Is Hell Real: What Happens After You Die?

According to Scott G. Bruce – from his “Introduction” to the Penguin Book of Hell – “Hell, the afterlife of the Christian religion, is arguably the most powerful and persuasive construct of the human imagination in the Western tradition.”

Describing it as a “subterranean realm of eternal suffering, a prison for sinful souls governed by a fallen angel who surpassed all other creatures in wickedness,” Bruce points out the quite obvious fact that “Hell has inspired fear and thereby controlled the behavior of countless human beings for more than two thousand years.”

And that – and this is probably more important – “despite advances in scholarship that have called into question the authority of the Christian scriptures and scientific developments that have changed the way we think about the human race and our place in the cosmos, the idea of Hell has remained tenacious in Western thought.”

Such a sentence begs the most childish – and yet most potent – question of all: why?

Why more than half of the inhabitants of the United States today still believe that there indeed exists such a place “where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished”?

Why would a human being born in the XXI century be more inclined to accept as true the existence of an afterlife realm of punishment and torment for the bad, than, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s scientifically-backed opinion that “the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you”?

Or have we missed something? Could it be that we have been on the wrong track all along? Have scientists rushed a bit to the conclusion and are people like Jordan Peterson right to say that hell is real as much as you make it be?

In one way or another – is Hell real?


Table of Contents
(Click a title below to go to the respective section)

1. Introduction: The Gates of Hell
2. The Description of Hell in the Bible
3. The Evolution of Hell: A Brief History of the Concept
     3.1 Hell Is Not Real: Hell in the Old Testament
     3.2 Hades/Dis: Greek and Roman Mythology
     3.3 The Problem of Hell: Death Discriminates

     3.4 The Law of Contrapasso: Dante’s Inferno
     3.5 Is Hell Real: The Protestant Reformation and Modernity
     3.6 Visions and Near-Death Experiences: Hell Is
Real
4. Is Hell Real According to the People: What the Data Says
     4.1 The World
     4.2 The USA
5. Is Hell Real: A Closing Statement
     5.1 Hell Is Not Sheol
     5.2 Jesus in the Underworld: The Harrowing of Hell
     5.3 A Christian God and an Unchristian Hell
     5.4 The Ultimate Irony: From Real to Metaphysical and Back to Real Hell

 1. Introduction: The Gates of Hell

Well, if you have ever visited Derweze/Darvaza, a barely inhabited village in Turkmenistan, you probably already know the answer to this question.

Hell is real as, well, hell.

And it looks something like this:

Of course, if you asked a scientist, he would probably tell you that this is the Darvaza gas crater – still burning after it had been set on fire by geologists back in 1971 so that the spread of the poisonous methane gas be prevented.

However, the locals have a different understanding of the phenomenon, best illustrated by the name they chose for it: jähenneme açylan gapy.

Now, we don’t understand Turkmen, but based on how a human being would react if suddenly faced with a sight such as the one on the image, jähenneme açylan gapy must mean either “We repent, Good Gracious Lord, we repent for all our sins!” or “The Gates of Hell.”

Intuition tells us to go for the second meaning.

 2. The Description of Hell in the Bible

And we bet that your intuition didn’t make you think of a gas crater the first time you saw the image above either.

Why?

Because, especially if you are living in a WEIRD society, all your life you’ve been fed with a vision of Hell which calls into mind something not too dissimilar from it.

Keyword?

Fire.

Main source?

The Bible, of course.

Not that you need a proof, but here are few just in case:

BOOK VERSES DESCRIPTION (NIV)
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
13:42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
18:9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
25:41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Mark 9:43-44 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
9:47-48 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.
Luke 3:17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
John 15:6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (For a full summary of the Gospel – click here.)
2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
James 3:6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (Read a summary here.)
Jude 1:7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
Revelation 14:11 And the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.
20:13-15 The sea gave up the dead that was in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that was in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.

So, all in all, Hell is a fiery domain where the wicked and the vile suffer the eternal torment of their sins, nightmarishly depicted by the Gospel of Mark as a host of immortal worms which gnaw upon their souls for all eternity.

And this brings us to the main point of why there is such a thing as Hell in the first place: it is not merely an abode, but a punitive abode. In other words, just as its counterpart Heaven, it exists to balance the injustice of our world. So, something like a Giant Prison of the Afterlife.

Sure, you can be sinful on earth and pass unpunished – as much as you can be good and reap no rewards – but there is a higher law, an always just law, and once you die, there’s no escape from it!

Unlike the earthly and secular one, this higher law seems to be rather clear and straightforward:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

In case you can’t find all of the usual suspects, don’t worry: in two other epistles, the same guy who wrote the passage above (Saint Paul) further clears things up:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)


We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:9-10)

No need for additional passages, I believe: more or less, everybody’s covered in these three. Of course, to a 21st-century reader, it may seem a bit odd why God decided to put such a strong emphasis on sex, and, moreover, why it is such “an abomination” (cf. Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13) to be a male homosexual.

(Seriously, look it up: the only more explicit reference in The Bible to lesbianism being a sin is Romans 1:26-27 – and not only it is not nearly as clear as some theologians would have you believe, but it is also a most probable non-Pauline interpolation.).

Either way, this brief overview all but exhausts the way Hell is depicted in the Bible, both in terms of general appearance and its raisons d’être. And if you wonder where are all the torturing devices and mischievous devils, you better look around you, Ferdinand, because as far as the Bible is concerned, Hell is virtually empty!

 3. The Evolution of Hell: A Brief History of the Concept

3.1 Hell Is Not Real: Hell in the Old Testament

Now, if you know your Bible well, the previous section may have already directed your attention towards something that isn’t pointed out as often as it should be: almost every biblical reference to the fiery Hell of our nightmares can be found in the “The New Testament.”

And for an excellent reason: no matter how much you try to bend the arguments, Hell appears nowhere in “The Old Testament.”

Indeed, it would have been mightily strange if this wasn’t the case: though ambiguous – contrary to Christianity – most forms of Judaism have no doctrine which allows for a concept such as the immortality of the soul, which, by implication, means that you cannot be punished after your death.

Moreover, the only references to some form of life following death in “The Old Testament” come from late biblical sources, such as the Books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah; and, as expected, most of them do not sync well with our vision of Hell.

For example, when, in a famous verse (12:2), Daniel states that “multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt,” if he means this literally, he merely builds upon a notion already much more familiar to Jewish eschatology – the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba).

That is, the dead will awake and will be judged one day which should mark the beginning of the Messianic Age (Heaven on Earth); but until that day, they sleep firmly in the dust.

Obviously, this means that neither the righteous nor the wicked dead should be “alive” in the meantime and that things such as Heaven and Hell (especially if conceived as realms) must be, to say the least, superfluous.

And, indeed, the earliest reference to a dichotomy of this kind saved for posterity is probably one made as late as the 1st century by Yochanan ben Zakkai: “There are two paths before me,” he writes, “one leading to Gan Eden and the other to Gehinnom” (Berakhot 28b)

Gan Eden here refers to the Garden of Eden and Gehinnom to Gehenna, a small valley near Jerusalem where children were supposedly sacrificed to the pagan god Moloch (cf. 2 Chronicles 28:3 and 33:6). “For this reason,” states the Jewish Encyclopedia, “the valley was deemed to be accursed, and ‘Gehenna’ therefore soon became a figurative equivalent for ‘hell.’”

However, the realm of the dead most often mentioned in “The Old Testament” is Sheol and, even if taken with all of its contradictions and inconsistencies, it is still dissimilar from the Hell we know.

3.2 Hades/Dis: Greek and Roman Mythology

Of course, the idea of Sheol evolved over time; but it actually started differing substantially from its original vision (decompartmentalized, indiscriminate place for all the dead) once the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in Ancient Alexandria, and the word “Hades” was used to translate the Hebrew She’ol.

Hades, of course, was the kingdom of the dead in Greek mythology and it was a contradictory concept in itself: as can be witnessed in Homer’s Odyssey, for example, it, too, started off as the ultimate location of all souls, “regardless of how exemplary or dishonorable their earthly lives might have been.”

That’s why Achilles, one of the greatest Greek heroes, is not at all happy to be there in The Odyssey: “I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man’s house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead,” he says in a famous verse later subverted by Milton in Lucifer’s famous outcry in Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”

palace of hades

The Underworld Painter – Detail of the Palace of Hades at the center of the Underworld (via Egisto Sani, Flickr)

However, elsewhere – such as in Hesiod’s Works and Days (170ff) – the heroes can be found “untouched by sorrow, in the islands of the blessed along the shore of deep swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year, far from the deathless gods, and Cronos rules over them.”

No matter how long these visions may have coexisted, Aeneas’ descent into the Underworld reveals us that, by the time of Virgil’s Aeneid (some two decades before the birth of Christ), there were already some attempts to conflate them.

And Virgil’s epic marked the triumph of them all, harrowingly depicting the torments which await the incestuous and the traitors, the charlatans, and the murderers. “No ancient author,” states justly Scott Bruce, “was more influential in his depiction of the punitive afterlife than… Virgil.”

3.3 The Problem of Hell: Death Discriminates

Thus, even before the advent of Christianity, the Christians had already inherited a rich tradition which possessed all the right elements for the creation of the New Testament Hell.

“Wedding the pagan notion of a punitive afterlife for those who offended the divine with the imagery of the fire and the worm from the Hebrew scriptures, early Christian authors imagined a host of otherworldly punishments that inspired theologians, artists, and poets throughout the European Middle Ages and beyond,” notes Bruce.

Between Saint Augustine (354-430) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) – after triumphantly walking out of the much too real hell of the early persecutions against them – the Christian theologians managed to create “a distinctly Christian Hell,” which appended to the ancient models “their own understanding of original sin and God’s inscrutable mercy.”

However, these two were visibly incompatible: if Death discriminates between the just and the unjust, the One Who Rules Over It discriminates as well – in spite of His benevolence, mercy, and love.

Moreover, the ones who were deemed good and merciful in life are apparently disinterested in helping their fellow beings in death, even though the latter are eternally and viciously tormented in Hell.

And toward the end of Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas’ magnum-opus and “one of the most influential works of Western literature,” the Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest proposed a strikingly unchristian solution.

Namely, he not only argued that the blessed must be happy about the eternal torment of the wicked seeing it as an example of divine justice, but he also claimed they rejoice in seeing perfectly clear the sufferings of the damned, “because when contraries are placed beside one another, they become more conspicuous.”

3.4 The Law of Contrapasso: Dante’s Inferno

At the end of the Middle Ages, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, the first part of which (Inferno) represents “the apogee of the punitive underworld in the medieval imagination” (Bruce).

The poetic vision of Dante seemed so vivid and compelling to his contemporaries, that, it is said, many people asked him whether he had seen some of their beloved ones in Hell or Heaven, fully believing that he had actually been there.

In fact, Dante’s vision of Hell – and its central structuring principle: the contrapasso, i.e. “suffer the opposite” – owes a lot to Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (whose version of Hell was divided into four sections) and to his vast knowledge of comparable literary visions, starting with Homer and Aeneas and ending with Visio Tnugdali, “the most popular and elaborate text in the medieval genre of visionary infernal literature” and “without doubt the most graphic and horrifying tour of Hell composed before Dante’s Inferno.

In Dante’s poem (the detailed structure of which you can become familiar with here),

Hell has the organization and efficiency of a bureaucratic state: every impious soul has its appropriate place and every place apportioned a particular punishment keyed to a specific sin. More so than any previous author, Dante had a clear and logical understanding of the geography of the afterlife. He depicted Hell as a deep funnel with circular tiers. He and Virgil descended tier by tier from the gates of Hell, past the limbo of the virtuous pagans, and down through each circle, where those guilty of lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery suffered for all eternity. At the bottom of Hell was Cocytus, a vast, frozen lake. Trapped in the ice of this lake was the gigantic, three-faced Satan, who beat his six massive, bat-like wings in vain to escape his imprisonment. Satan’s face was stained with tears and his chin dripped with the gore of history’s three worst traitors, whose souls he chewed endlessly and without pity in his monstrous mouths: Brutus and Cassius, who assassinated Julius Caesar in 44 BCE; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ himself. (Scott G. Bruce)

Map of Hell

Sandro Botticelli’s Map of Hell (source)

3.5 Is Hell Real: The Protestant Reformation and Modernity

And then, just as Hell was finally concretized by the Catholics so precisely that it even had its own detailed maps, the Protestant Reformers reverted back to some more speculative concepts.

Sure, they agreed with the Catholics that Death discriminates and that Hell is the destination of the wicked, but, as Scott G. Bruce notes, “they were much more likely to couch the punitive afterlife in abstract terms of remorse and wounded conscience rather than in concrete terms of torment in Hell-fire familiar from the Catholic tradition.”

And this debate has raged ever since. So much so that modern Christian apologists are still incapable of giving a better solution to the ethical problem of Hell than Thomas Aquinas. If it is not real, what do all those references in the Scripture mean; however, if it is real, how do we harmonize it with the idea of a merciful and benevolent God?

No wonder that Narnia-writer and lay theologian C. S. Lewis – whose Screwtape Letters I’ve enjoyed over and over again – writing in “The Problem of Pain,” states that if it lay in his power, “there is no doctrine which [he] would more willingly remove from Christianity than” Hell.

“But” – he adds – “it has the full support of Scripture and, especially, of our Lord’s own words.” Lewis concludes with something that isn’t as obvious: Hell, according to him, not only “has always been held by Christendom” but it also “has the support of reason.”

Neither is actually true, but the latter critically not. If it had been, then there wouldn’t be a problem – or a millennia-long discussion on the topic.

3.6 Visions and Near-Death Experiences: Hell Is Real

However, we must not forget that there are some people whose reasons have actually witnessed – or at least who say that they have experienced – some vision of hell. These are usually either saints or near-death survivors. They certainly form an intruding topic for further analysis and discussion, but, for the sake of brevity, I will have to limit myself to merely mentioning them here. However, for those interested, I warmly welcome you to read here five “terrifying” visions of Hell as related by as many now-saints; and here an account of four “creepy” visions of hell by people who have lived through real near-death experiences.

 4. Is Hell Real According to the People: What the Data Says

Bishop Berkeley was right to wonder if the fall of a tree produces any sound if nobody is around to hear it. Not because scientists discovered – mostly during the past century – that this may not be as unreasonable as it once sounded (consider, say, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory), but because, for better or for worse, our perception of reality, more often than not, (re)defines that very same reality.

In other words, even if (to quote Neil deGrasse Tyson once again) the universe has no obligation to make sense to us, and even if this means that “thou shalt not kill” is an unnatural law we have invented at some point in history (which we most certainly did), does its “artificiality” matters now when we have created a shared structure of reality in which murdering someone is one of the most abominable deeds one can do?

By the same analogy, even if not many people have seen God (in the best-case scenario), does it matter if he actually exists if numerous have sacrificed their lives in his name, while numerous others have done the exact opposite premised on the same belief?

So, let’s see what the data says in relation to people’s belief in Hell. (In addition, World Religious News gives you updates on latest shifts and twists in the culturally-diversified religious community, and thus it can help you see some more of the big picture.)

4.1 The World

Interestingly enough, regardless of the advance of science, surveys and polls consistently show that about half of the world population still believes in Heaven and/or Hell, Heaven being – without exception – the more popular option of the two; however, time and again, they also demonstrate a significant gap between the beliefs of the Western Europeans and the rest of the world.

For example, one of the most recent surveys of this kind – Ipsos’ “Perils of Perception” global survey, conducted in about 40 countries during the period of Sept. 28-Oct. 19, 2017 – revealed that, on average, 45% of the world population believes in either Heaven or Hell:

Country Heaven Hell Difference Average
Indonesia 99 99 0 99
Turkey 88 88 0 88
Philippines 94 85 9 89,5
Brazil 76 68 8 72
Peru 76 65 11 70,5
South Africa 84 60 24 72
India 68 59 9 63,5
Argentina 75 57 18 66
Poland 62 56 6 59
Colombia 80 55 25 67,5
USA 65 53 12 59
Mexico 56 50 6 53
Italy 48 44 4 46
Israel 50 43 7 46,5
Russia 43 41 2 42
Hungary 47 40 7 43,5
Serbia 42 39 3 40,5
Hong Kong 40 38 2 39
Australia 42 31 11 36,5
South Korea 30 29 1 29,5
Canada 40 28 12 34
Great Britain 32 21 11 26,5
Spain 31 19 12 25
France 24 19 5 21,5
Norway 30 16 14 23
Germany 28 12 16 20
Japan 19 12 7 15,5
China 14 12 2 13
Sweden 18 9 9 13,5
Belgium 16 9 7 12,5
Denmark 20 6 14 13
Total 49,58 40,74 8,84 45,16

Or, in the form of a bar chart for better viewing:

Believe in heaven or hell

Few interesting statistics almost immediately stand out:

  • On average, people tend to believe much more in Heaven (1 in 2) than in Hell (about 40%); the difference is especially evident in the case of Columbia and South Africa (countries of high percentage of believers), but, interestingly enough, the same can be said about many Western European countries (Germany, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Great Britain…)
  • The only two countries where there is no discrepancy between the belief in Heaven and Hell are two Muslim countries: Indonesia and Turkey; here, almost everyone believes in both.
  • Though there is a somewhat discernible inversely proportional correlation between economic/human development indices and belief in Hell across the globe (Western Europe, Far East Asia, Canada), the American continent (as a whole) seems to undermine this conclusion.
    • On average, only 17,6% of the people living in Far East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea) believe in Hell (21% believe in Heaven);
    • Just as well, only 17,2% of the people living in Western Europe (Italy, Great Britain, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark) believe in Hell (27,4% believe in Heaven);
    • However, 43,6% of the population of North America (United States, Canada, Mexico) believes in Hell (53,6% in Heaven);
    • And a whopping 61% of South Americans (Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Colombia) think that Hell exists (76,75% think likewise about Heaven)

Though it uses somewhat older data (from World Values Survey 2010-2014), the map below (via Reddit) illustrates this quite vividly:

4.2 The USA

So, all in all, the United States of America can be considered an exception: even though the most developed country in the world, more Americans believe in both Heaven and Hell than the worldwide averages. When compared to its northern neighbor, the divergence is even more striking: while only 28% of Canadians believe in Hell, twice as many Americans think that Hell is real!

However, when we break down the stats by state things get clearer: once again, we discover an apparent inverse correlation between how much a US state is developed and how many of its citizens believe in Hell.

Below is a map (via Reddit) which shows the percentage of Americans who believe in Hell by state, using data from the Pew Research Center’s 2014 study.

Belief in hell

The concurrence is almost uncanny when you compare the above image to a map (created by Alice Hunter for Wikimedia Commons) of the American Human Development Index (HDI) within the United States for 2016) (the lighter shade of blue the field, the lower the HDI for the respective state):

does hell exist

Based on the things stated above, it comes as no surprise at all that the state with the highest HDI (Massachusetts, 6.18) is also the state where the lowest percentage of people (38%) believe in Hell; on the other side of the spectrum, the state with the lowest HDI (Mississippi, 3.81) is also the state where the highest percentage of people (77%) think that Hell is real.

For those interested in some more statistics, here are two charts I made which show the correlation between Americans’ belief in Hell and their religious and political affiliations:

If I am allowed to work out a tentative conclusion based on the available data, I guess I should not be wrong to say that the most common American/believer in Hell is a Christian Republican living in a state with an average or below average human development index.

 5. Is Hell Real: A Closing Statement

So, is hell real?

No. Of course not.

At least not any more than Olympus or Valhalla – or Westeros, for that matter.

Simply put – no matter what anybody says – it can’t be: it is a literary creation which we know for sure to have evolved over the centuries from a vision of a place which indiscriminately houses the dead to one part of a Heaven/Hell dichotomy which aims to balance in the Afterlife the abundant injustices on Earth.

This conclusion comes with several interesting topics for further consideration; interestingly enough, most of them are ironies.

5.1 Hell Is Not Sheol

First of all, the Hell we all know came to be when, sometime near the beginning of the first millennium, Roman ideas of the Underworld (Virgil’s Aeneid) were appended to the chilling – but neutral – Jewish vision of Sheol, the-family-tomb-turned-afterlife-world.

That way, “The Old Testament” began retroactively accommodating a Hell which couldn’t have existed for the majority of Jews before the advent of Christianity, since their eschatological notions most commonly included a Judgment Day, i.e., an event in the future which should mark the separation of the Just and the Vile; until then – death is indiscriminate, and everybody shares the same fate after his time on earth.

So, even though people think that Hell originated in the Bible, the ones who wrote the bulk of it don’t believe in Hell: as opposed to 70% of the American Christians who believe in Hell and 76% of American Muslims who share this belief – only 22% of American Jews think that Hell is real. Interestingly enough, that’s less than the number of atheists: 30%!

5.2 Jesus in the Underworld: The Harrowing of Hell

Christians found a great way to insert the doctrine of (continually existing) Heaven/Hell into “The Old Testament”: simply put, they replicated the Judgement Day. If for Jews the Judgement Day is one and it has still not come – for most of the Christians, Christ has both already come and will come again.

Christ’s Second Coming differs not one bit from the Jewish idea of a Day of Reckoning: it should mark God’s final and eternal judgment of the people from every nation of the world.

However, since Christ’s First Coming was an all too important event to have no eschatological weight in itself, it should surprise nobody that Christians had to infer that some aspect of this final judgment must have already happened.

And that’s how the doctrine of Christ’s descent into Hades was devised, gloriously named the Harrowing of Hell.

The logic goes thus: between Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, he visited Hell/Hades and saved the souls of all the righteous people who had died ever since the beginning of the world. Though controversial, this idea fits nicely within the existing narrative: even if initially the Underworld was indiscriminate and it housed both the righteous and the vile, it isn’t so since the First Coming of the Christ.

Of course, this creates a complication as well: if the righteous are already in Heaven and the wicked in Hell – and if one’s death means an immediate one-way trip in one of these two directions – then what’s the point in Christ coming one more time?

The Harrowing of Hell

Jacob van Swanenburgh – The Harrowing of Hell (source)

5.3 A Christian God and an Unchristian Hell

Because of complications much more profound than this – the most challenging being why should a benevolent God create a place for eternal torment for the people he himself created? – many theologians have pondered and discussed the idea of Hell ever since the Roman Empire.

Ironically, the vision we have inherited one can find neither in the Bible nor in the writings of most of these theologians; it is, as we said above, an inherently literary one, influenced immensely by the epics of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton (who, naturally, influenced one another in that order).

However, the notion of divine retributive justice – upon which Hell is usually structured in the imagination of the modern man (via, say, Dante’s Inferno) – predates Christianity by millennia (say, the Code of Hammurabi) and is, in fact, at odds with its central idea of forgiveness.

– and fascinatingly – the very idea of Hell questions the Christianity of the Christian God. And it begs the question: should a Christian forgive a fellow who has done one some injustice, when his god obviously doesn’t?

5.4 The Ultimate Irony: From Real to Metaphysical and Back to Real Hell

However, in my humble opinion, this is not the ultimate irony; the ultimate irony is much more chilling than a theological conundrum or, for that matter, any vision of Hell. Because, at the end of the day, the very question “Is Hell real?” says much more about us than it says about anything else.

5.4.1 The Real Hell: Gehenna

First and foremost, it should be telling that the imagery associated with Hell in Abrahamic religions started emerging back at the time when there was no idea of a discriminate Afterlife.

Namely, even at the time when Sheol was supposed to be the final destination for both merciful King David (1 Kings 2:6) and merciless armor-clad warriors (Ezekiel 32:27), Gehenna was an accursed place on Earth unambiguously associated with the wicked; and even in the absence of a heavenly counterpart, it remained to be so.

It was when the imagery of Gehenna was interspersed with Hellenistic ideas of the Afterlife that Sheol metamorphosed into Hell. In Islam, in fact, Hell is called Jahannam, a word etymologically related to this Old Testament Gehenna.

It’s a striking irony when you start thinking about it: a small valley in Jerusalem where children were sacrificed by fire seemed such an abominable place to the eyes of the living that writers used the imagery (fire, false gods, punishments) to invent an Afterlife of eternal torment for the dead.

5.4.2 The Personalized Metaphysical Hell: Poetic Visions

In other words, the metaphysical actuality of Hell was shaped by the building blocks of physical reality. But this where it gets even more frightening: once that happened, Hell began an existence of its own. And while reality is bounding, imagination is limitless. So, writers started reimagining Hell over and over again – if only so that they can use it as a tool to further their own agendas.

Thus, Virgil used Aeneas’ trip to the Underground to advance the worldview of the Roman Empire: in the eternally green fields of Elysium (which is something like a Heaven inside Virgil’s Hell), Aeneas hears from his father a prophetic vision of the future destiny of Rome, which, among other things, celebrates the glory of the ruler which commissioned the writing of the Aeneid in the first place, Octavian Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.

Guided by Virgil, Dante went a step further and built a highly personalized version of Hell, in which many people suffer not because of their sins against humanity, but because of their sins against Dante himself.

And, ay, there’s the rub: every vision of Hell ever since (or before) is as personalized as Dante’s. And it is difficult to overemphasize the danger of this. The reason why the justice system is so complicated is due to the fact that almost nothing in real life is as simple as the distinction between black and white.

However, we sure would want it to be; and the Heaven/Hell dichotomy is the absolute metaphysical pinnacle of this (in terms of origin) primitive belief, which philosophers – and justly so – deem it an informal fallacy.

The effects?

As it usually happens when someone uses fallacies to argue something which can have actual effects – potentially terrifying.

5.4.3 The Real Hell and Jordan Peterson

And this brings me back to Jordan Peterson whom I mentioned in the Introduction:

In the video above – and elsewhere – Jordan Peterson says quite explicitly that even though he suspects that there may be some kind of metaphysical reality beyond the metaphor of Hell, he can’t really know if it actually exists.

And he also describes heaven-like experiences as pointers towards the way that things could be, saying that it’s incumbent on people to work as hard as they can, not to fall into Hell and drag people there with them and to work as diligently as possible to bring Heaven onto Earth as rapidly as possible.”

Now, one of postmodernism’s main contributions to the history of thought – one which Jordan Peterson unjustly and discriminatorily distorts – has been its attempt to question the stability of language. And sentences such as this prove why such an endeavor makes sense – as much as they prove why no intellectual living in the XXI century should allow himself to be unambiguous in relation to religious questions which have straightforward scientific answers.

Simply put, because not everybody shares the same visions of God and Satan, of Heaven and Hell. “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator,” writes, after all, Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf (London: Houghton Mifflin, 1969; p. 60), “by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

Unfortunately, that is something many perpetrators of crimes against humanity also believe: that they are Godsend Messiahs whose objective is to bring Heaven on Earth and take people with them; of course, in doing that, they are actually bringing their own version of Heaven on Earth; and this usually also means – by implication – someone else’s version of Hell.

Imagine that you’re Hitler and that you firmly believe that the Jews are devilish creatures that have brought upon the downfall of your world; now go back and read Jordan Peterson’s sentence once again.

That’s right: even though Peterson has no intention of saying that whatsoever (in fact, he’s saying the opposite), what you will actually hear is that it’s your obligation to proceed to the Final Solution.

5.4.4 “Hell is Other People”

Scott G. Bruce concludes his Introduction to The Penguin Book of Hell with this blood-curdling paragraph:

Despite the erosion of traditional religious beliefs in the modern era, Hell has survived and prospered. While the belief in Hell as an actual place has declined in recent centuries, the idea of Hell has endured as a dominant metaphor and, frighteningly, as an inspiration for how to treat other people. From the world wars and the Holocaust to the plight of prisoners and detainees, the political calamities of the modern world have increased the currency of the concept of Hell as a metaphor for torment and suffering. Although many modern people have turned their backs on a literal understanding of Hell as a place of future punishment, they nonetheless draw inspiration from imaginative traditions about the punitive afterlife to cause suffering to others in this present life, to ‘give them hell.’ The modern technologies and rational ways of thinking that supposedly mark our progress over earlier generations now allow us to commit mass murder and replicate infernal landscapes at the touch of a button; in an ironic reversal, we have become the very demons our ancestors trembled to meet when death foreclosed on their lives.

And this calls into mind a quote by Sartre from his play No Exit in which three deceased characters (Joseph Garcin, Estelle Rigault, and Inès Serrano) are punished for eternity by being locked into a room together. Near the end of the play, Joseph Garcin comes to a sudden realization:

All those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire, and brimstone, the ‘burning marl.’ Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is other people!

True, Sartre has something else on his mind – the existential dread of existing both as a subject and an object in someone else’s gaze – but, allow me to misuse him once again (after all, he has been misused numerous times before).

Because, dear Ferdinand, you’re right after all: hell is indeed empty, and all the devils are here. And in the eyes of other people – that includes us, as well.

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Jesus Is Risen PDF Summary

Jesus Is Risen PDF SummaryPaul and the Early Church

Want to learn how the Christian Church was established?

David Limbaugh tells it all, from Paul’s Conversion to the Gospel of Love.

It’s his fourth Christian-themed book:

Jesus Is Risen.

Who Should Read “Jesus Is Risen”? And Why?

In a nutshell, Jesus Is Risen is a chronological retelling of six books of The New Testament (Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans), all concerning Paul’s early attempts to establish a Christian Church.

Of course, Limbaugh provides the reader with many notes and commentaries, some of which should probably interest even experienced readers of the Bible.

But, as a rule of thumb, if you can navigate yourself around the New Testament, then think of Jesus Is Risen as complementary material: something which can certainly help you, but also something you can do without.

If, however, you are having trouble finding yourself around the many names, events, and toponyms of Paul’s New Testament books, then there aren’t many better books to get started than Limbaugh’s Jesus Is Risen.

About David Limbaugh

David LimbaughDavid Limbaugh is an American author and conservative Christian political commentator.

Born in 1952, Limbaugh graduated cum laude with a B.A. in political science from the University of Missouri; he received his J.D. from the same university in 1978.

Afterward, he went on to teach business law at Southeast Missouri State University, in addition to practicing law at the Limbaugh Firm.

He has written numerous columns for many different publications, as well as nine non-fiction books, primarily dealing with religion and politics.

Some of them are explicitly aimed at the style of governing by Democrats, such as Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, Bankrupt: The Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy of Today’s Democratic Party, or his two books criticizing Obama: Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of President Barack Obama and The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic.

Since 2014, Limbaugh is dedicated to writing books which concentrate on his personal religious conversion and the merits of the Bible. He has so far written four of them: Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel, The Emmaus Code: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament, The True Jesus: Uncovering the Divinity of Christ in the Gospels and Jesus is Risen: Paul and the Early Church.

“Jesus Is Risen PDF Summary”

As he explains himself in the “Introduction,” Jesus Is Risen is David Limbaugh’s “fourth Christian-themed book.”

His first one was Jesus On Trial in which Limbaugh recounts his “personal faith journey from skeptic to believer” and lays out the reasons because of which he came “to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and gave His life for the redemption of all who put their trust in Him.”

The Emmaus Code followed, in which Limbaugh details “the countless ways the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.”

His third book was The True Jesus in which he presents the Gospels “in one unified narrative in chronological order.”

His initial idea, he explains, was to summarize the whole New Testament, but this ambitious plan seemed more fit for several books.

Well, Jesus Is Risen is a sort of a sequel to The True Jesus, summarizing – once again in a chronological order – Saint “Paul’s six so-called missionary epistles: Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans, which are believed to have been written before his other seven epistles.”

Paul is David Limbaugh’s favorite biblical figure and writer, something which he makes apparent basically on every single page of this book.

Chapter 1: How a Trip to Damascus Changed the World

“By all appearances,” Limbaugh writes, “Paul is the least likely person to become Christianity’s premiere evangelist.”

A Jew born by the name of Saul, he was raised and educated in Jerusalem under a highly respected Rabbi named Gamaliel.

And he grew to become “a Pharisee of Pharisees,” who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus.

It was precisely on a mission to seek out and arrest Christians in Damascus that Paul’s worldview was changed to its very core.

As told in Acts 9:3–9, this is what happened:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’

“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless,” the text goes on. Apparently, “they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So, they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”

On the fourth day, Ananias of Damascus restores Saul’s sight.

Saul is baptized, and before too long becomes Paul, “the apostle of grace,” and the most important figure in Christianity after Jesus Christ.

Truly miraculous.

Chapters 2–5: The Acts of the Apostles

In chapters 2 to 5, Limbaugh retells the Acts of the Apostles, the 51st book of the Bible and a sort of a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. In fact, it is believed that its author is none other than Luke himself and that it was originally written sometime around 60 A.D.

Chapter 2: Acts 1-7: A Church Is Born

The first seven chapters of the Acts tell the story of the very infancy of the church. One of the central events recounted here is Apostle Peter’s sermon to the Jews gathered for the Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks.

Supposedly, the Holy Spirit descended upon the 12 apostles from heaven “with a sound like a mighty rushing wind” and manifesting itself in “tongues of fire.”

The Holy Spirit in them, the apostles start speaking in languages they don’t understand and are consequently ridiculed by the Jews as drunkards.

But Apostle Peter counters this by embarking on a bold sermon which results with the conversion of 3000 new believers.

“The arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost,” notes Limbaugh, “is considered the birth of the Christian Church. As such, it’s interesting that Jesus was also conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).”

Chapter 3: Acts 8-13: An Equal Opportunity Faith

The next few chapters of the Acts describe various aspects of the evangelism of the apostles.

Here you can read all about the false accusation and stoning of Stephen, the religious conversion of Paul, as well as the first attempts by the Apostles to impart Christianity upon the Gentiles.

Speaking of which, in these chapters you can find the very first use of the term “Christians” in the history of the written word.

Chapter 4: Acts 14-20: Suffering and Success While Spreading the Word

Next, we move geographically to the outskirts of Jerusalem and outside of the holy city.

Saul changes his name to Paul so that he can be better accepted by the Gentiles (the former is Hebrew, the latter Greek).

In the fifteenth chapter, the Jerusalem Council takes place, and the spreading of the gospel message among Gentile nations is authorized.

Lydia, a female seller of purple fabric, becomes the first European woman to accept Christianity.

Chapter 5: Acts 21-28: Arrest of an Apostle

After some time, Paul travels to Jerusalem where he is arrested; he is sent to Rome to be put on trial. There he is imprisoned, but we learn little what happens next since the Acts abruptly end here.

“It’s generally agreed,” writes Limbaugh, “that Paul was martyred in Rome, probably by sword, though the precise date is uncertain. Many scholars place his death around 62 AD, at the close of his two-year house arrest in Rome, while others say it could have been in 64 AD, and still others as late as 66 AD after a second arrest.”

“Of course,” Limbaugh goes on, “Paul’s influence did not end with his death, since he did more than anyone besides Jesus to expound and clarify the Gospel.”

Most of which he did through a series of letters, and these are the ones Limbaugh summarizes in the rest of his book.

Chapter 6: Galatians: Freedom in Christ

The book of Galatians is, arguably, the first of Paul’s epistles (letters) sent to local Christian churches.

In this letter he explains how he had been chosen by Jesus himself to preach his gospel, and that “if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Next, he explicates how living a religious life is difficult; and how, since, nobody is capable of obeying the ten commandments from the cradle to the grave, the only salvation one can attain is through Jesus Christ.

Hence the title of this chapter: Freedom in Christ.

Chapter 7: 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians: Christ’s Return and the Day of the Lord

In the first of the two letters written to strengthen and encourage the Christian church in Thessalonica, Greece, Paul writes mostly about the Second Coming of the Grace, aka, The Day of the Lord.

Let’s be realistic: if you need some strength, nothing can give you more of it than someone telling you that you’ll eventually be rewarded for your effort, no questions asked.

In the second letters to the Thessalonians, Paul reemphasizes these feelings commending the receivers of his words on their perseverance and cheering them to persist some more.

Jesus, writes Paul, will deal out “retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

Chapters 8-10: 1 & 2 Corinthians

Chapter 8: 1 Corinthians 1–8: A Call for Unity in the Church

In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains the reason for writing it in the first place: “there are quarrels among you,” he writes, and I need to remind you of your calling.

And that calling is pretty simple: to live in accordance with the Gospel, for “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Chapter 9: 1 Corinthians 9–16: The Primacy of Love, and a Spiritual Gift for Every Believer

These are some of the most famous pages in the Bible, dealing with the primacy of love – even over faith (13:1-3):

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Here Paul says that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a topic “of first importance” since it is the foundation of the Christian faith.

Chapter 10: 2 Corinthians: Strength in Weakness

In the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the essential traits of an Apostle.

One of them is, interestingly, the capability to endure suffering.

Because, as Paul says right away, some fifty years of earthly pain should mean nothing to a real Christian, because they will lead him to an “eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

Those who cannot endure suffering, basically, are no Christians at all.

Chapter 11-12: Romans

Chapter 11: Romans 1–7: Righteousness through Faith

In the epistle to the Romans, you can read all about the power of the Gospel to counteract the guilt present in all humans, which is why this chapter is titled “Righteousness through Faith.”

Try as you might, you’ll never be a righteous person through your deeds only; however, you can be one through your faith in Jesus Christ.

“For the wages of sin is death,” writes Paul, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Chapter 12: Romans 8–16: Christ: The Hope of Jews and Gentiles

If God is with you, who can be against you, asks Paul here and goes on to explain how the faith in Christ gives him the power to go back to God even after sinning.

Here Paul also shares his plans to reach Rome, which he eventually will – but we know how that ended from the Acts.

Key Lessons from “Jesus Is Risen”

1.      A Trip to Damascus of a Hebrew Prosecutor Named Saul Changed the World
2.      Love Is More Important Than Faith… Until It Is Not
3.      The Resurrection of Christ is the Foundation of the Christian Faith

A Trip to Damascus of a Hebrew Prosecutor Named Saul Changed the World

Saul was a Hebrew, “a Pharisee of Pharisees,” whose main obsession in life was prosecuting Christians.

However, on a trip to Damascus (of course, with a mission to arrest some Christians) Jesus appeared to him, and Saul’s worldview suddenly changed.

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch since he was first blinded for about three days, so his worldview was in complete darkness.

But after his sight was restored by a Christian, he became one.

Or, to be more precise, the One.

Paul did for Christianity more than just about anyone save for Jesus.

There are billions of Christians nowadays mostly because of his relentless efforts to share the Gospel.

Love Is More Important Than Faith… Until It Is Not

Blame us for being ignorant, but we have trouble understanding the very essence of Paul’s words.

Namely, his main message is that one can only redeem himself from his sins (of which he is guilty either way) through his faith in Christ and His resurrection.

However, in 1 Corinthians 13, he claims that love is more important than faith and that even if you have faith that moves mountains, without love, you’re nothing and you’ll gain nothing.

So, our question is quite simple: if one does have love in him and lives his life in accordance with it, but doesn’t believe in Jesus, is he entitled to salvation?

Or is he just guilty enough beforehand and nothing he ever does will grant him redemption from the fires of Hell?

The Resurrection of Christ is the Foundation of the Christian Faith

If we follow Paul and Limbaugh, the answer to the question above is straightforward: you can’t be a Christian if you don’t believe in Christ and you can’t go to Heaven if you’re not a Christian.

In fact, this is how the Gospel of Jesus looks like, according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, a few of the most important New Testament verses ever written:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

Apparently, as David Limbaugh says, “Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching that we are saved not by our works and not by adherence to the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”

There you have it.

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“Jesus Is Risen Quotes”

Paul, probably even more than Peter, is the prominent leader of the early Christian Church. The central figure in the Book of Acts, Paul writes more New Testament books than any other apostle, though Luke’s books contain more words and… Click To Tweet The better we understand the darkness of (Paul’s) past, the more we will understand his gratitude for grace. (Via Chuck Swindoll) Click To Tweet To love God and one’s neighbor is the sum of the commandments. Click To Tweet While works don’t earn us salvation, we will reflect our saving faith and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit through our works. Click To Tweet The more we study the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters, the more fully we comprehend God’s plan for our lives and His offer of free grace for our salvation through faith in Christ. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“My humble wish,” writes David Limbaugh at the end of Jesus Is Risen, “is that you have learned or re-learned important basics about the Book of Acts and these six Pauline epistles and are excited to get back into the Bible, read these books and meditate on their message.”

To be perfectly frank, this book didn’t have that effect on us.

But, truth be told, it is written in a manner which makes us believe that it should have such effect on many people.

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The Brothers Karamazov Summary

The Brothers Karamаzov SummaryThere aren’t many novelists more famous or discussed than Fyodor M. Dostoevsky.

And there is one novel in his oeuvre – completed just four months before his death – that stands out:

The Brothers Karamazov.

Who Should Read “The Brothers Karamazov”? And Why?

Let us put it this way: if you had to read only ten novels in your life, The Brothers Karamazov should undoubtedly be among them.

See “Our Critical Review” section for more.

Or trust our word and read this book as soon as you find the time.

Fyodor M. Dostoevsky Biography

Fyodor M. DostoevskyFyodor M. Dostoevsky was a Russian writer, one of the masters of the psychological novel and, according to many, one of the very greatest novelists in the history of literature.

Dostoevsky lived somewhat chaotic life, which, at one point, resulted in a death sentence, commuted at the very last second. The experience scarred Dostoevsky for life, and even though at times he had to beg for money – most of which he had the habit of squandering on gambling – he never lost his Orthodox Christian faith.

He wrote 17 short stories, 3 novellas, and 11 novels; each of them has been analyzed in detail by literary critics and theorists from all over the world.

However, three of his novels are widely considered to be not only part of the European Literary Canon, but also its very center: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov.

Dostoevsky influenced so many prominent writers and thinkers that even a long list of them would be unfair to some of the greatest novelists of the 20th century.

Plot

Set in 19th-century Russia, The Brothers Karamazov is a philosophical novel which explores the interrelation between God, free will, and ethics through the lives of four half-brothers, each one more memorable than the next.

It is, indeed, one of those “once-in-a-century” masterworks which are bound to touch the hearts of many readers and even change the minds of many others.

At about 1,000 pages, The Brothers Karamazov is a rather long work, and there are quite a few characters in it; since, at times, our summary may seem a bit difficult for you to follow, we prepared for you a simplified genealogical table of the main characters in the novel.

Return to it every time you have troubles navigating yourself in the story.

The Brothers Karamаzov PDF

Book One: A Nice Little Family

The first book of The Brothers Karamazov introduces the Karamazov family.

Here we learn many things about Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, the 55-year-old head of the family. He is a parasite, utterly uninterested about the fate of his sons, and he has at least three of them.

Dmitri Karamazov, aka Mitya, is his eldest son, the only child of his marriage with Adelaida Ivanovna Miusov. He is engaged to be married to Katerina Ivanovna Verkhovtseva, aka Katya, but openly expresses his admiration for Agrafena Alexandrovna Svetlova, aka Grushenka. Strangely enough, Fyodor too has some lustful feelings for Grushenka.

Ivan Karamazov, at 24, is Fyodor’s middle son, the first from his marriage with Sofia Ivanovna. He has some feelings for Katya, his half-brother’s fiancée, and is an atheist.

Alexei Karamazov, aka Alyosha, is the youngest of the three brothers (20 years old), and the second child of Fyodor’s second marriage. Contrary to Ivan, Alexei is a novice in a local Russian Orthodox monastery, a member of a somewhat mysterious religious order of Elders.

Book Two: An Inappropriate Gathering

Dmitri is similar to his father: both spend large amounts of money on earthly pleasures; and, at the beginning of the novel, Dmitri comes back to his birth house in search of some inheritance he believes his father is withholding from him.

So as to solve the dispute, in the second book, the Karamazovs visit a local monastery where Father Zosima, the Elder, Alyosha’s teacher, can act as a sort of a spiritual mediator.

Let’s just say, for all his effort, he doesn’t do a good job; at the end, the conflict between Dmitri and Fyodor is only made worse.

Book Three: Sensualists

Here we learn that the conflict over the inheritance isn’t the only one Dmitri and Fyodor have between them.

As we noted above, they are both passionately in love with the same person, the 22-year-old Grushenka.

So it comes as no wonder that in Book Three, Dmitri bursts into the house of his father, assaults Fyodor, and threatens to come back and kill him at some point in the future.

The third book also introduces Pavel Smerdyakov, a servant at Fyodor’s house but also someone everybody believes to be Fyodor’s illegitimate child by a mute woman of the street who died in childbirth.

Everybody knew her as “Reeking Lizaveta” which is why Pavel’s surname is Smerdyakov: that is Russian for Reeking.

Pavel was raised by Fyodor’s servant Grigory Vasilievich Kutuzov and his wife Marfa and has spent all of his life working as Fyodor’s cook and lackey.

He is also an epileptic whose pretty worrisome childhood habits include one of collecting stray cats and hanging them.

Book Four: Lacerations/Strains

Book four introduces the side story of the Snegiryov family.

It begins with Alyosha noticing a group of schoolboys throwing rocks at a boy whose name, we learn, is Ilyusha. Alyosha helps him, but Ilyusha bites his finger.

The reason?

He is the son of a former staff-captain who was once humiliated by Dmitri in a bar fight.

Learning of the many problems the Snegiryov family is in, Alyosha tries to give some money to Ilyusha’s father, both to help his ailing wife and as an apology for the behavior of his brother.

Out of pride, Snegiryov eventually refuses the money.

Book Five: Pro and Contra

Ivan meets Alyosha at a restaurant and Dostoevsky uses this meeting to pit one against other their profoundly incompatible and conflicting philosophies.

Ivan explains his nihilistic atheism to his brother, and, in one of the most famous chapters ever written, “The Grand Inquisitor,” recounts a supposed poem of his (though there are almost no verses) which describes the meeting of Jesus and a leader of the Spanish Inquisition in 15th-century Seville.

As expected – even though nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition – the Grand Inquisitor puts Jesus in jail, and asks him:

Why shouldst Thou now return, to impede us in our work? For Thou hast come but for that only, and Thou knowest it well. But art Thou as well aware of what awaits Thee in the morning? I do not know, nor do I care to know who thou mayest be: be it Thou or only thine image, to-morrow I will condemn and burn Thee on the stake, as the most wicked of all the heretics; and that same people, who to-day were kissing Thy feet, to-morrow at one bend of my finger, will rush to add fuel to Thy funeral pile… Wert Thou aware of this?

However, after the Grand Inquisitor makes his argument that it’s all Jesus’ fault for he should not have given men free will, Jesus “bends towards him and softly kisses the bloodless, four-score and-ten-year-old lips.”

The Grand Inquisitor shudders, and then “goes to the door, opens it, and addressing Jesus, ‘Go,’ he says, ‘go, and return no more.”

Even though the kiss burns inside the Inquisitor’s heart, “the old man remains firm in his own ideas and unbelief.”

After hearing the story, suddenly, Alyosha goes to Ivan kisses his brother on the lips.

Ivan is stunned and shouts with delight.

Book Six: The Russian Monk

This book deals almost exclusively with Father Zosima, relating his life from his rebellious youth to his death, as he lies on the brink of it in his cell.

We learn that he found God in the middle of a duel, and that, ever since he has served Him and humanity.

His religious philosophy is much akin to Donne’s “no man is an island” or Martin Luther King’s “inescapable network of mutuality.”

Namely, we all sin, but all of our sins are interrelated; so, redemption starts at the moment one finds the courage to forgive other people’s sins, for which he is almost as responsible as for his own.

Book Seven: Alyosha

After the death of Zosima, his body starts decomposing.

A fact of life, you’d think, but, to Alyosha and almost everybody who had ever known or respected Zosima, nothing short of the Apocalypse.

You see, it is a commonly held belief that the bodies of saints are incorrupt and, thus, after death, they do not decompose.

However, Zosima’s starts the process almost immediately, and after a single day, the smell it exudes is unbearable.

This visibly and genuinely shakes Alyosha’s beliefs.

A companion of his named Rakitin uses Alyosha’s vulnerability to set up a meeting between him and Grushenka.

However, the joke’s on him, because it is through this meeting that Alyosha finds the thing he had temporarily lost: profound faith.

Moreover, upon her discussion with him, Grushenka also starts thinking of spiritual redemption and sees in Alyosha someone who may help her find this path; because, for once, he doesn’t care about her body, but about her soul.

The two become close friends.

The book ends with Alyosha kissing the earth and convulsively crying, probably mirroring the last thing Father Zosima did before leaving his earthly body.

Book Eight: Mitya

In Book Eight, we find out that Dmitri owes money to his fiancée Katerina, and that he fears that Grushenka will choose his father over him because of his lack of money.

This is the reason why he was so interested in his father’s inheritance in the first place, and why, in this book, he goes to a neighboring town.

However, the promise of a business deal there fails, and when he returns back, he discovers that Grushenka is not where she is supposed to be.

He immediately goes to his father’s house, with a brass pestle in his hand.

The next thing we know, he’s hitting the servant Gregory in his head with the pestle, and running away from Fyodor’s house in mad haste.

He’s all covered in blood, and there’s a pile of money in his hand.

To make matters worse, next he finds out that Grushenka is, in fact, with an ex-lover of her. Dmitri heads to where they are supposed to be, planning to humiliate Grushenka and kill himself the next morning.

However, there he learns that Grushenka is in love with him.

As soon as they start making plans to marry, the policemen arrive and arrest Dmitri on suspicion that he has murdered Fyodor.

Book Nine: The Preliminary Investigation

Even though Dmitri maintains that he has nothing to do with his father’s death, all of the evidence points to him.

First of all, everybody knows of the conflict between the two.

Secondly, the money Fyodor had set aside for Grushenka is missing, and Dmitri was seen running bloodstained with thousands of rubles in his hand soon after Fyodor’s murder.

Thirdly, Dmitri needed money – both because of his debt to Katerina and because of his planned marriage with Grushenka.

And finally, there was no one else in the house except for Dmitri and Pavel, and the latter had an epileptic seizure which should have rendered him incapable to even attack, let alone kill Fyodor.

You can’t blame the police for formally charging Dmitri with patricide and locking him up in prison while awaiting trial.

Book Ten: Boys

Now, we’re back to the side story.

In addition to being informed that Ilyusha’s sickness has worsened and that he will probably not recover, we are also introduced to one of the boys who, back in Book Four, threw stones at Ilyusha: Kolya Krasotkin.

It seems that the reason for the scuffle between the two was Ilyusha’s decision to accept a suggestion by Smerdyakov and feed a dog with a loaf of bread in which he had stuck a sharp pin.

Through Alyosha’s intervention, Kolya and the other schoolboys gradually reconcile with Ilyusha and join him at his bedside.

Here, Kolya shares his socialistic, nihilistic, atheist theories with Alyosha, whose words strike a chord with him; by the end of this book, Kolya starts reassessing his beliefs.

Book Eleven: Brother Ivan Fyodorovich

Brother Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov, one of the most memorable characters in the history of world literature, slowly descends into madness.

During the course of Book Eleven, he has three meetings with Smerdyakov, the last one of which is the most striking one.

Namely, Smerdyakov confesses to Ivan that he was the one who had murdered Fyodor and stolen his money, after faking an epileptic seizure; he even presents the stolen money as evidence.

Ivan is stunned to hear this, but Smerdyakov is even more surprised at Ivan’s disbelief.

As far as Smerdyakov is concerned, Ivan is at least as responsible for the murder as himself, because he had told him when he would be leaving the house and because he made him believe that in a world without God everything is permitted.

Book Eleven ends with Ivan hallucinating a visitation from the devil, who torments and taunts him by mocking his beliefs.

It is in this condition that Alyosha finds him and informs him that Smerdyakov has committed suicide.

Book Twelve: A Judicial Error

Book Twelve is practically a courtroom drama, detailing the trial of Dmitri Karamazov.

As one would expect, the part which attracts the most attention at the trial is the love triangle between Dmitri, Grushenka, and Fyodor.

Another thing which attracts attention is Ivan, who recounts his final meeting with Smerdyakov and tells of his confession.

Nobody believes him: he is dragged away from the courtroom after his madness takes hold of him.

Katerina – who, by this time, has developed feelings for Ivan – links Ivan’s madness with her supposed love for Dmitri.

So, she presents to the court a letter in which Dmitri says that he would kill Fyodor.

You know the verdict:

Guilty.

The Brothers Karamazov Epilogue

In the “Epilogue” to The Brothers Karamazov, we learn that the brothers are planning to help Dmitri – who they know is not guilty – escape from his sentence of 20 years of labor in Siberia.

We also learn that Dmitri is, in the meantime, in hospital, recovering from an illness and waiting to be taken away.

He begs to be visited by Katerina, who eventually does that.

Dmitri uses the occasion to apologize to her for all the pain he has caused her; Katerina, in turn, apologizes for the letter she had presented during the trial.

They part agreeing to love each other until their deaths – even though they are in love with different people at the moment.

In the meantime, Ilyusha dies, and at this funeral, Alyosha gives a speech to his friends from school. In the speech, he promises to remember each and every one of them and implores them to remember Ilyusha in much the same manner.

Moreover, he requests from them to remember, until it is possible, the beauty of that very moment, at the stone of Ilyusha, when everybody was together and when they all loved each other.

In tears, the children agree to do that and, after joining hands, they all return to the house of Snegiryov.

There, they hold a funeral dinner, during which everybody chants: “Hurrah for Karamazov! Hurrah for Karamazov!”

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“The Brothers Karamazov Summary Quotes”

The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man. Click To Tweet I can see the sun, but even if I cannot see the sun, I know that it exists. And to know that the sun is there - that is living. Click To Tweet I think the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness. Click To Tweet Besides, nowadays, almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it. Click To Tweet What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Albert Einstein thought that The Brothers Karamazov was “the supreme summit of all literature.” Sigmund Freud believed that it is “the most magnificent novel ever written.” Ludwig Wittgenstein read it “so often he knew whole passages of it by heart.” He even brought it with him to the front.

Believe us – we can go on.

But we don’t think there’s any need to do that.

Simply put, The Brothers Karamazov is one of the greatest achievements in world literature.

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Liars, Leakers, and Liberals PDF Summary

Liars, Leakers, and Liberals PDF SummaryThe Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy

We’ve summarized quite a few Anti-Trump books on our site in the past.

And, as the Romans knew, it’s only fair that we hear the other side of the argument as well.

And, if you know her, you know that not many people are as staunchly pro-Trump as Judge Jeanine Pirro.

In fact, even if you don’t know who Judge Jeanine is, the title of her book is a giveaway:

Liars, Leakers, and Liberals.

Who Should Read “Liars, Leakers, and Liberals”? And Why?

If you are a Republican who’s fed up with the anti-Trump stories related to you by the mainstream media, then Liars, Leakers, and Liberals is the book for you.

However, if you’re like us and you don’t want to live in the filter bubble, this book should be even more interesting to you exactly because you are a liberal who thinks that the liberal consensus on Trump reflects the truth of the matter.

Read it not because you agree with it, but precisely because you don’t; you probably dislike radical things and people, and the Truth is rarely radical.

So, get a new, fresher perspective on the Trump presidency.

If it fails to change your opinions, then you’ll not only know that you’ve been right all the time, but you’ll also have prepared contra-arguments for all the things Republicans and Trumpists will try to throw at you in the future.

If, however, it changes at least some of them, you’ll be richer for a new, more complete perspective on how the world actually rolls.

In other words, it’s a win-win.

About Jeanine Pirro

Jeanine PirroJeanine Pirro – better known as Judge Jeanine – is a former American judge, prosecutor, and Republican politician, best known as a TV personality and bestselling author.

In 1991, Pirro became the first female judge elected to the Westchester County Court; afterward, she became the first female District Attorney of the same county.

During her time as a District Attorney, she gained prominence not only for her involvement in numerous cases of domestic abuse but also for her regular TV appearances commenting on widely publicized events such as the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

In 2006, Pirro briefly sought the Republican nomination in an attempt to run against Hillary Clinton but dropped out of the race to run for Attorney General of New York. She lost the New York Attorney general election to Andrew Cuomo.

Jeanine Pirro hosted the Judge Jeanine Pirro show on the CW between May 2008 and September 2011; since then she hosts Fox News Channel’s Justice with Judge Jeanine.

“Liars, Leakers, and Liberals PDF Summary”

Liars, Leakers, and Liberals delves into the relationship between Donald Trump, the so-called Fake News media and the supposed deep state which actually governs the United States from behind the scene.

As expected, Judge Jeanine’s position is pretty clear: the media, Hollywood, FBI, and so on and so forth – they all lie about Trump so as to protect the interests of the elite and cover up the existence of this deep state.

Or, in her words:

Yes, Donald Trump arrived just in time, when our nation needed him most, when we needed to be protected and inspired. To be sure, Trump was not your typical, politically correct candidate.
Unlike the two-faced parasites in Washington, he really wanted to make America great again. They tagged him with every negative characterization they could. They called him a fascist, a racist, and twisted everything he said. Why? Because he was a threat to the greedy, corrupt Washington insiders who had captured our government.
And he did what other candidates wouldn’t dream of. In addition to the Establishment, he took on the media. They said it was suicide. They were wrong.

Let’s skim through her arguments.

Trump and the Fake News Media

According to Judge Jeanine, media wasn’t always as hostile to Trump as it has been ever since his nomination for Presidency.

In fact, back in the days of The Art of the Deal, The Apprentice, and Miss USA, he was a household name both revered and criticized by the media.

However, only the latter is true for the past few years, and the statistics prove it.

Namely, a Pew Research Center study discovered that only 28 percent of all stories about George W. Bush were negative, only 20 percent of those about Obama could be described in the same manner, and a whopping 62 percent of what the media says about Trump is a critique of him or his politics!

Why?

Because lies about Trump sell; according to Judge Jeanine, this phenomenon even has a name in some circles: the Trump Bump.

So, how does Trump deal with this?

“With just one phrase,” writes Judge Jeanine, “the president has deflected and defeated billions of negative words written about him.”

And you already know the phrase:

Fake News!

Hell, Trump even instituted the Fake News Awards, which, to quote Judge Jeanine, “raised exposure of dishonest media to an art form.”

Although, to be fair to Trump, one of the winners of this award, Brian Ross, has been involved in many controversies of this kind for the past two decades.

To be fair to the Fake News media, though, they have suspended him quite a few times on account of his unsourced reporting.

The Hypocrisy of Hollywood

“Folks,” writes Judge Jeanine, “Hollywood’s been steeped in hypocrisy for decades. As the curtain goes up on the casting couch, the town that glorifies violence, murder, and rape is the same town where the centuries-old practice of pressuring women to trade sex for a job is kept quiet.”

Of course, what Pirro is referring to is the Harvey Weinstein affair.

Weinstein, a liberal Democrat who has given almost a $1,000,000 in donations to Barack Obama, was accused by numerous women of rape, abuse, and sexual assaults in October 2017.

However, it took the Obamas quite some time to react to this story, and Hillary Clinton was nowhere to be found for at least five days.

At the same time, everybody seems to be shouting against Trump for similar accusations, even though not one of them has been documented as well as those brought out against Weinstein.

Now, why is that?

Simply put, because liberals are “fans of Hollywood’s hypocrisy.” For example, writes Judge Jeanine, after Hillary lost the Presidency, Michelle Obama commented that “any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice.”

“Michelle,” she asks, “does that mean you listened to your voice and voted for Hillary and against your husband when Hillary ran against him in the primary? Where was your voice on the day your daughter got a job with Harvey?”

Moreover, where was Hillary’s or the media’s voice when Bill Clinton was accused of similar charges.

On a side note, don’t listen to the opinions of Hollywood actors about anything, says Judge Jeanine.

They don’t matter one beat since “these are people with a bloated sense of self-worth, little accountability, and practically no original thought. Without a Hollywood scriptwriter, most of them couldn’t talk their way out of a telemarketing call.”

Illegal Immigrants

This, of course, is the burning issue.

Should illegal immigrants be allowed in the United States, and are Trump and the American people for or against immigration?

Back in 2015, when Trump said that illegal immigrants are rapists, bringing drugs and crime to the USA, many liberal media predicted that this statement should spell the end of Trump.

Strangely enough, not only it didn’t, but it brought him the presidency.

Why?

Because most Americans share this opinion.

Moreover, because Trump is not against immigrants – illegal or otherwise – but against sanctuary cities, which don’t cooperate with the government on the subject of immigration:

The president was not talking about shaking down every suspected illegal immigrant household in the United States with jackbooted stormtroopers demanding ‘Papers, please!’
He was talking about finding illegal immigrants who had committed violent crimes including drug crimes. The government is supposed to arrest people suspected of committing those crimes, whether they are here legally or not!

After all, don’t forget that Trump’s wife is “an immigrant who speaks with an accent” and that his Trump Tower employees describe him as a great employer.

We’re talking about two different subjects here, and it’s time that the media acknowledges this!

Key Lessons from “Liars, Leakers, and Liberals”

1.      The Press Is Lying About Trump, and Hollywood Is Full of Hypocrites
2.      The Washington Divide: Trump vs. the Swamp
3.      Donald Trump Has Already Achieved More Than Many Presidents Before Him

The Press Is Lying About Trump, and Hollywood Is Full of Hypocrites

According to a study, two-thirds of the stories about Trump in the media are negative, as opposed to no more than a third in the case of Obama or even George W. Bush.

The reason is simple: lying about Trump sells, getting The Times 132,000 new subscribers in the first month of Trump’s time in office!

Trump countered the lies by instituting the Fake News Awards, and this worked.

“The genius of Donald Trump,” writes Judge Jeanine, “was recognizing that Americans instinctively felt that the press was lying. He was the one who put the laser focus on the press, and their lack of accountability and America came along with him.”

However, the press is not Trump’s only enemy.

Hollywood’s hypocrisy is another.

There are many actors all around us, says Judge Jeanine, but the actual actors are the worst. Their opinions shouldn’t matter at all, because they are capable of doing nothing else but getting a shot right after twenty takes.

Whether it is Robert DeNiro, Sarah Silverman, or Whoopi Goldberg, these are all people who shouldn’t be dealing with politics in the first place.

Not only they because they aren’t qualified to, but also because these are the same people who covered up the story of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse for decades.

The Washington Divide: Trump vs. the Swamp

Everybody’s talking about divisions during the past few years, but nobody is talking about the important one.

In the opinion of Judge Jeanine, it’s not Republicans vs. Democrats in Washington or anywhere else; it’s Trump vs. the Swamp.

Namely, Washington is full of RINOs – i.e., Republicans in Name Only – who instead of getting behind Trump, go against him so as to further their own agenda.

And that agenda is the same as the one Trump opposes: the agenda of liars and hypocrites who want to govern America from behind the scenes.

These people are all politically correct and seem as if personifications of justice and intellect.

However, they are ten times worse than Trump who may be not as polished talker or a thinker, but “feels the way much of America feels” and “says [exactly] what he thinks.”

And “that’s why he was elected our President.”

Donald Trump Has Already Achieved More Than Many Presidents Before Him

And, according to Judge Jeanine, he’s doing a heck of a good job already.

He’s not only a caring family man – Pirro has been a personal friend of his for many years – but he’s also a decent guy who understands the American people, doing everything he can to help them.

In fact, in merely two years, he has created three million jobs, and today there are more available jobs than people unemployed in the US; unsurprisingly, unemployment is at the lowest it has been for seventeen years.

Despite being labeled as “cuts for the rich,” Trump’s tax cuts have helped the ones most in need: a typical American family should save over $2,000 a year because of them.

In addition, Trump has been doing wonders in America’s foreign policy. Working with our allies, Trump has all but neutralized ISIS, doing what Obama should have done but never did.

He has also strengthened America’s ties with its closest ally in the Middle East (Israel) by recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, and normalized USA’s relations to many countries – even starting peace talks with North Korea!

And yet, CNN talks nothing of this, focusing instead on conspiracy theories such as the Mueller investigation which has turned up nothing so far.

Why would they do that if they actually cared about the American people?

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“Liars, Leakers, and Liberals Quotes”

The minute Donald Trump announced his presidential run, on a platform that didn’t politely acquiesce to their progressive, globalist agenda, they turned on him like a pack of feral dogs. Click To Tweet Most Americans have no idea that less than two years after his inauguration, Donald Trump has accomplished more than most presidents accomplish in their entire presidencies. Click To Tweet Just eighteen months into his presidency, Trump accomplished what Obama couldn’t do in two terms: provided concrete proof that African-Americans are legitimately better off under the Trump presidency. Click To Tweet Since losing the election in the worst upset in American electoral history, Hillary Clinton has given over fifty paid speeches blaming just about everyone she can think of for the loss except, of course, herself. Click To Tweet Obama and the Clintons sold our uranium and with it the security of our nation. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Even if you didn’t know before that Judge Jeanine has written quite a few books, Liars, Leakers, and Liberals might just be a title that sounds familiar to you.

The reason?

Pirro’s heated debate with Whoopi Goldberg on The View, after which the sales of Liars, Leakers, and Liberals skyrocketed, pushing the book to the top of The New York Times bestseller list.

Does it deserve to be there?

Well, not exactly.

It is biased and full of conspiracy theories that are, to say the least, unfalsifiable. And that, as Karl Popper has taught us, may just be a sign that they bear no relation to reality.

Moreover, if you label everything everyone says against you Fake News than you’re not actually interested in a fair fight, aren’t you?

Even so, Liars, Leakers, and Liberals does have a few fair points and some truths you won’t be able to hear in the mainstream media.

So, give it a chance: you’ll lose nothing but parts of your filter bubble.

 

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The Varieties of Religious Experience PDF Summary

The Varieties of Religious Experience PDF SummaryA Study in Human Nature

Science and religion haven’t been exactly on speaking terms for most of history.

America’s great philosopher and first psychology teacher William James attempted to mend that.

And he did it best in one of the earliest books exploring the psychological nature of religion:

The Varieties of Religious Experience.

Who Should Read “The Varieties of Religious Experience”? And Why?

Regardless of whether you’re a religious person or not, one thing that should be more than clear to you is the fact that religious experiences exist.

It helps nobody if we shelf all of them under the same category – say, meetings with the divine or acts of manipulations.

That’s why James’ Verities of Religious Experiences is such an essential work in the history of science. The American philosopher is almost utterly disinterested in the legitimacy of religious experiences.

What he is interested in, however, is much more important: whether religious experiences can tell us more about the human condition here, on earth.

That’s why we warmly recommend this book to both believers and non-believers: it takes into account both positions, and it analyzes religious experiences in an objective, descriptive manner.

About William James

William JamesWilliam James was one of the most influential American philosophers and psychologists, justly considered “The Originator of Pragmatism” (with Charles Saunders Pierce) and “The Father of American Psychology.”

Born into a wealthy intellectual family – his brother was the novelist Henry James – William James trained as a physician and even taught anatomy at Harvard; however, he was never interested in practicing medicine, and he quickly reoriented toward the field of psychology and then philosophy.

James’ writings have influenced a number of prominent 20th-century intellectuals, from Husserl and Du Bois to Russell and Wittgenstein.

His books, Essays in Radical Empiricism, The Principles of Psychology, and the Varieties of Religious Experience, are considered not only groundbreaking texts in each of their respective fields but also indelible parts of the Western Canon.

“The Varieties of Religious Experience PDF Summary”

The Varieties of Religious Experience consists of William James’ Gifford Lectures on natural theology, which he delivered at the University of Edinburgh during the first three years of the 20th century.

There were originally twenty of them, but the book has a few chapters less than that number since it groups those which explored similar topics.

Lecture I. Religion and Neurology

“Religion and Neurology” describes the methodology of James’ study.

Just so that no one should make a mistake, he states straight from the outset:

I am neither a theologian, nor a scholar learned in the history of religions, nor an anthropologist. Psychology is the only branch of learning in which I am particularly versed. To the psychologist the religious propensities of man must be at least as interesting as any other of the facts pertaining to his mental constitution. It would seem, therefore, as a psychologist, the natural thing for me would be to invite you to a descriptive survey of those religious propensities.

And then he proceeds to explain that it seems much more interesting to him to explore the world of the “religious geniuses,” i.e., those people who have experienced religious visions dissimilar to those passed on through orthodox traditions.

In other words, the Einsteins of religious experiences.

Lecture II. Circumscription of the Topic

“Circumscription” is a rather archaic word which means “restriction” or “limit.”

And that’s what James tries to set in the second lecture.

Mostly, he says, he is interested in personal religious experiences, since corporate ones are usually – if not always – the product of personal ideas and conversions.

Put simply, Christianity exists because of Jesus, Islam because of Muhammed; so, the only religious experiences worth analyzing are those of Jesus and Muhammed.

And even more interesting than Jesus and Muhammed may be the creators of sects within these religions – say, George Fox who founded the Quaker religion.

What drove them to do it?

Lecture III. The Reality of the Unseen

“Vague impressions of something indefinable have no place in the rationalistic system,” writes William James in this chapter.

“Nevertheless,” he immediately adds giving an apology for his interest in religious experiences, “if we look on man’s whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately follow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superficial.”

It is the part that has the prestige undoubtedly, for it has the loquacity, it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words… Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely knows that that result must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.

Lectures IV and V. The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness

The fourth and fifth James’ Gifford lecture are grouped under the same title: “The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness.”

Interestingly enough, in retrospect, what James is talking about in this chapter – terming it America’s principal contribution to religion – is actually what we should nowadays call it positive thinking.

Finding its origins in Emerson, Whitman and Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science, James calls this “the religion of healthy-mindedness,” or “the religion of the mind-cure.”

In the case of these people, James thinks, the religious experience is the product of happiness and an optimistic outlook; they don’t believe in evil and bad things since both of them can be neutralized through a positive attitude.

These are the once-born, the people who can live a life of sustained happiness; they don’t need a religion different than optimism.

Lectures VI and VII. The Sick Soul

However, there’s also another group, a group of people whose souls are sick from birth, since, unlike the once-born, they believe that the world is fundamentally evil.

These are the morbid-minded people.

Unfortunately, in the eyes of James, “morbid-mindedness ranges over the wider scale of experience,” since many people suffer on a daily basis and the healthy-minded are all but incapable for prolonged suffering.

So that these morbid-minded people can experience happiness, they need to be born a second time; this is why James calls their religious experiences, the religious experiences of the twice-born.

To these people, finding religion means finally finding a cure for unhappiness.

Lecture VIII. The Divided Self, and the Process of Its Unification

So, in a way, religion is a way for the morbid-minded individual to restore the condition of his healthy-mindedness.

This can be done through some sort of a “conversion experience” – see below – which can happen either abruptly (as in the case of St Paul) or through a gradual process of discovery (as in the case of Leo Tolstoy and John Bunyan).

“But neither Bunyan nor Tolstoy,” notes James beautifully, “could become what we have called healthy-minded. They had drunk too deeply of the cup of bitterness ever to forget its taste, and their redemption is into a universe two stories deep.”

In both of them, “the sadness was preserved as a minor ingredient in the heart of the faith by which it was overcome.”

However, what interests James “is that as a matter of fact they could and did find something welling up in the inner reaches of their consciousness, by which such extreme sadness could be overcome.”

Lecture IX and X. Conversion

In lectures nine and ten, James spends some time discussing the nature and the effects of religious conversion.

For some reason, he says, religion gives people the power and the impetus to change their habits and even their character.

In some cases, religious conversions result in a profound change affecting the core being of an individual.

“There are persons in whom,” writes James, “quite independently of any exhaustion in the Subject’s capacity for feeling, or even in the absence of any acute previous feeling, the higher condition, having reached the due degree of energy, bursts through all barriers and sweeps in like a sudden flood.”

He notes that “these are the most striking and memorable cases, the cases of instantaneous conversion to which the conception of divine grace has been most peculiarly attached.”

Lectures XI to XV. Saintliness and the Value of Saintliness

Then James moves on to the topic of saintliness which he explores in the next five chapters.

He uses the first two to define saintly people as those whose “spiritual emotions are the habitual center of the personal energy.”

According to James, saintliness includes four traits which lead to four practical consequences.

The four traits of saintliness are these:

#1. “A feeling of being in a wider life than that of this world’s selfish little interests; and a conviction … of the existence of an Ideal Power.”
#2. “A sense of the friendly continuity of the ideal power with our own life, and a willing self-surrender to its control.”
#3. “An immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down.”
#4. “A shifting of the emotional center towards loving and harmonious affections, towards ‘yes, yes’ and away from ‘no,’ where the claims of the non-ego are concerned.”

And the practical consequences of these four traits are the following:

#1. Asceticism: experiencing pleasure in self-sacrifice;
#2. Strength of soul: since fear and anxieties make room for “blissful equanimity,” a saintly person can endure everything and become a martyr. “Come heaven, come hell, it makes no difference now!”
#3. Purity: being sensitive to your own purity means trying willingly to stay away from the impurities of the world, which is often its material nature;
#4. Charity: tenderness for fellow-creatures; “the saint loves his enemies, and treats loathsome beggars as his brothers.”

Lectures XVI And XVII. Mysticism

In the next two lectures – and, in a way, the final two proper lectures of this series – William James explores the concept of mysticism. And he extrapolates “four marks which, when an experience has them, may justify us in calling it mystical”:

#1. Ineffability: no mystical experience can be adequately put into words; it defies expression;
#2. Noetic quality: all mystical experiences are “states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect;” even though inarticulate, they give the mind power of a kind which the person who goes through a mystical experience considers it revelatory;
#3. Transiency: most mystical experiences are transient and can’t be sustained for long;
#4. Passivity: the mystic often feels “as if he were grasped and held by a superior power;” he is being overcome by something else.

The first two of these four qualities of the mystical experiences are general: all mystical experiences have them; however, the second two are subsidiary features found often, but not always, in cases such as these.

Lecture XVIII. Philosophy

In this lecture, William James tries to explain why it is so difficult to talk about religious experiences in philosophical language.

Of course, the answer is simple: the former is illogical, and the latter follows the laws of logic by definition.

However, there’s a catch!

“I do believe,” writes James, “that feeling is the deeper source of religion, and that philosophic and theological formulas are secondary products, like translations of a text into another tongue.”

This whole lecture is an explanation of that sentence.

Lecture XIX. Other Characteristics

In the penultimate lecture, James skims through some “other characteristics” of the religious experiences.

The three topics covered here are institutional religion, prayers, and the relationship between religion and the subconscious.

James doesn’t hold organized religion in high regard since it doesn’t give enough room for personal religious experiences – which is what it was born out of.

Prayers are then analyzed both historically and pragmatically, as is the relationship between religion and the subconscious, leaving room for the interpretation of at least some religious experiences as products of psychopathological conditions.

Lecture XX. Conclusions

In his final lecture, William James continues this discussion of the subconscious, presenting it as a channel through which “the further limits of our being plunge… into an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely ‘understandable’ world.”

It is because of this that further studies in the realm of the subconscious are necessary.

They, in the eyes of James, should be able to reveal to us a sounder basis for scientific exploration of the religious experience.

For now, it is our duty to not dismiss it as something inherently unscientific because it has helped many people become both happier and smarter.

Key Lessons from “The Varieties of Religious Experience”

1.      Healthy-Mindedness and Morbid-Mindedness
2.      Saintliness: Traits and Effects
3.      The Four Marks of a Mystical Experience

Healthy-Mindedness and Morbid-Mindedness

Some people are born healthy-minded, and others are born morbid-minded; the former are capable of sustaining happiness, the latter think that they are doomed to suffer through life.

Positive thinking is, more or less, the only religion the first group of people needs; however, the second can only become healthy-minded trough some sort of religious conversion.

That’s why William James calls the former “the once-born” and the latter “the twice-born.”

Saintliness: Traits and Effects

There are four traits which describe a saintly person and which lead to four different practical effects.

The traits in question are: a feeling that the world is more than what we can see; a sense that there is an Ideal Power which exists in you as well; an immense elation and freedom; and a shifting from a no-state to a yes-state of being.

These four traits lead to four practical consequences: asceticism, strength of soul, purity, and charity.

The Four Marks of a Mystical Experience

Just like saintliness, mysticism can also be defined within the limits of four qualities.

These are: ineffability, noetic quality, transiency, and passivity.

The first two are general and describe all mystical experiences; the latter two can often be found in them, but are sometimes absent and are subsidiary.

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“The Varieties of Religious Experience Quotes”

Good-humor is a philosophic state of mind; it seems to say to Nature that we take her no more seriously than she takes us. I maintain that one should always talk of philosophy with a smile. Click To Tweet Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another. Click To Tweet I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather I fear to lose truth by the pretension to possess it already wholly. Click To Tweet There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other. Click To Tweet The lunatic's visions of horror are all drawn from the material of daily fact. Our civilization is founded on the shambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

The Varieties of Religious Experience may be a bit outdated, and some of its ideas may seem somewhat dangerous; after all, Mussolini said that it was this book which taught him that “an action should be judged by its result rather than by its doctrinal basis.”

Even so, it is a book which – as James’ fellow pragmatist Pierce said – penetrates deep into the hearts of people; and it will undoubtedly be debated for many years to come. Just as it has been for over a century now.

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Good and Mad PDF Summary

Good and Mad PDF SummaryThe Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

Wondering about the origins of the #MeToo movement?

Well, it’s time to learn something about the history of women’s anger and why that’s the place where girl power sits!

Dear ladies – and gentlemen in the all but forgotten, literal sense of that word – we present you the summary of Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad!

Who Should Read “Good and Mad”? And Why?

Regardless of some people’s claims, in the intellectual world, it is not exactly debatable whether women have been the second sex for millennia; and whether some kind of bad form of gender inequality still exists.

So, all of you women who want to change that, this is one of the best books on the subject; and all of you men who can’t seem to understand it, please, first read all about its history in Good and Mad.

After all, nothing comes out of nothing.

Why should the #MeToo movement or feminism be any different?

About Rebecca Traister

Rebecca TraisterRebecca Traister is an American writer, mostly interested in the topics of women’s rights and politics; according to American writer Anne Lamott, she may be ”the most brilliant voice on feminism in this country.”

She debuted in 2010 with Big Girls Don’t Cry in which she attempted to understand and analyze the reinvigoration of the women’s movement in the USA due to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 political campaign.

Eight years later, she published All the Single Ladies, a book often described as “a remarkable portrait of contemporary American life and how we got here, through the lens of the unmarried American woman.”

Good and Mad, published just this year, is Traister’s third book; inspired by the #MeToo movement, it follows the cumulation of women’s anger through the past few centuries.

Find out more at http://www.rebeccatraister.com/

“Good and Mad PDF Summary”

The Beginnings of Women’s Anger

Back in 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique and revealed to the world a “problem that has no name.”

Namely, that the majority of women didn’t like – who would have guessed, ha? – to be measured against an archetype of a children-loving and always-smiling housewife whose sole objective was to find a good husband, and maybe shop for groceries and chauffer Boy Scouts.

That can’t be all, wrote Betty Friedan; there must be so much more to life than that.

And that’s basically how women’s anger was born, almost concurrently with the anger against racial injustice and the one against the War in Vietnam.

And this anger marked most of the 1960s and the 1970s, a period during which women successfully campaigned for the legalization of abortion and birth control, as well as for laws which made divorce easier and sexual harassment a form of discrimination against women.

And then the 1980s came, and Ronald Reagan reversed all that.

Suddenly, these women – labeled as “freaks” at the beginning – evolved to become nothing short of demons and witches.

Don’t believe us?

Just think of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

Which is why women’s anger subsided during the 1990s. No woman wanted to be associated with the she-devils of the 1970s. You know the ones who’d burn their bras, shout in your face, and wouldn’t back down.

Instead, anger made place for humor; a great thing, of course, but even greater for the men. After all, it is far easier to deal with someone funny than with someone angry.

You can just ignore the first one; there’s no way you can ignore the second one.

Angry Yet Again

In a word, not much was going on in the world of feminism between the 1970s and today.

There were few sparks here and there – Anita Hill’s accusation against Clarence Thomas for sexual harassment, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign – but these were all just short-lived and ignorable.

And then Clinton’s second presidential campaign came, and, just as the women of America started preparing for a woman president, the shock arrived: Donald Trump won.

And, once again, women’s anger erupted!

On January 21, 2017, just a day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the Women’s March happened; its goal: to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”

And a bold message it did send: more than 4 million people participated in the Women’s March, making it the most massive single-day protest in US history!

Of course, that was only one of the events through which women’s anger found a way out during the past two years.

The other – still going on – was the #MeToo movement, which spread virally soon after sexual abuse allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein.

What the cases of Trump and Weinstein revealed to the women of the world was something they became aware of in the 1970s: no matter how much they try, chances are they will always be the second sex.

Trump, for example, is both a racist and a misogynist, and yet he won a presidential race against a woman. And as the #MeToo movement revealed, no matter how high on the Hollywood success ladder you’ve climbed, powerful men can still use and abuse you.

What does that leave for the rest of the women out there?

The Sexist Nature of Anger

Nothing.

That’s the answer to the question posited in the last sentence of the previous paragraph.

Most women are utterly defenseless against the powerful and unchanging structure of our patriarchal society; unfortunately, only women can understand the full weight of this sentence. But let us try and make it a bit clearer for you.

Think of an angry young man. What do you see in him? A rebel, a fighter for justice. Even though his face is contorted and his mouth wide open, there’s nothing especially repelling there.

Now think of an angry young woman.

Get it?

The very idea of an “angry woman” somehow seems wrong, almost oxymoronic. Angry women are witches and she-devils: they seem disagreeable to all but everybody, including their parents and partners.

Society has always frowned upon them. After all, there’s a reason why the term “hysterical” originates in the Ancient Greek word for “uterus”; men, for some reason, can’t be hysterical; women are not allowed to.

That’s why Donald Trump can call publicly Mexicans “rapists,” women “pigs” and “cows,” and rave against almost everybody and everything and still win the presidency. And that’s why Republicans were able to all but dismiss the allegations of Kamala Harris for Russian interference simply by labeling her “hysterical.”

Even if you can rationalize against it, deep inside you, you still think that women are supposed to be submissive and smiling, agreeable and beautiful; nothing less, and nothing more. Apparently, we all believe that this is in the very genes of women.

And you know why we believe that?

Because it has suited the people in power for millennia; and because it still does.

After all, they are men.

Stifling Women’s Anger

And please note: we’re not saying that men are consciously doing this.

“On some level,” writes Traister, “if not intellectual then animal, there has always been an understanding of the power of women’s anger: that as an oppressed majority in the United States, women have long had within them the potential to rise up in fury, to take over a country in which they’ve never really been offered their fair or representative stake.”

And this is perhaps the reason why women’s anger is so broadly denigrated, and so often represented as ugly, alienating, and irrational. Because, in the opposite case, it is capable of bringing down the current order.

Just think of Jordan Peterson’s (of course, borrowed from Jung, Taoism, and the spheres of mythological thinking) often-quoted dualistic idea that “Order is the white, masculine serpent; Chaos, its black, feminine counterpart.”

Within this frame of reference, you can’t argue with him. However, this frame of reference is masculine. And, of course (as Beauvoir showed us more than half a century ago) the only way you can define womanhood inside it is by relation.

So, if men represent order – and they do: for starters, there are about five times more of them in US politics – then women, by definition, represent chaos. They are the ones who can do something unexpected.

Traister correctly points out:

What becomes clear, when we look to the past with an eye to the future, is that the discouragement of women’s anger – via silencing, erasure, and repression – stems from the correct understanding of those in power that in the fury of women lies the power to change the world.

Remember this.

Because this is the discussion we’re having.

Key Lessons from “Good and Mad”

1.      It’s Not the End of the Struggle for Women’s Rights… It’s Merely the Beginning
2.      Women’s Anger Is Good
3.      I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take This Anymore!

It’s Not the End of the Struggle for Women’s Rights… It’s Merely the Beginning

2017 was a revolutionary year in terms of women’s struggle for their rights.

It was marked by two momentous events: the Women’s March (the largest single-day protest in U.S. history) and the #MeToo movement.

However, as Rebecca Traister shows, in retrospect, what these women are fighting for are, more or less, the same things the women of the 1960s and the 1970s had all but won.

Merely a second of inattention may lead to another repeat of Reagan’s masculine 1980s.

So, it’s not the end of the struggle – it’s merely the beginning

Women’s Anger Is Good

Don’t let anybody fool you: as far as revolutions are concerned, anger is a prerequisite.

After all, it’s not like the American Revolution started because the Founding Fathers waited for the Englishmen to give them freedom and rights.

They tried the good way, and when that failed, anger festered to the point when the spilling of the tea was the only possible outcome.

“I confess that I am now suspicious of nearly every attempt to code anger as unhealthy, no matter how well-meaning or persuasive the source,” writes Traister.

And then she goes on:

What is bad for women, when it comes to anger, are the messages that cause us to bottle it up, let it fester, keep it silent, feel shame, and isolation for ever having felt it or rechannel it in inappropriate directions. What is good for us is opening our mouths and letting it out, permitting ourselves to feel it and say it and think it and act on it and integrate it into our lives, just as we integrate joy and sadness and worry and optimism.

I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take This Anymore!

This is the central message of Good and Mad.

And we will quote the paragraph stating it best in its entirety:

What you are angry about now – injustice – will still exist, even if you yourself are not experiencing it, or are tempted to stop thinking about how you are experience it, and how you contribute to it. Others are still experiencing it, still mad; some of them are mad at you. Don’t forget them; don’t write off their anger. Stay made for them. Stay mad with them. They’re right to be mad, and you’re right to be mad alongside them. Being mad is correct; being mad is American; being mad can be joyful and productive and connective. Don’t ever let them talk you out of being mad again.

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“Good and Mad Quotes”

Men literally have no idea how to even legitimately recognize or name our anger—largely because we don’t either. Click To Tweet The Women’s March on January 21, 2017 was the biggest one-day political protest in this country’s history, and it was staged by angry women. Click To Tweet The British feminist Laurie Penny tweeted in July 2017, ‘Most of the interesting women you know are far, far angrier than you’d imagine.’ Click To Tweet I want to convince you that there are types of anger that are not bad. (Via Myisha Cherry) Click To Tweet Women’s anger, publicly and loudly expressed, is all of that: unnatural, chaotic, upsetting to how power is supposed to work. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“Every fifty years since the French Revolution, writes noted journalist and critic Vivian Gornick, “there’s been an uprising on behalf of women’s rights—we’re in the middle of one right now—and each time around a fresh chorus of voices is heard, making the same righteous bid for social and political equality, only with more force and more eloquence than the time before.”

“Among today’s strongest voices is the one that belongs to Rebecca Traister,” she goes on. “Deeply felt and richly researched, her new book, Good and Mad, is one of the best accounts I have read of the cumulative anger women feel, coming up against their centuries-old subordination. Read it!”

Coming from Gornick, that’s as a compelling argument as any to read Good and Mad.

Black and hip-hop feminist scholar Brittney C. Cooper (by the way, the author of Eloquent Rage) adds yet another: “Rebecca Traister has me convinced in this deftly and powerfully argued book that there will be no 21st-century revolution until women once again own the power of their rage.”

“As I read,” Cooper adds, “my blood started pumping, my fist tightened, and my spirit said, ‘hell yeah! We aren’t going down without a fight.’”

And if you are a woman, it’s your duty to not allow this.

At the moment at least, Good and Mad is an essential read.

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Being and Nothingness PDF Summary

Being and Nothingness PDF SummaryAn Essay in Phenomenological Ontology

You are condemned to be free.

And yet, you’re living an unfree, inauthentic life.

No matter who you are.

How’s that?

Let Jean-Paul Sartre explain that to you.

In the principal text of modern existentialism:

Being and Nothingness.

Who Should Read “Being and Nothingness”? And Why?

In the years following the Second World War, Being and Nothingness was all the young intellectuals of the world talked about; for all its apparent nihilism, somehow, this book spoke to them volumes about how one can redesign himself to exert his freedom to a fuller extent.

And this was more than necessary when it seemed as if the world had lost all of its meaning. One fights fire with fire, and the students of post-war Europe fought meaninglessness with a philosophical book which explains its paradoxical origins.

Due to Sartre’s leftist inclinations, by the end of the 20th century, he fell out of favor in the minds of many; however, since somehow, we’ve fallen back again in a state of desperation, Sartre can sound surprisingly contemporary.

If you are a philosopher, you know that this book is a must; if you are not, but you’re feeling kind of depressed about everything that’s going on in your life, we feel that this is a book which can both understand you and help you introduce some meaning in it.

With that being said, be wary: Sartre’s Being and Nothingness is a critique of Kant and a further exploration of Heidegger’s Being and Time with an antireligious Kierkegaardian flavor.

And yes – it’s as complicated to grasp as the sentence preceding this one; so maybe it is smart to read our summary – and especially the Key Lessons section – to understand better what’s going on before embarking on actually reading Being and Nothingness.

Or you can just watch The Good Place – which is much inspired by Sartre’s works and ideas.

About Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul SartreBeing and Nothingness PDF Summary was a French philosopher, writer, literary critic, and political activist. He is widely considered to have been one of the pivotal thinkers of the 20th century.

As a philosopher, he was a leading proponent of existentialism, an intellectual movement which stressed freedom and authenticity as the primary values and virtues of human existence.

As a political activist, he was perhaps the most influential thinker of the Left for the better part of his life.

Finally, as a writer, he won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1964, which he refused it, claiming that no intellectual should ever accept official honors, and that “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution.”

He was also famous for his open relationship with fellow existentialist philosopher and noted feminist Simone de Beauvoir, which lasted from his early twenties to end of his life, at 74.

His major works include: Nausea and the unfinished tetralogy The Roads to Freedom (novels); The Wall (short story collection); No Exit and The Flies (plays); Being and Nothingness and Critique of Dialectical Reason (philosophical books); “Existentialism Is a Humanism” and the ten-volume series Situations (essays).

“Being and Nothingness PDF Summary”

Being and Nothingness is subtitled “An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology.”

Which, basically, means that it is a book which discusses the being (ontology) in relation to the structures of our consciousness and the ways they help us experience and perceive the phenomena of the world around us (phenomenology).

Don’t worry – by the end of this summary, you should understand what that sentence means a little better.

Kant’s Noumenon

Now, Sartre had studied Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy while in Berlin in the 1930s, and in the “Introduction” to Being and Nothingness he credits it with one of the most significant advances in modern philosophy.

Namely, the negation of dualistic thinking inherent in the philosophy of, say, Immanuel Kant.

You see, for Kant, there were not only objects existent in the world around us (phenomena, things), but also some intrinsic features which define these objects (noumena, things-in-themselves).

In a nutshell, the phenomenon is everything we can ever know about the noumenon. Even if a stone has a soul, which is more than the sum of its geological history and molecular structure, human sensation has such limits which prevent it from perceiving this.

In a sentence, Kant believed that there may be a noumenal world out there, but that it is entirely unknowable through our senses. An event may have a meaning beyond the one we experience it at the moment, but there’s no way to recognize this meaning.

Now, as far as Sartre is concerned, phenomenology has made one step forward, removing “the illusion of worlds behind the scene.”

Because, for phenomenologists, the noumenon is something we should simply not bother with. The appearance of a thing (phenomenon) is the thing-in-itself (for Kant, noumenon) – and that’s where the discussion ends.

Being-in-Itself vs. Being-for-Itself

But it’s also where a new dualistic discussion should begin.

This one involves the concepts of Being-in-itself (être-en-soi) and Being-for-itself (être-pour-soi).

Being-in-itself is the unconscious being, a mode of existence which simply is. It is neither active nor passive (after all it’s unconscious) and, thus, lacks the ability to change the very essence of its being.

A rose is a rose is a rose – noted once Gertrude Stein. And that is because a rose cannot be anything else but a rose, no matter how hard it tries; it doesn’t know that it’s a rose – it merely grows into one.

This is the absolute, almost godlike state of existence: a rose has an unchanging identity, and it isn’t capable of turning into a lily in the midst of its growth cycle.

That’s being-in-itself.

Being-for-itself, on the other hand, is the conscious, nondetermined state of existence.

In a way, this is what makes us humans: we actively participate in the creation of our own being.

We can study to become scientists, realize that we like poetry halfway through, become musicians instead and end up playing football in our free time.

We are not destined to become something: we are capable of creating our being for ourselves.

Sounds like something cool?

Hold your horses, says Sartre.

Nothingness

A paradoxical problem lies at the very heart of our mode of being.

And here’s the gist of it.

If you understood the part above well enough, you already know that, unlike a rose (thing-in-itself), a person (thing-for-itself) lacks an essence; true, a rose has its essence finalized before it’s even born, but a person has nothing to start with.

And this nothing sounds as scary as it does.

It is the being-for-itself (humans) which introduces nothingness to this world. If there was no conscious mode of being – aka no things-for-themselves (once again, humans) – then this world would have been finalized, and everything would have been just as it is.

It is difficult to say that, in this case, the world would have made some sense; but that’s the point: it wouldn’t have had the burden of making sense to anyone because there would have been no one to perceive it.

However, we perceive the absoluteness of the beings-in-themselves and the lack of it in our mode of being.

And though we can be anything we want to be, we try to become one, final thing.

That is, we try to give our lives meanings which are final and absolute.

When they asked you as a child “what do you want to become when you grow old?” they’ve actually asked you how do you want to finalize your for-itself existence into an in-itself mode of being.

Existence Precedes Essence

Let’s try to sum this up – and maybe simplify it a bit.

So, from the moment you are born (aka “thrown into being”), you are free to become whatever you want to become.

However, your freedom is a burden. You can be anything you want to be, says Sartre; and, strangely enough, that’s the problem.

It’s like running a race in a vast desert, and you have to invent the checkpoints yourself.

That sounds… scary.

Hence, Sartre’s famous maxim (taken from his famous accompanying lecture, “Existentialism is a Humanism”):

Man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.

This responsibility comes from the fact that, unlike for a rose, for humans, existence precedes essence. We are defined not by what we are (essence), but by what we do (existence).

A paper cutter is a paper cutter because it cuts paper; however, there is no definition of what a man should be that precedes the existence of any man.

So, everything you do, each and every one of your actions, reveals what you think a human being is and should be. This is, once again, scary.

“I must be without remorse or regrets as I am without excuse,” writes Sartre, “for from the instant of my upsurge into being, I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.”

Being-for-Others

Since being-for-itself is scary, we want to pin our freedom down to a state of being-in-itself.

But even more than that, we want to do the same for others.

It is impossible to comprehend a being-for-itself: you can’t pigeonhole someone who is free to do whatever he wants at any moment. We want predictable things.

So, we conveniently ask the Other to become something less than a For-itself – namely, In-itself. And, he does do that.

It is the gaze of the others which cages us and denies us our authentic lives – whatever this latter thing means.

Key Lessons from “Being and Nothingness”

1.      Being-in-Itself, Being-for-Itself, and Being-for-Others
2.      Existence Precedes Essence
3.      You Are Living Inauthentically Because of Your Bad Faith

Being-in-Itself, Being-for-Itself, and Being-for-Others

The central concepts of Sartre’s philosophy are the being-in-itself and the being-for-itself.

Being-in-itself is a state of absolute, fully realized, and self-contained being. This is a mode of existence that simply is. A tree is a thing-in-itself because it will forever be a tree, no matter what; its being is finalized by its very nature.

Being-for-itself, however, is the mode of existence in which all humans are thrown into because of their consciousness and their ability to make choices. Even though a tree cannot choose to become a rose, a man can choose to become a teacher or a scientist.

Interestingly enough, even though he is free to do whatever he wants, a man willfully tries to limit his existence to a state of being-in-itself, mostly because of social pressures. This is what being-for-others means: you become what the conventions expect you to become.

Existence Precedes Essence

The interesting part is that the conventions are what’s helping you to live through the dread and anxiety of your freedom to become anything else.

You constantly invent yourself excuses that you can’t do this or do that because of that or this. The truth is – you can.

Because you have a choice to do whatever you want, and because there’s no blueprint, no definition what it means to be a man, every choice you make is your contribution to the definition of what it means to be a human.

As far as trees are concerned, their essence precedes their existence – they are what they are, not what they do; even if a tree doesn’t bear fruits or is cut down after sprouting, it will still be a tree.

However, men are defined by what they do, and not by what they are; you can say that you are a poet, but unless you’ve written a few poems, you’re not.

You Are Living Inauthentically Because of Your Bad Faith

In Sartre’s mind, the problem with our modern existence is relatively simple: we convince ourselves that we can’t be more than what we are.

This is bad faith.

It is because of this bad faith that we become functions of ourselves instead of living, breathing human beings.

Sartre uses the example of a waiter who practically acts out other people’s idea of a waiter – even though he is free to be much more than it.

Whatever you do and wherever you are – you can do that too.

You invent your being with every step you take.

That means that you are responsible for what you’ve become and what you’ll become.

So, stop living the way other people expect you to live.

Live authentically!

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“Being and Nothingness Quotes”

It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are. Click To Tweet I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating. Click To Tweet Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being - like a worm. Click To Tweet Life is a useless passion. Click To Tweet It amounts to the same thing whether one gets drunk alone or is a leader of nations. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

What can we tell you?

There’s something in the philosophical basis of Being and Nothingness which we continue to find very interesting and thought-provoking.

Dostoevsky might have thought that in a godless universe everything is allowed; Sartre says that it is not because of the other people; and, interestingly, that, in a way, this is the problem.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to see behind the nihilistic veil of this argument.

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Summary Thomas Hobbes

Summary Thomas HobbesThe Matter, Form and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil

Now, that has to be one of the greatest covers of all time!

A monstrous creature with the head of a man and the body of, well, three hundred smaller men, ominously waving a sword and a staff over the world.

Above him, in Latin, a quote taken out of the Book of Job: “There is no power on earth to be compared to him.”

And below, the title:

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes.

Who Should Read “Leviathan Summary Thomas Hobbes”? And Why?

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes is perhaps the earliest and inarguably one of the two most influential texts which have attempted to sketch the ideal social contract – in addition to pinning down its origin and its significance (the other, of course, being Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract).

As such, it is one of the cornerstones of modern political philosophy, and one of the first books you should read if you are interested in that field.

Then move on to Rousseau. Then contrast and compare.

There: you’re halfway through understanding the whole field.

About Thomas Hobbes

Thomas HobbesThomas Hobbes was a 17th-century English philosopher and political thinker, one of the foremost figures of the European Enlightenment.

Best known for his 1651 book, Leviathan, Hobbes was a polymath who made significant contributions in more than one field of inquiry, ranging from history and philosophy to geometry and physics.

He is widely considered one of the founders of modern political philosophy, and, paradoxically (since he championed the absolutism of the sovereign), a precursor of classical liberalism.

“Leviathan Summary”

Written in 1651, Leviathan is titled after a sea monster mentioned in the Bible, most notably in the Book of Job. There’s a lengthy description there – if you want to, you can read it here (it starts in the previous chapter, verse 25) – but, let’s just say that the Leviathan is not something you’d want to mess with.

Looking at the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes’ book, you probably already know what we’re talking about.

Surprise, surprise –

You don’t.

Because even though, at first sight, this image of the Leviathan calls to mind a dystopian dictatorship, it actually represents Hobbes’ vision of an ideal social contract, aka the perfect civil society.

Strangely enough, Hobbes does have a point why you need a sea monster and not a butterfly to serve as a metaphor for a utopian society.

Most of it is presented in the first book of Leviathan, with the other three further analyzing the political implications of the philosophical conclusions reached at the beginning.

So, let’s see what’s Hobbes’s deal.

Part I: Of Man

Mechanical Interpretations

The first part of Leviathan is the most important one—it is the one upon which all the others are founded.

In other words, if there’s something wrong with it, then you’ll undoubtedly find quite a lot of flaws in the other three parts as well.

Which is why everybody spends about a hundred times more time analyzing this first part in comparison to the time spent on the other three parts.

And its essence?

Well, basically, that all of those sentimental, spiritual, otherworldly explanations of what we are and how we live are just a bunch of nonsense!

In other words, every single feeling and concept can be explained mechanically and materialistically, in terms of the movements of our bodies and minds toward or fromward objects, which, in turn, can be absent or present.

Our mind is moving toward or backward in terms of opinions; our body is moving in terms of appetites/desires (when toward an object) and aversions (when fromward an object).

Let’s make that clearer for you!

Say you have an appetite/desire for something, coupled with an opinion that you can get that something; then you’re experiencing hope. In this case, both your body and your mind are moving toward that thing.

However, if you just have an appetite for a thing, but you don’t believe that you can ever obtain it – then, that’s despair; your mind is moving backward now, even though your body is still prompting you to go toward that thing.

Fear is when both your mind and your body are averted, “with opinion of hurt from the object;” courage is “the same, with hope of avoiding that hurt by resistance;” anger is sudden courage, etc. etc.

Good vs. Evil

As you can see, similarly to Aristotle, Hobbes thinks of some feelings as much more complex than the others.

But just like molecules – no matter how complex – can be ultimately broken down into one of no more than 118 atoms, feelings and concepts can be too, and into no more than a few “bodily” movements and “mindedly” opinions.

Now, you’d expect that the most complex emotions and states – such as Good and Evil – should be the most complex arrangements of simple feelings and concepts, right?

Wrong!

You know why?

Because they are the simplest.

And this is both the catch and the most important inference from Hobbes’ mechanical analysis of the human species!

In essence, he says in an anachronistic language we’ll spare you the trouble from interpreting for now, there are no such things as Good and Evil.

We say that something is good if that something aligns with the appetites and desires of our body and our mind; if, however, it doesn’t, we call that thing bad, “vile, and inconsiderable.”

The words good and evil, Hobbes goes one, are always used with relation to the person who uses them.

The point?

There is nothing simply and absolutely good or bad in nature; the goodness or badness of a thing – when there is not such a thing as a commonwealth (see part II) – is taken from the person of the man who judges it or represents it.

The bottom line?

Whatever is good for one person, is bad for another one; and vice versa.

Summum Bonum vs. Summum Malum

And therein lies the rub!

Hey, look – we inadvertently quoted Hamlet, a play written half a century before Hobbes’ Leviathan!

Are we trying to make some point?

Of course we are (aka it wasn’t at all inadvertently)!

We wanted to remind you, as a side note, that Shakespeare managed to sum Hobbes up in a single sentence from the second scene of Act II of Hamlet: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

However, there’s a reason why Hobbes had to write about a hundred pages to explain that sentence.

It’s because, at his time, everybody believed the opposite.

Namely, that there’s something, deep within us, which is divine and which helps us align our actions with the Highest Good, or, in Latin, the summum bonum.

This Idea of the Highest Good originates in Plato – remember, the essentialist Plato? – and is a Form which exists irrespective of us and which is the ultimate object of our striving and knowledge; it is from It that things on earth which are good gain their value and their usefulness.

So, we just need to discover It, and we’ll be able to understand everything that is good why it is good and everything that is bad why it is not good.

Think of it as the finish line of a race you’re running; once you see it, you know in which direction you should run and when to stop running.

Yeah, right – said Hobbes!

Everybody knows what’s good – to him.

And good luck Plato if you want to create a society based on summum bonum: there could be no such thing because everyone’s desires are different!

Fortunately, everyone’s aversions seem to converge at one point, the summum malum, the Greatest Evil.

Namely: violent death.

The Natural State

So, let’s turn this discussion on its head – advised Hobbes!

Instead of trying to do the impossible – i.e., create a society which will satisfy the desires of all of its members – let’s try to do something much more obtainable – create a society which will eliminate the aversions of its inhabitants.

Summum bonum – butterflies and zebras, and moonbeams and fairytales – is a myth; summum malum – the fear of being hit on the head with an ax or a sledgehammer – is much too real.

And it must have been – since the very beginning of times!

You see, in the absence of a community – that is, man’s natural state – it seems to have been every man for himself. And that, coupled with a lack of resources, must have resulted in a war of all against all, the only conceivable state of men without civil society.

Because when there are no such things as a common good and a common bad, all men have “equal right unto all things:”

In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

The Natural Laws

Because this is something nobody wants – because it is something which could destroy everybody – some laws must have evolved spontaneously.

Hobbes calls these natural laws (leges naturales) and defines them as precepts, or general rules, “found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or take away the means of preserving the same; and to omit that by which he thinks it may be best preserved.”

Hobbes comes up with 19 such laws, the first two of which are by far the most important.

The first and fundamental law of nature and reason is this: “that every man, ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of war.”

It sounds a bit Kantian, doesn’t it?

If I can war to obtain the things I like, then everyone can do that too, and this means that I should fear for my life on a daily basis. So, it’s better for me not to wage war in cases where I can obtain peace; and when peace is out of the question, only then I should resort to warring.

Neither sentimental nor humane, but a giant leap from the natural state!

Now, from this “fundamental law of nature” follows the second one, according to which a man should be “contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.”

It’s both liberalism at its best, and even more Kantian once you think about it.

In fact, Hobbes sums up this law thus: “Whatsoever you require that others should do to you, that do ye to them.”

So, the Golden Rule yet again!

Parts II-IV

Part II: Of Common-Wealth

So, basically, the essence of these two natural laws is this: instead of acting as packs of wolves, let’s act as organs of a single body.

This single body – the one on the cover – is the Commonwealth, whose purpose Hobbes describes thus:

The final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent, as hath been shown, to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants.

Then Hobbes goes on to describe the twelve principal rights of the sovereign, the three types of government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy; monarchy is, yet again, the best), the succession and the taxation rules.

Not that exciting or original; but also kind of interesting.

Part III: Of a Christian Common-wealth

Which you can’t say about the third part of Leviathan, in which Hobbes tries to see how compatible Christianity is with his philosophical ideas.

Considering the fact that he was oftentimes called an atheist – and this was at a time when that was worse than being called, well, anything – it seems only necessary that Hobbes devoted so much of his time and energy to explaining something which, nowadays, would have been unnecessary.

However, behind all the biblical scholarship, the gist of this third part is rather simple: religious power must be subordinate to civil power.

Why?

Because, just like Good and Evil, revelations are just too subjective and too untestable!

For example, I can casually say that an angel gave me a golden book with, I don’t know, seventeen new commandments which go against the civil laws of a country; and you wouldn’t be able to disprove me.

And that, logically, shouldn’t be allowed if you want a just civil society.

Part IV: Of the Kingdom of Darkness

As you can infer from the title, the fourth part of Leviathan is also interested in some biblical ideas. More specifically, in how to guard the Commonwealth against liars and deceivers.

Hobbes lists four types of religious deceivers one should be especially wary about:

#1. Misinterpretators; these are people who cite and quote the Holy Book to prove that there are such things as angels and demons; yes, Hobbes is talking about the priests.

#2. Demonologists; these are people who not only claim that there are angels and demons, but they also claim to know how to deal with them; yes, Hobbes is explicitly talking about the Catholic Church and the Pope;

#3. Crusaders against the Truth; these are people who use the Scripture to punish other people for their opinions; he specifically mentions his friend Galileo’s punishment asking “what reason is there for it? Is it because such opinions are contrary to true Religion? That cannot be, if they be true;” great observation, Thomas;

#4. Privileged truthers; these are those who, for some reason, others believe that have privilege over the truth; the point being: scientists and philosophers have as much right to truth as priests and the Pope himself.

Key Lessons from “Summary Thomas Hobbes”

1.      A War of All Against All
2.      The Natural Laws
3.      The Commonwealth

A War of All Against All

Hobbes’ Leviathan is perhaps most famous for its idea that the natural state of man was one of war of all against all.

Why?

Because, in Hobbes’ opinion, good and evil are subjective, and when there are no communities, everybody has equal right upon everything.

When that is the case – nobody is safe.

The Natural Laws

And it is precisely because nobody is safe in a bellum omnium contra omnes state of affairs that, after some time, people had to come up, intuitively, with these two laws.

It isn’t that they devised them or put them down on paper or something – it’s just that they realized that, if they want to work for themselves, they have to follow them.

The first law is that peace is better than war when the former is an option; and the second, that one should be content with that freedom which doesn’t affect the freedom of other people, because that’s the freest one can be without risking a conflict.

The Commonwealth

Most of Leviathan is actually a description – as the book’s subtitle explicitly states – of the matter, form and power of the commonwealth,

It is a community ruled by a sovereign, which helps people get themselves out from “that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent… to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants.”

The best civil commonwealth is a monarchy, separated and superior to the ecclesiastical, i.e., religious part of the government.

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“Summary Thomas Hobbes Quotes”

Curiosity is the lust of the mind. Click To Tweet Hell is truth seen too late. Click To Tweet The condition of man... is a condition of war of everyone against everyone. Click To Tweet Leisure is the mother of philosophy. Click To Tweet Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Leviathan is one of the first-order classics of political philosophy.

However, do yourself a favor and don’t bother that much with parts II to IV – fortunately, we’re now past them.

Part I, however, is so thought-provoking it will probably be discussed for as long as we exist; or, at least, find a scientific proof that it is or isn’t right.

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The Social Contract PDF Summary

The Social Contract PDF Summary“Man is born free, and yet he is everywhere in chains.”

Do you know where that line comes from?

Well, no surprises here: of course it comes from the book we summarize below.

Rousseau’s The Social Contract.

Who Should Read “The Social Contract”? And Why?

Too many people criticize Rousseau without having read anything but a few quotes of him.

Unfortunately, this results in a one-dimensional representation of him, which does neither him nor ideas any justice—regardless on which side you’re on.

So, here’s your chance to change them: glorify him to the heavens, criticize him back to hell, but please spend some time with him first.

The Social Contract is a great place to start.

About Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques RousseauJean-Jacques Rousseau was a major Swiss-French philosopher of the Enlightenment.

Even though he often disagreed with the ideas and opinions of his contemporaries (especially those of Voltaire), he believed, just like them, in the necessity of progress and the possibility of a utopian society just to every person.

He authored some of the most important books of the period, including the political essays, Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract, the educational treatise Emile, the novel Julie, or the New Heloise and his controversial autobiography, Confessions.

He exerted enormous influence on the thinkers of Europe long after his death and his writings are rightly considered as the main instigators of the Romantic movement.

“The Social Contract PDF Summary”

What is a Social Contract?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 book The Social Contract was influential enough to provide the world with a term used even today to describe a topic discussed by philosophers long before Rousseau was even born.

So, consider it as something similar to what Google is in relation to internet browsing: even though Google was not the first search engine, it popularized Internet browsing to such an extent that nowadays we freely use the verb “googling” as a synonym for this action.

Well, the same holds true in the case of The Social Contract. Although Rousseau was neither the first nor the last one to discuss it, his book was the one which popularized the importance of this topic, and nowadays we say that Hobbes’ Leviathan—though written more than a century before Rousseau’s treatise—also discusses “the concept of the social contract theory.”

But what does the phrase “social contract” refers to?

In a nutshell, to the relationship between natural and legal rights.

Or, to put that in even simpler terms, the theories of the social contract try to explain how, why, and even if the state should have authority over the free will of an individual.

As far as Thomas Hobbes was concerned the answer was all but obvious: in the absence of laws, the unlimited natural freedoms of the individuals will undoubtedly lead to a state of “war of all against all.”

Rousseau, however, has some very different ideas about how “the natural state of men” looked like. And, consequently, the nature of his social contract is very different as well.

Rousseau’s Natural State

It is important to note from the start that Rousseau discusses the social contract in both this book and an earlier essay, titled “(Second) Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men.”

Even though he repeats some of the claims from the essay in his book as well, in order to understand The Social Contract better, you need to have some knowledge and understanding of his “Second Discourse” as well.

As always—we’re here to help!

So, in a few words, the “Second Discourse” provides Rousseau’s vision of how human societies evolved: from the natural state of the tribesmen to the modern civil society.

However, unlike Hobbes, Rousseau doesn’t believe that prehistory was all that bad.

In fact – quite the opposite.

In Rousseau’s mind, the natural state of men is that of the peaceful, uncompetitive life. Due to the small number of people inhabiting the world and the abundance provided by nature, early humans didn’t have problems satisfying their very few needs.

Also, even though living in a world of saber-toothed tigers and mammoths, they must have had fewer fears and stresses, since, as Bob Dylan once sang in a completely different context, “when you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”

It may seem idealistic to you now (it certainly did to just about every serious thinker of his time), but you’ll be surprised to learn that modern anthropologists have recently resurrected Rousseau’s theory once again.

So, what happened?

Why did we paved paradise and put up civil society?

Private Property and the Fall from Grace

Because of the inevitable: paradises are never meant to last.

In humanity’s case, the problem was relatively simple – the smarter the humans grew, the more capable they became in terms of defending themselves against wild animals and natural catastrophes.

This resulted in a gradual growth of the population which then led to a lack of resources. This, naturally, caused the first severe strives and conflicts.

However, the real problems came when private property was invented.

“The first man,” writes Rousseau in “The Second Discourse,” “who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.”

Because, thinks Rousseau, the moment someone said something is his marked the moment when someone else realized that that something doesn’t belong to him anymore.

When one gained, another one lost.

And this led inevitably to such awful things as competition, greed, and vanity; and that’s how inequality was born.

The one who profited from this state of affairs were, expectedly, not the most capable or the smartest ones, but the strongest and the least moral people.

However, as Rousseau notes, “the strongest is never strong enough to be always the master unless he transforms that strength into right.”

Or to quote Wyatt Earp: “there’s always a man faster on the draw than you are, and the more you use a gun, the sooner you’re gonna run into that man.”

So, in an ironic twist, the strongest ones—and, consequently, at this point, the richest ones as well—proposed to the not so fortunate ones that a government is created tasked with protecting the freedom and the ownership rights of every man.

And that’s how the Natural Social Contract was signed.

Rewriting the Social Contract

Naturally, Rousseau is not that fascinated with this Natural Social Contract. So, in The Social Contract, he proposes that it should be rewritten because that’s the only remedy for the ills of modern societies.

Put in simpler terms, they were created by the strong and are meant to protect the strong. In the process, the weak lost everything—including their freedom.

Before they realize they can get it back through a violent revolution, Rousseau thought, maybe it’s better that we draft a new version of the social contract that should be fair to everybody.

The Social Contract begins with one of the most famous opening sentences in the history of all texts:

Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.

This is the paradox Rousseau’s social contract attempts to resolve; it is, as one can only imagine, a fundamental paradox of existence, boiling down to something all lovers find out sooner or later.

Namely, that living with another means giving up some aspects of your freedom; or, to paraphrase Winnie-the-Pooh, taking a few steps backward to give way to the happiness of the person you love.

Now, in a relationship, you know why you do this: so that two “I’s” can become a “we”; you skip watching the Jets tonight not because you don’t want to, but because it is for the greater good of the relationship.

However, if you stop watching the Jets altogether (even though you want to), then it’s fairly apparent that you’re not with the right person.

There’s no “we” or equality when one gets everything and the other next to nothing; there’s only inequality and a master/servant hierarchy.

The Essence of the New Social Contract

Well, if you asked Rousseau, the 18th-century society—and our society as well—was at such a stage of its development.

Namely, some people were abusers, and others merely caught living in an abusive relationship.

Rousseau is adamant that this needs to change.

And that, as is often the case, the abused ones are incapable of changing the state of affairs without any help.

So Rousseau offers it in his proposal for a new social contract.

Its essence?

[The social contract] can be reduced to the following terms: Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.

Problems understanding that?

Don’t worry!

Basically nobody has.

We’ll offer one interpretation of it, possibly the most flattering to Rousseau’s convoluted logic. But be aware that he is a divisive thinker and that many believe that, just like Plato in his Republic, what he proposes in The Social Contract looks much more dystopian than utopian.

The good part?

Rousseau, just like many of the (finally) enlightened philosophers of his time, believes that all men are created equal and born free. “To assert that the son of a slave is born a slave,” he writes, “is to assert that he is not born a man.”

In other words, there’s absolutely no reason why some people should speak in the place of others, and why the voice of these others should not be heard.

So, that’s a big “no-no” to representative democracies.

The Mystery of the General Will

But it is a big “yes” to direct democracies!

Let’s try to summarize the logic which leads to this, before explaining the consequences.

You know who is a healthy individual?

The one in agreement with himself; the one who is not, suffers from schizophrenia or MPD and can only be acted out by James McAvoy.

By the same analogy, the only relationship which works is the one in which two people act as if one. This means that they come to agreements on different matters, and respect them to the best of their capabilities.

When they don’t—and this is the most important part—they actually work against themselves.

They work against themselves when they don’t make their wills and desires known as well—because how should the other one take them into consideration if he doesn’t know that they exist?

To make the long story short: the only society which makes sense is the one in which all people make their wills known and, thus, contribute to the formation of something Rousseau refers to as general will.

The general will is the will of the Sovereign, which is how Rousseau calls the collective grouping of all citizens. So, think of it as the will of a giant individual composed of all the people living in a single community.

In a relationship, you have your own individual will (say, watching the Jets), your girlfriend has her own individual will (say, watching a movie), and the couple has its own general will, which is not a mere aggregate of these two wills.

In other words, due to having one TV, this couple’s general will would instead go out to a restaurant.

Naturally, obeying this general will is better for the common good: no arguments, and hugs before sleeping.

The General Will and Society

Now, how should the 300 million Americans know their general will?

Well, they can’t.

Simply as that.

If we understand Rousseau well, they are simply too many to think as a community.

General will can only be formed when the sovereign consists of a limited number of people. So, just like Aristotle, Rousseau thinks that utopian societies can only exist in small city-states where everybody knows everyone and can identify, to some extent, with his/her needs.

And everyone is supposed to meet at least once a while, tell to the others what bothers him or her, and participate in the final formation of the general will, aka, direct democracy.

Of course, the general will is then translated into law, and this process repeats to the end of the times and back.

The obvious problem, of course, is what should the Sovereign do with those individuals who refuse to conform to the general will? After all, it should be only expected that not every decision will be unanimous!

Rousseau goes all biblical here.

Not that he quotes the Good Book, but that he kind of suggests something Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

No, he doesn’t say that the Sovereign should kill the individuals who act freer than they are expected to. But it says that it should muffle them, for they do not know what they are doing or even what they truly want.

There it is, we quoted the Bible yet again.

We told you that Rousseau is biblical.

Key Lessons from “The Social Contract”

1.      The Social Contract
2.      The General Will
3.      Forced to be Free

The Social Contract

A social contract is a theory which concerns the processes by which individuals transfer their rights and freedom to a collective governing body such as the state.

Rousseau’s Social Contract is one of the most influential and controversial takes on this vital topic.

The gist of his idea is that, paradoxically, in order to reclaim their freedom, people need to give up on it yet again.

However, this time, this should be done by everybody and in agreement with everybody.

The General Will

When everybody points his individual will in the direction of one common good, something Rousseau calls “the general will” is created.

This general will is basically the will of the collective body (the sovereign) but is neither the aggregate nor the compromise between the individual wills which comprise this collective.

What it is can only be found through the process of direct democracy.

Forced to Be Free

As for those who don’t want to obey the general will?

Well, simply put, they don’t know what they want!

They must, says Rousseau, be “forced to be free.”

Whatever that means.

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“The Social Contract PDF Summary Quotes”

Every man having been born free and master of himself, no one else may under any pretext whatever subject him without his consent. Click To Tweet In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and none has too much. Click To Tweet As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State ‘What does it matter to me?’ the State may be given up for lost. Click To Tweet It is easier to conquer than to administer. With enough leverage, a finger could overturn the world; but to support the world, one must have the shoulders of Hercules. Click To Tweet In a well-governed state, there are few punishments, not because there are many pardons, but because criminals are rare; it is when a state is in decay that the multitude of crimes is a guarantee of impunity. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

We kind of feel that The Social Contract is famous for all the wrong reasons.

We’re not saying that you should forget about the concept of the “general will” and the “forced to be free” adage; on the contrary: it seems as if these ideas need further interpretation.

However, when you read this work, don’t forget that its objective was to devise a way how to take away the power from the monarchs and give it back to the people.

Even if the way is wrong, the general idea is more than commendable.

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