Category Archives: Philosophy

An Instance of Fortitude

In his “Essay on Epitaphs,” Samuel Johnson recalls the lines inscribed on the tomb of the Greek Stoic teacher: “Epictetus, who lies here, was a slave and a cripple, poor as the beggar in the proverb, and the favourite of … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson, Stoicism

A Mathematician’s Religion

One could say that the famous British mathematician A. N. Whitehead (1861-1947) was a true skeptic and no mere scoffing agnostic like so many of his peers. According to David J. Theroux, Whitehead argued in his book, Science and the … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Religion

Wherever Human Nature is to Be Found

“The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantic absurdities or incredible fictions; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson

The Soul’s Journey

The opening passage of the tenth chapter of Marcus Aurelius‘ Meditations contains two very interesting thoughts: one is that all lives are complete—no life can truly be said to be “unfinished”; secondly, every person experiences all that it is possible … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism

Johnson’s Existential Quest

“Happiness… must be something solid and permanent, without fear and without uncertainty.”—Samuel Johnson, Rasselas I am returning to the roots of my journal with a discussion of Samuel Johnson’s novel Rasselas (1759), an exotic imaginary travelogue in which the characters … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson

The General Condition of Man

“It is not sufficiently considered how much [a person] assumes who dares to claim the privilege of complaining…. why does he imagine that exemptions should be granted him from the general condition of man?”—Samuel Johnson, Rambler, No. 50 At the … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism

Points of View

Many popularizers of the intellectual life speak of the importance of reflective thought, and not just on the part of scholars and experts. According to Jacob Needleman, philosophy “is an imperative need in our lives and in the life of … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy

The Uncertainty of Good and Evil

“All fear is in itself painful, and when it conduces not to safety is painful without use.”—Samuel Johnson My latest meditation is based on Johnson’s Rambler essay “The folly of anticipating misfortunes” (No. 29). Few things in life are so … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Samuel Johnson

Curing the Irascible Soul

The Greek writer Plutarch is best known for his biographical studies, but he was also an important moralist. I am reading his commentary “On the Control of Anger,” found in volume VI of the Loeb edition. In it he explains … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Plutarch

Epictetus for Lent

Reading the pagan Stoics during this traditional Christian penitential season might seem unusual except that Stoic writings, especially those of the Greek Epictetus, have long been admired by even the most austere orders of monks. Later Christian philosophers, like Justus … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Stoicism