Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Becoming a Writer: Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer and his World as Will and ...Image by Christiaan Tonnis via Flickr

German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) was born to a wealthy family. Unfit for the business world, he committed himself to philosophical studies. His doctoral thesis was his book Uber die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason).

In 1818 he finished his major work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation), which did not receive much notice. After 1820 he was Prioatdozens (private tutor) in Berlin, but he had scarcely any students in his classes, the reasons being his hours were at the same time as Hegel's. When the cholera epidemic struck Berlin in 183 I, Schopenhauer fled the city and settled for good in Frankfurt. Hegel stayed and the cholera killed him.

Schopenhauer's later books were more suc­cessful: Uber den Willen in der Natur (On Will in Nature), Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik (The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics) , Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit (Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life), and Parerga und Paralipomena.

Throughout his life, Schopenhauer bitterly opposed the post ­Kantian idealist philosophers, especially Hegel. Since he considered Hegel a second rate philosopher yet famous, coupled with his own failure to become famous, tinted his philosophical thoughts with somber, pessimistic thoughts. Yet what saved him from total despair were his love art, music, and literary studies.

Unsatisfied with his mastering of Plato and Kant, he turned to Indian thought and Buddhism.
Toward the end of his life he started to get famous, and according to Bertrand Russell, he collected all sorts of newspapers clippings of articles written about him.  The title of Schopen­hauer's masterwork — The world as Will and Representation — contains the central thesis of his philosophy. The physical world is a "phenomenon," a representation or idea; Going beyond Kant, he held that the world as we know it is an appear­ance or deception. Space, time and causality (Kantian forms) are the forms which change this world into a world of objects; they order and arrange human sensations.

What unifies phenomena and humans is the transcendental ego; transcendental because it lies outside time and space. It is the ego that gives humans the will to live. Hence the name for his magnum opus The world as Will and Representation. Reality for Schopenhauer is the will.

Believing that human desire is limitless, it negates the positive aspect of the will, channeling it to evil. Herein rests the root of his pessimism.

Although knowledge and art in general have redeeming qualities, they are in the end but palliatives. The only redemption comes through the con­quering the will to live. When this will is mastered, one enters nirvana —a state of ecstatic nothingness— which is the greatest good, the true redemption, the only thing which can end the pain and unhappiness of the never-satisfied desire to live.

Schopenhauer opposes Socrates' doctrine and believes that virtue cannot be taught; rather, a person is good or bad according to his will. What makes Schopenhauer’s philosophy appealing, is his writing skills. But many scholars disregard his flights into esoteric realms as valueless for the study of serious philosophy.
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Becoming a Writer: Ancient Greeks (III of III)

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Death of So...Image by wallyg via Flickr
Pyrrhus (319-272 B.C.E.) King of Epirus. Cousin of Alexander the Great. He led several cam­paigns against Macedonia and Rome. His victory at Heraclea in 281 B.C.E. against the Roman consul Laevinus came at such devastating cost to his army as to coin the term "Pyrrhic victory."
 Pythagoras (c. sixth century B.C.E.) Philosopher and mathematician. He founded an academy at Croton, in southern Italy. There, he took both men and women as pupils and some of his best students were women. Pythagoras' followers were secretive about his teachings and practiced a strict form of vegetari­anism. Pythagoras interpreted the universe through numbers. He dis­covered the musical scale. His mathematics influenced philosophers such as Plato, and his Pythagorean Theorem is today taught throughout the world.
Sappho (c. late seventh century B.C.E.) Poetess. From the island ofLesbos. Her verse is powerful and intimate. The prominent theme in her erotic poems is the love of a woman for another woman. She also composed hymns to the goddess Aphrodite. She is thought to have been a mentor to a group of female friends.
Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.) Philosopher from Athens. Veteran of the battles at Delium and Amphipolis. Socrates himself did not write down his teachings. They were transcribed later on by his pupil Plato and by Xenophon. His dialectic method was based on a question-and-answer process known as elenchos, examination. Socrates taught that anyone interested in learning would have to first discard everything he believed he knew ­before real knowledge could be attained. Socrates felt it was his moral duty as a philosopher and citizen to wake Athenians to this reality. In 399 B.C.E. he was found guilty of intro­ducing "false gods" in his teachings and after a trial was executed by having to drink hemlock. 

Solon (c. 639-c. 559 B.C.E.) Athenian statesman. A nobleman by birth, he abolished indentured slavery and revised most of Draco's strict laws. Solon not only freed Athenian citizens who had made themselves slaves by failing to repay their debts but bought back Athenians who had been sold as slaves abroad. He divided Athens into four classes based on their property and wealth. Everyone had the right to attend the state council, the so ­called Council of the Four Hundred. Solon allowed all Athenians to participate in trials as jurors. He was regarded as the father of Athenian democracy and he paved the road for Cleisthenes. He was also one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece.
Sophocles (c. 496-406 B.C.E.) Athenian tragedian. Together with Aeschylus and Euripides is consid­ered to be one of the greatest tragic poets of antiquity. He wrote 123 plays, of which only seven survive. Among his extant plays are Antigone, Philoctetes, Oedipus Rex, Ajax, and Oedipus at Colonus. Aris­totle referred to Oedipus Rex as the perfect tragedy.
Strabo (c. 64 B.C.E.-24 B.C.E.) Geographer. The writer of many books on geography and topog­raphy, Strabo traveled widely around Mrica and Europe. His main work, Geography, composed of seventeen books, still survives.
Thales of Miletus (c. 625-547 B.C.E.) Philosopher. Ancient philosophers and scientists credited Thales with extraordinary scientific feats such as the measurement of the height of the pyramids and the calculation of solstices. He was believed to be an innovator in many sciences and was one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece.
Themistocles (c. 524-459 B.C.E.) Statesman. Victor of the Battle of Salamis, Themistocles was respon­sible for the destruction of the Persian navy and, afterward, for the for­tification of Athens. He was ostracized and exiled to Argos. He ended up in Persia, where in 459 B.C.E. is believed to have committed sui­cide after being asked by Persian King Artaxerxes to betray Greece.
Theognis (c. sixth century B.C.E.) Poet from Megara. About fourteen hundred verses of his exist today in fragments. Theognis includes moral and aristocratic elements in his poetry.
Thucydides (c. 455-c. 400 B.C.E.) Historian. He documented the Peloponnesian War. Even though he was born an aristocrat, Thucydides was an ardent admirer of democ­racy and Pericles. Pericles' "Funeral Oration," as written by Thucy­dides, is an oratorical masterpiece that serves to evoke a sense of patriotism and civic duty as well as describe the greatness of Athens after the victories in the Persian Wars. His methodology, accurately describing historical events and using authentic sources, has served as a benchmark for later generations of historians.
Xenophon (c. 428-354 B.C.E.) Historian. An associate of Socrates, Xenophon fought in Cyrus' army against Cyrus' older brother, Artaxerxes, in the Battle of Cunaxa in
401 B.C.E. Cyrus was defeated and killed. Xenophon's adventures in reaching Greece from the midst of Asia after the defeat are docu­mented in his March of the Ten Thousand. He also wrote a history of Greece entitled Hellenica, the memoirs of Socrates, Memorabilia, as well as a dialogue on estate management, entitled Oeconomicus.
Zeno of Elea (co 490-454 n.c.s.)
Philosopher. Regarded as the founder of the dialectical argument. He is famous for propounding paradoxes on plurality, motion, predica­tion, and place.
Zeno of Citiurn (335-263 s.c.a.) Philosopher. Founder of Stoicism, Zeno opened a school in Athens where he taught logic, ethics, and metaphysics. Zeno maintained that virtue is the ultimate good and that in order to achieve happiness one would first have to be virtuous.
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Ancient Greeks (I I of III)

BerlĂ­n Busto PericlesImage by paideiarevista via Flickr
Euclid (late fourth century B.C.E.) Mathematician. He wrote thirteen volumes on plane geometry and mathematics. He also indited the treatises on musical theory entitled Introduction to Harmony and Section if the Scale.
Euripides (c. 484-406 B.C.E.) Tragedian. He won numerous first prizes in various theatrical contests and, together with Aeschylus and Sophocles, is considered one of the greatest dramatists of all time. He wrote eighty plays, of which only nineteen survive. Among those are Iphigenia in Tauris, Hippolytus, The Trojan JMJmen, Rhesus, and Alcestis.
Hecataeus (late sixth century B.C.E.) Geographer. He wrote a treatise on geography entitled Guide to the Earth and two books entitled Europe and Asia.
Heraclitus (c. 54o-c. 480 B.C.E.) Philosopher. Born in Ephesus. Also known as "the Obscure." He wrote philosophical aphorisms. Heraclitus taught that the cosmos is in a state of perpetual change. He believed that fire was the most domi­nant element and that it gave life to all living things.
Hippocrates (c. fifth century B.C.E.) Physician. Considered the father of medicine. Many ancient medical texts and treatises bear his name but it is believed that most of them were written by physicians who wanted to add authority to their work. He was a proponent of healthful eating and hygiene for the achievement of a healthy body. His Hippocratic Oath is still admin­istered to graduating doctors throughout the United States and Europe.
Herodotus (484-c. 425 B.C.E.) Historian. He traveled extensively around the then-known world. His Histories is a compilation of all his travels and provided facts about the conflicts between the Greeks and Persians known as the Persian Wars.
Hesiod (early seventh century B.C.E.) Poet. A contemporary of Homer. His works, Theogony and Works and Days, greatly influenced later Greek generations. His method contained moral and practical lessons as to how a Greek farmer ought to live.
Homer (c. eighth century B.C.E.) Poet. One of the greatest epic poets of all time. His Iliad and Odyssey are still read today in high schools and universities around the world. In 540 B.C.E. Peisistratus, ruler of Athens, is said to have ordered the transcription of the two poems which, up to that time, were passed orally from one generation of bards to the other. In The Iliad, the Greek army has laid siege to Troy because Paris, one of the king Priam of Troy's sons, has abducted Helen, the wife of Menelaus, the powerful ruler of Sparta. In The Odyssey, Homer describes king of Ithaca Odysseus' voyage home after the sacking and destruction of Troy. Both works are examples of some of the finest poetry ever composed. Also attributed to Homer are Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, and Battle of Frogs and Mice.
Ictinus (c. fifth century B.C.E.) Architect. Together with Callicrates he designed the Parthenon in 447 B.C.E.
Isocrates (436-338 D.C.E.) Athenian speechwriter. Founder of an influential academy of rhetoric in Athens around the time of Plato, Isocrates was also a contemporary and, possibly, an acquaintance of Socrates. Like Demosthenes, Isocrates exerted heavy influence upon Athenian politics and foreign policy. Twenty-one of his speeches survive.
Leonidas I (c. fifth century D.C.E.) King of Sparta. In 480 B.C.E. he faced the Persian army at Ther­mopylae with an army of three hundred Spartan and seven hundred Thespian soldiers. For two days his army withstood the relentless attack of the Persians. When Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by showing the Persians a secret passage through which they could surround Leonidas and his army, both Spartans and Thespians decided to stay and fight to the very end. King Leonidas' heroic death has been an example of courage and ultimate self-sacrifice.
Lycurgus (c. ninth century B.C.E.) Spartan lawmaker. Credited with having created Sparta's constitution, known as the Great Rhetra.
Menander (c. 343-292 B.C.E.) Playwright. He wrote over one hundred comedies, of which mostly fragments survive.
Miltiades (c. 550-489 B.C.E.) Athenian statesman. The victorious general against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. He died a short time after his victory from an injury he sustained in a campaign against the island of Paros.
Pericles (c. 495-429 B.C.E.) Athenian statesman. Responsible for rebuilding Athens after the Per­sian Wars. The Parthenon, the Propylaia, and the Erectheum on the Acropolis were built during Pericles' term. He conceptualized the Delian League, an organization of Greek city-states created to protect Greece from future Persian attacks.
Philip II (382-336 B.C.E.) King of Macedonia. Father of Alexander the Great. Responsible for uniting Greece under his rule. His planned invasion of Persia was pre­vented by his assassination in 336 B.C.E.
Pindar (c. 518-c. 438 B.C.E.) Poet. His odes are touchstones of Greek lyric poetry and most were composed to celebrate victors at the Olympic, Nemean, Pythian, and Isthmian games. His florid prose style and adroit use of metaphor and allegory won him a place at the top of the Greek lyric-poet list.
Plato (c. 427-347 B.C.E.) Philosopher. Mentor of Aristotle and friend of Socrates. Through his works Plato was responsible for preserving Socrates' memory and teachings. Plato's dialogues are composed as conversations between friends and colleagues in an attempt by the author to "lighten up" the heavy philosophical questions examined. His theory of forms, the theory that there exists a complete cosmos of ideas, or forms, on which our material universe is based, influenced later generations of philosophers. Plato wrote on various ethical, political, and philosoph­ical topics. Among his extant works are the so-called "Socratic" dia­logues Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo, which narrate Socrates' trial and execution, The Republic, Laws, and Symposium, as well as let­ters to colleagues.
Plutarch (c. 46 C.E.-c. 121c.E.) Biographer. His Lives give a unique account of the lives and accom­plishments of noted Greek and Roman statesmen and provide a moral compass for educating the young. He also wrote on various ethical and pedagogic matters in his essays entitled Moralia.
To become a writer I write every day. Since English is my second language, when I write articles I consult Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers.

When I write fiction I consult Toolbox for Writers

Monday, December 27, 2010

Writing Non-Fiction: The Golden Greeks (Part I of III)

P1270023 ATENAS: MUSEO ARQUEOLOGICOImage by vicguinda via Flickr
BIOCRAPHIES OF PROMINENT CREEKS

Aeschylus (525-456 a.c.s.) Athenian tragedian and soldier. He fought at the Battle of Marathon and at Salamis, Artemisium, and Plataea against the Persians. Aeschylus wrote over eighty plays, of which only seven survive. Among his best-known plays are Seven Against Thebes, The Persians, and Prometheus Bound. He is often credited with inventing the tragedy.
Aesop (co 620-560 n.c.s.) Storyteller. He was born a Thracian slave and later in his life lived on the island of Samos. His fables influenced Greek education and culture. In his fables Aesop uses didactic examples and fiction involving animals, nature, and human society.
Agesilaus II (445-359 n.c.s.) King of Sparta. Considered one of Sparta's greatest military leaders. In 396 B.C.E. Agesilaus II led Spartan forces to victory over the Persian governor of Asia Minor, Tissaphernes.
Agis King of Sparta. Son of Agesilaus II. He became king about 427 B.C.E.
Anaxagoras (c. 500-428 B.C.E.) Philosopher. Teacher of Pericles and Euripides. He taught that the intellect, nous, is the central force that animates both animals and vegetables in the universe.
Alexander III (the Great) (356-323 B.C.E.) King of Macedonia. Son of Philip II and pupil of Aristotle. In revenge for the Persian Wars against Greece, Alexander invaded and destroyed the Persian Empire, extending his kingdom from Greece to India. Alexander was responsible for the spread of the Greek language and customs throughout the then-known world.
Anaximander (c. 610-c. 545 B.C.E.) Philosopher. He taught that the universe is infinite, consisting of countless worlds, and speculated about the sizes of the sun and moon as well as their distances from Earth.
Anaximenes of Miletus (c. sixth century B.C.E.) Philosopher. Pupil of Anaximander. He taught that the world is derived from condensed air.  
Archimedes (c. 287-211 B.C.E.) Inventor and mathematician. Credited with inventing hydrostatic principles, hydraulic devices, and defense weapons. Cicero reports that Archimedes had made two spheres depicting the planets and stars and referred to them as a "planetarium" and a "star globe."
Aristides (c. fifth century B.C.E.) Athenian statesman. Also known as Aristedes the Just. He was a victorious gen­eral at the battles of Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea against the Per­sians. He was ostracized and banished from Athens in 490 B.C.E. after helping the Athenians win the Battle of Marathon. Together with Cimon he set up the Delian League. He died alone and poor c. 460 B.C.E.
Aristophanes (c. 445-c. 385 B.C.E.) Comic poet. His plays are of a satirical nature, caricaturing real-life characters such as Socrates. His surviving plays include Lysistrata, The Clouds, The Knights, The Acharnians, The Wasps, The Birds, The Thesmophoriaeusae, The Frogs, Assemblywomen, and Wealth.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) Philosopher. One of the greatest philosophers and scientists of all time. He was born in Stagyra, in northern Greece, and at the age of seven­teen joined Plato's Academy in Athens. Plato's sobriquet for his student was "the mind of the Academy." After Plato's death Aristotle left Athens. He was hired by Philip II to tutor his son Alexander (the Great). After Philip's death, Aristotle moved back to Athens, where he founded the Lyceum, a philosophic academy complete with a gymnasium and a library. He, assisted by his disciples, wrote on nearly every topic and every science. Among his surviving works are Physics, Metaphysics, Eudemian Ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, Magna Moralia, Rhetoric, and Poetics.
Arrian (c. 86-160 C.E.) Historian. A friend and pupil ofEpictetus. He wrote about the expedition of Alexander the Great against the Persian Empire, entitled Anabasis of Alexander.
Brasidas (c. fourth century B.C.E.) General. He was born in Sparta and led his city-state against Athens in the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides ranks him above all Spartan commanders.
Callicrates (c. fifth century B.C.E.) Architect. Together with Ictinus he designed the Parthenon. He also designed the sanctuary of Nike and the central wall of the Acropolis.
Cimon (c. 510-450 B.C.E.) Athenian statesman and general. He was the son of Miltiades. Together with Aristides he founded the Delian League, a Greek alliance created to protect Greek city-states from Persian aggression. In 467 B.C.E. he led the Athenian fleet to the destruction of the entire Persian fleet in what is known as the Eurymedon campaign.
Cleisthenes (c. fifth century B.C.E.) Athenian statesman. One of Athens's most important constitutional reformers. He introduced a representative system which included ten tribes, representing the entire population of Athens, and a lawmaking council of five hundred, the Boule. Cleisthenes also introduced ostracism, by which excessively powerful citizens, possibly tyrants, could be exiled after a referendum.
Draco (c. seventh century H.C.E.) Athenian lawmaker. His penal code was extremely harsh. He insti­tuted the death penalty for many offenses. The adjective "draconian," very severe, was coined after his laws.
Empedocles (c. 493-433 H.C.E.) Philosopher. He taught that the universe is spherical in shape and composed of four basic elements: earth, water, fire, and air.
Epaminondas (c. 418-362 H.C.E.) General from Thebes. He led Theban forces to an unprecedented vic­tory over the Spartans at Leuctra in 371 B.C.E.
Epictetus (c. 55-c. 135 C.E.) Stoic philosopher. Formerly a slave. He attended philosophical lec­tures in Rome. Arrian, Epictetus' pupil, wrote eight books entitled Discourses, and a philosophical treatise, Enchiridion, which popularized his mentor's teachings. Epictetus taught that man ought to use his intellect and will to make moral decisions and that corrupt people were injuring themselves more than their victims and should be treated with clemency rather than with severity.
Epicurus (341-270 H.C.E.) Philosopher. He wrote more than three hundred books on topics ranging from moral philosophy to physics and epistemology. He taught that the human soul does not survive the body's death and that the gods, even though they exist, do not govern fate or destiny.  
Democritus (c. 460-356 B.C.E.) Philosopher and scientist. His research included physics, mathematics, and music. Together with Leucippus, Democritus is credited with the development of the atomic theory. The two scientists, also called "atom­ists," believed that the cosmos is made up of minute, indivisible elements called "atoms." Democritus taught that by joining together, atoms are responsible for the creation of solid, liquid, and gaseous objects. Dem­ocritus also believed in the existence of other worlds, similar to Earth.
Demosthenes (384-322 B.C.E.) Athenian orator. His speeches became models for later oratory. His influence on Athenian politics and foreign policy was much felts during the fourth century B.C.E Demosthenes delivered many orations against King Philip II of Macedonia when the latter attempted to unite all the Greek city-states under Macedonian rule. He was renowned for clarity of thought and precise use of language.
Diogenes of Sinope (c. 400-c. 323 B.C.E.) Philosopher. Also known as "the Cynic." He practiced extreme self­ denial and asceticism. Diogenes taught that through self-abnegation and strict avoidance of self-indulgence would make a person vir­tuous and happy. It is said that he once went about Athens carrying a lantern in broad daylight searching for an honest man.
Diogenes Laertius (early third century C.E.) Biographer. His Live of Eminent Philosophers rescued for posterity the teachings of most Greek philosophers and scientists.
Eratosthenes (c. 276-c.194 B.C.E.) Geographer and mathematician. In his book, Geographica, he gives an accurate measurement of the earth's circumference and also describes the sizes of the moon and the sun and their distances from earth.
To become a writer I write every day. Since English is my second language, when I write articles I consult Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers.

When I write fiction I consult Toolbox for Writers