Why Socrates Was Wrong About Democracy

Many great minds have plenty of bad things to say about democracy, but what about the people who think it is great?

Pericles, the great Athenian leader, speaks of the greatness of liberty to the people of Athens.

We have explained before that some of the greatest thinkers in history found reasons to reject democracy. Their critiques were many, and often very well thought out. Even for the most ardent supporter of democratic ideals, their arguments must give us pause and lead us to reflect on our notions of government and society.

Keep reading Show less

10 new year's resolutions you can steal from philosophers

Finding New Year’s resolutions isn’t always easy. To help you out, we’ve gotten ideas from some of the greatest thinkers of all time.

Can't think of a resolution?

Finding New Year's resolutions isn't always easy. To help you out, we've gotten ideas from some of the greatest thinkers of all time.

Keep reading Show less

No Afterlife? No Problem! How to Face Oblivion Like a Pro

You are going to die. So am I. These are facts.

Photo: Eduardo Mineo via Flickr

You are going to die. So am I. These are facts.

The question of how to deal with the reality of death is one as old as mankind. Billions of people, living and dead, have put their hopes on an afterlife. The promise of Heaven, Valhalla, Elysium, reincarnation, or even a decent hell makes death but an inconvenience.

Keep reading Show less

Need Another Use for a Liberal Arts Education? How about Learning to Be a Citizen?

While we often criticize the humanities for not providing an education that leads directly to employment, one philosopher argues they have an even more important role to play in our societies.

Yet another history major who can't find a job? (Norman Rockwell, The Freedom of Speech)

We’ve discussed before that Socrates, one of the greatest things to come out of Athens, hated Athenian democracy. While he had many reasons to do so, one of the primary ones was that the typical Athenian had no idea what they were discussing, and were prone to using emotion over reason when making important political decisions. They lacked both the skills for critical thinking and viewing the world outside their own perspective to be proper democratic citizens.

But, as philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues, we can avoid those problems by placing a high value on an education in the humanities. A high value which today is often difficult to find.

Keep reading Show less

‘Know thyself’ is not just silly advice: it’s actively dangerous

Knowing who you are can stop you from becoming who you want to be.


 

A man looks at the Love Forever room during a preview of the Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a phrase you are as likely to find in a serious philosophy text as you are in the wackiest self-help book: ‘Know thyself!’ The phrase has serious philosophical pedigree: by Socrates’ time, it was more or less received wisdom (apparently chiselled into the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi) though a form of the phrase reaches back to Ancient Egypt. And ever since, the majority of philosophers have had something to say about it. 

Keep reading Show less