Kropotkin

“Mutual aid is as much a law of animal life as mutual struggle” – a reading from Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid

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Peter Kropotkin was a Russian naturalist and anarchist born into an aristocratic Russian family in 1842. In this passage from his classic work Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, Kropotkin argues against a narrow reading of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution promoted by Social Darwinists such as T. H. Huxley and Herbert Spencer. Huxley and Spencer saw the process of evolution as a cutthroat struggle of every individual against all others in which only the strongest survive. They argued that this principle of mutual struggle applies not just to animals …

Life Is Not Short, We Just Waste Most of It – a classic reading from Seneca’s ‘On the Shortness of Life’

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On the Shortness of Life is an essay written by Seneca, a roman statesman and Stoic philosopher, to his father-in-law Paulinus. In this passage Seneca responds to the common complaint that life is too short. He argues that life is long if one manages their time well, and that most people waste the majority of their time on pointless pursuits. On the Shortness of Life The following reading is from chapters 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 11, and 18 of Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life translated by John W. …

Education, Virtue and Gender – a short reading from Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’

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I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body… I wish to show that elegance is inferior to virtue, that the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex. – Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Introduction Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) was an English author and feminist whose A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is a pioneering text of feminist philosophy. Her main target is the Swiss-born …

Life Guided by Stoic Philosophy – a short reading from Seneca’s ‘Moral Letters’

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Stoicism is a philosophical tradition founded by Zeno of Citium towards the end of the fourth century BC. Stoicism held that the world is not just a collection of material particles, it is animated by an active rational principle (logos), and the good life consists in living in accord with nature. For the Stoics, to live in accord with nature means to live virtuously and guided by reason. The Roman philosopher Seneca was strongly influenced by Stoicism. In this passage from his ‘Moral Letters’, he discusses some of the key …

On the Value of Philosophy – a short reading from Russell’s ‘The Problems of Philosophy’

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Introduction Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher and social critic best known for his work in mathematical logic and as a popularizer of philosophy. In this passage from The Problems of Philosophy, Russell acknowledges that many men think that philosophy is useless because it is unable to produce definite answers to the questions it addresses. He argues that the value of philosophy is to be “sought largely in its very uncertainty”. Those who do not study philosophy are “imprisoned by the prejudices” of the society in which they were …