Philosophy: Most Popular Articles
The nature of beauty is one of the most fascinating riddles of philosophy. Is beauty universal? How do we know it? How can we predispose ourselves to embrace it? Nearly every major philosopher has engaged with these questions and their cognates, including the great figures of ancient Greek philosophy such as Plato and Aristotle.
What is beauty? How to tell what is art from what art is not? These are the two fundamental questions if aesthetics. The first one concerns beauty in its most general form, thus not only artifacts, but also beauty as encountered in a landscape, a sunset, a stone, or a flower. What is it that makes something beautiful? Is beauty always one and the same property, exemplified by entities of radically different sorts?
René Descartes (1596-1650) famously produced some original arguments to prove God's existence. The arguments played a key role in his Meditations on First Philosophy, as they allowed him to conclude that something beyond himself existed. Here goes a reconstruction of the arguments, as found in the third meditation.
The choice of a philosophy graduate program can be extremely difficult. In the U.S.A. alone, there are over one hundred of well-established departments granting graduate degrees (M.A., M.Phil., or Ph.D.) Needless to say, Canada, the U.K., Australia, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, and a few other countries have graduate programs that are well-regarded too. How to decide where is most suitable to study?
The time from which five great philosophical traditions originated: the Platonist, the Aristotelian, the Stoic, the Epicurean, and the Skeptic.
What is specific about philosophical reading? Which tips and guidelines can you follow to improve your understanding of philosophical texts? How to use philosophy books to enhance your philosophical curiosity and the one of your peers?
Rationalism is the philosophical stance according to which reason is the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals empiricism according to which the senses suffice in justifying knowledge. In a form or another, rationalism features in most philosophical tradition; in the Western one, it boasts a long and distinguished list of followers, including Plato, Descartes, and Kant.
Socrates and Meno discuss the nature of virtue?
What is friendship? How many types of friendship can we recognize and in what degree shall we seek each of them? Several of the greatest philosophers have addressed those questions and neighboring ones. Let’s see some illustrations of their work.
Descartes revolutionized scientific methodology, established a new conception of human nature, and linked algebra to geometry, among a host of other things.
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Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental structure of reality. According to realists claim that all entities divide up into two major groups: particulars and universals; Nominalists instead argue that there are only particulars.
Literally it means “love of wisdom.” But, really, philosophy begins in wonder. So, what characterizes philosophical wonder? How does one achieve it?
Empiricism is the philosophical stance according to which the senses are the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals rationalism according to which reason is the ultimate source of knowledge. In a form or another, empiricism features in most philosophical tradition. In Western philosophy, empiricism boasts a long and distinguished list of followers in all ages; probably, the most fertile period for this trend happened during the early modern period, with the so-called British empiricists, whose rank includes authors of the caliber of John Locke and David Hume.
A discussion of arguments against relativism, including concepts of truth, cultural perceptions, and more. Follow the links for further online readings.
Think about career prospects, specific areas of expertise of faculty and programs, and overall experience. Follow the links for more information.
Who Is?: Plato is one of the most influential philosophers to date and the first Western thinker whose
Some basic information for those new to the subject.
The idea of a self plays a central role in philosophy. Three main types of views of the self are explored in this brief introduction.
Political science studies governments in all their forms and aspects, both theoretical and practical. Once a branch of philosophy, political science nowadays is typically considered a social science. The history of the discipline is virtually as long as that of humanity. Its roots in the Western tradition are typically individuated in the works of Plato and Aristotle.
Ethics is one of the major branches of philosophy and an ethical theory is part and parcel of all philosophies broadly conceived.
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class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Jean Paul Sartre
The meaning of the term 'Socratic wisdom'
The beautiful, the sublime, and the picturesque are three key concepts in aesthetics and philosophy of art. Together, they help mapping the variety of aesthetically significant experiences. The differentiation among the three concepts took place in seventeenth and eighteenth hundreds, and is still to these days of some significance, despite the difficulty in pinning down each of the three concepts.
Nature and culture are often seen as opposite ideas: what belongs to nature cannot be the result of human intervention and, on the other hand, cultural development is achieved against nature. However, this is by far the only take on the relationship between nature and culture. Studies in the evolutionary development of humans suggest that culture is part and parcel of the ecological niche within which our species thrived, thus rendering culture a chapter in the biological development of a species.
There are plenty of hilarious philosophy jokes out there, some of which could easily be incorporated as teaching materials, both for children and adults.
Who Is?: John Locke is one of the most important figures in British empiricism and one of the main authors
A brief biography of the man many would call the greatest philosopher in the history of Western civilization.
To what extent is the use of rhetorical figures in philosophical writing, such as metaphors and analogies, the mark of a weakness on the part of the author? Can we sort out different styles of philosophizing, such as analytic and continental, based on their use of rhetorical devices?
Reasons to study logic
Skepticism is precisely the attitude of doubting the reliability of one’s sources. Learn about the history of skepticism and the contemporary responses.
What reasons in favor of relativism can be brought forward? That people tend to have different views with respect to a same issue seems to be a platitude. Generational gaps, differences in social status, upbringing, religion, scientific perspectives can all contribute, at one time or other, to form contrasting opinions. Some people take these situations to provide a plethora of evidence to take a relativistic attitude towards the topic at hand. Of course not everyone agrees, affirming that relativism ought to be resisted. Needless to say, to a relativist the disagreement will just be additional evidence that she is on the right side of the debate.
While lying can been seen as a threat to civil society, there seem to be several instances in which it seems to be the most intuitively moral option.
Does neuroscience disprove free will?
Liberalism's core values are expressed in terms of individual freedom and equality, democracy, capitalism, freedom of religion, and human rights.
Here find a selection of the most influential blogs in philosophy to date along with some additional useful sources like the Philosophical Gourmet Report.
The idea of nature is one of the most widely employed in philosophy, and by the same token one of the most ill-defined. Authors such as Aristotle and relied on the concept of nature to explain the fundamental tenets of their views, without ever attempting to define the concept. Even in contemporary philosophy, the idea is oftentimes employed, in different forms. So, what is nature?
New theories of mind and matter, of the divine, and of civic society - among others - were proposed by figures such as Descartes, Locke, Hume, and Kant.
David Hume is one of the most distinguished empiricists and skeptics of the Western tradition. A prominent figure in the history of early modern philosophy, according to some he is also the most important thinker to ever write in English...
Does Plato's 'Meno' prove we have innate ideas?
Beauty is one of the most intricate and fascinating topics of philosophical discussion. It has been taken up in relationship to a host of other subjects, such as truth, the good, the sublime, and pleasure. Here is a selection of quotes on beauty, divided into different themes.
Plato and Aristotle defended different views on the nature of women and of their role in society. This article collects some influential quotes on the topic.
How Socrates answers Meno's challenge in Plato's 'Meno'
Who Is?: One of the most remarkable and controversial figures in modern politics and philosophy, Karl
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While it may be tempting to define honesty as speaking the truth and abiding to the rules, this may turn out to be overtly simplistic. Telling the truth – the whole truth – is at times practically and theoretically impossible as well as morally not required or even wrong. Suppose your new partner asks you to be honest about what you have done over the past week, when you were apart: does this mean you’ll have to tell everything you have done?
A brief clarification of Sartre's account of consciousness
Voltaire’s writings are most famous for their advocacy of the autonomy of the individual and the State with respect to the church.
A historical summation of the concept of humanism, including information about famous thinkers and the influence on western philosophy.
The picturesque is an idea of importance to aesthetic theory. It stands in contrast to the idea of beauty as well as to the idea of the sublime. I have discussed the comparison between the three ideas in a separate article. This article goes in more details regarding the picturesque.
Time is a central and classical theme in philosophy. It can be taken up from several angles, including epistemology (how do we know of the existence of a past or a future?), phenomenology (the time lived and perceived as opposed to external time), philosophy of language (the relevance of tenses in communication), philosophy of mind (e.g. time and memory), ethics (e.g., human life ought to be lived with the horizon of our death in view), social philosophy (the importance of recurring rituals in the structuring of a society, e.g. bells, New Year’s, 4th of July …) In this article we shall look at time from a metaphysical point of view.
A summary of Descartes' 'Discourse on Method' and an explanation of its philosophical importance.
Galileo Galilei was one of the protagonists of the scientific revolution, best known for his astronomical discoveries by means of a telescope (including sunspots, Jupiter’s satellites, and the phases of Venus), for his defense of heliocentrism, and and for his study of the natural laws regarding falling bodies. Galileo, however, gave key contributions also to the development of the modern scientific methodology; for this reason, he holds a special place in the philosophy of science and epistemology.
Who Is?: Niccolò Machiavelli was one of the most influential political theorists of Western philosophy.
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Parmenides is probably the first great philosopher of the Western canon. His philosophy seems to have embodied several of the distinctive traits of Ancient Greek philosophy, most notably the exclusive reliance on reason; Parmenides had a deep influence on Plato's and Aristotle's thinking, whose work can by and large be seen as a response to Parmenides’s.
Consequentialism is perhaps the most developed view of ethics, according to which the ethical worth of an action is proportional to its consequences. In particular, consequentialism holds that among all the possible courses of action, an agent should pursue the one that, overall, brings about the greatest amount of good – or, in jargon, the one that maximizes good.
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >"Be yourself.
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The Problem The
Though education is often thought in relation to the school system, educational processes aren't restricted to what is imparted in a school setting.
The remakable story of the ugly little man who fascinated Athens and changed the world
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental categories of reality. From the millenary debate between supporters of those two opposed camps spurred some of the most puzzling problems in metaphysics. Here we shall review the problems with realism, that are no less hard than the problems faced by nominalists.
Metaphysics is one of the core branches of philosophy and it is among the oldest ones. Metaphysics centers on the study of the most fundamental categories of reality and their relations, such as god, person, thing, event, property, causation. The question typical of this branch is, hence: “What is there, really?”
Mary Wollstonecraft is best known for her philosophical and political insightful fervor, especially for her strenuous and lucid defense of the rights of women in society. This excerpt, taken from the third chapter of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, bears witness to a well-articulated picture.
How to write a solid philosophy paper? Which practices should you follow and which ones to avoid? Here are ten simple and general steps you can follow.
Hunger is one of the most surprisingly interesting philosophical topics. It’s a state that typically does not fall under our attention. We are born hungry. We have been hungry well before we can remember being alive or gained self-consciousness of our own pleasures. Hunger is a landmark of our longing for change, for that which we are not. Satisfaction of hunger is one of the most complex ecological relationships we part take. And yet, what is it? And what philosophical lessons can we learn from hunger?
Enlightenment, or the Age of the Enlightened, was an intellectual movement most fertile between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in central Europe (France and Germany most distinctly) as well as in Russia and North America. The movement converged around the (at times unconditional) belief in the light of reason, regarded as the best gift to guide human agency, both theoretical and practical. The list of authors affiliated to some degree with the movement is particularly extensive and includes figures such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Smith, Kant, Franklin, and Jefferson. The work that most embodies the spirit of enlightenment is probably the Encyclopédie that d’Alembert and Diderot assembled between 1751 and 1772.
Brief account of how God's omniscience and omnipotence threaten the idea of free will
Despite the difficulties in nailing down its details, vegetarianism seems to be backed up by a wealth of ethical arguments. For this reason, turning to a vegetarian diet seems to be one of the most pressing issues for our contemporary society. In this article we shall review the main reasons in favor of a vegetarian diet.
Some tips on how to study for a philosophy exam
Why free will and determinism can't be reconciled
Descartes famously affirmed the centrality of the first-person in philosophy. Self-consciousness, to him, is the place from within our understanding of metaphysics and epistemology (and derivatively ethics, aesthetics, and all other philosophical endeavors) ultimately rest. I know that I exist, I am certain of it as I cannot fail to recognizing myself as thinking without actually being thinking; everything else follows.
In some circumstances it is evident that violence is unjust. But some cases appear more debatable: can violence ever be justified?
Explore the issues behind biodiversity, wildlife management, ecological preservation, hunting practices, farming techniques, and food regulations.
Immanuel Kant is one of the most important philosophers of Western tradition, and among the most systematics. He is best known for his transcendental philosophy, which he viewed as a revolution for the humanities comparable to the one brought forth by Copernicus in the sciences. He authored a vast number of texts, including the three critiques: Critique of Pure Reason(first published in 1781, then in a revised version in 1787), Critique of Practical Reason(1788), Critique of Judgment (1790).
Since the advent of internet, philosophy sources on the web have grown steadily both in number and varieties. Nowadays, having an online profile and being up to date with regard to the latest debates, trends, and news on the subject has become a (almost obligatory) routine for professional philosophers, aspiring ones, and amateurs. Here we shall trace a map of philosophical encyclopedias as well as philosophy radios and TVs. Philosophy blogs, journals, and bibliographies will be treated separately.
An explanation of the term 'Socratic ignorance'
One of the most influential philosophers to date, Aristotle was a student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings redefined or established an impressive variety of areas, including ethics, metaphysics, political philosophy, logic, epistemology, rhetoric, and tragedy.
Vegetarianism seems to be backed up by a wealth of reasons, despite the difficulties in its formulation. At the same time, most people do not practice a vegetarian diet. It might well be, of course, that they are immoral – after all, who ever said that the majority of people is morally blameless? However, there may be also considerations leading to defend a non-vegetarian diet. In this article we shall review the main ones.
The philosophy of hunting is a subfield of the philosophy of food, which deals most importantly with the ethical, environmental, and evolutionary aspects of the practice of hunting. Among its central questions: can hunting ever be regarded as morally good? Which methods for hunting are most ethical? Is hunting for sport rather than for food, e.g. fox hunting, ever morally permissible? Can hunting better reconnect us with wildlife? Can hunting shed light on our evolutionary past?
How to tell an artwork from what is a work of art is not? What is it that makes an object, or a gesture, a work of art? Those questions lie at the core of Philosophy of Art, a major subfield of Aesthetics. Here is a collection of quotes on the subject.
The Prince is the most read work by Florentine author Niccolò Machiavelli and one of the masterpieces of Western political thought. It is a small treatise composed of twenty-six chapters and aiming to educate a young adult about how to maintain power in a princedom regardless of the situation. Machiavelli’s precepts subverted Aristotelian ethics, turning what was the most regarded theory upside town.
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, what is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are some of the hard questions that a theory of violence shall address.
What is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? Explore these ethical dilemmas and more in this article.
The central concept of Kant's ethics explained simply
Philosophy is one of the most spontaneous and profound activities humans can pursue; but, what can you do with a major in philosophy? Here are eleven reasons to choose the examined life .
The pros and cons of moral relativism
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A brief account of Plato's 'Apology'--Socrates' speech at his trial
How to prove arguments invalid using counterexamples
There is a great deal of philosophical substance in sport. Any sport, really. From team sports such as football and basketball to individual sports such as tennis and car racing, it is easy to devise a plethora of philosophical issues that span across most philosophical branches. Here is a selection of the most poignant quotes related to sport that highlight its philosophical significance.
Sport ethics has come to be a foremost point of contact between philosophy, civil institutions, and society at large.
A brief biography of Hegel (1770-1831)
Do you wonder whether sexual categories are natural or conventional? Explore this article for information and further online readings.
A brief account of the main kinds of relativism
Whether the thought of it was implicit in your attitude or whether you actually took the time to spell it out, there is a great deal of philosophical substance in sport. Any sport, really. From team sports such as football and basketball to individual sports such as tennis and car racing, it is easy to devise a plethora of philosophical issues that span across most philosophical branches.
We may be shy or even ashamed to admit it, but violence is one of the central modalities through which humans relate to each other. Not only we are violent against strangers or acquaintances, but we are often violent also against ourselves. Why is it so? Why is violence one of the main modalities through which we relate to the world?
Baruch Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher of Jewish descent, to date one of the most distinguished in the history of his land, and a prominent figure in early modern philosophy. He is most famous for having defended two doctrines. The first is a form of monism in metaphysics. The second is the rebuttal of any objective basis for good and evil in ethics.
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What’s the difference between cheerfulness and happiness? Trying to offer an answer to this question may help to shed light on a number of important aspects of ethics, politics, and practical living. In this article I will offer a few remarks on how a philosophy encompassing both cheerfulness and happiness may be developed.
Plato and Aristotle have proposed radical views on the family, which influenced the debate on the topic in Western philosophy. This article collects some influential quotes on the topic.
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Crito, a wealthy old man and one of Socrates' oldest friends visits him in prison
Philosophers are not always known for their simplicity. Even to make a simple point, a reader may be taken for some convolute route. Here are some notable favorite examples, from classic philosophers or texts.
Sex and gender are among the most debated philosophical topics of the past few decades, and rightly so, as the conceptions of these two notions have changed – I would say matured – extensively. In this piece I shall collect some of the most remarkable statements about sex made by contemporary philosophers. I hope you enjoy them and, if you have any suggestion, please don’t hesitate to send it in.
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Truth is a topic of major significance within any philosophy branch. Virtually every philosophers has to come to terms, in one way or another, with the nature of truth. Because of this, the array of positions regarding truth is as wide as that of philosophical schools and theories that have been proposed. In this article we will review the main positions on the nature of truth that characterize Western philosophy.
A reader asked me whether it is acceptable, or just, or good of a human being cynical. This seems an interesting question to be entertained. I hence decided to write a piece on the topic ...
Explanation of a crucial logical distinction
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Can food be art? This is a question that has received increasing attention over the past few decades in aesthetics; in this article we shall deal with the main reasons that have been brought forth against the palatability of gastronomic experiences being, in some instances, forms of ultimate artistic experiences.
Simple explanations of induction, deduction, validity and soundness.
That certain sentences involving liars are paradoxical has been known for a long time. Perhaps the earliest written formulation of the liar paradox within Western philosophy dates back to the Ancient Greek period: it is due to Eubulides of Miletus, author of several other important logical paradoxes too. If a person says that she is a liar, is what she’s saying true or false? Suppose it’s true: then the person is not a liar; but then it’s actually false that she is a liar. If instead what the person is saying is false, then she is a liar; but then what she is saying is true. Either way, we reach conclusions that seem – literally – incredible; that’s the mark of paradoxicality. In this article we will concentrate on the solutions to the paradox.
Brief account of how free will can be reconciled with determinism
A brief outline of Plato's 'Republic'
What is violence? And, accordingly, how should non-violence be understood? While I have written a number of articles on these and related topics, it is useful to look at how philosophers have synthesized their views on violence. Here is a selection of quotes, sorted out into topics.
Brief account of soft determinism
A concise summary of Kant's greatest work
Philosophical analysis of the meeting between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Ch. 6 of 'Through the Looking Glass'
Definitions of basic concepts in logic
A large collection of paradoxes has been collected throughout the history of philosophy. Along with Zeno of Elea, the ancient Greek philosopher Eubulides of Miletus (fourth century B.C.) is perhaps the most re-known discoverer of logical paradoxes. To him are attributed four of the most discussed arguments: the liar’s paradox, the sorites paradox, the paradox of the hooded man, the paradox of the horned man.
Philosophy of food is an emerging branch in philosophy. Here is a list of quotes that are pertinent to it; if you happen to have additional suggestions, please do send them along!
An amusing and effective way way of illustrating and remembering some common informal fallacies.
The split between analytic and continental philosophers is perhaps one of the most distinctive traits of Western philosophy in the twentieth century. What is this all about and what relevance does it have to this date?
How can food lead to deep philosophical discussions? Find how it reflects on the ethical, political, social, artistic, identity-defining aspects of life.
What is love? What is the relationship between love and beauty, or love and truth, or love and justice? While I’ve written about those topics, it is refreshing to read poignant quotes on them. Here is a compilation of some favorite passages on love.
Zen is famous in the West thanks to its short, elliptical, yet intriguing proverbs and sayings. Here is a list of some famous Zen quotations.
What is humor and how is it used among humans to enhance or hinder their relationships? Plenty of philosophers have asked this question, trying to come up with a theory of humor that could also separate such a state from mere laughter as well as good from bad quality humor.
Six different answers to the question of whether the soul is immortal that can be found in Plato's dialogues.
To respect someone or something is to value that person or thing. What else can we say about respect to be able to teach it and to practice it? To start addressing such a need, I compiled a list of quotes on respect, which may be compared to quotes on equality and dignity. If you have any other passage you would like to share, please send in your suggestions!
Essay prompts on classic existentialist texts by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Sartre, Kafka, Camus, and Beckett
Confronted with the problem of explaining change, Aquinas borrows from Aristotle three notions, that he calls principia (principles): matter, privation, form. Briefly put, form is whatever quality a substance possesses; the acquisition of such quality may have happened either at the very moment in which the substance was created, or during the course of its existence.
A map of Ancient Greek philosophy usually lists four major schools, each of which can be traced back to Socrates: the Platonist, the Aristotelian, the Stoic, and the Epicurean. There is, however, a fifth school, which developed in conversation with Socrates’s teachings – the Cynic. Cynics are often unrecognized as forming a school, primarily because they had no specific place for meeting, but rather practiced their philosophical creeds in city streets, Athens being the first and foremost. Few teachings were transmitted in written form and what we are left with is instead a series of sayings and deeds, often in the form of anecdotes. A good proportion of the information that we have, moreover, is due to sources that looked at the cynics in a rather antagonistic fashion, which renders a reconstruction of the cynic views fated to be uncertain. Despite this, history records a fair number of prominent cynic figures, spanning across several generations; as I am inclined to regard of secondary importance, from a philosophical standpoint, whether a tradition developed within a formally established school or recorded its chief tenets in writing, I will refer to the cynics as forming a school. The reader should however be warned that the appellation is somewhat contentious.
Does indeterminacy lie at the root of free will
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Is philosophy ever literature? That is, if you were to make a list of some valuable samples of literature, would you be inclined to include any philosophical text? If you would, which criteria should you follow for inclusion in the list?
While we are drawn to experiencing the sublime and we value it for its aesthetic worth, such an experience is also mixed with negative pleasures and negative feelings. For instance, looking at the ocean, while standing in the middle of it aboard a small boat, I may aesthetically appreciate the majesty of the seemingly unending basin of water. At once, however, a sense of abandonment may assail me.
Plato's account of how sexual desire for the beautiful body of a boy can be transformed into the quest for philosophical insight.
Niccolò Machiavelli is a central intellectual figure in Renaissance philosophy. Although he worked mainly as a statesman, he was also a notable historian, dramatist, poet, and philosopher. His works contain some of the most memorable quotes in political science. Here follows a selection of those that are most representative for philosophers.
A summary of Book X of Plato's Republic
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Philosophy of biology is that branch of philosophy dealing with the major issues arising from biological sciences, such as the proper understanding of evolutionary processes, the demarcation between living and non-living entities, the nature of species and – more generally – of biological taxa.
10 famous individuals who studied philosophy in college
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a central figure in the philosophy of Enlightenment. Among his major contributions, a theory of education and human development that was widely debated and that still draws some heated debates. This article collects some important quotes from Rousseau on the topic.
The idea of simplicity has played a key role in the development of scientific hypotheses and theories. Depending on the perspective of the researcher, and more broadly on the historical framework, the simple structure of reality has been understood in different manners. Here are the main ones.
Brief account of causal determinism and the challenges it faces
Brief account of the afrguments for and against hard determinism
Anaximander - the first scientist?
Jorge Louís Borges (1899-1986) was one of the greatest writers of the past century and, to many, he was the most prominent Argentinian writer. Not only, however, Borges was an exemplar writer, he was also one of the most acute thinkers of the past century, so much as that his work is worth of being closely studied also from a philosophical point of view. In this article, I collected some of the most prominent passages from his writings that stimulate philosophical reflection; the list could keep growing, and if you have any suggestion you are most welcome to send it in!