Commandments from a Philosopher

By Bertrand Russell

from “The Best Answer to Fanaticism: Liberalism”, in The New York Times Magazine, 1951.

  • Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  • Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  • Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  • When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  • Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  • Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  • Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  • Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  • Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  • Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Must Reads…according to mr. A

So I was asked about philosophical “must reads”. I immediately wanted to jump to an answer, but I thought I would slow down. There are quite a few great philosophical works, but for high school students? Do I really want to recommend anything by Hegel or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason? You should read those authors, but maybe you should get your feet wet with something a little lighter first. So I asked myself, ‘what were the philosophical works that got me interested in philosophy?’ Some ideas came to mind. I’ll add to this list as I go along.

  • Mortimer Adler: Ten Philosophical Mistakes
  • Mortimer Adler: Six Great Ideas
  • Bertrand Russell (Everything he ever wrote, but…) Problems of Philosophy
  • Voltaire: Candide
  • Voltaire: “Treatise on Tolerance”
  • John Stuart Mill: On Liberty
  • Henry David Thoreau: On Civil Disobedience
  • George Orwell: “Politics and the English Language”
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract
  • Robert A. Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (Okay. This isn’t a philosophy book, it’s a science fiction, but it will blow your mind)


Free Texts

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Classics of Western Philosophy


Theme 1 Epistemology

Before you get into what you think is a discussion, you might want to find out if the other person understands what a discussion is.

The Toulmin Method of Argumentation Link 1: This is a standard argumentation form in most fields of the humanities.

The Toulmin Method of Argumentation Link 2:

A good summary of the Toulmin Method
Being contrary is not the same as arguing. This class is about arguing.
Avoid these Logical Fallacies: We all make them all the time.
Be aware of your cognitive biases and account for them in your thinking.

Question 1: ARe Human beings, by nature, warlike?

Question 2: What does it mean to be free?

For a full examination of this box see A Philosopher’s Take Blog

Do We Have Free Will?

Axiology or Value Theory


The Trolley Problem

Testing Moral Premises

The Veil of Ignorance is an example of a test for moral premises
The plotline of The Good Place was literally about testing morality. They drew a great deal from T. M. Scanlon What we Owe to Each Other

Free Philosophy Book: T. M. Scanlon What We Owe to Each Other


Who are you?

What Makes You You?