Philosophy

About this Collection

What does it mean to be a human? What is the best life to live, and how can we live it? These questions, and the texts which explore them, have long guided humanity in its struggle to understand itself.

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THE READING ROOM

Immanuel Kant: “The Last Enlightenment Philosopher”?

By: Walter Donway

Even to summarize the works that flowed from Kant’s pen can be challenging. They included another classic, the Critique of Practical Reason; major volumes on the nature of morality, aesthetics, politics, and anthropology; and one of…

September 2022: Liberty and Virtue in the Axial Age

Please join us in September 2022 for an enlightening online experience with Peter Mentzel.

Pre-registration is required, and we ask you to register only if you can be present for ALL sessions.All readings are available online.…

Quotes

Politics & Liberty

Adam Ferguson on Democracy

Adam Ferguson

Philosophy

Adam Ferguson on Love, Self-Interest, and Pleasure

Adam Ferguson

Quote

Adam Smith and our Propensity to Deceive rather than to Think ill of Ourselves

Adam Smith

Society

Adam Smith on Admiration of the Rich and Powerful

Adam Smith

Philosophy

Adam Smith on Happiness, Tranquility, and Enjoyment

Adam Smith

Quote

Adam Smith on Men of Public Spirit

Adam Smith

Philosophy

Adam Smith on Religion and the Rules of Morality

Adam Smith

The State

Adam Smith on social change and “the man of system” (1759)

Adam Smith

Class

Adam Smith on the dangers of faction and privilege seeking (1759)

Adam Smith

Politics & Liberty

Adam Smith on the Dangers of sacrificing one’s Liberty for the supposed benefits of the “lordly servitude of a court” (1759)

Adam Smith

Justice

Adam Smith on the illegitimacy of using force to promote beneficence (1759)

Adam Smith

Quote

Adam Smith on the Nature of Happiness

Adam Smith

Odds & Ends

Adam Smith on the ridiculousness of romantic love (1759)

Adam Smith

War & Peace

Adam Smith on the Sympathy one feels for those Vanquished in a battle rather than for the Victors (1762)

Adam Smith

Class

Adam Smith on why people obey and defer to their rulers (1759)

Adam Smith

Class

Adam Smith thinks many candidates for high political office act as if they are above the law (1759)

Adam Smith

Society

Adam Smith, Patriotism, and the Welfare of Our Fellow Citizens

Adam Smith

Philosophy

Adam Smith, Selfishness, and Sympathy

Adam Smith

Philosophy

Aristotle and Virtue Ethics

Aristotle

Philosophy

Aristotle insists that man is either a political animal (the natural state) or an outcast like a “bird which flies alone” (4thC BC)

Aristotle

Freedom of Speech

Benedict de Spinoza on the natural right every person has to think and speak on any subject they choose (1670)

Benedict de Spinoza

Class

Bentham on how “the ins” and “the outs” lie to the people in order to get into power (1843)

Jeremy Bentham

Economics

Bentham on the proper role of government: “Be Quiet” and “Stand out of my sunshine” (1843)

Jeremy Bentham

Economics

Bernard Mandeville concludes his fable of the bees with a moral homily on the virtues of peace, hard work, and diligence (1705)

Bernard Mandeville

War & Peace

Bernard Mandeville on how the Hardships and Fatigues of War bear most heavily on the “working slaving People” (1732)

Bernard Mandeville

Economics

Bernard Mandeville uses a fable about bees to show how prosperity and good order comes about through spontaneous order (1705)

Bernard Mandeville

Philosophy

Cicero on being true to one’s own nature while respecting the common nature of others (c. 50 BCE)

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Cicero on the need for politicians to place the interests of those they represent ahead of their own private interests (1st century BC)

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Justice

Cicero urges the Senate to apply the laws equally in order to protect the reputation of Rome and to provide justice for the victims of a corrupt magistrate (1stC BC)

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Revolution

Condorcet on why the French revolution was more violent than the American (1794)

Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet

Politics & Liberty

Condorcet writes about the inevitability of the spread of liberty and prosperity while he was in prison awaiting execution by the Jacobins (1796)

Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet

Philosophy

Confucius on Prudence and the Superior Man

Confucius

Politics & Liberty

David Hume believes we should assume all men are self-interested knaves when it comes to politics (1777)

David Hume

Food & Drink

David Hume examines the pride of the turkey (and other creatures) (1739)

David Hume

Free Trade

David Hume on how the prosperity of one’s neighbors increases one’s own prosperity (1777)

David Hume

Property Rights

David Hume on property as a convention which gradually emerges from society (1739)

David Hume

Origin of Government

David Hume on the origin of government in warfare, and the “perpetual struggle” between Liberty and Power (1777)

David Hume

Philosophy

David Hume on the Perception of Beauty

David Hume

Origin of Government

David Hume ponders why the many can be governed so easily by the few and concludes that both force and opinion play a role (1777)

David Hume

Natural Rights

Epictetus on one’s inner freedom that is immune to external coercion (c. 100 CE)

Epictetus

Natural Rights

Francis Hutcheson on the difference between “perfect” and “imperfect” rights (1725)

Francis Hutcheson

Philosophy

Francis Hutcheson’s early formulation of the principle of “the greatest Happiness for the greatest Numbers” (1726)

Francis Hutcheson

Food & Drink

Herbert Spencer on the pitfalls of arguing with friends at the dinner table (1897)

Herbert Spencer

Sport and Liberty

Herbert Spencer worries that the violence and brutalities of football will make it that much harder to create a society in which individual rights will be mutually respected (1879)

Herbert Spencer

Law

J.S. Mill in a speech before parliament denounced the suspension of Habeas Corpus and the use of flogging in Ireland, saying that those who ordered this “deserved flogging as much as any of those who were flogged by his orders” (1866)

John Stuart Mill

Women’s Rights

J.S. Mill on the wife as the “actual bondservant of her husband” in the 19th century (1869)

John Stuart Mill

Women’s Rights

J.S. Mill spoke in Parliament in favour of granting women the right to vote, to have “a voice in determining who shall be their rulers” (1866)

John Stuart Mill

Politics & Liberty

J.S. Mill was convinced he was living in a time when he would experience an explosion of classical liberal reform because “the spirit of the age” had dramatically changed (1831)

John Stuart Mill

Property Rights

J.S. Mill’s great principle was that “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” (1859)

John Stuart Mill

Class

Jeremy Bentham argued that the ruling elite benefits from corruption, waste, and war (1827)

Jeremy Bentham

Class

Jeremy Bentham on how the interests of the many (the people) are always sacrificed to the interests of the few (the sinister interests) (1823)

Jeremy Bentham

Natural Rights

Jeremy Bentham on rights as a creation of the state alone (1831)

Jeremy Bentham

Philosophy

Jeremy Bentham on the Utility Principle

Jeremy Bentham

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Jeremy Bentham relates a number of “abominations” to the French National Convention urging them to emancipate their colonies (1793)

Jeremy Bentham

Religion & Toleration

John Locke believed that the magistrate should not punish sin but only violations of natural rights and public peace (1689)

John Locke

Religion & Toleration

John Locke on the separation of Church and Magistrate (1689)

John Locke

Education

John Locke tells a “gentleman” how important reading and thinking is to a man of his station whose “proper calling” should be the service of his country (late 1600s)

John Locke

Class

John Stuart Mill discusses the origins of the state whereby the “productive class” seeks protection from one “member of the predatory class” in order to gain some security of property (1848)

John Stuart Mill

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

John Stuart Mill on “the sacred right of insurrection” (1862)

John Stuart Mill

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

John Stuart Mill on the “atrocities” committed by Governor Eyre and his troops in putting down the Jamaica rebellion (1866)

John Stuart Mill

Religion & Toleration

John Stuart Mill on the “religion of humanity” (c. 1858)

John Stuart Mill

Politics & Liberty

John Stuart Mill on the need for limited government and political rights to prevent the “king of the vultures” and his “minor harpies” in the government from preying on the people (1859)

John Stuart Mill

Women’s Rights

John Stuart Mill uses an analogy with the removal of protective duties and bounties in trade to urge a similar “Free Trade” between the sexes (1869)

John Stuart Mill

Economics

Lao Tzu and the Tao of laissez-faire (6thC BC)

Lao Tzu

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Lao Tzu discusses how “the great sages” (or wise advisors) protect the interests of the prince and thus “prove to be but guardians in the interest of the great thieves” (600 BC)

Lao Tzu

Property Rights

Lord Kames states that the “hoarding appetite” is part of human nature and that it is the foundation of our notion of property rights (1779)

Henry Home, Lord Kames

Economics

Mandeville on the social cooperation which is required to produce a piece of scarlet cloth (1723)

Bernard Mandeville

Philosophy

Marcus Aurelius on using reason to live one’s life “straight and right” (170)

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Philosophy

Michael Oakeshott on Individualized Reason

Michael Oakeshott

Socialism & Interventionism

Mill on the dangers of the state turning men into “docile instruments” of its will (1859)

John Stuart Mill

Justice

Pascal and the absurd notion that the principles of justice vary across state borders (1669)

Blaise Pascal

Philosophy

Plato believed that great souls and creative talents produce “offspring” which can be enjoyed by others: wisdom, virtue, poetry, art, temperance, justice, and the law (340s BC)

Plato

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Plato warns of the people’s protector who, once having tasted blood, turns into a wolf and a tyrant (340s BC)

Plato

Politics & Liberty

Samuel Smiles on how an idle, thriftless, or drunken man can, and should, improve himself through self-help and not by means of the state (1859).

Samuel Smiles

Politics & Liberty

Shaftesbury on the need for liberty to promote the liberal arts (1712)

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury

Freedom of Speech

Shaftesbury on the True Test of Bravery

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury

Quote

Shaftesbury on Truth as the Most Powerful Thing in the World

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury

Philosophy

Socrates on the Good in Death

Plato

Economics

Spencer on spontaneous order produced by “the beneficent working of social forces” (1879)

Herbert Spencer

Parties & Elections

Spencer on voting as a poor instrument for protecting our rights to life, liberty, and property (1879)

Herbert Spencer

Parties & Elections

Spencer on voting in elections as a screen behind which the wirepullers turn the sovereign people into a puppet (1882)

Herbert Spencer

Freedom of Speech

Spinoza on being master of one’s own thoughts (1670)

Benedict de Spinoza

Religion & Toleration

Spinoza on the dangers of using superstition to hoodwink the people (1670)

Benedict de Spinoza

Freedom of Speech

The Earl of Shaftesbury on the value of good conversations for questioning everything (1709)

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury

Sport and Liberty

The Earl of Shaftesbury relates the story of an unscrupulous glazier who gives the rowdy town youths a football so they will smash windows in the street and thus drum up business (1737)

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury

Odds & Ends

The Earl of Shaftesbury states that civility and politeness is a consequence of liberty by which “we polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides” (1709)

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury

Origin of Government

William Paley dismisses as a fiction the idea that there ever was a binding contract by which citizens consented to be ruled by their government (1785)

William Paley

Property Rights

Wollaston on crimes against person or property as contradictions of fundamental truths (1722)

William Wollaston

Notes About This Collection

See also the extracts, chapters, and introductions in the Philosophy section of the Ideas page.