters” to be ostracized and it is a shame that constructive and decent dialogue may have been lost in the process.
In this superb introduction to the Socratic Method, Max Maxwell discusses the Classical and Modern methods and their importance and applicability in present-day society. Maxwell places a great deal of deserved emphasis on the capacity for critical thinking – an ability that is (sad to say) often overlooked in public education systems in America today. We see a trend in public schools and colleges for students to be expected to do no more than memorize factual information and regurgitate it on command in the form of a multiple choice exam or quiz. All the while, critical discussion and the ability to think independently and to form questions on one’s own might be undermined. The ability to think critically isn’t necessarily synonymous with technical knowledge or skill within a specialized field of study. Most importantly, Maxwell reminds us of the importance of being unafraid to ask questions, the central theme of this entire website. This reading is highly recommended to everyone.
(Scroll down once on the main page to read the Intro)
American journalist, essayist, and literary critic Henry Louis Mencken wrote this “memorial service” dedicated to all the long-gone gods of the past in 1922, a little reminiscent of the theme of one of the greatest mythological novels of our time, American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. To repeat his most impressionable words in the following essay: “They were gods of the highest dignity - gods of civilized peoples - worshipped and believed in by millions. All were omnipotent, omniscient and immortal. And all are dead.” Enjoy.
Here we have the masterful writer and mythologist, Joseph Campbell, who was perhaps the greatest scholar of mythology in the twentieth century. As a comparative mythologist, he wrote extensively on the common themes and functions of the world’s myths. His most famous works include The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God. The following essay is an insight into his wisdom as to the functions of mythology on an individual, social and cultural level.
The ingenious inventor Nikola Tesla, mechanical and electrical engineer whose fame is often unfortunately overshadowed by that of his rival, the American-born Thomas Edison, was responsible for theoretical and mechanical work that helped bring about the Second Industrial Revolution. Aside from his extremely eccentric personality quirks (like the fact that he spoke to pigeons, disliked round objects and anything not divisible by the number 3, experienced nervous breakdowns, had a photographic memory, saw visions in the middle of the night, and believed he would sometimes receive electromagnetic signals from Martians) he was quite a remarkable genius who could perform complex mathematical equations in his head, visualize complex machinery and performed experiments that, to this day, modern scientists have been unable to reproduce. A scientist whose genius bordered on madness, this essay (one of the few non-technical writings I could find) may nevertheless provide an interesting insight into his mind:
Written in 1885 by the newspaper editor and critic of the economic system, Henry George’s eloquent and moving essay on the “absurdity” of private land ownership is a forceful and inspiring critique. Found essay here.
Our English word “apology” comes from the Greek apologia. In the Classical Greek sense it referred not to the admittance of guilt and an expression of remorse but was used as a legal term to refer to the defendant’s argument to refute legal charges brought against him in court. His defensive speech, as in Socrates’ case after being charged with corrupting the youth of Athens by teaching them to question the gods and philosophies of the time, was known as the apologia; as opposed to the argument of the prosecutors, which was called the kategoria. Today, the term Apologetics is typically associated with the efforts of the faithful to defend the claims of their religion with reason and rationality (C.S. Lewis was one famous Christian Apologist).
This timeless account of Socrates’ final defense against the Athenian jury showcases Plato’s literary skill at its finest as well as the rhetorical genius of his former teacher and mouthpiece, Socrates. Enjoy.
In this impassioned and resentful essay, the mathematician Paul Lockhart exposes some of the shortcomings of conventional education. Although this essay concerns the way mathematics is taught in schools today, anyone unsatisfied with modern educational systems can surely draw correlations with other subjects. In short, his lament is the failure of our culture to acknowledge mathematics as an art form – like music, painting, drawing, or poetry. He contends that, given two categories such as “poetical dreamers” and “rational thinkers,” mathematicians are often, erroneously, lumped into the second category with logicians and scientists. The greater crisis is that many students in American schools brush off the study of mathematics as dull, dry and boring… and as it is currently taught, they are right to do so, says Lockhart. Read his essay here (pdf).
Because the eloquent, masterful final words of Mr. Hitchens in this speech are not found in any of his writings (to my knowledge), the link provided below leads to a video – that could not have appropriately been placed anywhere else on this site but this page (my personal “Hall of Fame,”). It is brief, but the message profound and clearly in accord with the unspoken axiom of all great philosophers: continue to inquire until the very end of your days. Cancer, as well as a sudden conscious awareness of his own mortality, have not deterred this instinct in Hitchens and, if anything, have only empowered it. The title given here is of my own designation.
The highly critical, pessimistic, resentful and gruff old German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is famously known for his doctoral dissertation The World as Will and Representation, which he published at the age of 25. He was also very interested in literature and expressed a writing style that is supposed to have influenced a variety of thinkers, including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche and Leo Tolstoy. He believed in an ascetic lifestyle of neglecting desires, not unlike some Eastern philosophies; and referenced the Buddhist and Vedanta traditions as influential to his philosophy. However, he also believed that a Utopian society could be established through eugenics and had a controversial view of women. The following link provides a selection of essays that express his indignant attitude toward academia, “men of learning” (by which what he really means is educated individuals who do not think originally), good authorship, the value of being able to think for oneself and much more. His articulation, clever analogies and metaphors leave little room for speculation as to his strong convictions.
Francois Marie Arout, famously known as Voltaire was the witty French rascal who had himself locked in the Bastille several times in his lifetime and sentenced to exile in England for three years, where he became a student of Sir Isaac Newton’s works. He once warned us to remain vigilant in exercising our freedoms. He was the model of the rebellious and outspoken intellectual, the example for all dissidents and dissenters. He detested superstition, criticized the French government, envied the literary freedom of the English and had a knack for offending French aristocrats. When the old “laughing philosopher” wasn’t enraging the clergy with his philosophical investigations of history or tending to his garden, he played host to visitors from all over: rebels of the Enlightenment, aristocrats, skeptics and priests. When Jean Jacques Rousseau publicly criticized Voltaire, he responded to him with “that most terrible of all intellectual weapons ever wielded by man, the mockery of Voltaire,” as spoken by Tallentyre.
“In Voltaire’s fingers,” said Anatole France, “the pen runs and laughs.”
“To name Voltaire,” said Victor Hugo, “is to characterize the entire eighteenth century.”
“Unprepossessing, ugly, vain, flippant, obscene, unscrupulous, even at times dishonest—Voltaire was a man with the faults of his time and place, missing hardly one… But all these qualities, good and bad, were secondary, not of the essence of Voltaire; the astounding and basic thing in him was the inexhaustible fertility and brilliance of his mind,” wrote Will Durrant.
On his death bed, Voltaire refused to convert to Catholicism and gave these final words to his secretary: “I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition.” (Signed) Voltaire.Selected Political Essays
The famous British radical, American revolutionary and pamphleteer Thomas Paine wrote Age of Reason while he was in prison as an attack on institutionalized religion as well as the legitimacy of the Bible itself. It was a bestseller in America when it was published in the late 18th century and spurred a temporary revival of deistic thought. He reviews the contents of the Bible as critically and irreverently as if it were any work of literature devised by the minds of men, contributing to the critique of authoritarian justifications for knowledge by many Enlightenment greats.Paine argues for the existence of a God that does not interfere in human affairs or perform miracles. Perhaps he was as disillusioned as Voltaire was with the great miseries and sufferings of the world and reasoned that, if there is a God, he is either unable to do anything about it—and therefore impotent—or he has no desire to do anything about it and therefore incredibly capricious and evil. Voltaire and Paine were both very firm believers in God, but deeply contemptible of religion. The two, it seems, are simply not compatible in some thinking individuals. Thomas Jefferson, who was also a deist, once called Christianity “the most perverted system that ever shone on man.”