Asked by Leon, leader of the Peloponnese fortress, amazed by his eloquence and his wide knowledge, Pythagoras replied that he possessed no knowledge but was a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. Continuing his explanation, he says that human life seems to be a place where Olympic games take place: some pursue honour and glory, others seek only rewards, but others do not seek ovations nor rewards; they are just spectators who are examining what is happening around. The latter, Pythagoras call them “lovers of wisdom” (philosophers), because they do not value money and glory, but devote themselves to the research of human nature.
Subsequently, philosophy emerged in response to people’s questions , questions such as: What is existence? What is the relationship between subjective and objective existence? What is the value of truth, beauty and justice? What are the causes of man’s unhappiness on earth? What is happiness? What are humans’ limits? All these and so much more have been the interest of many philosophers throughout the centuries.
So, since we still to try to learn about ourselves, about the development of society and how to evolve from a spiritual standpoint, Wabi-Sabi dedicates this month to the 6 best philosophers whose writings can still enrich our knowledge:
6. Critique of Pure Reason (Penguin Modern Classics)–Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), born in Königsberg, East Prussia, was the most prominent thinker of the German Enlightenment, and one of the most influential philosophers of all time. His comprehensive and profound thinking on aesthetics, ethics and knowledge has had an immense impact on all subsequent philosophy.
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant laid out a framework upon which the whole of modern philosophy is based. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason presents a profound and challenging investigation into the nature of human reason, its knowledge and illusions. Reason, Kant argues, is the seat of certain concepts that precede experience and make it possible, but we are not therefore entitled to draw conclusions about the natural world from these concepts. Thus, Kant’s primary aim is to determine the limits and scope of pure reason. That is, he wants to know what reason alone can determine without the help of the senses or any other faculties.
5. The Republic–Plato
Since the mid-nineteenth century, the Republic has been Plato’s most famous and widely read Socratic dialogue. The Republic is an investigation into the nature of an ideal society. In this far-reaching and profoundly influential treatise, Plato explores the concept of justice, the connection between politics and psychology, the difference between words and what they represent, and the roles of art and education, among many other topics such as human happiness,
education, knowledge, the structure of reality, the virtues and vices, good and bad souls, the family, the role of women in society, the role of art in society, and even the afterlife. A towering achievement of philosophical insight, The Republic is as relevant to readers today as it was to the citizens of ancient Athens.
4. Beyond Good and Evil–Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher, cultural critic, poet, and Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history. In “Beyond Good and Evil” Nietzsche draws on and expands the ideas of his previous work, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”but with a more critical and polemical approach. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche accuses past philosophers of lacking critical sense and blindly accepting dogmatic premises in their consideration of morality. Specifically, he accuses them of founding grand metaphysical systems upon the faith that the good man is the opposite of the evil man, rather than just a different expression of the same basic impulses that find more direct expression in the evil man. The work moves into the realm “beyond good and evil” in the sense of leaving behind the traditional morality which Nietzsche subjects to a destructive critique in favour of what he regards as an affirmative approach that fearlessly confronts the perspective nature of knowledge and the perilous condition of the modern individual.
Written in Greek, by the only Roman emperor who was also a philosopher, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) offer a remarkable series of challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe.
But while the Meditations were composed to provide personal consolation and encouragement, in developing his beliefs Marcus Aurelius also created one of the greatest of all works of philosophy: a timeless collection of extended meditations and short aphorisms that has been consulted and admired by statesmen, thinkers and readers through the centuries.
A philosophy that saw self-possession as the key to an existence lived ‘in accordance with nature’, Stoicism called for the restraint of animal instincts and the severing of emotional ties.
These beliefs were formulated by the Athenian followers of Zeno in the fourth century BC, but it was in Seneca (c. 4 BC- AD 65) that the Stoics found their most eloquent advocate. Stoicism, as expressed in the Letters, helped ease pagan Rome’s transition to Christianity, for it upholds upright ethical ideals and extols virtuous living, as well as expressing disgust for the harsh treatment of slaves and the inhumane slaughters witnessed in the Roman arenas. Seneca’s major contribution to a seemingly unsympathetic creed was to transform it into a powerfully moving and inspiring declaration of the dignity of the individual mind.
An autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by Saint Augustine of Hippo, written in Latin between AD 397 and 400, the work outlines Saint Augustine’s sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published under the title The Confessions of Saint Augustine in order to distinguish the book from other books with similar titles. Its original title was Confessions in Thirteen Books, and it was composed to be read out loud with each book being a complete unit.
Confessions is generally considered one of Augustine’s most important texts. It is widely seen as the first Western autobiography ever written, and was an influential model for Christian writers throughout the Middle Ages. Professor Henry Chadwick wrote that Confessions will “always rank among the great masterpieces of western literature
The work is not a complete autobiography, as it was written during Saint Augustine’s early 40s and he lived long afterwards, producing another important work. Nonetheless, it does provide an unbroken record of his development of thought and is the most complete record of any single person from the 4th and 5th centuries. It is a significant theological work, featuring spiritual meditations and insights.
In the work Augustine writes about how much he regrets having led a sinful and immoral life. He discusses his regrets for following the Manichaean religion and believing in astrology. He writes about Nebridius’s role in helping to persuade him that astrology was not only incorrect but evil, and Saint Ambrose’s role in his conversion to Christianity. The first nine books are autobiographical and the last four are commentary and significantly more philosophical. He shows intense sorrow for his sexual sins, and writes on the importance of sexual morality. The books were written as prayers to God, thus the title, based on the Psalms of David; and it begins with “For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” The work is thought to be divisible into books which symbolise various aspects of the Trinity and trinitarian belief.