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The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Selections Annotated and Explained by Malaspina Great Books Web Editor Russell McNeil PhD
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:
Selections Annotated and Explained

Russell McNeil, PhD
Editor, Malaspina Great Books

In 1862 the English literary critic and poet Matthew Arnold described Marcus Aurelius as "the most beautiful figure in history." The Stoicism of Aurelius is grounded in rationality and rests solidly on an ethical approach rooted in nature. Stoicism promises real happiness and joy in this life and a serenity that can never be soured by personal misfortune. This philosophy has universal appeal with practical implications on problems ranging from climate change and terrorism to the personal management of sickness, aging, depression and addiction. I truly believe that the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius has much to offer us now...(Click on book cover for more)

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Ancient Science
Name:Thales of Miletus - Astronomy, Math, Philosophy
Birth Year:634 BCE
Death Year:546 BCE
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Thales, presocratic Greek philosopher who lived around 600 BC. He is generally considered the first philosopher in the Greek tradition and is considered the father of science as well. He is numbered among the Seven Sages of Greece. Thales is remembered for arguing that water is the essence of all things. This argument is significant because it is the first attempt to explain the physical world without reference to a supernatural power. Prior to Thales all such explanations relied on gods or other mythological forces. Thales lived in the city of Miletus, in Ionia. The Ionians were well-traveled and had many dealings with Egypt and Babylon, and it is possible that Thales had studied in Egypt as a young man. In any event, Thales was almost certainly exposed to Egyptian mythology, astronomy, and mathematics, as well as other traditions alien to the Homeric traditions of Greece. It is perhaps because of this that his inquiries into the nature of things took him beyond traditional mythology. Thales had a profound influence on other Greek thinkers and therefore on Western history. Anaximander is sometimes considered to be a pupil of Thales. And it is reported by early sources that one of Anaximander's more famous pupils, Pythagoras, visited Thales as a young man, and was advised to travel to Egypt to further his philosophical and mathematical studies. Many philosophers followed his lead in searching for explanations in nature rather than in the supernatural; others returned to supernatural explanations, but couched in the language of philosophy, rather than myth or religion. Herodotus reports that Thales was with the Lydians when they fought the Medes, and was able to forecast an eclipse which ended the war (see Alyattes). The accuracy of the story is questionable, but it at least shows the sort of reputation Thales earned. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Thales of Miletus.]

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This web page is part of a biographical database on Great Ideas. These are living ideas that have shaped, defined and directed world culture for over 2,500 years. By definition the Great Ideas are radical. As such they are sometimes misread, or distorted by popular simplifications. Understanding a Great Idea demands personal engagement. Our selection of Great Ideas is drawn from literature and philosophy, science, art, music, theatre, and cinema. We also include biographies of pivotal historical and religious figures, as well as contributions from women and other historically under-represented minorities. The result is an integrated multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary database built upon the framework of the always controversial Great Books Core List published in 1940 by the late Great Books Pioneer Mortimer Adler (1902-2001). Most of the works on that list are available in the 60 volume Great Books of the Western World.

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