By: Plato (427-347)
The Apology of Socrates
More than two thousand years ago, the great Greek philosopher Socrates was condemned to death for making seditious comments against the city state of Athens. His followers and disciples were legion. Ranging from Xenophon, the mercenary warrior and historian of the Peloponnesian War to the scholarly Plato, Socrates was described as the conscience-keeper of the nation, or the “gadfly” who would not let the massive machinery of the state rest in complacence. The Apology of Socrates by Plato was thought to have been written following Socrates trial and death in 399 BC...
Awaiting his trial on charges of impiety and heresy, Socrates encounters Euthyphro, a self-proclaimed authority on matters of piety and the will of the gods. Socrates, desiring instruction in these matters, converses with Euthyphro, but as usual, the man who professes to know nothing fares better than the man who claims to be an expert. One of Plato’s well-known Socratic Dialogues, Euthyphro probes the nature of piety, and notably poses the so-called Euthyphro Dilemma: Do the gods love a thing because it is holy, or is a thing holy because it is loved by the gods?
The Symposium (Ancient Greek: Συμπόσιον) is a philosophical book written by Plato sometime after 385 BCE. On one level the book deals with the genealogy, nature and purpose of love, on another level the book deals with the topic of knowledge, specifically how does one know what one knows. The topic of love is taken up in the form of a group of speeches, given by a group of men at a symposium or a wine drinking party at the house of the tragedian Agathon at Athens. Plato constructed the Symposium as a story within a story within a story...
In Plato’s Ion, Socrates questions Ion on whether he should really claim laud and glory for his ‘rhapsodic’ recitals of Homer’s poetry.
“Our intention is, that Timaeus, who is the most of an astronomer amongst us, and has made the nature of the universe his special study, should speak first, beginning with the generation of the world and going down to the creation of man…” ‘Timaeus’ is usually regarded as one of Plato’s later dialogues, and provides an account of the creation of the universe, with physical, metaphysical and ethical dimensions, which had great influence over philosophers for centuries following. It attributes the order and beauty of the universe to a benevolent demiurge – a ‘craftsman’ or god – fashioning the physical world after the pattern of an ideal, eternal one...
Plato's Phaedo is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The Phaedo, which depicts the death of Socrates, is also Plato's seventh and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days (the first six being Theaetetus, Euthyphro, Sophist, Statesman, Apology, and Crito).In the dialogue, Socrates discusses the nature of the afterlife on his last day before being executed by drinking hemlock. Socrates has been imprisoned and sentenced to death by an Athenian jury for not believing in the gods of the state and for corrupting the youth of the city...
“For there is no light of justice or temperance, or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls, in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass, dimly…”Socrates and his earnest friend Phaedrus, enjoying the Athenian equivalent of a lunchtime stroll in the park, exchange views on love and on the power of words, spoken and written.Phaedrus is the most enchanting of Plato’s Erotic dialogues (capitalised in honour of the god). The barefoot philosopher urges an eager young...
By: Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599)
Amoretti: A sonnet sequence
The Amoretti (meaning little love poems) is a sequence of 89 sonnets written in the tradition of the Petrarchan sonnets, a popular form for poets of the Renaissance period. Spenser’s sequence has been largely neglected in modern times, while those of his contemporaries William Shakespeare and Sir Philip Sidney have been acclaimed. However, because of the artistic skill, along with the emotion and the humor exhibited, these poems deserve a broader hearing, even though they may be somewhat difficult for the present-day reader, partly through Spenser’s love for words and expressions that were already archaic in his time...
By: D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
The Prussian Officer and Other Stories
The collection of short stories – of which The Prussian Officer is one – was Lawrence’s first such book. A German officer and his orderly are the focus of the piece and, while socially the superior of his orderly, the officer demonstrates his is the distinctly baser character. (Introduction by Cathy Barratt)
By: Confucius (551-479 BC)
The Sayings of Confucius
A treasure trove of wise and pithy sayings, reflections on education, family values, the ideal human being, life and living, politics, art, culture and timeless wisdom, The Sayings of Confucius is indeed an invaluable addition to your bookshelf. Ever since Chinese literary works first began to be translated into European languages, the works of the legendary Chinese philosopher and teacher Confucius, who lived in present day Qufu in the Shandong province of China, more than two thousand years ago, have held universal appeal...
By: René Descartes (1596-1650)
Meditations on First Philosophy
The foundations of modern skepticism and objective thinking are thought to be rooted in the philosophy of Rene Descartes, the French mathematician, philosopher and writer. This great sixteenth century thinker also gave us theories on mind-body dualism and the concept of ethics as the highest form of science. He is considered the Father of Modern Western Philosophy. His theories also led to the emancipation of humanity from the doctrine that the Church is the sole authority over Man and led to a more autonomous idea of the human condition...
Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences
The Discourse on Method is best known as the source of the famous quotation “cogito ergo sum”, “I think, therefore I am.” …. It is a method which gives a solid platform from which all modern natural sciences could evolve. With this work, the idea of skepticism was revived from the ancients such as Sextus Empiricus and modified to account for a truth that Descartes found to be incontrovertible. Descartes started his line of reasoning by doubting everything, so as to assess the world from a fresh perspective, clear of any preconceived notions.
By: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
The Critique of Pure Reason
The Critique of Pure Reason, first published in 1781 with a second edition in 1787, has been called the most influential and important philosophical text of the modern age. Kant saw the Critique of Pure Reason as an attempt to bridge the gap between rationalism (there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience) and empiricism (sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge) and, in particular, to counter the radical empiricism of David Hume (our beliefs are purely the result of accumulated habits, developed in response to accumulated sense experiences)...
The Critique of Practical Reason
The Critique of Practical Reason (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft) is the second of Immanuel Kant’s three critiques, first published in 1788. It follows on from his Critique of Pure Reason and deals with his moral philosophy. The second Critique exercised a decisive influence over the subsequent development of the field of ethics and moral philosophy, becoming the principle reference point for ethical systems that focus on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions...
Perpetual Peace: A Philosophic Essay
This essay, written in 1795, puts forth a plan for a lasting peace between nations and peoples. Kant puts forth necessary means to any peace, and argues that nations can be brought into federation with one another without loss of sovereignty. In one translation, telling of the historical impact of this essay, this federation is called a “league of nations.” The supplements and appendices are of considerable interest on their own. The supplements contain an argument regarding the use which nature makes of war, and the way in which nature, in the end, impels us towards peace...
On the Popular Judgment: That may be Right in Theory, but does not Hold Good in the Praxis
This tripartite essay, published variously as On the Popular Judgment (J. Richardson trans.), On the Old Saw (E.B. Ashton trans.), or On the Common Saying (both M.J. Gregor and H.B. Nisbet), Kant takes up the issue of the relation of theory to practice in three distinct ways. In the first, he replies to Christian Garve’s criticism of his moral theory, in the second, he distances himself from Thomas Hobbes, and in the third, Moses Mendelssohn. The three taken together are representative of the breadth of Kant’s moral and political thought; the first section being concerned with the individual, the second with the state, and the third with the species...
Of the Injustice of Counterfeiting Books
This essay of Kant’s on copyright argues that the unlicensed copying of books cannot possibly be permissible, due to the fact that it assumes a consent on the part of the author which it is logically impossible for the author to give. The argument is dependent upon an assumption that the writings be commodified, for the reason why the author is unable to possibly give consent to multiple publishers is due to the author’s will – to communicate with the public – necessitating the profitability of the publisher, for, it is assumed, there is no way to communicate with the public at large without a great expense which can only be borne by a publishing firm...
By: Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Nature” is a short essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson published anonymously in 1836. It is in this essay that the foundation of transcendentalism is put forth, a belief system that espouses a non-traditional appreciation of nature. Recent advances in zoology, botany, and geology confirmed Emerson’s intuitions about the intricate relationships of nature at large. The publication of “Nature” is usually taken to be the watershed moment at which transcendentalism became a major cultural movement...
A series of biographical lectures originally published in 1850. Each chapter is a philosophical treatment of the life of an intellectual. The six representatives are Plato, Swedenborg, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Napolean and Goethe. (Introduction by S. Kovalchik)
By: Sigmund Freud
Reflections on War and Death
Anyone, as Freud tells us in Reflections on War and Death, forced to react against his own impulses may be described as a hypocrite, whether he is conscious of it or not. One might even venture to assert—it is still Freud’s argument—that our contemporary civilisation favours this sort of hypocrisy and that there are more civilised hypocrites than truly cultured persons, and it is even a question whether a certain amount of hypocrisy is not indispensable to maintain civilisation. When this...
Totem and Taboo
Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics is a book by Sigmund Freud, published in German in 1913. It is a collection of four essays first published in the journal Imago (1912–13), employing the application of psychoanalysis to the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and the study of religion. The four essays are entitled: The Horror of Incest; Taboo and Emotional Ambivalence; Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thoughts; and The Return of Totemism in Childhood.
By: Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
The title 'Anthem' is derived as an anthem to sense of self and self-governing thoughts. Anthem is a story of Equality 7-2521 who is a young man living in some unspecified future time and place. In this future era freedom and individual rights have been eradicated. The starring character of the novel is an inquisitive street cleaner. He lives in a society where people have lost their knowledge of individualism, to the extreme that people do not know words like 'I' or 'mine'. All the people live and work for their livelihood in collective groups, along with the people with power, namely the 'Councils'...
By: Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-420)
The City of God
Rome having been stormed and sacked by the Goths under Alaric their king, the worshipers of false gods, or pagans, as we commonly call them, made an attempt to attribute this calamity to the Christian religion, and began to blaspheme the true God with even more than their wonted bitterness and acerbity. It was this which kindled my zeal for the house of God, and prompted me to undertake the defense of the city of God against the charges and misrepresentations of its assailants. This work was in my hands for several years, owing to the interruptions occasioned by many other affairs which had a prior claim on my attention, and which I could not defer...
Confessions (Latin: Confessiones) is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written between AD 397 and AD 398. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published under the title The Confessions of St. Augustine in order to distinguish the book from other books with similar titles, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions.
By: Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908)
Bearing a striking resemblance to Aesop of Aesop's Fables fame, American author Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus is also a former slave who loves to tell simple and pithy stories. Uncle Remus or to give it its original title, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings was published in late 1880 and received instant acclaim. The book was reviewed in hundreds of journals and newspapers across the country, leading to its immense success, both critical and financial. “Remus” was originally a fictional character in a newspaper column...
By: Thomas Paine
The Age of Reason
A Universalist book, The Age of Reason advocates for the existence of natural religion and challenges the structure of all organized religion. First written and distributed as pamphlets, the book was later published into two parts. Paine puts forward his personal beliefs, debating reason and revelation, while analyzing the Bible and the influence organized religion has on society. Exploring topics including natural religion, criticism of corrupt religious institutions, and distinction between rationality and blind faith in the supernatural, the book presents a guide for the conscious and free spiritual thinkers...
By: John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Published in 1859, On Liberty is a libertarian philosophical work by English philosopher John Stuart Mill that endorses his view on the importance of individuality for the constant progression and improvement of society. The work also supports economic and moral freedom, and openly criticizes the influence of social authority that in one way or another imposes a predefined set of acceptable attitudes and opinions. Highlighting issues including the incongruity between authority and liberty, the oppressive...
Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy
This is Mill’s first work on economics. It foreshadows his Political Economy which was the standard Anglo-American Economics textbook of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mill’s economic theory moved from free market capitalism, to government intervention within the precepts of Utilitarianism, and finally to Socialism.
John Stuart Mill’s book Utilitarianism is one of the most influential and widely-read philosophical defenses of utilitarianism in ethics. The essay first appeared as a series of three articles published in Fraser’s Magazine in 1861; the articles were collected and reprinted as a single book in 1863. It went through four editions during Mill’s lifetime with minor additions and revisions. Although Mill includes discussions of utilitarian ethical principles in other works such as On Liberty and The Subjection of Women, Utilitarianism contains Mill’s only major discussion of the fundamental grounds for utilitarian ethical theory.
The Subjection of Women
The Subjection of Women is the title of an essay written by John Stuart Mill in 1869, possibly jointly with his wife Harriet Taylor Mill, stating an argument in favor of equality between the sexes. It offers both detailed argumentation and passionate eloquence in opposition to the social and legal inequalities commonly imposed upon women by a patriarchal culture. Just as in “On Liberty,” Mill defends the emancipation of women on utilitarian grounds, convinced that the moral and intellectual advancement of women would result in greater happiness for everybody.
Considerations on Representative Government
Mill's volume was published in 1861 as an argument favoring this form of governance. Mill covers what forms of government work best, including when representative government is applicable and when not. He details appropriate functions of representative bodies and warns of problems to avoid. He distinguishes between true and false democracy. Other areas covered include how voting is carried out, the role of a second chamber in Parliament, and how an executive branch might function.
Auguste Comte and Positivism
Part 1 lays out the framework for Positivism as originated in France by Auguste Comte in his Cours de Philosophie Positive. Mill examines the tenets of Comte's movement and alerts us to defects. Part 2 concerns all Comte's writings except the Cours de Philosophie Positive. During Comte's later years he gave up reading newspapers and periodicals to keep his mind pure for higher study. He also became enamored of a certain woman who changed his view of life. Comte turned his philosophy into a religion, with morality the supreme guide. Mill finds that Comte learned to despise science and the intellect, instead substituting his frantic need for the regulation of change.