A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy, which involves rational inquiry into areas that are outside of either theological dogma or science. The term “philosopher” comes from the Ancient Greek φιλόσοφος (philosophos) meaning “lover of wisdom”. Its origination has been ascribed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.
In the classical sense, a philosopher was someone who lived according to a certain way of life, focusing on resolving existential questions about the human condition, and not someone who discourses upon theories or comments upon authors. Typically, these particular brands of philosophy are Hellenistic ones and those who most arduously commit themselves to this lifestyle may be considered philosophers.
In a modern sense, a philosopher is an intellectual who has contributed in one or more branches of philosophy, such as aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, social theory, and political philosophy. A philosopher may also be one who worked in the humanities or other sciences which have since split from philosophy proper over the centuries, such as the arts, history, economics, sociology, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, theology, and politics.
“In so far as the mind sees things in their eternal aspect, it participates in eternity.”
“The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.”
“Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many.”
“If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past.”
“I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.”
Watch the excellent video excerpt about the life and philosophy of Spinoza from the book The Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant
Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677 ) has been called by some “The Prince of Philosophers”. By the Catholic Church and the Jewish priests he was banned as a “heretic”. Spinoza was raised in the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam. He developed highly controversial ideas regarding the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible and the nature of the Divine. The Jewish religious authorities excommunicated him, effectively excluding him from Jewish society at age 23. His books were also later put on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books.
If you are fundamentally heretical, like me, how can you not love this guy?
Heraclitus is the first Greek philosopher to come from an aristocratic family. He became disillusioned with his fellow citizens when they chose to remove a prominent figure from office. He didn’t think that most people knew what they were doing, and were quick to accept tradition or go along with the opinions of others. For this reason, he was in favor of an aristocratic government (aristos) rather than a democracy exclaiming “One person is ten thousand to me if he is best.” His disillusionment with others, who could not understand his philosophy, led him ultimately to live a life of solitude in the mountains and to be known also as “The Weeping Philosopher.”
Heraclitus saw that the world is in a constant state of flux. He believed everything changes into it’s opposite, and that this is what maintains the world. “Cold things warm up, the hot cools off, wet becomes dry, dry becomes wet.” The philosophers before him thought there was a fundamental principle of reality (arche) and they identified it with a substance (water, air, the apeiron). For Heraclitus, the fundamental principle of the world isn’t a substance, but rather the principle that everything changes according to a divine guidance, which he called the Word (logos).
Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 BC – 475 BC) was a Greek philosopher, known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe, and for establishing the term Logos (λόγος) in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the Cosmos. From the lonely life he led, and still more from the riddling and paradoxicalnature of his philosophy and his stress upon the needless unconsciousness of humankind,he was called “The Obscure” and the “Weeping Philosopher”. He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that “the path up and down are one and the same”, all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties. His cryptic utterance that “all entities come to be in accordance with this Logos” (literally, “word”, “reason”).