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First published Wed Jul 3, 2002; substantive revision Sat Mar 23, 2013 Confucius (551?-479?
First published Sun Aug 15, 2004; substantive revision Wed Aug 25, 2010 Democritus, known in antiquity as the ‘laughing philosopher’ because of his emphasis on the value of ‘cheerfulness,’ was one of the two founders of ancient atomist theory. He elaborated a system originated by his teacher Leucippus into a materialist account of the natural world. The atomists held that there are smallest indivisible bodies from which everything else is composed, and that these move about in an infinite void space. Of the ancient materialist accounts of the natural world which did not rely on some kind of teleology or purpose to account for the apparent order and regularity found in the world, atomism was the most influential. Even its chief critic, Aristotle, praised Democritus for arguing from sound considerations appropriate to natural philosophy.
In his use of critical reasoning, by his unwavering commitment to truth, and through the vivid example of his own life, fifth-century Athenian Socrates set the standard for all subsequent Western philosophy. Since he left no literary legacy of his own, we are dependent upon contemporary writers like Aristophanes and Xenophon for our information about his life and work. As a pupil of Archelaus during his youth, Socrates showed a great deal of interest in the scientific theories of Anaxagoras , but he later abandoned inquiries into the physical world for a dedicated investigation of the development of moral character.
Taoism (modernly: Daoism ) is a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao ( modernly romanized as "Dao" ). The term Tao means "way", "path" or "principle", and can also be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. In Taoism, however, Tao denotes something that is both the source and the driving force behind everything that exists.