René Descartes and the benefit of the doubt

The French philosopher René Descartes is best-known for his statement Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. But what is the deeper philosophy behind this statement? When trying to understand Descartes’ philosophy, it is important to bear in mind that he was not only a philosopher, but also a mathematician – any high school student hasContinue reading “René Descartes and the benefit of the doubt”

Erich Fromm and the Discontents of Materialism

In his book To Have or to Be, Erich Fromm analyzes the profound sense of dissatisfaction that is present in the materialistic societies of the West. He conceptionalizes the problem as two opposite ways of life: one that is centered around having vs. one that is centered around being. Fromm begins his book with an analysis of the ideologicalContinue reading “Erich Fromm and the Discontents of Materialism”

Primo Levi and the teachings of Auschwitz

If This Is a Man is Primo Levi’s account of the time he spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz. It is one of the best-known and most poignantly written testimonies of the horrors of the Holocaust. Levi was an Italian Jew. He was arrested in 1944, when the German army had occupied the northern half ofContinue reading “Primo Levi and the teachings of Auschwitz”

Speaking Truth to Power: The Trial of Socrates

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Socrates Socrates, one of the most famous philosophers, was sentenced to death, essentially for the mischief he caused with his inquisitive mind. He was accused of influencing the youth with his dangerous thoughts, and of undermining the belief in the gods. In the Apologia, Plato recounts theContinue reading “Speaking Truth to Power: The Trial of Socrates”

Knowing God

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, willContinue reading “Knowing God”

Friedrich Nietzsche and the Death of God

One of Friedrich Nietzsche’s most famous phrases is his statement that God is dead. In The Gay Science, he tells the story of a madman who went to the marketplace and shouted that he was looking for God. This caused amusement among the onlookers; many of them no longer believed in God. The madman announced: “WhereContinue reading “Friedrich Nietzsche and the Death of God”

Erich Fromm on Group Narcissism

In his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Erich Fromm discusses group narcissism as one of the most important causes for aggression. Ordinary narcissism is, according to Fromm, the attempt to feel safe by convincing oneself of one’s intrinsic superiority, as opposed to trying to overcome existential anxieties through work and connection to others, which would beContinue reading “Erich Fromm on Group Narcissism”

Plato’s allegory of the cave

In his work Republic, Plato presents the allegory of the cave, which is one of the best-known philosophical allegories. Plato describes the process of gaining insight and the problems that come with it. Plato describes the unenlightened man as shackled to a wall, deep inside a dark cave. His head is fixed in a certain position, such thatContinue reading “Plato’s allegory of the cave”

Ignacio Matte Blanco and the Logic of the Unconscious

In his book The Unconscious as Infinite Sets: An Essay in Bi-logic the Chilean psychoanalyst Ignacio Matte Blanco presents a framework for understanding the unconscious with the tools of mathematical logic. It is a fascinating attempt to make the unconscious understandable. To understand better the context Matte Blanco was working in, I want to begin with explainingContinue reading “Ignacio Matte Blanco and the Logic of the Unconscious”

Erich Fromm and the Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

In his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Erich Fromm provides an analysis of human aggression. He discusses the differences between aggression in animals and in humans, and discusses how the specifically human forms of cruelty are connected to existential needs. Fromm delineates three important existential needs: the need to be one with the world andContinue reading “Erich Fromm and the Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”