Some topics remain taboo for science. When Georges Lemaître first proposed the Big Bang theory in the 1920s, there was a major backlash among many in the physics community — including Albert Einstein — who accused these physicists of importing a religious concept into science. The eminent British astronomer Fred Hoyle, who denied the Big Bang theory to his death in 2001 claimed:
“The reason why scientists like the “big bang” is because they are overshadowed by the Book of Genesis. It is deep within the psyche of most scientists to believe in the first page of Genesis.”
According to the father of psychology Sigmund Freud, there are three parts of the human psyche: the ego, the id and the superego. These are originally Latin terms meaning ‘I’, ‘it’ and ‘upper-I’.
The iceberg is a common illustration of this triple structure of the mind. The part of the iceberg above water corresponds to the conscious parts of the mind. On the other hand, everything beneath the surface is unconscious.
The ego is above the water; the id is beneath. The superego is a bit above and a bit below — partly conscious and partly unconscious. Each part has…
sub specie aeternitatis
/sʌb ˈspiːʃiː ɪˌtəːnɪˈtɑːtɪs/
1. viewed in relation to the eternal; in a universal perspective.
Imagine setting out from your home one day, leaving everything you know behind and heading off into the world. And imagine that on this journey, you become fantastically successful and wealthy and famous. You are now the object of enormous adulation and admiration for millions of people and what you have done is heartily felt as having the greatest value to everyone you know.
And now imagine that after a number of years out in the world winning glory and acclaim, you…
There is a chasm in modern philosophy so broad that only a handful of voices have managed to be heard on both sides. Each is a peculiarity to the other — something foreign and quaint.
The origins of this modern split in philosophy can be traced to the two founding philosophers of these movements — Gottlob Frege and Edmund Husserl.
Near the end of his career in 1929 Husserl wrote that:
“To be sure, we still have philosophical congresses. The philosophers meet but, unfortunately, not the philosophies. …
Scientists, philosophers and children have long been mesmerised by the peculiar penchant of moths to self-immolate.
After many millennia of musings, modern science is finally bringing us closer to an understanding of this fatal attraction between moth and flame. The leading entomological hypothesis about this bizarre behaviour is that it’s an evolutionary short-circuit of the moth’s onboard navigation system.
As it turns out, this death spiral of the moth is a hauntingly accurate analogy to humanity’s present struggle to meet the challenges of its self-generated existential crises. The survival or extinction of our species has a lot to do with…
You’ll often hear it said that Buddhism isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy. This type of argument plays well in justifying Buddhism to a society that is sick of traditional religion. In a society parched by the death of God, the search for a higher meaning does not disappear; now, however, it must be “reasonable” and “rational”. And obviously that creates problems.
These demands immediately rule out all of the Judaeo-Christian traditions; we are all too familiar with the unrational dogmas, the pomp and ritual and the common hypocrisy of it all.
And so we turn our eyes to the…
Philosophy is born of the marriage of two Greek words, philos- and sophia. Philos is one of Ancient Greek’s many words for love, while sophia is the Greek word for wisdom. And so at its root, philosophy was originally (and for some of us — perennially) about the love of wisdom. In his work Recapture the Rapture, Jamie Wheal identifies two strands of wisdom that pave the way to every living philosophy: ecstasis and catharsis.
The Greek term ecstasis (meaning “to stand outside oneself”) is the etymological mother of our English words ecstasy and ecstasis. Ecstasis (also spelt ekstasis) is…
There is a type of temperament that, when mixed with philosophy, produces a very interesting flowering of the human condition.
Diogenes the Cynic is one that we looked at in a previous episode. The Ancient Roman senator Cato the Younger is another. He became so drenched in Stoic philosophy that he became a living embodiment of its values; as his biographers noted, he made a dirty word out of compromise:
The history of philosophy is a tapestry composed of colourful characters. If there was a distinction for the most eccentric and colourful among this peculiar bunch, there is no doubt that Empedocles of Acragas would be in the running.
It is a rare philosopher who claims to be a god; it’s an even rarer one that raises people from the dead and cures a whole town of plague all the while strutting about dressed like a king. If Empedocles was anything, he was a rare breed.
While he is known today solely as a Presocratic philosopher, he was famous in…
There are many fruitful comparisons between Socrates and the Roman Senator/Stoic philosopher Cato the Younger.
Some of these are amusing superficial comparisons: both men were partial to bouts of heavy drinking and philosophising — something we see Socrates do particularly well in Plato’s Symposium and something Cato was often slandered for.
But there is a much deeper vein of kinship between these two philosophical heavyweights. Both were philosophers who prioritised the living of philosophy over the writing about it. …