Friday, May 28, 2010


Sharing nuggets from a very interesting and readable book ' The Story of Philosophy'
- Will Durant (contd:) Book pages 696

From Aristotle to the Renaissance.

Roman Stoic Seneca : ' The secret of peace is not to make our achievements equal to our desires, but to lower our desires to the level of our achievements. If what you have seems insufficient to you, then though you possess the world, you will yet be miserable.'

EPICURUS: We must not avoid pleasures, but we must select them.

FRANCIS BACON : In the essay 'Of Youth and Age he puts a book into a paragraph - "Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than to counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business ........... Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business to the full period, but content themselves with the mediocrity of success.
Certainly it is good compel employments of both......... because the virtue of either may correct the defects of both'

SPINOZA : " to inquire whether I might discover and attain the faculty of enjoying throughout eternity continual supreme happiness........ love towards a thing eternal and infinite alone feeds the mind with a pleasure secure from all pain. Only knowledge, then, is power and freedom; and the only permanent happiness is the pursuit of knowledge and the joy of understanding.

As for the terms good and bad, they indicate nothing positive in themselves ... for one and the same thing can at the same time be good, bad and indifferent. For example,music is good to the melancholy, bad to mourners, and indifferent to the dead.

Men think themselves free because they are conscious of their volition and desires, but ignorant of the causes by which they are led to wish and desire. Spinoza compares the feeling of free will to a stone's thinking, as it travels through space, that it determines its own trajectory, and selects the place of time of its fall !!

Spinoza knows that as passion without reason is blind, reason without passion is dead. Thought should not lack the heat of desire, nor desire the light of thought.
By imagination and reason we turn experience into foresight; we become the creators of our future, and cease to be the slaves of our past.

Spinoza rises from the fitful pleasures of passion to the high serenity of contemplation, which sees all things as part of an eternal order and development; he learns to smile in the face of the inevitable, and 'whether he comes into his own now, or in a thousand years , he sits content. (this is hikmat)

VOLTAIRE : He was 'sheer intelligence transmuting anger into fun, fire and light - a creature of air and flame, the most excitable that ever lived ... Was he, perhaps, the greatest intellectual energy in all history ?"

Not to be occupied, and not to exist, amount to the same thing.

The further I advance in age, the more I find work necessary. It becomes in the long run the greatest of pleasures, and takes the place of the illusions of life.

I am a puny part of the great whole...
All born for torment and for mutual death...
Man is a stranger to his own research;
He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes.
Tormented atoms in a bed of mud,
Devoured by death, a mockery of fate;
But thinking atoms, whose far seeing eyes,
Guided by thoughts, have measured the faint stars;
Our being mingles with the infinite
Ourselves we never see, or come to know...

To be free is to be subject to nothing but the laws.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Sharing nuggets from a very interesting and readable book ' The Story of Philosophy'
- Will Durant

** There is a pleasure in philosophy, and a lure even in the mirages of metaphysics, which very student feels until the coarse necessities of physical existence draf him from the heights of thought into the mart of economic strife and gain.

SOCRATES : The modesty of his wisdom was the most likable trait. He did not claim to have wisdom, but only to seek it lovingly; he was wisdom's amateur, not its professional.

The Oracle of Delphi had pronounced him as the wisest of Greek of his time. But the starting point of his philosophy was : ONE THING ONLY I KNOW, AND THAT IS I KNOW NOTHING !

He had his own religious faith, he believed in One God, and in his modest way believed that death would not quiet destroy him.

PLATO: Plato's meeting with Socrates had been a turning point in his life.

When asked why is it that such simple paradise as he has described - the Utopias never arrive upon the map ?
He answers, because of greed and luxury. Men are not contained with simple life: they are acquisitive, ambitious, competitive, and jealous; they soon tire of what they have, and pine for what they have not; and they seldom disre anything unless it belongs to others.

( after many centuries, nothing has changed, we have not learnt )

The elements of instruction..... should be presented to the mind in childhood, but not with any compulsion, for a freeman should be a freeman too in the acquisition of knowledge.. Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be rather a sprt of amusement; this will better enable you to find out the natural bent of the child.

(It took us more than 2300 years to put this idea into effective practice and vouchsafe of its merit!)

Every individual is a cosmos or chaos of desires, emotions and ideas, let this fall into harmony; and the individual survives and succeeds; let them loose their proper place and function, let emotions try to become the light of action as well as its heat (as in a fanatic) or let thought try to become the heat of action as well as its light (as in an intellectual) and disintegration of personality begins, failure advances like the inevitable light

ARISTOTLE : Logic means, simply, the art and method of correct thinking.
He led the foundation of Biology. At the bottom of the scale, we can scarcely divide the living from the 'dead', nature makes so gradual a transition from the inanimate to the animate kingdom, that the boundary lines which separate them are are indistinct and doubtful, and perhaps a degree of life exists even in the inorganic. ( how so true)

He rejects Empedocles' doctrine that all organs and organism are a survival of the fittest.

Everything in the world moves naturally to a specific fullfillemnt. Of the varies causes which determine and event, the final cause, which determines the purpos, is the most decisive and important.

The mistakes and futilities of nature are due to the inertia of matter resisting the forming force of purpose ....(gem of haqiqat)everything is guided in a certain direction from within, by its nature, structure and entelechy; the egg of the hen is internally designed or destined to become not a duck but a chick, the acorn becomes not a willow but an oak.

Aristotle's favorite example of matter and form are woman and man; the man is the active, formative principle; the female is passive clay , waiting to be formed.

In plants the soul is merely a nutritive power; in plants it is also a sensitive and locomotive power; in man it is as well the power of reason and thought.

Economics : The most hated sort of such exchange is usury, which makes gain out of money itself, and not from its natural use. For money was intended as an instrument of exchange, and not as the mother of interest. This usury (tokos) which means the birth of money from money...... is of all modes of gain, the most unnatural.

Note: The Philosophy of Aristotle exerted a great influence on Muslim thinkers.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The spreading of Islamic Science and Philosophy

In the 11th century TOLEDO was the greatest Muslim center of learning founded in the West. In 1085 Toledo fell to the Spanish Christians. A Spanish Jew baptized under the name of Petrus Alphonsi became physician of King Henry I and thus he became the first to spread Muslim Science in the West.

The most prominent and prolific translator at TOLEDO was the Italian Gerad of Cremone who had a Christian and a Jewish assistant (Intereting !!) He occupies same position in the Western World as HUNAIN held in the Islamic World of Bagdad. Gerad was rightly called the the father of Arabism in Europe.

By the time of his death in 1187 he had produced 80 translations, amongst authors he translated into Latin were KINDI - FARABI _ AVICENNA ( Bu Ali Sina)

Latin versions of Arabic books immediately became the subject of study in the 12th Century at centres such as Bologna - Montpellier - Paris - Oxford.

The translations of Avicenna, whether medical or philosophical works were received with great enthusiasm all over Europe. when the manuscripts were finally printed mostly at Strasburg and Venice, they ran into innumerable editions, sometimes separately, and at times together with the works of Farabi and Kindi. There is evidence of their widespread use at various centers of learning.


Personal Note: It feels sad to note that in the 21st Century Islam is being misunderstood and maligned, largely on account of of a few misguided elements. When spread of knowledge is put on the back burner, humanity suffers.