Tao Te Ching Quotes

Tao Te Ching Quotes

The Tao Te Ching – also known as Daode Jing – is an ancient Chinese text purportedly written by Laozi, aka Lao Tzu, a mystical 6th century philosopher and sage.

Even though rather brief – merely 81 chapters – and, at times, almost impenetrable – who knows how many books have been written to interpret it – the Tao Te Ching is widely considered one of the most important Chinese philosophical works ever written.

In addition, it is also one of the most translated works in world literature.

After summarizing it a few days ago, inspired by the interest for that article, we decided to provide you with a selection of the 100 most enlightening and thought-provoking quotes from this magnificient book.

We used the translations, selection and categorization by noted sinologist Herbert Allan Giles (from the book Gems of Chinese Literature) as a foundation for our choice.

Hopefully, you’ll like it.

Enjoy!

Tao Te Ching Quotes on Tao, Humility, Government and Himself

#1. The Spiritual and the Material Aspect of Tao (20 Quotes)

The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao; the name which can be uttered is not its eternal name. Without a name, it is the Beginning of Heaven and Earth; with a name, it is the Mother of all things.
Only one who is eternally free from earthly passions can apprehend its spiritual essence; he who is ever clogged by passions can see no more than its outer form.
These two things, the spiritual and the material, though we call them by different names, in their origin are one and the same. This sameness is a mystery—the mystery of mysteries. It is the gate of all spirituality.

How unfathomable is Tao! It seems to be the ancestral progenitor of all things. How pure and clear is Tao! It would seem to be everlasting. I know not of whom it is the offspring. It appears to have been anterior to any Sovereign Power.

Tao eludes the sense of sight, and is therefore called colorless. It eludes the sense of hearing, and is therefore called soundless. It eludes the sense of touch, and is therefore called incorporeal. These three qualities cannot be apprehended, and hence they may be blended into unity.

The mightiest manifestations of active force flow solely from Tao.

From of old until now, its name has never passed away. It watches over the beginning of all things. How do I know this about the beginning of things? Through Tao.

As soon as Tao creates order, it becomes nameable. When it once has a name, men will know how to rest in it. Knowing how to rest in it, they will run no risk of harm.

Tao as it exists in the world is like the great rivers and seas which receive the streams from the valleys.

The whole world will flock to him who holds the mighty form of Tao. They will come and receive no hurt, but find rest, peace, and tranquility.

Not visible to the sight, not audible to the ear, in its use it is inexhaustible.

Retrogression is the movement of Tao. Weakness is the character of Tao.

All things under Heaven derive their being from Tao in the form of Existence; Tao in the form of Existence sprang from Tao in the form of Non-Existence.

Tao is a great square with no angles, a great vessel which takes long to complete, a great sound which cannot be heard, a great image with no form.

Tao lies hid and cannot be named, yet it has the power of transmuting and perfecting all things.

Tao produces all things; its Virtue nourishes them; its Nature gives them form; its Force perfects them.

Hence there is not a single thing but pays homage to Tao and extols its Virtue. This homage paid to Tao, this extolling of its Virtue, is due to no command, but is always spontaneous.

Thus it is that Tao, engendering all things, nourishes them, develops them, and fosters them; perfects them, ripens them, tends them, and protects them.

It is the Way of Heaven not to strive, and yet it knows how to overcome; not to speak, and yet it knows how to obtain a response; it calls not, and things come of themselves; it is slow to move, but excellent in its designs.

Heaven’s net is vast; though its meshes are wide, it lets nothing slip through.

The Tao of Heaven has no favorites. It gives to all good men without distinction.

Things wax strong and then decay. This is the contrary of Tao. What is contrary to Tao soon perishes.

#2. Tao as a Moral Principle (20 Quotes)

The highest goodness is like water, for water is excellent in benefiting all things, and it does not strive. It occupies the lowest place, which men abhor. And therefore, it is near akin to Tao.

When your work is done and fame has been achieved, then retire into the background; for this is the Way of Heaven.

Those who follow the Way desire not excess; and thus, without excess they are forever exempt from change.

He who acts in accordance with Tao, becomes one with Tao. He who treads the path of Virtue becomes one with Virtue. He who pursues a course of Vice becomes one with Vice. The man who is one with Tao, Tao is also glad to receive. The man who is one with Virtue, Virtue is also glad to receive. The man who is one with Vice, Vice is also glad to receive.

He who is self-approving does not shine. He who boasts has no merit. He who exalts himself does not rise high. Judged according to Tao, he is like remnants of food or a tumor on the body–an object of universal disgust. Therefore, one who has Tao will not consort with such.

Ceremonies are the outward expression of inward feelings.

If Tao perishes, then Virtue will perish; if Virtue perishes, then Charity will perish; if Charity perishes, then Duty to one’s neighbor will perish; if Duty to one’s neighbor perishes, then Ceremonies will perish.

Ceremonies are but the veneer of loyalty and good faith, while oft-times the source of disorder. Knowledge of externals is but a showy ornament of Tao, while oft-times the beginning of imbecility.

Therefore, the truly great man takes his stand upon what is solid, and not upon what is superficial; upon what is real, and not upon what is ornamental. He rejects the latter in favor of the former.

He who is enlightened by Tao seems wrapped in darkness. He who is advanced in Tao seems to be going back. He who walks smoothly in Tao seems to be on a rugged path.

If Tao prevails on earth, horses will be used for purposes of agriculture. If Tao does not prevail, war-horses will be bred on the common.

If we had sufficient knowledge to walk in the Great Way, what we should most fear would be boastful display.

The Great Way is very smooth, but the people love the by-paths.

Where the palaces are very splendid, there the fields will be very waste, and the granaries very empty.

The wearing of gay embroidered robes, the carrying of sharp swords, fastidiousness in food and drink, superabundance of property and wealth: this I call flaunting robbery; most assuredly it is not Tao.

Tao is the sanctuary where all things find refuge, the good man’s priceless treasure, the guardian and savior of him who is not good.

Hence at the enthronement of an Emperor and the appointment of his three ducal ministers, though there be some who bear presents of costly jade and drive chariots with teams of four horses, that is not so good as sitting still and offering the gift of this Tao.

Why was it that the men of old esteemed this Tao so highly? Is it not because it may be daily sought and found, and can remit the sins of the guilty? Hence it is the most precious thing under Heaven.

All the world says that my Tao is great, but unlike other teaching. It is just because it is great that it appears unlike other teaching. If it had this likeness, long ago would its smallness have been known.

The skillful philosophers of the olden time were subtle, spiritual, profound, and penetrating. They were so deep as to be incomprehensible. Because they are hard to comprehend, I will endeavor to describe them.

#3. The Doctrine of Inaction (15 Quotes)

The Sage occupies himself with inaction, and conveys instruction without words. Is it not by neglecting self-interest that one will be able to achieve it?

Purge yourself of your profound intelligence, and you can still be free from blemish. Cherish the people and order the kingdom, and you can still do without meddlesome action.

Who is there that can make muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will gradually become clear of itself. Who is there that can secure a state of absolute repose? But let time go on, and the state of repose will gradually arise.

Be sparing of speech, and things will come right of themselves.

A violent wind does not outlast the morning; a squall of rain does not outlast the day. Such is the course of Nature. And if Nature herself cannot sustain her efforts long, how much less can man!

Attain complete vacuity, and sedulously preserve a state of repose.

The softest things in the world override the hardest. That which has no substance enters where there is no crevice. Hence, I know the advantage of inaction.

Conveying lessons without words, reaping profit without action, there are few in the world who can attain to this!

Activity conquers cold, but stillness conquers heat. Purity and stillness are the correct principles for mankind.

The pursuit of book-learning brings about daily increase. The practice of Tao brings about daily loss. Repeat this loss again and again, and you arrive at inaction. Practice inaction, and there is nothing which cannot be done.

The Empire has ever been won by letting things take their course. He who must always be doing is unfit to obtain the Empire.

Keep the mouth shut, close the gateways of sense, and as long as you live you will have no trouble. Open your lips and push your affairs, and you will not be safe to the end of your days.

Practice inaction, occupy yourself with doing nothing.

Desire not to desire, and you will not value things difficult to obtain. Learn not to learn, and you will revert to a condition which mankind in general has lost.

Leave all things to take their natural course, and do not interfere.

#4. Modesty and Humility (15 Quotes)

All things in Nature work silently. They come into being and possess nothing. They fulfill their functions and make no claim.

When merit has been achieved, do not take it to yourself; for if you do not take it to yourself, it shall never be taken from you.

Follow diligently the Way in your own heart, but make no display of it to the world.

Keep behind, and you shall be put in front; keep out, and you shall be kept in.

He that humbles himself shall be preserved entire. He that bends shall be made straight. He that is empty shall be filled. He that is worn out shall be renewed. He who has little shall succeed. He who has much shall go astray.

He who, conscious of being strong, is content to be weak, he shall be the paragon of mankind. Being the paragon of mankind, Virtue will never desert him. He returns to the state of a little child.

He who, conscious of his own light, is content to be obscure, he shall be the whole world’s model. Being the whole world’s model, his Virtue will never fail. He reverts to the Absolute.

He who, conscious of desert, is content to suffer disgrace, he shall be the cynosure of mankind. Being the cynosure of mankind, his Virtue then is full. He returns to perfect simplicity.

He who is great must make humility his base. He who is high must make lowliness his foundation. Thus, princes and kings in speaking of themselves use the terms “lonely,” “friendless,” “of small account.” Is not this making humility their base?

Thus, it is that ‘Some things are increased by being diminished, others are diminished by being increased.’ What others have taught, I also teach; verily, I will make it the root of my teaching.

The reason why rivers and seas are able to be lords over a hundred mountain streams, is that they know how to keep below them. That is why they are able to reign over all the mountain streams.

The Sage expects no recognition for what he does; he achieves merit but does not take it to himself; he does not wish to display his worth.

I have three precious things, which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle, and you can be bold; be frugal, and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others, and you can become a leader among men.

But in the present day men cast off gentleness, and are all for being bold; they spurn frugality, and retain only extravagance; they discard humility, and aim only at being first. Therefore, they shall surely perish.

Gentleness brings victory to him who attacks, and safety to him who defends. Those whom Heaven would save, it fences round with gentleness.

#5. Government and War (10 Quotes)

He who respects the State as his own person is fit to govern it. He who loves the State as his own body is fit to be entrusted with it.

In the highest antiquity, the people did not know that they had rulers. In the next age they loved and praised them. In the next, they feared them. In the next, they despised them.

How cautious is the Sage, how sparing of his words! When his task is accomplished and affairs are prosperous, the people all say: ‘We have come to be as we are, naturally and of ourselves.’

Fishes must not be taken from the water: the methods of government must not be exhibited to the people.

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish.

If the people do not fear the majesty of government, a reign of terror will ensue.

He who can take upon himself the nation’s shame is fit to be lord of the land. He who can take upon himself the nation’s calamities is fit to be ruler over the Empire.

Weapons, however beautiful, are instruments of ill omen, hateful to all creatures. Therefore, he who has Tao will have nothing to do with them.

There is no greater calamity than lightly engaging in war. Lightly to engage in war is to risk the loss of our treasure.

When opposing warriors join in battle, he who has pity conquers.

#6. Paradoxes (15 Quotes)

Thus, while the existence of things may be good, it is the non-existent in them which makes them serviceable.

A variety of colors makes man’s eye blind; a diversity of sounds makes man’s ear deaf; a mixture of flavors makes man’s palate dull.

He who is most perfect seems to be lacking; yet his resources are never outworn. He who is most full seems vacant; yet his uses are inexhaustible.

Extreme straightness is as bad as crookedness. Extreme cleverness is as bad as folly. Extreme fluency is as bad as stammering.

Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.

Abandon learning, and you will be free from trouble and distress.

Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking-place of failure; but who can tell when the turning-point will come?

He who acts, destroys; he who grasps, loses. Therefore, the Sage does not act, and so does not destroy; he does not grasp, and so he does not lose.

Only he who does nothing for his life’s sake can truly be said to value his life.

Hence the warrior that is strong does not conquer; the tree that is strong is cut down. Therefore, the strong and the big take the lower place; the soft and the weak take the higher place.

There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, yet for attacking things that are hard and strong there is nothing that surpasses it, nothing that can take its place.

The soft overcomes the hard; the weak overcomes the strong. There is no one in the world but knows this truth, and no one who can put it into practice.

Those who are wise have no wide range of learning; those who range most widely are not wise.

The Sage does not care to hoard. The more he uses for the benefit of others, the more he possesses himself. The more he gives to his fellow-men, the more he has of his own.

The truest sayings are paradoxical.

#7. Lao Tzu on Himself (5 Quotes)

Other men have plenty, while I alone seem to have lost all. I am a man foolish in heart, dull and confused. Other men are full of light; I alone seem to be in darkness. Other men are alert; I alone am listless. I am unsettled as the ocean, drifting as though I had no stopping-place. All men have their usefulness; I alone am stupid and clownish. Lonely though I am and unlike other men, yet I revere the Foster-Mother, Tao.

My words are very easy to understand, very easy to put into practice; yet the world can neither understand nor practice them.

My words have a clue, my actions have an underlying principle. It is because men do not know the clue that they understand me not.

Those who know me are but few, and on that account my honor is the greater.

Thus, the Sage wears coarse garments, but carries a jewel in his bosom.

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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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Nicomachean Ethics PDF Summary

Nicomachean Ethics PDF SummaryWant to learn something more about ethics?

Then you’re at the right place!

With 12min, Aristotle and his most famous book on the subject: Nicomachean Ethics.

It’s the Dream Team.

Who Should Read “Nicomachean Ethics”? And Why?

If you need to read just one philosopher in your life, then it has to be either Plato or Aristotle.

And if you need to read just one book by the latter, then it has to be the Nicomachean Ethics.

So, who should read this book?

Everyone who has even the slightest interest in philosophy.

Or, for that matter, everyone who wants to become a better person.

About Aristotle

AristotleAristotle was an Ancient Greek philosopher, together with his teacher Plato, the most influential thinker in the history of Western civilization.

He studied under Plato in his Academy for two decades between the ages of 17 and 37, after which he left Athens to tutor Alexander the Great. Even though he was Plato’s best student, after Plato’s death, Aristotle shifted from Plato’s idealistic teachings to empiricism.

He contributed to numerous different fields – from physics to metaphysics, from logic to ethics, from biology to zoology, from politics to economics, from poetry to music – and almost every single thing he has written is still object of academic debate.

He also founded a Peripatetic school of philosophy at the Lyceum, where he also established a library of immense importance.

“Nicomachean Ethics PDF Summary”

The Nicomachean Ethics is Aristotle’s best-known work on ethics and, quite possibly, the most influential book on the subject ever written.

It consists of ten books – all of them originally written as separate scrolls – and is based on Aristotle’s notes from his lectures at the Lyceum, the ancient university founded by the great philosopher in Athens in 334 BCE.

The “Nicomachean” part of the title refers to Aristotle’s son Nicomachus, to whom (quite probably) the work was dedicated; it is also possible that he was the one who edited it. Some scholars, however, claim that the Nicomachus this work is dedicated to is actually Aristotle’s father, who was also called Nicomachus.

Be that as it may, Nicomachean ethics deals with a problem both Plato and Socrates were interested in – namely, how should men live their lives in the best possible manner.

According to Aristotle, Socrates had shown first that this is not a question that should be dealt with merely theoretically, but one which is more specifically a practical matter.

That’s why Nicomachean ethics not only explains what is good and why it is good, but also gives advice as to how one should live to consider his living here on earth good, respectable, and virtuous.

But – we’re running ahead of ourselves.

Let’s walk you through each of the ten books.

Book I

“If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good,” Aristotle writes at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics.

And then he asks: “Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is. “

So, that is the topic of the Nicomachean Ethics: to discover what’s the thing humans desire for its own sake and how should they act so as to most easily attain it.

After a lengthy analysis, Aristotle concludes that whatever we like to have – be it money, cars, women, football or sex (OK, he doesn’t use these examples per se) – we like it because it makes us happy.

However, as one can easily deduce, some of the things that make us happy, tend to make us unhappy afterward.

Why?

Simply put, because they are not good.

And what is good?

To quote Aristotle:

Human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. But we must add “in a complete life.” For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.

Book II

So, to sum up, Aristotle says that many things can lead to temporary happiness, but only virtuous actions lead to a happy life. And since this is something everybody wants, then it’s necessary to discover what virtue means and how should one reach it.

In the second book, Aristotle points out that, just like a lyre-player, no matter how talented, must learn and practice to become a virtuoso, a man, no matter how naturally inclined towards virtuous actions, needs education to attain the proper, virtuous habits.

And then Aristotle lays out the simplest definition for virtue: treading the middle way between two extremes.

What does that mean?

It means that anything in excess or deficiency is bad; and that everything in just the proper amount is virtue.

Or to use a famous example:

Anyone can get angry — that is easy — or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for everyone, nor is it easy.

Book III

At the end of Book II, Aristotle lists many character virtues and starting with Book III, he analyzes many of them in-depth.

But first he explains, foreshadowing Sartre, that you’re responsible for almost everything you do, because you always have a choice not do it (Sartre would add: even if the latter leads to death).

If that is the case, then even ignorance – not knowing what is good – is not actually an excuse, because you always have a choice to learn.

So, more or less, Aristotle says that if you’re not, it’s your fault for not having read his book.

And then he proceeds to explanations of what he means when he says that we should tread the middle way.

The two examples he uses in this book are courage and temperance.

Courage, according to Aristotle, is the mean between fear and confidence; in excess, it leads to fearlessness and overconfidence, both of which are bad; if deficient, it leads to cowardness, which is also bad.

Temperance is the mean between pleasure and pain; in excess, it leads to wastefulness; in deficiency, it makes a man insensible.

Book IV

Book four deals with a second set of virtues, in four groups of two.

The first group deals with two very similar virtues: generosity and magnificence.

Generosity may, once again, lead to wastefulness if in excess, and to stinginess if lacking; magnificence leads to vulgarity and tastelessness when excessive, and to paltriness if not enough.

The second group of virtues are magnanimity and ambition.

Magnanimity is located between vanity (excess) and smallness of soul (deficiency), and ambition is located between, well, overambitiousness and lack of ambition. Sorry, guys, nobody has thought of better words for now.

The third group of virtues are gentleness and friendliness.

Too much of a gentleness leads to irritability, and not enough of it to spiritlessness (they really need to find better words); too much of friendliness leads to either flattery (if for own advantage) or obsequiousness (if for no purpose).

The final group of two virtues analyzed here are truthfulness and wittiness.

If you are more than truthful, you’re exaggerating and boastful; if you’re deficient in truthfulness, you suffer from a form of self-deprecation and self-irony. If you are more than witty, you’re a buffoon; if you’re less of it, you’re boorish.

Book V

Aristotle says that justice, the highest of virtues, deserves a whole book; which is why Book V deals with every single aspect of what it means to be a just person living in a just society.

Why should Aristotle deal with just societies in a book about ethics?

Because, as he explains, justice is not exactly a virtue for isolated individuals; it’s not anything in that case; justice can only be made sense of in a community.

Now, If you know anything about Plato and Aristotle – or about how much you liked your teachers in high-school – you already know that in describing his ideal community, Aristotle is, almost explicitly, criticizing Plato’s Republic.

Because, unlike Plato, Aristotle doesn’t think that a just society is a strict hierarchy ruled by a benevolent dictator, but something which is built around the values of equality, commensurability, and proportion.

Book VI

In Book VI, Aristotle enumerates the five types of stable states of the soul (hexis) which can be considered intellectual virtues:

#1. Art – making things in a way which can be explained;
#2. Knowledge – axiomatically graspable concept: “all knowledge seems to be teachable, and what is known is learnable.”
#3. Practical Judgmentjudgment used in making good decisions upon overall actions (when specific, it is art)
#4. Wisdom – a combination of common sense (nous) and knowledge; it only belongs to the wise; however, we don’t need it, since we have:
#5. Common sense – or intellect, it deals with unarticulated truths and is what helps us perfect our virtues.

Book VII

Here Aristotle discusses self-restraint.

If one is virtuous only when treading the middle road, then self-restraint is a very important value one must learn to acquire.

It is also something that must be furthered by the laws of a country, which means that the lawgivers should really understand the essence of not only pleasure and pain, but self-restraint as well.

The good news: self-restraint is not a vice, and can be taught.

In other words, practical guides for self-mastery are as old as time.

Book VIII

“Without friends,” writes Aristotle, “no one would want to live, even if he had all other goods.”

This is the reason why Books VIII and IX are dedicated to the topic of friendship.

There are three types of friendship, according to Aristotle: useful, pleasant, and complete.

The complete friendship is the one everybody should strive for – it is one in which friends are capable of seeing what is likable in each other.

Unequal friendships, on the other hand – whether between rulers and subjects, or dominant and submissive people – are no friendships, and unjust societies hinder the possibility for real friendships.

Book IX

Still on friendship.

If you’re in a bad one, then you’re probably expecting from the other person things that he or she cannot offer, and/or vice versa.

If that is the case, you’ll never be satisfied, and it’s better that you break off the bond as soon as possible.

Of course, you should, first of all, understand your self because your friend is actually your second self.

This is why it is all but impossible for a person to be happy without having friends; and why sad people can be cheered up by, you’ve guessed it, friends.

When you have a good friend, it’s like you’re talking to yourself.

Only kindly.

Book X

According to Aristotle’s final book of the Nicomachean Ethics, happiness is tightly linked with pleasure.

All beings – whether rational or irrational – instinctively tend toward pleasure and away from pain.

The only life worth living is the one in which you enjoy the right things in the right amounts – because, basically, that is what happiness is.

Key Lessons from “Nicomachean Ethics”

1.      Aristotle Says That Self-Help Books Are a Good Thing
2.      One Can Learn to Be Good
3.      The Golden Mean

Aristotle Says That Self-Help Books Are a Good Thing

You can think that you’re good, but unless you demonstrate your goodness through your deeds, nobody would believe you.

In other words, if you talk the talk but refuse to walk the walk, you’re the opposite of good: you’re a liar, and a hypocrite, and an altogether lousy person.

Analogously, according to Aristotle, there’s no point in merely theoretically analyzing what is good and what is virtuous; the point is teaching people how to be good.

Which is precisely what many self-help books are doing today.

We feel that Aristotle would have endorsed them.

One Can Learn to Be Good

The good news: you can learn to be a good person.

The bad news: it requires a lot of effort.

And don’t pat yourself on your shoulder thinking that not knowing that something is bad gives you an excuse for doing it; you can always learn, so this is always merely a temporary alibi.

No matter who you are.

The Golden Mean

If you need to take away one thing of the Nicomachean Ethics, then, by all means, let it be this one: treat the golden middle way.

Excesses and deficiencies destroy virtues, says Aristotle, which can only be found in moderation.

Too much courage leads to recklessness; too little of it to cowardice.

And this is true with all other virtues.

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“Nicomachean Ethics Quotes”

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. Click To Tweet Philosophy can make people sick. Click To Tweet The good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life. Click To Tweet Freedom is obedience to self-formulated rules. Click To Tweet With the truth, all given facts harmonize; but with what is false, the truth soon hits a wrong note. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

It is difficult to exaggerate how revered and influential Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics has been throughout the history of philosophy.

Quite possibly, it may be the single most debated ethical work ever written.

Which renders our critical review all but obsolete.

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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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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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Plato Apology Summary

Plato Apology SummaryInterested to find out what happened during the famous trial of Socrates?

If so – this is the book to do it.

Plato’s Apology.

Who Should Read “Plato Apology”? And Why?

Just yesterday we summarized for you a discussion between Socrates and Euthyphro concerning the charges brought up against the philosopher and taking place just a few weeks before the trial against him.

If that seemed like something interesting, then you should definitely read this one!

Because the Apology is basically the sequel to Euthyphro: it presents Socrates’ legal defense at his trial; and it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful works – fiction or non-fiction (Plato tends to blur the line between the two) – ever written.

Not only it has all the intensity and allure of some of the best courtroom movies in history – but it can also teach you a lot about the value of integrity and honor.

It’s basically a book-length version of Al Pacino in The Scent of a Woman!

Only better.

About Plato

PlatoPlato is one of the greatest philosophers in history, widely considered the man who gave the word “philosopher” its meaning.

His influence upon Western philosophical thought is so immense that Alfred North Whitehead once noted that “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

A student of Socrates, he tried compensating for Socrates’ abhorrence of the written word by making his teacher the main character of most of his works. Some of them – such as the Apology, Symposium and The Republic – have lost none of their beauty or scholarly appeal even two and a half millennia later.

Plato is also the founder of the first institution of higher learning in the history of Europe (and possibly the world): the Academy of Athens.

Many intellectuals came out of it through the years, the most prominent among them perhaps the only one whose name deserves to be uttered in the same breath as that of Plato: Aristotle.

“Plato Apology Summary”

We know they say Plato’s Apology of Socrates (by the way, in case you’re interested, there’s another book by the same name written by Xenophon) is a Socratic dialogue, but this one should be much more appropriately described as a Socratic monologue.

It is a brief work which consists of three parts. The first and the longest one contains Socrates’ legal self-defense; the second part is made up of Socrates’ proposal for his sentence after being found guilty; and the third one entails Socrates’ lofty comment upon his actual sentence.

But first—

The Background

In the first year of the fourth century before Christ, Socrates—then in the 70th year of his life—was accused by Meletus, Lycon, and Anytus of two offenses: impiety and corruption of the Athenian youth.

According to Socrates’ speech, Meletus has accused him on behalf of the poets, Lycon represents the rhetoricians, and Anytus (Socrates’ arch-enemy) is there on behalf of the craftsmen and politicians of Athens.

According to Athenian law, the accused was expected to defend himself, and the accusers were required to be present at the trial; the accused had the option of cross-examining them during his speech, a right Socrates would use only in the case of Meletus.

The verdict was then decided by five hundred jurors, all of which were obliged to put a white stone if in favor of the defendant and a black one if against him.

Part One: Socrates’ Defense

Socrates begins his defense by telling the judges that their minds have been poisoned and that he has done nothing a reasonable man wouldn’t do.

He is a philosopher, after all, and that, by definition, means that he is in constant pursuit of the truth. Now, why would anyone want to punish someone for being interested in the truth?

Well, Socrates has an answer for that: those who don’t want the truth to be found out. In other words, the ones who thrive in lies and deceits and the ones who will be exposed as frauds in case the truth is ever revealed.

The Oracle of Delphi

As far as Socrates is concerned, this whole affair started when Chaerephon, a friend of Socrates and also a friend of the accusers, went to the Oracle of Delphi and asked the prophetess whether there is anyone smarter than Socrates.

Apparently, “the Pythian prophetess answered that there was no man wiser.”

Now, Socrates was a bit confused: there were so many people (politicians, rhetoricians, poets) deemed far wiser than him by almost everybody—including Socrates himself! However, the Pythian prophetess was famous for the accuracy of her predictions and Chaerephon would gain nothing of lying about the answer.

So, Socrates did what he deemed most appropriate: he went to a politician with a reputation of wisdom and started a discussion with him to prove to himself that there are far wiser people than him.

However, the result was staggering: even though he claimed so, the politician knew nothing more than Socrates.

And then Socrates understood the meaning of the prophetess’ answer:

Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is–for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him.

As you can see, the Apology is the book from where one of Socrates’ most famous maxims originates: “I know that I know nothing.”

The underlying meaning of it?

It is precisely because I know that I do not know many things – that I am wiser than the rest of you. In simpler terms: I am wise because I am honest with myself and because I can admit before myself that I am, actually, not wise.

And that is the Socratic paradox.

The Interrogation of Meletus

Next, Socrates proceeds to cross-examine one of his accusers – Meletus, there on behalf of the poets.

It seems that Socrates (as Plato demonstrates quite a few times) didn’t have a very high opinion of poets.

As skilled as they are in crafting verses, he believed, they are not that smart; the only reason why they are capable of putting so many smart things into words was not because of them, but because of the Muses.

In other words, without their help, they are no better than the regular folks.

And, as Socrates proves, Meletus is no exception.

During the brief cross-examination, Socrates demonstrates that Meletus has both accused him of atheism and of believing in some spiritual forces and demigods.

Since this is a contradiction, there should be no discussion whatsoever whether the accusation is sensible or not.

It is only obvious that he is tried because some people want to exact revenge on him for exposing their ignorance before the world.

Integrity or Death?

Now, Socrates says that he is quite aware that there’s an easier way out of this.

Namely, he can simply admit to his offenses and get away with his supposed crimes. But the fact that these are not crimes, but good deeds would mean that, paradoxically, in trying to save his life by admitting to some imagined offenses, Socrates would in actuality make an offense; moreover, against the one thing he had cherished throughout his life: Truth.

And that, as far as he is concerned, is much, much worse than dying.

That is why, he says, he doesn’t fear his death. In fact, to his eyes, his death should be feared much more by his jurors and his accusers.

Because, in the end, they are the ones who will lose by it.

Wondering how?

We’ll let Socrates explain this for himself:

And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God, or lightly reject his boon by condemning me. For if you kill me you will not easily find another like me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by the God; and the state is like a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has given the state and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. And as you will not easily find another like me, I would advise you to spare me.

Part Two: Socrates’ Proposal for His Sentence

By a narrow margin, the jurors find Socrates guilty.

“I expected it,” replies Socrates, “and am only surprised that the votes are so nearly equal; for I had thought that the majority against me would have been far larger; but now, had thirty votes gone over to the other side, I should have been acquitted.”

Since one of the possible penalties in the case of Socrates is death, according to the practice of the Athenian law, both he and his prosecutors were then required to propose a most appropriate sentence.

Socrates’ proposal?

Drum rolls, please…

Free meals for as long as he lives!

After all, that’s what Olympic athletes and prominent citizens get! So why shouldn’t Socrates too for acting as the social gadfly of Athens?

Funny Socrates.

Needless to say, Socrates’ proposal is quickly dismissed by the judges. Expectedly, they go with the proposal of the accusers which is much more brutal and conventional: death.

And what does Socrates think about the alternatives: imprisonment or exile?

Not a chance in the world—once again, they are worse than death. Because Socrates is interested in truth and the only way you can find it is by examining others. And that is something he wouldn’t be able to do if in prison or far from the most prosperous city in the world: Athens.

“The life which is unexamined is not worth living,” points out Socrates in yet another aphoristic gem of his.

Fearing for the life of the wisest among them, Socrates’ supporters – Plato, Crito, Critobulus, and Apollodorus – ask for an alternative to be considered: a penalty of 30 minae, or 3,000 drachmae.

No way, say the judges.

We’ll vote for death.

Plato Apology PDF Summary

Part Three: Socrates’ Comments on His Sentence

It seems that Socrates’ sarcastic and irreverent sentence proposal had cost him quite a few votes.

Now, even more of the jurors (at least 280 of them) condemned the philosopher to death.

However, Socrates shows no remorse.

He comforts the ones who voted for him and warns the others that by condemning him they have merely incited the criticism of the younger generations of philosophers who will undoubtedly follow Socrates’ example.

“There is great reason to hope that death is a good,” he concludes, “for one of two things: either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another.”

Both are great outcomes.

Because, if the former, “eternity is then only a single night” and the joys of all earthly days are incomparable to the bliss of a calm and peaceful nap.

If the latter, then he is about to meet some of the most famous people in history and be able to have conversations with them for all eternity.

What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer?” – Socrates exclaims. “Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again.”

Appropriately, Socrates ends his speech with a beautiful conclusion:

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways—I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.

Key Lessons from “Plato Apology”

1.      I Know That I Know Nothing
2.      The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living
3.      Integrity and Truth Are More Important Than Life and Happiness

“I Know That I Know Nothing”

After the Oracle of Delphi had claimed that Socrates is the wisest person on the planet, the confused philosopher went about asking other people, supposedly far wiser than him, what could this mean.

His realization?

That, even though these people—be they poets or rhetoricians, craftsmen or politicians—were convinced that they knew more than him, in actual fact, they knew more or less the same amount.

The only difference: unlike them, Socrates was aware of what he didn’t know.

And that is what had made him the wisest person.

So, be honest with yourself: there are so many things you don’t know, even though you think you do.

Be skeptical.

Question everything.

Learn.

“The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”

Speaking of which…

Socrates could have proposed exile or imprisonment as an alternative to his death sentence; there’s a high chance that such a proposal would have been granted to him.

However, believing that a man can grow wiser only through discussions and disagreements, he preferred death to being alone or away from the Athenians.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” he remarked.

Quote Socrates the next time someone asks you why you scratch your head over such trivial matters such as the meaning of life instead of living it.

Who knows?

Maybe you’ll make that someone think.

Integrity and Truth Are More Important Than Life and Happiness

Unlike many intellectuals, Socrates taught both through his words and by example.

He could have easily escaped the death punishment; however, to him, losing his integrity was worse than being punished to death.

Don’t ever forget that such people existed: they are evidence that such people can exist.

In our opinion, they are the ones who make this human adventure worthwhile.

Strive to emulate them.

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“Plato Apology Quotes”

I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times. Click To Tweet Their hatred is but a proof that I am speaking the truth. Click To Tweet The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death. Click To Tweet The life which is unexamined is not worth living. Click To Tweet Wealth does not bring about excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything else good for men, both individually and collectively. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

No matter how many positive adjectives we try to use here to describe Plato’s Apology, we probably still wouldn’t be able to do this work justice.

We like it so much that even if forced to take only 5 books to a desert island, we would include the Apology in our choice.

With no hesitation whatsoever.

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Plato Euthyphro Summary

Plato Euthyphro SummaryDo you know what the Euthyphro dilemma is?

In case you don’t, it’s time to find out – because it’s certainly one for the ages!

There are two ways you can do that.

You can either read the entirety of Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro here, or you can read a concise summary of all of its main paints below.

If you’ve opted for the second one – let’s go!

Who Should Read “Euthyphro”? And Why?

Euthyphro is an early and rather brief dialogue between Socrates and the title character, and, as such, it is a great way to get to know both Plato and Socrates.

And, really, that should be a necessity – not only if you are a philosophy student.

About Plato

PlatoPlato is, for all intents and purposes, the earliest and one of the greatest philosophers in all of human history; he is widely considered the father of modern philosophy.

A student of Socrates (who left no written works behind him) and a teacher of Aristotle (who wrote many books to question Plato’s reasoning), Plato basically laid the foundations of everything we consider philosophy today, authoring such diverse classics as The Apology and The Republic and giving us stories of almost mythic proportions such as the famous “Allegory of the Cave.”

As it is only fittingly, Plato also founded the Academy of Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

“Plato Euthyphro Summary”

Euthyphro is one of Plato’s earliest Socratic dialogues. It recounts the conversation between the eponymous character and Socrates a few weeks before the famous trial of the latter.

The main topic of discussion: the definition of piety.

The answers given: okay, but probably a bit anachronistic.

The questions posed: extraordinary, vital, illuminating.

And still unanswered.

A good reason as any to bear with us for ten minutes or so, right?

The Setting and the Characters

The year is 399 BC.

The place: Athens.

Near the archon basileus – which is Greek for king magistrate, i.e., the man charged with presiding trials over homicide and over religious impiety – Socrates happens upon a guy named Euthyphro.

From the words exchanged between them (think of Euthyphro as a sort of boring Beckettian play with only two characters), we soon learn that both men are waiting for the preliminary hearings for possible trials.

In the case of Euthyphro, it is a murder trial: he wants to press charges against his father for killing a worker of his by reason of severe negligence. Namely, after arresting him (the worker had previously killed a slave) he “bound him hand and foot and threw him into a ditch, and then sent to Athens to ask of a diviner what he should do with him.” Unfortunately, “such was the effect of cold and hunger and chains upon him, that before the messenger returned from the diviner, the worker had died.”

In the case of Socrates, we’re dealing with an entirely different matter. First of all, unlike Euthyphro, Socrates is not the accuser, but the accused. And he is accused of supposed religious transgressions. More specifically, for “failing to acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges.”

Euthyphro’s Piety

Now, according to Athenian law, only the relatives of the dead man were allowed to file suit for murder. And accusing your own father of doing such a deed was, well, frowned upon.

In other words, Euthyphro is so self-assured in the accuracy of his value system that he is willing to go against everybody and everything to prove it:

And my father and family are angry with me for taking the part of the murderer and prosecuting my father. They say that he did not kill him, and that if he did, dead man was but a murderer, and I ought not to take any notice, for that a son is impious who prosecutes a father. Which shows, Socrates, how little they know what the gods think about piety and impiety.

Now, wait a minute, Euthyphro!

You’re saying that, unlike other people, you do know what the gods think about piety and impiety?

And you say this in front of a man who is about to go on a trial for precisely that – impiety?

And that man is none other than Socrates?

Well, dear Euthyphro, you’re in for a lengthy discussion that’s almost guaranteed to make its way to the annals of history!

Socrates’ Impiety

“Good heavens, Euthyphro!” – exclaims Socrates upon hearing Euthyphro saying the words quoted above. “And is your knowledge of religion and of things pious and impious so very exact, that, supposing the circumstances to be as you state them, you are not afraid lest you too may be doing an impious thing in bringing an action against your father?”

Of course not, replies Euthyphro.

After all, he says, Zeus, “the best and most righteous of the gods” according to just about everybody, bound his father Cronus for devouring his sons; and Cronus was even less kind to his father Uranus, castrating him for having hidden his brothers and sisters in the depths of Tartarus.

If the gods think this just, then how can it not be for humans?

Interestingly enough, Socrates’ replies by posing Euthyphro a question which may explain why he is in front of the king magistrate in the first place:

And do you really believe that the gods, fought with one another, and had dire quarrels, battles, and the like, as the poets say, and as you may see represented in the works of great artists? The temples are full of them; and notably the robe of Athene, which is carried up to the Acropolis at the great Panathenaea, is embroidered with them. Are all these tales of the gods true, Euthyphro?

There is no doubt in Euthyphro’s mind that they are. His confidence leaves Socrates scratching his bald head. So, he asks Euthyphro to be his teacher. If he could learn the difference between piety and impiety better, he would be able to better defend himself during his trial.

So, he asks Euthyphro pretty straightforwardly: “and what is piety, and what is impiety?”

Euthyphro’s five definitions – each one flawed, as pointed by Socrates – follow.

Plato Euthyphro PDF Summary

The First Definition of Piety

Full of himself, Euthyphro answers Socrates’ question without even blinking an eye:

Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting anyone who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime – whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be – that makes no difference; and not to prosecute them is impiety.”

Socrates, apparently, has an objection with this: that is just an example of piety, he says, not a general theoretical definition of the concept. There are also many other pious and numerous different impious acts.

So, in other words, this first Euthyphro’s definition simply won’t do.

The Second Definition of Piety

No problem, says Euthyphro.

I will merely generalize: “Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.

That’s better, replies Socrates, but we just talked about them quarreling and fighting with each other. Now, if you think that these stories are true, then you must also think that they have internal misunderstandings over what is pleasing and what is not.

In other words, what is dear to one god, may be hated by another and vice versa.

The Third Definition of Piety

OK, let’s try this then, says Euthyphro: “what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, is impious.

Now, this is the most interesting definition; and, unsurprisingly, Socrates analysis of this question has intrigued philosophers for millennia.

OK, I agree with you, Socrates says. And then he poses the million-dollar question: do all the gods love something because it is pious, or is it pious because the gods love it?

According to Euthyphro’s formulation, it should be the second.

However, there is a problem with this.

Namely, in that case, what is pious is not given once and for all – but changeable. In other words, it doesn’t have an inherent quality, but it gets that quality from someone outside of the thing itself.

But does this mean that, just like a person cannot be beloved in herself/himself, but becomes beloved when someone loves her/him, a thing is pious merely because the gods are pleased with it, and not because it has this quality inherently?

Wouldn’t this mean that piety is, essentially, non-existent?

Now, Socrates doesn’t go this far: he merely wants to point out the “chicken and egg” circularity of this definition.

And if a definition is circular, as all philosophers know, then it is certainly not a good definition.

The Fourth Definition of Piety

At this point, Euthyphro is so confused by Socrates that he is basically forced to agree that his line of reasoning has hit a proverbial wall, and, so, should be immediately redirected. In fact, the fourth definition is not exactly one given by Euthyphro, but one suggested by Socrates.

And it is one which makes some sense: piety is nothing more but a species of the genus justice; i.e., piety is that part of justice focused on caring for the gods.

After Euthyphro agrees with this definition, Socrates objects to himself.

But what’s the point of humans caring for the gods? We care for animals because we love them and, because, they may die if we don’t; and, conversely, improve through our care.

The gods, being gods, cannot.

So, what is the point of our care? How is that justice? And how is it all connected to piety?

The Fifth Definition of Piety

At this point, Euthyphro is at his wit’s ends.

So, when he tries to explain to Socrates that “to learn all these things accurately is very tiresome” he is, in fact, saying: “Oh, leave me alone, Socrates! I have made up my mind, and I don’t have to explain it to everybody…”

Even so, he tries yet again: “piety or holiness is learning how to please the gods in word and deed by prayers and sacrifices.

And this is how the dialogue ends:

– OK. But, once again, what benefits would the gods have from these prayers and sacrifices? If they do have some – isn’t it a bit unholy to define piety in terms of exchange and commerce between humans and gods? If they don’t – then why do we pray and sacrifice things to them?

– They receive nothing from our prayers and sacrifices, replies Euthyphro, but sheer pleasure.

– Aha, says Socrates, so then piety is what is pleasing to the gods.

– Yup – smirks Euthyphro.

– God, Euthyphro, be more attentive: we already went through that definition – it is the second one. You must have something better than that.

– You know what, Socrates, I do have, but I’ll leave it for another time, for I am in a hurry, and must go now.

We modified some of the words there, but we ensure you that the last part of that last sentence is all Plato.

Key Lessons from “Euthyphro”

1.      The Power of Socratic Irony
2.      The Original Euthyphro Dilemma
3.      The Euthyphro Dilemma: Modifications and Consequences

The Power of Socratic Irony

Just like many other books written by Plato, Euthyphro is an excellent example of Socrates’ use of irony to make his point.

As explained in a Guardian article, the technique boils down to this: “to pretend ignorance and, more sneakily, to feign credence in your opponent’s power of thought, in order to tie him in knots.”

Now you understand better what “I know that I know nothing” actually means.

Just like Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Socrates knew far more than nothing – precisely by understanding that he knows nothing.

The Original Euthyphro Dilemma

This is how the original Euthyphro dilemma sounds:

The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.

As you can see, it is an example of “the chicken or the egg” causality dilemma.

And “piety” is only one of the things it can be applied to.

The Euthyphro Dilemma: Modifications and Consequences

OK, you think, I get that the Euthyphro dilemma leads basically to nowhere when it comes to piety. But I don’t see how that affects my life?

Well, here’s how: is a work of art beautiful because of its beauty, or is it beautiful because people say it is? Even better: are these works of art in museums on account of being works of art, or are they called works of art because they are there?

Is The Shawshank Redemption great because it is beloved by so many people, or do people notice something in the movie which is great in itself?

If the latter (claimed by essentialists) why do some people have problems seeing it? If the first (defended by conventionalists) then are all things (whether beautiful, good, or funny) merely a thing of convention?

Is it possible that we war with each other simply because we’ve chosen to adhere to different conventions?

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“Euthyphro Quotes”

Now, as the asker of a question is necessarily dependent on the answerer, whither he leads-I must follow; and can only ask again, what is the pious, and what is piety? Click To Tweet I really do not know, Socrates, how to express what I mean. For somehow or other our arguments, on whatever ground we rest them, seem to turn round and walk away from us. Click To Tweet I prefer nothing, unless it is true. Click To Tweet The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods. Click To Tweet Does not every man love that which he deems noble and just and good, and hate the opposite of them? People regard the same things, some as just and others as unjust – about these they dispute; and so there arise wars and fightings among… Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

In its bare essence, Euthyphro is a discussion about the meaning of such abstract and fundamental concepts such as piety and justice.

A lot of things have happened since Plato put Socrates’ thoughts about these on paper – pardon us, papyrus – so, some of the definitions you can find in this dialogue sound a bit outdated – or even basic.

However, it is Plato and Socrates we’re talking about here, so, whether you’ll like it or not, Euthyphro will make you smarter.

And it will do that in one of these two ways.

First of all, just like all other Socratic dialogues by Plato, it will teach you how you can think about things. And that is more than simply teaching you about things. In fact, according to Kant, that’s what a philosopher’s primary objective should be.

And secondly, it will provide you with an inexhaustible stock of food for your thoughts for as long as you live: the Euthyphro dilemma.

It is one of those mental experiments which don’t have a correct solution, but which can help you learn a lot about yourself.

So – are you an essentialist or a conventionalist?

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Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man PDF Summary

Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man PDFWhat Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment

We are all concerned about our performance as husbands, wives, workers, and even lovers.

To get the most out of someone is to make him/her aware of its urges. Steve Harvey implores people to accept the nature of the bond-building process and act accordingly.

No need to fight the current, just beware of veering off course.

Who Should Read “Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man”? And Why?

Are the ladies ready for the next big thing? This book was funny in one way but educational and inspirational in a totally different one.

In our humble opinion, anyone who struggles with relationships and wants to understand the core of men’s behavior should read “Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”

Steve HarveyAbout Steve Harvey

Steve Harvey is a TV-icon, comedian, author, and a radio personality. His charisma and joke-telling have brought him at the top of the heap in the realm of comedy.

He continues to rock the showbiz world with his astonishing performances.

“Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man PDF Summary”

The book is subdivided into 3 main parts, all of which have a critical overview of men’s behavior and why they do some things. Steve Harvey, a comedian by profession, uses its humor, prejudices, facts and personal experience to portray men as accurately as possible.

Well, let’s roll, shall we?

Part One: The Mind-set of a Man

Truthfully, men are often upbraided for their lack of empathy and castigated for their aggressive approach, but are these claims essentially true? Let’s see what Steve thinks about it. He is one of those people who hate to beat around the bush and gives it to you straight!

The author starts by explaining the simplicity of men, as he believes this vantage point will give you the edge to absorb what’s coming. In other words, if you can latch onto to this, you may be able to get a bird’s eye view of the traits which describe men as they are:

  • Who they are
  • What they do
  • How much they make

According to Steve, if a man hasn’t fulfilled his longings based on these 3 questions, he’ll continue casting doubt on his worthiness. Just marinate on that for a minute and realize that boys are taught to push through life, not allow to be cast aside, and to accept their role.

For some, this burden is way overwhelming. This struggle lingers on even when a teenager enters its mid-20s. He takes into account his own life-trajectory – Steve, as a college dropout, found himself in a difficult predicament in his 20s.

Laid off by Ford, little money, and even fewer opportunities around him. One night, a woman for whom he used to write jokes, invited him to a local comedian club. Hesitant at first, he plucked up his courage and went.

The crowd loved him, and he earned 50$ which in today’s money don’t seem like much, but back then especially when you are broke – I am sure is a wonderful feeling.

In general, when men are not going after their dreams, they begin to dry out and lose confidence.

In this chapter, Steve doesn’t miss a chance to elevate woman’s love and support. Nonetheless, he calls into question women’s expectations regarding the kind of love they prefer to receive. In this regard, men are more direct with their expression of feelings.

A man who truly loves you is not going to call you at 6.00 pm to tell you that he loves you more than at 5:30 pm. When a man loves dearly, he is not afraid to show everyone who you are and that he is prepared to defend this bond till kingdom comes.  

The  21st century thought drives women to act, think and be independent. However, when a man cannot make enough money to provide for his family, raise them and give them everything they deserve due to X-factors, his confidence starts shaking.

To this extent, Steve points out that men can provide more than just financial comfort, and take care of its loved-ones in an emotional way.

However, when he fails to satisfy the social norms, the feeling of dejection starts to take over. In addition, Steve mentions the three things all men need:

  • Love
  • Support
  • Cookie – in other words – Sex

Part Two: Why Men Do What They Do

Whether we like it or not, sometimes generalization is the best evaluation tool we have at our disposal. Steve Harvey, from his own life experience, understood that women, unlike men, are okay with talking and sharing opinions for no particular reason or chit-chatting should you prefer.

Men, on the other hand, want to cut through the bull*hit and say whatever they want to say. True, some relationships are a fizzle and others last longer, but on a general basis, you determine the scope of it.

Men are as simple as one can be – you like someone, you start a conversation; if you don’t, you don’t even pretend to be interested in that person’s opinions, lifestyle, religion, etc.

If you try to bring in a philosophical touch to this unshakable truth, you’ll see that the world has always been like this. And it would take a heck of social engineering to flip it on the other side, and we don’t believe that would be a good thing.

The next time, a man comes along – don’t think that he is just being friendly and want to hear your latest daily backup story. In most cases, that man was drawn by your physical appearance, charisma, or elegance and he is unconsciously willing to take the next step.

There is nothing wrong with that; it’s just how it works.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation for example. You are a woman, sitting in a bar or a café with your friends, and a man asks for your name or wants to start a conversation.

How come he happened to bump into you and is curious but doesn’t share that enthusiasm for the other girls nearby?

Think about it; he is not interested in hearing your best friend’s story but yours! What does that tell you? He is not there for chit-chatting, nor willing to embroil in a political debate, but to impress you and eventually get something from you (hold your horses, it’s not sex).   

Now you know, and Steve Harvey didn’t mean to wipe out the mysteriousness of these first contacts, but to keep you abreast of the latest flirting trends. Remember girls; if you are not laying down the ground rules, you’ll sooner or later found yourself playing someone else’s.

In the next short section, Steve uses fishing as an example of the relationship men and women developed since the beginning of time. As all people know, a person can fish in two different way: Fun or so-called Sport-Fishing; and fishing to eat.

The story tells us that all men are natural hunters. In other words, they are on the lookout for prey, while women tend not to be too aggressive with regards to the extremes.

Just think about it – men invite women on a date (in most cases), men almost always make marriage proposals, and men ask for permission to take the girl out, etc.

However, what happens when the girl is attached to the hook – hypothetically speaking? Are we just doing sport-fishing, or we really plan to cook it (this sounds a bit harsh), but you get the symbolic meaning of it!?

Newsflash: it’s the woman who determines whether the guy is a sport-fisher or a keeper! And this is also true because a woman’s behavior dictates the men’s next steps – and the term “judgment” may seem too rude at one end of the line, but on the flip side, we all do it.

It’ not like you have a chance not to make decisions and form opinions on numerous topics. Even the ladies apt to judge another woman or man based on the vibe they evoke and attitude they nurture. It’s not rocket science to understand that all people are prone to go down this line.

Part Three: The PlayBook: How to Win the Game

The last intriguing part of this book is also the most comprehensible. We’ll try to boil it down as much as possible and share the key takeaways.

Here, Steve lays out 5 questions that every woman should ask herself prior to deciding to take the relationship on to the next level:

  • What are your short-term goals?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • What are your views on relationships?
  • What do you think about me?
  • How do you feel about me?

When it comes to men, don’t feel like you are not obliged to answer them as well. A real and caring man will answer these questions as well, for the well-being of the potential partner.

Consciously or unconsciously our minds are hatching plans for every matter under the blue sky that at least for a second takes hold of your attention.

In the next brief section, the author critically addresses the process of increasing your value. In 1977, Steve recalls being on the verge of bankruptcy and how he managed to lift his spirits.

He was all whipped up when the Ford Management announced that if he in the next 90 days proves to be a valuable asset to the organization, they’ll provide him with all sorts of benefits.

The bottom line is – this process is pretty much the same regardless of the profession. Eagerness and hunger for learning can be your ticket out of misery. He expands on the importance of earning these benefits rather than having them bestowed upon you.

From top to bottom, this book is a great manual for nurturing relationships and understanding one another in a humorous but profound fashion.

Key Lessons from “Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man”

1.      Adjust your thinking
2.      Make strides towards the truth
3.      Say no to ignorance

Adjust your thinking

Your mindset can be your best friend or your worst enemy; it’s up to you. Don’t sit on the fence, and adjust your thinking mechanism to help you understand men and women.

It will give you the upper hand in any situation that may befall you.

Make strides towards the truth

People love to sit on the safe side and never get out of their comfort zone. This book has some controversies in it, but that doesn’t detract from its quality and straightforward narrative.

Make no bargain with irrationality!

Say no to ignorance

Well, this is the hard one! To change something, you must know that the thing you’ve been doing is in need of alteration.

You can’t just magically turn the switch on and make everything work in your favor.

First, question your habits, your perspective, and understand the simplicity on one end and the complexity of the other in order to build an emotional connection with someone.

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“Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man Quotes”

You control what you can control—your image, the way you conduct yourself, the way you let men talk to and approach you—and use that to get the relationship you want. Click To Tweet Men can cheat because there are so many women willing to give themselves to a man who doesn’t belong to them. Click To Tweet Remember this: the number one cause of failure in this country is the fear of failure. Fear paralyzes you from taking action. Click To Tweet Dating is a lot like a business; the best way to become successful is to master and control things you have control over. Click To Tweet Nothing on this planet can compare with a woman’s love—it is kind and compassionate, patient and nurturing, generous and sweet and unconditional. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Despite the comic prowess, Steve sure knows a lot about how people interact with each other.

We find most things to be 100% accurate, while others a bit controversial for some social groups.

Anyway, it will be a great addition on your bookshelf or Kindle Account!

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