philosophy

John Wilkins and the Universal Language

John Wilkins and the Universal Language

On February 14, 1614, Anglican clergyman, natural philosopher and author John Wilkins was born. Wilkins was one of the founders of the Royal Society and a polymath, although not one of the most important scientific innovators of the period. He is particularly known for An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (1668) in which, amongst other things, he proposed a universal language and a decimal system of measures which…
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Robert Malthus and the Principle of Population

Robert Malthus and the Principle of Population

On February 13, 1766, English cleric and scholar Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus was born. His An Essay on the Principle of Population observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease, leading to what is known as a Malthusian catastrophe. He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society. Malthus placed the longer-term stability of the economy above short-term expediency. His views became…
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Baltasar Gracian and the Art of Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian and the Art of Wisdom

On January 8, 1601, Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer and philosopher Baltasar Gracián y Morales was born. He is best known as the leading Spanish exponent of conceptism (conceptismo), a style of dealing with ideas that involves the use of terse and subtle displays of exaggerated wit. His writings were lauded by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.[7] “If you cannot make knowledge your servant, make it your friend.” — Baltasar Gracian, The Art of…
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Averroes – The Commentator and Polymath

Averroes – The Commentator and Polymath

On December 10, 1198, medieval Andalusian polymath Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd, better known as Averroes, passed away. Averroes wrote on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, theology, the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, psychology, political and Andalusian classical music theory, geography, mathematics, and the mediæval sciences of medicine, astronomy, physics, and celestial mechanics. Averroes had a greater impact on Christian Europe: he has been described as the “founding father of…
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Pierre Bayle – Forerunner of the Age of Enlightenment

Pierre Bayle – Forerunner of the Age of Enlightenment

On November 18, 1647, French philosopher and writer Pierre Bayle was born. As a forerunner of the Encyclopedists and an advocate of the principle of the toleration of divergent beliefs, his works subsequently influenced the development of the 3Enlightenment. He is probably best known for his seminal work the Historical and Critical Dictionary. Pierre Bayle was born at Carla-le-Comte near Pamiers, Ariège, France and was mainly educated by his father who was…
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Albertus Magnus and the Merit of Personal Observation

Albertus Magnus and the Merit of Personal Observation

On November 15, 1280, German scholar, Dominican friar, Catholic bishop, and Catholic Saint, Albert, Count von Bollstädt a.k.a Abertus Magnus, Albert the Great passed away. As a philosopher Albertus Magnus championed Aristotle‘s philosophy, but adapted it to the medieval outlook, and held that there was merit in the addition of personal observation. He often is referred to as the greatest German philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages. Even more so than…
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Theophrastus of Eresos – the Father of Botany

Theophrastus of Eresos – the Father of Botany

Theophrastos of Eresos, who studied in Plato’s philosopher’s school, is most famous for his groundbreaking work on plants. Thus, he is often referred to as the ‘father of botany’. His two surviving botanical works, Enquiry into Plants (Historia Plantarum) and On the Causes of Plants, were an important influence on Renaissance science. Theophrastus of Eresos was a native of Eresos in Lesbos and his given name was Tyrtamus. It is believed that…
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The World is in Ever-Present Change – Heraclitus of Ephesus

The World is in Ever-Present Change – Heraclitus of Ephesus

Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus was famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”. This position was complemented by his stark commitment to a unity of opposites in the world, stating that “the path up and down are one and the same”. Through these doctrines Heraclitus characterized all existing entities by pairs of contrary…
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John Locke and the Importance of the Social Contract

John Locke and the Importance of the Social Contract

On August 29, 1632, English philosopher and physician John Locke was born. One of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers he became known as the “Father of Classical Liberalism“. He spent over 20 years developing the ideas he published in his most significant work, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) which analyzed the nature of human reason, and promoted experimentation as the basis of knowledge. “To love truth for truth’s sake is the…
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John Venn and the Venn Diagram

John Venn and the Venn Diagram

On August 4, 1834, English logician and philosopher John Venn was born. He is best known for his contribution of the eponymous Venn diagram, used in the fields of set theory, probability, logic, statistics, and computer science. John Venn grew up in a quite religious family and it was expected that he followed his family’s tradition into priesthood. He attended Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and was awarded a mathematics scholarship in his…
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