Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Literally “love of wisdom,” the term philosophy describes a long dialog, a multi-person, multi-age conversation that began at the dawn of conceptualizing mind and continues today everywhere people think and discuss life and the main issues that concern us all—happiness, suffering, death, freedom, politics, family, religion and the ways they break down and diverge like in our list of themes. Through the ages on the social/political/national level, philosophy has gone in and out of favor, been persecuted during times of conservative rigidity, honored during golden ages of cultural flowering, and ignored during decadent periods of materialistic prosperity. The personal level of philosophical understanding mirrors the same patterns civilization, religion, and culture go through—cycling through the experience of ignorance, passion, aggression, and awakened mind. Experiences this deep and profound history banishes our feelings of isolation, undermines our beliefs in a separate, independent self, and connects to this stream of collective consciousness full of meaningfulness, inspiration, and wisdom.

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Quotes (73)

“Asked how he could endure such a solitary life, the philosopher answered, ‘I was in very good company until you came in.’”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE via Oliver Goldsmith, Shan Dao
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

“Until philosophers are kings or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, no, nor the human race.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE via Edith Hamilton

Themes: Wisdom Philosophy

“Of what use is a philosopher who doesn't hurt anybody's feelings?”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)

Themes: Philosophy

18. The Sick Society

“Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Philosophy is the science which considers truth.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE

“Like a person whose senses function properly each in its own field but do not cooperate with one another, philosophers emphasize one particular aspect and hold on to it... philosophy is thus cut up and falls apart.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Philosophy

“Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any human suffering. Just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not cure a disease of the body, to there is no profit in philosophy if it does not cure suffering of the mind.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

67. Three Treasures

“Of all the gifts of the gods to the human race, philosophy is the richest, the most beautiful, the most exalted.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from De Legibus, 52 BCE

Themes: Philosophy

“Philosophy is the best medicine for the mind.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from Tuscalanes Disputationes, 47-44 BCE

“All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

“It must not be supposed that innate vices can be completely eradicated by education; but, the lingering traces of inborn temperament that cannot be eliminated by philosophy are so slight that there is nothing to prevent men from leading a life worthy of the gods.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE via R.E. Latham, Shan Dao
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Philosophy

66. Go Low

“Philosophy is the supremely precious, a journey to the Good, to the Primal-Principal and the Dialectic is the most precious part of philosophy.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE via Stephen MacKenna, B.S. Page, Shan Dao
from Enneads Ἐννεάδες Plotinus / Porphyry

Themes: Philosophy

“Poetry, philosophy, and science are 3 different manifestations of the same spiritual force searching for the solution to the riddle of existence; science looking from the physical point of view, philosophy from the mental side, and poetry trying to penetrate the mystery with its vision.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Zangwill, Shan Dao

“Poetry, philosophy, and science are 3 different manifestations of the same spiritual force searching for the solution to the riddle of existence; science looking from the physical point of view, philosophy from the mental side, and poetry trying to penetrate the mystery with its vision.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Zangwill, Shan Dao

“Is not the supreme end of philosophy to search out by means of reason the truth that opinions and substitute in their place, the reign of reason in all things?”

Peter Abelard Pierre Abélard 1079 – 1142 CE
from Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian

“Philosophy aims only at hair-splitting, subtle distinctions, word quibbles.”

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE via Holloway-Calthrop

Themes: Philosophy

“Fear of death is the cause of all our vices... to philosophize is to learn to die.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE via Stephen Greenblatt
Grandfather of the Enlightenment

“Begin philosophy by doubting everything.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Philosophy is nowadays discredited, but yet it was always the chief concern of the wise.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Josehp Jacobs
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Philosophy

“If religion no longer gives birth to civil wars, it is to philosophy alone that we are indebted... Without philosophy, we would be little above the animals.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Philosophy War

31. Victory Funeral

“The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.”

Diderot 1713 – 1784 CE
from Encyclopédie

Themes: Philosophy

“The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education... By nature a philosopher is not in genius and disposition half so different from a street porter, as a mastiff is from a greyhound”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"
from Wealth of Nations

“You philosophers are lucky men. You write on paper and paper is patient. Unfortunate Empress that I am, I write on the susceptible skins of living beings.”

Catherine the Great Екатери́на Вели́кая 1729 – 1796 CE
(Catherine II)

Themes: Philosophy

“Philosophy is really homesickness: the urge to be at home everywhere.”

Novalis 1772 – 1831 CE

Themes: Philosophy

54. Planting Well

“Whenever philosophy has taken religion into its plan, it has ended in skepticism; and whenever religion excludes philosophy or the spirit of free inquiry, it leads to wilful blindness and superstition.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE
from Converstions and Reflections, 1836

“My philosophy has never brought me a sixpence; but it has spared me many an expense.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

Themes: Philosophy

“Animals learn death first at the moment of death... man approaches death with the knowledge it is closer every hour... It is for this reason chiefly that we have philosophy and religion... Death is the true inspiring genius, the muse of philosophy”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from The World as Will and Idea (1819)

“Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings… Do not all charms fly at the mere touch of cold Philosophy?”

John Keats 1795 – 1821 CE
Writer of "poems as immortal as English"

Themes: Philosophy

“Philosophy is the microscope of thought. Everything desires to flee from it, but nothing escapes it.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur

Themes: Philosophy

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

Themes: Philosophy

48. Unlearning

“As I read Plato, philosoply began with some sense of its essentially political basis and mission—a recognition that its problems were those of the organization of a just social order. But it soon got lost in dreams of another world.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"
from The Influence of Darwin on Philosoply, 1910

Themes: Philosophy

“To become a popular religion, it is only necessary for a superstition to enslave a philosophy.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

Themes: Philosophy

“A theory is not an unemotional thing. If music can be full of passion, merely by giving form to a single sense, how much more beauty or terror may not a vision be pregnant with which brings order and method into everything that we know”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from R. in Science

Themes: Philosophy

“People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

Themes: Philosophy

43. No Effort, No Trace

“Philosophy is a stage of intellectual development, and is not compatible with mental maturity... for it to flourish, traditional doctrines must still be believed.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Philosophy

“James’ doctrine is an attempt to build a superstructure of belief upon a foundation of skepticism, and like all such attempts, it is dependent on fallacies… a form of the subjectivistic madness which is characteristic of most modern philosophy.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Belief Philosophy
To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Philosophy

“philosophy can give certain things that will greatly increase the student’s value as a human being… by enlarging the objects of his thoughts, it supplies an antidote to anxieties… and makes possible the nearest approach to serenity available to a sensitive mind in our tortured and uncertain world”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Philosophy

“Plato's most important dialogue, The Republic consists in the construction of an ideal commonwealth, the earliest of Utopias. One of the conclusions arrived at is that the rulers must be philosophers... If this is true, we must decide what constitutes a philosopher, and the consequent discussion is the most famous part of The Republic, and has perhaps been the most influential.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Philosophy

“there were no philosophers in my father's library—they were suspect because they thought”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Philosophy

“I began to blame philosophers for rattling away when experience was lacking and holding their tongues when they ought to have been answering with facts. In this respect, they all seemed like watered-down theologians.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Richard and Clara Winston
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Philosophy

“Any religion or philosophy which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion or philosophy.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“The spirit of philosophy is one of free inquiry. It suspects all authority. Its function is to trace the uncritical assumptions of human thought to their hiding places, and in this pursuit it may finally end in denial or a frank admission of the incapacity of pure reason to reach the ultimate reality.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“Philosophy is the key to the map of life by which are set forth the meaning of life and the means of attaining its goal... Philosophy can only be known to those who are alike disinterested and free from care”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World
from The Dance of Shiva (1918)

Themes: Philosophy

“When truth has no burning, then it is philosophy, when it gets burning from the heart, it becomes poetry.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“To create happiness for oneself and others is the whole philosophy of religion.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Philosophy

72. Helpful Fear

“When life does not find a singer to sing her heart she produces a philosopher to speak her mind.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Philosophy

79. No Demands

“Greek religion paved the way for philosophy by emphasizing Fate which became the idea of law, a force more powerful than personal fiat creating the fundamental difference between mythology and science.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

“Philosophers tend to look upon themselves as apologists for the cosmos, press-agents for the Deity; the smell of theology is still strong upon them, and they are never quite content until they have justified all the ways of God to man.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from The Works of Schopenhauer

Themes: Philosophy

“In philosophy, as in politics, the longest distance between two points is a straight line.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

Themes: Philosophy

80. A Golden Age

“In ancient Greece the philosophers destroyed the old faith... in many nations of modern Europe the philosophers achieved similar results. Protagoras became Voltaire, Diogenes Rousseau, Democritus Hobbes, Plato Kant, Thrasymachus Nietzsche, Aristotle Spencer, Epicurus Diderot.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

Themes: Philosophy

“the need of a philosophy that would do justice to the infinite vitality of nature [to ] the inexhaustible activity of the atom, the endless resourcefulness of plants, the teeming fertility of animals, the hunger and movement of infants, the laughter and play of children, the love and devotion of youth, the restless ambition of fathers and the lifelong sacrifice of mothers, the undiscourageable researches of scientists and the sufferings of genius, the crucifixion of prophets and the martyrdom of saints”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Transition

Themes: Philosophy

“The field of philosophy is not some petty puzzle hiding in the clouds and destitute of interest or influence in the affairs of mankind, but the vast and total problem of the meaning and value and possibilities of man in this boundless and fluent world.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Pleasures of Philosophy

Themes: Philosophy

“Philosophy is not a theory but an activity... like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889 – 1951 CE via Rush Rhees
One of the world's most famous philosophers
from Personal Recollections (1981)

Themes: Philosophy

“Does the West have a philosophy? The answer is clearly, 'No'. We need a philosophy of living and we clearly haven't got it... There are professors of philosophy, but there are no philosophers... philosophy itself has become a brance of physics or biology or mathematics.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of China and India

Themes: Philosophy

“Only the free-wheeling artist-explorer, non-academic, scientist-philosopher, mechanic, economist-poet who has never waited for patron-starting and accrediting of his co-ordinate capabilities holds the prime initiative today.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

28. Turning Back

“It is good a philosopher should remind himself, now and then, that he is a particle pontificating on infinity.”

Ariel Durant 1898 – 1981 CE
(Chaya Kaufman)

“Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE

“A scientific testing method that takes all relevant factors into account is an impossibility... each researcher seeing just one part of the infinite array of natural factors... Before researchers become researchers, they should become philosophers.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from One Straw Revolution

“Confucius may have had access to the manifest aspects of the Tao ‘that can be named,’ but the basis of all Chuang Tzu’s critique of Ju philosophy is that it never comes near to the Tao ‘that can not be named,’ and indeed takes no account of it.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE

56. One with the Dust

“In the information age, you don't teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he'd have a talk show.”

Timothy Leary 1920 – 1996 CE
Pioneering psychonaut, performing philosopher, and counter-cultural hero

Themes: Philosophy

“Once a great conception, philosophy, or system of thought is turned into a religion, the original thought dies off.”

Hua-Ching Ni 1925 CE –
from Complete Works of Lao Tzu

“For me [fiction] is a manner of philosophizing... Philosophy may be only a shadow of the reality it tries to grasp, but the novel is altogether more satisfactory. I am almost tempted to say that no philosopher is qualified to do his job unless he is also a novelist.”

Colin Wilson 1931 – 2013 CE
from Voyage to a Beginning, 1968​

Themes: Philosophy

“Philosophy means participating in age-old conversations going back to the beginnings of history and extending into the inconceivable future. And like any good conversation, it requires a balance between listening and talking. If we talk too much, we quickly go beyond our understanding and fall into foolishness. If we listen too much, we become imprisoned by words without insight.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Philosophy

“They have no religious center, they have no philosophical center, and so they act, they do what's expedient at the moment. They have no long view of society. They only have the view of quick money, and kill the pain of the moment, and so instead of dealing with the real problems that exist, that are complicated, they sweep them under the rug by turning on the television set, or taking cocaine, or doing many things that enable them to escape confrontation with the unpleasant realities of the world.”

Woody Allen 1935 CE –

“All the philosophical theories that exist have been created by the mistaken dualistic minds of human beings. In the realm of philosophy, that which today is considered true, may tomorrow be proved to be false. No one can guarantee a philosophy's validity. Because of this, any intellectual way of seeing whatever is always partial and relative.”

Namkhai Norbu ཆོས་རྒྱལ་ནམ་མཁའི་ནོར་བུ་ 1938 – 2018 CE via John Shane
Dzogchen Master
from Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State

“Universally—in all traditions and schools of thought, religions, philosophies, political theories—there's always a conflict about how to relate the imaginary world to the physical world.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via The Six Chakras and the Four Karmas (tr: Judith Lief, editor)
from Secret Beyond Thought, Boston, 1971

“It would be good to drop the concept of philosophical schools and view [teachings] as systems of thinking... A philosophical school [mainly only] develops arguments to protect its own concepts and ideas.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion

Themes: Philosophy

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned... Everything is war.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

“By understanding and analyzing our feelings, we learn to see how emotions impact on our behavior in unexpected, counterintuitive and sometimes dangerous ways. Philosophers were the first therapists.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge

Themes: Philosophy

“Homo sapiens is a storytelling animal that thinks in stories rather than in numbers or graphs, and believes that the universe itself wo;rks like a story, replete with heroes and villains, conflicts and resolutions, climaxes and happy endings... we want a story that will explain what reality is all about and what my particular role is in the cosmic drama.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Philosophy

“The Tao Te Ching itself provides an example of wu-wei […] a philosophy that embodies its own message.”

Yi-Ping Ong 1978 CE –
from Tao Te Ching - Introduction and Notes

Themes: Wu Wei Philosophy


History of Western Philosophy

by Bertrand Russell

“20th century Voltaire”

Pleasures of Philosophy

by Will Durant

Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons

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