The ancient Indian treatise on rulership, and the pragmatics of maintaining power
Ethics, power and a life in motion.
Lucretius, the Roman poet and philosopher, on free will, creativity and the mysterious swerve of an atom.
The Huainanzi, a fascinating Han dynasty guidebook for rulers, on resonance, non-action, charioteering, and how not to fall off a bicycle.
For the philosophers of the Nyāya school, the role of knowledge was to make effective action possible.
What are the fundamental questions in human life? And how can reading across different traditions enrich our sense of what questions might be fruitful to ask?
Dong Zhongshu was a thinker fascinated by the role of chance events in human history.
What are we, most fundamentally? Kaṇāda, founder of the Vaiśeṣika philosophical school, has some surprising answers.
Ptolemaïs of Cyrene, the ancient philosopher, and what she can teach us about the art of music.
For the philosopher Han Fei, the ultimate form of charisma was to have no charisma. His ideas were instrumental in cementing the power of Qin Shihuang, the First Emperor.
Two philosophers from the ancient world who changed their minds: Timocrates the (former) Epicurean, and Dionysius the (former) Stoic.
The Chinese philosopher Zou Yan is credited with developing theories of Yin and Yang.
The philosopher Carneades advocated giving up on ideas of truth and the good life, arguing that we should focus instead on what is plausible.
The Indian philosopher Jaimini, founder of the Mīmāṃsā tradition, on why religious ritual is its own justification.
Desmond Tutu, and the idea of ubuntu: we are, because we belong.
The trouble with pleasure, according to the philosopher Epicurus, is that we're not very good at it.
An alternative theory of gift-giving, drawing on philosophy from the Tanimbar islands of Indonesia, and from the philosophical traditions of India.
Christmas is on the way, and you are facing your biggest philosophical challenge of the year: what gift do you get for a man like Uncle Pedro?
The philosopher Chrysippus believed that emotions are not things that happen to us, but things that we do. This means that we can bring emotion under the control of reason.
According to both philosophers of Ancient China and those of the Ancient Maya world, ritual has a powerful role to play in shaping ourselves - and the world.
Getting philosophical about ritual, from Confucius and spirit sacrifice in Ancient China to the everyday miracle of shaking hands.
Pyrrho was the precursor of the ancient sceptical school. He was a philosopher who travelled widely and, according to some commentators, reinvented Indian modes of thought in the context of ancient Greece.
The Cynic philosopher Hipparchia defied social convention, in pursuit of a life free of hypocrisy and privilege.
Stoicism was one of the most influential philosophical schools in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. And the first Stoic philosopher was Zeno of Citium.
We often assume that Indian philosophy is somehow inherently “spiritual”. But India's long tradition of Cārvāka materialist philosophy suggests otherwise.
Aristotle argued that the end or purpose of human life was flourishing. But what is flourishing? And how do we flourish?
Aristotle was a hugely eclectic thinker. But he was also a systematic one. And at the heart of his philosophy is the idea of the diversity of human ways of knowing.
The Chinese philosopher Hui Shi (370-310 BCE) was famed for his logical puzzles, and his skill in debate.
Plato is famous for what is sometimes called his "theory of forms". But what are forms? What is this theory? And what makes Aslan an almost-perfect cat?
Xunzi was a Confucian philosopher who argued human beings were bad by nature. He advocated self-cultivation to correct our natural shortcomings.
Aztec philosophy tells us that the world is slippery, and that if we don't want to lose our footing, we need all the wisdom we can get.
The ancient Chinese philosopher who advocated uselessness and free-and-easy wandering.
Arete of Cyrene was an early woman philosopher who was important in the establishment of the Cyrenaic school, which emphasised the centrality of bodily pleasure to the good life.
Mencius was a Confucian philosopher who argued for the inherent goodness of human nature, and who insisted that good government is about nourishing this inherent goodness.
Plato is undoubtedly one of the most influential thinkers in all of history. He opened up a series of questions — about philosophy, about knowledge, about truth, about politics and about ethics — that have continued to preoccupy people down to the present-day.
Zeno of Elea was famous for his paradoxes, which have fascinated and preoccupied people for millennia.
The Maya philosophers were preoccupied with time, and with how the ritual ordering of time is a way that human beings participate in the ongoing creation of the world.
Mozi was one of the most influential of all early Chinese philosophers. He proposed a society based on universal love, protected by a system of rewards and punishments.
Season three of our Looking for Wisdom course, where we're looking at the philosophy of work. This week: hunters and gatherers, Mencius, Aristotle and slavery.
Democritus and his teacher Leucippus were the first philosophers to propose that all things were made up of the joining-together of imperceptible atoms.
Yang Zhu was an ancient Chinese philosopher who is associated with hedonism, and with the cultivation of bodily pleasure.
The Buddha was a wandering renunciant in Ancient India who kick-started a two and a half thousand-year-old religious and philosophical tradition. But who was he?
Diogenes was the original drop-out philosopher. A fierce critic of the hypocrisy of society, he chose instead to live in accord with nature.
The legendary Chinese philosopher Laozi is associated with the long tradition of Daoism (or Taoism). But his work is famously elliptical and difficult.
What does it mean to be sick or well? What is health? The Greek doctor and philosopher Alcmaeon, who came from the city of Croton, was one of the earliest thinkers to systematically address questions of health and illness.
Sunzi's "The Art of War" is an ancient Chinese text that has become famous worldwide for its insights into strategy. Even today, it is still a go-to reference for military and business leaders.
Empedocles was a philosopher, wandering poet and shamanic healer who claimed the entire universe was underpinned by the forces of Love and Strife.
Deng Xi was a lawyer and philosopher associated with the so-called "School of Names". He was skilled in debate and frequently caused confusion by simultaneously arguing opposite viewpoints.
The Presocratic philosophers are famously strange and difficult; but of all of them, Anaxagoras, who saw the universe as essentially gunky, is one of the strangest.
Xenophanes was a wandering philosopher and poet, who was fiercely critical of his contemporaries' views on the nature of the gods.
Jing Jiang is one of the earliest women in Chinese recorded history to engage in philosophical debate. She was a thinker with a keen grasp of politics, and a considerable skill in argument.
Parmenides is one of the most elusive and enigmatic of all early Greek philosophers. Could he really have been arguing that nothing ever changed? And if so, why?
Yājñavalkya is one of the earliest named Indian philosophers. According to traditional accounts, he was a fierce debater, and was preoccupied with the nature of the ātman, or the soul.
The philosopher Anaximander was born in the trading port of Miletus in 610 BCE, and is said to have become a student of the philosopher Thales. His philosophy explored questions of creation and destruction in nature.
A story from a 13th century Persian text about music, harmony, philosophy, catatonic animals, and the beef between Plato and Aristotle.
Gārgī Vācaknavī was a philosopher who is said to have lived in India around 700 BCE, and whose skill in debate was legendary.
Guan Zhong was one of China's earliest named philosophers. A sharp political operator, he rose from poverty to become Chancellor of the state of Qi. He is associated in particular with the philosophy of legalism.
Pythagoras was the first philosopher to talk about 'philosophia', or 'the love of wisdom.' He set up a philosophical community where he taught the transmigration of souls, and the centrality of mathematics for an understanding of the universe.
Heraclitus's philosophy was based on the idea that the world is in continual flux. He is famous above all for his mysterious comment that 'everything flows.'
One of history's earliest named philosophers was from Africa. He lived 4500 years ago in Egypt, and his name was Ptahhotep.
Along with Diotima, Aspasia was one of the two women philosophers whom Plato recognised as a teacher of Socrates. Her biography is subject to debate, but she is still famous for her knowledge of rhetoric and her skill in debate.
Diotima was a teacher of Socrates, a priestess, and a philosopher of love. She appears only once in contemporary accounts, in the work of Plato; and for centuries, scholars have debated her historicity. But whether or not she truly existed, the ideas attributed to her are both subtle and powerful.
Confucius is one of history's most influential philosophers. His insights have shaped the cultures of East Asia and beyond for centuries. Confucius was a reformer who aimed to refashion society on the basis of justice and virtue. And yet, during his lifetime, his teachings were largely ignored.
Thales of Miletus has some claim to being the very earliest philosopher in the Greek world. He is famous for his claim that everything is made of water. As well as being a philosopher, he was an engineer, an astronomer, and an astute observer of the natural world.
Socrates lived in Athens in the 5th Century BCE. He was the archetypal philosopher: a restless seeker after wisdom, a thorn in the side of the intelligentsia of Athens, a copious drinker, and a thinker who claimed that when it came down to it, he knew nothing at all.