“The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov has the reputation of a great philosophical and psychological novel, and that was the main reason I chose to read it, but I have to admit I was disappointed on both counts. Dostoevsky’s philosophical arguments lack clarity and logical coherence. He shares this characteristic with another Existentialist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who was no doubt influenced by him. His psychological portraits, while perspicacious … Continue reading “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov: II. The Nature of Freedom

Choice vs. Freedom There is an important distinction, which most people overlook, between free choice of the will, commonly known as free will, and freedom. Choice is consequent of multiplicity, but freedom is consequent of power of being or becoming. For example, when a person is present at a crossroad, he has a choice between one way or the other, but he does not necessarily … Continue reading The Brothers Karamazov: II. The Nature of Freedom

The Brothers Karamazov: I. The Nature of Morality

The Natural Law The word morality comes from the Latin root mos (meaning “custom or law”), which in turn is a translation of the Greek word ἠθικός (“character or moral nature”). The idea of natural law originated with Plato and the Stoics, and found its full expression in Cicero: The universe is governed by God, who has implanted the immortal soul in man from His … Continue reading The Brothers Karamazov: I. The Nature of Morality

The Chess Game Analogy: Feynman on the Laws of Nature

One way that’s kind of a fun analogy to try to get some idea of what we’re doing in trying to understand nature is to imagine that the gods are playing some great game like chess. Let’s say a chess game. And you don’t know the rules of the game, but you’re allowed to look at the board at least from time to time and … Continue reading The Chess Game Analogy: Feynman on the Laws of Nature

“The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James

William James anticipated the modern debate on the relationship between science and religion, and provided good reasons to take religion seriously. His personal and common sense approach works particularly well within a pluralistic and consumer culture. Choosing a Religion For Yourself First, every human being must face the reality of life, death, suffering, and something beyond ourselves. How do we respond to this reality? James … Continue reading “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James

“A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge” by George Berkeley

The Meaning of Reality I was taught from a very young age that reality is what exists independently of human perception and knowledge, and we gain knowledge of reality if and only if our ideas correspond to it. Fantasy is that which has no correspondence in reality, and exists only in the mind of an individual — unless he communicates his fantasy, others have no … Continue reading “A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge” by George Berkeley

The Philosophy of Evolution

A Matter of Identity As an armchair Platonist, I find the philosophy behind Darwinian evolution not only intellectually unsatisfactory, but also self-contradictory. On the one hand, it asserts constant change, that, given enough time and proper conditions, anything can change into anything else; on the other hand, it asserts identity, that there is a “struggle for existence” of the individual and/or group. It is a … Continue reading The Philosophy of Evolution