Iso Cambia's Reviews > Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson

Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 08, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, non-fiction, religion-etc, science-et-al, favorites, india, france, japan, middle-east, philosophy
Recommended to Iso by: Wayne
Read from June 21 to August 08, 2012 , read count: 1

This book was a gift from a friend I am lucky to have. This will probably take me awhile to read, although I'm already enchanted by the introduction.

An incomplete list of philosophers and doubters throughout history:

Thales first philosopher in the West
Heraclitus (535-475 BCE)
Kinesias poet, hosted an impiety club that met for feasts on unlucky days
Parmenides of Elea argued change is all a matter of perception
Protagoras "Concerning The Gods"
Prodicus of Ceos
Democritus founder of atomism, influenced materialism
Diagoras of Melos 5th century BCE poet, atheist
Anaxagoras philosopher, one of the first indicted for atheism
Empedocles poet
Socrates (b. 470 BCE)
Plato "The Laws," "The Republic," "Timaeus," "Symposium" (387 BCE)
Aristotle Plato's most famous student
Speusippus Plato's student and nephew, became head of the Academy
Euhemerus "Sacred History"
Diogenes of Sinope cynic exemplar
Zeno founder of stoicism
Epicurus (-271 BCE) founder of Epicureanism
Pyrrho of Elis (365-c. 275 BCE) founder of skepticism, "The Outline of Pyrrhonism"
Timon student of Pyrrho
Carneades of Cyrene skeptic
Sextus Empiricus Roman skeptic, "Against the Dogmatists"
Miriam Jewish woman who beat the temple with her shoe in protest of the temple squandering the riches of Israel
Purana Kassapa wandering ascetic in India
Mahavira founder of 'modern' Jainism
Siddhartha Gautama (c. 566-480 BCE) the Buddha
Nagarjuna (150-250 CE) Mahayana Buddhist philosopher of shunyata
Confucius (d. 479 BCE)
Huan T'an
Han Fei Tzu
Kumarajive translated Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Chinese, including Prajnaparamita
Wang Ch'ung (27-97 CE) naturalist thinker, "Discourses Weighed in the Balance," a compendium of arguments against magical thinking
Lao Tsu
Cicero "De Natura Deorum" aka "The Nature of the Gods," "On Divination"
Ennius (239-169 BCE) founder of Latin poetry
Titus Lucretius Epicurean poet, "On the Nature of Things"
Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE)
Marcus of Aurelius (121-180 CE) "Meditations"
Lucian of Samasota (120 CE - 190 CE) "Timon", "Passing of Peregrinus," "True History" (founding book of science fiction)
Plotinus (b. 205) "Enneads"
Mani (216-277) founder of Manichaism, a type of Gnosticism
Elaine Pagels Gnostic
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (ca. 480-524) Last of the Romans, first of the Scholastics, "The Consolation of Philosophy"
Elisha ben Abuyah aka Aher The Other; Jewish doubter
Gregory of Tours (538-594) - most responsible for the reinterpretation of the Christian saints as capable of helping average people in their relationship with the natural world
Hunayn ibn Ishaq & son Ishaq 9th century - Nestorian court doctor, father translated works of Galen, Euclid, Ptolemy from Greek to Syriac, son translated from Syriac to Arabic
Sarah Stroumsa Freethinkers of Medieval Islam
Ibn al-Rawandi author of Muslim doubt, Kitab al-Zumurrud aka The Book of the Emerald
Abu Bakr al-Razi author of Muslim doubt; The Prophet's Fraudulent Tricks, The Stratagems of Those Who Claim to Be Prophets, On The Refutation of Revealed Religions
Muhammed al-Warraq scholar, often referred to god as an idiot because "He who orders his slave to do things that he knows him to be incapable of doing, then punishes him, is a fool."
Abu Ali ibn Sina, aka Avicenna (980-1037); medical doctor
al-Tauhidi poet
Abdallah al-Ma'arri (973-1057) Syrian poet, blinded by smallpox as a child
Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111), director of a mosque in Baghdad, The Opinions of the Philosophers, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, Deliverance from Error
Abu Walid ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd, aka Averroes (1126-1198) The Incoherence of the Incoherence
Saadia ben Joseph (882-942) first speculative philosopher of Judaism, Book of Doctrines and Belief
Solomon ibn Gabriol (ca. 1022-ca.1051) Jewish Neoplatonist, wrote Fountain of Life
Rabbi Moses ibn Maimon, aka Mamonides (1135-1205), Talmudic scholar, philosopher, medical doctor, wrote Guide for the Perplexed
Abraham Abulafia (1240-ca.1291), co-founder of Cabala
Moses de Leon another founder of Cabala, Zohar
Levi ben Gershom, aka Gersonides (1288-1344), scientist, astronomer, mathematician, took the first photographs, invented the "Jacob's staff," falsified the Ptolemaic, Earth-centered model of the solar system, "The first rabbi on the moon"
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), rationalist
Peter Abelard (1079-1142)
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Albertus Magnus, aka Albert the Great
Siger de Brabant French theologian
Ikkyu Sojun Japanese zen master - felt "enlightenment is, actually, a consciousness of the pleasure of life."
Desiderius Erasmus Praise of Folly (1509)
Margaret of Navarre (1492-1549) Heptameron (1558)
Bonaventure des Periers Cymbalum mundi (1537)
Etienne Dolet
Francois Rabelais
Lucien Febvre The Problem of Unbelief in the 16th Century: The Religion of Rabelais (1947)
Domenico Scandella (1532-1599)
Karen Armstrong aka Menocchio, The History of God (1994)
Paolo Sarpi
Montaigne invented the genre of the essay
Marie de Gournay The Equality of Men and Women (1622), Grief des dames (1626)
Pierre Gassendi On The Life and Character of Epicurus (1647)
Isaac la Peyrere French libertine
Rene Descartes mathematician & scientist, Meditations on the First Philosophy in Which the Existence of God and the Distinction Between Mind and Body Are Demonstrated
Galileo Galilei (b. 1564) astronomer
Baruch Spinoza (b. 1632)
Hobbes Leviathan
Isaac Newton (b. 1642) Principia (1687)
Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), Miscellaneous Thoughts on the Comet of 1680 first defense of the morals of an atheist, Historical and Critical Dictionary
Jan Vroesen of Rotterdam, probably writer of The Spirit of Spinoza, part of The Three Imposters; founder of The Lantern, the most important philosophical society in town, famous as a company of heretics and freethinkers
Edward Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648)
John Locke (1632-1704) Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)
George Berkeley (1685-1753)
J. F. Reimann Universal History of Atheism
John Toland Christianity Not Mysterious, Letter to Serena, Socianism Truly Stated, By A Pantheist, Pantheisticon (1720),
Bernard Mandeville Free Thought on Religion (1720)
Bernard Fontanelle wrote one of the first discussions of of the Bible as myth
Denis Diderot (1713-1784) & Jean d'Alembert (1717-1783) created the Encyclopedia
Claude-Adrien Helvetius (1715-1771) Essays on the Mind (1758)
David Hume (1711-1776) Enquiry into Human Understanding, Dialogue Concering Natural Religion (1779)
Baron d'Holbach System of Nature
Benjamin Franklin (b.1706)
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) The Age of Reason (1794)
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd President of the US
John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli (1797)
Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), philosopher, grandfather to musicians Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn
Takasui 18th century zen master
Ludwig Feuerbach The Essence of Christianity (1841)
Anne Newport Royall (1769-1854), Black Book (1828), Letters from Alabama (1830)
Ernestine Rose

The birth of a child can bring extraordinarily religious feelings - because it is such a good thing, but also because it makes no real sense. Where did this miniature human being come from? Technically, we made it out of nine months' worth of French toast, salad, and lamb chops. Technically, our bodies hold tiny little instructions for how to build human eyes, a language center in the human brain, and a human spirit - fussy, joyful, or otherwise. But how strange that such a thing as fussy exists and is created thusly. (xv)

"This world order, the same for all, no one of gods or men has made, but it always was and is and shall be: an ever living fire, kindling in measures and going out in measures." - Heraclitus (535-475 BCE) (p5)

If oxen and horses and lions could paint, they would depict the gods in their own image. - Xenophanes (7)

Once a pattern is established, the pattern of things is not entirely accidental. - Democritus (9)

"The true understanding of the fact that death is nothing to us renders enjoyable the mortality of existence, not by adding infinite time but by taking away the yearning for immortality." It is accepting the finality of death that makes it possible to enjoy the pleasures of the garden. (Epicurus; 41)

In Carneades' opinion, true virtue requires some flaws, some limitations. One cannot be called brave if one has not known fear. There is no meaningful way to be self-disciplined in the absence of temptation. (43)

How can we sing in a strange land? - Pslasm 137 (47)

Only here [in Babylon], in exile, did ordinary Jews begin to keep the Sabbath, to decide upon and live within the dietary restrictions, to practice the rite of circumcision, and to celebrate the various feasts. (47)

Everything in the world we know was constantly coming into being or disappearing, and it is all basically made of the same stuff. There are no true nouns, then, only verbs. (106)

If you lie, you are scared of revealing the truth of your nature to yourself and to others, and you thus fortify the very wall around your ego that you have been trying to tear down. (108)

[The Buddha said] to ask where the soul goes after death is like extinguishing a campfire and then asking whether the fire went east or west when it left. (109)

When asked about humanity's supposed duty to ancestors, [Confucius] said "We don't know yet how to serve men, how can we know about serving the spirits?" When asked about death, he offered another pragmatic question: "We don't know yet about life, how can we know about death?" (117)

If the heavens had produced creatures on purpose, they ought to have taught them to love each other, and not to prey upon and destroy one another. - Wang Ch'ung (121)

In a quest for the truth, the wise must speak their true minds, if only to one another. - Cicero (132)

So nature turns all food to living flesh
And from that food gives birth to animal senses
In much the same way as she make dry tinder
Explode in flames and turn all into fire.
-Lucretius (148)

Death, then, is nothing more to us, no concern,
Once we grant that the soul will also die.
Just as we felt no pain in ages past
When the Carthaginians swarmed to the attack.

So too, when we no longer are, when our
Union of body and soul is put assunder,
Hardly shall anything then, when we are not,
Happen to us at all and stir the senses,
Not if earth were embroiled with the sea and the sea with heaven!
-Lucretius (148)

If everyone were correct about his or her gods, there would be more gods than people. - Pliny the Elder (153)

God is man helping man: this is the way to everlasting glory. - Pliny the Elder (153)

Whether the universe is a concourse of atoms, or nature is a system, let this first be established, that I am part of the whole which is governed by nature; next, I am in a manner intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with myself. - Meditations, by Marcus of Aurelius (155)

Men exist for the sake of one another, teach them then or bear with them. - Meditations, by Marcus of Aurelius (155-156)

Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are and to make new things like them. - Meditations, by Marcus of Aurelius (157)

Soon will the earth cover us all: then the earth, too, will change, and the things also which result from change will continue to change for ever, and these again for ever. - Meditations, by Marcus of Aurelius (158)

Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good. - Meditations, by Marcus of Aurelius (159)

Without pain or temptation, God cannot really be said to be virtuous. (166)

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God, Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted." Romans 13. (184) -- HAHA TEA PARTY!

To know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God: this is the secret of gnosis... self-knowledge is knowledge of God; the self and the divine are identical. - Elaine Pagels (191)

"Our leader, Reason, gathers her forces into her citadel, while the enemy are busied in plundering useless baggage. As they seized the most worthless things, we laugh at them from above, untroubled by the whole band of mad marauders." The Spirit of Philosophy; according to Boethius (204)

"A problem once solved ceases to be a problem; but the penetration of a mystery does not make it any less mysterious. The more intimate one is with a mystery, the greater shines the aura of its secret. The intensification of a mystery leads not to frustration (as does the increasing of a problem) but to release." - Stephen Batchelor (214)

Great doubt, great awakening. Little doubt: little awakening. No doubt: no awakening. - Zen dictum

A man should never cast reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in back. - Maimonides (245)

If learning of other people's faith causes relativism and doubt, learning of other people's doubt redoubles it. (264)

"Toward dawn I dozed off, and in my dream I found myself surrounded by a group of skeletons.... One skeleton came over to me and said: 'Memories flee and are no more. All are empty dreams devoid of meaning. Violate the reality of things and babble about "God" and "the Buddha" and you will never find the true Way. I liked this skeleton... He saw things clearly, just as they are. I lay there with the wind in the pines whispering in my ears and the autumn moonlight dancing across my face. What is not a dream? Who will not end up as a skeleton?" - Ikkyu Sojun (267)

To write something and leave it behind us,
It is but a dream.
When we awake we know
There is not even anyone to read it.
-Ikkyu Sojun (267)

The vast flood
Rolls onward
But yield yourself,
And it floats you upon it.
-Ikkyu Sojun (267)

On the sea of death and life,
The diver's boat is frightened
With 'Is' and 'Is not';
But if the bottom is broken through,
'Is' and 'Is not' disappear.
-Ikkyu Sojun (267)

No one really knows
The nature of birth
Nor the true dwelling place.
We return to the source
And turn to dust.
-Ikkyu Sojun (267)

The vagaries of life,
Though painful
Teach us
Not to cling
To this floating world.
-Ikkyu Sojun (267-68)

If at the end of the journey
There is no final
Resting place,
Then we need not fear
Losing our Way.
-Ikkyu Sojun (268)

"As soon as the coin in the strongbox rings, a soul from purgatory springs." - Popular Catholic saying during the Renaissance (273)

The air is God... the Earth is our mother. - Menocchio (289)

Who do you imagine God to be? God is nothing but a little breath, and whatever else man imagines him to be. - Menocchio (289)

The French libertine Isaac la Peyrere asserted that the Bible must be wrong because, after all, Chinese history goes back ten thousand years whereas biblical history has the world in existence for only about six thousand years. (313)

The truth about religion, as Hobbes explained it, is that it had been formed and sustained by people in power, to control their subjects.... Hell, he said, was just a fantasy to control people.... Hobbes summed up religion as derived from four mistakes: belief in "ghosts, ignorance of second causes, devotion towards what other men fear, and of things causal for prognostics." and from these errors, "different fantasies, judgements, and passions of several men, hath grown up into ceremonies so different, that those which are used by one man, are for the most part ridiculous to another. (322-23)

"To improve life, do not ask God for help, but change experience and thereby improve people." - John Locke (334)

After death nothing is, and nothing Death. - Seneca (337)

Thomas Aikenhead... was a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, charged with blasphemy in 1796. He was accused of saying that theology was "a rhapsody of feigned and ill-invented nonsense" and that the scriptures were "so stuffed with madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that you admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them." ... He was executed January 8, 1697, about three months before his 21st birthday. (338-39)

"Men, feeling that they are capable of wishing and hoping, falsely conclude that this is all that is required to make them free." from The Spirit of Spinoza (333)

"What peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call thought, that we must thus make it the model of the whole universe? Our partiality in our own favor does indeed present it on all occasions; but sound philosophy ought carefully to guard against so natural an illusion." - David Hume (351)

"Would it not be a thousand times better to depend upon blind matter, upon a nature destitute of intelligence, upon chance, or upon nothing, upon a God of stone or of wood, than upon a God who is laying snares for men, inviting them to sin, and permitting them to commit those crimes which he could prevent, to the end that he may have the barbarous pleasure of punishing them without measure, without utility to himself, without correction to them, and without their example serving to reclaim others?" Baron d'Holbach, from the System of Nature

"No church should have any legal power at all. How could anyone try to legislate the relationship between God and a human being?" - Moses Mendelssohn

"Everything about God was real; our only mistake was in thinking it came from outside us." - Ludwig Feuerbach

"All priests are dangerous when clothed with power." - Anne Newport Royall, in Black Book


Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Doubt.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

06/23/2012 page 14
show 18 hidden updates…

No comments have been added yet.