— Henry D. Thoreau
It’s the birthday of philosopher and big doubter René Descartes, born in La Haye en Touraine, France (1596).
He is called the father of modern philosophy, but he considered himself a mathematician and scientist.
He became interested in philosophy when he heard that the church persecuted Galileo for his scientific theories. Descartes realized some of his own theories were also controversial, so he wrote a book called Discourse on Method(1637), about the necessity of doubt in scientific inquiry.
He also wrote about beginning to doubt everything about his life, even the fact of his own existence. But in the process of doing so, he realized that he couldn’t doubt the existence of his own thoughts, and he produced his most famous line: “I think, therefore I am.”
— Marcus Aurelius
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning. The wind, even at sixty miles an hour, is warm and humid. When it’s this hot and muggy at eight-thirty, I’m wondering what it’s going to be like in the afternoon. […] In the wind are pungent odors from the marshes by the road. We are in an area of the Central Plains filled with thousands of duck hunting sloughs, heading northwest from Minneapolis toward the Dakotas. […] I’m happy to be riding back into this country. It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this.
The opening of Robert Robert Pirsig’s cult, philosophy classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values from 1974.
The book has sold more than 5 million copies. It is the story of a road trip from Minnesota to California, and his personal quest to reconcile Eastern and Western philosophical philosophical traditions. It may be the only philosophy some people have ever read - or enjoyed.
John Locke (today is his birthday)
Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Jostein Gaarder, from an interesting book, Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy
Neil Degrasse Tyson
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
No one seems to really party for the birthday of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, born in Vienna in 1889. He was described by his colleague Bertrand Russell as “the most perfect example I have known of genius as traditionally conceived: passionate, profound, intense, and dominating.”
This fellow Austro-Hungarian gave away his inheritance to his siblings, and also to an assortment of Austrian writers and artists, including Rainer Maria Rilke.