Philosophy often has a bad press… I know. If you’ve been following my blog, you must know by now that I’m a former Catholic priest and that I focus mainly on spirituality and to topics related to it. If you’re new, I strongly suggest you read some of my posts to have a better idea.
Among the topics I value and cherish is suggesting books to read. I do this without pretence! I don’t consider myself to be the most prominent reader… I simply share about books that have helped me grow, build a mind of my own and see life in a different light.
Being a graduate in philosophy, I cannot hide my love for Greek philosophers that have influenced some of the greatest thinkers of all times. Unfortunately, most of the people I know hate philosophy because it reminds them of those mandatory college classes that were among the boring ones.
I find it sort of sad. Let’s just say that they do not realize that some modern beliefs and ideas come from some of the most influential philosophers. Let me introduce you to some of the pillars I strongly believe any spiritual being should read.
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Greek Philosophy: Mother of All Philosophy!
Many Greek philosophers are interesting to read. I strongly believe that if you were to choose only one, it should be Socrates.
You will find Socrates’s philosophy best expressed in Plato’s works. Plato was Socrates’s disciple and follower. He did what many disciples of other philosophers and thinks did; he put into writing some of Socrates’s dialogues and speeches.
They, speaking of Socrates and Plato, have had a huge influence on Catholic thinkers, but also on many other philosophers throughout history. Socrates ended up being killed because of he confronted the values of the society in which he lived, and people wanted to quiet him. He questioned the political views, the limited beliefs of society, the conditioning of education, etc.
Socrates aimed at helping others to grow spiritually and to rise above superficial behaviours that did not consider the higher vocation of the soul. He was a humble thinker, a truth seeker and was known for his technique which allowed him to get others to admit the truth he wanted them to understand by questioning their convictions.
Aren’t we living in similar times? Aren’t we divided as a society? There are those who are spiritual, those who live only for worldly pleasure, and those who live for power and control! Well, if you agree … you’ll love Socrates.
Now, If I were to suggest only one book, I’d suggest you read The Republic by Plato it is one the best dialogues you will find. The famous allegory of the cave is also found in this book.
A must read!
Aristotle: An Encyclopedia of Greek Philosophy
Socrates had many disciples and after he died, Plato founded a school of philosophy. Among the students, there was Aristotle. This young disciple, soon became one of the most influential philosophers of his time. He is basically an encyclopedia of Greek philosophy since he analyzes a lot of the philosophers of his time and is a real master on some of the core topics of life and society.
He’s the type of author about whom you wonder, how he could manage to explore so many subjects with such deep insights? His profound influence spans centuries. He was the second main influence of the Catholic church, and deeply marked the mind of Saint Thomas of Aquinas and many other theologians after him.
Strangely enough, Plato and Aristotle have been at the core of many intellectual debates. Spiritual thinkers, theologians and philosophers, have felt the need to take sides and perpetuated a war of ideas opposing the two pillars of Greek philosophy.
Aristotle has had a huge influence on the main religions especially throughout the Middle Ages, and on modern scientists as well. His works go beyond philosophy and are some of the most interesting works on physics, astrology, biology, natural sciences, psychology, politics, economy, etc. Believe me, the list can go on! Let’s just say his works have shaped Western thought!
So what do I propose you read? I suggest you read a summary of his works. Something like The Basic Works of Aristotle by Richard McKeon.
Have You Ever Heard of Stoic Philosophy?
If I were to suggest one more Greek philosopher, it would have to be Epictetus. He was a stoic philosopher and just like Socrates, it’s one of his followers, Arrian, who put into writing most of his teachings.
Stoicism is not only about teachings or intellectual growth, it’s a way of life. I’d dare to compare it to Buddhism in many ways. Why? Because it is a path of self emptying in which you seek happiness and interior freedom.
It is not an easy path; it’s actually radical and very demanding… Am I an advocate of this way of living? Not at all. But I do believe there are elements of truth, elements of deep-rooted value and there is clearly an influence of Epictetus’ teachings in modern society and spirituality.
As mentioned above, it is a path, a journey, a search for an ever more ethical life. In this perspective, I strongly suggest you read, The Enchiridion by Epictetus. Divided in small chapters, it is mainly life lessons that will probably enrich your journey.