Gustave Le Bon: The Crowd

In his 1895 treatise titled, Psychology of Crowds, the French sociologist Gustave Le Bon asserts, “An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.” Crowd psychology is a relatively new science, and Le Bon is one of its first scholars. In this video, we will discuss Le Bon’s thoughts regarding crowd psychology, and we will also interpret a few modern mass movements through the lens of Le Bon’s work. Continue reading

Ingersoll: Free Will

Commenting on the notion of free will, 19th century American thinker Robert G. Ingersoll writes, “People are under the necessity of feeding, clothing, and sheltering themselves. To the extent of their actual wants, they are not free. Every limitation is a master. Every finite being is a prisoner, and no man has ever yet looked above or beyond the prison walls.” In this video, we will discuss Ingersoll’s argument that free will does not exist. Continue reading

William James: The Moral Equivalent of War

In his essay titled, The Moral Equivalent of War, 19th century American philosopher William James writes, “History is a bath of blood. Our ancestors have bred pugnacity into our bone and marrow, and thousands of years of peace won’t breed it out of us.” Although war is horrific, it is also beneficial. Wars promote political unity by uniting people against a common enemy, and wars promote the cultivation of virtue by inspiring people to perform noble and heroic deeds of self-sacrifice. In this video, we will discuss William James’ examination of the relationship between mankind and war. Continue reading

SENECA: On Providence

If an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God exists, why does evil and suffering befall good men? This question has perplexed theologians and philosophers for centuries. Many have tried to solve this problem. Of the numerous proposed solutions, the Latin philosopher, Seneca, provides one of the best. He simply asserts that no evil ever befalls good men. In this video, we will discuss Seneca’s short essay titled, On Providence, in which he explains his unique solution to the problem of evil. Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book X]

In Book X of Plato’s Republic, Socrates banishes all artists from his ideal State. He argues that the creations of art are farthest removed from truth; and therefore, art turns the mind of the spectator away from truth and toward the realm of becoming. For example, there are several instances of tables in the world, but only one idea of a table. A table-maker can make a table, but he cannot make the idea of a table. Even farther removed from the true idea of a table than the table of a table-maker is the painting of a table. “Tables, then, are of three kinds, and there are three artists who superintend them: God, the maker of the table, and the painter.” Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book IX]

In Book IX of Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes the character of a tyrant. All men, Socrates admits, have a lawless and beastly nature. This darker nature displays itself during dreams while the rational part is sleeping. “Then the wild beast within us, gorged with meat or drink, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime a man may not be ready to commit.” The difference between tyrants and other men is that tyrants do not reign in the wild beast when they awaken, but rather encourage it. Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book VIII]

In Book VIII of Plato’s Republic, Socrates moves from the discussion of the ideal State of aristocracy to a discussion of the four unjust types of States – timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Because the natures of States resemble the natures of the men that comprise them, an examination of unjust States will illuminate the natures of unjust men. We can then compare the happiness of the just man to the happiness of the unjust man. “And we shall know whether we ought to pursue injustice, as Thrasymachus advises, or to prefer justice.” Continue reading