Philosophy & World Religions
Lecture Notes


Most of the information used in the following lectures notes was obtained from the books Philosophy: The Power of Ideas, by Brooke Moor and Kenneth Bruder;  Essentials of Philosophy : The Basic Concepts of the World's Greatest Thinkers, by James Mannion; the series of lectures The Great Ideas of Philosophy, by Prof. Daniel N. Robinson from Oxford University; and also Wikipedia, the free online Encyclopedia.
I use a lot of cartoons, charts, and other images to illustrate the content, to make it more attractive and less dry.

From SparkNotes



1-What is Philosophy?
2-Asian Philosophies
3-Pre-Socratic Philosophies
4-Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle
5-Hellenistic & Roman Philosophies
6-Medieval Philosophers. Scholasticism
7-Modern Philosophies: Empiricism & Rationalism
8-Enlightenment, German Philosophies, Positivism, Utilitarianism, Marxism, and others
10-Transcendentalism, Pragmatism, and Analytic Philosophy
11-An Era of Suspicion
12-Post-Colonial Thought

World Religions

Most of the information used in the following lectures notes was obtained from the books Experiencing the World's Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change, by Michael Molly; The Everything World 's Religion Book, by Robert Pollock; the series of lectures Comparative Religion, by Professor Charles Kimball, from the University of Oklahoma; and also Wikipedia, the free online Encyclopedia. Every time that it is possible I show images of religious symbols, gods, ceremonies, etc., as well as charts with comparisons, maps, statistics, etc.

(From Wikipedia Encyclopedia)

General Conceptions
Deism · Henotheism
Polytheism · Monotheism · Panentheism
Pantheism · Monolatrism · Gnosticism

Specific conceptions
Names · "God" · Existence · Gender
Creator · Architect · Demiurge · Sustainer
Lord · Father · Monad · Oneness
Supreme Being · The All · Personal
Unitarianism · Ditheism · Trinity
Omniscience · Omnipotence
Omnipresence · Eternity
in Abrahamic religions · in Ayyavazhi
in the Bahá'í Faith · in Buddhism
in Christianity · in Hinduism · in Islam
in Judaism · in Sikhism

Experience and practices
Faith · Prayer · Belief · Revelation
Fideism · Gnosis · Metaphysics
Mysticism · Hermeticism · Esotericism



1-Understanding Religion
2-Indegenous or Oral Religions
3-Ancient & Medieval Mythologies
6-Jainism & Sikhism
7-Zoroastianism and Baha'i
8-Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto
12-Alternative Paths


1-What is Philosophy?

Headlines from Wikipedia:

2-Movements & Major doctrines, principles, and theories
4-Fundamental questions
5-General concepts


Aesthetics   The philosophical study of art and of value judgments about art and of beauty in general.
Appeals to Emotion   Flawed reasoning that tried to establish conclusions solely by attempting to arouse or play on the emotions of the audience.
Argument   A series of propositions, one of which is supposedly supported by the others. Giving reasons for a belief.
Argument ad hominem   The mistaken idea that you can successfully challenge any view by criticizing the person whose view it is.
Begging the question   The fallacy that involves assuming as a premise the very conclusion that the argument is intended to prove.
Black-or-white fallacy   An argument that limits us to two options when in fact more options exist.
Conclusion   The proposition you are trying to establish in an argument.
Epistemology   The branch of philosophy concerned primarily with the nature and possibility of knowledge.
Ethics   The branch of philosophy that considers the nature, criteria, sources, logic, and validity of moral value judgments.
Fallacy   A commonly made mistake in reasoning.
Logic   The study of the methods, principles, and criteria of correct reasoning.
Metaphysics   The branch of philosophy that studies the nature and fundamental features of being.
Political philosophy   The philosophical study of the state, its justification, and its ethically proper organization.
Premises   In an argument, the propositions or reasoning you give for accepting the conclusion of an argument.
Red herring   The fallacy of addressing a point other than the one actually at issue.
Social philosophy   The philosophical study of society and its institutions; concerned especially with determining the features of the idea or best society.
Straw man   The fallacy of trying to refute someone's view by misrepresenting it.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, law, justice, validity, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing these questions (such as mysticism or mythology) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument. The word is of Greek origin: φιλοσοφία, philosophía, "love of wisdom". Before Philosophy "folk wisdom", Mythology, Religion and other approaches had already appeared to explain life, the universe, etc. Philosophy came to challenge old beliefs; in this regard it was disruptive. It is a search for truth.

Philosophy deals with problems that require a speculative rather than experimental approach.

Conceptual analysis or logical scrutiny of general ideas (philosophy) vs. data gathering and experimentation (science)

Science ==> Can there be successful experiments that explain this event?

Philosophy ==> What is knowledge, truth, causality, value, explanation, science?
                            Thinking about thinking: Meta-cognition

One critical question in Philosophy is about what was primary, matter or consciousness / spirit: Idealism or Materialism.

A very important definition with regard to epistemology is the separation of subject and object and the determination of whether knowledge is possible or not and how the subject knows about the object.

Branches of Philosophy:

*-Metaphysics – the study of “ultimate reality” or how things really are and our knowledge of it
  • Ontology: study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general, as well as of the basic categories of being and their relations.
  • *Epistemology: the study of knowledge or how to tell when we really know something.
*-Ethics: the study of moral problems, right and wrong, and practical reasoning.
*-Logic: the study of the rules of correct reasoning.
*-Aesthetics: the study of feelings and judgments related to beauty and art.

History of Philosophy:

*Ancient Philosophy (7th century B.C. to 5th century A.D.)
*Medieval Philosophy (500 to 1500)
*Modern Philosophy (16th to 19th centuries)
*Postmodern or Contemporary Philosophy (20th century to present)

Some Schools of Philosophy

-Realism / Materialism,  Idealism, Dualism, Dialectic Materialism.
-Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Legalism
-Platonism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Relativism, Cynicism, Dogmatism, Skepticism, Nominalism,
Determinism, Fatalism, Nihilism, Solipsism
Epicureanism, Hedonism, Stoicism, Altruism, Humanism, Behaviorism, Freudianism
-Positivism, Darwinism, Evolutionism
-Pragmatism, Utilitarianism, Liberalism, Structuralism
-Existentialism and

Other Issues:

Philosophy once included modern disciplines like physics and biology.
Philosophical issues are usually normative.
The problem of the nature of change is both difficult to answer and very important in philosophy
Philosophical problems are often generated when commonly held beliefs appear to be in conflict.
One of the side benefits of philosophy is better logical and critical thinking skills.
Philosophical questions involve fundamental concepts that are unavoidable by the thoughtful person
Metaphysics and Logic are the branches of Philosophy that do not involve questions related to values.
Many people think that Philosophical questions are simply semantic disputes in which no one opinion is any better or worse than another is.
For an argument to succeed with a rational person the premises must be acceptable and they must logically support the conclusion

Some Fallacies in Reasoning / an Argument:

-Ad Hominem: Attack the arguer  instead of the argument
-Appeal to Emotions: Arouse your feelings of anger, fear, grief, love instead of analyze the value of the argument
-Scare Tactic: Terrorize your opponent to force him to believe that you are correct
-Black-or-white: A false dilemma that limits you to only two choices
-A Red Herring: It is a digression that leads the arguer off the track of considering only relevant information
-Straw man: Twist what your opponent says  into an easily to refute argument
-Ad Verecundiam: Back up your reasoning by saying that it is supported by some authority

Cartoons on Philosophy



Philosophical Questions:

*What was primary, matter or consciousness / spirit? :
How the universe and earth came about? What is the meaning of life? Do we have a soul? Where do we come from? Is nature perfect?
*Does God exist? How do we know it?
*How can we know that what we know is correct? Is knowledge relative? Is it real? Is the world cognizable?
Should we believe what we read in the newspapers? What medical advice is really sound? Who can we trust?
Is it rational to believe something when all evidence is to the contrary or without any evidence?
What is faith? Are faith and hope different? What are the instincts? Should we trust them?
*Is everything a matter of opinion? Facts vs. Opinions vs. Beliefs     


*Why do innocent people suffer? Is there a destiny or do we have complete free will? Can we determine all that happens?   
What are chance / luck / accidents? Can we predict the future?
*Are wrong and right universal and permanent? What is virtue? What is evil? Do they change overtime?
How should I conduct my life? How will I be able to maximize pleasure and minimize pain? What type of person I want to be?
What type of relations should I have with others?
*What is the best form of government?
*Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? What defines beauty and ugliness? Do these values change overtime?
*Do women and men think in different ways?
è The answers are often  the origin of a debate or an argument


2-Hindu & Chinese Philosophies



The book of sayings of Confucius.

Bhagavad Gita

It comprises 700 verses and it is part of the Mahabharata. The teacher of the Bhagavad Gita is Krishna, who is regarded by the Hindus as the supreme manifestation of the Lord Himself. In the middle of battle, Krishna advises and teaches Arjuna when he is ridden with doubt.


One's righteous duty or any virtuous path.  The "higher truth" or ultimate reality of the universe. It also refers to the teachings and doctrines of Buddha.

Five Classics   

The classical literature of the time preceding Confucius, including poetry, history, and divination.

Four Books   

The major Confucian books, which include sayings of Confucius.


Act, action, performance; that which causes the entire  cycle called samsāra; the effects of all deeds that actively shape past, present, and future experiences.

Lao Tze   

The legendary founder of Taoism.


The strictest of Chinese philosophical schools, which advocated strong laws and punishments.


One of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. The author is Vyasa. With about one hundred thousand verses, long prose passages, and about 1.8 million words in total, it is one of the longest epic poems in the world, ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined. It is the narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. It includes the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Nala & Damayanti, part of Hindu mythology, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the story of Rishyasringa, the horned boy.


A Chinese school of philosophy that taught universal love.


This is the state of being free from suffering and the end of the Samsara. The Buddha described nirvana as the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflictive states; "the highest happiness" attained through enlightenment; an state of "deathlessness".


An ancient Sanskrit epic. It is attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king. It tells the story of Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon-king of Lanka, Ravana.


The cycle of reincarnation or rebirth based on each person's karma.

Stupa Shrine or temple; a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics


The mysterious origin of the universe that is present and visible in everything.

Tao Te Ching  

The classic scripture of Taoism.


A large body of texts originating in Ancient India. They form the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism.


The active aspect of reality, male, that expresses itself in speech, light and heat.


The receptive aspect of the universe, female, that expresses itself in silence darkness, coolness and rest.






















Hindu Hindu Hindu Philosophy is divided into six āstika ("orthodox") schools of thought  which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures, and three nāstika ("heterodox") schools, which do not accept the Vedas as supreme.

The āstika schools are:

1-Sankhya:. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered to be the founder of the Sankhya school. It is regarded as one of the oldest philosophical systems in India. Sankhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two realities: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (phenomenal realm of matter). They are the experiencer and the experienced. Prakriti further bifurcates into animate and inanimate realms. Likewise, Purusha separates out into countless Jivas or individual units of consciousness as souls which fuse into the mind and body of the animate branch of Prakriti.

2-Yoga, a school that is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation (dhyana) to further one's acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.

3-Nyaya or Logic: School of philosophical speculation based on texts known as the Nyaya Sutras, which were written by Aksapada Gautama from around the 2nd century CE. It used syllogisms or logical appeals: a logical argument in which one proposition (the conclusion) is inferred from two others (the premises) of a certain form.

4-Vaisheshika, an empiricist school of atomism: It postulates that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms. Originally proposed by the sage Kanāda around the 2nd century BC

5-Mimamsa: Its primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma (the "higher truth" or ultimate reality of the universe) based on close hermeneutics (Interpretive understanding that seeks systematically to access the essence of things. The study of the interpretation of written texts) of the Vedas. Its core tenets are ritualism, anti-asceticism and anti-mysticism. The central aim of the school is elucidation of the nature of dharma, understood as a set ritual obligations and prerogatives to be performed properly. The nature of dharma isn't accessible to reason or observation and must be inferred from the authority of the revelation contained in the Vedas, which are considered eternal and authorless.

6-Vedanta (synonym for the Upanishads): Vedanta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period. It teaches that the believer's goal is to transcend the limitations of self-identity and realize one's unity with Brahman. Vedanta is not restricted or confined to one book and there is no sole source for Vedantic philosophy. Vedanta is based on two simple propositions: human nature is divine and the aim of human life is to realize that human nature is divine.

The nāstika schools are:

1-Buddhism: Middle Path, Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, and the Dharma Wheel. Goal: Enlightment. Ultimate reward: Nirvana. (See World Religions, 2nd. semester).



The Noble Eightfold Path is often represented by means of the dharma wheel, whose eight spokes represent the eight elements of the path.

The Buddha's name comes from a Sanskrit word meaning to wake up

The Buddha's first disciples were his five former ascetic companions

According to the Buddha, his teachings must be experienced in order to be worthwhile

Once a person reaches nirvana, rebirth is finished

Buddha did oppose strong devotion to a guru, the power of a priestly class, and rituals for the gods



2-Jainism: It prescribes a path of non-violence for all forms of living beings in this world. Its philosophy and practice relies mainly on self effort in progressing the soul on the spiritual ladder to God consciousness. Early followers practiced ascetism. Jains have an ancient tradition of scholarship and have the highest degree of literacy in India. Jain libraries are the oldest in the country. (See World Religions, 2nd. semester)

3-Cārvāka: It was a skeptical materialist school, which died out in the 15th century and whose primary texts have been lost.

These nine philosophies form the nine gems of the Sanātana Dharma.

Vaishshika, Nyaya, Sankhya and Mimamsa eventually disappeared while Vedanta & Yoga rose to prominence as the main divisions of religious philosophy.

The Upanishads (600 BCE):

They are a collection of Indian philosophical treatises contributing to the theology of ancient Hinduism, elaborating on the earlier Vedas, on the nature of reality and the soul and the relations between these two (Vedanta). They often give the impression of an ongoing exploration of themes not yet fully resolved. They are the work of several hands. They do not belong to any particular period of Sanskrit literature: the oldest around 600 BCE, while the latest were composed in the medieval and early modern period.

The Sutra Literature (500-100 BCE):

Sūtra, literally means a rope or thread that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to a large collection of aphorisms (truths, recommendations, rules), in the form of a manual. The texts were intended to be memorized by students in some of the formal methods of scriptural and scientific study.

Vedanga:  Topics to be observed by students of the Vedas. Later, they developed into independent disciplines, each with its own corpus of Sutras:

Shiksha (phonetics and phonology), Chandas (meter), Vyakarana (grammar), Nirukta (etymology), Jyotisha (astrology and astronomy), dealing particularly with the auspicious days for performing sacrifices, and Kalpa (ritual): Srauta Sutras (performance of sacrifices), Smarta Sutras, Grhya Sutras (covering domestic life), and Dharma Sutras.
Yoga Sutras: An enormously influential work on yoga philosophy and practice. Nyāya Sūtras: An epistemological and metaphysical system. The ultimate purpose of the Nyaya Sutras is the attainment of salvation by knowledge. Kama Sutra: The standard work on love in Sanskrit literature written by the Indian intellectual Vatsayana. A portion of the work deals with human sexual behavior.

As part of Hinduism (See World Religions during 2nd. Semester), The Epics (500-100 BCE): Ramayana and Mahabharata are also very important documents / sacred texts.

Chinese Philosophy


Lao Tze, Father of Taoism / Daoism            The Yin and Yang

Confucianism (Confucius, 551-479 BCE):

1-Human morality and good deeds. Complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious thought.
2-Social harmony: every individual should know his / her place in the social order and play his / her part well.
3-Filial piety is considered among the greatest of virtues and must be shown towards both the living and the dead (veneration of ancestors). This principle included the relationship of respect and obedience that must exist between Subject to Sovereign, Child to Parent, Wife to Husband, and Young to Elder.
4- Loyalty was considered one of the greatest human virtues (to leader, family, spouse, and friends).
5- Golden Rule: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others".

By his teachings, Confucius hoped to produce virtuous people and create a harmonious society.

Confucius thought the most important relationship was father-son.

Confucius was against pride. He thought people are their relationships.

For Confucius, a person who follows the way of heaven avoids extremes and remains in harmony with others.


Daoism / Taoism (Lao Tze, 6th century BCE):

1-The Three Jewels of the Tao / Dao: compassion, moderation, and humility.
2- Taoism focuses on simplicity, health=longevity, non-action, spontaneity, refinement, detachment, sensing movements of nature, and the strength of softness and flexibility.
3-Importance of the link between people and nature: reverence for nature. The Tao / Dao: the flow of the universe, the force behind the natural order. Follow your natural instincts.
4-Yin and Yang: The natural unity of opposites; two complementary qualities.

  • Yin: soft, slow, substantial, cold / water, tranquil, wet, gentle, female, and corresponds to the night / black

  • Yang: hard, fast, non-substantial, hot / fire, restless, dry, excitement, male, and corresponds to the day / white

The Yin and yang aspects are in dynamic equilibrium. As one aspect declines, the other increases to an equal degree.

According to the traditional story, Lao Tze wrote down his teachings because in one of his travels a border guard would not let him pass until he did so.

According to the Taoists, if one leaves behind desires for individual things, one will see things differently.

Taoists view death as a predictable transformation of nature

The most liberal thinkers in ancient China were the Taoists



Mohism (Mozi, 470-391 BCE)

1-The concept of "impartial care" and "universal love".
2-Everyone is equal before heaven.
3-Empiricism: our cognition should be based on our perceptions – our sensory experiences.
4-All people –equally- deserve to receive material benefit and to be protected from physical harm (equal care for all individuals).

Legalism (Shang Yang, d. 338 BCE; Li Si, 280-208 BCE; and Han Fei, 280–233 BCE)

1-It is one of the earliest known totalitarian ideologies / political philosophies. The Qin empire needed a vigorously regulated machine, the sole purpose of which was the elimination of all rivals.
2-People are evil and corrupt and need restrain and punishment.
3-Severe laws and harsh punishments are required (state) to keep them in order.
4-The law must be clear and public. All people are equal before the law. Laws should reward those who obey them and punish those who break them.

The First Emperor: Qin Shi Huangdi

                                                                                             The Terracotta Army

Rebellion against the tyrant

Aspect of Chinese society



The role of the government

Government was extremely important. A ruler had to be good in order for his subjects to be good and obey him. Government existed for the benefit of the people, not the other way around.
The people are there to serve the government. The government comes before everything in a Legalist society.
Relationships between individuals in society

People should love and respect each other (treat each other by the golden rule). The people should not focus on being loving and caring. Instead, they should spy on everyone around them to report any law breaking.
Importance of traditional Chinese history and poetry

History and poetry are educational resources and people can study them to further educate themselves. History and poetry didn't help make the government more powerful, therefore they were useless and a waste of people's time.
Responsibility towards family

Family always came first before anything. A son/daughter should do his/her best to protect and respect his/her family. Family came second to obeying the laws. One's duty was to turn his or her family members into the government if one of their family members broke a law.
Social mobility

As long as you study hard and are a learned person, then you can move up in social class. A man should not be born into power and nobility, he should prove himself worthy through how educated he is. You could change your social status all depending on how many heads you kill during wars. The more, the higher status you are.

Religion wasn't practiced in Confucianism. Confucius believed that people should focus less on the supernatural and spend more time working towards a peaceful and caring society.
Religion is allowed to be practiced if it does not involve any behaviors that do not benifit the state and support the same behaiviors the government wants to encourage.

He believed that of all things someone could have, education was the most important. "An emperor with no education is no better than a peasant with education." Scholars and books that disagreed with Legalists beliefs were destroyed. Legalists wanted people to think the same way and not gain too much knowledge.

From Confucianism vs. Legalism: a Clash of Philosophies, in

Philosophical Questions

Are there two separate realities (matter & consciousness) or just one?
How meditation may help our minds?
Should we argue about issues and ideas? What's the best way to argue?
Are revelations or prophesies possible and/or valid?
Are humans divine? Are we better than other living creatures? What's our place in the universe / planet?
Should we live simple or complex lives?
Are we to blame for our problems?
Should we try to achieve perfection / excellence or accept just "good"?
Should we go for the sky / best or "the middle point"? Are all extremes wrong / bad?
Define loyalty / treason, obedience / freedom Who and why deserves those?
Should we be loyal to a bad government? Obey a wrong or unfair order / request?
What is social harmony? How we achieve it? Does each person have a place in society?
See Confucius' Sayings
Should we follow our instincts? All of them?
How to show reverence for nature? Is man the master of nature? What are we doing about it today? Consumerism and constant growth?
The Yin (female, soft, slow, substantial, water, cold, conserving, tranquil, gentle, female, night) / Yang and Feminism
Is equal care for all a correct approach? What about criminals?
Is there evil in every person? Are there evil people? Are harsh punishments good to deal with evil people? What about death penalty?

3-Pre-Socratic Philosophy


A priori principle  

A proposition whose truth we do not need to know through sensory experience and that no conceivable experience could serve to refute.


The ancient Greek philosophy that holds that all things are composed of simple, indivisible minute particles.


The doctrine that a person could not have acted otherwise than as she or he did act.


Two-ism; the doctrine that existing things belong to one or another but not both of two distinct categories of things, usually deemed to be physical and nonphysical or spiritual.


The branch of philosophy concerned primarily with the nature and possibility of knowledge.


The branch of philosophy that studies the nature and fundamental features of being.


A Greek word variously translated as "thinking," "mind," "spirit," and "intellect."

Principle of reason  

An a priori principle.


Said that all things are composed of imperceptible, indestructible, indivisible, eternal, and uncreated atoms. Motion needs no explanation.

Reality is One Reality is Many
Thales Empedocles
Anaximander Anaxagoras
Anaximenes Democritus

The Monists: The basic stuff of reality is one thing or element (water, fire, air)
The Milesians:
Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes.

Thales of Miletus (624 BC–546 BC): The "father of science". Thales' most famous belief was his cosmological doctrine, which held that the world originated from water.

Anaximander of Miletus (610 BC–546 BC): He was the first to use the word apeírôn (infinite, limitless, endless, primordial mass) or the "Boundless" to designate the original principle. He is the first philosopher to employ the term beginning or origin. For him, it became no longer a mere point in time, but a source that could perpetually give birth to whatever will be. Anaximander maintains that all dying things are returning to the element from which they came (apeiron). He is called the "Father of Cosmology" and founder of astronomy.

 Anaximenes of Miletus  (585 BC–525 BC): He held that the air, with its variety of contents, its universal presence, its vague associations in popular fancy with the phenomena of life and growth, is the source of all that exists. Everything is air at different degrees of density, and under the influence of heat, which expands, and of cold, which contracts its volume, it gives rise to the several phases of existence. Breath is linked to the soul: when you sneeze, the soul my be in danger of being expelled from the body (origin of "Bless you").

 Pythagoras of Samos(580-500 BC): He is revered as a great mathematician (known as "the father of numbers," ) and scientist. He lived many years in Egypt and India. He said that "the body is the prison of the soul"; to free the soul, it necessary to punish the body. He believed in transmigration, or the reincarnation of the soul again and again into the bodies of humans, animals, or vegetables until it became moral. He said that "music is the medicine of the soul". He was one of the first to propose that the thought processes and the soul were located in the brain and not the heart. Everything is in accordance with a number: He assigned roles for the numbers as follows: one was reason, two was opinion, four was justice, five was marriage because it was the sum of the first odd and the first even numbers (one was disregarded), seven was virgin because it neither factors or produces among the numbers one through ten. Odd numbers were masculine and even were feminine. Pythagoreans believed that a man's words were usually careless and misrepresented him and that "when someone was in doubt as to what he should say, he should always remain silent". He was a vegetarian and created a secret society with his followers.

 Heraclitus of Ephesus, known as "The Obscure" (536-470 BC): He claimed that the nature of everything is change: "everything is in a flux"; "you cannot step into the same river twice" ; according to some interpretations he uses fire - with its connotations of both Promethean / human "fire" and the cosmic fire to explain the origin of life. Heraclitus is recognized as one of the earliest dialectical philosophers with his acknowledgment of the universality of change and development through internal contradictions. He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that "the path up and down is one and the same," existing things being characterized by pairs of contrary properties.He lived much of his life as an eccentric hermit.

Parmenides of Elea, a city on the southern coast of Italy (515-440 BC): He argued that the every-day perception of reality of the physical world is mistaken, and that the reality of the world is “One Being”: unchanging, indestructible. He became an early exponent of the duality of appearance and reality. Parmenides claimed that the truth cannot be known through sensory perception. Only pure reason (Logos) will result in the understanding of the truth of the world. This is because the perception of things / appearances is / are deceptive.

Zeno of Elea (490-430 BCE): He is best known for his paradoxes (a statement that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition). How, sitting in a room, you can never really reach the door (infinite space between two points).

Some paradoxes:

"All Cretans are liars." If he is telling the truth he is lying; and if he is lying, he is telling the truth.

Which is better, eternal happiness or a piece of bread? After all, nothing is better than eternal happiness, and a piece of bread is certainly better than nothing. Therefore a piece of bread is better than eternal happiness.

The Pluralists: All Kind of Stuff

 Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, Asia Minor (500 BC–428 BC): All things have existed from the beginning. But originally, they existed in infinitesimally small fragments of themselves, endless in number and inextricably combined. They were the seeds (spermata) in the primitive mixture. According to him, there is a peculiar thing called "Mind or Nous", that stands pure and independent, a thing of finer texture, alike in all its manifestations and everywhere the same. This subtle agent, possesses all knowledge and power, and is especially seen ruling in all the forms of life; it gives order and constancy to the Universe. We seem to see things coming into being and passing from it; but that’s only a perception: decease and growth only mean a disruption / desegregation or aggregation of the “seeds” or small fragments.

 Empedocles of Agrigentum, Sicily (490-430 BC): The origin of all matter is made up of four elements: water, earth, air and fire. Empedocles postulated something called “love”  to explain the attraction of different forms of matter, and of something called “strife” to account for their separation. These are the causes of change. He was also one of the first to state the theory that light travels at a finite speed. He was a very popular medical doctor considered to perform miracles.

 Democritus of Abdera, in Thrace (460-370 BC), aka "The Laughing Philosopher" and "The Mocker": All matter is made up of various imperishable, indivisible elements which he called atoms or "invisible units". The atomists (Leucippus and his pupil Democritus taught that the hidden substance in all physical objects consists of different arrangements of 1) atoms and 2) void. Both atoms and the void were never created, and they will be never ending. Democritus became famous for this idea, but he followed closely what his teacher Leucippus taught. No writings by Leucippus have survived, and we have just a few fragments of the writings of Democritus) distinguished between atomic properties and relational properties and they did not believe in chance or free will; everything is predetermined (Determinism); all processes in the world are due to the mechanical interplay of atoms. The knowledge of truth is difficult, since the perception through the senses is subjective. As from the same senses derive different impressions for each individual, then through the sense-impressions we cannot judge the truth.

The Sophists: A school of philosophy that represents a blend of politics, opportunism, cynicism, and entrepreneurial spirit. Its members were a professional class of wandering "educrats", or "teachers of virtue": philosophers that charged for their services (teach oratory and rhetoric, the skills of persuasion and debate, and the arts of  politics to young ambitious people). They could accommodate their teachings to any political situation. They could prove that day was night. They were very popular and some became celebrities. Other philosophers consider these practices unconscionable. Protagoras, (490– 420 BCE): "Man is the measure of all things", Gorgias, (487-376 BCE), a pupil of Empedocles, and Prodicus (465-415 BCE).

Philosophical Questions

Only a portion of our brains is used. How powerful could be the human mind when we learn to achieve all our potential?
What is the nature of love / hate? Why a person would be willing to die / kill for love?
Why is everything constantly changing? What is the causal force / energy behind change? Is there a pre-set purpose for change?
How can we be sure about the beginning (Big Bang, Creation, other)?
Assuming that we have a soul, what happen to it when we die: Nirvana / Heaven / Paradise, Reincarnation, Death?
Vegetarians or meat-eaters, who is right, why? Do we have the right to kill living creatures?
Is there more reality that what is accessible to our senses? Define imagination? Can we trust our senses?
Is perception / appearance a good source of knowledge? How else can we learn?
Should we always charge other people for our services / work? Is there such a thing as "free of charge"?

4-The Three Sages: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle



The philosophical study of art and of value judgments about art and of beauty in general.


Two-ism; the doctrine that existing things belong to one or another but not both of two distinct categories of things, usually deemed to be physical and nonphysical or spiritual.


In Plato's philosophy, that which is denoted by a general word (such as "good") that applies to more than a single thing.


The doctrine that true knowledge is uncertain or impossible.


Ancient Greek teachers of rhetoric. Through them and Socrates, moral philosophy began.

Theory of Forms  

Plato's central metaphysical concept.

Efficient cause  

One of Aristotle's four kinds of causes - specifically, the agency that initiates a change, the "doer" of action.

Final cause  

One of Aristotle's four kind of causes - specifically, the ultimate purpose for which something happens.

Formal cause  

For Aristotle, the form of a thing; that which answers the question What is the thing?


The study of the methods, principles, and criteria of correct reasoning.

Material cause  

For Aristotle, the matter or stuff out of which something is made.


The theory that universals exist outside the mind.

              Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
Nature                        Humans
Ultimate Principles    Moral Behavior
Scientific Concerns    Ethical Concerns

Socrates of Athens (470–399 BC): Socrates is customarily regarded as the father of political philosophy and ethics, and a main contributor to the teaching profession and to Western philosophy in general. He never wrote anything. What we know about him is through his student, Plato.
The Socratic Method is a dialectic method of inquiry, largely applied to the examination of key concepts. The practice involves asking a series of questions surrounding a central issue. Generally, this involves the defense of one point of view against another and its oppositional. The method of Socrates is a search for the underlying hypotheses, assumptions, or axioms (
propositions that are not proved), which may subconsciously shape one's opinion, and to make them the subject of scrutiny, to determine their consistency with other beliefs. Socrates said that "wisdom is determined by the awareness of one’s own ignorance". Socrates believed that "wrongdoing is a consequence of ignorance".
Socrates said that the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development and
promotion of good / to improve human quality of life rather than the pursuit of material wealth. Socrates stressed that "virtue is the most valuable of all possessions”; the ideal life should be spent in search of the Good. Being virtuous is its own reward; doing wrong is its own punishment. There is nothing worse than a bad person. He tried to define "virtue" but concluded that there is some component, only in some people (human nature), that generates / leads to virtue; that virtue can't be acquired just by experiencing it or be learned, that certain background has also to be present.  Socrates identified three categories of "good things":
1-Intrinsically good (health, knowledge, justice), 2-Good because of its consequences (pleasures), 3-Disagreeable good, but necessary (money). He also stated that "an unexamined life is not worth living", emphasizing "know thyself". And he thought that this was not an easy task, because "behind every experience, there is room for an interpretation of the meaning of that experience." He constantly asked himself  "What kind of person am I essentially? How should we live our lives? A life of satisfaction and gratification? What makes a man good? Most people live "good lives" and behave well because of  "fear of punishment and expectation of rewards".
He was once declared the wisest man in the world by the Oracle of Delphi. He was a real celebrity, but intensely disliked by the authorities.
Socrates openly objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy that Socrates objected, he did not believed in any form of government that did not conform to his ideal of a perfect republic led by philosophers. During the last years of Socrates' life, Athens was in continual flux due to political upheaval. Democracy was overthrown by a junta known as the Thirty Tyrants. In addition to this, he favored Sparta (Athens’ enemy). These political issues led to his  trial and execution. He could have avoided the trial by abandoning philosophy and going home to mind his own business. After his conviction, he could have avoided the death penalty by escaping with the help of his friends. But he decided to stay and die, drinking hemlock, accompanied by his friend and disciples. He wanted to be consistent with his teachings: he said that the rule of law is a public expression of human rationality.

Plato of Athens (428–347 BC): Plato is one of the three great philosophers and also a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the western world. Plato was a student of Socrates and was deeply influenced by his teacher's unjust death. "Platonism" is a term coined by scholars to refer to the intellectual consequences of denying the reality of the material world. He believed that there are four types of knowledge: 1-Facts of daily life, 2-Knowledge from imagination, dreams, and the unconscious, 3-Mathematical knowledge, and 4-Philosophical knowledge or Truth (Awareness of absolute / universal truths). The first kind can be known by experience / observation of reality, which is in a constant flux. The first two types are "mere opinions". Only the soul has the fourth type of knowledge and it has it as "prior knowledge" thanks to reincarnation. After the death of the body and before reincarnating in a new body, the soul gets in contact with the Truth. He said that humans are "prisoners of their senses".
Plato's Theory of Forms indicates that the sensory world / the reality which humans experience, is only a shadow of a higher realm. In this higher realm, is where the Forms or Ideas exist. The luminous brightness of the sun is only a corporeal display of the Form of Brightness. His “Forms” are seeing as ideas / images generated / created by God for the humans to see.  He argues that belief is to be distinguished from knowledge. Plato associates knowledge with the "apprehension of unchanging Forms" and their relationships to one another, which he calls "expertise". He said that what one learns experientially will only be mere opinions. And opinions are characterized by a lack of necessity and stability. On the other hand, if one derives his account of something by way of the non-sensible forms, because these forms are unchanging, so too is the account derived from them. It is only in this sense that Plato uses the term "knowledge." Plato’s most famous political doctrines are contained in The Republic. Here he says that the ideal state should be divided in three classes: Philosophers (ruling class), Warriors (protect the state), and Producers (serve the state w/ goods and services).

Plato's Cave: Prisoners have been chained in a cave all their lives, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a road, along which different people and animals walk. The prisoners only see  the shadows cast on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see the people, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Such prisoners  mistook appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows. One day, a prisoner escaped and climbed to the real world, but he was dazzled by the light, he could not understand. In time, he learned the truth and decided to go back and tell his friends in the cave. They believed the visitor was crazy and should be killed, because he was a threat and was trying to alter their lives with a lie.
Message: The majority of people live with a veil over their eyes, with only a distorted vision of reality, which they will not understand even if they could see it.

See Video on Plato's Allegory of the Cave in YouTube: Click on link =>
An allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures or actions.
What do Plato's Cave and the films  Dark City (1998), The Matrix (1999), and The Island (2005) have in common?

Aristotle of Stageira in the region of Chalcidice (Macedonia) (384 BC–322 BC): The third of the great Greek philosophers, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.  Aristotle liked to walk, follow by his students (the Peripatetics = to walk) while he philosophized. The Organon is the name of the collection of his works on logic: Categories, Prior Analytics, De Interpretatione, Posterior Analytics, Sophistical Refutations, and Topics. The Organon was used in the school founded by Aristotle: the Lyceum.
Aristotle defines his philosophy as "the science of the universal essences of what is real". He said that "substance or matter and form or essence" are not separated things, but characteristics embodied in all that we perceive; this fusion is what he call "universal". One can only separate these two elements by reasoning. Human soul and body are an integral part of the person. The soul did not exist after death. His philosophic method implies the knowledge goes from the study of particular phenomena to the knowledge of essences. Real knowledge starts with studying the material world. "All men by nature desire to know"; "Humans have the cognitive ability to comprehend universal propositions" "To know something is to know the cause of it" He identified four causes: 1-Everything is made of a particular material (material cause), 2-Everything has a given form (formal cause), 3-Everything was created as a result of a process by someone with something (efficient cause), and 4-Everything was created for a reason / purpose, to achieve some potential (final cause). There was a First Cause that was not caused, which is perfect, infinite and immaterial. God / The Unmoved Mover is the first cause. "Nothing with pattern and design comes about accidentally", but for a reason / cause.
Theory of Potentiality: Everything, people included, tend to change / move toward its potentiality, from imperfection to perfection. Happiness is the ultimate goal of humankind. True happiness can only come from living a virtuous life. Moderation is a major virtue. Intellectual virtues come from teaching / learning; moral virtues come from habit"
Friendship: "Man is by nature a social animal", "Friendship is central to the existence of human relations". There are three types of friendship: 1-Friendship based on sensual pleasure (ephemeral), 2-Friendship based on utility (ephemeral), and 3-Friendship based on virtue (same values / for the friend's sake) (lifetime). A true friend is your spiritual double.
His Logic is based on the Syllogism:  a logical argument in which one proposition (the conclusion) is inferred from two others arguments (the premises) that have to be compared to lead to the conclusion, or in other words putting together two truths to arrive to a third new truth ("All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal". "All soldiers are patriots. No traitor is a patriot. Therefore, traitors are not soldiers").
Government: The three best forms of government are the Monarchy, Aristocracy, and the Constitutional Republic. The worse forms are the Tyranny, Oligarchy, and Democracy (chaotic rule of the masses).
"Comedy helps people to see human absurdity foolishness".

Philosophical Questions

What is the origin / reason for wrongdoing? What is the essence / origin of evil?
What is the essence of virtue? Can any person become virtuous? How? Is virtue the most valuable of all possessions?
What is the best way to live our lives? What is wrong with a life full of happiness, satisfaction and gratification?
Do humans only respond to "fear of punishment and expectation of rewards"? How to define what a real good man is?
What are the weaknesses of human nature? Why do we have them?
Can an unjust / bad person achieve happiness and a flourishing life?
Why lust for power, wealth, and sex are so strong in the world?
Why good breeding can produce a worthless offspring or vice versa? Why two siblings who grew up together are so different?
Are we humans and our lives like "a charioteer pulled by both a good and a bad horse" (good / bad instincts / forces)?
Can we control the "impulses of the body" and take the right course of action by reasoning? What is the right course?
Why do we do the thing that we do? Looking for happiness? What is happiness?
Why some people are courageous and some cowards? Why some people are moderate and some extreme? Is it up to them? Can they help it?
Should we die to support our principles / truths or should we bend  in front of  the strong wind? (Socrates vs. Galileo) Is it worth it?
Is there such a thing as an unchanging truth?
Can we -common people- really know what is around us, the reality of our world?
What do Plato's Cave and the films  Dark City (1998), The Matrix (1999), and The Island (2005) have in common?
Why humans can be manipulated so easily?
Do most people really know themselves? How can you go beyond your public-self to understand your real-self?
Is "lady law" really "blind" and the expression of human rationality?
How can we define a true friend? Do they exist?
Do we all move toward our perfection? Why Yes / No?

5-Hellenistic & Roman Philosophy



Philosophers of the third and second centuries B.C. in what had been Plato's Academy; they had the reputation of maintaining that all things are inapprehensible.


Way of living.


The goal of unperturbedness and tranquility of mind that was considered the highest good by ancient thinkers such as the Skeptics.


The theory that universals are concepts and exist only in the mind.


Suspension of judgment concerning the truth or falsity of a proposition.

Ex Nihilo  

Latin for "out of nothing."

Hellenistic age  

The period of Macedonian domination of the Greek-speaking world from around 335 B.C. to about 30 B.C.

Modified Skeptic  

A skeptic who does not doubt that at least some things are known but denies or suspends judgment on the possibility of knowledge about some particular subject.


A further development of Platonic philosophy under the influence of Aristotelian and Pythagorean philosophy and Christian mysticism; it flourished between the third and sixth centuries, stressing a mystical intuition of the highest One or God, a transcendent source of all being.


The theory that only individual things are real.

Principle of non-contradiction

The principle that a proposition and its contradictory cannot both be true and one or the other must be true.


Members of a school of philosophical skepticism in the Hellenistic and Roman periods who attempted to suspend judgment on all knowledge claims.


The theory that the real world is independent of the mind.


A school of philosophy that emerged in the Hellenistic and Roman periods after Plato. The doctrine that true knowledge is uncertain or impossible


The practice of a stoic, one who is indifferent to pleasure and pain.

Teleological explanation

An explanation of a thing in terms of its ends, goals, purposes, or functions.

Ten Tropes

A collection of ten arguments by the Skeptics against the possibility of knowledge.

Antisthenes of Athens (444-365 BC): Founder of the Cynic school of philosophy. He rejected the social values of his time, often breaking with the social conventions in shocking ways to prove his point. A popular conception of the  "cynics," implies a derogatory disposition to disbelieve in the goodness of human motives. The Cynics were followers of Socrates. They wander around, using sarcasm and trying to reveal the hypocrisies of society. They also supported living a simple and primitive lifestyle. Antisthenes believed in a divine force that governs the universe.

Diogenes of Sinope, "The Cynic" (412-323 BCE): The most famous Cynic, who taught by shocking example that the wise person reduces all wants and avoids all comforts. Details of his life come in the form of anecdotes, especially from Diogenes Laërtius, in his book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Diogenes was exiled from his native city and moved to Athens, where he is said to have become a disciple of Antisthenes, the former pupil of Socrates. Diogenes became a beggar who made his home in the streets of Athens and made a virtue of extreme poverty.

Hipparchia, the Cynic (340-?? BCE): Little is known about Hipparchia, for several reasons. She was a member of the unpopular Cynic school and she was a woman, and as such, not supposed to be involved in what the ancient Greeks perceived as the male pursuit of philosophy. She chose a life void of material possessions and artificial social conventions. According to St. Augustine, Hipparchia and her husband were said to follow this so closely that they consummated their marriage by having sex on a public porch.

Cynicism in Cartoons
ejection of all conventions; an attitude of tired negativity and a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of other people; a distrust toward ethical and social values, institutions and authorities; pessimism; conspiracy-theory way of thinking.


Epicurus of Samos (341–270 BCE): Founder of Epicureanism, a popular school of thought in Hellenistic Philosophy that spanned about 600 years. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain a happy, contemplative, moderate, and tranquil life, characterized by the absence of pain and fear, reading, and living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends (one of the important things in life).
He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and bad, that death is the end of the body and the soul and not to be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space. They were unblushing materialists: Everything about life and the mind has to be understood in terms of material processes. He believed that everything we know, we get from the senses.
For him, desires could be divided in three categories:  1-Natural desires that are essential (food & shelter), 2-Natural desires that you can live without (sex), 3-Narcissistic desires (wealth and fame), that should be avoided.
Epicurus was a stay-at-home guy; his followers believed they should remove themselves from daily life. He recommended to "live unnoticed".
He supported gender equality and to eliminate socioeconomic distinctions.

Epicureanism in Cartoons
His ideas have been misinterpreted and altered. Today, Epicureanism is synonymous of shameful hedonism, sensuality, excess, indulgences, pleasure, lust, depravity and gluttony to achieve complete happiness.

Zeno of Citium, Cyprus (333-264 BCE): Hellenistic founder of Stoicism.
Stoicism teaches that wisdom is the greatest virtue, self-control, strength, detachment from distracting emotions and indifference to pleasure or pain allows one to become a clear thinker, level-headed and unbiased. An ascetic life is the ideal. The Stoics believed that the mind is a tabula rasa / blank slate, upon which experiences are imprinted, and then all knowledge is subjective, and so is truth. There is not an Eternal Truth, they said.
The passionate side of human nature is evil and is to be eradicated. Pleasure is not good and pain is not evil; virtue is the only good and vice the only evil. People are either totally good or utterly evil, completely wise or perfectly foolish.
Stoics were advocates of apathy in all fields but politics; some supported suicide under certain conditions. For them the rule of law is the defining mark of our humanity, installing locally what Logos does universally.
They believed in a Divinity that shapes our lives, Logos or Mind, the soul of the Universe. The individual souls all derived from this supreme soul. Everything is material, including God. Nature, the Universe, and God are the same thing => Pantheism: "God is All" and "All is God"; the universe, nature, and God are equivalent (an early form of monotheism).
"Everything happens for the best, and you can usually expect the worse. Doing your best is your own reward."

==> Stoicism was the overarching Philosophy of Rome <==

Chrysippus of Soli (280–207 BCE): Honored as the second founder of Stoicism, he initiated the success of Stoicism as the one of the most influential philosophical movements for centuries in the Greek and Roman world.

Seneca (4 BCE-CE 65): Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero.

Marcus Aurelius, the Wise (121-180 C.E.):  He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. His work Meditations, is a quintessential distillation of Stoic thought and practice and  is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty.

Stoicism in Cartoons
Austerity, moderation, self-control, detachment from material things, restrain, control of passions and emotions.


Pyrrho of Elis (360-272 BCE): He is credited as being the first Skeptic philosopher and inspiration for the school known as Pyrrhonism founded by Aenesidemus in the 1st century BC. Pyrrhonian skepticism is the philosophical position that one should avoid the postulation of final truths.

Skepticism refers to any of the following positions:
1-the limitations of knowledge,
2-a method of obtaining knowledge through systematic doubt and continual testing,
3-the arbitrariness, relativity, or subjectivity of moral values,
4-a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment.

They believed that we can not know anything about anything. You only know what your perceptions tell you and we can not trust our perceptions. Don't believe what you see or hear; don't have any opinions. There is not such a thing as good or evil. They also believe in doing as little as possible.

Cicero (106-43 BCE): Roman philosopher and senator; mainly a politician in favor of the Republican government in times of civil wars. He witnessed / participated in Julius Caesar assassination, was exiled and finally executed under Mark Anthony orders. Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists. Even when he is linked to the Skeptics, he really was a practitioner of Eclecticism (does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject).

Aenesidemus (1st. century B.C.E.): He revived the principle of epoché or suspended judgment, originally proposed by Pyrrho. His chief work, the Pyrrhoneia, discussed main reasons for skepticism and doubt. The most significant of his reasons for the suspension of judgment were organized into Ten "Tropes", or modes:

The reasons for epoché are given in what are often called the Ten Tropes or ten modes:

  • Different animals manifest different modes of perception;
  • Similar differences are seen among individual men;
  • For the same man, information perceived with the senses is self-contradictory
  • Furthermore, it varies from time to time with physical changes
  • In addition, this data differs according to local relations
  • Objects are known only indirectly through the medium of air, moisture, etc.
  • These objects are in a condition of perpetual change in color, temperature, size and motion
  • All perceptions are relative and interact one upon another
  • Our impressions become less critical through repetition and custom
  • All men are brought up with different beliefs, under different laws and social conditions

In other words, he argues that truth varies infinitely under circumstances whose importance to one another cannot be accurately judged by human observers. He therefore rejects any concept of absolute knowledge, since every man has different perceptions, and he arranges this sense-gathered data in methods peculiar to himself. An idea of truth for him thus becomes purely subjective.

Sextus Empiricus (160-210 C.E.): His philosophical work is the most complete surviving account of ancient Greek and Roman Skepticism. He advised that we should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefs, that is, we should neither affirm any belief as true nor deny any belief as false. This view is known as Pyrrhonian skepticism. Sextus did not deny the possibility of knowledge. He advocates simply giving up belief: that is, suspending judgment about whether or not anything is knowable.

Skepticism in Cartoons
An attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity, knowledge is uncertain, continual testing, intellectual caution and suspended judgment, denial.


Plotinus of Alexandria (204-270 C.E.): Follower of the teachings of Plato: the dichotomy of the spirit and the flesh. It is consider a pagan monotheist philosophy / religion. They believed that the One blesses creation with Nous (divine intelligence), human souls are part of this universal soul, God is an unknowable mystery beyond human understanding, and we must have faith. Neo-Platonism was a bridge between philosophy and Christianity.

Philosophical Questions

Should we trust people, in general? Are they / we hypocrites? Should we trust social and political institutions / the government?
How to define pleasure? Should we try to live a pleasant or a simple life? Is searching for pleasure evil?
Should we accept / conform to social conventions or live a spontaneous / natural life?
Is everything in which man is involved subjective? Can knowledge be objective?
How to define good & evil? Are they subjective categories?
Moderation or the sky is the limit?
Should we try to live unnoticed or to show off / attract attention?
Can we trust our senses? Define "mirage" Is that applicable to other situations?
Would it be good to eliminate socioeconomic distinctions? Everyone equal? Gap between rich / poor or Communism?
What is the greatest virtue?
Does everything happens for the best / for a reason? Should we hope for the best and prepare for the worse? Optimism / Realism?
Should we agree that doing our best is our best reward? Should we expect / demand social recognition / material rewards?
Is suicide (assisted or not) an acceptable solution under certain circumstances? Should it be legal?
Is it right or wrong to show / repress our emotions / feelings, to cry, to demonstrate passionate love / happiness in public?


6-Medieval Philosophy (500-1500 C.E.)

Roman Empire

Early Medieval Europe

1-Centralization, Order & Stability.

2-Roads, Trade, Pax Romana.

3-Science, Technology, Knowledge.

4-Metropolitan Cities.

5-Greco-Roman Mythology & Philosophy.

6-Germanic Invasions

1-Decentralization, Castles & Wars.

2-Isolationism, Local Trade Fairs.

3-Illiteracy, Creatures and Legends.

4-Feudal Rural Life

5-Christianity, Scholasticism.


Between 600 and 1000 C.E.: Family-based traditions of Germanic people replaced Roman laws. Fear and physical insecurity led communities to seek the protection of local strongmen. New rulers of Western Europe didn’t care for urban life; most cities lost population becoming villages; Roman roads fell into disuse and disrepair; the use of coin was replaced by bartering. Self-sufficiency replaced trade. The decline of literacy made room for the growth of German traditions. Manors / Castles and agriculture became the new centers of European life. Farmers gave up their lands in return for protection. Landowners became warriors or created small armies to defend themselves. Fortifications increased until the 1100’s. Medieval society: Nobles, knights, serfs (unfree peasants). Feudalism: Land for military service & loyalty (Vassals).

Medieval Legends & Creatures (Paganism): Arthurian Legends (Arthur, Merlin, Excalibur), Dragons, Unicorns, Ogres, Fairies, Gargoyles, Legend of Beowulf, Legend of Siegfried and the Nibelungs, Legend of Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan, Legend of Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection, the Quest for the Holy Grail, Tristan and Iseult, Legend of Damayanti, the Song of Roland, the Song of the Cid, Legends of Robin Hood and William Tell, The Stories of the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, and many more.

During the Middle Ages, the Christian Church consolidated itself as the faith of the Western world, replacing old pagan beliefs. Christianity, like many other religions,  professes a dogma, which is an authoritative doctrine and absolute truth not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from. Dogmata or dogmas are about faith, not reason.

The development of Christianity during this period can be divided in three stages:

  • Evangelization (1st. century C. E.): Missionary activity; spread from Palestine to the world.
  • Patristic Period (2nd.-8th. centuries C. E.): The Church Fathers codified and systematized church dogma, choosing the four "official gospels (chronicles of the life of Jesus) and ignoring / declaring the rest ("Lost Gospels") as heretic.
  • Scholastic Period (9th.-16th. centuries): Christian Philosophy evolved from Platonic and Aristotelian principles to Christian faith.

Scholasticism: A method of learning taught by the academics (scholastics, school people) in medieval universities (1100-1500). Scholasticism gets its start with early church fathers like St. Augustine who attempt to use philosophical reason to help explain the doctrine and mysteries of the church. The synthesis of Greek Philosophy and Christian Doctrine is the heart of scholasticism. The main figures of scholasticism were Peter AbelardJohn Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and above all, Thomas Aquinas, whose Summa Theologica is an ambitious synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine. Another founder of scholasticism was the 11th century scholar  Anselm of Canterbury.

Medieval Universities

While the Europeans were living isolated in their castles with not interest for science or literature, the Islamic world was flourishing, Muslins lived in metropolitan cities, and Arab scientists were translating and studying Greek papers. This is probably why, during its early stages, scholasticism was deeply influenced by Islamic Philosophy:

1-Avicennism: A school of early Persian Islamic philosophy that began during the Islamic Golden Age. The school was founded by Avicenna (980-1037). He established a distinction between essence (attributes) and existence (being). Form and matter by themselves cannot interact and originate the movement of the universe. Existence must be due to an agent-cause. Existence is "an accident" that happens to the essence. God is the First Cause. The idea of "essence precedes existence". Tabula rasa: at birth, the human soul contains no thought and has merely an empty potentially for thinking. Knowledge is actualized through education and it is attained through empirical familiarity with objects in this world. But it needs the active human intellect, which he believed to be in a subjectal abstraction, by which God communicates truth to the human mind and imparts order and intelligibility.


2-Averroism: Ideas of Arab philosopher Averroes (1126-1198):

  • there are at least  two ways to reach the truth: through philosophy and through religion (they are mutually exclusive) (Double Truth);
  • the world is eternal;
  • the soul is divided into two parts: one individual, and one divine;
  • the individual soul is not eternal;
  • all humans at the basic level share one and the same intellect;
  • resurrection of the dead is not possible;
  • existence precedes essence
  • philosophical and religious worlds are separate entities.

Classroom in an early university

The 13th and early 14th centuries are generally seen as the high period of scholasticism. The universities developed in the "cities" of Europe during this period. Rival clerical orders within the church began to battle for political and intellectual control over these centers of educational life. The two main orders were founded in this period: the Franciscans and the Dominicans. The Franciscans were founded by Francis of Assisi in 1209. Their leader defended the theology of Augustine. Bonaventure, one of his followers, supposed that reason can only discover truth when philosophy is illuminated by religious faith. Other important Franciscan writers were Duns Scotus and William of Ockham.

By contrast, the Dominican order, founded by St Dominic in 1215, placed more emphasis on the use of reason and made extensive use of the new Aristotelian sources derived from the East, and Moorish Spain. The great representative of Dominican thinking in this period was Thomas Aquinas, whose artful synthesis of Greek rationalism and Christian doctrine eventually came to define Catholic philosophy. Aquinas placed more emphasis on reason and argumentation.

Capuchin Friars                                        Franciscan Monks                                                       Hospitaller Monks-Soldiers

Augustinian Monks                                              Dominican Monks

Augustine of Hippo (354-430):

  • Born in Algeria, North Africa.
  • Living as a pagan intellectual, he took a concubine and converted to Manichaeism
  • Led a life of a libertine during his youth
  • Struggled with his sensual nature: "God grant me chastity...but not yet."
  • Studied Neo-Platonism and converted to Christianity. Later, he became the Bishop of Hippo.
  • Transitional figure: Bridge between classical and medieval worlds.
  • Tried to "Christianize" Plato: He said that the Forms, Eternal Truths, and The Good, all came from God
  • With regard to knowledge, he said that speculation and empiric knowledge need to be supported by divine illumination. There are truths beyond the reach of reason, that can only be grasped intuitively, through the grace of God.
  • There is not contradiction between the fact that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, the existence of evil, and man's free will and responsibility. God created man but decided to give him free will, choose between good and evil (not to interfere). Yet, God is here to guide us and to help if we ask him.
  • Evil is not a diabolic force / devil tempting the souls of the sinful, but just the absence of good
  • Time is meaningless for God, for whom this not past or future, but eternal present.
  • He supported the concept of the original sin. Augustine taught that original sin was transmitted by concupiscence (a strong sexual desire; lust), making humanity a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd). The view that sex was evil was prevalent in Augustine's time.
  • Faith, hope, and love are essential virtues for a full development of our humanity.
  • Augustine developed a theology of just war: war is acceptable under certain conditions. Firstly, war must occur for a good and just purpose. Secondly, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. Thirdly, love must be a central motive even in the midst of violence
  • He developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God distinct from the material City of Man
  • He wrote, among many other books, Confessions

    St. Augustine

 Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109):

  • A Benedictine monk, teacher, and Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Faith comes first. Understanding of the world around you is secondary.
  • Anselm's Argument to prove the existence of God: if we can conceive of God he must exist.

1. God is something of which nothing greater can be thought.
2. God may exist in the understanding.
3. It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.
4. Therefore, God exists in reality. In order to deny the existence of God we most have a conception of what God is. If we have that conception, it proves his existence.

Anselm of Canterbury

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274):

  • A priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the Dominican Order from Italy, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. Father of the Thomistic school of philosophy and theology.
  • He tried to "Christianize" Aristotle.
  • The works for which he is best-known are the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles.
  • He rejected the Double Truths of Averroes: Philosophy is based on reason while theology is based on divine revelation and faith, but they are not in opposition and they are not exclusive, but they are in parallel courses. He disagreed with Augustine's role of "Divine Illumination". He considered that mankind does not need divine intervention to think profound thoughts. Aquinas argued that in all finite being (all except God), the essence (its attributes) of a thing is distinct from its existence (act of being).
  • He concurred with Aristotle that reality is simultaneously both matter and form: "actuality / what it is" and "potentiality / what it will become".
  • Aquinas divided knowledge into two stages:

1. Sensitive: Simple Awareness
2. Intelligent: Grasping the abstract concept:

a. Abstraction
b. Judgment
c. Reasoning

  • He postulated five ways to prove the existence of God:

1. Motion is reality; for every motion there is a force to initiate it; God is the Primary Mover.
2. New things come into being all the time. For each thing there is a cause. God is the First Cause.
3. All things depend on / are the result of something else. There is something original that is not contingent of anything else for its existence: God.
4-Nature is inherently perfect. There must be something purely perfectly from which all other things descend: God
5-Order exists everywhere in the universe. There most be an intelligence responsible for this order: God.

In The Divine Comedy, Dante sees the glorified spirit of Aquinas in the Heaven of the Sun with the other great exemplars of religious wisdom. Dante also asserts that Aquinas died by poisoning, on the order of Charles of Anjou. Fifty years after the death of Aquinas, Pope John XXII pronounced Thomas a saint. It was in the First Vatican Council that Thomas was elevated to the preeminent status of "teacher of the church". The Second Vatican Council described Aquinas's system as the "Perennial Philosophy"

See everything about Thomistic Philosophy at:

Thomas Aquinas

John Duns Scotus (1265-1308):

  • Franciscan monk.
  • Notable ideas: Univocity of being (the denial of any real distinction between essence and existence, contradicting Aquinas.), Haecceity (the property supposed to be in each individual thing that makes it an individual; its "thisness"), the formal distinction, a way of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing, and the dogma of the Immaculate conception of Virgin Mary
  • Agreed w/ Aquinas & disagreed w/ Augustine about the no-need for divine illumination.
  • Scotus said that "will is more important than intellect"  disagreeing again w/ Aquinas (Thomist-Scotist controversy).
  • Forms are to be found in the mind of God, while physical things is how they are perceived by the mind of man.
  • He was nicknamed Doctor Subtilis for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought.

William of Ockham (1300-1349):

  • English Franciscan friar.
  • He was at the centre of the major intellectual and political controversies of the fourteenth century.
  • He said that Platonic Forms and Aristotelian Universals were a lot of non sense. There is a physical reality, both animate and inanimate. Knowledge can only be acquired from the senses and certain logical conclusions: Nominalism (Only physical particulars in space and time are real. It denies the existence of a God outside space and time).
  • Occam's razor, the methodological principle that says that "when all things are considered, the simplest explanation is the truest one"
  • He died of the Black Plague, but his life was also in danger because of some of his ideas.
  • At the time, he supported some heretical views:

    1. The Church is not infallible
    2. A pope should be able to be impeached
    3-Women should be permitted to play a more active role in Church affairs
    4-Rulers a royalty are not there by divine right, and should be replaced if the become tyrants.


Philosophical Questions

Are there absolute truths?
Are faith and reason mutually exclusive?
Did the medieval philosophers succeed synthesizing Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine? Was scholasticism without contradictions?
Assuming that God exists, does he communicates with the human mind? Do you believe in divine illumination (intuition, premonitions)? Why yes / not?
Did monastic orders, as part of the Church, help or hurt philosophy?
Should monks / priests renounce sex? What is wrong with sex? Is it evil?
Do you believe in free will? Do things happen by chance? Why yes / not?
Why God allows bad / evil things to happen to innocent / good people? Define "pure innocence" & "inherited / innate evil"? Do they exist?
Should someone pay for the sins of another? Original Sin?
Define "just war". Does it exist? Give examples.
Can the existence of God be proven? What is faith? Is it good or bad? Do you have faith in anything?
Is there such a thing as a "saint"? The Church says that to become a saint you have to perform miracles. Do you believe in miracles? Why yes / not?
Is will more important than intellect or vice versa? Why?

7-Renaissace, Humanism, Protestant Reformation, Scientific Revolution, Empiricism & Rationalism


Clear and distinct criterion   Rene Descartes's criterion of truth, according to which that, and only that, which is perceived as clearly and distinctly as the fact of one's own existence is certain.
Cogito, ergo sum   "I think, therefore I am"; the single indubitable truth on which Descartes's epistemology is based.
Double aspect theory   The idea that whatever exists is both mental and physical; that is, that the mental and physical are just different ways of  looking at the same things.
Dream conjecture   The conjecture, used by Descartes, that all experience may be dream experience.
Dualism   Two-ism; the doctrine that existing things belong to one or another but not both of two distinct categories of things,  usually deemed to be physical and nonphysical or spiritual.
Empiricism   The philosophy that all knowledge originates in sensory experience.
Epistemological detour   The attempt to utilize epistemological inquiry to arrive at metaphysical truths.
Esse est percipi   Latin for "to be is to be perceived," a doctrine that George Berkeley made that basis of his philosophy Only that which is perceived exists; Berkeley held, however, that the minds that do the perceiving also exist.
Evil demon conjecture   The conjecture used by Descartes that states For all I know, an all-powerful "god" or demon has manipulated me so that all I take as true is in fact false.
Extension   A property by which a thing occupies space; according to Descartes, the essential attribute of matter.
Idealism   The doctrine that only what is mental (thought, consciousness, perception) exists and that so-called physical manifestations of things are manifestations of mind or thought.
Materialism   The theory that only physical entities exist, and that so-called mental things are manifestations of an underlying physical reality.
Modified skeptic   A skeptic who does not doubt that at least some things are known but denies or suspends judgment on the possibility of knowledge about some particular subject.
Monad   From the Greek word meaning "unit." Pythagoras used the word to denote the first number of a series, and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz used the word to denote the un-extended, simple, soul-like basic elements of the universe.
Parallelism   The doctrine that there are two parallel and coordinated series of events, one mental and the other physical, and that apparent causal interaction between the mind and the body is to be explained as a manifestation of the correlation between the two series.
Perception   A modern word for what Thomas Hobbes called "sense," the basic mental activity from which all other mental phenomena are derived.
Rationalism   The epistemological theory that reason is either the sole or primary source of knowledge; in practice, most rationalists maintain merely that at least some truths are not known solely on the basis of experience.
Representative realism   The theory that we perceive objects indirectly by means of representations (ideas, perceptions) of them.
Skepticism The doctrine that true knowledge is uncertain or impossible.
Subjective Idealism The theory describes a relationship between human experience of the external world, and that world itself, in which objects are nothing more than collections of sense data in those who perceive them. The view that physical objects, properties, and events exist only in the mind. Only the Mind exists.
Tabula rasa   Latin for "blank tablet"; also, John Locke's metaphor for the condition of the mind prior to the imprint of sensory experience.
Thought   According to Descartes, the essential attribute of mind.

Renaissance: A cultural movement that spanned from the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Florence and spreading to the rest of Europe. Among its characteristics there was a resurgence of learning based on classical sources, flourishing of the visual arts, and gradual but widespread educational reform. During this period the New World was discovered, which brought a lot of wealth to the European powers involved and a major increase in trade.

Nicholas Cusa (1401-1464): Roman Catholic cardinal from Germany (Holy Roman Empire), a philosopher, jurist, mathematician, and an astronomer. He challenged the rigidity of Scholasticism and created the paradox that he called "learned ignorance", utilizing Socrates' belief (I only know that I know nothing) and questioning the knowledge of the Middle Ages.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) Mathematician, astronomer, physician, quadrilingual polyglot, classical scholar, translator, artist, Catholic cleric, jurist, governor, military leader, diplomat and economist born in Toruń, Prussia, Poland. He was the first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive Heliocentric theory, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe. He is considered starting point of modern astronomy and one of the beginners of the Scientific Revolution. He published his book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1543, just before he died, maybe to avoid facing the wrath of the Church.

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600): Italian priest and philosopher. He was a proponent of heliocentrism and the infinity of the universe, supporter of the Copernicus ideas which challenged the dogmatic doctrine of the Church. He also wrote extensive works on the art of memory, a loosely-organized group of mnemonic techniques and principles. He is considered a martyr for modern scientific ideas, because he was imprisoned by the Church, tortured, and burned at the stake for his beliefs.

Giordano Bruno

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include the invention of the telescope and consequent astronomical observations supporting the discoveries of Copernicus and Bruno. Galileo has been called the "father of modern astronomy," He was called by the Inquisition, was forbidden to teach the heliocentric theory, and later on forced to recant his ideas.

Humanism: An intellectual movement that was a crucial component of the Renaissance. Initially, a humanist was simply a scholar or teacher of Latin literature. By the mid-15th century humanism described a curriculum — the studia humanitatis — comprising grammar, rhetoric, moral philosophy, poetry and history as studied via classical authors. Humanists mostly believed that, although God created the universe, it was humans that had developed and industrialized it. The humanists were often opposed to philosophers of the preceding movement of Scholasticism; in a way,  they took some ideas form classic Sophists in the sense that "man is the measure of all things". They believed in the potential and abilities of man, without divine intervention and his right to try to achieve happiness in his lifetime and not just after death, in paradise.

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536): Dutch Renaissance humanist and a Catholic Christian theologian. He satirized and condemned the hypocrisies of his time in his book The Praise of Folly. He was considered the "Prince of the Humanists." Erasmus lived through the Reformation period and he consistently criticized some contemporary popular Christian beliefs. In relation to clerical abuses in the Church, Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church from within. He also held to Catholic doctrines such as that of free will, which some Protestant Reformers rejected in favor of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road disappointed and even angered many Protestants, such as Martin Luther, as well as conservative Catholics.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian diplomat, political philosopher, musician, poet and playwright, but, foremost, he was a Civil Servant of the Florentine Republic, considered one of the main founders of modern political science. He is most famous for his political treatise, The Prince, a work of realist political theory. He rejected the Platonic and Aristotelian notions of the ideal state and also believed that the infusion of the ideas of the Church in politics was impractical. He said that "The end justifies the means..." "...power  and control are the objectives of a prince (politician, ruler), not compassion and justice"..."lying is perfectly acceptable"..."inspiring respect is secondary to instilling fear"..."Patriotism is the premier morality of a prince..."

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535): English lawyer, author, and statesman. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, in which he described the political system in an ideal, imaginary island nation. This system was based on the principle "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one". He became a member of the House of the Commons and a close friend of King Henry VIII, who appointed him as Lord Chancellor (1529–1532).When the King tried to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, the friendship ended. More was a devout Catholic and for the Church divorce was illegal. He was beheaded in 1535 when he refused to sign the Act of Supremacy that declared King Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Erasmus                                                         More                                                                     Machiavelli

Protestant Reformation:
(We will study this more in depth as part of Christianity, in the second semester, in World Religions)

Christian reform movement in Europe which is generally deemed to have begun with Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. As a historical period, the Reformation ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; however, many of the denominations that arose during that period continue to exist and Protestantism constitutes one of the branches of Christianity today. Many people were disturbed by false doctrines and malpractices within the Church, particularly the sale of indulgences. Another major conflict emerged because of the practice of buying and selling church positions (simony) and what was seen at the time as considerable corruption within the Church's hierarchy. This corruption was seen by many at the time as systemic, even reaching the position of the Pope.

Martin Luther (1483-1546): Priest and professor of theology, born in Eisleben, Saxony, Germany (Holy Roman Empire). Luther strongly disputed Church's claim that freedom from God's punishment of sin could be purchased with money. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms meeting in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the emperor. Luther emphasized "internal experience" of faith (any Christian could "talk to God" in prayer, without the need of priests) and taught that salvation is a free gift of God and received only by grace through faith in Jesus as redeemer from sin, not from good works. He taught that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge and he opposed clerical celibacy.

John Calvin (1509-1564): French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the religious system  called Calvinism. Originally a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530. He published  his seminal work Institutes of the Christian Religion while in exile in Switzerland, in 1536. Like Luther, he talked about the "individual spiritual experience" and reiterated that all you need is in the Scriptures / Bible. He supported the idea of predestination (before the creation God determined the fate of the universe and people throughout all of time and space). Nothing that we do will change our destiny. Calvin suggested that people should live austere, industrious, and frugal lives in his concept of  Protestant Work Ethics, that eventually led to the emergence of Capitalism.
He suggested that society should be organized in a theocracy (government ruled by religious leaders). These leaders will be divided in four categories:

  • Pastors: Five men in charge of religious matters

  • Teachers: Group in charge of teaching Church doctrine

  • Elders: Twelve men in charge of supervising what people do in the city

  • Deacons: Group in charge of taking care of the sick, widows, orphans, and the poor.

Luther                                                                                                            Calvin

The Printing Press:

German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg developed it around 1440. Gutenberg is also credited with the introduction of an oil-based ink which was more durable than the previously used water-based inks. The impact of Gutenberg's printing press in Europe was comparable to the development of writing, the invention of the alphabet or the Internet, as far as its effects on society. It made knowledge accessible  for millions. It made possible the reproduction and spread of the ideas and works of the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and Reformation.


Period of Catholic revival from the pontificate of Pope Pius IV in 1560 to the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648. It was a comprehensive effort, composed of five major elements: Doctrine, Ecclesiastical or structural reconfiguration, Religious orders (Society of Jesus or Jesuits, founded by Ignatius Loyola), Spiritual movements, and Political dimensions.
Such reforms included the foundation of seminaries for the proper training of priests in the spiritual life and the theological traditions of the Church, the reform of religious life by returning orders to their spiritual foundations, and new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ. It also included the creation of the Spanish Inquisition, the institutionalization of censorship in the form of the Index Forbidden Books, and the persecution of Protestants in Europe. All this was the result of the Council of Trent (1545-1563, in twenty-five sessions).

Rationalists & British Empiricists

==> The first act of epistemology is the separation of subject and object and to determine whether knowledge is possible or not and how the subject knows about the object <==

Rationalism is an epistemology position supporting that reason is the real source of knowledge. The criteria that the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive. The belief that you can know things without experiencing them.

René Descartes (1596–1650): French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He developed the Cartesian coordinate system and Analytical geometry. He has been dubbed the "Father of Modern Philosophy".

Two elements compose reality (dualism); he called them: Thinking substances (our mind) & Extended substances (our body). Some of our ideas come from sensory experiences (not to be trusted) and other ideas previously existed in our mind (innate ideas). Notions of morality, math, logic, and the idea of God are innate ideas.

He believed that a body without spirit could still function, like a robot.

Knowledge of eternal truths (including mathematics) could be attained by reason alone; the knowledge of physics, required experience of the world, aided by the scientific method. Conscious sense experience can be the cause of illusions, then sense experience itself can be doubtable. A rational pursuit of truth should doubt every belief about reality. Nothing which cannot be recognized by the intellect (or reason) can be classified as knowledge. He tried to find a method of scientific discovery (Discourse on Method):

  • Accept nothing as true, except what presents itself w/ an irresistible clarity;

  • Divide each problem into as many smaller steps as possible;

  • Work on the solution of the smallest problem to the solution of the most complex problem;

  • Test the general solution w/ persistence. Reason alone determines knowledge and this can be done independently of the senses.

He had doubts whether he was awake or dreaming (Dream Hypothesis). He suggested the possibility of the existence of an Evil Demon who makes us believe that what we see is the reality (Demon Hypothesis). He tried to prove the existence of God using a type of reasoning similar to Anselm's Argument:

  • I am imperfect; if I were my own creator I would be perfect. Therefore, I did not create myself. Who did? God.

  • Even when I am not perfect, I have an idea of what perfection is. Where does this idea come? From a perfect being: God.

His famous dictum, cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).


Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677): Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. His main work, which is an attempt to correct Descartes’ dualism and formulate a materialist and monist epistemology, is entitled Ethics. Answering a question of knowledge, his answer is more ethical than an epistemological. God did not create Nature, Nature is God. This is Pantheism (God is present in all things). He called Him / It the "infinite substance". This substance can change shapes into various forms that he called modes. He denied the existence of the soul after death and supported the idea of predestination. Like Descartes, Spinoza considered that human passions are an obstacle to in the way to achieve inner peace.

Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716): German philosopher and mathematician; he invented infinitesimal calculus and the binary system.  He rejected Cartesian dualism and Spinoza's Pantheism. In Leibniz's view there are infinitely many simple substances, which he called "monads". Monads are the fundamental unit of reality, both inanimate and animate things. Only God has access to all the monads.He restored the idea of God-the-Creator as opposed to Spinoza’s God-as-Nature, transforming man into the creation of God. He is capable of knowing all the systems of the universe. Humans only have access to a piece of the puzzle called reality.
"Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses, except the intellect itself". Unless there is something in place (soul / reason??) to organize the experiences, they will count as nothing. Knowledge is not just a collection of sensations pulled together.

Leibniz's rules of logic that govern reality are:

  • The Principle of Non-contradiction: Contradictions are inherently false (contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true; if one is true, the other is not; one of the two must be true).

  • The Principle of Sufficient Reason: Everything happens for a reason, though it may remain a mystery for you.

  • The Principle of Predication: Everything that predicates a thing is part of what that thing is.

  • The Principle of the Identity of the Indiscernibles: everything is unique. Nothing is exactly alike.

  • The Principle of the Best World: This is the best of all possible worlds.

Descartes                                                              Spinoza                                                               Leibniz

British Empiricism

Empiricism is a theory of knowledge which asserts that knowledge arises from experience, through the senses.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626): English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. He established an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry, the Scientific Method and studied the world as an empirical observer. He developed the conception of Nature as the object of experiment and investigation by the human subject. In order to truly understand this world, we must be aware of certain obstacles or impediments he called Idols. He identified four types of Idols:

  • Idols of the Tribe: The sense of self-importance that people have about their role in the world.

  • Idols of the Cave: Our tendencies to generalize based on our limited personal experiences.

  • Idols of the Marketplace: The imperfections of our language and means of communication.

  • Idols of the Theater: The inherent flaws of philosophy.

He exhorted fellow scientists to get rid of their books and dedicate their efforts to empirically explore their environments.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): English philosopher, remembered today for his work on political philosophy.

Hobbes, Bacon’s pupil, continues the evolution of empiricism by a consideration of how the action of matter on the sense organs generates thought in the mind.
His 1651 book Leviathan (
a sea monster or Satan) established the foundation of the social contract theory. He did not believe in the Divine Right, but that rulers are chosen by the collective and unconscious masses. He saw society as part of the natural world, which is ruled by laws.
He thought that a society without order would self-destruct. Man's natural state is "savage anarchy". He endorsed a very strict / dictatorial monarchy to control society.
Mankind is rooted in selfishness
. Life is about the survival of the selfish; life is nasty, brutish, and short. We should to save mankind from itself.
Altruism is a myth. There are not charitable actions or unselfish acts. Those actions are only to feed the ego.
He said that ours is a mechanistic and materialistic universe. He was probably an atheist.

Bacon                                                                         Hobbes

John Locke (1632-1704): English philosopher and physician. The only knowledge humans can have is a posteriori, based upon experience. Locke said that the  human mind is a tabula rasa, a "white paper," on which the experiences derived from sense impressions as a person's life proceeds are written. There are two sources of our ideas: sensation and reflection. In both cases, a distinction is made between simple and complex ideas. Sensation is identified as the connecting medium between Nature and consciousness. The objective existence of the material world is not questioned, nor is the validity of the impressions made by Nature upon the senses deemed in any way problematic. The mind is a passive organ of Nature.
He is also one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, classical republicans, and contributor to liberal theory and the social contract theory. His  influence is reflected in the American Declaration of Independence (mankind is endowed to certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). The system of Capitalism is an expression of his principles. Different from Hobbes, Locke saw the contract to protect the rights of the individuals, not to repress them.

George Berkeley (1685-1753): Irish philosopher. A different, very extreme form of empiricism in which things only exist as a result of their being perceived. God fills in for humans in doing the perceiving whenever humans are not around to do it (Tree in the forest). The object exists only by virtue of the subject. Anything humans may see in nature is the language or handwriting of God: He put all the perceptions in the human brain. What we perceive is only in our minds. Reality is only a group of ideas! This type of empiricism would later come to be called Subjective Idealism (Subjective idealism is monist, because it states that only the Mind exists (matter is improvable as an independently objective reality external to subjective perceptions). Berkeley proves that if all that is given to consciousness is sensation, then “logically” there is no sense in the concept of knowing of anything beyond sensation. Berkeley rejects the value of knowledge absolutely — science is impossible.

David Hume (1711-1776): Scottish philosopher, economist and historian. He is presented in the histories of philosophy as "The Great Skeptic". All knowledge derives from sense experience. He divided all human knowledge into two categories: relations of ideas and matters of fact. All of people's ideas are derived from their  sensations. Ideas are therefore the faint copies of sensations. Knowledge is always mediated by our sensations; we never have immediate knowledge.
He maintained that all knowledge, even the most basic beliefs about the natural world, cannot be conclusively established by reason. He argued that
theory cannot be trusted, only experience will tell. “It may look great on the drawing board, but will it work in practice?”
Hume rejected the existence of the individual self: "You do not exist". People are only a "collection of different perceptions".
Hume is the founder of Utilitarianism in Ethics, declaring that the satisfaction of human needs is the sole criterion of morality. Passion must rule reason.

Locke                                                                      Berkeley                                                       Hume

Philosophical Questions

Is it harder or easier to deal with "learned ignorance" than to deal with a "tabula rasa"? Why?
Do we have innate ideas like we have instinctive drives?
Is there such a thing as "the middle road" in philosophy or in politics? Why yes / not? or You have to be with me or against me.
Does the end justify the means? In love like in war anything is valid? Anything in the name of patriotism?
Compare / Contrast: Dying in the name of science (Bruno) vs. Dying in the name of the Church (More) The same?
Predestination or Free Will or both?
Could we say that God is Nature and Nature is God? Why yes / not? How to define God?
Torture to obtain a confession?
What is reason? What is logic? What is common sense? Can we all do it / have it? How is it acquired? Nature or Nurture?
Are there eternal truths?
Are human passions a good thing or a bad thing? An obstacle to achieve inner peace? What is inner peace?
What is man's natural state? "Savage anarchy"? Is mankind rooted in selfishness? Is there real and sincere altruism?
Is life "nasty, brutish, and short"? or A beautiful gift? Is it good living longer? Pros / Cons? How long would be enough?
Assuming that knowledge is possible, is it finite or infinite? How much can we know about the infinite universe? How much is that from the total?
In what way if any are sensations / perceptions different or similar from ideas, beliefs, and feelings? What is the connection, if any, among them? How the last three compare to each other?

8-Enlightenment, German Philosophy, Marxism, Positivism, Utilitarianism, and more.


Absolute, the   That which is unconditioned and uncaused by anything else; it is frequently thought of as God, a perfect and solitary, self-caused eternal being that is the source or essence of all that exists but that is itself beyond the possibility of conceptualization or definition.
Absolute Idealism   The early-nineteenth-century school of philosophy that maintained that being is the transcendental unfolding or expression of thought or reason.
Absolute Idealists   Fichte, Johann Gottlieb; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Shelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joeseph von.


A form of utilitarianism (subscribed to by Bentham) in which the rightness of an act is determined by its effect on the general happiness.


The methodological principle in psychology according to which meaningful psychological inquiry confines itself to psychological phenomenon that can be behaviorally defined; the theory in philosophy that when we talk about a person's mental states, we are referring in fact to the person's disposition to behave in certain ways.

Categorical imperative  

Immanuel Kant's formulation of a moral law that holds unconditionally, that is, categorically; in its most common formulation, states that you are to act in such a way that you could desire the principle on which you act to be a universal law.

Conceptualism   The theory that universals are concepts and exist only in the mind.
Copernican revolution in philosophy   A new perspective in epistemology, introduced by Immanuel Kant, according to which the objects of experience must conform in certain respects to our knowledge of them.
Ding-an-sich   German for "thing-in-itself" a thing as it is independent of any consciousness of it.
Idealism   The doctrine that only what is mental (thought, consciousness, perception) exists and that so-called physical manifestations of things are manifestations of mind or thought.
Materialism   The theory that only physical entities exist, and that so-called mental things are manifestations of an underlying physical reality.
Noumena   In the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, things as they are in themselves independent of all possible experience of them.
Phenomena   In Kant's philosophy, objects as experiences and hence as organized and unified by the categories of the understanding and the forms of space and time; things as they appear to us or, alternatively, the appearances themselves.


The theory that we only know phenomena; in analytic philosophy, the theory that propositions referring to physical objects can, in principle, be expressed in propositions referring only to sense-data.

Realism   The theory that the real world is independent of the mind.


A form of utilitarianism (subscribed to by John Stuart Mill) in which the rightness of an act is determined by the impact on the general happiness of the rule or principle the action exemplifies.

Thing-in-itself   English for Ding-an-sich a thing as it is independent of any consciousness of it.

18th. & 19th. Centuries: Enlightenment, German Idealism, Utilitarianism, Marxism, Positivism, Evolutionism, and Psychoanalysis

French Enlightenment:

Term used to describe the ideas and events of the eighteenth century (1700’s), in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority.

Among its principles or goals were: more freedom for common people, self-governance, state of law, liberty, individual rights, and the principles of deism. The Enlightenment marks a principled departure from the Middle Ages of religious authority toward an era of rational discourse and personal judgment, republicanism, liberalism, naturalism, scientific method, and modernity.
The Enlightenment led to the American and French Revolutions.

Montesquieu (1689-1755): Social and political thinker and jurist.

Master Work: The Spirit of the Laws.

Main Interest: Political Philosophy.

Main Ideas: Separation of Powers (executive, legislative, and judicial) System of Checks and Balances, Relativism (what is true/good/valid for a person/nation may not be the same for others).

Famous Quotes: “Power ought to serve as a check to power”
                          “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice”.

Voltaire (1694-1778): Writer, essayist, and philosopher.

Master Work: Candide, ou l'Optimisme

Main Interest: Social Reformer

Main Ideas: Civil liberties, freedom of religion, speech and trade. Virulent anti-Christian. Deist (There is a God, creator of the universe, but He does not interfere in anything).

Famous Quotes: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him”

                          “History is a pack of lies we play on the dead”
                          “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Rousseau (1712-1778): Philosopher, writer, and composer.

Master Works: Emile: or, On Education and The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right

Main Interests: Political Philosophy and Education

Main Ideas: General Will (inalienable rights of every man), Simplicity of Humanity (primitive people are superior to civilized societies; the more development, the more corruption and vice), Academic Freedom and Spontaneity in Education, Social Contract (Like John Locke, he believed that a government can only be legitimate if it has been sanctioned by the people. It was against the idea of the divine right of monarchs).

Famous Quotes: “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.”
                          “To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties.”

Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu  François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire)                      Jean Jacques Rousseau

German Idealism:

Philosophical movement in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment. German idealism was born of the need to retain a variation of the concept of God after Kant had demonstrated its senselessness.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Philosopher

Master Work: Critique of Pure Reason

Main Interests: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics, Logic.

Main Ideas: Transcendental idealism: There are two worlds: Phenomenal world (what we experience through our senses) & Noumenal world (the reality beyond our senses). The phenomenal world is chaotic. The human mind brings order and structure to this chaos. The mind shapes the world as we perceive it. We have intuitive hints of the nature of the noumenal world. God, universal justice, and immortality are part of that world.
We can never grasp the true nature of reality
. There are several types of judgments / knowledge: Analytic (the truth can be determined within itself) and Synthetic (the truth has to be determined by external action). Transcendental or a priori (based upon reason alone, independently of all sensory experience) and Empirical or a posteriori (grounded upon experience and are consequently limited and uncertain in their application to specific cases). All we can know is the mental impressions that the outside world, which may or may not exist independently, creates in our minds; our minds can never perceive that outside world directly: A combination of Rationalism & Empiricism, in which reason plays the main role.
The categorical imperative is the central aspect of his moral philosophy: Morality can be defined as one ultimate commandment of reason, or imperative, from which all duties and obligations derive. A categorical imperative denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. "Act only according to that maxim whereby your actions should become a universal law." In Kant's view, a moral act is one that would be right for any person in similar circumstances to those in which the agent finds themselves when they execute it.

Famous Quotes: “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”
                           “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play”.
... if I remove the thinking subject, the whole material world must at once vanish because it is nothing but a phenomenal appearance in the sensibility of ourselves as a subject.”

Hegel (1770-1831): Philosopher; the most famous disciple of Kant.

Master Works: Phenomenology of Spirit, Science of Logic, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, and Elements of the Philosophy of Right.

Main Interests: All branches of philosophy (he developed a comprehensive system, in an integrated and developmental way, to explain the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, and psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy)

Main Ideas: He called reality the Absolute: In its physical state it is nature; in its spiritual form it is the mind. The Absolute is constantly evolving (dialectic). This evolution is caused by a conflict of opposites (Thesis vs. Anti-thesis = Synthesis). The synthesis is a new thesis. Finite things don't determine themselves, because, as "finite" things, their essential character is determined by their boundaries, over against other finite things. Only the Absolute is infinite.
Historical movement
(process or progress) is also the result of conflicting opposites. Society consists of a collective consciousness which moves in a distinct direction, directing the actions of its members. Evolution and history are part of an orderly and rational process.
Man’s ability to reason, however limited and finite, makes possible a progression of the Absolute toward self-knowledge.
Art, religion, and philosophy are the activities that humans do best. Christianity is the best religion. One most conform to the dictates of society.

Famous Quotes: “Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights”.
                          “The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom”.

Immanuel Kant                                                    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860): Philosopher, atheist pessimist.

Master Works: The World as Will and Representation

Main Interests: All branches of philosophy.

Main Ideas: Reality is one thing: Will. In Nature, Will is manifest in the survival instincts. The universe is an evolving entity. The world is the physical representation of the Will. Will is random, irrational, and often destructive.
Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated only by their own basic desires: Will to Live. Will is a metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena. His analysis of will led him to the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fulfilled. Then, life is full of misery and pain. Consequently, he favored a lifestyle of negating human desires, similar to the teachings of Buddhism, an ascetic life to neutralize the nasty Will.
A temporary way to escape pain is through aesthetic contemplation. Music presents the will itself, not the way that the will appears to an individual observer.
We are aware of our Will and suffer from that knowledge: the more we know, the more the pain.
Schopenhauer's moral theory proposed that of three primary moral incentives, compassion, malice and egoism. Compassion is the major motivator to moral expression. Malice and egoism are corrupt alternatives. Love is an illusion: Will’s desire to survive via procreation of the species.
He was a proponent of limited government: the state should "leave each man free to work out his own salvation". Schopenhauer shared the view of Thomas Hobbes on the necessity of the state, and of state violence, to check the destructive tendencies innate to our species.
Schopenhauer believed that a person inherited level of intellect through one's mother, and personal character through one's father.

Famous Quotes: “After your death you will be what you were before your birth”
                          “Change alone is eternal, perpetual, and immortal”
                          “Compassion is the basis of morality”
                          “It is a clear gain to sacrifice pleasure in order to avoid pain”
                          “Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world”

Nietzsche (1844-1900): Controversial Philosopher and classical philologist fond for the use of metaphors (ask us to picture one thing as being the other = “the world's a stage”) and aphorisms (original thoughts in a laconic and easily memorable form = "Life is short”). He was a pessimist atheist and nihilist (the idea that values do not exist but rather are falsely invented). Nietzsche did not develop his thought into a system, but as a group of not related / connected ideas. Nietzsche was no Nazi; he vigorously opposed German nationalism, as he rejected all mass movements, but his sister was a Nazi supporter. He became insane in 1889 and lived his remaining years in the care of his mother and sister until his death in 1900. Some biographers speculate that syphilis may has caused his eventual madness.

Main Works: Human, All Too Human, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil.

Main Interests: Morality, Religion, Epistemology, Psychology, Ontology, and Social Criticism

Main Ideas: Life is an eternal recurrence: Time is infinite and cyclical. The universe has been recurring and will continue to recur in a similar form for an infinite number of times: The eternal return of all events. For people, this does not involve reincarnation, but the return of beings in the same bodies
Repudiation of Christianity & the Revaluation of all Values: Christianity is not merely a religion but the predominant moral system of the western world. It inverts nature and is hostile to life because it elevates the weak over the strong, it limits and lowers humankind potential, it is full of revengefulness (the Last Judgment), and it is indicative of an "obtuseness to the question of truth". Sex is, in Nietzsche's thought, a very fundamental affirmation of life, and Christianity recommends chastity, which is against the natural instincts of humanity. God is dead (Religion is no longer a viable source of wisdom).
Apollonian and Dionysian impulses (dichotomy / struggle between the principles of society versus individualism, light versus darkness, or civilization versus primal nature). Dionysian debauchery would be beneficial for all.
Will to power or Superman: The main driving forces for man should be achievement, ambition, independent thinking, and striving to reach the highest possible position: reach for the sky; get rid of any obstacle at any price. Real life occurs in a realm beyond good and evil. The Superman should reject humility, inhibition and passivity. Nietzsche referred to the common people as the rabble or the herd. He valued individualism above all else => Bullies are the good guys. Compassion and protection of the weak are wrong.
Perspectivism: All ideas take place from particular perspectives. There are many possible paradigms (philosophical or theoretical frameworks) which determines that any possible judgment of truth or value that we may make is not to be trusted = no way of seeing the world can be taken as definitively "true".
Master-slave morality: 1-Master morality is the morality of the strong-willed. What is good is what is helpful; what is bad is what is harmful. For strong-willed men, the 'good' is strong and powerful, while the 'bad' is the weak, cowardly, timid and petty. 2- Slave morality is a reaction to oppression, it villainizes its oppressors. It is characterized by pessimism and skepticism. The essence of slave morality is utility: the good is what is most useful for the whole community, not the strong.
About Women: Woman's love involves injustice and blindness against everything that she does not love...Women are not capable of friendship; they are cats and birds. Or at best cows... Everything about woman has one solution: pregnancy; Women, one-half of mankind,, are weak, typically sick, changeable, inconstant...

Famous Quotes: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him”; “Faith: not wanting to know what is true” “After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands” “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing”.
                           “That which does not kill us, makes you stronger.”
                           “All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”
                           “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies”
                           “And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you”
“This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more”
                           “Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul” “Fear is the mother of morality” “He that humbles himself wishes to be exalted” “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man”
                           “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule”
                           “Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes” “Love is not consolation. It is light”

Arthur Schopenhauer                                                  Friedrich Nietzsche



Philosophical movement that supports the idea that the moral worth of an action is based on its utility: that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure. It is a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. Utilitarianism is described by the phrase "the greatest good for the greatest number of people".

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832): English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer.

Main Works: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Main Interests: He is best known for his utilitarianism, for the concept of animal rights, the development of welfarism, the idea of separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, end of slavery, abolition of physical punishment for children, right to divorce, and decriminalization of homosexual acts. He also made two distinct attempts during his life to critique the death penalty.
He is probably best known in popular society as the originator of the concept of the panopticon (a type of prison where the guards / warden. can observe all the prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched).

Main Ideas: What the majority perceives as pleasure and comfort should be the desired status quo. Public policy and laws should serve the greater good. Punishment to criminals should be severe enough to be a deterrent. He recommended the “greater amount of happiness for the greatest number of people”. The more happiness an act provides, the more moral it is”: Happiness = Morality
The Felicific Calculus (an algorithm formulated to calculate the degree of pleasure that a specific action is likely to cause):

  • Intensity: How powerful is the pleasure?
  • Duration: How long lasting is the pleasure?
  • Certainty: How guaranteed is the pleasure?
  • Proximity: How close is the pleasure?
  • Fecundity: Will this pleasurable activity generate additional pleasure?
  • Purity: How pain-free is this pleasure?
  • Extent: How many other citizens will experience this pleasure?

Famous Quotes: “All punishment is mischief; all punishment in itself is evil”
                           “Every law is an infraction of liberty”
                           “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong”

John Stuart Mill (1808-1873): English philosopher, political theorist, political economist, civil servant and Member of Parliament.

Main Work: On Liberty
Main Interests:
Political philosophy, ethics, economics, and inductive logic.

Main Ideas: The nature / quality of pleasure should be classified in two levels: higher (happiness) & lower (contentment). Mill argues that intellectual and moral pleasures are superior to more physical forms of pleasure. The Harm Principle (each individual has the right to act as he wants, so long as these actions do not harm others).
Despotism is an acceptable form of government for those societies that are "backward". Social Liberty was Mill’s idea about the protection from the tyranny of political rulers, including social tyranny or the tyranny of the majority.  Minimal government interference into personal lives is ideal; the state should intervene only when some people are a danger to others. Free speech is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. Mill supported universal suffrage and extra voting power to university graduates, on the grounds that they were in a better position to judge what would be best for society.
Mill is also famous for being one of the earliest and strongest supporters of women's liberation: strict laws protecting wives from spousal abuse

Famous Quotes: “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them”
A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction”
                          “A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature”
                          “All good things which exist are the fruits of originality”
                          “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative”
                          “I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilized”

Jeremy Bentham                                             John Stuart Mill

Positivism: Philosophy that holds that the only authentic knowledge is that based on actual sense experience. The concept was first coined by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), widely considered the first modern sociologist, in the middle of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, logical positivism sprang up in Vienna and grew to become one of the dominant movements in American and British philosophy.  The positivist view is shared by technocrats who believe in the necessity of progress through scientific progress and by naturalists, who argue that any method for gaining knowledge should be limited to natural, physical, and material approaches. In psychology, a positivistic approach is favored by behaviorism (Ivan Pavlov, 1849-1936, conditioned behaviors & B.F. Skinner, 1904-1990, theory of reinforcement). Comte was also one of the leading thinkers of the social evolutionism school of thought, together with Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest".

Darwinism: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) developed the theory according to which all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection. His 1859 book On the Origin of Species established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. The term has been manipulated to describe evolutionary concepts, including earlier concepts such as Malthusianism (political/economic thought of Rev. Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) who said that unchecked population growth is exponential while the growth of the food supply is arithmetical, leading to a catastrophe) and Spencerism. In the late 19th century it came to mean the concept that natural selection was the mechanism of evolution. Around 1900 it was eclipsed by Mendelism (genetics / hereditary process) until the modern evolutionary synthesis unified Darwin's and Gregor Mendel’s (1822-1884) ideas.

Social Darwinism: The term was derived from Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and applied to social evolution to demonstrate that differences in development among nations or regions are the result of the existence of inferior and superior people. Competition among individuals, groups, nations, drives social evolution in human societies and the outcome of this competition for limited resources leads to the "survival of the fittest". Then, colonialism is a normal / natural result of this process.

Charles Darwin                                      Thomas Malthus


This political philosophy is usually divided in three main parts:  Philosophy (Dialectical Materialism), Social history (Historical Materialism) and Marxist Economics. Marx and Engels never wrote a comprehensive work on dialectical materialism, but separated papers / books to which Lenin, later on, added more ideas / books. Here, we will only address the philosophical component: Dialectical Materialism.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)

Vladimir I. Lenin (1870-1924)

Main Works  (Marx & Engels): The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto.
                                    (Marx): Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Theses on Feuerbach Das Kapital (edited by Engels), and  Critique of the Gotha Programme.
(Engels): Anti-Dühring.
(Lenin): Materialism and Empirio-criticism, Three Sources & Three Component parts of Marxism, and Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic

Main Interest: Political and Social Philosophy: destruction of Capitalism, victory and spread of Communism. Philosophical dialectical materialism.

Dialectic Materialism 

Its sources were the philosophical ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach (materialism) and Hegel (dialectic).

Main Ideas: Philosophical materialism explains that there is only one material world. There is no Heaven or Hell. The universe, which has always existed and is not the creation of any supernatural being, is in the process of constant flux. The material world is not only developing, but also a connected integral whole. Everything is connected to everything and interacting with everything. The universe is the vast unity of everything that is, everywhere it shows us only matter in movement. Motion is the mode of existence of matter.  Everything is moving, changing, either rising and developing or declining and dying away. Any equilibrium is only relative, and only has meaning in relation to other forms of motion.
Human beings are a part of nature and evolved from lower forms of life.  With humans emerged human thought and consciousness. The human brain alone is capable of producing general ideas / thinking. Therefore matter, which existed eternally, existed and still exists independently of the mind and human beings. Things existed long before any awareness of them arose or could have arisen on the part of living organisms. For materialists there is no consciousness apart from the living brain, which is part of a material body. A mind without a body is an absurdity. Ideas are simply a reflection of the independent material world that surrounds us.
Knowledge is an active reflection of the objective world, which is the only source of knowledge. The process of cognition is based on practice. Practice is both the point of origin, the basis of the process of knowledge, and the criterion of truth or correctness of knowledge. Practice is the action of people transforming nature and society. All ideas are taken from experience, are reflections - true or distorted - of reality. Cognition happens / goes from living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice. Theory without practice is pointless, practice without theory is blind.

Laws of Dialectical Materialism:

The Law of Passage of Quantitative into Qualitative Changes: Dialectics comprehends things in their connection, development, and motion. Change or evolution does not take place gradually in a straight smooth line: slow and cumulative quantitative changes lead to sudden qualitative changes by breaks in continuity, leaps, catastrophes and revolutions.

The Law of the Unity and Conflict of Opposites: The world in which we live is a unity of contradictions or a unity of opposites, like in a magnet        (+ / -): cold-heat, light-darkness, birth-death, riches-poverty, association-dissociation of atoms, excitation-inhibition, concentration-irradiation, induction-deduction, analysis-synthesis, thinking-being, finite-infinite, repulsion-attraction, left-right, above-below, chance-necessity, sale-purchase, and so on. The fact that two poles of a contradictory antithesis can manage to coexist as a whole is regarded in popular wisdom as a paradox. The contradiction is the source of all movement and life. Contradiction is the motive force of development. The opposites are mutually exclusive but at the same time presuppose each other. The contradictory character of the opposites causes a struggle between them, which causes development, motion. Equilibrium is only temporary. There are internal & external contradictions; the internal are the decisive ones in development.

The Law of the Negation of the Negation:  This law reveals the direction or tendency of development. It shows how the old is replaced by the new, but the new does not completely replace the old but retains the best of it. This process is at the same time a change (negation) and continuity or connection between the old and new, the past and present. At the same time, anything new will eventually become old and will be replaced (Negation of the Negation). This process happens continuously, ad infinitum. Development is not one of a straight line upward but a spiral-like process, where the movement comes back to the position it started, but at a higher level.

Categories of Dialectical Materialism:

Individual & Universal: Every object and person possesses a number of particular / distinct, intrinsic features; they are the individual or particular. Anything particular or individual, however, does not exist by itself; it is connected with other objects and phenomena. The universal is that which is present in many individual / particular objects, their general features. The individual and the universal coexist in a dialectical unity: each individual is connected with the universal, the individual contains the universal, and the universal exists only in the particular.

Content & Form: Content is the sum-total of elements and processes constituting a given object or phenomenon. Form is the structure / organization of the content; it is not something external, but inherent in it. The unity of the two is inseparable. There is not content in general like there is no pure form without content. Content is very active while form are more stable. Content is constantly changing and in time it will cause the form to change. When an old form becomes obsolete for its content, it will be replaced. The content determines the form. On the other hand, the diversity of forms makes content richer.

Essence & Phenomenon: Essence is the chief, internal, and stable component / element / process of an object. Essence determines the nature of the object. Phenomenon is the outward, direct expression of essence, the form in which it is manifested. Essence appears phenomenally, phenomenon is essential. Essence is revealed in each phenomenon, even if we can see it or not. Phenomenon does not exhaust essence. Essence is not seen on the surface; it could be disclosed only as a result of a comprehensive study.

Cause & Effect: A phenomenon which precedes and gives rise to another phenomenon is a cause. The phenomenon produced by the action of the cause in the effect. Causality is a general and universal law inherent to reality. Everything has a cause! Cause & effect are inseparably connected. A cause leads to an effect which becomes the cause of another effect, and so on. (C => E =C => E=C => E)

Necessity and Chance: Necessity is a phenomenon or event that under definite conditions must take place. Necessity is stable and comes from the essence and internal nature of the phenomenon. In contrast, chance does not need to happen. In the given conditions, it might occur or not and it might proceed in one way or another. Chance is unstable and temporary. But chance is not without a cause. Necessity and chance can become into one another in case that the conditions change. Necessity is in the main direction, the trend of the phenomenon, but it is surrounded by many possible chances.

Possibility & Reality: Every necessity starts as a chance, as a possibility that becomes a reality. Possibility is the group of prerequisites and factors that mature and develop for a phenomenon to arise or happen. Reality is the achieved or realized possibility. Possibilities are in constant motion: some grow while others diminish. There are abstract / formal (unlikely to happen under certain circumstances) and real possibilities.

Famous Quotes:
Marx: “Men's ideas are the most direct emanations of their material state”
           “Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity”
           “Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand”.
“Religion is the opium of the masses”.
           “Revolutions are the locomotives of history”
           “Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand”
           “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.”
           “The worker of the world has nothing to lose, but their chains, workers of the world unite”

Lenin: “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”
           “Crime is a product of social excess”
           “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience”
           “When there is state there can be no freedom, but when there is freedom there will be no state”

Karl Marx                                                          Friedrich Engels                                                Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin)

 Sigmund Freud (1856-1939): Austrian psychologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Freud is known for his theories of: the unconscious mind, the structure of the psychic apparatus: Id, ego, and super-ego, the defense mechanism of repression, the theory that sexual desire is the primary motivational energy of human life, the use of free association, his theory of transference (unconscious redirection of feelings for one person to another) in the therapeutic relationship, and the interpretation of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires (Freudianism).



Philosophical Questions

Is everything relative or are there some absolute things /concepts / values?
Assuming there is a God, is He involve in human activities or He does not interfere?
Why did Voltaire say that "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him? Do you agree or not? Why?
"History is packed of lies..." Why? Explain
Are simple / primitive people better (in any way) than "civilized people? Does civilization bring corruption and vice?
Does History have a direction? Is History a cycle? Define progress. Do new technologies equal progress?
Should we conform to social rules?
Are humans only motivated by their basic desires?
"The more we know, the more we suffer? Do you agree / disagree? Why?
Is compassion against natural laws (survival)? Does it slow down the strong?
Should the strong / smart reach for the sky at any cost, getting rid of any obstacles in his way?
Is God dead / Does religion have become an obstacle? Does religion is intrinsically bad?
Is physical punishment necessary some times? Is the death penalty right or wrong?
Should laws be based on the "greater good"? Why? What about the needs / rights of the few / minority?
What type of pleasure is better: physical or intellectual?
Should university graduates / better informed people have extra voting power or certain political privileges? Why?
Is happiness based on the satisfaction of our desires?
Should the theory of "survival of the fittest" be applied to society / people?
Will the theory of Malthus eventually become true?
Matter is eternal, always has existed and always will, say the Marxists. What is the difference between this and God?
Could there be a "special content" present in every form?
If everything has a cause -according to the Marxists- what caused the first cause?
What is wrong with dialectical materialism?
Are revolutions intrinsically bad or are they necessary to bring social change?
Is sexual desire / love the primary motivational energy of human live?
Can we interpreter our dreams?

9-Phenomenology & Existentialism


Authenticity   A way of understanding the essential nature of the human being by seeing it as a totality.
Bad faith   In the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, essential self-deception or lying to oneself, especially when this takes the form of blaming circumstances for one's fate and not seizing the freedom to realize oneself in action.
Continental philosophy   The philosophical traditions of continental Europe; includes phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, and critical theory.
Existentialism   A tradition of twentieth-century philosophy having its roots in the nineteenth century but coming to flower in Europe after World War II; of central concern is the question of how the individual is to find an authentic existence in this world, in which there is no ultimate reason why things happen one way and not another.
Nihilism   The rejection of values and beliefs.
Phenomena   Things as they appear to us or, alternatively, the appearances themselves.
Phenomenological reduction   A method of putting aside the ordinary attitude toward the world and its objects in order to see the objects of pure consciousness through intuition.
Phenomenology   A tradition of twentieth-century Continental philosophy based on the phenomenological method, which seeks rigorous knowledge not of things-in-themselves but rather of the structures of consciousness and of things as they appear to consciousness.
Transcendental phenomenology An epistemological method that seeks the certainty of a pure consciousness of objects in the transcendental ego.


It is a philosophical method developed in the early years of the twentieth century by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and a circle of followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. Phenomenology is primarily concerned with the study of the mind and making the structures of consciousness an object of systematic reflection and analysis. These philosophers believe that the mind can think of things that do not exist. They are not concerned with the material reality or the outside world.

Existentialism: A reaction to social ills. Individualism, freedom, anxiety, absurdity, alienation, atheism, taking responsibility for your actions, pessimism.

Existentialism takes human thinking, behavior, feelings, and his / her conditions of existence as their subject of study.  Existential philosophy begins with a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Existentialist thinkers focus on the question of concrete human existence and the conditions of this existence rather than hypothesizing a human essence. A central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the actual life of the individual is what constitutes his or her "essence" instead of there being a predetermined essence. It is often claimed in this context that a person defines himself.
Anxiety or even anguish
is a term that is common to many existentialist thinkers. It is generally held to be the price of experiencing freedom and being responsible. Your past is what you are in the sense that it co-constitutes you.
Existentialists insist on the absurdity of the world and the assumption that there exist no relevant or absolutely good or bad values. Concept of the Absurd: There is no meaning to be found in the world beyond what meaning we give to it. The world is amoral and unfair. There is no such thing as a good person or a bad thing, anything (good or bad) could happen to anyone (what happens happens).
The theme of authentic existence is common to many existentialist thinkers: one has to "find oneself" and then live in accordance with this self. They emphasize action, freedom, and decision as fundamental and reject reason as the source of meaning.

Founder: Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Denmark. He was a literary figure who used irony to make his points. He saw paradox as the constant of his time. He wrote many books under a pseudonym to enable his readers to concentrate on the message instead of on the messenger. He celebrated the individual over the crowd. He thought that in important issues the opinion of the majority is always wrong, that the individual should decide by himself and ignore what society thinks and stand up for his beliefs despite the pressure. Alienation and ostracism, anxiety and fear are the normal results of living this life. Religion if useless. There are the objective and subjective truths. Objective: Something is true whether you know it / believe it or not. Subjective: What is true for you may not be true for someone else. He considered that we can only trust the subjective truths.

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976): He was an influential German philosopher, professor and rector of the University of Freiburg. His best known book, Being and Time, is considered to be one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century. Heidegger remains controversial due to his support to Nazism.

Main Ideas: Try to understand the Being: The question is what is the" being" itself? "Being in Time" means the "human entity". The Being is always changing. We can only be sure about our being, our existence. Hopelessness, despair, sense of a meaningless life, and angst came with the Industrial Revolution, which is turning humans into a race of automatons. "Gestell" means the "essence of technology"; his conclusion regarding the essence of technology was that technology is fundamentally enframing (The essence of technology, in the Heideggerian sense, is the supreme danger because it prevents us from having a proper understanding of our own being). Being has been reduced to "a world of objects". Humans are arrogant and destructive when we call ourselves the masters of nature. We are living in a period (20th. Century) of cultural destitution, social dissolution, and intellectual impoverishment.

Major Works: Being and Time

Famous Quotes: "Language is the house of the truth of Being", "Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man", "Man is not the lord of beings. Man is the shepherd of Being", "The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking", "Why are there beings at all, instead of Nothing?".

Main Figures: Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980): France,  Albert Camus (1913-1960): France, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881): Russia, and Franz Kafka (1883-1924): Czech Republic, Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936), Spain, Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955): Spain. Literature as a better way to present philosophy!

Albert Camus: Journalist, writer, philosopher, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1957), member of the French Resistance against Nazi occupation of France, and critic of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, agnostic.

Main Works: The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus.

Main Ideas: The world is a silly and ridiculous place and existence is meaningless and absurd (there is no reason for things being the way they are). People seek order in a cold and chaotic world and find only indifference and despair. People are in denial, wasting their lives with stupid optimism. Self-deception has become the norm.  Humans tend to remain strangers to one another; they live solitary existences. Suicide is an option to waste & absurdity, but he rejected it, suggesting rebellion and struggle instead. Man, with his indomitable spirit and ability to survive, can bear any burden. People could find some happiness by accepting the things they can not change. The struggle of Sisyphus: Frustration, the absurd hero, the waste of energy and effort for nothing, the curse of Mankind. Society is of little help, there is no God: you are on your own.


Jean-Paul Sartre: Novelist, dramatist, philosopher, political polemist. Like Camus, member of the French Resistance. Political Leftist. He was also offered the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he refused to accept it: He felt it would compromise his integrity as a writer. Atheist.

Main Works: Being and Nothingness, No Exit, and Nausea.

Main Ideas: Men should rebel against their impersonal societies, by taking responsibility for their actions. You are totally alone, and on your own. Freedom is both a blessing and a burden (responsibility). Conformity is a refuge for cowards. All is in chaos. To live an authentic life is to struggle to maintain your individuality and dignity in a world of bureaucrats, automatons, and nothingness.   No Exit (A man, a lesbian, and a "dumb blonde" meet in Hell): People are irrational, life is absurd.

Sartre                                                                                                          Camus

Famous Quotes:
Camus: "A guilty conscience needs to confess", "A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world", "Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken", "But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?", "Don't believe your friends when they ask you to be honest with them", "Don't wait for the last judgment - it takes place every day", "Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better", "He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool", "Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is", "Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear", "The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth", "The need to be right is the sign of a vulgar mind", "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide", "To be happy we must not be too concerned with others", "What is a rebel? A man who says no", "You are forgiven for your happiness and your successes only if you generously consent to share them".

Sartre: "Existence precedes essence", You are what you make of yourself", "Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does", "Acting is happy agony", "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you", "Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess", "If you are lonely when you are alone, then you are in bad company", "Life begins on the other side of despair", "All human actions are equivalent and all are on principle doomed to failure".

Philosophical Questions

Is there a meaning in life? What is it?
Are we little Sisyphuses wasting our lives for nothing?
Who are you? Are you what you do, the result of your actions? What about ideas or feelings you did not transform into actions?
Is the world / people absurd or there are common sense, fairness, and reason in this world? Why yes / not?
How do the existentialists define freedom and authentic existence?
Can we be totally ourselves all the time or should we pretend sometimes? Do we wear a mask? Why?
Are anxieties, pain, alienation, and ostracism the price to experience freedom?
Are there some absolute and universal values? Give examples.
Can the opinion of the majority be wrong? Why yes / not?
Are religion and faith useless?
What is the trend in our world? Coldness, indifference, chaos, and despair or Warmth, care and concern, order, and joy and hope?
Is society ruled by bureaucrats and automatons? Do leaders really care about common people?
Is conformity a refuge for cowards? Should we obey or rebel?
Is there an exit / a solution for our problems? Is mankind beyond help?
Analyze this: “The need to be always right is the sign of a vulgar mind”
Analyze this: “Acting is happy agony”
Analyze this: "If you are lonely when you are alone, then you are in bad company"

10-American Philosophy & Analytic Philosophy



Resolving a complex proposition or concept into simpler ones to gain better understanding of the original proposition or concept; analysis comes from a Greek word meaning to "unloosen" or "untie."

Analytic philosophy  

The predominant twentieth-century philosophical tradition in English-speaking countries; analytic philosophy has its roots in British empiricism and holds that analysis is the proper method of philosophy.


A philosophy that denies that the mind or language contains or is a representation of reality.


Two-ism; the doctrine that existing things belong to one or another but not both of two distinct categories of things, usually deemed to be physical and nonphysical or spiritual.


The doctrine that a belief qualifies as knowledge only if it logically follows from propositions that are incorrigible (incapable of being false if you believe that they are true).


The doctrine that what a thing is must be understood and analyzed not by what it is made of but by its function; for example, anything that functions as a mousetrap is a mousetrap, regardless of what it is made of or how it looks or is assembled.


The doctrine that only what is mental (thought, consciousness, perception) exists and that so-called physical manifestations of things are manifestations of mind or thought.

Identity theory  

The theory that mental states and events are brain states and events.


The property of a proposition that cannot be false if you believe it to be true.


A theory held by John Dewey, among others, that ideas, judgments, and propositions are not merely true or false; rather, they are tools to understand experience and solve problems.

Interactionist dualism  

The theory that the physical body and the nonphysical mind interact with each other.

Language game  

The context in which an utterance is made, what determines the purposes served by the utterance and hence its meaning; Wittgenstein believed that philosophical problems are due to ignoring the "game" in which certain concepts are used.

Logical atomism  

The metaphysical theory that the world does not consist of things but of facts, that is, things having certain properties and standing in certain relationships to one another. The ultimate facts are atomic in that they are logically independent of one another and are unresolvable into simpler facts; likewise, an empirically correct description of the world will consist ultimately of logically independent and unanalyzable atomic propositions that correspond to the atomic facts.

Logical positivism  

The philosophy of the Vienna Circle, according to which any purported statement of fact, if not a verbal truism, is meaningless unless certain conceivable observations would serve to conform or deny it.


The thesis that the concepts of mathematics can be defined in terms of concepts of logic, and that all mathematical truths can be proved from principles of formal logic.

Ludwig Wittgenstein  

Derived a metaphysics of logical atomism from a consideration of the relationship of language and the world. He advanced the picture theory of meaning, then later rejected it.

Naturalized epistemology  

The view that the important epistemological problems are those that can be resolved by psychological investigation of the processes involved in acquiring and revising beliefs.

Philosophy of mind  

That area of analytic philosophy concerned with the nature of consciousness, mental states, the mind, and the proper analysis of everyday psychological vocabulary.

Pragmatic theory of truth  

in Dewey's and William James's philosophies, a theory of justification, according to which (roughly) a belief may be accepted as true if it "works"; in Peirce's philosophy, a species of correspondence theory.


Philosophies that hold that the meaning of concepts lies in the difference they make to conduct and that the function of thought is to guide action.

Private language  

In the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, a language that can be understood by only a single individual.


The theory that the real world is independent of the mind.


The doctrine that true beliefs are accurate representations of the state of affairs they are about.


That which you are immediately aware of in sensory experience; the contents of awareness.

Straightforward reductivist physicalism  

The theory that all true propositions can, in principle, be expressed in the language of physics.

Theoretical posits  

Entities whose existence we hypothesize to explain our sensory experience.

Verifiability criterion (theory) of meaning  

The dictum that a sentence must express something verifiable if it is to express an empirically meaningful statement.

Vienna Circle  

A group of philosophers and scientists centered at the University of Vienna in the 1920s and 1930s who espoused logical positivism.

American Transcendentalism

It began as a protest against the socio-cultural situation and the state of intellectualism at Harvard university and the doctrine of the Unitarian church. It comprised a group of new ideas in literature, religion, culture, and philosophy that emerged in New England in the early to middle 19th century. Transcendentalism became a coherent movement with the founding of the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 8, 1836. Transcendentalism was rooted in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (and of German Idealism) as an alternative to the Lockean "sensualism". The Transcendental group began to publish its flagship journal, The Dial, in July 1840. Among them there were philosophers, writers, psychologists, naturalists, etc.

Main Ideas: An ideal spiritual state is one that 'transcends' the physical and empirical reality and is only realized through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. Their nature-loving ways bordered on Pantheism. They called nature the macrocosm (God or the Over-Soul) and the human soul the microcosm. Humans mirror nature. They valued instinct over intellect. They were interested in the philosophies of China and India. Many of them live in a commune they called Brook Farm, in Massachusetts. They were strongly individualist. All things are divine and every person has access to the Over-Soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882): American essayist, philosopher and poet, best remembered for leading the Transcendentalist movement of the early 19th century. His teachings directly influenced the growing New Thought movement of the mid 1800s, while he was seen as a champion of individualism and prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society. Emerson declared the literary independence of the United States and urged Americans to create a writing style all their own and free from Europe. Emerson's religious views were often considered radical at the time. He believed that all things are connected to God and, therefore, all things are divine. His views, the basis of Transcendentalism, suggested that God does not have to reveal the truth but that the truth could be intuitively experienced directly from nature. He supported the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay.

Main Works: Nature, The American Scholar, Representative Men, The Conduct of Life, Society and Solitude.

Famous Quotes: "A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature", "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience", "All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen", "America is another name for opportunity", "Earth laughs in flowers", "Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact", "Everything in Nature contains all the powers of Nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff".

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862): American author, poet, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist. He supported the idea of simple living in natural surroundings (he built and lived for two years in a cabin at Walden Pond) and of  of civil disobedience to an unjust government (he influenced many public figures and reformers like Mahatma Gandhi, president John F. Kennedy, and civil rights activist Martin Luther King). Thoreau was an early advocate of recreational hiking and canoeing, of conserving natural resources on private land, and of preserving wilderness as public land. Thoreau was also one of the first American supporters of Darwin's theory of evolution. He was not a strict vegetarian, though he said he preferred that diet and advocated it as a means of self-improvement. He anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism. He rejected materialism and lived modestly, near poverty, in isolation. He was seen as an eccentric.

Main Works: Reform and the Reformers, Civil Disobedience, Walden, Life Without Principle, and many more.

Famous Quotes: "Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something", "An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day", "Be true to your work, your word, and your friend", "Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves", "Goodness is the only investment that never fails", "I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude", "In wilderness is the preservation of the world".

Ralph Waldo Emerson                             Henry David Thoreau


1 : A practical approach to problems and affairs.
2 : An American movement in philosophy in the late nineteenth century founded by Charles Sanders Peirce and William James marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by its practical consequences. Through the early twentieth-century it was developed further in the works of  John Dewey (mainly an educator who believed in students' learning by performing tasks related to their own interests). He supported the idea that the school is the central institution of our democracy.

They rejected the idea that there is such a thing as fixed, absolute truths. Instead, the say that truth is relative to a time, place, and purpose and is ever changing. Every proposition of ontological metaphysics is meaningless. Truth is the opinion of all who investigate a matter agree on; truth is what it works. To determine the meaning or the truth of an idea you must evaluate its usefulness.

Other important aspects of pragmatism include:

1-Anti-Cartesianism (Descartes was a major figure in 17th-century continental rationalism, later advocated by Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, and opposed by the empiricist school of thought consisting of Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume): the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body.
human activity and thoughts should be instruments to solve practical problemsThinking is not a search for truth but an activity aimed to solve individual and social problems.
a statement can be shown to be correct by way of empirical demonstration; it rules out religion, metaphysics, aesthetics, and ethical sentences as meaningless.
5-Conceptual relativity:
universals exist only within the mind and have no external or substantial reality.
all claims of knowledge could, in principle, be mistaken.
7-High regard for science.

Main Works:
-Charles Sanders Peirce: Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, The Essential Peirce.
-William James: Principles of Psychology.
-John Dewey: Thought and its Subject-Matter, The School and Society, The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology, Democracy and Education, Human Nature and Conduct, The Public and its Problems, Art as Experience, A Common Faith, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry

Famous Quotes
-Charles Sanders Peirce:
"Every new concept first comes to the mind in a judgment", "Generality is, indeed, an indispensable ingredient of reality; for mere individual existence or actuality without any regularity whatever is a nullity. Chaos is pure nothing", "The essence of belief is the establishment of a habit".
William James:
"A chain is no stronger than its weakest link", "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does", "Belief creates the actual fact", "Man can alter his life by altering his thinking", "Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices", "Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power", "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated", "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it".
John Dewey: "Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another", "Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself", "Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes", "One lives with so many bad deeds on one's conscience and some good intentions in one's heart", "Skepticism: the mark and even the pose of the educated mind", "The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative", "The good man is the man who, no matter how morally unworthy he has been, is moving to become better", "The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action", Without some goals and some efforts to reach it, no man can live".

Charles Sanders Peirce                William James                             John Dewey                            

 Analytic Philosophy

Analytic Philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate mainly English-speaking countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) in the 20th century.

The term "analytic philosophy" can refer to: interest in the natural sciences, linguistics, and formal logic.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970): English philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian and social critic. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his protégé Wittgenstein, and is widely held to be one of the 20th century's most important logicians. Russell was imprisoned for his pacifist activism during World War I, campaigned against Adolph Hitler, for nuclear disarmament, criticized Soviet totalitarianism and the United States of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought." He was an educator, teaching in China and he was the headmaster of Beacon Hill School in England

Main Works: Principia Mathematica, On Denoting, and The Problems of Philosophy.

Main Ideas: Empiricism. Everything we know must be acquired through sensory experience. The outside world has a reality of its own and exists whether we see it or not. He reminded the world of the many atrocities committed in the name of God. He supported freedom of sexual expression. Science as the best source of knowledge. He created the system of Logical Analysis or Logical Atomism: a concept could be deconstructed in its parts to make easier its study. The concepts of Mathematics can be defined in terms of concepts of Logic: Logicism.

Famous Quotes: "A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live", "A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not to be endured with patient resignation", "Anything you're good at contributes to happiness", "Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd", "Contempt for happiness is usually contempt for other people's happiness, and is an elegant disguise for hatred of the human race", "Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who'll get the blame", "Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric", "Extreme hopes are born from extreme misery", "Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom", "Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure", "I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world", "I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine", "I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong", "It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this", "It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly", "Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives", "Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones", "None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear", "Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons", "Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don't know", "The degree of one's emotions varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts", "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd", "The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge".

Ludwig  Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He helped inspire two of the century's principal philosophical movements: the Vienna Circle and Oxford ordinary language philosophy. Wittgenstein is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century.

Main Works: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) and Philosophical Investigations.

Main Ideas: Language is composed of things he called propositions, which could be broken down into less complex propositions, until you arrived at some basic truths. Similarly, the world is composed of myriad complex facts that can be broken down again and again until you arrived at an atomic fact. We perceive facts and turn them into thoughts. Thoughts are expressed in language = propositions. We simplify language into atomic sentences. Language is an expression of facts; it has no meaning in itself. An expression' meaning is based on how the expression is used more than by what the words in it refer to.

Logical positivism is the name given to Russell's and Wittgenstein's ideas (Analytical Philosophy) (also called logical empiricism and neo-positivism) by the members of Vienna Circle. This group grew from the discussions of a group called the "First Vienna Circle" which gathered at the Café Central before World War I. After the war, Hans Hahn, a member of that early group, helped bring Moritz Schlick to Vienna. Schlick's Vienna Circle, along with Hans Reichenbach's Berlin Circle, propagated the new doctrines more widely in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Main Ideas:

  • The positivist view is that there are no specifically philosophical truths and that the object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts.  As a result, many analytic philosophers have considered their inquiries as continuous with  those of the natural sciences.
  • The view that the logical clarification of thoughts can only be achieved by analysis of the logical form of philosophical propositions.
  • The rejection of sweeping philosophical systems in favor of close attention to detail, common sense, and ordinary language.
  • The concept of "verifiability criterion of meaning": If it can't be verified, it is meaningless. Ontological, Moral and value statements are empirically meaningless.

Bertrand Russell                           Ludwig  Wittgenstein        

Philosophical Questions

Does the spiritual state  transcend the physical and empirical reality?
Is instinct more powerful than intellect?
Is God everywhere and in every living creature? Are we all divine?
Were American Transcendentalists an early version of the hippies?
Analyze: "Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves"
there such a thing as a fixed absolute truth?
Define "truth". Is it  what it works, what is useful?
Should human activity and thoughts be only instruments to solve practical problems?
The creative spirit and the ideas of lunatics are not so far apart; many lunatics were actually visionaries and dissidents" Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
In the western world the employment of torture has just switched the destructive emphasis from the body to the soul" What do you think about this?
Are we always trying to
find differences between us and  other people (racially, politically, economically) to say that we are normal or better and the others are abnormal or below us? Why people do that?
Analyze this:
"Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd"
Is language an effective or a flawed means of communication? Why?
Why do you think that so many
atrocities have been committed in the name of God? Is it God, religion, or men to blame?
Analyze this: "Anything you're good at contributes to happiness"
What is the message in the following quote? "I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine. I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong"
If it can't be verified, it is meaningless
. Ontological, moral and value statements are empirically meaningless. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

11-An Era of Suspicion. Structuralism vs. Deconstruction.


Critical theory   A philosophical method that seeks to provide a radical critique of knowledge by taking into account the situation and interests involved.
Ding-an-sich   German for "thing-in-itself" a thing as it is independent of any consciousness of it.
Hermeneutics   Interpretive understanding that seeks systematically to access the essence of things.
Logical positivism   The philosophy of the Vienna Circle, according to which any purported statement of fact, if not a verbal truism, is meaningless unless certain conceivable observations would serve to conform or deny it.

An Era of Suspicion:

Some Continental philosophers during the years of the Cold War (1945-1990) saw as suspicious the content of existing theories about the meaning of right & wrong, the nature of language, the possibility of human self-understanding, the appearance of metaphysical systems, the existence of absolute truths, etc. They considered that these theories were biased, that they were trying to manipulate ideas / people for a reason. They supported liberalism, minority groups and freedom of speech; they were against ideologies, labeling people, and the idea of objectivity in social issues. Among these Continental philosophers were Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty (an American).

                                                    Cold War's Suspicion, Prejudice & Confrontation

Today’s Intolerance, Opportunism, Violence, Hate, Lack of Faith

Did the first lead to the second?

Jürgen Habermas (1929-   ): He is a German philosopher and sociologist, professor at the University of Frankfurt, involved in the tradition of critical theory (the examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities). He is perhaps best known for his work on the concept of the public sphere (a space for critical discussion, open to all, where private people come together to form a public whose "public reason" would work as a check on state power). His work focused on the foundations of social theory, the analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, and contemporary politics. Habermas's theoretical system is devoted to revealing the possibility of reason, emancipation, and rational-critical communication in modern institutions. He is associated with The Frankfurt School (a school of neo-Marxist critical theory, social research, and philosophy associated with the original Institute for Social Research of the University of Frankfurt am Main), which rejected the material determinism of Marx and rejected Positivism and any possibility of a value-free social science. He considers that human beings should be seen as subjects interacting with other subjects, sharing inter-subjective experiences. He believes in emancipatory knowledge, one concerned with critical theory. He has said that (any) ideology misrepresents and distorts the truth and makes use of arbitrary power in society. According to Habermas, a variety of factors are resulting in the decay of the public sphere, including the growth of a commercial mass media, which turns the critical public into a passive consumer public. He proposes the "ideal speech situation" in which persons are free to speak their minds without fear to be blocked. He supports the work of countercultural groups: feminism, liberation movements, minority groups, etc.

Major Works: The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, On Social Identity, Legitimation Crisis, The Theory of Communicative Action, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, The Inclusion of the Other, and Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe.

Famous Quotes: "Each murder is one too many", "From a moral point of view, there is no excuse for terrorist acts, regardless of the motive or the situation under which they are carried out", "One never really knows who one's enemy is", "The state is in danger of falling into disrepute due to the evidence of its inadequate resources".


It is an approach to the human sciences that attempts to analyze a specific field (for instance, mythology, sociology, anthropology, psychoanalysis, literary theory and architecture) as a complex system of interrelated parts with its underlying rules and conventions. It began in linguistics with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913). But many French intellectuals perceived it to have a wider application, and the model was soon modified and applied to other fields. It has been criticized for its anti-humanism, in opposition to the Sartrean existentialism that preceded it. Among the leader structuralism's theorists were Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan.
There are four common ideas regarding structuralism: Firstly, the structure is what determines the position of each element of a whole. Secondly, structuralists believe that every system has a structure. Thirdly, structuralists are interested in 'structural' laws that deal with coexistence rather than changes. And finally structures are the 'real things' that lie beneath the surface or the appearance of meaning.

Paul-Michel Foucault (1926-1984): He was a French philosopher, sociologist and historian. Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, and the prison system, as well as for his work on the history of human sexuality. Foucault's work on power, and the relationships among power, knowledge, and discourse has been widely discussed. He was openly gay and died of toxoplasmosis as a result of AIDS.

Main Works: Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, Death and The Labyrinth, The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality.

Please, see:

Main Ideas: Truths and knowledge have changed over the centuries from age to age and from culture to culture: black is white and wrong is right depending on the powers that be.
                   The creative spirit and the ideas of lunatics are not so far apart.; many lunatics were actually visionaries and dissidents.
                   In the western world the employment of torture has just switched the destructive emphasis from the body to the soul. Prisons do not rehabilitate criminals, but reinforce the criminal life.
                   People have always practice "othering":  finding the differences between them and  other people (racially, politically, economically). They are normal and the others are abnormal.
                   He saw History as a series of discontinuous created realities or "epistemes", merely a construct of the social discourse and not "absolute truths" at all.    

Famous Quotes: "As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end", "In its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing or educating", "Madness is the absolute break with the work of art", "The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us".

                           "Othering" or "Labeling"


It is the name given by French philosopher Jacques Derrida to an approach (whether in philosophy, literary analysis, or in other fields) which rigorously pursues the meaning of a text to the point of undoing the oppositions on which it is apparently founded, and to the point of showing that those foundations are irreducibly complex, unstable or impossible. Deconstruction generally attempts to demonstrate that any text is not a discrete whole but contains several irreconcilable and contradictory meanings; that any text therefore has more than one interpretation; that the text itself links these interpretations inextricably; that the incompatibility of these interpretations is irreducible; and thus that an interpretative reading cannot go beyond a certain point. Derrida refers to this point as an aporia in the text.

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004): He was a French philosopher born in Algeria, from a low-middle class Sephardic Jewish family, who is known as the founder of a movement known as Deconstruction. His work had a profound impact upon literary theory and continental philosophy. There was a major controversy about an honorary degree that he finally got from Cambridge University as part of which he was accused of being a charlatan. Many Anglo-American philosophers don't support his writings / ideas.

Main Work: Of Grammatology.

Main Ideas: His field was Linguistics, the study of language. Language is a flawed means of communication. The reader or listener can't never know what the author / speaker really means. There are infinite interpretations of any statement. Deconstruction: breaking down any statement to show that everything in it is inherently false.

Famous Quotes: "As soon as there is language, generality has entered the scene", "We are all mediators, translators", "Who ever said that one was born just once?", "The first problem of the media is posed by what does not get translated, or even published in the dominant political languages".

Richard Rorty (1931-2007): American philosopher, born in New York to parents involved in politics. He was admitted to the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen (15) and received his PhD from Yale University in 1956 (25 years old). He served two years in the army, and then taught at Wellesley College for three years, until 1961. Thereafter, for 21 years he was a professor of philosophy at Princeton University.  In 1982 he became Kenan Professor of the Humanities at the University Of Virginia. In 1997, Rorty became professor emeritus of comparative literature and philosophy at Stanford University.

Major Works: The Linguistic Turn, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.

Main Ideas: He disagreed with the concept that philosophy could find "the truth". He joined the ranks of American Pragmatism and supported the ideas of American political liberalism, saying that our "absolute values" are human constructs. For him, objectivity is a fiction and the idea of truth is a myth. People cannot step outside of their own perspective to evaluate their constrains. Standards of evidence and knowledge are just starting points and relative to one's culture.

Famous Quotes: "Truth is simply a compliment paid to sentences seen to be paying their way", "Solidarity is not discovered by reflection, but created. It is created by increasing our sensitivity to the particular details of the pain and humiliation of other, unfamiliar sorts of people", "My sense of the holy is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law", "There is nothing to be known about anything except an initially large, and forever expandable, web of relations to other things".

 Paul-Michel Foucault         Jacques Derrida
                                                     Jürgen Habermas               Richard Rorty


Philosophical Questions

Can anything human be impartial, objective and unbiased?
Is there any "absolute truth?
Is Habermas concept of the public sphere possible / practical? Why?
Are the mass media and commercial ads  turning the critical public into a passive consumer public?
Are bureaucracies, institutions, corporations and other socio-economic and political structures supportive to human / popular needs or have they become creatures fighting for their own interests?
Are the spirit and the ideas of lunatics far apart from the wisdom of visionaries and dissidents?
Has the employment of torture just switched its destructive emphasis from the body to the soul in our prisons?
Do our prisons rehabilitate criminals or do they reinforce the criminal life?
Analyze this: "People have always practice "othering":  finding the differences between them and  other people (racially, politically, economically). They are normal and the others are abnormal". Do you agree / disagree? Why?
Has History been a journey toward progress? How should we define progress?
Do any text or conversation contain irreconcilable and contradictory meanings? Do they always have more than one interpretation and therefore understanding anything cannot go beyond a certain point
Is language a flawed means of communication? Can we ever know what the speaker / author really means?
Is everything  human / social inherently false?

12-Post-Colonial Thought


Ethnophilosophy   A systematically descriptive method of investigating the philosophical concepts that are important in a culture, especially a culture which is primarily transmitted through unwritten stories, rituals, and statements of belief.
Existentialism   A tradition of twentieth-century philosophy having its roots in the nineteenth century but coming to flower in Europe after World War II; of central concern is the question of how the individual is to find an authentic existence in this world, in which there is no ultimate reason why things happen one way and not another.
Feminism   Movement in support of the view that men and women should have equal social value and status.
Gender   A person's biological sex as constructed, understood, interpreted, and institutionalized by society.
Pan-African philosophy   A cultural categorization of philosophical activity which includes the work of African thinkers and thinkers of African descent wherever they are located.

Colonialism in the Third World (Asia, Africa, and Latin America). Historical Background.

  • A history of slavery, systematic marginalization, and repression.
  • Africa and pre-Columbian America had not a written philosophy, but oral traditions and religious beliefs. Asia had strong philosophies older than those brought by the West: Asian people considered European ideas crude and simplistic.
  • Europeans used technological superiority to impose domination.
  • Colonial activity went beyond simple extraction of wealth: violent physical subjugation, cultural transformation / imposition of European languages, values, and beliefs / systematic destruction of indigenous culture & traditions, change of natural borders, social dislocation, etc. Deep cultural traumas.
  • Deception, Broken agreements and Genocide.
  • Europeans used local wealthy elites to support authoritarian regimes and oligarchies to continue exploitation after independence in alliance with the church.
  • Lines between religion and philosophy were very hard to draw.

Thinkers, Revolutionaries & Movements

1-Africa: Leopold Sedar Senghor, Poulin J. Hountondji, Albert Memmi, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Chaikh Anta Diop, and Desmond Tutu.
1.1-Movement: Pan-Africanism (Many different approaches in both content & methods). Anti-Apartheid Movement (South Africa) against racial segregation. Afrocentrism (study of the heritage and influence of African cultures)
2-African-Americans: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Cornel West.
2.1-Civil Rights Movement
3-Latin America: Carlos Astrada, Francisco Miro Quesada, Frantz Fanon, and Fidel Castro.
3.1-Movement: Liberation Theology. Movement: Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (Cuba).
4-Asia: Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sun Yat-sen, Ho Chi Minh.
4.1-Movement: Nonviolence Resistance. Non-Aligned Movement: "struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics."
5-Feminism: Gloria Watkins (bell hooks), Sonia Saldivar-Hull, Gerda Lerner, and Stephanie Coontz.

Major Ideas:

  • Challenge the uncritical notions of progress brought by the West.
  • The concept of Negritude (Leopold Sedar Senghor): African roots, oral traditions; an African distinctly epistemology, different from the Europeans.
  • Against Ethno-Philosophy and Negritude in Africa (Poulin J. Hountondji): Break with the past and develop a program for the future.
  • Master-slave dynamics. The idea that what the master brings to the slave affects also the master.
  • Disagreement on how to integrate indigenous traditions into a modern philosophical project.
  • Appeal for Social Justice and Change.
  • Re-write their History.
  • The struggle for national independence also includes fighting against racism and equality for women.
  • Perspectivism:  The idea that all perception and conceptualization take place from a particular perspective.
  • Nationalism, National Identity.
  • Satyagraha: Clinging to Truth (Clearing the perceptions of prejudice; using yoga, acquiring tools for scientific investigation, practicing virtues like giving, nonattachment, and mental purity, repudiation of human inequalities and promotion of nonviolence) developed by Gandhi.
  • The international market system as the major force for injustice to promote domination.
  • Search for cross-cultural commonalities: Think globally.
  • Civility, Religion and non-violent resistance. Many political leaders were also religious leaders (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.).
  • Create more compassionate societies, eliminating prejudice (Cornel West).
  • Anti-Imperialism and some variations of Marxism-Leninism / Maoism.
  • Replace the bourgeois mentality that supports the colonial / neocolonial mentality with social justice, equality, and a sustainable democracy (Carlos Astrada).
  • 1960-80: Revolution, Guerrillas, Violence vs. Violence (Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro).
  • Today: Search for Moderation, Democracy and Integration. Pragmatism: Avoid confrontation that brings suffering; against ideologies that claim having the truth, against dividing humanity (Miro Quesada).

Gandhi                                    Mandela                                    Dr. King                                      Ho Chi Minh   

Famous Quotes:
-Gandhi: "Strength doest not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will", "A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave", "A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes", "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people", "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind", "Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding", "Be the change that you want to see in the world", "Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances", "Faith... must be enforced by reason... when faith becomes blind it dies".
-Mandela: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world", "I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man", "I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent", "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner", "It always seems impossible until its done", "Money won't create success, the freedom to make it will", "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated", "There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires".
-Dr. King: "A man can't ride your back unless it's bent", "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live", "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom", "At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love", "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear", "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle", "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase", "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed", "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.", "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character"

-Malcom X: "The true criterion of leadership is spiritual . Men are attracted by spirit. By power, men are forced. Love is engendered by spirit"
-Desmond Tutu: "You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor".
-Ho Chi Minh: "It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me", "Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty", "You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win".
-Cornel West:
“A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue”, “Who wants to be well-adjusted to injustice? What kind of human being do you want to be?”, “The crisis in black America is threefold...economic...political...and spiritual”, “There's a parallel between the killing fields of the slave ships ... and the killing fields of the Super Dome.”

Philosophical Questions

Should third world people forget the past and start from zero?
Should they re-write their History?
Trying to recover your roots and history will hold you down?
Are racism, colonialism, and male chauvinism connected? Why yes / not?
How what the master do to the slave affects also the master?
Does every culture / ethnic group have its own perspective of the historical events?  Why?
Why religion, civil rights, and national liberation have been connected?
Is it feasible today to use nonviolent resistance to achieve national liberation?
Is it right / fair to fight for your independence using violence?
What would be more reasonable / practical: reforms or revolution? Why is freedom never voluntarily given by the oppressor?
"Violence begets more violence, creating a never ending cycle of destruction" Is that true?
Have colonialism and racism ended?
Why was Marxism an appealing alternative to colonialism? Why is that not the case anymore?
Analyze this quote: "Strength doest not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will"
Is it possible to achieve unity in Africa, or in Latin America, or in any other region? Why?
Analyze this quote: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner"
Analyze this quote: "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it."
Analyze this quote:
"You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor".
Analyze this quote: “The crisis in black America is threefold...economic...political...and spiritual”


World Religions


1-Understanding Religion
2-Indegenous or Oral Religions
3-Ancient & Medieval Mythologies
6-Jainism & Sikhism
7-Zoroastianism and Baha'i
8-Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto
12-Alternative Paths


1-Understanding Religion


Agnosticism    The position that holds that the existence of God cannot be proven.
Animism    A worldview common among oral religions (religious with no written scriptures) that sees all elements of nature as being filled with spirit or spirits.
Atheism    The position that holds that there is no God or gods.
Dualism    The belief that reality is made of two different principles (spirit and matter); the belief in two gods (good and evil) in conflict.
Immanent    Existing and operating within nature.
Monotheism    The belief in one God.
Non-theism    Not asserting or denying the existence of any deity; unconcerned with the supernatural.
Pantheism    The belief that everything in the universe is divine.
Polytheism    The belief in many gods.
Transcendent    Not limited by the physical world.

Defining Religion:

It is difficult to define Religion because of the varied sets of ideas, traditions, practices, etc of the more than 4,200 different existing faiths in the world.

A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural being, force, quality or deity, that gives meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life. It may be expressed through prayer, ritual, meditation, among other things. It may focus on specific supernatural and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience. (Wikipedia).

Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

Religion has created a huge mass of literature, art, debate, hate, wars, persecution, and love. Schism is a common phenomenon in almost every religion. Religion has always been in some type of debate / contradiction / alliance with  governments, with political groups, with science, with philosophy, and other components of society. The etymology of the word religion means "reconnecting".

Studying Religions

First religious manifestations appeared during the prehistory. Religions historically "evolved" from animism, to polytheism, to monotheism. Recognizing our subjectivism and bias is important to study religion. We will not judge religions, but respect them all. All religions are equally worthy of study. The academic study of religions started in the 1800's. The study of religions in a comparative and historical sense is not to validate or disprove them or to enhance our own belief. Religion is part of culture:

  • It helps to round out a person's education;
  • It facilitates a better understanding of people;
  • It promotes tolerance and appreciation of differences
  • It contributes to develop an appreciation for the arts
  • It could guide one's own religious quest

Why is Religion important? It serves many human needs:

  • It helps to unite people, offering companionship and a sense of belonging to a group
  • It brings meaning to our lives
  • It offers answers to our deepest questions: Who are we?, Where did we come from?, Where are we going?
  • It provides structure for caring for the needy
  • It help us to deal with our mortality and prepare for death
  • It gives us a sense of our place in the universe
  • It gives us inner peace, comfort and hope
  • It is a source of security
  • it is a way to deal with our anxieties and unknown future

Key Elements to Compare Religions (Series of Videos from "The Great Courses")

  • Belief System: Creation, Beginning and End of the Universe, Human purpose / place in the universe
  • Connections with the Divine: Praying, Meditating, etc.
  • Afterlife
  • Community
  • Leaders
  • Recruitment
  • Scriptures
  • Myths or Stories
  • Rituals
  • Ethics or Rules
  • Emotional Experiences
  • Symbols, Statues, Paintings, Music, Sacred Objects, Incense
  • Sacred and Profane
  • Exclusiveness and Inclusiveness: Foods, Places, Practices, etc.
  • Roles of Males & Females.

The Originating Holiness: Many different names (Brahman, Dao, Great Spirit, the Absolute, the Divine, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, etc). Polytheism or Monotheism, Pantheism, Deism, Agnosticism, or Atheism. God is immanent or transcendent or both.

Symbolism: Many scholars think that religious symbols point to some structure that underlies all religions.

Water: Spiritual cleansing (Hindus bath in the Ganges river; Christian baptism; Jews for purification, Muslims before praying).
The Sun: Health
A Mountain: Strength
A Circle: Eternity, Unity
Ashes: Death (Tribal religions in dance ceremonies; Christians in Ash Wednesday; Hindus for asceticism and detachment).
Dreams: Messages from God, a key to the future.
Bat: A symbol of good fortune in the East, it represented demons and spirits in medieval Europe.

Butterfly: Reminds Christians of the amazing transformation that takes place through Christ's redemption and regeneration.

Cow: It symbolized the sky goddess Hathor to Egyptians, enlightenment to Buddhists, one of the highest and holiest stages of transmigration (reincarnation) to Hindus.

Crescent Moon: A symbol of the aging goddess (crone) to contemporary witches and victory over death to many Muslims. In Islamic lands, crescent can be seen enclosing a lone pentagram.

Frog: A symbol of fertility to many cultures. The Romans linked it to Aphrodite, the Egyptian to the shape-shifting goddess Heket who would take the form of a frog. To the Chinese, it symbolized the moon -- "the lunar, yin principle" bringing healing and prosperity.[1]  Since frogs need watery places, their image was often used in occult rain charms.

Lizard: Its "sun-seeking habit symbolizes the soul's search for awareness." To the Romans, who believed it hibernated, the lizard meant death and resurrection.

  Phoenix: A universal symbol of the sun, rebirth, resurrection and immortality.

  Spider: Linked to treachery and death in many cultures.

Pentagram: A standard symbol for witches, freemasons, and many other pagan or occult groups. To witches, it represent the four basic elements (wind, water, earth and fire) plus a pantheistic spiritual being such as Gaia or Mother Earth. The pentagram is also used for protection, to banish energy, or to bring it to you, depending on how it's drawn.

Hexagram: When surrounded by a circle, it represents the "divine mind" (a counterfeit of God's wisdom) to numerous occult groups through the centuries. Many still use it in occult rituals. But to Jewish people, it is their Star of David.

Spiral: Linked to the "circle". Ancient symbol of the goddess, the womb, fertility, feminine serpent force, continual change, and the evolution of the universe.

Triangle: Associated with the number three. Pointing upwards, it symbolizes fire, male power and a view of God. (See "pyramid"). To Christians, it often represents the Trinity. Pointing down, it symbolizes water, female sexuality, goddess religions and homosexuality.

Up: Male Down: Female


Some Disciplines related and ways of Studying Religions

1. Mythology
2. Theology
3. Anthropology
4. Sociology
5. Hermeneutics
6. History of Religions
7. Study of one Religion
8. Comparative Religion

Key Theorists of Religion

 n      James Frazer (1854-1939): Scottish anthropologist and author of “The Golden Bough”: Religion is an intermediate state between magic and science.

 n      William James (1842-1910): American psychologist and philosopher: religion brings meaning and vitality to people’s lives; it grows out of psychological needs.

 n      Sigmund Freud (1856-1939): Austrian psychologist, father of psychoanalysis: Religion is the result of a projection of childhood experience. It is an attempt to deal with anxieties.

 n      Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961): Swiss psychoanalyst and Freud’s disciple, author of “Modern Man in search of a Soul...” Religion grew out of the individual’s need of personal fulfillment (individuation), to understand their place in the universe and prepare for death.

 n      Rudolf Otto (1869-1937): German theologian, author of “The Idea of the Holy”: Religion emerges when people experience the sense of the holy.

 n      David Émile Durkheim (1858-1917): French sociologist and pioneer in the development of modern sociology and anthropology. He argued that religious behavior is relative to the society in which it is found, and that a society will often use a religion to reinforce its own values.

 n      Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954): Austrian ethnographer and philologist who argued that all humankind once believed in a single High God and that to this simple monotheism later beliefs in lesser gods and spirits were added.

 n      Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917): English anthropologist. Tylor is considered a representative of cultural evolutionism. Religion is the result of seeing spirits in control of the natural forces and the fear of the power of those spirits.

 Some Orientations of Religions

n      Sacramental—emphasizes ritual

n      Prophetic—emphasizes belief and morality

n      Mystical—emphasizes sense of oneness with god or the universe

 Varied Attitudes among Religions

 n      Sacred reality (God)—transcendent or immanent

 n      Universe—created or eternal

 n      Nature—perfect or imperfect

 n      Time—cyclical or linear

 n      Human beings—central or part of nature and society

 n      Words and scriptures—valuable or inadequate

 n      Exclusiveness vs. Inclusiveness

Socratic Questions

Chapter #1-Understanding Religion

1-What does Religion and faith mean to you?
2-If you would belief in the existence of God, what type of God it would be? Describe him.
3-Why do you think that so many million people believe in God?
4-Why do you think there are so many different religions when they have so many things in common?
5-Why symbols are so important to people?

Religions that we will study in our course:

1. Indigenous or Oral Religions: Animism and Shamanism.
2. Ancient & Medieval Mythologies
Jainism and Sikhism
Zoroastianism and Baha'i
7. Daoism, Confucianism, and
Alternative Paths: Modern Wicca & Druidism, Yoruba faiths and practices (Santeria & Voodoo), Scientology, Sorcery, and Spiritism.



Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose

Revival of Norse and Germanic paganism, 1970s Scandinavia and USA. Unknown Polytheistic, Norse gods and goddesses, Norse creation myths. Salvation or redemption not emphasized. Fatalistic view of universe. Valhalla (heaven) for death in battle; Hel (peaceful place) for most; Hifhel (hell) for the very evil. Sacrifice of food or drink, toast to the gods, shamanism (less frequently), celebration of solstice holidays. Nine Noble Virtues is moral code. Eddas (Norse epics); the Havamal (proverbs attributed to Odin)
Atheism Appears throughout history (including ancient Greek philosophy), but especially after the Enlightenment (19th cent). 1.1 billion (this figure includes agnostic and non-religious, which tend to be grouped on surveys) There is no God or divine being. Beliefs about the universe usually based on latest scientific findings. Since there is no afterlife, this one life is of great importance. Only humans can help themselves and each other solve the world's problems. None None Influential works include those by Marx, Freud, Feuerbach, and Voltaire. Notable modern authors include Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan.
Baha'i Faith

Founded by Bahá'u'lláh, 1863, Tehran, Iran. 5-7 million One God, who has revealed himself progressively through major world religions. The soul is eternal and essentially good. Purpose of life is to develop spiritually and draw closer to God. Soul separates from the body and begins a journey towards or away from God. Heaven and hell are states of being. Daily prayer, avoidance of intoxicants, scripture reading, hard work, education, work for social justice and equality. Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and other Bahá'í leaders
Bön Indigenous religion of Tibet. 100,000 Non-theistic Buddhism, but meditation on peaceful and wrathful deities. Purpose is to gain enlightenment. Reincarnation until gain enlightenment Meditation on mandalas and Tibetan deities, astrology, monastic life. Bonpo canon

Founded by Siddharta Gautama (the Buddha) in c. 520 BC, NE India. 360 million Varies: Theravada atheistic; Mahayana more polytheistic. Buddha taught nothing is permanent. Purpose is to avoid suffering and gain enlightenment and release from cycle of rebirth, or at least attain a better rebirth by gaining merit. Reincarnation (understood differently than in Hinduism, with no surviving soul) until gain enlightenment Meditation, mantras, devotion to deities (in some sects), mandalas (Tibetan) Tripitaka (Pali Canon); Mahayana sutras like the Lotus Sutra; others.
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
Cao Dai

Founded in 1926, Vietnam by Ngo Van Chieu and others based on a séance. 4-6 million God represented by Divine Eye. Founders of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity venerated, and saints including Victor Hugo. Goal is peace and harmony in each person and in the world. Salvation by "cultivating self and finding God in self." Reincarnation. Bad karma can lead to rebirth on a darker planet; good karma to better life on earth. Eventual attainment of nirvana or heaven. Hierarchy similar to Roman Catholicism. Daily prayer. Meditation. Communication with spirit world (now outlawed in Vietnam). Caodai canon
Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox)

Founded by Jesus Christ in c. 30 AD, Israel. 2 billion One God who is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit All have sinned and are thereby separated from God. Salvation is through faith in Christ and, for some, sacraments and good works. Eternal heaven or hell (or temporary purgatory). Prayer, Bible study, baptism, Eucharist (Communion), church on Sundays, numerous holidays. The Bible
(Old and New Testaments)
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose

Especially popularized in the 18th-cent. Enlightenment under Kant, Voltaire, Paine, Jefferson, and others Unknown One Creator God who is uninterested in the world. Reason is basis for all knowledge. Not addressed Not addressed None prescribed, although some deists practice prayer. Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason and similar texts
Falun Gong

Li Hongzhi in 1992 in China 10 million Countless gods and spiritual beings. Demonic aliens. The Falun (wheel) is an energy source located in the navel. Goal is spritual transcendence, achieved by practicing Falun Gong. Not addressed Five exercises to strengthen the Falun. Cultivation of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance. Meat eating discouraged. Zhuan Falun and other writings by Master Li

Various teachers including Valentinus, 1st-2nd cents. AD Ancient form extinct; small modern revival groups The supreme God is unknowable; the creator god is evil and matter is evil. Humans can return to the spiritual world through secret knowledge of the universe. Return to the spiritual world. Asceticism, celibacy Gnostic scriptures including various Gospels and Acts attributed to apostles.
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose

Indigenous religion of India as developed to present day. 900 million One Supreme Reality (Brahman) manifested in many gods and goddesses Humans are in bondage to ignorance and illusion, but are able to escape. Purpose is to gain release from rebirth, or at least a better rebirth. Reincarnation until gain enlightenment. Yoga, meditation, worship (puja), devotion to a god or goddess, pilgrimage to holy cities, live according to one's dharma (purpose/ role). The Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, etc.

Muhammad, 622 AD, Saudi Arabia 1.3 billion (Sunni: 940 million) One God (Allah in Arabic) Humans must submit (Islam) to the will of God to gain Paradise after death. Paradise or Hell. Five Pillars: Faith, Prayer, Alms, Pilgrimage, Fasting. Mosque services on Fridays. Ablutions before prayer. No alcohol or pork. Holidays related to the pilgrimage and fast of Ramadan. Qur'an (Scripture); Hadith (tradition)

Mahavira, c. 550 BC, eastern India 4 million The universe is eternal; many gods exist. Gods, humans and all living things are classified in a complex hierarchy. The soul is uncreated and eternal and can attain perfect divinity. Purpose is to gain liberation from cycle of rebirth, by avoiding all bad karma, especially by causing no harm to any sentient being. Reincarnation until liberation. Monasticism under the Five Great Vows (Non-Violence, Truth, Celibacy, Non-Stealing, Non-Possessiveness); worship at temples and at home. Meditation and mantras. The teachings of Mahavira in various collections.
Jehovah's Witnesses

Charles Taze Russell, 1879, Pittsburgh 6.5 million One God, Jehovah. No Trinity - Christ is the first creation of God; the Holy Spirit is a force. Salvation is through faith in Christ and obeying Jehovah's laws. The End of the World is soon. Heaven for 144,000 chosen Witnesses, eternity on new earth for other Witnesses. All others annihilated. No hell. No blood transfusions, no celebration of holidays, no use of crosses or religious images. Baptism, Sunday service at Kingdom Hall, strong emphasis on evangelism. New World Translation of the Scriptures
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose

The religion of the Hebrews (c. 1300 BC), especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. 14 million One God, Yahweh. Obey God's commandments, live ethically. Focus is more on this life than the next. Not historically emphasized. Beliefs vary from no afterlife to shadowy existence to the World to Come (similar to heaven). Circumcision at birth, bar/bat mitzvah at adulthood. Synagogue services on Saturdays. No pork or other non-kosher foods. Holidays related to historical events. Bible (Tanakh), Talmud
Mormonism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Joseph Smith, 1830, New York, USA 12.2 million God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate individual beings Humans existed as spirits before this life, salvation is returning to God. Salvation by faith in Christ, good works, ordinances, and evangelism. All return to spirit world for period of instruction before resurrection. Mormons to heaven with God and families; others rewarded but not with God; hell for those who reject God after death. Abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea; baptism for the dead; eternal marriage; temple garments under daily clothes; active evangelism. Christian Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose

L. Ron Hubbard, 1954, California 70,000 or several million, depending on the source God not specified; reality explained in the Eight Dynamics Human consists of body, mind and thetan; capable of great things.
Gain spiritual freedom by ridding mind of engrams.
Reincarnation Auditing, progressing up various levels until "clear". Focus on education and drug recovery programs. Writings of Hubbard, such as Dianetics and Scientology
Seventh-day Adventists

Rooted in Millerite movement; founded 1863 in New England; early leaders: Ellen White, Hiram Edson and Joseph Bates 10 million  One God who is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Second Coming of Christ is imminent; salvation is by faith in Christ; emphasis on quality of life both now and in afterlife A "peaceful pause" after death until the coming of Christ, then resurrection to judgment, followed by eternity in heaven or nonexistence. No hell. Sabbath observance on Saturdays; healthful lifestyle; baptism by immersion Christian Bible; later prophets like Ellen White are inspired and authoritative when tested against Scriptures

Indigenous religion of Japan. 3-4 million Polytheism based on the kami, ancient gods or spirits. Humans are pure by nature and can keep away evil through purification rituals and attain good things by calling on the kami. Death is bad and impure. Some humans become kami after death. Worship and offerings to kami at shrines and at home. Purification rituals. Important texts are Kojiki or 'Records of Ancient Matters' and Nihon-gi or 'Chronicles of Japan'
Religion/Sect/ Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose

Guru Nanak, c. 1500 AD, Punjab, India. 23 million One God (Ik Onkar, Nam) Overcome the self, align life with will of God, and become a "saint soldier," fighting for good. Reincarnation until resolve karma and merge with God. Prayer and meditation on God's name, services at temple (gurdwara), turban and five Ks. Balance work, worship, and charity. No monasticism or asceticism. Adi Granth (Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
Spiritism Modern movement: c.1850, USA, UK, France 11 million Beliefs vary, but generally based in a Christian worldview. Body and spirit are separate entities. Morality and contact with spirits affect afterlife. A spiritual existence with access to the living. Condition depends on morality of life and advancement is possible. Sunday services. Seances and other communication with departed spirits. Spirit healing. No authoritative texts. Doctrine learned from spirit guides (advanced departed spirits).

Lao-Tzu, c. 550 BC, China. 394 million adherents of Chinese religion Pantheism - the Tao pervades all. Yin-yang - opposites make up a unity. Purpose is inner harmony, peace, and longevity. Acheived by living in accordance with the Tao. Revert back to state of non-being, which is simply the other side of being. General attitude of detachment and non-struggle, "go with the flow" of the Tao. Tai-chi, acupuncture, and alchemy to help longevity. Tao Te Ching, Chuang-Tzu

Based on ancient pagan beliefs, but modern form founded early 1900s. Founder generally said to be Gerald Gardner. 1-3 million Polytheism, centered on the Goddess and God, each in various forms; also a belief in a Supreme Being over all "If it harms none, do what you will." Reincarnation until reach the Summerland Prayer, casting a circle, Drawing Down the Moon, reciting spells, dancing, singing, sharing cakes and wine or beer No sacred text; foundational texts include The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches

Zoroaster in c.6th cent. BC, Persia. Official religion of ancient Persia. May have influenced Judaism and Vedic religion. 145 - 210 million people One God, Ahura Mazda, but a dualistic worldview in which an evil spirit, Angra Mainyu, is almost as powerful. Humans are free to do good or evil, must choose the side of good. Judgement followed by heaven or hell. Hell is temporary until final purgation and return to Ahura Mazda. Good deeds, charity, equality, hard work. Zend Avesta
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
Gods and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose

The chart above was taken from The Big Religion Chart

2-Indigenous or Oral Religions: Prehistory, Animism, Shamanism, Totemism, etc.


Ainu    A Caucasoid group in northern Japan, especially Hokkaido, known for its animistic beliefs that spirits or spiritual powers are causative in natural events.
Animism    A worldview common among oral religions that sees all elements of nature as being filled with spirit or spirits.
Calumet    A long-stemmed sacred pipe used primarily by many native peoples of North America; it is smoked as a token of peace.
Distant Time    The name given by the Koyukon people of the Arctic to the holy ancient past in which the gods lived and worked.
Divination    A foretelling of the fortune or a discovery of the unknown by magical means.
Elima    Temporary place of seclusion set up by the BaMbuti for girls who reach menarche.
Holistic    Organic, integrated; indicating a complete system, greater than the sum of its parts; here, refers to a culture whose various elements may all have religious meaning.
Inuit    The so-called Eskimo culture of Canada.
Kapu    Hawaiian term meaning "taboo" or "forbidden."
Kupuna    In Hawaiian culture, an esteemed elder who passes what he or she know (e.g., chants) to worthy disciples.
Libation    The act of pouring a liquid as an offering to a god.
Makahiki    The traditional Hawaiian observance of the four-month winter period.
Maori    A native or oral tradition in New Zealand.
Pele    In Hawaii, the goddess of fire, whose place of veneration is the volcano.
Shaman    A human being who contacts and attempts to manipulate the power of spirits for the tribe or group.
Taboo    A strong social prohibition.
Totem    Animal (or image of animals) that is considered to be related by blood to a family or clan and is its guardian symbol.
Yoruba    A native or oral tradition in Africa.

Religion started during pre-historical times. Indigenous religions can be found in every continent. Its teachings have been passed out orally, with the exceptions of the Mayas and Aztecs who left written texts. There is an enormous variety in the beliefs and practices of Indigenous Religions.

These religions have been called primitive, basic, simple and savage in a derogatory way. Indigenous or oral are an unbiased and neutral way of classifying these old and in some places current beliefs. They usually express themselves in dance, masks, wood sculpture, paintings, body painting, chants, temples, etc. Artists in many cultures have found inspiration in native religions for their works.

Key Terms

 n      Shaman—visionary person who contacts spirit world

  n      Taboo—social prohibition

  n      Divination—seeing into the future or past

  n      Totem—symbolic animal important to a group

     n      Anthropology—the holistic, global, comparative study of human beings. It is a comprehensive study of human beings and our interactions with each other and the environment.

  n      Sanctuary—a place where one can sometimes escape punishment.

 Key Scholars Specialized in this field: 

  • Franz Boas (1858-1942): German American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology". He was a professor at Columbia University and curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
  • Bronislaw Malinoski (1884-1942): Polish anthropologist, widely considered one of the most important 20th-century anthropologists. His pioneering ethnographic fieldwork made a major contribution to the study of Melanesia.
  • Raymond Firth (1901-2002): Ethnologist from New Zealand. As a result of Firth's ethnographic work, actual behaviour of societies (social organization) is separated from the idealized rules of behaviour within the particular society (social structure). He was a long serving professor of Anthropology at London School of Economics.
  • Mary Douglas (1921-2007): British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism. Her area was social anthropology; she was considered a follower of Emile Durkheim and a proponent of structuralist analysis, with a strong interest in comparative religion.
  • Sir Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard (1902-1973): British anthropologist instrumental in the development of social anthropology in that country. He was professor of social anthropology at Oxford from 1946 to 1970.
  • David Suzuki (1936- ): Japanese Canadian science broadcaster and environmental activist. Since the mid-1970s, Suzuki has been known for his TV and radio series and books about nature and the environment. He is best known as host of the popular and long-running CBC Television science magazine, The Nature of Things. He is also well known for criticizing governments for their lack of action to protect the environment. A long time activist to reverse global climate change, Suzuki co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, to work "to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us.
  • Edward Osborne Wilson (1929-  ): American biologist, researcher (sociobiology, biodiversity), theorist (consilience, biophilia), naturalist (conservationist) and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, a branch of entomology. Wilson is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. He is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his secular-humanist and deist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical matters. As of 2007, he is Pellegrino University Research Professor in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.
  • Gladys Reichard (1893-1955): American specialist in Melanesian art, Indian Mythology, and anthropological studies of the Navajo Indians. She studied under Franz Boas. She was considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities on the Navajo, and was also one of the world’s leading anthropologists.

Some Typical Patterns in Religions

n      Relation: Human relationships with other human beings, with animals, and with nature. Humans as part of nature and respectful relationship with nature. People look at nature for guidance and meaning. Some religions believe that everything in the universe is a life form: Animism. Others see powerful spirits in nature. In Japan they practiced Shinto, "The Way of the Gods", a polytheistic and animistic faith that involves the worship of kami , kamior spirits. Native people didn’t see clear boundaries between the natural and supernatural. Human have to treat all things with care. One is supposed to take form nature only what one needs. To exploit nature mindlessly is sacrilege, like hurting our mother. Use of circles (Moon, Sun): Native Americans’ Tipis.

 n      Time & Space:

·        Sacred Time is “the time of eternity”. Among the Koyukon people of the Artic it is called “distant time”, where the ancestors and gods live and work. Among Australians is called “dream time”. Sacred time is cyclical, from the origins to the renewal of the present. By recalling and ritually reliving the deeds of the god and the ancestors we enter sacred time.

·        Sacred Space is the doorway to the “other world” of gods and ancestors, the way for us to contact them and they contact us. Usually, a constructed sacred space has the symbolic shape of a circle. It could also be a natural place, like a great mountain, a volcano, a valley, a lake, a forest, etc.

 n      Celebration of origins: Most religions have cosmic tales to explain the origin of the universe, earth, and their origins. A common symbol, signifying the center of the universe is a “sacred tree of life”.

 n      Celebration of gods: Most native religions have a High God, superior to all the other deities. In some cases it is a female God. Some times they have twin Gods (bad & good) or two (male and female) Gods. They also have lesser deities associated with the forces of nature: wind, rain, thunder, sun, oceans, etc. The ceremonies to celebrate or pray to their gods could be indoors (Kiva) or outdoors close to a sacred place or in a shrine.

 n      Respect for ancestors: Many religions make little distinction between gods and ancestors. In ancient China (Shang Dynasty: 1750-1027 BCE) they worshiped the spirits of male ancestors. The also practiced divination. Sprits of ancestors have to be treated well and with love: they may bring good or bad fortune to the family or tribe.

n      Sacred Practices or Rituals: Rituals are the basic way in which humans ensure to live in harmony with each other, with nature, and with the gods and ancestors. Rituals are common during major events in the life cycle, concerning major rules, and to access the spirit world.

·        Life-Cycle Ceremonies: Birth of a child (public, choosing a name), entering adulthood (circumcision and clitoridectomy, trainning, public event for a girl’s menarche, ‘vision quest or dream quest” for boys: isolation, fasting, cleansing), marriage (party and gifts), and death (embalming the chief, killing the wives: India- suttee, Native Americans: platforms to put the dead).

·        Taboos & Sacrifices: Taboos are for the protection the individual, the tribe, the society: codes for behavior. They relate to sex and birth. Blood is powerful (good or bad). Menstruating women: isolation; girls menarche is reason for celebration; giving birth only with the help of other women; sex is forbidden after childbirth (quarantine); commoners must stay away form the chief; adultery; stealing. Breaking a taboo is a serious offense some times punished by death. For a simple taboo offerings (food) and/or a libation (pour drinks, blood on the ground) maybe enough.  

n      Shamanism: Shamans are the intermediaries between the visible, ordinary world and the spirit world. They understand the language of animals and know how to use their powers (wearing masks, antlers, skins, and feathers). Healer, Medicine Man, Diviner, Rainmaker, Sorcerer. They make the connection with the spirits during dreams or traces (use of drugs: peyote, datura, cannabis, coca, and opium); music and chants also help. There are male and female shamans. The ceremonies usually last all night. Divination is a practice to look into the past or the future. Shamans can move outside their physical bodies into other levels of existence.  

n      Artifacts & Art: Masks, drums, statues, sand painting, dance, tattoos, headdresses, chants, woodcarving (totem poles), basketry, weaving, beading, feathers, etc. 


Some Native Religions

 §         African Religions

o       Yoruba: Nigeria. This religion has found its way throughout the world and is now expressed in several varieties which include Candomblé, Lucumí/Santería, Voodoo (We will see them as part of their syncretism with Cristianity). Believers will consult a geomantic divination specialist, known as a babalawo (Ifa Priest) or Iyanifa (Ifa's lady), to mediate in their problems. They have no written history. The spiritual head of this faith has custody of the sacred staff of Oranmiyan which is 18-foot granite monolith in the shape of an elephant’s tusk. They have an elaborated hierarchy of hundreds of deities called orishas, the manifestations of Olodumare or Ogun (God): The Yoruba theogany enjoys a Pantheon of Orishas, this includes:

Partial list of Orishas

  • Olokun - guardian of the deep ocean, the abyss, and signifies unfathomable wisdom,
  • Obatala (Obatalá, Oxalá, Orixalá, Orisainlá) - arch-divinity, father of humankind, divinity of light, spiritual purity, and moral uprightness
  • Orunmila (Orunla, Ifá) - divinity of wisdom, divination, destiny, and foresight
  • Eshu (Eleggua, Exú, Esu, Elegba, Legbara, Papa Legba) - Eshu is the messenger between the human and divine worlds, god of duality, crossroads and beginnings, and also a phallic and fertility god (a god of Life) and the delieverer of souls to the underworld (a god of Death). Eshu is recognized as a trickster and child-like, while Eleggua is Eshu under the influence of Obatala.
  • Ochumare (Oshumare, Oxumare) - rainbow deity, divinity of movement and activity, guardian of children and associated with umbilical cord
  • Nana Buluku as Yemaja, the female thought of the male creator Ashe and the effective cause of all further creation.
  • Iemanja (Yemaja, Imanja, Yemayá, Jemanja, Yemalla, Yemana, Yemanja, Yemaya, Yemayah, Yemoja, Ymoja, Nanã, La Sirène, LaSiren, Mami Wata) - divine mother, divinity of the sea and loving mother of mankind, daughter of Obatala and wife of Aganju
  • Aganju (Aganyu, Agayu) - Father of Shango, he is also said to be Shango's brother in other stories. Aganju is said to be the orisha of volcanoes, mountains, and the desert.
  • Shango (Shangó, Xango, Changó, Chango, Nago Shango) - warrior diety ; divinity of thunder, fire, sky father, represents male power and sexuality
  • Oba (Obba) - Shango's jealous wife, divinity of marriage and domesticity, daughter of Iemanja
  • Oya (Oyá, Oiá, Iansã, Yansá, Iansan, Yansan) - warrior deity; divinity of the wind, sudden change, hurricanes, and underworld gates, a powerful sorceress and primary lover of Shango
  • Ogoun (Ogun, Ogúm, Ogou) - warrior diety; divinity of iron, war, labour, sacrifice, politics, and technology (e.g. railroads)
  • Oshun (Oshún, Ọun, Oxum, Ochun, Osun, Oschun) - divinity of rivers, love, feminine beauty, fertility, and art, also one of Shango's lovers and beloved of Ogoun
  • Ibeji - the sacred twins, represent youth and vitality
  • Ochosi (Oxósse, Ocshosi, Osoosi, Oxossi) - hunter and the scout of the orishas, deity of the accused and those seeking justice or searching for something
  • Ozain (Osain, Osanyin) - Orisha of the forest, he owns the Omiero, a holy liquid consisting of many herbs, the liquid through which all saints and ceremonies have to proceed. Ozain is the keeper and guardian of the herbs, and is a natural healer.
  • Babalu Aye (Omolu, Soponna, Shonponno, Obaluaye, Sakpata, Shakpana) - divinity of disease and illness (particularly smallpox, leprosy, and now AIDS), also orisha of healing and the earth, son of Iemanja
  • Erinle (Inle) - orisha of medicine, healing, and comfort, physician to the gods
  • Oko (Okko) - orisha of agriculture and the harvest
  • Osun - ruler of the head, Ori

o       Dogon: Mali & Burkina Faso in western Africa. Amma, the original deity who created Nommo, eight serpent-like creatures associated with water and fertility. Lebe, god of the Earth and fertility. Their religious practices are related to bringing rain and fertility. The most spectacular and best known rites are those performed for the dead. Animals play a major role, mainly the fox.

 §         Native Americans: There is a great diversity of religions among them. The goal of most of them is wholeness and harmonious balance to fulfill the cycles of life. Knowledge has been passed orally; older people, carriers of the tradition, are dying off or gone forever. The Lakota follow the Seven Sacred Rites: the sweat lodge (sauna for cleansing), the vision quest, ghost keeping, the sun dance (once a year during the summer), the making of relatives, puberty ceremony, and the throwing ball. The “Vision Quest” is very important: boys are left alone deep into the forest, next to a pine tree, to fast and wait for a vision, a journey to the world of spirits. Death is seen as a transition to many possible outcomes: reincarnation, return as ghosts, go to another world. For the Apaches, four is a sacred number. The Navajo practice sand painting (ritual paintings for religious or healing ceremonies). They are not viewed as static objects, but as living things that should be treated with great respect. There may be more than thirty different sandpaintings associated with one ceremony alone. When the medicine man finishes painting, he checks its accuracy. The order and symmetry of the painting symbolize the harmony that the patient wishes to reestablish in his or her life. Sitting on the sandpainting helps the patient absorb some of their power, while in turn the Holy People will absorb the illness and take it away. Afterwards, the sandpainting has done its duty, and is then considered to be toxic, since the illness is absorbed into it. That is the reason they must be disposed of afterwards.

 §         Australian Religions: Aborigines did not cultivate crops or domesticate animal; they were nomadic gatherers or hunters. They had no actual religion, but “Dreamtime”: A spiritual place where their ancestors went after death to join the gods after they created the earth, plants and animals, the sky, men and women, etc.

 §         Maori Faith of New Zealand: Ranginui, the sky father and Papatuanuku, the earth mother are the gods of their origins. Their offspring separated them to bring light into the world (they were always very close together). The separation provoked a war among the children: Tawhirimatea (god of the winds), won over Tane (god of the forest) and Tangaroa (god of the seas); then, Tumatauenga (god of war) defeated all of them. Their world developed with war and violence.

§         Polynesian Religions: Mana, a supernatural force or power present in people, spirits, and even objects. Magic is used to control Mana. Main gods: Tangaroa, Tu, and Lono. Worship and ceremonies included human sacrifices, sexual orgies, chanting, and extensive fasting.

 §         Hawaiian Religions: They were brought by Polynesian travelers. According to the Kumulipo, the chant about creation, a primeval darkness: Po who was separated into the Sky and the Earth. Between the two, all the forms of life emerged. They have thousands of deities, but several dozen are commonly invoked: Ku, a god of vigorous action (digging, fishing, war); Lono, god of peace, rain, love, and fertility. October and November are dedicated to Lono; this period is called Makahiki and is used for religious services, sports, dance, contests, and leisure. Kane & Kanola are gods who are traveler brothers associated with water. Goddess Pele is in charge of fire and active volcanoes. Hina, the goddess of the moon and Laka, patron of hula. Aumakua represents the deceased ancestors who act as family guardians. Priests (kahuna pule or prayer experts) are usually male members of the nobility. Taboos are called kapu.

Indigenous Religions Today

Four main threats: global spread of western culture (TV, internet, movies, tourism, urban culture, junk food, music, clothes), loss of natural environments, loss of traditional languages, and conversion to world religions. Colonialism played a very destructive role.


Cave paintings: Usually about hunting (Good luck, asking for help?).

Venus of Willendorf,  24,000-22,000 BCE: Great importance of fertility and reproduction.

Megaliths: Burial Places


Kiva: People Tribes

Sand painting: Navajo Tribes

Mayas: Genital Bleeding (Blood was sacred and used to appeased the Gods)

Maya Pyramids: Temples for the Gods


Human Sacrifices (Aztecs): The hearts for the God Sun                  Inca Mummies

Aztec Pyramids: Tenochtitlán

The Giant Heads of Easter Island: Ancestors protecting the island from invaders?

The Mound Builders of North America: Temples

TALL WOODEN TOTEM POLES, PACIFIC COAST OF THE U.S. : Animals related and protectors of the family or tribe.

Socratic Questions

Chapter #2-Indigenous / Oral Religions: Prehistory, Animism, Shamanism, Totemism, etc.

1-Why did religious practices started so early in human history and men invested so much effort in this?
2-Do you believe that some people have powers (know the future, communicate w/ God / Dead people, do extraordinary things, etc.) that most others don’t? Why
3-What do you think would be the best way to communicate w/ God? Why?
4-Are oral religions less valid than today’s world religions? Why?
5-Define magic? Is magic real / possible / effective? Why?

3-Mythologies: Egyptian, Greek, Celtic, and Norse.


Myth: In the study of folklore, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story. The main characters in myths are usually gods or supernatural heroes. As sacred stories, myths are often endorsed by rulers and priests and closely linked to religion. The figures described in myth are sacred and are therefore worthy role models for human beings. In the society in which it is told, a myth is usually regarded as a true account of the remote past. Myths generally take place in a primordial age, when the world had not yet achieved its current form. Myths, legends, and folktales are different types of traditional story. One theory claims that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events. Some thinkers believe that myths resulted from the personification of inanimate objects and forces. According to these thinkers, the ancients worshipped natural phenomena such as fire and air, gradually coming to describe them as gods.

Folktales: Unlike myths, folktales can take place at any time and any place, and they are not considered true or sacred events by the societies that tell them.

Legends: Like myths, legends are stories that are traditionally considered true; however, they are set in a more recent time, when the world was much as it is today. Also, legends generally feature humans as their main characters, whereas myths generally focus on superhuman characters.

Mythology: The study of myths

Paganism: There are various differing definitions as to what beliefs can actually be defined as being paganism. One group maintains paganism as a term that includes all non-Abrahamic religions. Another holds that paganism should refer solely to polytheistic religions. A third includes most of the Eastern religions, Native American religions and mythologies, as well as non-Abrahamic folk religions in general. It is a pejorative term among Western monotheists, comparable to heathen and infidel.

Oracle: A person or place considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic opinion. It may also be a revealed prediction or precognition of the future, from deities, that is spoken through another object or life-form (e.g.: augury and auspice). Oracles were thought to be portals through which the gods spoke to man. In the ancient world many sites gained a reputation for the dispensing of oracular wisdom; Delphi is perhaps best-known for the oracle at the sanctuary that became dedicated to Apollo during the classical period. Oracles were common in many civilizations of antiquity: China, Egypt, Greece, India, Scandinavia

Numerology: Any of many systems, traditions or beliefs in a mystical or esoteric relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things. Numerology and numerological divination were popular among early mathematicians, such as Pythagoras. Today, numerology is often associated with the occult, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.

Occult: The word comes from the Latin word occultus (clandestine, hidden, secret), referring to "knowledge of the hidden". Among common people also means "knowledge of the paranormal", as opposed to "knowledge of the measurable". The terms esoteric and arcane can have a very similar meaning.

Astrology:  A group of systems, traditions, and beliefs which hold that the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details can provide information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters. A practitioner of astrology is called an astrologer.

Zodiac: The term zodiac derives from Latin zōdiacus, meaning "circle of animals". In astronomy, the zodiac is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the sky over the course of the year. The zodiac denotes those signs which divide the ecliptic into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude.

Horoscope: In astrology, a horoscope is a chart or diagram representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, the astrological aspects, and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person's birth. The word horoscope is derived from Greek words meaning "a look at the hours". It is used as a method of divination regarding events relating to the point in time it represents and forms the basis of the horoscopic traditions of astrology. See also Chinese Astrology.

Anthropomorphism: The attribution of human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, and objects, such as winds, rain or the sun depicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse. In mythology, anthropomorphism refers to the perception of a divine being in human form, or the recognition of human qualities in these beings. Many mythologies are concerned with anthropomorphic deities who express human characteristics such as jealousy, hatred, or love.

Pantheon: Literally, "a temple of all gods". It is a set of all the gods of a particular polytheistic religion or mythology.

Bestiary: A compendium of beasts and monsters, usually with supernatural powers. Bestiaries were made popular in the ancient times and during the middle ages in illustrated volumes: Centaurs, Cerberus, Gargoyle, Minotaur, Ogre, Troll, Medusa, etc.

==> Please, visit the Encyclopedia Mythica:\



Religious beliefs and rituals practiced in ancient Egypt over more than 3,000 years, from the predynastic period until the adoption of Christianity in the early centuries AD. Initially these beliefs centered on the worship of multiple deities who represented various forces of nature, thought patterns and power, expressed by the means of complex and varied archetypes. These deities were worshipped with offerings and prayers, in local and household shrines as well as in formal temples managed by priests. Different gods were prominent at different periods of Egyptian history, and the myths associated with them changed over time, so Egypt never had a coherent hierarchy of deities or a unified mythology. The Egyptians saw the actions of the gods behind all the elements and forces of nature. However, they did not believe that the gods merely controlled these phenomena, but that each element of nature was a divine force in itself. The Egyptians thus believed in a multitude of gods, which were involved in every aspect of nature and human society. This polytheistic system was very complex, as some deities were believed to exist in many different manifestations, and some had multiple mythological roles. Many gods were associated with particular localities within Egypt where their cults were most important.

There are several versions or cosmogonies. This is one: Ra-Atum gave birth to twins. Shu, his son and god of the air, was spit out, and his daughter, Tefnut, goddess of world order was vomited out by Ra-Atum. The Twins were raised by Nu and supervised by Ra-Atum's eye. Shu and Tefnut gave birth to Geb, god of the earth, and his wife and sister, Nut, goddess of the sky. Geb and Nut, in turn, were the parents of Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, and Set. These four gods, especially Osiris play a major role in later myths. Horus, another god was the son of Isis and Osiris. These five younger gods and goddesses may have been incorporated by the priests of Heliopolis. Whatever the case, this "Ennead," or grouping of gods, were very much a part of tradition during this time.

Egyptian Gods & Goddesses

Name of Egyptian Gods

Function or Identity of Egyptian God

Amon Primordial creation deity; one of 8 gods of chaos; combined with the supreme solar deity, Ra, Amon-RA was the hidden power that created the gods.
Anubis Embalming
Atum One of 4 creation deities; caused the division of the sexes; as Ra-Atum, he represented the evening sun.
Bes Music, dance, war, slaughter.
Duamutef Protect deceased's stomach.
Geb Earth and guide to heaven.
Hapi Nile god.
Hapy Protect deceased's lungs.
Horus Many guises. Falcon-head. Sky god whose left eye was the moon amd whose right eye was the sun (depicted as an eye); king of Egypt.
Imsety Protect deceased's liver.
Khensu Moon god.
Khnemu, Khnum One of 4 creator gods; potter who sculpted man and anumals and breathed life into them; water god.
Min Fertility god who bestowed sexual powers on men.
Osiris Earth and vegetation.
Ptah Patron of craftsmen.
Qebehsenuef Protect deceased's intestines.
Re Sun
Seth Lord of Lower Egypt & evil enemy of Horus
Shu God of space & light between sky & earth; power over snakes; held ladder to heaven.
Sobek Crocodile god.
Thoth Wisdom & learning.

Egyptian Goddesses

Name of Egyptian Goddess

Function or Identity of Egyptian Goddess

Ammut Devoured those souls judged unworthy of the Afterlife.
Anqet Water and lust.
Bastet Fire, cats, of the home and pregnant women.
Hathor Cow goddess of love, happiness, dance and music; protector of women.
Isis Giver of life and food to the dead; may be one of the judges.
Ma'at Physical and moral law, order and truth.
Mut Self-created world mother.
Neith Goddess of war, weaving, guardian of the deceased's stomach.
Nephthys Protector of Hapy.
Nut Daytime sky and place where clouds formed.
Satet Goddess of the inundation of the Nile & fertility.
Sekhmet War and destruction.
Selket Scorpions and magic.
Seshat Writing and measurement.
Tawaret Pregnancy and childbirth.
Tefnut Personification of moisture in the sky.


Osiris Isis Set Anubis Horus Hapi
Ptah Hathor Ra Sobek Thoth Ma'at

II-Greek Mythology

Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece.

Greek myth explains the origins of the world and details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and other mythological creatures. These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition; today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature.

The oldest known Greek literary sources, the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, focus on events surrounding the Trojan War. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths also are preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in the works of the tragedians of the fifth century BC: Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch.

Greek mythology has exerted an extensive influence on the culture, the arts, and the literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in these mythological themes.

Info above from Wikipedia.


Greek Gods, Heroes, Monsters

Greek gods can be divided into eight classes:

THE FIRST CLASS: The First Born gods. These were the primeval beings that emerged at creation to form the very fabric of universe: Earth, Sea, Sky, Night, Day, etc. Although they were divinities they were purely elemental in form: Gaia was the literal Earth, Pontos was the Sea, and Ouranos (Uranus) was the Dome of Heaven. However they were sometimes represented assuming anthropomorphic shape, albeit ones that were indivisible from their native element. Gaia the earth, for example, might manifest herself as a matronly woman half-risen from the ground and the sea might lift her head above the waves in the shape of a sea-formed woman.

THE SECOND CLASS: The Nature Elements and Nymphai, who nurtured life in the four elements: fresh-water (Naiades), forest (Dryades), beast-loving (Satyroi), manne Tritones, etc.

THE THIRD CLASS: The Body and Mind gods: Sleep (Hypnos), Love (Eros), Joy (Euphrosyne), Hate (Ens), Fear (Phobos), Death (Thanatos), Old Age (Geras), etc.

THE FOURTH CLASS: The Gods who controlled the forces of nature and bestowed civilized arts upon mankind.

Sky Gods: Hellos (Sun), Anemoi (Winds: Boreas was the north wind and bringer of cold winter air; Notus was the south wind and bringer of the storms of late summer and autumn, and Zephyrus was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes; Eurus, the east wind,).

Sea Gods: The Nereides, Triton, Glaukos, etc

Underworld Gods: Persephone, Hekate (goddess of witchcraft, ghosts, magic and mythology)

Agricultural-Earth Gods: Ploutos (wealth), etc

Pastoral Earth Gods: Pan (god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music), Aristaios (son of Apollo and the huntress Cyrene, patron god of cattle, fruit trees, hunting, husbandry and bee-keeping. He was also a culture-hero and taught humanity dairy skills (including cheese making) and the use of nets and traps in hunting, as well as how to cultivate olives.), etc

City Gods: Hestia (goddess of the hearth, of the domesticity and the family), the Horae (the Hours: three goddesses controlling orderly life. They were daughters of Zeus and Themis, half-sisters to the Moirae. There were two generations of Horae: The first generation consisted of Thallo, Auxo, and Carpo, who were the goddesses of the seasons (the Greeks only recognized spring, summer and autumn); The second generation comprised Eunomia, Dike, and Eirene, who were law and order goddesses that maintained the stability of society, etc

Olympian Gods: Zeus, Poseidon, The Muses, Hebe (goddess of youth), etc

Titan Gods: Themis, Kronos, Prometheus, etc

Deified Mortals: Herakles, Asklepios, etc

THE FIFTH CLASS: The 12 Olympian Gods who governed the universe and commanded the legions of lesser gods and spirits. They were Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Artemis, Apollo, Ares, Athena, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysus, and Hestia.

THE SIXTH CLASS: The Constellations which circled the heavenly night sky. Every constellation, including the twelve signs of the Zodiac, was possessed by one or more gods.

THE SEVENTH CLASS: The Fabulous Monsters, Beasts, and Giants of myth. They were semi-divine creatures, closely related to the gods: Giants, Dragon, Centaurs, Cerberus, Sphinx, Sirens, etc.

THE EIGHTH CLASS: The Semi-Divine Heroes, who were worshipped after death as minor divinities. They included great heroes like Achilles, Theseus and Perseus.

There were many divinities in the Greek pantheon that fell into more than one of these categories.


The Greek Pantheon was ruled by a council of twelve great gods known as the Olympians, namely Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Hephaestus, Ares, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Dionysus, and sometimes Hestia. These twelve gods demanded worship from all their subjects. Those who failed to honor any one of the Twelve with due sacrifice and libation were duly punished. Directly and through a host of divine minions, the twelve gods governed all aspects of human life.


Modern Spellings: Zeus

Roman Name: Jupiter, Jove

God of: King of Heaven, Sky, Weather, Fate, Kingship

Parents: Titan Kronos & Titanis Rhea

Spouse: Hera

Offspring: Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hermes, Dionysus, Heracles.

Animals: Golden eagle, Wolf

Plants: Oak, Celery

Iconography: Lightning bolt, Lotus staff, Eagle, Oak wreath


Modern Spelling: Poseidon

Roman Name:  Neptune

God of:  King of the Seas, Rivers, Earthquakes, Horses

Parents: Titan Kronos & Titanis Rhea

Spouse: Amphitrite

Offspring: Triton

Animals: Horse, Bull, Dolphin

Plants: Seaweed, Pine Tree

Iconography:  Trident, Fish


Modern Spelling: Hera

Roman Name: Juno

Goddess of: Queen of Heaven, the Sky, Women, Marriage, Impregnation

Parents: Titan Kronos & Titanis Rhea

Spouse: Zeus

Offspring: Ares, Hephaestus, Eileithyia (goddess of childbirth and midwiving,), Hebe.

Animals: Cuckoo, Peacock, Crane, Hawk, Cow (Heifer), Lion

Plants: Chaste Tree, Pomegranate

Iconography: Lotus staff, Crown, Lion


Modern Spelling: Demeter

Roman Name: Ceres

Goddess of: Agriculture, Grain & Bread, the Afterlife

Parents: Titan Kronos & Titanis Rhea

Spouse: None

Offspring: Persephone, Ploutos (wealth)

Animals: Serpent, Swine, Gecko

Plants: Wheat, Barley, Poppy, Mint

Iconography: Grain Sheaf, Lotus Staff, Torch, Cornucopia


Modern Spelling: Apollo

Roman Name: Apollo

God of: Music, Prophecy, Education, Healing & Disease

Parents: God Zeus and Titanis Leto

Spouse: None

Offspring: Asklepios, others see pg 2 (below)

Animals: Swan, Raven, Mouse, Wolf

Plants: Laurel, Larkspur

Iconography: Lyre, Laurel wreath or branch, Bow & arrows, Delphic tripod


Modern Spelling: Artemis

Roman Name: Diana

Goddess of: Hunting, Wild Animals, Children, Choirs, Disease

Parents: God Zeus & Titanis Leto

Spouse: None (Virgin Goddess)

Children None (Virgin Goddess)

Animals: Deer, Bear, Wild boar, Guinea fowl, Quail

Plants: Cypress, Walnut, Amaranth-flower

Iconography: Bow & arrows, Hunting spears, Lyre, Deer


Modern Spelling: Athena

Roman Name: Minerva

Goddess of: Warcraft, Heroism, Wisdom, Pottery, Weaving, Olives & Oil

Parents: God Zeus & Titanis Metis

Spouse: None (Virgin Goddess)

Offspring: None (Virgin Goddess)

Animals: Little Owl, Crow

Plants: Olive Tree

Iconography: Greek helmet, Aegis (Goat-skin breastplate), Spear


Modern Spelling: Ares

Roman Name: Mars

God of: War, Battle, Manliness

Parents: God Zeus & Goddess Hera

Spouse: Aphrodite (mistress)

Offspring: Deimos (personification of dread), Phobos (personification of fear and horror)

Animals: Serpent, Vulture, Woodpecker, Eagle-owl

Plants: Perhaøs Manna Ash

Iconography: Helmet, Spear


Modern Spelling: Aphrodite

Roman Name: Venus

Goddess of: Love, Beauty, Pleasure, Procreation

Parents: God Zeus & Titanis Dione; or Born of the sea foam (Uranus’ testicles)

Spouse: Hephaestus, later Ares; many lovers

Offspring: Eros

Animals: Turtle dove, Sparrow, Goose, Hare

Plants: Apple Tree, Rose, Myrtle, Myrrh Tree, Anemone, Lettuce

Iconography: Eros (winged godling), Apple, Dove


Modern Spelling: Hermes

Roman Name: Mercury

God of: Animal Husbandry, Travel, Trade, Athletics, Language, Thievery, Good Luck, Guide of the Dead, Herald of the Gods

Parents: God Zeus & Nymph Maya

Spouse: None

Children: Pan

Animals: Tortoise, Sheep, Cattle, Hawk

Plants: Crocus, Strawberry Tree

Iconography: Herald’s Rod, Traveler’s Cap, Winged Boots


Modern Spelling: Hephaestus

Roman Name: Vulcanus (Vulcan)

God of: Metalworking, Fire, Building, Sculpture, Volcanism

Parents: Goddess Hera (no father)

Spouse: Aphrodite or Kharis


Animals: Donkey, Crane

Plants: Fennel

Iconography: Hammer, Tongs, Anvil, Donkey, Crane-head


Modern Spelling: Dionysus

Roman Name: Liber, Bacchus

God of: Wine, Drunkenness, Madness, Parties, Vegetation, the Afterlife

Parents: God Zeus & Princess Semele

Spouse: Ariadne


Animals: Leopard, Lynx, Tiger, Serpent, Bull, Goat, Donkey

Plants: Grape-vine, Ivy, Bindweed, Silver Fir

Iconography: Thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff), Grapes, Ivy wreath, Leopard


Modern Spelling: Hestia

Roman Name: Vesta

Goddess of: Home, Hearth, Family, Meals, Sacrificial offerings

Parents: Titan Kronos & Titanis Rhea

Spouse: None (Virgin Goddess)

Offspring: None (Virgin Goddess)

Animals: Swine

Plants: Chaste Tree

Iconography: Chaste tree branch. Head veil Kettle


Modern Spelling: Hades

Roman Name: Pluto

God of: King of the Underworld, the Dead, Death

Parents: Titan Kronos & Titanis Rhea

Spouse: Persephone


Animals: Screech owl

Plants: Asphodel, Mint, White Poplar

Iconography: Cornucopia, Bird-tipped staff


Modern Spelling: Persephone

Roman Name: Proserpina

Goddess of: Queen of the Underworld, the Afterlife, Spring Growth, Grain

Parents: God Zeus & Goddess Demeter

Spouse: Hades


Animals: Screech owl

Plants Wheat, Narcissus, Black Poplar, Mint, Asphodel

Iconography: Eleusinian torch or torches, Wheat sheaf

The information for this section was taken from         

III-Norse Mythology

Norse or Scandinavian mythology comprises the myths of North Germanic pre-Christian religion. Most of the written sources for Norse mythology were assembled in medieval Iceland in Old Norse, notably as the Edda. Norse mythology is the best-preserved version of wider Germanic paganism, which also includes the closely related Anglo-Saxon and Continental varieties. Germanic mythology can be shown to preserve certain aspects attributed to common Indo-European mythology.

In Norse mythology there are Nine Worlds, that many scholars summarize as follows:

===> Remember Lord of the Rings?

Each world also had significant places within. Valhalla is Odin's hall located in Asgaard. It was also home of the souls of the greatest warriors. These warriors were selected by the Valkyries, Odin's mounted female messengers.

===> Asgard (remember the highly advanced and benevolent race in Stargate SG-1).

Supernatural beings

There are many other beings: Fenrir the gigantic wolf, Jörmungandr the sea-serpent (or "worm") that is coiled around Midgard, and Hel, ruler of Helgardh. These three monsters are described as the progeny of Loki. Other creatures include Hugin and Munin (thought and memory, respectively), the two ravens who keep Odin, the chief god, apprised of what is happening on earth, since he gave his eye to the Well of Mimir in his quest for wisdom, Sleipnir, Loki's eight legged horse son belonging to Odin and Ratatosk, the squirrel which scampers in the branches of Yggdrasil.

Norse Priests

While a kind of priesthood seems to have existed, it never took on the professional and semi-hereditary character (like the Druids). This is because it was carried out by women, the Völvas ("carrier of a magic staff").

Top Norse Gods 

Odin (or, depending upon the dialect, Woden or Wotan) was the Father of all the Gods and men.  Odin is pictured either wearing a winged helm or a floppy hat, and a blue-grey cloak.  He can travel to any realm within the 9 Nordic worlds.  His two ravens, Huginn and Munin (Thought and Memory) fly over the world daily and return to tell him everything that has happened in Midgard.  He is a God of magic, wisdom, wit, and learning. He too is the chooser of those slain in battle.  In later times, he was associated with war and bloodshed.  It is he who sacrifices an eye at the well of Mimir to gain inner wisdom, and later hangs himself upon the World Tree Yggdrasil to gain the knowledge and power of the Runes.  All of his actions are related to knowledge, wisdom, and the dissemination of ideas and concepts to help Mankind.   Just as a point of curiosity:  in no other pantheon is the head Deity also the God of Thought and Logic.  It's interesting to note that the Norse/Teutonic peoples also set such a great importance upon brainwork and logic.  The day Wednesday (Wodensdaeg) is named for him.

Thor, or Donnar, also known as the Thunderer, was considered to be a son of Odin by some, but among many tribes Thor actually supplanted Odin as the favorite god. He is considered to be the protector of all Midgard, and he wields the mighty hammer Mjollnir. Thor is strength personified. His battle chariot is drawn by two goats, and his hammer Mjollnir causes the lightning that flashes across the sky. Of all the deities, Thor is the most "barbarian" of the lot; rugged, powerful, and lives by his own rules, although he is faithful to the rest of the Aesir. The day Thursday (Thorsdaeg) is sacred to him.

Freya is considered to be the goddess of Love and Beauty, but is also a warrior goddess and one of great wisdom and magic. She and her twin brother Freyr are of a different "race" of gods known as the Vanir. Many of the tribes venerated her higher than the Aesir, calling her "the Frowe" or "The Lady." She is known as Queen of the Valkyries, choosers of those slain in battle to bear them to Valhalla (the Norse heaven). She, therefore, is a psychopomp like Odhinn and it is said that she gets the "first pick" of the battle slain. She wears the sacred necklace Brisingamen, which she paid for by spending the night with the dwarves who wrought it from the bowels of the earth. The cat is her sacred symbol. There seems to be some confusion between herself and Fricka, Odin's wife, as they share similar functions; but Fricka seems to be strictly of the Aesir, while Freya is of the Vanic race. The day Friday (Frejyasdaeg) was named for her (some claim it was for Fricka).

Freyr (Fro Ingwe) is Freya's twin brother. He is the horned God of fertility, and has some similarities to the Celtic Cernunnos or Herne, although he is NOT the same being. He is known as King of the Alfs (elves). Both the Swedish and the English are said to be descendents of his. The Boar is his sacred symbol, which is both associated with war and with fertility. His golden boar, "Gullenbursti", is supposed to represent the daybreak.  He is also considered to be the God of Success, and is wedded to Gerda, the Jotun, for whom he had to yield up his mighty sword.  At Ragnarok, he is said to fight with the horn of an elk (much more suited to his nature rather than a sword.)

Tyr (or Tiw, Ziw) is the ancient god of War and the Lawgiver of the gods. He sacrifices his hand so that the evil Fenris wolf may be bound. At one time he was the leader of the Norse Pantheon, but was supplanted by Odin much later. There is nothing to indicate how this occurred; one assumes that he simply "stepped back" and let Odin assume the position of leadership. Tyr is excellent in all manners of Justice, fair play, and Right Action.

Loki, the Trickster, challenges the structure and order of the Gods, but is necessary in bringing about needed change. He is also known as the god of Fire. Neither an Aesir or a Vanir, he is of the race of Ettins (Elementals) and thus possesses some daemonic qualities. He is both a helper and a foe of the Aesir; he gets them out of predicaments, but spawns the worst monsters ever seen on the face of the Earth: the Fenris Wolf and Jormurgandr, the Midgard Wyrm. His other children include the goddess Hel (Hella, Holle), and Sleipnir, Odin's 8-legged horse; these beings are at least benign, if not somewhat terrifying to behold.

Heimdall is the handsome gold-toothed guardian of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge leading to Asgard, the home of the Gods. The rainbow bridge seems to be a common symbol in many religious traditions other than Norse Heathenism. In the Vedic tradition, it represents the Antakaranha of humanity (connection between the body and the soul). Other traditions see it as a message from the Gods, or a Bridge between the Gods and Mankind. This would tend to indicate that the Norse/Germanic people were aware of the presence of an overshadowing Soul for each individual, as well as a group or tribal intelligence. It is Heimdall who is to sound the signal horn to the Aesir that Ragnarok, the great destruction (or transformation?) is beginning.

Skadi is the Goddess of Winter and of the Hunt. She is married to Njord, the gloomy Sea God, noted for his beautiful bare feet (which is how Skadi came to choose him for her mate.) Supposedly the bare foot is an ancient Norse symbol of fertility. The marriage wasn't too happy, though, because she really wanted Baldur for her husband. She is the goddess of Justice, Vengeance, and Righteous Anger, and is the deity who delivers the sentence upon Loki to be bound underground with a serpent dripping poison upon his face in payment for his crimes.  Skadi's character is represented in two of Hans Christian Anderson's tales:  "The Snow Queen" and "The Ice Princess."

Frigga (Frigg, Fricka), Odin's wife, was considered to be the Mother of all; and protectoress of children. She spins the sacred Distaff of life, and is said to know the future, although she will not speak of it. Some believe that Friday was named for her instead of Freya (see above), and there is considerable confusion as to "who does what" among the two. 

The Norns (Urd, Verdande, and Skuld), are the Norse equivalent of the greek Fates. It is they who determine the orlogs (destinies) of the Gods and of Man, and who maintain the World Tree, Yggdrasil. 

The goddess of the dead and the afterlife was Hel (Holle, Hulda), and was portrayed by the Vikings as being half-dead, half alive herself. The Vikings viewed her with considerable trepidation. The Dutch, Gallic, and German barbarians viewed her with some beneficence, more of a gentler form of death and transformation. She is seen by them as Mother Holle; a being of pure Nature, being helpful in times of need, but vengeful upon those who cross her or transgress natural law. 

Odin's son, Balder, the god of Love and Light, is sacrificed at Midsummer by the dart of the mistletoe, and is reborn at Jul (Yule). Supposedly his return will not occur until after the onslaught of the Ragnarok, which I see as a cleansing and enlightenment more than wanton, purposeless destruction. Baldur's blind brother Hodur was his slayer, whose hand was guided by the crafty Loki. He is married to the goddess of Joy, Nanna.

Other Gods and Goddesses include Sif (Sifa), the Harvest Goddess; Forseti, the god of Law and Justice; Bragi, the bard of the Gods and muse of Poetry; Weiland (Weyland), the Smith of the Gods, Idunna, the goddess of Youth and Beauty; Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin who will survive Ragnarok; Magni and Modi, the sons of Thor; Eostre, the goddess of Spring and of fertility, Hoenir, the messenger of the Aesir; Sunna and Mani, the Sun and Moon; Ullr, the God of the Hunt; and Nerthus, Goddess of the Sea and of Rivers.

See Legendary Sagas: See also Nibelung, Tristan & Isold, Beowulf, Lohengrin


IV-Celtic Mythology

Distribution of Celtic peoples:

Core of the Hallstat territory around the 6th. century B.C.E.
Maximum Celtic expansion, by the 3rd. century B.C.E.
Lusitanian area of Iberia where Celtic presence is uncertain
The "Six Celtic Nations": areas where many Celtic speakers lived in modern times
Areas where Celtic languages are still spoken today

Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies without a writing system. They expanded over a wide range of lands: as far west as Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula, as far east as central Anatolia, and as far north as Scotland. Celts living in what is now France were known as Gaul to the Romans. The early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology but also had animistic practices, believing in spirits existing in natural objects such as trees and rocks. Their mythology did not survive the Roman empire; most of them converted to Christianity and their Celtic languages also disappeared. It is mostly through contemporary Roman and Christian sources that their mythology has been preserved.
Celtic religious patterns were regionally variable, however some patterns of deity forms, and ways of worshiping these deities, appear over a wide geographical range. They had literally hundreds of deities, some unknown outside of a single family or tribe, while others were popular enough to have a following that crossed boundaries of language and culture. They worshipped both gods and goddesses. In general, the gods were deities of particular skills, such as the many-skilled Lugh and Dagda, and the goddesses associated with natural features, most particularly rivers, such as Boann, goddess of the River Boyne. Trees were a central part of their rituals; they were sacred. Rites of reincarnation, reverence for various aspects of the natural world, and human sacrifices were carried out by priests, known as Druids. These priests fulfilled a variety of roles in Celtic religion: they were religious leaders, judges, sacrificers, teachers, and lore-keepers. In general, they were the "college professors" of their time. Druids organized and ran the religious ceremonies, as well as memorized and teaching the Celtic calendar.
There is the theory that the Druids built Stonehenge, as a place of worship or for astronomic purposes.

Celtic Pantheon

Antlered god: Cernunnos
Healing deities: Airmed, Belenus, Borvo, Brighid, and Grannus
Goddesses of sacred waters: Sulis, Damona, and Sequana
Goddesses of horses: Epona, Macha, and Rhiannon
Mother goddess: Matronae, Morrigan
Cult of Lugh: Lugus, Lugh, and Lleu
Cult of Taranis: Taranis
Cult of Toutatis: Teutates, also spelled Toutatis
Gods with hammers: Sucellus and Nantosuelta

The following table shows some of the Celtic and Romano-Celtic gods and goddesses mentioned above, in Romanized form, as well as ancient Gaulish, British names.

Apollo Belenus
Victoria Bodua
Bacchus Cernunnos, Lord of Animals
Vulcan Gobannos
Apollo Lugus
Lamiae Matronae
Mars Nodens
Hercules Ogmios
Maia Rosmerta
Hygieia Sirona
Silvanus Sucellus
Minerva Sulis
Junones Suleviae
Jupiter Taranis
Mars Toutatis
  Nemedus (Celtiberian)
  Crouga (Celtiberian)
Mars Neton (Celtiberian)

Druid Festivals:

Samhain: October 31st., beginning of winter.
Imbolc: February 2nd., beginning of spring.
Beltane: May 1st., beginning of the summer.
Lughnasadh: August 1st., harvest festival

See the Arthurian Legends (Some scholars believe they had a Celtic origin).

Socratic Questions

Chapter #3-Mythologies: Egyptian, Greek, Celtic, and Norse.

1-Do you think that God(s) -if He exists- would send information and / or messengers / prophets to mortals / humans? Why?
2-Why did myths, legends, and folktales exist in almost every culture? Is this good in some way?
3-What do you think about numerology, the occult, astrology, and the paranormal? Are some of the stories presented in the show the “X Files” possible? Explain.
4-We know that the Sun and the Moon have physical effects on the Earth. Do you think that the other celestial bodies / stars may have certain effects on our lives, destiny, etc? Explain why?
5-Do we have a soul? Explain. If you answered “No”, explain the nature of our emotions, feelings, religious beliefs, etc. In case you answered “Yes”, what happen to the soul after the death of the body?
6-Why did some mythologies accept incestuous relations?
7-Einstein talked about the relativity of time and space. Do you believe in the possibility of different levels of existence or parallel worlds in the same space? Why? Do you believe in the existence of intelligent life in other planets? Explain.
8-Many mythologies and religions believe in the end of our world. What do you think about it?




Ahimsa    The term meaning non-harm or nonviolence.
Aryan    The name of the warrior-dominated, patriarchal people who entered India from the northwest after 2000 B.C.E.
Ashram    A spiritual community.
Atman    The spiritual essence of all individual human beings.
Avatar    An earthly embodiment of a deity.
Bhagavad Gita    A spiritual classic in Hinduism that is a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna preserved in the Mahabharata.
Bhakti    Devotion to a deity or guru.
Bhakti yoga    The spiritual discipline of devotion to a deity or guru.
Brahman    The spiritual essence of the universe.
Brahmin    Member of the priestly caste in Hinduism.
Castes    The major social classes sanctioned by Hinduism.
Devi    "Goddess"; the Divine Feminine, also called the Great Mother.
Dhyana    Meditation or the experience of the mind focused only on the object of concentration.
Durga    "Awe-inspiring,""distant"; a goddess that is a form of Devi.
Ganges    The most sacred river in India
Guru    Spiritual leader.
Harappa culture    The culture that flourished in the Indus valley before 2000 B.C.E.
Hatha yoga    The spiritual discipline of postures and bodily exercises.
Jnana yoga    The spiritual discipline of knowledge and insight.
Kali    A form of Devi; a goddess associated with destruction and rebirth.
Karma    The moral law of cause and effect that determines the direction of rebirth.
Karma yoga    The spiritual discipline of selfless action.
Krishna    A god associated with divine playfulness; a form of Vishnu.
Mantra    A short sacred phrase, often chanted or used in meditation.
Maya    "Illusion";
Moksha    "Liberation" from personal limitation, egotism, and rebirth.
Puja    Offerings and ritual in honor of deity.
Raja yoga   The "royal" discipline of meditation.
Rama    A god and mythical king; a form of Vishnu.
Samadhi    A state of complete inner peace resulting from meditation.
Samsara    The everyday world of change and suffering, leading to rebirth.
Sannyasin    A wandering holy man.
Satyagraha    The term that is translated variously as "reality force" or "truth force"; the term Gandhi used to describe the power of nonviolent resistance to oppressive social structures.
Shakti    The energies associated with the female consorts of the male deities.
Shiva    A god associated with destruction and rebirth.
Trimurti    "Three forms" of the divine; the three gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
Upanishads    Written meditations on the spiritual essence of the universe and the self.
Vedas    Four collections of ancient prayers and rituals included in Hindu sacred scripture.
Vishnu    A god associated with preservation and love.
Yoga    A spiritual discipline; a method for perfecting one's union with the divine.

Arrival of the Aryans


It was introduced in India by the Aryans around 2000 BCE.  It has not known founder; it has had many influences; it has not structure or hierarchy; it has not a unique leader; it has many gods with a belief in a single divine reality. It is more like a family of beliefs or a way of life. They see the divine in everything and are tolerant of all doctrines. The rich developments in Hinduism were probably possible because of the isolation of India from other regions. Eventually, the British are going to have a major impact in India with the introduction of Christianity.

The Vedic Period (2000-500 BCE)

The Vedas were written in Sanskrit. Originally, most of the gods were male and they were in control of the forces of nature: Dyaus Pitr (father of the gods), Indra (god of storm and war), Agni (god of fire), Ushas (goddess of dawn and renewal), Rudra (god of the winds), Varuna (god of the sky and justice), Vishnu (god of cosmic order), Surya (the sun go), and Yama (god of the afterlife). Worship took place at outdoor altars. Sacred chants were a major part of religious ceremonies.

The Four Vedas: Rig Veda (hymn of knowledge; explanation of the origin of the universe; chants to the gods); Yajur Veda (ceremonial knowledge; recitation during sacrifices); Sama Veda (handbook of musical elaborations of the chants); and Atharva Veda (practical prayers and charms for protection).

Aryans: Nomadic light-skinned warriors, speaking Indo-European languages crossed the Khyber Pass and settled in northwest India, pushing south the Dasas, dark-skinned speakers of Dravidian languages. The Aryans depended mostly on herds of cattle. Lavish feasts & heavy drinking, chariot racing & gambling. Iron tools & plows pulled by oxen. Over time, a system of Varna  was established (classes): Brahmin (priests & scholars), Kshatriya (warriors & officials), Vaishya (landowners, merchants & artisans),  Shudras (peasants & laborers) (Shudra reserved for Dasas), and Untouchables. Jati or Castes: Subgroups within classes, based on occupation and duties. People in each jati, lived, married, ate, etc only w/ people of the same jati. Elaborate rules to regulate contacts between different jati. Varna & Jati connected to the idea of Reincarnation. Every living creature has an immortal essence, which after death is reborn in the body of an insect, animal or human, based on the Karma (deeds) = You are what you deserve to be!

Main Characteristics

  • nSacrifices to nature gods
  • Hereditary priesthood
  • Outdoor fire altars
  • Memorized Vedic chants
  • Offerings of food, drink, animals

The Vedic religion evolved into Hinduism, which incorporated elements from Dravidian cultures. Devotion to a particular deity. Deities: Vishnu (the preserver), Shiva (creation and destruction), and Devi / Kali (the Goddess: fertility, procreation, and violence) related to cycle of life. Worship: Temples, Puja (caring for statue of deity), Pilgrimage to famous shrines, bathing in sacred waters of Ganges River. Most Indologists agree that an oral tradition existed long before a literary tradition tentatively may have been set in. Apart from the religious rituals and philosophic doctrines, they also contain many hidden secret instructions in coded format for preparing various Vedic medicines.

Hindu Deities.

Shiva                                                                    Ganesha                                                            Vishnu

Brahma                                                                       Hanuman                                               Kali   

The Upanishads (500 BCE-1500 CE):

They are a collection of Indian philosophical treatises contributing to the theology of ancient Hinduism, elaborating on the earlier Vedas, on the nature of reality and the soul and the relations between these two (Vedanta). They often give the impression of an ongoing exploration of themes not yet fully resolved. They are the work of several hands. They do not belong to any particular period of Sanskrit literature: the oldest around 500 BCE, while the latest were composed in the medieval and early modern period.

The meaning of the word is “sitting near” or disciples / students learning from a master. The first writings appeared during the Axis Age, the time of Buddha, Confucius, the Hebrew prophets, and the Greek philosophers. At the time there was an interest in techniques to alter consciousness: meditation, fasting, avoiding sexual activity, practicing long periods of silence, using psychedelic plants, and living in the darkness of caves. Meditation to understand the essence of reality is its general theme.

The most important concepts present in the Upanishads are Brahman, Atman, Maya, Karma, Samsara, and Moksha.

Brahman: A cosmic power and the spiritual essence of the universe; a divine reality at the heart of all things. All things are holy because they come from the same sacred source. All things are ultimately one. He is reality itself and pure consciousness; he is beyond time and space. One of his qualities is joy or bliss.

Atman: The spiritual essence of all individual human beings; the soul. Atman is related to Brahman; it is his presence in each person; it is divine, holy, and timeless. Individuals are not individuals, but they are manifestations of the Divine Spirit.

Maya: An illusion; it represents magic and matter.  The reality of the world and its relativity; the relativity of time (past, present, and future). What we think is real and it is not. What keeps our soul to focus and join Brahman; the distraction caused by the material objects and possessions.  The everyday world of change and suffering, leading to rebirth.

Karma: The moral law of cause and effect that determines the direction of rebirth. It is based on the idea of grades of human life (castes) and in the principle of reincarnation. Rebirth can move in either direction (up or down in the social scale), depending on human behavior or Karma. Every action has a moral consequence (What goes around come around). This not because of the will of god, but because Karma is a natural law, an essential part of nature. It explains (justifies) poverty / wealth, political status, etc.

Samsara: The everyday world of change and suffering, leading to rebirth; the wheel of life, the circle of constant rebirth.

Moksha: Freedom or liberation; to be released; the ultimate human goal. It means gaining inner peace and mental freedom; detaching oneself from pleasure or pain, from anything material. It is the end of the cycle of suffering and reincarnation. It leads to Nirvana (term from Buddhism), the highest purpose in life.

The Sutra Literature (500-100 BCE):

Sūtra, literally means a rope or thread that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to a large collection of aphorisms (truths, recommendations, rules), in the form of a manual. The texts were intended to be memorized by students in some of the formal methods of scriptural and scientific study.

The Epics (500-100 BCE)

The Ramayana and Mahabharata, also termed Itihāsa (History), are epic poems that form a canon of Hindu scripture.

With more than 74,000 verses, long prose passages, and about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahābhārata is one of the longest epic poems in the world. Hindus ascribe the authorship of the Mahābhārata to Vyasa (revered mythological figure in the majority of Hindu traditions). The innermost narrative of the Mahabharata tells the story of two sets of paternal first cousins who became bitter rivals, and opposed each other in war for possession of the ancestral Bharata kingdom with its capital in the "City of the Elephant," Hastinapura. What is dramatically interesting within this simple opposition is the large number of individual agendas the many characters pursue, and the numerous personal conflicts, ethical puzzles, subplots, and plot twists that give the story a strikingly powerful development. The most dramatic figure of the entire Mahabharata is Krishna, who was the supreme God Vishnu himself, descended to earth in human form to rescue Law, Good Deeds, Right, and Virtue. The Bhagavad Gita (the text is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna taking place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, just prior to the start of the Kurukshetra war) is part of the Mahabharata. Contrary to the teachings of nonviolence that were growing strong at the time, supported by Buddhism & Jainism, Krishna advises Arjuna to fight to protect his throne. The concept of duty plays a major role in their conversation and the belief on reincarnation makes the killing about to happen less dramatic because all the people who will die will be reborn again.

The Rāmāyaa is attributed to Valmiki (first poet in Hinduism). The Rāmāyaa consists of 24,000 verses in seven books, and 500 cantos and tells the story of Rāma, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Rākshasa) king of Lanka, and Rama’s adventures to rescue her. Thematically, the epic explores themes of human existence and the concept of dharma.

The Caste System

It was a division of society into very rigid social classes based on birth and occupation. Individuals of one caste couldn’t move out of it; they would die as a member of the caste in which he / she was born. Marriages of people of different castes were illegal. This system was explained / justified by the concepts of karma and reincarnation. See the Laws of Manu (100 C.E. to see a full description).

1.      Brahmin: Priests

2.      Kshatriya: Warriors / Nobles

3.      Vaishya: Merchants, landowners, artisans.

4.      Shudra: Peasants / farmers.

5.      Untouchables: Clean toilets, sweep streets, collect animal carcasses, tan leather / animal hides, etc. Even their shadows were considered dirty.

Stages of Life

1.      Student: Lay the religious foundations, between the ages of 8 and 20. Celibacy was required.

2.      Householder: Marriage arranged by parents, around the age of 20; have and raise children.

3.      Retiree: When grandchildren arrive you retire and go back to religious studies.

4.      Renunciate:  This was optional. Leave home and travel to sacred places / temples, begging for food (sannyasin) and finally settle in an ashram (religious community).

The Yogas:

Yoga is a way for people to perfect their union with the divine.

1.      Jnana Yoga: Knowledge yoga; it brings insight into one’s divine nature. It is appropriate for priests and intellectuals.

2.      Karma Yoga: Action yoga; it develops the idea that all useful work and good deeds done without a desire for reward are ways to perfection.

3.      Bhakti Yoga: Devotion yoga; love is a purifying experience, even more when it is directed to a god.

4.      Raja Yoga: Royal yoga; it promotes meditation, emptying the mind, turning inward, to bring peace.

5.      Hatha Yoga: Force yoga; physical and breathing exercises to make the body stronger.

6.      Kundalni Yoga: A combination of the other yogas; it is based on the chakras or wheels (psychic centers) along the spinal column: meditation and physical exercises will lift the spiritual energy, bringing insight and joy.

Devotion (Bhakti)

Most Hindus worship their gods in village temples and at home altars. There are special days dedicated to individual gods. Puja: a devotional ritual that involves flowers, food, fire, and incense offered to images of the gods.

The Trilogy or Trimurti (Trilogy): Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

They are the three forces of creation, preservation, and destruction. Life is a cycle: everything is born, it grows, and it dies to be reborn again.

Brahma is the creative form; it is represented as an ancient king with four faces looking in all directions and eight arms, accompanied by a white goose.

Vishnu represents the force of preservation of life, order, and the law. He is associated with the sun and has four arms. His companion animal is a great eagle. There are ten incarnations (Avatars) of Vishnu: Rama (the hero), Krishna (a god), and more.

Shiva represents the destruction of the old and obsolete. He is represented dancing surrounded by a ring of fire. His companion animals are the bull Nandi and the elephant god Ganesha, son of Shiva. He is protective of children. He is the most complicated member of the trilogy.

The Divine Feminine

Among the different representations of the main goddess are Devi (Great Mother) or Durga (awe-inspiring and distant), or Kali (dark and fearsome). She is usually represented with ten arms full of weapons and instruments to destroy evil and the old and wearing a necklace of human skulls. Her face is serene and she rides a tiger. She is protective of children.

The male gods all have consorts (shatki): Saraswati ó Brahma, Lakshmi ó Vishnu, and Parvati + Uma ó Shiva.

The Guru

Because Hinduism has not a hierarchal structure, devotion to the Guru (spiritual teacher, the one who removes darkness) is very important; they are surrounded by students and are considered persons of holiness. Sometimes they found an ashram: a commune of people living together in a single compound. Respect is shown to them by touching their feet.

Devotion to Animals

Hinduism is particularly kind to animals; they don’t kill or eat them: the soul of a person could inhabit any of them (reincarnation). Important gods are represented as animals: Ganesha = Elephant and Hanuman (one of Shiva’s avatars) = Monkey. Cows receive a special veneration as a powerful symbol of motherliness.

Cremation of the Dead

The body is irrelevant; only the soul matters.

Millions of Adherents








1500 B.C.

500 B.C.


No prophets






Siddhartha Gautama


Many: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Kali



Iblis, Shaitan


This Life's Purpose


This is it!





Eliminate passions

Eliminate passions

Place of Worship



Holy Book

Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita


Seeks Converts?



Main Sects
70% Vaishnaites
25% Shiavites
  2% neo-Hindu
56% Mahayana
38% Hinayana
  6% Tantrayana

Socratic Questions

Chapter #4-Hinduism

1-Do you consider reincarnation possible? How can you know for sure?
2-Are meditation, yoga, and other similar practices effective / good for people?  Why?
3-Do you think that our karma / deeds will have an effect on our lives (
You are what you deserve to be!)?
4-What do you think about the concept of “A cosmic power and the spiritual essence of the universe; a divine reality at the heart of all things…All things are ultimately one”?
5-Assuming that we have a soul, would it be connected to a higher power? Would it be “divine, holy, and timeless”? Explain why?
6-Define “duty”. Should we comply with our duty, not matter what?
7-Should we listen / follow Gurus?
8-Burial or cremation?  Why?



Amitabha Buddha    The Buddha of the Western Paradise, a bliss-body Buddha in Mahayana.
Anatta    "No self"; the doctrine that there is no soul of permanent essence in people and things.
Anichcha    This term means impermanence, constant change.
Arhat    In Theravada, a person who has practiced monastic disciplines and reached nirvana, the ideal.
Bodhi    This term means enlightenment.
Bodhisattva    "Enlightenment being"; in Mahayana, a person of deep compassion, especially on who does not enter nirvana, but is constantly reborn to help others; a heavenly being of compassion.
Dharma    The totality of Buddhist teaching.
Dhyana    "Meditation"; focusing of the mind; sometimes, stages of trance.
Dukkha    This term means sorrow, misery, suffering.
Guanyin    A popular bodhisattva of compassion in Mahayana.
Karuna    Compassion, empathy.
Koan    In Zen Buddhism, a question that cannot be answered logically; a technique used to test consciousness and bring awakening.
Lama    A Tibetan Buddhist teacher, often a monk.
Maitreya    A Buddha (or bodhisattva) expected to appear on earth in the future.
Mandala    A circular design containing deities, geometrical forms, symbols and so on that represent totality, the self, or the universe.
Mudra    A symbolic hand gesture.
Nirvana    The release from suffering and rebirth that brings inner peace.
Samadhi    A state of deep awareness, the result of intensive meditation.
Samsara    Constant rebirth and the attendant suffering; the everyday world of change.
Sangha    The community of monks and nuns; lowercased, this term refers to and individual monastic community.
Satori    In Zen, the enlightened awareness
Shunyata    The Mahayana notion of emptiness, meaning that the universe is empty of permanent reality.
Stupa    A shrine, usually in the shape of a dome, used to mark Buddhist relics of sacred sites.
Sutra    A sacred text, especially one said to record the words of the Buddha.
Tathata    "Thatness," or "thusness," "suchness"; the uniqueness of each changing moment of reality.
Trikaya    The three "bodies" of the Buddha-the cosmic Buddha nature, the celestial Buddhas, and the historical Buddhas.
Tripitaka    The three "baskets,"or collections, of Buddhist texts.
Vajra    The "diamond" scepter used in Tibetan and other types of Buddhist ritual, symbolizing compassion.


Buddhism is one of the world's oldest religions. It started in India in the fifth century B.C.E. Its founder was prince Siddhartha Gautama, who would become the Buddha or the Awakened One. There is not a single authoritative biography of Buddha. According to legend, Siddhartha was the son of a prince of the Shakya tribe in Nepal. His mother, Maya, became pregnant during a dream in which a white elephant entered her side. Siddhartha was born miraculously from her side; she died a week after childbirth and the boy was raised by his aunt. A sage came to inspect the child and foretell his future; his life could go in one of two directions: follow his father as the next king or -if he were exposed to suffering- become a great spiritual leader. His father kept Siddhartha in a large walled palace, surrounded by luxury. He receive the best education and was trained as a warrior. When he was sixteen, his father chose a young woman to be his wife (Yasodhara) and soon he became a father himself. One day, disobeying his father, Siddhartha decided to visit a nearby town where he witnessed suffering: old age, sickness, and death. He decided to escape to find answers for this situation; this event is known as the Great Going Forth or Great Renunciation.

Siddhartha traveled during six years from teacher to teacher; he learned techniques of meditation and discussed philosophy, but he was unsatisfied. He joined five other nomadic "seekers" who lived an ascetic life: materials things were distractions to achieve spiritual purity. As a result of not eating enough, one day Siddhartha collapsed from weakness. A woman who found him gave him food. He then realized that austerity was not the best way to find answers. He concluded that all the extremes were wrong, that moderation or middle way was the right path.

One day he decided to seat under a big tree, now called the Bodhi Tree, and stay there in meditation until he found the understanding he was looking for. According to legend, he struggle with hunger, thirst, and temptation, until he finally reached a state of profound understanding: Awakening or Enlightenment. He became the Buddha (to wake up). He went back to see his ascetic companions and share his experiences with them. they became his first disciples. The Buddha spent the rest of his life traveling from village to village in northeast India, teaching his insights. He attracted many followers. Buddha began an order (sangha) of monks and nuns.

Teachings of Buddhism

Buddha did not write his teachings, nor did his early disciples. The only records were written several hundred years after his death. The Dhammapada is the first / oldest  manuscript containing Buddha's teachings. Later, the Tripitaka or Three Baskets ( Sutta Pitaka: basket of discourse; Vinaya Pitaka: basket of discipline; Abhidhamma Pitaka: basket of special doctrine) were written,  containing some of Buddha's conversations. The main ideas of Buddhism are the Three Jewels: The Buddha (the ideal human being), the Dharma (the sum of all Buddhist teachings), and the Sangha (the community of monks). Buddha concentrated his efforts on what was  useful. He refused to talk about unanswerable questions (afterlife, nature of the divine, etc). His concerns were: How to minimize suffering? and How to attain inner peace? He made recommendations for a practical way of living. Buddhist doctrines are not meant to be accepted on blind faith but to be experienced before  accepting them.

According to Buddha, reality has three main characteristics: constant change, lack of permanent identity, and the existence of suffering.

Change or Impermanence (Anichcha): All of reality is in motion all of the time; the universe is in a flux. a wise person expects change, accepts it, and even savors it. Like pleasures do not last forever, neither do sorrows.

No Permanent Identity (Anatta): Buddha urged people to abandon egotism and a fixation on material objects. Everything (objects and people) is made up of constantly changing parts. There is not a permanent soul or timeless unchanging reality. As part of rebirth, the elements of a personality can recombine and continue from one lifetime to another that will be different and changing. Samsara is the constant rebirth and the attendant suffering; the everyday world of change. Liberation from samsara is attained in nirvana.

Suffering (Dukkha): Life can never be fully satisfying because of its inescapable change. Even in the midst of pleasure, we know that it will not last. To live means to experience sorrow and dissatisfaction. No one can escape suffering, but each person can decide how to respond to it.

Buddhism: The Middle Path, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path. Goal: Enlightenment. Ultimate reward: Nirvana (end of suffering, inner peace, and liberation from the limitations of this world).

1. Life means suffering.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment / desire.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable: end desire.

4. There is a path to the cessation of suffering: The Eightfold Path:

1. Right Understanding
(impermanence of life and
desire as the cause of suffering)


2. Right Intention (pure thoughts
and motives)

3. Right Speech (speak honestly
and kindly)

Ethical Conduct

4. Right Action (do not hurt others,
do not steal, and avoid a sexual conduct
that would bring hurt)

5. Right Work (a job that does not hurt
me or others)

6. Right Effort (live with moderation and
 try to improve)

Mental Development

7. Right Meditation: Dhayana (use the disciplines
of meditation to achieve awareness)

8. Right Concentration: Samadhi (cultivate
 inner peace)





The Noble Eightfold Path is often represented by means of the dharma wheel, whose eight spokes represent the eight elements of the path.


One important element that Buddhism  adopted from Hinduism is the ideal of Ahimsa or "Nonharm": to cause suffering to any living being is cruel and unnecessary. Buddhism recommends a vegetarian diet and warns against jobs or sports that would hurt others (butcher, fisherman, soldier, hunter, etc). Daily meditation is the main practice of Buddhism. Samadhi is the highest state of mental concentration that a person can achieve while still bound to the body. It is a state of profound absorption, undisturbed by desire, anger or any other emotion. Symbolic hand gestures (Mudras) on statues of the Buddha are common in all forms of Buddhism.

For Buddhism, the purpose of life is to end suffering. The Buddha taught that humans suffer because we continually strive after things that do not give lasting happiness.

King Ashoka (250 B.C.E.) converted to Buddhism as a result of his ideas about nonviolence. He made political use of Buddhist moral values and contributed to its spread.

Buddha said of death:

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.
Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp - a phantom - and a dream*

Buddhist Branches:

The so-called branches of Buddhism are not homogeneous and monolithic. They are more like families that share many common elements. Buddhist followers of a specific path are not often aware of the existence of other branches, but even when they are they don't try to define themselves in contrast or based on the differences with other forms of Buddhism.

1-Theravada or "the Way of the Elders", or "the Ancient Teaching":  It is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It is relatively conservative, and generally closest to early Buddhism. Theravada promotes that insight must come from the aspirant's experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead of by blind faith. It emphasizes simplicity, meditation, and detachment.  The heart of  Theravada Buddhism is its community of monks. They believe that monks follow a better path to attain Nirvana, based on the notion of arhat: "perfect being". Monks usually wear orange robes and beg daily for their food. Many monasteries run schools, meditation centers, and medical clinics. The Jakata Tales (folktales) are very influential among the people; they contain stories of humans and animals and each teaches a moral lesson about a particular virtue. They stress wisdom as a great virtue. Some rival groups call it Hinayana, which  is a Sanskrit term literally meaning: "the low vehicle", "the inferior vehicle", or "the deficient vehicle". The term appeared around the 1st or 2nd century CE. Its use in scholarly publications is controversial. The legitimacy of using the term Hinayana  is disputed and seen as pejorative. “Southern school” (From India to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Southeast Asia)


2-Mahayana  or the "Big Vehicle": It is the larger of the two major traditions of Buddhism existing today, which can accommodate a wide variety of people. Many teachings, with various contrasting ideas. The fundamental principle of Mahayana is based around the possibility of universal liberation from suffering for all beings; anyone can achieve Nirvana. It accepts non-monks, women, and married people. It represented a reaction against Indian asceticism. Most Mahayana schools believe in a pantheon of quasi-divine earthly Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) that devote themselves to personal excellence, ultimate knowledge, and the salvation of humanity. They also believe deities or Bodhisattvas who exist in other dimensions beyond earth. They love  rituals and are open to music and art. In Mahayana, wisdom is paired to compassion (Karuna) which is the highest expression of wisdom. Karuna implies that we are all part of the same universe and to be kind to others -including animals- is to be kind to ourselves. In Mahayana, the Buddha is seen as the ultimate, highest being, present in all times, in all beings, and in all places, and the Bodhisattvas come to represent the universal ideal of altruistic excellence. One form of Buddha, Maitreya, will appear on earth in the future to inaugurate a golden age. One important Mahayana doctrine asserts that all reality is Shunya (empty of permanent essence  and that everything is a part of everything else, and that people and things exist together) .  Mahayana sutras are a very broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that  they claim are original teachings of the Buddha. Another important notion is Tathata ("Thatness"): reality is revealed in each moment; no moment or object is exactly the same; they can only be observed as they pass. “Northern school” (From India to Central Asia, China, East Asia)

3-Zen Buddhism is a school of Mahayana which often de-emphasizes the pantheon of Bodhisattvas and instead focuses on the meditative aspects of the religion. Zen also emphasizes dharma practice and experiential wisdom—particularly as realized in the form of meditation. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct, experiential realization. The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century CE.; from there it spread to Japan. Zen teaches that everyone has the potential  to achieve enlightenment, but it lies dormant because of ignorance. Zen monks spend endless time meditating on a phrase called a koan (a paradoxical statement used as a a meditation discipline). They call the enlightenment experience Satori, which brings awareness of the unity of oneself with the rest of the universe.

4-Vajrayāna Buddhism is also known as Tantric Buddhism and the Diamond Vehicle. Vajrayana first came into evidence in the 8th century CE. Its scriptures are called the Tantras; they taught that the body and all its energies could be used to reach enlightenment. Vajrayanists feel that the best way to achieve the goal of overcoming desire and to work towards enlightenment, may be to experience desire "... fully and thereby drain it of every mystery." One technique involves Tantric sex. This includes sexual intercourse with the goal of spiritual growth rather than sexual pleasure. When Tantric Buddhism entered Tibet it blended with shamanistic practices. The distinctive feature of Vajrayana Buddhism is ritual, which is used as a substitute or alternative for the earlier abstract meditations. The ritual allows the individual to become identified with a particular Buddha or heavenly bodhisattva. Among the significant ritual objects is the Vajra, a metal object like a rod or scepter that represents a bolt of lightning and is hold in the right hand. A bell is hold in the left hand representing wisdom.  handVajrayāna Buddhism currently has perhaps 10 million adherents. It has two main sub-schools:

  • Tibetan Buddhism is found in Bhutan, Southwestern China, Mongolia, Nepal, Northern India, Russia, Tibet,
  • Shingon Buddhism is found in Japan.

5-Tibetan Buddhism: This is the religion of about 3 million Tibetans, 7 million Mongols and others. The Dalai Lama is the equivalent of the Pope for them. A secondary leader is the Teshu Lama (or Panchen Lama). These two are regarded as 'Living Buddhas', being reincarnations of Buddha passing from one existence to another. When one dies, his successor is sought from among the baby boys born at the time the leader passed away because it is believed that the soul of the Buddha has only passed into another existence. Among the characteristic features of Tibetan Buddhism are its emphasis on the importance of the master - disciple relationship for both religious scholarship and meditation. The followers recognize a huge pantheon of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, saints, demons, and deities. The marked piety of both monastic and lay Tibetan Buddhists, which receives expression in their spinning of prayer wheels, their pilgrimages to holy sites, prostrations and offerings, recitation of texts, and chanting of Mantras (a religious or mystical poem, typically from the Sanskrit language) are also important practices. The main books of Tibetan Buddhism are the Kanjur (from the Tripitaka) and the Tenjur (commentaries on scripture and treatises on medicine, logic, and grammar).  Music and dance, drums, long trumpets, cymbals and bells also play an important role in Tibetan Buddhism. 

The movies Kundun, Seven Years in Tibet, and Little Buddha portray many of these practices.

Buddhism first contacts with the west occurred as a result of missionary activities and European colonialism. Today, Buddhism is studied and practiced in most countries of the world. Its believe in nonviolent ways and moral values are very popular.

Ritual Elements of Buddhism:
  • nMantra—short sacred chant
  • nMudra—hand gesture


  • nMandala—religious diagram


  • nVajra—short scepter or wand


  • nStupa—a circular, domelike shrine

Eventually, Hinduism prevailed over Buddhism in India, which was driven to Central, East, and Southeast Asia. Maybe too much austerity, denial of importance of gods, and high expectations for individuals were too hard for ordinary people.

Sayings of Buddha
A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.
A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden.
A good friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals a secret of hidden treasure.
A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering.
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.
An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.





Millions of Adherents








1500 B.C.

500 B.C.


No prophets






Siddhartha Gautama


Many: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Kali



Iblis, Shaitan


This Life's Purpose


End Suffering





Eliminate passions

Eliminate passions

Place of Worship



Holy Book

Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita


Seeks Converts?



Main Sects
70% Vaishnaites (Vishnu)
25% Shiavites (Shiva)
  2% Neo-Hindu
56% Mahayana
38% Theravada
  6% Vajrayana


                                Potala Palace, Tibet                                                                                                  Budhist Stupa

The Potala Palace is located in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India, after an invasion and failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by the Chinese. The building measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 m. thick, and 5 m. (more than 16 ft) thick at the base, and with copper poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes. Thirteen stories of buildings – containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues – soar 117 metres (384 ft) on top of Marpo Ri, the "Red Hill", rising more than 300 m (about 1,000 ft) in total above the valley floor.


Budhist Monument of Borobudur, Java, Indonesia

Socratic Questions

Chapter #5-Buddhism

1-What do you think: is there a permanent essence in the universe, in people and things? Why?
2-Analyze the validity of a monastic life (good or/and bad)? Why do so many religions practice it?
3-Is it possible to achieve nirvana (end of suffering and total inner peace)?
4- Analyze this statement: “all the extremes are wrong; moderation or the middle way is the right path.”
5-Is attachment to material things and/or desire the cause of suffering? Why? “Humans suffer because we continually strive after things that do not give lasting happiness”; do you agree? Why?
6-Analyze this statement: "Non-harm": to cause suffering to any living being is cruel and unnecessary.”
7-Most religions perform rituals. Are they beneficial in some way? Why?

6-Jainism and Sikhism


Adi Granth    "Original collection"; the primary scripture of the Sikhs.
Ahimsa    The idea in Buddhism and Jainism that emphasizes non-harm and nonviolence.
Ajiva    Matter without soul or life.
Digambara    "Clothed in ski"; a member of the Jain sect in which monks ideally do not wear clothing.
Gurdwara    A Sikh temple.
Guru    A spiritual teacher.
Hylozoism    The belief that all physical matter has life and feeling.
Japji    A poem by Guru Nanak that begins the Adi Granth; the poem is recited daily by pious Sikhs.
Jina    "Conqueror"; the Jain term for a perfected person who will not be reborn.
Jiva    Spirit, soul, which enlivens matter.
Khalsa    The community of initiated Sikhs; also any true Sikh.
Mahavira    The most recent tirthankara who is considered to be the greatest of them all and is often thought of by outsiders to be the founder of Jainism.
Nanak    The founder of Sikhism
Puja    In Jainism, ritual in honor of the tirthankara.
Punjab    The area of northwest India and eastern Pakistan where Sikhism originated.
Sallenkhana    "Holy Death"; death or deity by self-starvation, valued in Jainism as a noble end of a long life of virtue and detachment.
Shvetambara    "Clothed in white"; a member of the Jain sect in which monks and nuns where white clothing.
Sikh    "Disciple"; a follower of the Sikh religion.
Sthanakavasi    "Building person"; a member of the Jain sect, that rejects the use of statues and temples.
Terapanthi    A member of the newest Jain sect.
Tirthankara    "Crossing maker"; in Jainism, one of the twenty-four ideal human beings of the past, Mahavira being the most recent.


Jainism first developed in northeastern India, in the same area that gave rise to Buddhism. Both Mahavira and the Buddha rebelled against aspects of Hinduism: Vedic gods, Priestly class, and the System of Castes. They placed emphasis on meditation and self-purification. While Buddhism follows the "middle way", Jainism supports extreme austerity. While Jainism is ancient, Sikhism is relatively young. Both strive toward greater religious simplicity, the individual's struggle to purify the self, to act morally, and to do good to others. . While Jainism rejects the belief in a Creator and supports extreme non-attachment and non-harm, Sikhism embraces monotheism, accepts eating meat, and military self-defense.

Jains believe that 24 great enlightened ascetics have reached perfection in the history of humankind; they have been role models and guides who have shown the way to others. They are considered saints: Tirthankaras. Parshva (9th century BCE) and Mahavira (599-527 BCE) are the most recent ones. Mahavira, like Buddha, was born into an aristocratic family which he left at about age 30 to live the life of a wandering holy man. After 12 years of meditation, wandering, and extreme mortification, Mahavira, at age 42, had an experience of great liberation. He felt completely free of all bondage to the ordinary world, no longer being troubled by pain, suffering, shame, or loss. As a result he became a Jina (any soul which has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state of supreme being: conqueror or victor). Mahavira spent the next 30 years of his life teaching his doctrines and organizing an order of naked monks. He died at about 72 at the village of Pava, near present day Patna, in northeastern India.

Jainism, also called Jain Dharma (one's righteous duty or virtuous path, or law), is the faith from India that prescribes a path of non-violence for all forms of living beings in this world. Its philosophy and practice relies mainly on self-effort in progressing the soul on the spiritual ladder to divine consciousness. In the modern world, it is a small but influential religious minority with as many as 4.9 million followers in India. Jains have sustained the ancient ascetic religion and have significantly influenced other religious, ethical, political and economic spheres in India. Jains have an ancient tradition of scholarship and have the highest degree of literacy in India; Jain libraries are the oldest in the country.

Jains hold that the Universe and Dharma are eternal, without beginning or end. However, the universe undergoes processes of cyclical change of rise and fall. First there is moral integrity, followed by moral decay; then tirthankaras appear to point the way to freedom.  The universe consists of living beings or spirits ("Jīva") and beings without a soul ("Ajīva"). The samsarin (souls which are eternally transmigrating in various life forms during its journey over time), are human, sub-human (animals or plants), super-human (deity or devas), and hell-beings, the four forms of the samsari souls. Jainism views every soul as worthy of respect. Everything is full of life and capable of suffering: Hylozoism. Human beings are composed by two opposing parts: the material part seeks pleasure, escape from pain, and self-interest, and the spiritual part that seeks freedom from all bondage to the material world. Superhuman beings exist in a realm of the universe, above the earth; they can help people who pray to them.

Because all living beings possess a soul, great care and awareness is essential in one's actions in the incarnate world. Jainism emphasizes the equality of all life, advocating harmlessness towards all creatures, whether they are great or small. This policy extends even to microscopic organisms. Jainism acknowledges that every person has different capabilities and capacities and therefore assigns different duties for ascetics and householders. The "great vows" (mahavrata) are prescribed for monks and "limited vows" (anuvrata) are prescribed for householders.

Because Jainism values non-attachment, it defends a person's right to end his / her own life. Life is a preparation for the liberation of the spirit and when a person has evolved sufficiently spiritually the Jain ideal allows and esteems ending one's life, only after a long life of virtue and detachment. Gentle methods must be used; self-starvation is considered the best way (Sallekhana or Holy Death). Yoga, the meditative discipline of the monks, is the means to attain liberation. It is the way to cultivate true knowledge, faith, and true conduct.

Festivals: Jains celebrate their religious holidays by fasting, worshiping, reciting sacred texts, giving alms, and other acts of piety. Holidays are based on the lunar calendar. the most important celebrations are Mahavira's birth (March / April) and death (October / November), and the Paryushana (August / September).

Mahatma Gandhi was strongly influenced by Jain philosophy. His policy of nonviolence, which was directed against the British, can be seen in the principle of ahimsa.

Five Basic Ethical Principles of Jainism.
(The degree to which these principles must be practiced is different for monks and householder)

  • Non-violence (Ahinsa) - to cause no harm to living beings.
  • Truth (Satya) - to always speak the truth in a harmless manner.
  • Non-stealing (Asteya) - to not take anything that is not willingly given.
  • Celibacy (Brahmacarya) - to not indulge in sensual pleasures.
  • Non-possession (Aparigraha) - to detach from people, places, and material things.
Key Terms of Jainism
  • nAhimsa—non-injury
  • nTirthankara—crossing-maker
  • nJiva—soul, life force
  • nAjiva—beings without a soul
  • nHylozoism—belief that all nature is alive
  • nSallekhana—death by gentle suicide

Main points of Jainism

  • Every living being has a soul.
  • Every soul is potentially divine, with innate qualities of infinite knowledge, perception, power, and bliss.
  • Therefore, regard every living being as yourself, harming no one and be kind to all living beings.
  • Every soul is the architect of its own life, here or hereafter.
  • Right View, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (triple gems of Jainism) provide the way to this realization.
  • There is no supreme divine creator, owner, preserver or destroyer. The universe is self-regulated and every soul has the potential to achieve divine consciousness (siddha) through its own efforts. According to Jain beliefs, the universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. Therefore, it is shaswat (infinite). It has no beginning or end, but time is cyclical with progressive and regressive spirituality phases.
  • Navakar Mantra is the fundamental prayer in Jainism and can be recited at any time of the day. Praying by reciting this mantra, the devotee bows with respect to liberated souls still in human form (Arihantas), fully liberated souls (Siddhas), spiritual leaders (Acharyas), teachers (Upadyayas) and all the monks. By saluting them, Jains receive inspiration from them for the right path of true bliss and total freedom from the karma of their soul. In this main prayer, Jains do not ask for any favors or material benefits. This mantra serves as a simple gesture of deep respect towards beings who are more spiritually advanced. The mantra also reminds followers of the ultimate goal, nirvana or moksha.
  • To be in Soul Consciousness rather than body consciousness is the foundation of right View, the condition of right Knowledge and the kernel of right Conduct. It leads to a state of being unattached to worldly things and therefore being nonjudgmental and Non-violent which includes compassion and forgiveness in thoughts, words and actions toward all living beings and respecting views of others.
  • Jainism stresses on the importance of controlling the senses, as they can drag you far away true nature of the soul into being increasingly addicted to the material world leading into the tunnel of darkness, ignorance, love, hate and violence ( Led by the fear of losing what we are attached to)
  • Limit possessions and lead a pure life that is useful to yourself and others. Owning an object by itself is not possessiveness; however attachment to an object is. Non-possessiveness is the balancing of needs and desires while staying detached from our possessions.
  • Enjoy the company of the holy and better qualified, be merciful to those afflicted and tolerate the perversely inclined.
  • Four things are difficult for a soul to attain: 1. human birth, 2. knowledge of the law, 3. faith in the law, and 4. practicing the right path.
  • It is important not to waste human life in evil ways. Rather, strive to rise on the ladder of spiritual evolution.
  • The goal of Jainism is liberation of the soul from the negative effects of unenlightened thoughts, speech and action. This goal is achieved through clearance of karmic obstructions by following the triple gems of Jainism.
  • Some Jains worship idols of Jinas, Arihants and Tirthankars, who have conquered the inner passions and attained divine consciousness. Jainism acknowledges the existence of powerful heavenly souls (Yaksha and Yakshini) that look after the well beings of Thirthankarars. Usually, they are found in pair around the idols of Jinas as male (yaksha) and female (yakshini) guardian deities. Even though they have supernatural powers, they are also wandering through the cycles of births and deaths just like most other souls. Over time, people started worshiping these deities as well.

Because Jainism spread to different parts of India, with their differences in culture and climate, several branches of Jainism arose:

Digambaras (clothed in sky): Monks go completely naked, even in public. This branch is more conservative; they don't accept women into monastic life and they have high regard for celibacy. Southern India.

Shvetambaras (clothed in white): Monks dress in white robes. They allow women to enter monastic life as nuns. Northern and western India.

These two branches have temples and statues in their temples; they make offerings to the statues representing tirthankaras and deities:  devotional rituals. Fasting is regularly practiced by monks and nuns, particularly at the times of full and new moons: Digambaras: 15 days & Shvetambaras: 8 days.

Sthnakavasis: Its followers believe that God is 'nirakar' (without form) and hence do not pray to any statue. Reform movement that started in the early eighteen century against venerating statues; they focus on meditation and austerity. They wear white clothes and cover their mouths with a square white cloth called a muhapatti intended to minimize the risk of inhaling small insects or other airborne life forms.

Terapanthis: Branch founded in 1817 by Acharya Bhikishu (1788-1860).  They also reject the use of images. To ensure discipline, the founder created a hierarchical structure with a supreme guru at the top. They are at the forefront in spreading Jainism outside India.

Jain Scriptures

  • Purvas: Ancient scriptures that does not exit anymore in their entirety, but only as limited quotations.
  • The Eleven Angas ("limbs"): The teachings of Mahavira.
  • The Twelve Upangas ("lesser limbs"): a collection of laws and rituals, particularly associated with assistance in dying.


Sikhism grew up in an area called the Punjab, in northwestern India and eastern Pakistan, during the early 1500's. It started as an attempt to bridge the divisions between Hindus and Muslims, taking elements from both faiths. The founder of Sikhism was Nanak, who was born in 1469. He grew up in a Hindu family, married, had two children, held several jobs, and his best friend -Mardana- was a Muslim. One day, Nanak went into a forest and did not reemerge for three days. During that time he experienced God directly. This experience reveled to him that there is but one God, beyond all human names and conceptions. He referred to the divine reality as True Name. Nanak said that Hindus and Muslims worship the same God, that a distinction between the two religions was mistaken. Nanak left his family and with his friend Mardana became a homeless wanderer. They visited holy sites throughout northern India and sought disciples (Sikh means disciple).  Nanak's style of clothing deliberately blended Hindu and Muslim elements. He died in 1539 at age 70. He is consider the first of a line of ten Sikh gurus (spiritual teacher). Nanak criticized both Hinduism and Islam for not helping enough the poor and the oppressed. He created the Sangats, religious groups to help those people.

Sikhism accepts reincarnation and karma. It sees the human being as a composite of body and spirit; the spirit must overcome physicality as it seeks freedom and absorption in the divine. On the other hand, it rejects Hindu love of ritual, polytheism and images. It accepts eating meat because of the believe that the animal world was created for the use of human beings. Although God is beyond personhood, God has personal qualities, such as knowledge, love, a sense of justice, and compassion. God can be approached personally by the individual. God dwells within each individual and can be contacted within the human heart. God is the primary guru and Nanak saw himself as God's mouthpiece.

Stages of Sikhism

-First Stage: It was just a religious movement trying to coexist peacefully with other religions. The period of the first four gurus: Nanak, Angad, Amar Das, and Ram Das. Hymn were written, numerous communities were organized, and a village headquarter was created at Amritsar, in northern India.

-Second Stage: Sikhism was forced to adopt a militant, self-protective stance and it took some of the elements of a more formalized religion. It began with fifth guru Arjan (1563-1606), son of Ram Das. Arjan built the Golden Temple, created the sacred book of the Sikhs, the Adi Granth, collecting thousands of hymns written by himself and previous gurus. Muslim emperor Jahangir tortured and killed Arjan. Har Gobind, Arjan's son, enlisted a bodyguard and an army to protect him and his followers. He adopted the practice of wearing a sword. The ninth guru, Tegh Bahadur was imprisoned and killed by the Muslim emperor  Aurangzeb. As a response, tenth guru, Gobind Rai (1666-1708) idealized the sword and created a special military order for men called the Khalsa which was open to all castes. Every male within the khalsa took the name of Singh (lion). Gobind declared the Adi Granth to be the last guru. Therefore, the sacred book in Amritsar and in every sikh temple (gurdwaras) is treated as a living guru.

-Third Stage: After the death of Gobind,  Sikhism was able to move , as a consolidated religion, beyond the borders of India.

Sikh Scripture

The primary book is the Adi Granth which is divided into three parts. The first and most important part is the Japji, a long poem by Guru Nanak, in which he summarized the religion.

Elements of Sikh Belief and Practice
  • nTrue name—god


  • nKarma and reincarnation


  • nSoul and body
  • nAdi Granth—scripture
  • nLine of ten human gurus

Sikh Golden Temple at Amritsar

Socratic Questions

Chapter #6-Jainism and Sikhism

1-Is it possible that “all physical matter has life and feelings”? How can we know?
2-How would you evaluate the concept of "Holy Death": death by self-starvation (or by any other means), valued in Jainism as a noble end of a long life of virtue and detachment”. What about Euthanasia and the right to End-of-Life?
3-Most religions use statues, reliefs, temples, and paintings. Should art be used to reinforce religious beliefs?
4-Does austerity help the spirit, increase your wisdom, and make you happier?
5-Is the Universe eternal, without a beginning and an end? How can we know for sure?
6-Anayze this statement: “the spirit must overcome physicality as it seeks freedom and absorption in the divine.”

7-Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism,  and Baha'i.


-Ahuna Vairya: The most sacred of the Gathic hymns of the Avesta, the revered texts of Zoroastrianism
-Ahura Mazda
: The one uncreated Creator; the beginning and the end, the eternal, the pure, and the only truth. Ahura: Lord of Life;  Mazda: All knowing
-Ahuras: Three divinities of the Zoroastrian pantheon are repeatedly identified as ahuric: Ahura Mazda, Mithra and Burz, known as the "Ahuric triad". Other divinities with whom the term "Ahuric" is associated include the six Amesha Spentas and (notable among the lesser yazatas) Aredvi Sura of The Waters and Ashi of Reward and Recompense.
-Amesha Spentas: The great divine sparks of Ahura Mazda. In Zoroastrian tradition, these are the first emanations of the non-created Creator, through whom all subsequent creation was accomplished. The "divine sparks" that appear in the Gathic Yasna are:

-Angra Mainyu: The "destructive spirit", rival of Spenta Mainyu. First, considered an uncreated evil force, but later in time seen as an emanation or spark of Ahura Mazda that became his antithesis or mortal enemy.
-Avesta: The primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.
-Báb:  The forerunner of the Bahá'í Faith.
-Bahá'u'lláh: Founder of the Baha'i Faith.
-Daena: The eternal law, whose order was revealed to mankind through the Mathra Spenta (Holy Words), in the Gathas. Equivalent to Dharma.
-Daevas: Supernatural entities with disagreeable characteristics. Wrong gods or 'false gods' or 'gods that are (to be) rejected'. Noxious creatures that promote chaos and disorder; personifications of every imaginable evil (Demons).
-Druj (lie): The concept opposed to Asha. It has the basic meaning "to blacken", "error, deceit."
-Eschatology: Doctrine of a final renovation of the universe, when evil will be destroyed, and everything else will be then in perfect unity with Ahura Mazda. The term probably means "making wonderful, excellent". The doctrinal premises are (1) good will eventually prevail over evil; (2) creation was initially perfectly good, but was subsequently corrupted by evil; (3) the world will ultimately be restored to the perfection it had at the time of creation; (4) the "salvation for the individual depended on the sum of that person's thoughts, words and deeds, and there could be no intervention, whether compassionate or capricious, by any divine being to alter this." Thus, each human bears the responsibility for the fate of his own soul, and simultaneously shares in the responsibility for the fate of the world.
-Fire Temples (Agiarya): A place of worship for Zoroastrians. Although Zoroastrians revere fire in any form, the temple fire is not literally for the reverence of fire: In the Zoroastrian religion, fire (see Atar), together with clean water (see Aban), is an agent of ritual purity. Clean, white ash for the purification ceremonies is regarded as the basis of ritual life.
-Fravashi: It is the guardian spirit of an individual (guardian angels), who sends out the urvan (soul) into the material world to fight the battle of good versus evil. On the morning of the fourth day after death, the urvan returns to its fravashi, where its experiences in the material world are collected.
-Gathas: The 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zoroaster himself. They are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith.
-Gnosticism: It refers to the teaching that the cosmos was created by an imperfect god, the demiurge.
-Universal House of Justice:  First elected in 1963, remains the successor and supreme governing body of the Bahá'í Faith.
-Kitáb-i-AqdasThe Most Holy Book of the Baha'i Faith.
-Mani: Founder of Manichaeism.
-Nag Hammadi Library: The Gnostic Gospels is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945. That year, twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant named Mohammed Ali Samman. The writings in these codices comprised fifty-two mostly Gnostic treatises, but they also include three works belonging to the Corpus Hermeticum and a partial translation/alteration of Plato's Republic.
-Saoshyant: The divinity who brings about the final renovation of the world. The term is used to refer to the prophet's own mission, one who "bring benefit" to humanity. Saoshyant may have been a term originally applied to Zoroaster himself.
-Shekhinas: The feminine attributes of the presence of God in Manichaeism.
-Spenta Mainyu: Guardian of humankind, rival of Angra Mainyu.
-Tower of Silence or
Dakhma: It is a circular, raised structure used by Zoroastrians for exposure of the dead.
-Yazatas: Divinities (angels) performing mundane tasks such as serving as charioteers for other divinities; the term literally means "worthy of worship" or "worthy of veneration." The opposite of daevas. The Achaemenids instituted a religious calendar in which each day of the month was named after, and placed under the protection of, a particular yazata. The yazatas collectively represent "the good powers under Ohrmuzd," who is "the Greatest of the yazatas.
-Zarathustra or Zoroaster: An ancient Iranian prophet, philosopher and religious poet, founder of Zoroastrianism; he lived 77 years.. The hymns attributed to him, the Gathas, are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism.

One of the primary symbols of Zoroastrianism, believed to be the depiction of a Fravashi (guardian spirit).

Founder of Zoroastrianism: The Prophet Zoroaster

Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran. However, it is debated to exactly when he lived as there are estimates running from 1700 BCE to 500 BCE. The precise date of the founding of Zoroastrianism is uncertain. An approximate date of 1500-1200 BCE has been established through archaeological evidence and linguistic comparisons with the Hindu text, the Rig Veda. However there is no way of knowing exactly when Zoroaster lived as he lived in what to his people were prehistoric times.

Zoroaster was born in either Northeast Iran or Southwest Afghanistan. He was born into a Bronze Age culture with a polytheistic religion, which included animal sacrifice and the ritual use of intoxicants. Zoroaster's birth and early life are little documented. What is known is recorded in the Gathas. Born into the Spitama clan, he worked as a priest. He had a wife, three sons and three daughters. Zoroaster rejected the religion of the Bronze Age Iranians with their many gods and oppressive class structure, in which the Karvis and Karapans (princes and priests) controlled the ordinary people. He also opposed animal sacrifices and the use of the hallucinogenic Haoma plant (possibly a species of ephedra) in rituals.

When Zoroaster was thirty years old, he had a divine vision of God and his Amesha Spentas during a ritual purification rite. This vision radically transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others. Zoroaster believed in one creator God, teaching that only one God was worthy of worship. Furthermore, some of the deities of the old religion, the Daevas, appeared to delight in war and strife. Zoroaster said that these were evil spirits and were workers of Angra Mainyu, God's adversary. Legend says that he predicted the coming of Jesus.

Zoroaster's ideas did not take off quickly. The local religious authorities opposed his ideas. They felt their own faiths, power, and particularly their rituals, threatened, because Zoroaster taught against over-ritualizing religious ceremonies. Many ordinary people did not like Zoroaster's downgrading of the Daevas to evil spirits. After twelve years, Zoroaster left his home to find somewhere more open to new ideas. He found such a place in the country of King Vishtaspa (in Bactria). The King and his queen, Hutosa, heard Zoroaster debating with the religious leaders of his land, and decided to accept Zoroaster's ideas and made them the official religion of their kingdom. Zoroaster died at 77. It is known that during the Archaemenian period Zoroastrianism spread to Western Iran. By the time of the founding of the Archaemenian Empire, Zoroastrianism was already a well-established religion.


Zoroastrianism is considered to be among the oldest religions in the world. In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good.  In the battle between good and evil Druj is constantly trying to destroy the creation of Mazda (asha), and good is trying to sustain it. The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, of which a significant portion has been lost, and mostly only the liturgies of which have survived. The lost portions are known of only through references and brief quotations in the later works of (primarily) the 9th-11th centuries. Zoroastrianism is of great antiquity. In some form, it served as the national- or state religion of a significant portion of the Iranian peoples for many centuries before it was gradually marginalized by Islam from the 7th century onwards. Most of today's religions have many traditions and customs that trace back to the original Zoroastrian teachings. Concepts like heaven and hell, a virgin-born savior, and many others were all in Zarathustra's teachings. Priests usually wear white robes.

Basic Beliefs

  • There is one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, the one uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed.
  • Ahura Mazda's creation (asha, truth and order) is the antithesis of chaos, (druj, falsehood and disorder). The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.
  • Active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will or moral choice.
  • Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism.
  • Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over evil Angra Mainyu / Ahriman, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end (Eschatology). In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to "darkness"—will be reunited in Ahura Mazda returning to life in the undead form. At the end of time a savior, a Saoshyant, will bring about a final renovation of the world and in which the dead will be revived. The battle between good and evil will last 9,000 years, divided into 3 segments of 3,000 years.
  • In Zoroastrian tradition the malevolent is represented by Angra Mainyu (also referred to as "Ahriman"), the "Destructive Principle", while the benevolent is represented through Ahura Mazda's Spenta Mainyu, the instrument or "Bounteous Principle" of the act of creation. It is through Spenta Mainyu that transcendental Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind, and through which the Creator interacts with the world.
  • As expressions and aspects of Creation, Ahura Mazda emanated the Amesha Spentas ("Bounteous Immortals"), that are each the hypostasis and representative of one aspect of that Creation. These Amesha Spenta are in turn assisted by a league of lesser principles, the Yazatas, each "Worthy of Worship" and each again a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation.
  • Water and fire: Water (apo, aban) and fire (atar, adar) are agents of ritual purity, and the associated purification ceremonies are considered the basis of ritual life. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, water and fire are respectively the second and last primordial elements to have been created, and scripture considers fire to have its origin in the waters. Both water and fire are considered life-sustaining, and both water and fire are represented within the fire temple. Zoroastrians usually pray in the presence of some form of fire (which can be considered evident in any source of light), and the culminating rite of the principle act of worship constitutes a "strengthening of the waters". Fire is considered a medium through which spiritual insight and wisdom is gained, and water is considered the source of that wisdom.
  • Life is a temporary state in which a mortal is expected to actively participate in the continuing battle between truth and falsehood. Prior to being born, the soul (urvan) of an individual is still united with its fravashi. During life, the fravashi acts as a guardian and protector. On the fourth day after death, the soul is reunited with its fravashi, and in which the experiences of life in the material world are collected for the continuing battle in the spiritual world.
  • Human beings, as the purposeful creation of God, are seen as the natural motivators or overseers of the Seven Creations (sky, water, earth, plant, animal, human and fire). As the only conscious creation, it is humanity’s ultimate task to care for the universe. The sacredness of the creations demands a greater awareness on the part of Zoroastrians, for at the end of time humanity must give to Ahura Mazda a world of "purity", a world in its original perfect state.


It was during the Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE), that Zoroastrianism gained momentum. A number of the Zoroastrian texts that today are part of the greater compendium of the Avesta have been attributed to that period. It was also during the later Achaemenid era that many of the divinities and divine concepts of proto-Indo-Iranian religion(s) were incorporated in Zoroastrianism, in particular those to whom the days of the month of the Zoroastrian calendar are dedicated. This calendar is still used today, a fact that is attributed to the Achaemenid period. Additionally, the divinities or yazatas are present-day Zoroastrian angels. Many sacred texts were lost when Alexander's troops invaded Persepolis (630 B.C.E.) and subsequently destroyed the royal library there. When the Sassanid dynasty came into power in 228 CE, they aggressively promoted Zoroastrianism and in some cases persecuted Christians and Manichaeans. When the Sassanids captured territory, they often built fire temples there to promote their religion. Well before the 6th century, Zoroastrianism had spread to northern China via the Silk Road, gaining official status in a number of Chinese states. Remains of Zoroastrian temples have been found in Kaifeng and Zhenjiang. In the 7th century the Sassanid Empire was overthrown by the Arabs.

Two Islamic decrees  encouraged the transition to a preponderantly Islamic society. The first edict was that only a Muslim could own Muslim slaves or indentured servants. Thus, a bonded individual owned by a Zoroastrian could automatically become a freeman by converting to Islam. The other edict was that if one male member of a Zoroastrian family were to convert to Islam, he would instantly inherit all its property. This lead to many conversions to Islam. Under Abbasid rule, Muslim Iranians (who by then were in the majority) increasingly found ways to taunt Zoroastrians, and distressing them became a popular sport. Zoroastrians were left with no choice but to either to conform or to migrate to regions that had a more amicable administration. Among these migrations were those to cities in  the great salt deserts, in particular to Yazd and Kerman, which remain centers of Iranian Zoroastrianism to this day. Yazd became the seat of the Iranian high priests during Mongol Il-Khanate rule.   Crucial to the present-day survival of Zoroastrianism was a migration to Gujarat, in western India. The descendants of that group are today known as the Parsis or the Gujaratis, and who today represent the larger of the two groups of Zoroastrians.

Today, India and the United States have the two largest populations of Zoroastrians in the world. In 2004 the number of Zoroastrians worldwide was estimated at between 145 and 210 million people. Zoroastrians in India are called Parsees.

The Achaemenid Empire or Persian Empire (550–330 BCE)

The Sassanid Empire or Sasanian Empire (224 to 651 C.E.), was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire. The Sassanid Empire was recognized as one of the two main powers in Western Asia and Europe alongside the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire for a period of more than 400 years.

Gujarat, located in the northwest of India. That is the place where most Zoroastrians live today (Parsees).

Sacred Texts

The Avesta is the collection of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. Although the texts are very old, the compendium as we know it today is essentially the result of a redaction that is thought to have occurred during the reign of Shapur II (309–379 CE). However, some portions of the collection have been lost since then, especially after the fall of the Sassanid empire in 651 CE, after which Zoroastrianism was supplanted by Islam. The oldest existing copy of an Avestan language text dates to 1288 CE. The most ancient of the texts of the Avesta arethe Gathas (The 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zoroaster himself. They are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith). The majority of the texts are however from a later period, most probably from the Achaemenid era (most likely from the reign of Darius I of Persia), with a few being even younger. All the texts are believed to have been transmitted orally for centuries before they found written form.

The various texts of the Avesta are generally divided into topical categories, but these are by no means fixed or canonical. Some scholars prefer to place the five categories in two groups, one liturgical and the other general.

  • The Yasna, the primary liturgical collection. The Yasna includes the Gathas, which are thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself.
  • The Visparad, a collection of supplements to the Yasna.
  • The Yashts, hymns in honor of the divinities.
  • The Vendidad, describes the various forms of evil spirits and ways to confound them.
  • Shorter texts and prayer collections, the five nyaishes ("worship, praise"), the siroze ("thirty days"),  and the afringans ("blessings"). Some of these fragments are collected in the Khorda Avesta, the "Little Avesta", which is the collection of texts for daily lay use.

The texts of the Avesta are complemented by several secondary works of religious or semi-religious nature, which, although not sacred and not used as scripture, have a significant influence on Zoroastrian doctrine. They are all of a much later date—in general from between the 9th and 12th centuries—with the youngest treatises dating to the 17th century.

The most important of these secondary texts (of which there some 60 in all) are:

  • The Dēnkard ("Acts of Religion") in Middle Persian
  • The Bundahishn ("Primordial Creation") in Middle Persian
  • The Mēnog-ī Khirad ("Spirit of Wisdom") in Middle Persian
  • The Arda Viraf Nāmag ("Book of Arda Viraf") in Middle Persian
  • The Sad Dar ("Hundred Doors or Chapters") in Modern Persian
  • The Rivayats or traditional treatises in Middle and Modern Persian


Manichaeism was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia. Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani or Manes (216–276 AD) have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived. Manichaeism is distinguished by its elaborate cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light from which it came. Manichaeism thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world during its time. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. Manichaeism appears to have faded away after the 14th century in southern China. The original six sacred books of Manichaeism, composed in Syriac Aramaic, were soon translated into other languages to help spread the religion. As they spread to the east, the Manichaean writings passed through Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, and ultimately Uyghur and Chinese translations. As they spread to the west, they were translated into Greek, Coptic, and Latin. The spread and success of Manichaeism were seen as a threat to other religions, and it was widely persecuted in Christian, Zoroastrian, Islamic, and Buddhist cultures.

Manichaeism claimed to present the complete version of teachings that were corrupted and misinterpreted by the followers of its predecessors Adam, Zoroaster, Buddha and Jesus. Accordingly, as it spread, it adapted new deities from other religions into forms it could use for its scriptures. Its original Aramaic texts already contained stories of Jesus. When they moved eastward and were translated into Iranian languages, the names of the Manichaean deities (or angels) were often transformed into the names of Zoroastrian yazatas. Abbā dəRabbūṯā, "The Father of Greatness", is the highest Manichaean deity of Light. The Manichaean primal figure, Nāšā Qaḏmāyā,  "The Original Man",  was rendered "Ohrmazd Bay", after the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda.

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) converted to Christianity from Manichaeism, in the year 387. This was shortly after the Roman Emperor Theodosius I had issued a decree of death for Manicheans in AD 382 and shortly before he declared Christianity to be the only legitimate religion for the Roman Empire in 391. According to his Confessions, after nine or ten years of adhering to the Manichaean faith as a member of the group of "hearers", Augustine became a Christian and a potent adversary of Manichaeism, seeing their beliefs that knowledge was the key to salvation as too passive and not able to effect any change in one's life.

Manichaeism maintained a sporadic and intermittent existence in the west (Mesopotamia, Africa, Spain, France, North Italy, the Balkans) for a thousand years, and flourished for a time in the land of its birth (Persia) and even further east in Northern India, Western China, and Tibet. While it had long been thought that Manichaeism arrived in China only at the end of the seventh century. It was adopted by the Uyghur ruler Khagan Boku Tekin (AD 759–780) in 763, and remained the state religion for about a century before the collapse of the Uyghur empire in 840. In the east it spread along trade routes as far as Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty in China. In the ninth century, it is reported that the Muslim Caliph Al-Ma'mun tolerated a community of Manichaeans. In the Song and Yuan dynasties of China remnants of Manichaeism continued to leave a legacy contributing to sects such as the Red Turbans. During the middle ages, there were several movements which were collectively described as "Manichaean" by the Catholic Church, and persecuted as Christian heresies through the establishment, in 1184, of the Inquisition. They included the Cathar and Albigensian churches of Western Europe.

Mani / Manes

Mani lived approximately AD 216–276 and resided in Babylon, which was then a province of the Sassanian Empire. Mani composed seven writings, six of which were written in Syriac Aramaic. The seventh, the Shabuhragan, was written by Mani in Middle Persian and presented by him to the contemporary King of Sassanid Persia, Shapur I in the Persian capitol of Ctesiphon. Although there is no proof Shapur I was a Manichean, he tolerated the spread of Manichaeism and refrained from persecuting it in his empire's boundaries. Mani began missionary expeditions. After failing to win the favor of the next generation of Persian royalty, and incurring the disapproval of the Zoroastrian clergy, Mani is reported to have died in prison awaiting execution by the Persian Emperor Bahram I. The date of his death is estimated at AD 276.

With the discovery of the Mani-Codex, it also became clear that he was raised in a Jewish-Christian baptism sect, the Elcesaites, and was influenced by their writings as well. According to biographies preserved by Ibn al-Nadim and the Persian polymath al-Biruni, he allegedly received a revelation as a youth from a spirit, whom he would later call his Twin, his Syzygos, his Double, his Protective Angel or 'Divine Self'. It taught him truths which he developed into a religion. His 'divine' Twin or true Self brought Mani to Self-realization and thus he became a 'gnosticus', someone with divine knowledge and liberating insight. He claimed to be the 'Paraclete of the Truth', as promised in the New Testament, the Last Prophet and Seal of the Prophets finalizing a succession of figures including Zoroaster, Buddha, and Jesus.


In the beginning...the two "natures" or "substances", light and obscurity, good and evil, God and matter, coexisted, separated by a frontier. In the North reigned the Father of the South, the Prince of Darkness...the "disorderly motion" of matter drove the Prince of Darkness toward the upper frontier of his kingdom. Seeing the splendor of light, he is fired by the desire to conquer it. It is then that the Father decides that he will himself repulse the adversary. He (the Father)...projects from himself, the Mother of Life, who...projects a new hypostasis, the Primordial Man...With his five sons, who are...his "soul" and "armor" made from five lights, the Primordial Man descends to the frontier. He challenges the darkness, but he is conquered, and his sons are devoured by the demons...This defeat marks the beginning of the cosmic "mixture", but at the same time it insures the final triumph of God. Obscurity (matter) now possesses a portion of light...and the Father, preparing its deliverance, at the same time arranges for his definitive victory against darkness. In a second Creation, the Father "evokes" the Living Spirit, which, descending toward obscurity, grasps the hand of the Primordial Man and raises him to his celestial homeland, the Paradise of Lights. Overwhelming the demonic Archontes, the Living Spirit fashions the heavens from their skins, the mountains from their bones, the earth from their flesh and their excrements...In addition, he achieves a first deliverance of light by creating the sun, the moon, and the stars from portions of it that had not suffered too much from contact with obscurity. Finally, the Father proceeds to a last evocation and projects by emanation the Third Messenger. The latter organizes the cosmos into a kind of machine to collect - deliver - the still-captive particles of light. During the first two weeks of the month, the particles rise to the moon, which becomes a full moon; during the second two weeks, light is transferred from the moon to the sun and, finally, to its celestial homeland. But there were still the particles that had been swallowed by the demons. Then the messenger displays himself to the male demons in the form of a dazzling naked virgin, while the female demons see him as a handsome naked young man...fired by desire, the male demons...give forth their semen, and, with it, the light that they had swallowed. Fallen to the ground, their semen gives birth to all the vegetable species. As for the female devils who were already pregnant, at the sight of the handsome young man they give birth to abortions, which, cast onto the ground, eat the buds of trees, thus assimilating the light that they contained. Alarmed by the Third Messenger's tactics, matter, personified as Concupiscence, decides to create a stronger prison around the still-captive particles of light. Two demons, one male, the other female, devour all the abortions in order to absorb the totality of light, and they then couple. Thus Adam and Eve were engendered.

Key Beliefs and Deities

-There is no omnipotent good power; it denies the infinite perfection of God and postulates two opposite powers. Humans are seen as a battleground for these powers: the good part is the soul, which is composed of light, and the bad part is the body, composed of dark earth. The soul defines the person and is incorruptible, but it is under the domination of a foreign power, which addressed the practical part of the problem of evil.
-The beings of both the world of darkness and the world of light have names:

1-The World of Light

  • The Father of Greatness
  • His Five Shekhinas (the feminine attributes of the presence of God)
    • Reason
    • Mind
    • Intelligence
    • Thought
    • Understanding 
  • The Great Spirit

The First Creation

  • The Mother of Life
  • The First Man (Ohrmazd Bay, the Zoroastrian god of light and goodness)
  • His five Sons (the Five Elements)
    • Ether
    • Wind
    • Light
    • Water
    • Fire
    • His sixth Son, the Answer-God (The answer sent by the First Man to the Call from the World of Light).
  • The Living Self (made up of the five Elements).

The Second Creation

  • The Friend of the Lights
  • The Great Builder.  In charge of creating the new world which will separate the darkness from the light.
  • The Living Spirit
  • His five Sons
    • The Keeper of the Splendour. He holds up the ten heavens from above.
    • The King of Honour
    • The Adamas of Light. He fights with and overcomes an evil being in the image of the King of Darkness.
    • The Great King of Glory.  A being which plays a central role in the Book of Enoch (originally written in Aramaic), as well as Mani's Syriac version of it, the Book of Giants. Sits in the seventh heaven of the ten heavens and guards the entrance to the world of light.
    • Atlas. Supports the eight worlds from below.
    • His sixth Son, the Call-God.  Sent from the Living Spirit to awaken the First Man from his battle with the forces of darkness.

The Third Creation

  • The Third Messenger
  • Jesus the Splendour. Sent to awaken Adam and Eve to the source of the spiritual light trapped within their physical bodies.
  • The Maiden of Light
  • The Column of Glory
  • The Great Nous
  • His five Limbs
    • Reason
    • Mind
    • Intelligence
    • Thought
    • Understanding
  • The Just Justice
  • The Last God

2-The World of Darkness

  • The King of Darkness
  • His five evil kingdoms
  • His son
  • His son's mate
    • Their offspring - Adam and Eve
  • Giants (Fallen Angels, also Abortions): Related to the story of the fallen angels in the Book of Enoch (which Mani used extensively in his Book of Giants), and the described in Genesis (6:1-4), on which the story is based.

Sacred books

Mani wrote eight books, which contained the teachings of the religion. Only scattered fragments and translations of the originals remain.


Baha'i Faith

The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in nineteenth-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories. In the Bahá'í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and the capacity of the people. These messengers have included Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and others, and most recently Bahá'u'lláh. In Bahá'í belief, each messenger taught of those messengers to follow, and Bahá'u'lláh's life and teachings fulfill the end-time promises of previous scriptures. Bahá'í notions of progressive religious revelation result in their accepting the validity of most of the world's religions, whose founders and central figures are seen as Manifestations of God. Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale. Bahá'ís do not expect a new manifestation of God to appear within 1000 years of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.

Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá'í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humankind. From these postulates stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine educators, whose purpose is to transform the character of humankind and develop, within those who respond, moral and spiritual qualities. Religion is thus seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age.

The Bahá'í writings describe a single, personal, inaccessible, omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and almighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe. The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end. Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of creation, with a will and purpose that is expressed through messengers termed Manifestations of God. According to the Bahá'í teachings the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer and reflection.

Bahá'í beliefs are sometimes described as syncretic combinations of earlier religions' beliefs. Bahá'ís, however, assert that their religion is a distinct tradition with its own scriptures, teachings, laws, and history. Its religious background in Shi'a Islam is seen as analogous to the Jewish context in which Christianity was established. Bahá'ís describe their faith as an independent world religion, differing from the other traditions in its relative age and in the appropriateness of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings to the modern context.

The Bahá'í writings emphasize the essential equality of human beings, and the abolition of prejudice. Humanity is seen as essentially one, though highly varied; its diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, social class and gender-based hierarchy are seen as artificial impediments to unity. The Bahá'í teachings state that the unification of humankind is the paramount issue in the religious and political conditions of the present world.

Summary of the Bahá'í Teachings

They are derived from transcripts of speeches given by `Abdu'l-Bahá during his tour of Europe and North America in 1912.

With specific regard to the pursuit of world peace, Bahá'u'lláh prescribed a world-embracing collective security arrangement as necessary for the establishment of a lasting peace.

Bahá'í timeline
1844 The Báb declares his mission in Shiraz, Iran
1850 The Báb is publicly executed in Tabriz, Iran
1852 Thousands of Bábís are executed
  Bahá'u'lláh is imprisoned and forced into exile
1863 Bahá'u'lláh first announces his claim to divine revelation
  He is forced to leave Baghdad for Constantinople, then Adrianople
1868 Bahá'u'lláh is forced into harsher confinement in `Akká, Palestine
1892 Bahá'u'lláh dies near `Akká
  His will appointed `Abdu'l-Bahá as successor
1908 `Abdu'l-Bahá is released from prison
1921 `Abdu'l-Bahá dies in Haifa
  His will appoints Shoghi Effendi as Guardian
1957 Shoghi Effendi dies in England
1963 The Universal House of Justice is first elected

Seat of the Universal House of Justice, governing body of the Bahá'ís, in Haifa, Israel

The Báb

On May 23 1844, Siyyid Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz, Iran proclaimed that he was "the Báb" ("the Gate"), after a Shi`a religious concept. His followers were therefore known as Bábís. As the Báb's teachings spread, which the Islamic clergy saw as a threat, his followers came under increased persecution and torture. The conflicts escalated in several places to military sieges by the Shah's army. The Báb himself was imprisoned and eventually executed in 1850.

Bahá'ís see the Báb as the forerunner of the Bahá'í Faith, because the Báb's writings introduced the concept of "He whom God shall make manifest", a Messianic figure whose coming, according to Bahá'ís, was announced in the scriptures of all of the world's great religions, and whom Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, claimed to be in 1863. The Báb's tomb, located in Haifa, Israel, is an important place of pilgrimage for Bahá'ís. The remains of the Báb were brought secretly from Iran to the Holy Land and were eventually interred in the tomb built for them in a spot specifically designated by Bahá'u'lláh.


Mírzá Husayn Alí Núrí was one of the early followers of the Báb, who later took the title of Bahá'u'lláh. He was arrested and imprisoned for this involvement in 1852. Bahá'u'lláh relates that in 1853, while incarcerated in the dungeon of the Síyáh-Chál in Tehran, he received the first intimations that he was the one anticipated by the Báb. Shortly thereafter he was expelled from Tehran to Baghdad, in the Ottoman Empire; then to Constantinople (now Istanbul); and then to Adrianople (now Edirne). In 1863, at the time of his banishment from Baghdad to Constantinople, Bahá'u'lláh declared his claim to a divine mission to his family and followers. Throughout the rest of his life Bahá'u'lláh gained the allegiance of most of the Bábís, who came to be known as Bahá'ís. Beginning in 1866, he began declaring his mission as a Messenger of God in letters to the world's religious and secular rulers, including Pope Pius IX, Napoleon III, and Queen Victoria. In 1868 Bahá'u'lláh was banished by Sultan Abdülâziz a final time to the Ottoman penal colony of Akká, in present-day Israel. Towards the end of his life, the strict and harsh confinement was gradually relaxed, and he was allowed to live in a home near Akká, while still officially a prisoner of that city. He died there in 1892.

Sacred Documents

During his lifetime, Bahá'u'lláh left a large volume of writings. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), and the Kitáb-i-Íqán (The Book of Certitude) are recognized as major theological works, and the Hidden Words and the Seven Valleys as mystical treatises.

Laws of the Bahá'í Faith (from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, written by Bahá'u'lláh).

  • Prayer consists of obligatory prayer and devotional (general) prayer. Bahá'ís over the age of 15 must individually recite an obligatory prayer each day. In addition to the daily obligatory prayer, believers are directed to daily offer devotional prayer and to meditate and study sacred scripture. Reading aloud of prayers from prayer books is a typical feature of Bahá'í gatherings.
  • Backbiting and gossip are prohibited and denounced.
  • Adult Bahá'ís in good health should observe a nineteen-day sunrise-to-sunset fast each year from March 2 through March 20.
  • Bahá'ís are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs, unless prescribed by doctors.
  • Sexual relationships are permitted only between a husband and wife, and thus premarital and homosexual sex are forbidden.
  • Gambling is forbidden.
  • Fanaticism is forbidden.
  • Adherence to rituals is condemned, with the notable exception of the obligatory prayers.
  • Monasticism is forbidden, and Bahá'ís attempt to ground their spirituality in ordinary daily life. Performing useful work, for example, is not only required but considered a form of worship. Bahá'u'lláh prohibited a mendicant and ascetic lifestyle.

While some of the laws from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are applicable at the present time and may be enforced to a degree by the administrative institutions, Bahá'u'lláh has provided for the progressive application of other laws that are dependent upon the existence of a predominantly Bahá'í society. The laws, when not in direct conflict with the civil laws of the country of residence, are binding on every Bahá'í, and the observance of personal laws, such as prayer or fasting, is the sole responsibility of the individual


Abbás Effendi was Bahá'u'lláh's eldest son, known by the title of `Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of Bahá). His father left a Will that appointed `Abdu'l-Bahá as the leader of the Bahá'í community. In his Will, Abdu'l-Bahá appointed his eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the first Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. Shoghi Effendi throughout his lifetime translated Bahá'í texts; developed global plans for the expansion of the Bahá'í community; developed the Bahá'í World Centre; carried on a voluminous correspondence with communities and individuals around the world; and built the administrative structure of the religion, preparing the community for the election of the Universal House of Justice. He died in 1957 under conditions that did not allow for a successor to be appointed.

Organization and Followers

At local, regional, and national levels, Bahá'ís elect members to nine-person Spiritual Assemblies, which run the affairs of the religion. There are also appointed individuals working at various levels, including locally and internationally, which perform the function of propagating the teachings and protecting the community. The Bahá'í Faith does not have clergy. The Universal House of Justice, first elected in 1963, remains the successor and supreme governing body of the Bahá'í Faith, and its 9 members are elected every five years by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies.] Any male Bahá'í, 21 years or older, is eligible to be elected to the Universal House of Justice; all other positions are open to male and female Bahá'ís.

Since 1996 the House of Justice has been directing communities to prepare for large-scale expansion, creating new institutions and training institutes. The Bahá'ís around the world are currently being encouraged to focus on children's classes, youth groups, devotional gatherings, and a systematic study of the religion known as study circles. The years from 2001 until 2021 represent four successive five-year plans, culminating in the centennial anniversary of the passing of Abdu'l-Bahá.

A Bahá'í published document reported 4.74 million Bahá'ís in 1986 growing at a rate of 4.4%. Bahá'í sources since 1991 usually estimate the worldwide Bahá'í population to be above 5 million. The World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001, estimated 7.1 million Bahá'ís in the world in 2000, representing 218 countries. The majority of Bahá'ís live in Asia (3.6 million), Africa (1.8 million), and Latin America (900,000). According to some estimates, the largest Bahá'í community in the world is in India, with 2.2 million Bahá'ís, next is Iran, with 350,000, and the USA, with 150,000.

Bahá'u'lláh wrote of the need for world government in this age of humanity's collective life. Because of this emphasis the international Bahá'í community has chosen to support efforts of improving international relations through organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. The Bahá'í International Community is an agency under the direction of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, and has consultative status with the following organizations:

The Bahá'í International Community has offices at the United Nations in New York and Geneva and representations to United Nations regional commissions.

Bahá'ís continue to be persecuted in Islamic countries, as Islamic Leaders do not recognize the Bahá'í Faith as an independent religion, but rather as apostasy from Islam. The most severe persecutions have occurred in Iran, where over 200 Bahá'ís were executed between 1978 and 1998. The rights of Bahá'ís have been restricted in numerous other countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, and several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Bahá'í World Congress is a large gathering of Bahá'ís from across the world that is called irregularly by the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Bahá'ís. There have only been two conferences of this nature; in 1963 and 1992. The first Bahá'í World Congress was held in Royal Albert Hall in London, England and approximately 6,000 Bahá'ís attended. It was called to announce and present the election of the first Universal House of Justice, elected by the participation of over 50 National Spiritual Assemblies. The Second Bahá'í World Congress from November 23rd -26th, 1992 took place in order to pay homage to the 100th anniversary of the passing of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh. 30,000 Bahá'ís from over 180 different nations attended the event in the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, USA, for four days of commemoration in the form of music, speeches, artistic performances and social gathering.

Socratic Questions

Chapter #7 Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Baha'i.

1-Is there a constant battle between good and evil in the universe?
2-Are there angels and demons? How do we know?
3-Is God imperfect? Was
the universe created by this imperfect god, the demiurge? Is this the reason why bad things happen?
4-Could some people have visions? Could prophets be real / legit?
5-Do you think that water & fire are elements of purification?
6-Is it good or bad that so many religions have come to the
7-Why religions have been fighting each other for centuries, promoting wars and killing of innocent people? They are suppose to promote peace and love.
8-Is it possible that there is only one God and He has been sending different messengers in different times to warn humans? Should we have only one religion? Which one?
9-Should all humans / countries become united in one single nation: Earth? Would that be possible some day? Why?
10-Analyze this statement: We should achieve the "
essential equality of all human beings and the abolition of prejudice". " Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, social class and gender-based hierarchy are ...artificial..."

8-Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto


Analects    The Book of Sayings of Confucius.
Five Classics    The classical literature of the time preceding Confucius, including poetry, history, and divination.
Four Books    The major Confucian books, which include sayings of Confucius and Mencius.
Junzi    "Noble person," the refined human ideal of Confucianism.
Laozi    The legendary founder of Taoism.
Legalists    The strictest of Chinese philosophical schools, which advocated strong laws and punishments.
li    Appropriate action, ritual, propriety, etiquette.
Mohists    A Chinese school of philosophy that taught universal love.
qi    The life force.
ren    Empathy, consideration for others, humaneness; a Confucian virtue.
shu    Reciprocity; a Confucian virtue.
Tao    The mysterious origin of the universe that is present and visible in everything (Wade-Giles transcription).
Tao Te Ching    The classic scripture of Taoism (Wade-Giles transcription).
wen    Cultural refinement; a Confucian virtue
wu wei    "No action," "no strain"; doing only what comes spontaneously and naturally; effortlessly.
xiao    Family devotion, filial piety; a Confucian virtue.
yang    The active aspect of reality that expresses itself in speech, light, male and heat.
Yi Jing    An ancient Confucian book of divination, one of the Five Classics, still in use today.
yin    The receptive aspect of the universe that expresses itself in silence, darkness, female, coolness and rest.
Zhuangzi    Arthor of a book of whimsical stories that express themes of early Taoist thought.
Amaterasu    'Shining in heaven'; goddess of the sun.
Bushido    'Warrior knight way'; military devotion to a ruler, demanding loyalty, duty and self-sacrifices; an ideal promoted by State Shinto.
Gagaku    The stately ceremonial music of Shinto.
Ise    Location in eastern Honshu of a major shrine to Amaterasu.
Izanagi    'Male who invites'; primordial male parent god.
Izanami    'Female who invites'; primordial female parent god.
Jinja    A Shinto shrine.
Kami    A spirit, god, or goddess of Shinto.
Kamidan    A shelf or home alter for the veneration of Kami.
Kamikaze    'Spirit wind'; suicide fighter pilots of World War II.
Kojiki    The earliest chronicles of Japanese history.
Misogi    A ritual of purification that involves standing under a waterfall.
Nihongi    The second chronicle of Japanese history.
Noh    Dramas performed in mask and costume, associated with Shinto.
Omoto    A New Religion that stresses art and beauty.
Samurai    Feudal soldier in Japan
Shimenawa    Twisted rope, marking a sacred spot.
Tenrikyo    A New Religion devoted to human betterment.
Torii    A gate-like structure that marks a Shinto sacred place.


Confucianism and Taoism / Daoism

Basic Elements of Traditional Chinese Beliefs

Confucianism and Daoism sprouted and grew up side by side in China. They are the result of previous ancient beliefs. Early Chinese beliefs included:

1-Belief in spirits; Spirits are active in every aspect of nature and the human world. Good spirits bring health, wealth, long life, and fertility. Bad spirits bring accidents, disease, disturbances of nature (droughts and earthquakes), etc. Harmony and wellbeing could be restore through rituals and sacrifice. Diviners and other people with special skills were hired to mediate between humans and the spirits.

2-Veneration of Ancestors: Ancestors at death become spirits. This provided the foundation for Confucianism.

3-Seeing Patterns in Nature: China has mighty rivers, high mountains, experiences frequent floods and earthquakes. Nature is a powerful reality and the Chinese know that they can not always control nature. They saw the seasons, the movements of the sun and moon, the cycle of life as the Rhythm of the Dao. Daoism had its origins in these ideas.

4-Yin and Yang: Chinese people think that the universe expresses itself in opposite but complementary principles: light & dark, day & night, hot & cold, sky & earth, Summer & winter, etc. Yang is not supposed to win over Yin or vice versa; rather, the ideal is a dynamic balance between the forces

5-Divination: It was a an integral part of early Chinese tradition. The book of Changes (Yijing), an ancient book that interprets life through an analysis of hexagrams, was used to foresee the future.

Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism are combined. The three religions are mutually supportive.


For Confucians, the Dao / Tao (nature) of their interest is the Dao within the human world, manifested in "right" relationships and in a harmonious society. People need to be trained in virtue and education is a major necessity. The Doctrine of the Mean recommends several types of training, including cultivation of personal equilibrium and harmony.

Confucius was born in 551 B.C.E. from a noble family. His mother educated him as a gentleman. In his teens he became interested in pursuing scholarship. He held a minor government post as tax collector. After his mother's death he began his public life as a teacher. He married and had a son and a daughter. He died about 479 B.C.E.

The Confucian ideals were two: to produce "excellent" individuals who could be social leaders and to create a harmonious society. Confucius believed that each human being is capable of being good, refined, and even great. In contradiction with Daoism, he was convinced that people cannot achieve those qualities in isolation, but only with the help of parents, teachers, friends, ancestors, and the government. Excellence comes from the cultivation of individual's virtues and intellect. Education is essential. Education means more than knowledge; it involves skills in poetry, music, artistic appreciation, manners, and religious practice. A civilized human being must be full of respect and cared; these must be instilled as part of the formation of young people's character. There should be reverence for everything valuable that has been brought by earlier generations. Every member of society should be cared for and protected; no one should feel abandoned. People should played their roles in society. Confucianism was adopted as official state policy during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E. - 220 C.E.).

When Buddhism entered China during the first century C.E. it brought new ideas and practices. In response to this, Confucianism took on explicitly religious characteristics: statues of Confucius were set up, ceremonies with sacrifices, music, and dance were conducted, etc. The government placed Confucianism on a par with Buddhism and Daoism. The three systems complemented each other. 

A new phase of Confucianism took place during the 1000 C.E.; it was enriched by scholarship and philosophy. The movement is known as Neo-Confucianism; its greatest exponent was Zhu Xi (1130-1200 C.E.), a scholar who gave Confucianism its mature shape as a complete system.

With the Communist takeover of China in 1949 Confucianism was weakened. The Communists criticized it for several reasons:

a. Confucianism preaches elitism rather than egalitarianism.
b. Confucianism values males over females
c. Confucianism focuses on the old rather than the new and on the humanities rather that the sciences.

Recently, the government has begun to soften its anti-Confucian stance.

Five Great Relationships according to Confucius

Family is the foundation of society

 n      Father-son: This is the main relationship. Parents must be responsible for the education and moral formation of their children. Children must obey and respect their parents; they must care for them in their old age. After their death, children must respect and honor their parents' wishes. Chinese and Japanese societies use this as a model for the relationships between boss-employee and between teacher-student.

 n      Elder brother-younger brother: An elder brother must assume responsibility for raising the younger siblings. In case of the death of the father, the eldest son should assume his duties.

 n      Husband-wife: Both are responsible for the other's care. The relation is hierarchical: the husband is an authoritative protector and the wife is a protected homemaker and mother.

 n      Elder-younger or friend-friend: All older people have responsibility for younger people. Younger people must show respect to those older than themselves. The role of the mentor / teacher / boss is taken very seriously in Asian cultures. This is a master-apprentice relationship. This applies to the friend-friend relationship, based on rank, wealth, or knowledge. Friendship entails a serious commitment and is expected to last a lifetime.

 n      Ruler-subject: A ruler must act as a father, caring for his subjects (children). Seniority plays a major role in public life. Privacy and individual rights are not so important.

The Ideal Human Being according to Confucius: The perfect person (junzi) is one who shows humanity at its best, distinguished by faithfulness, diligence, and modesty. He looks at all sides of any issue, is cautious,  carries himself with dignity, appears imperturbable, resolute, and simple. He is exemplary in filial piety and generosity. He is sensitive to the feelings of others. He is a well educated gentleman. Good manners are essential: He is respectful in vocabulary, tone, volume of voice, action, manner of dress, and even posture. He follows etiquette in all formal interactions.

 Five Great Virtues according to Confucius

 n      Ren (jen) — Benevolence: Think of the other, sympathy, empathy, humanness, kindness, and consideration.

 n      Li — Appropriateness: Do what is appropriate, use the right words, dress in the right way, do the correct things.

 n      Shu — Reciprocity: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

 n      Xiao (hsiao) — Family devotion, filial piety: Devotion that all members have to their entire family's welfare. It encompasses remembrance of ancestors, respect for parents and elders, and care for children in the family.

 n      Wen  — Cultivation in the arts: Love for poetry and literature, fondness for calligraphy, painting and music. The educated person is expected not only to have knowledge of the arts but to have some skills in them as well.

 Other Major Confucian Virtues

     n      Duty

  n      Loyalty

  n      Consensus

  n      Moderation

     n      Self-sacrifice

  n      Thrift

     n      Self-control

Confucian Literature

Confucian literature became the "core curriculum" of Chinese education. China was the first country to use examinations as the gateway for entering the civil service; the exams were also based of Confucius books. Confucian values continue to be taught both formally in school and in the family today.

The Five classics (Wujin, Wu-ching)

  1. 1-The Book of History.

  2. 2-The Book of Changes (Basic patterns of the Universe).

  3. 3-The Book of Poetry.

  4. 4-The Book of Rites (Ancient ceremonies and their meanings).

  5. 5-The Spring and Autumn Annals (historical records of the state of Lu, where Confucius lived).

The Four Books (Sishu, Ssu-shu)

  1. 1-The Analects (Sayings of Confucius and his followers).

  2. 2-The Great Learning (Character and influence of the noble person).

  3. 3-The Doctrine of the Mean (Praise of equilibrium).

  4. 4-The Mencius (Teachings of Mencius, a Confucian who livedseveral centuries after Confucius).



Sayings of Confucius

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.
Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.
He who will not economize will have to agonize.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
Men's natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.
Respect yourself and others will respect you.
Study the past if you would define the future.
The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.
To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness.
To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.
What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.
When anger rises, think of the consequences.
When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.
Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.
They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.
He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.
Confucius, The Confucian Analects
He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
Confucius, The Confucian Analects
He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful may be called intelligent indeed.
Confucius, The Confucian Analects
Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
Confucius, The Confucian Analects
I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.
Confucius, The Confucian Analects

2-Mozi (470 BCE–ca. 391 BCE) & Mohism

Chinese philosopher who lived during the Hundred Schools of Thought period (early Warring States Period). He founded the school of Mohism and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism. During the Warring States Period, Mohism was actively developed and practiced in many states, but fell out of favour when the legalist Qin Dynasty came to power. During that period many Mohist classics were ruined when Qin Shihuang carried out the burning of books and burying of scholars. The importance of Mohism further declined when Confucianism became the dominant school of thought during the Han Dynasty.

In contrast to those of Confucius, Mozi's moral teachings emphasized self-reflection and authenticity rather than obedience to ritual. He observed that we often learn about the world through adversity ("Embracing Scholars" in Mozi). By reflecting on one's own successes and failures, one attains true self-knowledge rather than mere conformity with ritual. ("Refining Self" in Mozi) Mozi exhorted the gentleman to lead a life of asceticism and self-restraint, renouncing both material and spiritual extravagance. Mozi believed that people were capable of changing their circumstances and directing their own lives. They could do this by applying their senses to observing the world, judging objects and events by their causes, their function, and their historical basis. Mozi tried to replace what he considered to be the long-entrenched Chinese over-attachment to family and clan structures with the concept of "impartial caring" or "universal love".

3-Legalism (400-200 B.C.E.)

School of philosophy used by the Qin dynasty as the state philosophy to reinforce absolute control over the Chinese people. They said that human beings are fundamentally selfish and lazy; humans will lie, cheat, steal, and kill whenever it is in their interest. Civilization is a very thin veneer. Without stern laws and punishments, people will destroy one another. They believe that a highly efficient and powerful government was the key to resorting order, that government should use the law to end civil disorder and restore harmony, that government should control ideas as well as actions.

4-Mencius (372 – 289 B.C.E.)

Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself. He was an itinerant Chinese philosopher and sage, and one of the principal interpreters of Confucianism. Supposedly, he was a pupil of Confucius' grandson, Zisi. Like Confucius, according to legend, he travelled China for forty years to offer advice to rulers for reform. Mencius' interpretation of Confucianism has generally been considered the orthodox version by subsequent Chinese philosophers, especially by the Neo-Confucians of the Song dynasty. Mencius' disciples included a large number of feudal lords, and he was actually more influential than Confucius had been. The Mencius,  a book of his conversations with kings of the time, is one of the Four Books. In contrast to the sayings of Confucius, which are short and self-contained, the Mencius consists of long dialogues, including arguments, with extensive prose.

Mencius asserted the innate goodness of the individual, believing that it was society's influence – its lack of a positive cultivating influence – that caused bad moral character. "He who exerts his mind to the utmost knows his nature"nd "the way of learning is none other than finding the lost mind". According to Mencius, education must awaken the innate abilities of the human mind. He denounced memorization and advocated active interrogation of the text, saying, "One who believes all of a book would be better off without books." Mencius also believed in the power of Destiny in shaping the roles of human beings in society. What is destined cannot be contrived by the human intellect or foreseen. Mencius emphasized the significance of the common citizens in the state. While Confucianism generally regards rulers highly, he argued that it is acceptable for the subjects to overthrow or even kill a ruler who ignores the people's needs and rules harshly. This is because a ruler who does not rule justly is no longer a true ruler.

Sayings of Mencius

Every duty is a charge, but the charge of oneself is the root of all others.

Evil exists to glorify the good. Evil is negative good. It is a relative term. Evil can be transmuted into good. What is evil to one at one time, becomes good at another time to somebody else.

Friends are the siblings God never gave us.

Friendship is one mind in two bodies.

Great is the man who has not lost his childlike heart.

He who attends to his greater self becomes a great man, and he who attends to his smaller self becomes a small man.

If the king loves music, there is little wrong in the land.

It is not difficult to govern. All one has to do is not to offend the noble families.

Kindly words do not enter so deeply into men as a reputation for kindness.

Let men decide firmly what they will not do, and they will be free to do vigorously what they ought to do.

Let not a man do what his sense of right bids him not to do, nor desire what it forbids him to desire. This is sufficient. The skillful artist will not alter his measures for the sake of a stupid workman.

Mankind fears an evil man but heaven does not.

Sincerity is the way to heaven.

There is no greater delight than to be conscious of sincerity on self-examination.

Truth uttered before its time is always dangerous.

We live, not as we wish to, but as we can.

5-Xun Zi (312–230 B.C.E.)

Confucian philosopher who lived during the Warring States Period and contributed to one of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Xun Zi had a darker view of human nature; he believed man's inborn tendencies need to be curbed through education and ritual, counter to Mencius's view that man is innately good. He believed that ethical norms had been invented to rectify mankind. Human beings will veer toward self-interest unless they are taught differently. Education is not social refinement but a necessity for social reformation of human tendencies that are primarily selfish and individualistic.

6-Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi (1130-1200 C.E.)

A Song Dynasty (960-1279) Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China. His contribution to Chinese philosophy included his assigning special significance to the Analects of Confucius, the Mencius, the Great Learning, and the Doctrine of the Mean (the Four Books), his emphasis on the investigation of things, and the synthesis of all fundamental Confucian concepts.

Taoism / Daoism

Daoism includes a wide variety of items: observations about nature, philosophical insights, guidelines for living, exercises for health, rituals of protection, and practices for attaining longevity and inner purity. Its early documents contain elements of shamanism, appreciation for the hermit's life, desire for unity with nature, and fascination with health, long life, meditation, and trance. Daoists were optimistic people. Human beings are good; therefore, they don't need formal education. People should live simple lives in small villages, governing themselves with natural good sense.

Laozi,  Lao Tse, Lao-Tzu, Lao-Tsu, Laotze, Lao Zi, and other variations was a philosopher of ancient China and is a central figure in Taoism (also spelled "Daoism"). Laozi literally means "Old Master" and is generally considered an honorific. Laozi is revered as a god in most religious forms of Taoism. Taishang Laojun is a title for Laozi in the Taoist religion, which refers to him as "One of the Three Pure Ones". According to Chinese tradition, Laozi lived in the 6th century B.C.E.  Historians variously contend that Laozi is a synthesis of multiple historical figures, that he is a mythical figure. According to legend, Laozi was traveling carried by an ox to far west China. At the western border a soldier recognized him and prohibited him to cross until he wrote his teachings. The result was the Daodejing.

The Daodejing is seen as one of the world's greatest books, linguistically dated to about 350 B.C.E. Historians believe that the book is not the work of a single author. Part of the genius of the book is its brevity and the use of paradoxes. After the Bible, it is the world's most frequently translated book. The book explains about the Dao, the manner people should live in harmony with the Dao, and suggestions to experience the Dao. The Dao is beyond any description; it is "nameless". The Dao is the origin of everything; all things are manifestations of the Dao. It is not God, because it has not personality. It is the way that nature expresses itself. In order to experience the Dao we must leave behind our desires for individual things.

Daoism was enriched by Zhuangzi (around 300 B.C.E.). He talked about living in harmony with nature and the pleasure of living with simplicity. He said that the boundary between reality and the imaginary, between normal and the paranormal is not really clear.

Wu wei is one of the principles of Daoism. It is the ideal of effortlessness or "no action". Everything should happen spontaneously, quietly. Another principle is Simplicity: eliminate whatever is unnecessary and artificial. Gentleness is critical for them: Daoists hate weapons and war.

One form of Daoism that resulted of its contact with Buddhism is life in monasteries and celibate monks: The Way of Complete Perfection. Daoism developed a pantheon of hundred deities: powers of the universe, people who became immortal, ancestral spirits, deified historical figures, etc. Most important are the Three Purities, the Daoist Trinity: the primordial Dao, the Heavenly Worthy of Numinous Treasure (transmit Daoist insight), and the deified Laozi.

Daoist temples represent many of these gods with statues and paintings. People come to offer food, water, and incense.

The concept of the Yin and the Yang is key to Daoist beliefs.

Taoist Virtues

 n      Wu-wei (“no action”)—spontaneity

 n      Quiet

 n      Humor

 n      Closeness to nature

 n      Simplicity

Sayings of Lao-Tzu

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
Lao Tzu

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
Lao Tzu

A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.
Lao Tzu

All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.
Lao Tzu

Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.
Lao Tzu

An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.
Lao Tzu

Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.
Lao Tzu

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
Lao Tzu

Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
Lao Tzu

Be the chief but never the lord.
Lao Tzu

Because of a great love, one is courageous.
Lao Tzu

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao Tzu

By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.
Lao Tzu

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
Lao Tzu

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Lao Tzu

From caring comes courage.
Lao Tzu

From wonder into wonder existence opens.
Lao Tzu

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Lao Tzu

Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish - too much handling will spoil it.
Lao Tzu

Lao Tze, Father of Taoism / Daoism            The Yin and Yang



Key Terms of Shinto

n      Kami—spirit, god, or goddess

n      Jinja—shrine

n      Tsumi—pollution

n      Harai—purification

n      Gagaku—music

n      Kadomatsu—arrangement of pine and bamboo at door

n      Shimenawa—twisted rope around a sacred tree or site

n      Kamidana—home altar

n      Matsuri—festival

Shinto has not known founder. Shinto started as a practice related to living close to nature and to worshiping the spirits who inhabit the natural world. It seems to have arisen from human awareness of the power of nature. It retains elements of shamanism, contact with nature, and mysterious healing. It also has ethnic, political, and family dimensions: worship of spirits of ancestors and leaders (including the emperor).

Shinto has existed since ancient times but was named when Buddhism entered Japan from China during the six century: Shinto = “the way of the gods”. Mahayana Buddhism is very tolerant and tends to absorb native religious element, which made easy its introduction in Japan creating a certain blending of religious practice. The two religions reached an accommodation. Confucianism was also introduced in Japan along with Chinese culture; the ideas of veneration of the ancestors, loyalty, and the importance of the family meshed nicely with Japanese own beliefs.

The movement for an independent Shinto grew strong during the 17th and 18th centuries. Thinkers such as Kamo Mabushi (1697-1769) and Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) wanted to restore a purified, original Shinto. In the late 19th century, however, the three religions were forced to separate. As part of the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912), the emperor emphasized the idea that he was a descendant of the founding deities of Japan. Shinto became a tool in the national buildup and in 1882 it is proclaimed as the national religion (State Shinto). The government provided financial support and control, priests became government employees and shrines were state property. Shinto was used to promote patriotism during the military buildup of the 1930’s and WW II. Kamikaze pilots were blessed by Shinto priests. After WW II State Shinto was abolished and it became a private institution. All religions were placed on an equal footing.

Creation Myth: At the beginning was primeval chaos. Then a generation of deities or spirits (Kami) appeared. Two of these kami (Izanami-female and Izanagi-male) became the cosmic parents who created the islands of Japan. The two deities, from the Floating Bridge of Heaven, pushed down the jeweled spear and stirred the ocean making the islands to emerge. After this, they gave birth to additional kami who became nature deities. Izanami gave birth to the deity Fire and she was burned and died. Izanagi was so sad that his eyes were tear-filled; from the tears emerged the spirit of the sun (Amaterasu) and the spirit of the moon (Tsukiyomi). From his nostrils came the spirit of the wind (Susanowo). Eventually, Amaterasu sent her grandson to bring order to Japan. From him, came Jimmu, the first human emperor of Japan. There are lesser Kami, among the ocean spirits, mountain spirits, spirits of great trees, and rivers. There are also animal spirits and ancestors who have become Kami. Because Kami are everywhere, living with them demands that we show reverence visiting the shrines and showing respect for nature.

The heart of Shinto is sensitivity to the mysterious powers of nature. Kami are the energies that animate nature. Spirits (Kami) live in an upper world but their realm is not separated from this world and thus they can exist and appear in this world. Kami are treated as persons and are given names. The task of human beings is to live up to the kamis. A major concern of Shinto is Purity; washing and rituals can restore purity in case of pollution. We must keep our bodies, houses, and clothes clean and bright. Washing, sweeping, and cleaning have religious implications. There is not moralistic God who gives commands or judges people. Human beings are fundamentally good. Shinto is not concerned with death but with the life force.

The ancient myths appear in the Kojiki (Chronicle of ancient events), 712 C.E. and the Nihongi (Chronicle of Japan), 720 C.E.

People visit shrines to pray for health, success, and well-being of those they love. A visit begins by passing under the torii, a ceremonial entrance or gateway; worshipers wash their hands and mouth at a water basin just inside the entrance. They proceed through an open courtyard to the building (haiden) where the Kami is worshiped. Each shrine has its special  festival days (matsuri). Daily worship occurs in the home, where a small Shinto shrine (kamidana) is maintained.



Major Kami of Shinto

n      Izanagi—primeval father

n      Izanami—primeval mother

n      Amaterasu—sun goddess

n      Tsukiyomi—moon god

n      Susanowo—wind god

n      Inari—rice goddess

      Chapter#8 Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto

Socratic Questions

1-What do these religions have in common? Why did they blend so easily?
2-What do you think about State Shinto during the 1930's-40s? Was this an exception or do you know about other similar cases? What are the dangers of this?
3-Compare and contrast Confucian and American views on ancestors, family, society, and education? Causes?
4-Compare and contrast Confucian and American views on the ideal citizen / junzi? Why?
5-What do you think about the concept of the Yin and
6- Do you think that the great  Confucian virtues are valid today? Why?
7-What do you think about Confucius' sayings?
8-Compare and contrast these Asian religions / philosophies with the Greek's.
Should we swim against the stream or do what Daoism recommends? Why?



Ashkenazim    Jews who lived in or came from central Europe.
Bar Mitzva    'Son of the commandment'; the coming-of-age ceremony that marks the time when a young person is considered a legal adult within the Jewish community.
Biblical Judaism    Judaism before the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.).
Canaan    An ancient name for the land of Israel.
Conservative Judaism    A branch of Judaism that attempts to blend the best of old and new Judaism.
covenant    A contract; the contract between the Hebrews and their God, Yahweh.
Diaspora    The dispersion of Jews beyond Israel, particularly to Persia Egypt and the Mediterranean region.
Essenes    A semimonastic Jewish reclusive group that flourished from about 150 B.C.E. to 68 C.E.
Hanukkah    An early-winter festival recalling the rededication of the Second Temple, celebrated with the lighting of the candles for eight days.
Holocaust    The destruction of European Judaism by the Nazis; also known as Shoah (Hebrew: 'extermination').
Kabbalah    'Received,' 'handed down'; the whole body of Jewish mystical literature.
Kethuvim    'Writings'; the third section of the Hebrew scriptures, consisting primarily of poetry, proverbs, and literary works.
Kosher    'Ritually correct'; said particularly about food consumption and food preparation.
Menorah    A candelabrum usually containing seven-and occasionally nine-branches used for religious celebrations.
Messiah    A savior figure to be sent by God, awaited by the Jews.
Midrash    'Search'; rabbinical commentary on the scriptures and oral law.
Nevi'im    'Prophets'; the second section of the Hebrew scriptures, made up of historical and prophetic books.
Orthodox    The most traditional branch of Judaism.
Passover    A joyful spring festival that recalls the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt and freedom from oppression.
Pharisees    A faction during the Second-Temple period that emphasized the observation of biblical rules.
Prophet    A person inspired by God to speak for him.
Purim    Joyous festival in early spring that recalls the Jews' being saved from destruction, as told in the book of Esther.
Rabbi    A religious teacher; a Jewish minister.
Rabbinical Judaism    The Judaism that developed after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.).
Reconstructionism    A modern liberal branch of the Judaism that emphasizes the cultural aspects of Judaism.
Reform    A modernizing movement and a liberal branch of Judaism.
Rosh Hashanah    'Beginning of the year'; the celebration of the Jewish New Year, occurring on the seventh lunar month.
Sabbath    'Rest'; the seventh day of the week (Saturday), a day of prayer and rest from work.
Sadducees    A priestly faction, influential during the Second-Temple period.
Seder    'Order'; a special ritual meal at Passover, recalling the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt.
Sephardim    Jews of Spain, Morocco and, the Mediterranean region.
Sukkot    'Booths'; a festival in the late autumn that recalls the Jews' period of wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.
Talit    A prayer shawl worn by devout males.
Talmud    An encyclopedic commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures.
Tanakh    The complete Hebrew scriptures, made up of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings.
Tefillin    Phylacteries; two small boxes containing biblical passages that are worn by Orthodox males on the heads and left arm at morning prayer during the week.
Theophany    A revelation or appearance of a God.
Torah    'Teaching,' 'instruction'; the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures; also the additional instructions of God, believed by many to have been transmitted orally from Moses through a succession of teachers and rabbis.
Western Wall    The foundation stones of the western wall of the last temple of Jerusalem, today a place of prayer.
Yarmulke    The skullcap worn by devout males.
Yom Kippur    Day of Atonement.
Zealots    An anti-Roman, nationalistic Jewish faction, active during the Roman period of control over Israel.
Zionism    The movement that has encouraged the creation and support of the nation of Israel.





David vs. Goliath


King Solomon's Judgement


The Torah


 Jewish history goes back almost four thousand years.  a major historical event is the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. This marked the change from centralized, temple-based, biblical Judaism to home and synagogue, Rabbinical Judaism.

 The Hebrew Bible

It is made up of individual books that were originally oral material that was written down between  900 - 200 B.C.E. The first five books are called the Torah or Pentateuch. The Hebrew Bible is divided in three sections: the Torah, Nev'in, and Ketuvim. The historical accuracy of The Hebrew Bible is not always certain, but we can presume that many of the accounts (after the creation of the Jewish Kingdom) are based on historical fact.

 Biblical History

 Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, the Great Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, Moses and the Ten Commandments.

 Abraham is the first Hebrew patriarch. He migrates from Ur (Mesopotamia) to Canaan (Israel).  The covenant; his sons: Ishmael (w/ servant Hagar) and Isaac (w/ wife Sarah); Hagar & Ishmael are sent away to Arabia; the loyalty test: killing Isaac. One of Isaac's sons, Jacob and his sons settled the land of Canaan.

 Joseph, Jacob' son, is sold as an a slave by his jealous brothers and is taken to Egypt. There, he became a government minister. When famine hits Israel, Joseph brings his family to Egypt to settle in the land of Goshen in northeastern Egypt. The population of Hebrews in Egypt grew so large, after several centuries, that Egyptians saw them as a threat and the Hebrews became slaves. Because of a prophesy, Pharaoh orders the killing of all Hebrew baby boys. Baby Moses survived the killing after being rescued by an Egyptian princess.

 Moses had to escape from Egypt after killing an Egyptian foreman who was mistreating an Israelite. He married and had a son. One day, when he was taking care of a herd, he sees a burning bush and he heard the voice of God, who commands him to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews. Ten plagues strike the Egyptians and convinced Ramses II to free the Israelite slaves (Exodus / Passover). The Hebrew's journey out of Egypt, that lasted about forty years, took them through the Red Sea or the Reed Sea (see map). Once at Mount Sinai, Moses climbed the mountain to meet God and brought the Ten Commandments. No Egyptian record mentions this event.

 God's name, Yahweh was thought to be too sacred to be pronounced and it is substituted by the word Adonai (the Lord). The notion of God as a being transcendent and pure spirit grew stronger.

 Judges and Kings

 After Moses' death, the Israelites were led by military leaders with legal powers, called judges. They expanded and divided Canaan among eleven tribes. Another tribe, Levi's, was not given land because its members served as priests. The first king, Saul (1079-1007 B.C.E.), died after years of depression and suffering. He was replaced by David (1040-970 B.C.E.). David's son, Solomon (1011-932 B.C.E.), built the first temple and was known for his wisdom. After Solomon's death, the northern tribes broke away and created its own kingdom: North: Kingdom of Israel and South: Kingdom of Judah. Division weakened the two kingdoms. In 721 B.C.E. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and in 586 B.C.E. the Babylonian Empire conquered Judah, destroying the temple and Jerusalem's walls, taking part of the Jewish population off to exile in Babylonia (the song). Here is when the synagogue and the Sabbath started. The period of exile also made it clear that the oral traditions had to be written down. In 540 B.C.E., Cyrus came to the throne of the Persian Empire and, after taking over Babylonia, allowed the Jews to return to Israel. They rebuilt their temple in 515 B.C.E. In around 20 BCE, Herod the Great renovated the Temple, which became known as Herod's Temple. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 CE.

 When the army of Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, Israel also became part of the Greek Empire. In 167 B.C.E. the Jews rebelled led by a family of 5 brothers (the Maccabees) and regained control of their country (winter festival of Hanukka). the country retained autonomy until the Roman general Pompey took control in 63 B.C.E.

 Contact with Hellenistic culture led to the rise of several religious factions among the Jews:

 -The Sadducees: Accepted the Torah, but not the other books.

-The Pharisees: Emphasis on daily religious practice; scriptures were very important; accepted a wider number of books.

-The Zealots: Opposed to foreign influence. They used violence against the Romans.

-The Essenes: Live in communal, celibate life, primarily in the desert near the Dead Sea. They avoided meat and wine, dressed in white, and stayed separated from society. Scrolls called the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947-1955 in caves near Qumran, above the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. They could be the library of the Essenes.

 The Dead Sea Scrolls show that during the later part of the Second Temple period, there was not a unified Judaism.

 The Roman Empire assumed direct control of Israel in 6 C.E. and it ruled with severity. A major revolt broke out in 66 C.E., but Roman legions crushed it brutally in 70 C.E., when they destroyed the temple and the city. Another revolt began in 132 C.E. and the Romans put it down even more cruelly than the first, with many public executions. Jerusalem was demolish and rebuilt as a Roman city. Jews were forbidden to live there. This is the beginning of the Diaspora.

 The work of interpreting the scriptures and applying their principles to everyday problems went on in stages. By about 400 C.E. emerged the Talmud (The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism, in the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history. The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (c. 200 CE), the first written compendium of Judaism's Oral Law; and the Gemara (c. 500 CE), a discussion of the Mishnah).

The diaspora introduced Jewish vitality to places far from Israel, such as Spain and Iraq. Jewish presence was acecepted by Islam. Foremost among the Jewish medieval thinkers was Moses Maimonides or Rambam (1135-1204). He wrote The Guide of the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah.

The Kabbalah

Kabbalah is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the mystical aspect of Judaism. It is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an infinite, eternal and mysterious Creator and the finite and mortal universe of His creation. Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to thereby attain spiritual realization. Kabbalah originally developed entirely within the realm of Jewish thought and constantly uses classical Jewish sources to explain and demonstrate its esoteric teachings. These teachings are thus held by kabbalists to define the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and traditional rabbinic literature, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observances. A frequent mystical assumption is that the Bible was written in code language. A special key to interprete the code is transposing words into numbers. The most famous book of Kabbalah is the Zohar.

Christianity and Medieval Judaism

Christianity became the dominant faith in Europe by the late thirteen century and it carried wit it an anti-Jewish prejudice. Jews were treated as suspecius and traitorous persons. They were forbidden to own farmland and excluded from the guilds. they were sometimes forced to live in ghettos. They were even blamed for the Black Death. over a period of two centuries Jews were expelled from England, France, Spain, and Portugal. They fled to north Africa, central Europe, and to America. It was at this time that the two major cultural divisions of Judaism emerged: Sephardic Judaism (Mediterranean region) and Ashkenazic Judaism (Germany, and central Europe).

 Reform vs Orthodoxy

After the Renaissance, Judaism began to move in two directions, both which continue today: Traditional ways and Modernization. The Hasidic Movement, founded by Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760) emphasized the beauty of life and the physical world, teaching that "only in tangible things you can see God". The liberal direction, strong in Germany, urged Jews to move out of the ghettos, gain secular education, and enter mainstream society. In the Russian Empire Jews suffered persecution (pogroms) and restrictions. From 1880 to 1920 more than a million Jews emigrated to the United States, most coming to New York city.

Hitler and the Holocaust

Hitle and the Nazi Party imagined Jews and Gypsies to be subhuman polluters of a pure / mythical Aryan race. Also, Hitler believed that Jewish financiers and industrialists caused the German defeat in WW I. It is a fact that Hitler wanted to confiscate the properties and bank accouts of the Jewish population. Hitler planned the extermination of European Jews in concentration camps, gas chambers, etc. Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, a third of world's Jews.

State of Israel

With the support of Great Britain and the USA, after WW II, a movement called Zionism, asking for a Jewish nation in their traditional homeland, started to succeed. In May 14, 1948  the State of Israel was proclaimed. Jewish life today has two centers: Israel (5 million ) and the USA (6 million).

Jewish Beliefs

1-Belief in God. God is one, all-knowing and eternal

2-Belief in the words of the prophets

3-Belief that God gave the law to Moses

4-Belief that the Messiah, the savior to be sent by God, will come some day

5-Belief that there will be a resurrection of the good

Religious Practice

-Observation of the Sabbath. Wine w/ the meal as a sign of happiness.

-Daily prayer at dawn, noon, and dusk. Males use the tefillin (Two small boxes w/ scriptural passages). The talit (a prayer wrap).

-Men wear the yarmulke (skullcap).

-A mezuzak (container w/ scriptural words) is placed on the doorposts of the entrance and interior rooms.

-Circumcision of males.

Traditional Dietary Laws of Judaism (Kosher)

  • nNo pork
  • nNo shellfish
  • nSeparation of meat and dairy products
  • nMeat must have all blood removed and have been prepared under approved rabbinic supervision
  • Dairy products may not be mixed or eaten together at the same meal.
Major Festivals of Judaism
  • nRosh Hashanah—new year—autumn
  • nYom Kippur—day of atonement—autumn
  • nSukkot—harvest festival—autumn (Feast of Tabernacles)
  • nHanukkah—rededication of the second temple—winter (Menorah)
  • nPurim—winter (deliverance from the Persian Empire)
  • nPesach—passover / exodus—spring
  • nShavuot—summer (anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to Moses)
  • Shoah--Holocaust---April/May

Branches of Contemporary Judaism

  • nOrthodox
  • nConservative
  • nReform
  • nReconstructionist

Socratic Questions

1-Explain why do you think several religions have eating restrictions / rules.
2- Is a Messiah / Savior coming to save humanity?
3-What do you think about revelations or appearances of God to chosen people?
4-Most world religions have sacred scriptures? What do you think is the values of those books? Should they be  sacred?
5-What is the relevance of the Ten Commandments?
6-Judaism, like many other religions, has several symbols. What is the importance of symbols?
7-Analyze the relations between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam during medieval times.
8-Evaluate the causes of the Holocaust. Could it happen again?
9-The State of Israel was created after WW II, but Palestine is still waiting. Why?
10-What do you think about the resurrection (soul or full bodies)) of the dead?
11-Do you think that the circumcision of the males should be a religious act? Why?
12-May wearing certain clothes help to communicate with God?




Apocalypticism    The belief that the world will soon come to an end; this belief usually includes the notion of a great battle, final judgment, and the reward of the good.
Apostle    One of Jesus' twelve disciples; also any early preacher of Christianity.
Baptism    The Christian rite of initiation, involving immersion in water of sprinkling of water.
Bible    The scriptures sacred to Christians, consisting of the books of Hebrew bible and the New Testament.
Bishop    'Overseer' (Greek); a priest and church leader who is in charge of a large geographical area called a diocese.
Canon    'Measure,' 'rule' (Greek); a list of authoritative books of documents.
Ecumenism    Dialogue between Christian denominations.
Eucharist    'Good Gift' (Greek); the Lord's Supper.
Evangelical    Emphasizing the authority of the scripture; an adjective used to identify certain Protestant groups.
Evangelist    'Good news person' (Greek); one of the four 'authors' of the Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Filioque    'And from the Son'; a Latin work added to the creeds in the Western Church to state that the Holy Spirit arises from both the Father and the Son. This notion helped cause a separation between Western and Eastern Churches.
Gospel    'Good news' (Middle English); an account of the life of Jesus.
Icon    'Image' (Greek); religious painting on wood, as used in the Orthodox Church.
Incarnation    'In flesh' (Latin); a belief that God became visible in Jesus.
Indulgence    'Kindness-toward' (Latin); remission of time spent in purgatory (a state of temporary punishment in the afterlife); an aspect of Catholic belief and practice.
Lent    'Lengthening day,' 'spring' (Anglo-Saxon); the preparatory period before Easter, lasting forty days.
Messiah    'Anointed' (Hebrew); a special messenger sent by God foretold in Hebrew scriptures, and believed by Christians to be Jesus.
Mormons    A group who consider themselves to be Christians who belong to a perfect, restored Christianity. A branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints.
Nestorianism The doctrine that the two individual natures of Christ, the human and the divine, are joined in conjunction ("synapheia") rather than in hypostatic union
Original sin    An inclination toward evil, inherited by human beings as a result of Adam's disobedience.
Orthodox    'straight opinion' (Greek); correct belief.
Orthodoxy    The Eastern branch of Christianity.
Patriarch    The bishop of one of the major ancient sites of Christianity (Jerusalem, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Moscow.
Pope    'Father' (Latin); the bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Predestination    The belief that because God is all-powerful and all-knowing, a human being's ultimate reward of punishment is already decreed by God; a notion emphasized in Calvinism.
Protestant Principle    The ability of each believer to radically rethink and interpret the ideas and values of Christianity apart from any church authority.
Redemption    'Buy again,' 'buy back' (Latin); the belief that the death of Jesus has paid the price of justice for all human wrongdoing.
Righteousness    Being sinless in the sight of God; also called 'justification.'
Sacrament    'Sacred action' (Latin); one of the essential rituals of Christianity.
Sin    Wrongdoing, seen as disobedience to God.
Testament    A contract; the Old and New Testaments constitute the Christian scriptures.
Trinity    The three 'persons' in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.