The greatest philosopher you’ve never heard of

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Adam Frank, NPR: Let’s be honest. When most of us talk about philosophy — the hard-core, name-dropping, theory-quoting kind — we’re talking about a particular lineage that traces back to the Hellenistic Greeks.

But consider, for a moment, the fact that over the last few thousand years there’ve been a whole lot of smart people born into a whole lot of highly sophisticated cultures. It is, therefore, kind of silly that we limit “philosophy” to mean “philosophy done by dudes who lived in Europe a long time ago.” That gripe was the main point of a …

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What consciousness wants

July 17, 2015

Brain tree illustration, tree of knowledge

What does consciousness want? I don’t mean what do “you” want. I mean, what is consciousness fundamentally about? What is it trying to do? What is its nature?

Consciousness is undefinable. We can look at the brain with fancy machines and see activity going on. We can study neurons and understand the physical processes by which, for example, vision takes place. But how actual experience comes to arise on the basis of this is something that isn’t understood. This has been called the “hard problem” of explaining consciousness because scientists and philosophers don’t even know how to begin to think about this.

The philosopher and neuroscientist Alva Noë has said that consciousness is co-extensive … Read more »

Check out Stoic Week 2014

November 2, 2014


Stoic Week 2014 is an online international event taking place from Monday 24th to Sunday 30th November. The week is part of a multi-disciplinary project called Stoicism Today, which is helping to revive the ancient philosophy of Stoicism in modern life.

I’ve mentioned stoicism on this blog before, in articles based on quotes by Marcus Aurelius, who I’ve described as “the original Western Buddhist” because of stoicism’s striking similarities to Buddhism.

Stoicism inspired Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and modern resilience psychology, and is a powerful philosophy for helping people flourish in the face of adversity. At a time when many schools and companies are interested in teaching resilience and character, it’s never been more … Read more »

Marcus Aurelius: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself…”

December 29, 2009

Rock in ocean wavesWe can’t choose what happens to us in life, but we can choose how to respond to it. This piece of practical wisdom is found in the Buddhist tradition, but was also a cornerstone of Stoic philosophy. Bodhipaksa explains how we can untangle ourselves from the stories we tell ourselves about our experience.

Marcus Aurelius is my favorite Stoic philosopher. The Stoics, if you’re not familiar with them, were a school of philosophy who started about 300 BCE and who continued teaching until 529 CE, when the Christian emperor Justinian I banned pagan philosophies.

Although we use the word “stoicism” to mean something like to “grin and bear it” or to “suck it up,” Stoicism … Read more »