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Confucious 551-479 BC, born in Zou, Lu State, China.
Confucious is a westernized version of one of several
Chinese names he was known by. He was a teacher,
editor, politician, philosopher whose thoughts developed
into a system called Confucianism. He is believed to have
authored or edited many of the Chinese Classic Texts.
He taught strong family loyalty, ancestor worship,
respect of elders by their children, and of husbands by
their wives. He wrote “Do not do to others what you do
not want done to yourself”. An early version of the
Socrates 469-399 BC, was a Greek stone mason turned
teacher / philosopher. Known as a gadfly. A rebel like
the insect that stings the horse and causes violent
reaction. He was unrepentant and defiant. Probably the
reason he was executed at about 71 years of age by
government leaders. He didn‘t write much. Most of his
history is from accounts by his students.
Plato 428-347 BC, was a Greek philosopher and
mathematician, student of Socrates and writer of
philosophical dialogues. He founded the Academy in
Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the
western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his
student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of
western philosophy and science. He lived about 80
years and died of natural causes
Aristotle 384-322 BC, from Macedonia in NE Greece,
came from a well known family. He was taught by Plato
at the academy and became the most advanced scholar
of his time. His writings cover many subjects, including
physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic,
rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics,
biology, and zoology. Studied everything. Taught
Alexander the Great, lived into his early sixties, died of
Epicurus 341-270 BC, also Greek. He was taught by and
argued with Aristotle. Epicurus founded a small school
of philosophy in Athens near the academy. Lived about
72 years and died of kidney stone complications. He
taught that great things are easy to obtain and awful
things are easy to endure. Live moderately. Happiness is a
peaceful, self sufficient life with friends and the absence
of pain and fear. Don’t fear gods because they don’t care
about us and have no control over us. Don’t fear death
because it is the end of body and soul.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
What is called the Epicurean paradox may or may not
have been actually penned by Epicurus. Others wrote
similar things in 400-200 BC.
Jesus 01-36 AD, was born in Judea and spent his life
between there and Galilee in what was then part of the
Roman Empire and is now Israel – Palestine. He was a
healer and minister who developed a following that
came to be called Christian and is now the world’s
largest religion. He was executed by the Romans but
his words and actions are believed by many to have
been divine and his moral teachings of honesty,
pacifism, love and charity are embraced by many
Muhammad 570-632 AD, was born in Mecca in what is
now Saudi Arabia. He developed into a social reformer,
diplomat, philosopher, military leader, orator, legislator,
philanthropist who has been described as the most
influential human in history. Muslims believe he was a
prophet and messenger from God. He taught that Islam
is complete surrender to God and the only acceptable
way of life. He and his followers united Arabia under
Islam. He said his mission was to restore the faith of
Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others which had
been corrupted over time. He is considered by Muslims
to be the last prophet sent by God and his revelations
from God form the verses of the Quran.
Thomas Aquinas – 1225-1274. An Italian Dominican
Friar and Priest. Considered the greatest Philosopher
and Theologian in the Catholic Church. His works were
long used as a core of the required study for priests and
deacons. He taught five proofs of the existence of God.
Motion (there has to be an initial starting point).
Causation (As with motion there must be a first cause)
Existence of necessary and unnecessary, Gradation and
Ordered tendencies of nature. His commentaries on
scriptures and Aristotle and large quantity of writings
on other subjects made him extremely influential.
Baruch Spinoza – 1632 to 1677. Jewish Dutch
philosopher lived 45 years quietly in Holland as a lens
grinder and accepted no riches or teaching positions.
Wrote about God in a new way. Said God and nature
are one and the same. Not in the image of man or an
entity that makes decisions as it goes along but an
eternal system of rules and absolutes governing
everything animate, inanimate, visible, invisible,
physical or mental. Once we grasp that God / nature
corrects what violates it’s balance, survives any
violations and does not operate on our time frame we
can explain all. He was considered an Atheist,
ex-communicated from his Jewish roots at 23 and his
books were banned by the Catholics. He died of a lung
ailment suspected of resulting from inhaling powdered
glass during years of lens grinding.
Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826, principle author of the
American Declaration of Independence and third
President of the United States. He said don’t waste time
on things that may or may not exist. There are plenty
of obviously real things to deal with. Live and let live. Go
along to get along. It has no effect on me if my mind is
settled. Jefferson said the actual words of Jesus were
within the comprehension of a child but thousands of
descriptions and interpretations wandered greatly and
proved nothing. Jefferson agreed with the moral
teachings of Jesus but did not believe that Jesus thought
he was divine. Described himself as Epicurean.
Mary Wollstonecraft 1759-1797, an English writer,
philosopher and women’s rights advocate. Her best
known book is A Vindication of the Rights of Women. It
states that women are not inferior to men, just less
educated. She had a poor reputation in England during
her life due to unorthodox lifestyle and attitude but now
is considered one of the founders of and an important
influence on the feminist movement. She died a few days
after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Shelley,
also an accomplished writer.
Karl Marx 1818-1883 was born into a wealthy, middle
class German family and studied at the Universities of
Bonn and Berlin. He wrote for several radical
newspapers in Germany and France and was exiled in
1849. He settled in London with his wife and children
where he continued writing and campaigning for
socialism. His revolutionary theories were outlined in
a number of books including The Communist Manifesto
and Das Kapital. He believed that capitalism is a system
tightly controlled by a greedy few and would collapse
and be replaced by communism. He taught that society
will progress through class struggle between labor and
business owners and become classless. His work
inspired revolutionary socialist government takeovers
in Russia in 1922, China in 1949 and many labor
unions and workers parties worldwide.
Albert Einstein – 1879 to 1955. German Jewish born
physicist. School in Germany and Switzerland to
become a teacher of physics and mathematics. He
became a Swiss citizen, completed his doctorate and
became a professor in Switzerland. Later returned to
Germany, became a citizen, university director and
professor in Berlin. In 1933 he resigned German
citizenship for political reasons and moved to America
where he became a professor at Princeton. He became
a US citizen in 1940. His theory of relativity in the early
1900’s was confirmed by experiments and considered
one of the basics in the study of physics. Wrote many
papers on many subjects. Considered one of the leading
thinkers of his time. Had honorary degrees all over the
world. Believed in higher powers but thought organized
religions teaching a human-like God who supervises,
rewards and punishes were telling fairy tales. Said
Spinoza got it right.
Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Born a Xhosa into the royal
Thembu family in Cape Province, South Africa. He
studied law and became an active reformer and
politician. In the South African National Party and later
with the South African Communist Party he led both
non-violent protests and a sabotage campaign against
the apartheid government. He was arrested and
convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state and
sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962. After 27 years
in prison he was released in 1990 during a time of heavy
civil strife in South Africa and international pressure to
free him. He joined then President de Klerk in
negotiations which led to abolishing apartheid and the
first full participation national elections. He was elected
President of South Africa and served from 1994 to 1999.
During that time a new constitution was written, a
mechanism for investigation of human rights abuse was
formed, land reform, poverty and health care were
seriously addressed. He declined to run for a second
term and instead concentrated on charitable work,
combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through his Nelson
Mandela Foundation. He received honors more than
250 times including the Nobel Peace Prize, the US
Presidential Order of Freedom, the Soviet Order of
Lenin and the Bharat Ratna.
The point is these fourteen intelligent individuals and
countless other men and women like them have
searched, investigated and thought seriously about life
for as long as people have been here. Just like you. None
of them started out famous so that is not required. It’s
almost impossible to spend a lifetime without wondering
where we came from, where we are going, what to do
and why. We come to some conclusions based on study
and personal experience but like our children no two
are exactly the same.
There are now billions of us living at the same time, the
numbers are skyrocketing and there are predictions of
doom due to overcrowding, mass destruction weapons,
global warming and a variety of other reasons. We
could try to find hiding places or form armed survival
groups but a better idea is to get our minds around
relaxing, accepting reality, listening to each other and
working together to make the best of it. Polarizing into
separate groups is counter productive. We are one big
family, warts and all and don’t know where the next
great idea is coming from. Maybe from you.
Don’t stop thinking, wondering, searching or shut out
that relative with the different skin color, language, life
style or beliefs. We will never all agree but we need
everybody included and trying for the same goal.
When we communicate we learn.
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