Every now and then, it hurts to be prepared. In a series of experiments from the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that when volunteers thought about a backup plan before starting a task, they did worse than those who hadn’t thought about a plan B. What’s more, when they realized they had options, their motivation for succeeding the first time around dropped. The researchers stress that thinking ahead is a good idea, but you might be more successful if you keep those plans vague.
The surreal Wisteria blooms can be found in Kawachi Fuji Gardens, located in Kitakyushu, Japan, and features 150 Wisteria plants, along with 20 different species. People often describe walking under the blanket of blooming Wisterias – the flower Buddhists use to symbolise prayer – as a very tranquil experience.
When to visit: The best visiting time is late April to mid-May when the wisteria flowers are in full bloom. A lively annual “Wisteria Festival”, also known as “Fuji Matsuri“, is hosted in the gardens during this time.
Avicenna (Ibn Sina) was a Persian physician and philosopher who profoundly influenced medieval Islamic philosophy, while his synthesis of ancient Greek and theology also had a major influence on the Western thought, especially that of the medieval Christian philosophers. Avicenna worked during the so-called Islamic Golden Age that was marked by advanced knowledge which surpassed that in the West. The territorial expansion of the Arab Abbasid Caliphate during that time gave the Muslim scholars access to vast knowledge including that of ancient Greco-Roman, Byzantine, Indian, Egyptian and Persian civilisations which became accessible to the Western scholars only in the later Middle Ages and Early Modern Period.
Avicenna’s philosophy dealt with some of the most fundamental questions including the origin of the cosmos, the role of God in the human existence and the universe, and divine interaction with humans and other “created” beings. He wrote extensively on logic, metaphysics and ethics, while his greatest contribution to the development of both later Muslim and Western thought was his attempt to reconcile the ancient Greek philosophy and God as the creator of all existence. Over the following centuries, Avicenna came to be regarded as the leading authority of the Islamic philosophy, while his synthesis of Greek philosophy and theology was later to some extent also adopted by the medieval Christian philosophers including Thomas Aquinas.
Avicenna is thought to create over 400 works on a variety of topics but only about 250 have survived. Of the surviving works, over 100 address philosophical questions, while about 40 deal with medicine. Some of his best known works include:
~Book of Salvation
~The Canon of Medicine
~Book of Healing
~Book of Sum and Substance
~Philosophy for the Prosodist
~Book of Virtue and Sin
Although Avicenna’s native language was Persian, most of his works were written in Arabic which was the language of the science in the Middle East in his time.
British economist, public servant, and philosopher John Stuart Mill is considered a linchpin of modern social and political theory. He contributed a critical body of work to the school of thought called liberalism, an ideology founding on the extension of individual liberties and economic freedoms. As such, Mill himself advocated strongly for the preserving of individual rights and called for limitations to the power and authority of the state over the individual. Mill was also a proponent of utilitarianism, which holds that the best action is one that maximizes utility, or stated more simply, one that provide the greatest benefit to all. This and other ideas found in Mill’s works have been essential to providing rhetorical basis for social justice, anti-poverty, and human rights movements. For his own part, as a member of Parliament, Mill became the first office-holding Briton to advocate for the right of women to vote.
Mill’s Big Ideas
~Advocated strongly for the human right of free speech, and asserted that free discourse is necessary for social and intellectual progress;
~Determined that most of history can be understood as a struggle between liberty and authority, and that limits must be placed on rulership such that it reflects society’s wishes;
~Stated the need for a system of “constitutional checks” on state authority as a way of protecting political liberties.
Mill’s Key Works
~On Liberty and the Subjection of Women (1859, 1869)
A Scottish-born historian, economist, and philosopher, Hume is often grouped with thinkers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Sir Francis Bacon as part of a movement called British Empiricism. He was focused on creating a “naturalistic science of man” that delves into the psychological conditions defining human nature. In contrast to rationalists such as Descartes, Hume was preoccupied with the way that passions (as opposed to reason) govern human behavior. This, Hume argued, predisposed human beings to knowledge founded not on the existence of certain absolutes but on personal experience. As a consequence of these ideas, Hume would be among the first major thinkers to refute dogmatic religious and moral ideals in favor of a more sentimentalist approach to human nature. His belief system would help to inform the future movements of utilitarianism and logical positivism, and would have a profound impact on scientific and theological discourse thereafter.
Hume’s Big Ideas
~Articulated the “problem of induction,” suggesting we cannot rationally justify our belief in causality, that our perception only allows us to experience events that are typically conjoined, and that causality cannot be empirically asserted as the connecting force in that relationship;
~Assessed that human beings lack the capacity to achieve a true conception of the self, that our conception is merely a “bundle of sensations” that we connect to formulate the idea of the self;
~Hume argued against moral absolutes, instead positing that our ethical behavior and treatment of others is compelled by emotion, sentiment, and internal passions, that we are inclined to positive behaviors by their likely desirable outcomes.
Hume’s Key Works
~A Treatise of Human Nature (1739)
~An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751)
~The History Of England (1754–62)
Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli is at once among the most influential and widely debated of history’s thinkers. A writer, public office-holder, and philosopher of Renaissance Italy, Machiavelli both participated in and wrote prominently on political matters, to the extent that he has even been identified by some as the father of modern political science. He is also seen as a proponent of deeply questionable — some would argue downright evil — values and ideas. Machiavelli was an empiricist who used experience and historical fact to inform his beliefs, a disposition which allowed him to divorce politics not just from theology but from morality as well. His most prominent works described the parameters of effective rulership, in which he seems to advocate for leadership by any means which retain power, including deceit, murder, and oppression. While it is sometimes noted in his defense that Machiavelli himself did not live according to these principles, this “Machiavellian” philosophy is often seen as a template for tyranny and dictatorship, even in the present day.
Machiavelli’s Big Ideas
~Famously asserted that while it would be best to be both loved and feared, the two rarely coincide, and thus, greater security is found in the latter;
~Identified as a “humanist,” and believed it necessary to establish a new kind of state in defiance of law, tradition and particularly, the political preeminence of the Church;
~Viewed ambition, competition and war as inevitable parts of human nature, even seeming to embrace all of these tendencies.
Machiavelli’s Key Works
~Discourses on Livy (1531)
~The Prince (1532)
~The Art Of War (1519–20)
An English physicist and philosopher, John Locke was a prominent thinker during the Enlightenment period. Part of the movement of British Empiricism alongside fellow countrymen David Hume, Thomas Hobbes, and Sir Francis Bacon, Locke is regarded as an important contributor to the development of the social contract theory and is sometimes identified as the father of liberalism. Indeed, his discourses on identity, the self, and the impact of sensory experience would be essential revelations to many Enlightenment thinkers and, consequently, to real revolutionaries. His philosophy is said to have figured prominently into the formulation of the Declaration of Independence that initiated America’s war for independence from the British.
Locke’s Big Ideas
- Coined the term tabula rasa (blank slate) to denote that the human mind is born unformed, and that ideas and rules are only enforced through experience thereafter;
- Established the method of introspection, focusing on one’s own emotions and behaviors in search of a better understanding of the self;
- Argued that in order to be true, something must be capable of repeated testing, a view that girded his ideology with the intent of scientific rigor.
Locke’s Key Works
A French novelist, activist, and philosopher, Sartre was a leading exponent of the 20th century existentialist movement as well as a vocal proponent of Marxism and socialism. He advocated for resistance to oppressive social constructs and argued for the importance of achieving an authentic way of being. His writing coincided with, and contrasted, the sweep of fascism through Europe, the rise of authoritarian regimes, and the spread of Nazism. Sartre’s ideas took on increased importance during this time, as did his actions. Sartre became active in the socialist resistance, which aimed its activities at French Nazi collaborators. Of note, one of his activist collaborators was both a romantic partner and a fellow major cohort of existentialism, Simone de Beauvoir. Following the war, Sartre’s writing and political engagement centered on efforts at anticolonialism, including involvement in the resistance to French colonization of Algeria. In fact, his involvement earned Sartre two near-miss bomb attacks at the hands of French paramilitary forces. Also notable, Sartre was supportive of the Soviet Union throughout his lifetime. Though occasionally serving to raise issues regarding human rights abuses as an outside observer, he praised the Soviet Union’s attempt at manifesting Marxism.
Sartre’s Big Ideas
~Believed that human beings are “condemned to be free,” that because there is no Creator who is responsible for our actions, each of us alone is responsible for everything we do;
~Called for the experience of “death consciousness,” an understanding of our mortality that promotes an authentic life, one spent in search of experience rather than knowledge;
~Argued that the existence of free will is in fact evidence of the universe’s indifference to the individual, an illustration that our freedom to act toward objects is essentially meaningless and therefore of no consequence to be intervened upon by the world.
Sartre’s Key Works
~Being and Nothingness (1943)
~Existentialism Is a Humanism (1946)
~Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume One (1960)
“Most people in society are in denial about the scam that is elite university education (and to some extent, university education in general).
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the kind of devilry that goes on behind the scenes of these elite universities. Do not trust them for a second!
Universities are not your friend. They are businesses, collective egos, bureaucracies, and cultural constructions, first and foremost. It is a big mistake to equate university education, rank, or credentials with any sign of truth, goodness, wisdom, intelligence, consciousness, self-awareness, or level of development.
The wisest humans are not to be found in universities because universities do not prioritize truth, wisdom, love, or consciousness. Elite universities are playing games of status, money, and politics, and the worst thing about it is, the biggest con they pull is convincing high school students that they are somehow important and to be valued. It’s never even told to high school students that they can provide themselves with a much better education than any university ever could, and at a tiny fraction of the cost. High school students just automatically buy into the lie that elite universities are somehow important and desirable.
Universities indoctrinate. They do not teach truly original thinking or human growth. And as the devil tends to do, they call themselves the bastions of truth. Then they act outraged if you question their authority or their well-credentialed professors. Ha! What a load of horse shit! A credential is just a piece of paper that a group of devils wrote to themselves to convince themselves that they are not devils but angels.
The whole point of getting an elite university degree is so that your survival in life becomes much easier thanks to the status it confers — you get access to the best job opportunities and positions of power — so you don’t then actually have to work hard on becoming a conscious human being or doing original creative high-value work that stands on its own merit. An elite university allows you to use the power of social status to increase your survival odds. That’s what it’s really about, and any honest university would admit it. But of course the devil has to hide and deny his devilry in order for it to keep working. Teens who apply to these universities do not understand any of this. They are just cogs in the unconscious machine. Just like their parents were. They are under the illusion that these universities are somehow the ticket to heaven when really they’re a ticket to hell! You know what they say, an abused child becomes an abusive parent. And so the cycle continues, the cogs keep spinning around in circles.
And all this is not to even mention the scam which is the college loan system. From a certain perspective a modern university is just a clever invention for saddling a new human being with $100,000 in debt without that human realizing what just happened. That is the lifeblood of the whole system! Universities are like a vampire that feeds off wage slaves. The real devilry comes in convincing children to join this system eagerly. You could call our entire education system long-time-horizon child abuse: grades, homework, standardized testing, SAT prep, AP testing, college admissions, student loans, credentials, diplomas, fraternities, sororities, college athletics — all that. It’s all a socially constructed scam; a house of cards held together with bullshit. By the time a human being goes through 12 + 4 years of that, she is a domesticated animal. It’s just a more sophisticated version of religion. A religion masquerading as science and rationality. No wonder there is no God or Truth found there. You cannot institutionalize Truth.
The bottom line is, an elite university education will actually hinder your ability to become the best human being you could be. Take responsibility for your own education. The only one who can properly educate you is yourself.
And yet, despite having said all the above, a university education is still far better than no education at all, or some kind of parochial education. So in a twisted sense we need this devil to save us from the yet greater devil of uneducatedness and right-wing ideology.
P.S. Do not confuse my critique of universities for right-wing critiques of universities. Universities can be critiqued from above or from below. My critique is from above. Right-wing critiques — based on a knee-jerk reaction against liberal values, multi-culturalism, relativism, and post-modernism — are from below. The paradox is that American society would be far better off if we made all public universities totally free to everyone, doubled their annual budgets, and cancelled all student debt. This would also have the benefit of devaluing elite private universities and reduce the need to jump through hoops for scholarships.
Our education system is thoroughly corrupt and badly in need of reform and massive funding. Of course it’s just as you should expect. The first thing on the devil’s agenda is to seize and corrupt all wellsprings of truth, turning them into founts of devilry. Topmost on the devil’s agenda is to break all the lights, break all the mirrors, and multiply himself in the shade.”
Greek philosopher and teacher Plato did nothing less than found the first institution of higher learning in the Western World, establishing the Academy of Athens and cementing his own status as the most important figure in the development of western philosophical tradition. As the pupil of Socrates and the mentor to Aristotle, Plato is the connecting figure in what might be termed the great triumvirate of Greek thought in both philosophy and science. A quote by British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead sums up the enormity of his influence, noting “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Indeed, it could be argued that Plato founded political philosophy, introducing both the dialectic and dialogic forms of writing as ways to explore various areas of thought. (Often, in his dialogues, he employed his mentor Socrates as the vessel for his own thoughts and ideas.) While he was not the first individual to partake of the activity of philosophy, he was perhaps the first to truly define what it meant, to articulate its purpose, and to reveal how it could be applied with scientific rigor. This orientation provided a newly concreted framework for considering questions of ethics, politics, knowledge, and theology. Such is to say that it is nearly impossible to sum up the impact of Plato’s ideas on science, ethics, mathematics, or the evolution of thought itself other than to say it has been total, permeating, and inexorable from the tradition of rigorous thinking itself.
Plato’s Big Ideas
~Expressed the view, often referred to as Platonism, that those whose beliefs are limited only to perception are failing to achieve a higher level of perception, one available only to those who can see beyond the material world;
~Articulated the theory of forms, the belief that the material world is an apparent and constantly changing world but that another, invisible world provides unchanging causality for all that we do see;
~Held the foundational epistemological view of “justified true belief,” that for one to know that a proposition is true, one must have justification for the relevant true proposition.
Plato’s Key Works
~The Republic (380 BCE)
~The Laws (348 BCE)
~Plato: Complete Works