Recently I posted on Twitter what I called “The Wisdom of the Ages updated for the 21st Century,” for Friday Phrases (#FP). These are philosophical quotations that I slightly altered to reflect contemporary thinking and culture. Immediately below are the updated quotes, and then below that you’ll find the original quotes with some discussion about the meaning or importance of them.
“I tweet, therefore I am.” (Descartes 21C) #FP
“The unexamined tweet is not worth posting.” (Socrates 21C) #FP
“To tweet is to be perceived.” (George Berkeley 21C) #FP
“You cannot tweet the same post twice.” (Heraclitus 21C) #FP
“Man is the measure of all tweets.” (Protagoras 21C) #FP
“What doesn’t kill me makes me tweet more.” (Nietzsche 21C) #FP
“This is the best of all possible tweets.” (Leibniz 21C) #FP
“In the state of nature, the tweets of man are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” (Hobbes 21C) #FP
“All men by nature desire to tweet.” (Aristotle 21C) #FP
“Tweeting is the opiate of the masses.” (Marx 21C) #FP
“Tweets should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” (William of Ockham 21C) #FP
“A tweet is knowable, harmonious, and good.” (Plotinus 21C) #FP
“Whereof one cannot tweet, thereof one must be silent.” (Wittgenstein 21C) #FP
“One original tweet is worth a thousand mindless quotings.” (Diogenes Laertius 21C) #FP
“You tweet so truly, Lord my God, that You cannot even be thought not to tweet.” (Anselm 21C) #FP
“I think, therefore I am.” (Descartes, 1596 – 1650 AD)
Descartes is looking for one absolutely certain truth, something that is beyond all doubt, and discovers that it’s the fact that, if he’s thinking, he must exist as a mind in order to do the thinking.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates, 469 – 399 BC)
One of Socrates’ most memorable quotes at his trial for heresy and corrupting the youth.
Berkeley is what’s called an idealist: he believes that only minds and ideas (perceptions) are real. There is no material reality beyond our perceptions of things. The world is an idea in God’s mind.
“You cannot step into the same river twice.” (Heraclitus, c. 535 – c. 475 BC)
Heraclitus held a flux metaphysics: He believed that everything in the universe is continually changing and nothing ever stays the same. Thus it’s not the same river the second time you go to step into it; nor, for that matter, is it the same you.
“Man is the measure of all things.” (Protagoras, c. 490 BC – c. 420 BC)
There’s some controversy over this, but it’s usually taken to be an early statement of relativism: there is no objective truth.
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” (Nietzsche, 1844 – 1900 AD)
Since Leibniz believed in God and believed that God created the world, he believed it followed that the world that God created had to be perfect. It’s incoherent to think that a perfect creator being would create something less than perfect.
“In the state of nature, the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” (Hobbes, 1588 – 1679 AD)
This is one of the fundamental elements of Hobbes’ political philosophy. On our own, we’re subject to the tyranny and violence of nature, so we form societies to help us secure a better life for ourselves.
“All men by nature desire to know.” (Aristotle, 384–322 BC)
First line of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.
“Religion is the opiate of the masses.” (Marx, 1818 – 1883 AD)
Religion helps dull our senses to our plight, our alienated human condition (brought on by the forces of capitalism).
“Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” (William of Ockham, c. 1287 – 1347 AD)
Ockham believed in parsimony or economy in developing theories. This is known as “Ockham’s Razor,” which states that among competing theories the one with the fewest assumptions ought to be chosen.
Plotinus was an ancient Greek philosopher in the Neoplatonic tradition (thinkers who carried on in the tradition of Plato).
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” (Wittgenstein, 1889 – 1951 AD)
Wittgenstein believed that all the facts about the world could be expressed in language, which is strictly governed by its logical form. What this means is that a great many judgments (statements/claims) that we make about a great many things in our lives (ethical statements or aesthetic judgments, e.g.) are, according to Wittgenstein, nonsensical. They shouldn’t even be uttered.
“One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings.” (Diogenes Laertius, c. 3rd century AD)
Diogenes wasn’t a philosopher, but a biographer of philosophers. I find this quote to be perfect for Twitter.
“You exist so truly, Lord my God, that You cannot even be thought not to exist.” (Anselm, c.1033 – 1109 AD)
Part of Anselm’s Ontological Argument for God’s existence, which argues that it’s part of the essence or nature of God to exist; that is, given the kind of being God is, it’s impossible for him not to exist.