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FirstChild’s History of Philosophy #2

Posted by Laurence on February 3, 2009

My first post on this fascinating subject is here. I think we were at Descartes. Descartes was one of those guys who is known as a “Renaissance man” – mainly because he was a man, and he lived during the Renaissance. Now after the Dark Ages he invented modern philosophy.

He did this by doubting the existence of everything he could think of, including easy stuff like Belgium and working his way up to tricky stuff like French toast, and even marie biscuits. The only thing he couldn’t doubt was that there was something doing some doubting and this fact conveniently let him prove everything he wanted to prove including the Cartesian co-ordinate system.

After Descartes, British and Continental philosophy began to diverge. British philosophers like Locke, Berkeley and Hume wrote rigorously in the school of empiricism about stuff that is really just common sense, and continental philosophers wrote about stuff which is really just nonsense.  There were French philosophers in the 18th century like Diderot, Voltaire and Rousseau, but in all honesty they aren’t as interesting as Napoleon .

Anyway, after the French guys we move onto the nineteenth century Germans, Kant (careful how you pronounce that), Hegel and Schopenhauer. The only one I know anything about is Immanuel Kant. Kant was a tall man, standing 6″4 in his socks. From what I’ve heard he had a great mind and is the writer of a book which is certainly very long called “The Critique of Pure Reason” He was also very boring spending most of his life in his home town of Bergtesgarden. However, while there he met a young woman called Eva Berlin. Following the Night of the Long Knives in 1733, Kant effectively destroyed most of his philosophical opponents. Kant forced Anschluss with Austria in 1736 and occupied the Sudetenland shortly thereafter. In 1739 Kant invaded Poland before producing “The Critique of Pure Reason” in 1781.

John Stuart Mill was father of Utilitarianism and a terribly clever chap. He could speak English, Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Sanskrit, and Afrikaans, at a very young age. He also authored a very famous autobiography – at just 3 years old. It is a short book. Furthermore, and not a lot of people know this,  but he was also a very good juggler – juggling 3 balls when he was 3, 4 when he was 4, 5 when he was 5, and so on in an arithmetic progression. He had a nervous breakdown at 21.

Mill invented Utilitarianism, which is summed up by the dictum, “the greatest good for the greatest number”. But the ideas of satisfying demands or pleasure goes back at least as far as Epicurus and the roaring 320’s BCE. But Epicurus was deep down a bit of a puritan though and what he really meant was that people should limit their desires so they wouldn’t be disappointed so much. Like you shouldnt put all your hopes on the Stormers winning the Super 14 because every year they blow it. Dammit, we couldnt get 4 tries against the Cats. Are you kidding me? Thus Epicurus said, and I quote “By pleasure we mean the absence of mental and physical pain. It isn’t a matter of boozing, orgiastic parties, or indulgence in women, small boys, or fish”. What he had in mind with the fish is unclear to me.

Anyway, that’s all we have time for. I hope you are sufficiently enlightened. And “Storm saam”. I have a feeling this is our year.

yours in good faith,


3 Responses to “FirstChild’s History of Philosophy #2”

  1. C-Dawg said

    I love Eva Berlin! She later went on to do the Top Gun love theme “Take My Breath Away”.
    Rumour has it that she wrote it for Kant; she said that she would rather die than be without him. No wonder I get choked up every time I watch Top Gun – especially the part where Iceman & Maverick put their differences aside…

  2. Skaaptjop said

    Descarte would have had an easy task doubting the existence of Belgium as it did, in fact, not exist at the time. The Spanish Netherlands was a large swamp where armies would agree to meet once every year or so and reminisce about old times, maybe even re-enact some battles.

    It was so war torn that many soldiers didn’t even bother going home during times of peace as it really was only a matter of time until King Louis (Insert Number Here) decided otherwise.

  3. luwie said

    C-Dawg, apparently Kant wrote the music for that song and it was deicated to her… Its a timeless classic… One could say it is for Eva. Sorry.

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