Archive by Author

Big News: the Noet Mobile App Is Here!

NoetLast June, we announced a brand-new product line: Noet. Now the wait is over—the Noet mobile app is here! Visit Noet.com to download it free for iOS and Android.

Discipline-specific Noet libraries are shipping, too—you can browse all the bundles at Noet.com/Products.

Love the classics? Get this app!

You’ll be glad you did—when you register an account, you’ll get access to a digital bookshelf of philosophy, literature, and the classics, absolutely free.

  • Ancient philosophy—Plato’s Phaedo (the best single-volume exposition of Platonism, and probably the most moving text in all of philosophy) and his Apology (which lays out the core thought of Socrates), Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (two of the most influential ancient guides to living well), and more
  • Ancient literature—Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid (the three most important epic poems of antiquity), Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost (two of literature’s great intersections with faith), Augustine’s Confessions (a sublime conversion narrative, with strong elements of Platonism), and more
  • Modern philosophy—Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature (a look at cognition, emotions, and morality), Rousseau’s Social Contract (that famous attempt to reconcile social stability and individual freedom), Descartes’ Discourse on the Method (“I think, therefore I am”), and more
  • Modern literature—Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (widely regarded as the first modern novel), Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (a renowned exploration of good and evil), Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina  (ranked by a Time magazine poll of 2007’s leading writers as the greatest novel ever written), and more

You’re looking at the equivalent of a fascinating (and top-dollar!) university syllabus. And when you want more books, you can pick up library-builder bundles at Noet.com/Products and individual collections at Noet.com/Collections.

As you read, you’ll learn, understand, and remember more with Logos-powered study features:

  • Search: find every appearance of a word or phrase across your entire library.
  • Split screen: explore a primary text and its commentary, side by side and scrolling in sync.
  • Notes and highlighting: record your insights across all your devices.
  • Original-language tools: when you come across an unfamiliar Greek or Latin word, see its gloss and morphology with a tap.
  • And lots more

The most important books, the smartest scholarly editions—if you’re at all interested in philosophy, history, literature, and the classics, you should do two things:

  1. Download the Noet app right now, and register your account to get access to these free books. (Already have a Logos account? You’re good to go.)
  2. Once you’ve gotten to know the app, leave a rating and review in your favorite app store. We’re trying to reach more folks like you, so your honest recommendation means the world.

Not that into the classics, but interested in Christian context? Get this app!

Noet is a treasure trove of intellectual history, and it’ll make you a better student of Scripture and the Christian tradition.

  • Paul engages Stoic philosophy. Read Marcus Aurelius and you’ll have a much better feel for what that worldview entails.
  • Philosophy everywhere engages Christianity. On the one hand, Descartes uses belief in God to counter extreme skepticism; likewise, Kant argues that Christianity is the very core of Western morality. On the other hand, Hume argues against design—and, if you’re interested in apologetics, isn’t it best to know his famous arguments?
  • Plato helped set the intellectual stage for the early Church Fathers. Read the Phaedo and Confessions and you’ll see how.
  • Milton, Dante, Augustine, and Dostoyevsky built, on Christian foundations, some of literature’s most enduring monuments. Read Paradise Lost, the Divine Comedy, Confessions, and Crime and Punishment and you’ll have a clearer understanding of how the church has shaped the world.

Context matters. Here’s an app that’ll help you grasp it. You’re a serious thinker, interested in sound exegesis and the ancient world—why would you not want the free new app for the classics?

Want in on the next big thing? Get this app!

You know how powerful the Logos engine is. You know how much smarter Logos editions are than their paper and PDF counterparts. You know how much Logos has done for your Bible study.

Just think what Noet’s going to do for students of philosophy, history, literature, and the classics.

This app’s going to be a big deal, and you’re the very first to know about it. So get in on the next big thing from Logos—download the free Noet app and give it a try!

* * *

Now do us an awesome, awesome favor. Help us get the word out by sharing this post on your favorite social networks. You probably know people who love Logos; they should hear about this! And you probably know people who don’t even use Logos—who aren’t Christian, maybe—but who would love this aid to lifelong learning. They should hear about it, too!

So let’s spread the word together:

  1. Download the free Noet app right now.
  2. Leave a rating and review in your favorite app store.
  3. Then share this post to tell the world!

You’re About to Miss Logos’ Best Deal. Ever.

500-book-mega-pack-blogA couple weeks ago, we introduced the best deal Logos has ever offered: the 500 Book Mega Pack.

People who are already in on the deal love it:

But at midnight tomorrow, the 500 Book Mega Pack is going away—forever.

If you’re still on the fence, you’re about to miss the single best deal in Logos history.

Here’s why you don’t want to let that happen:

1. The Mega Pack is a smart investment

With the Mega Pack, you’re getting a $10,000+ library for less than $1 per book—that’s more than 96% off. Discounts that big add up fast: for example, two of the collections you’ll get are the Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, which Baptist Magazine called “one of the most popular and useful literary enterprises of the nineteenth century,” and the Works of George Whitefield, which gives you the beloved preacher’s writings, sermons, and correspondence. On their own, just those two resources already cost more than the entire bundle!

2. Dynamic Pricing gives you an even better deal

96% off is a stunning discount, but it’s actually the minimum you’ll save. With Dynamic Pricing, you’ll get a customer ownership discount based on your current library—if you already own some of these books, your price will be even lower.

And here’s the cool part: all 500 books set you up for more Dynamic Pricing down the road. You’re not just getting $10,000+ worth of books—you’re getting all the associated Dynamic Pricing on future purchases. You’ll never pay for the same books twice; why not make sure what you do pay is 96% off?

3. You’ll never, ever see it again

The 500 Book Mega Pack isn’t a regular product or sale—it’s an extreme, one-time occurrence. When it expires tomorrow, it’s not just the discount that’s ending; it’s the collection itself. You’re never going to get this opportunity again.

So why are you on the fence?

“$399.95 is a lot of money”

But $39’s a lot less—pick up the Mega Pack with a 12-month payment plan and that’s all you’ll pay each month. (And remember: if you own even one of these titles, your custom price will be even lower.) Payment plans let you move fast, lock in your 96% savings, start using your new books right now, and spread out the payments, interest-free.

“I don’t want some of these books”

Even if you’re not sure you’re interested in all 500 books, the 500 Book Mega Pack will make your library smarter. Your books are what power Logos’ features—when you build your library with the Mega Pack, you set yourself up for more productive searches and cross-references. You might never read all 500 books cover to cover, but you’ll start doing deeper study from day one. And, as we’ve seen, you’ll get not only $10,000+ in books, but also Dynamic Pricing savings down the road—all for 96% off.

“OK, but I’m just not ready”

Unfortunately, there’s simply no more time. This deal is going away tomorrow.

It’s going away forever.

But you can still try out the Mega Pack firsthand and risk-free: pick it up while you still can, and if it’s not for you, just return it within 30 days. Especially with a 12-month payment plan, this lets you make sure it’s the right choice: if you decide to keep it, you’re looking at monthly payments of just $39; if you decide it’s not for you, you’ll get your money back.

If you don’t pick up the 500 Book Mega Pack before midnight tomorrow, you’re going to miss out on the best deal in Logos history.

Take advantage of this one-time chance to build your library and save 96%—get the Mega Pack before it’s gone forever.

How to Get the Best Deal on Your Dream Library

portfolioLogos’ Christmas sale is here, and for just a little while, you can save 15% on a new base package. This is a great deal no matter what, but there’s a way to make it even better. For the best library and the best value, go with Portfolio.

What you’ll get:

1. The best books and features

Portfolio is simply massive—it’s by far the biggest base package we’ve ever produced. You’ll get 2,585 resources, which would cost you $78,000 in print; that’s 500-plus more resources than Diamond and 1,500-plus more than Gold.

But maybe you knew all that. Maybe you think Portfolio’s just so big that it wouldn’t be useful—after all, when would you find the time to read all those books?

If that’s you, here’s the thing: Portfolio’s books are what power its smart tools and features. In Logos, your books (which are exactly as valuable as their content) connect to other books, and thus to other content. Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to its number of users squared; networks like Logos behave the same way. As you build your library, your Logos resources become exponentially more valuable:

  • Timeline events link to articles for further study. With Portfolio, you understand more context.
  • Original-language words link to original-language tools. With Portfolio, you get more resources to appreciate Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic nuance.
  • Commentaries link to Bibles link to dictionaries link to atlases. With Portfolio, you make more connections.

The takeaway: whether or not you read all the books cover to cover, choosing Portfolio sets you up with the biggest, smartest, best library.

2. The best value, by far

Base packages are a remarkable value: bundled, their contents are way cheaper than they would be purchased one by one. But figures like “print value of $78,000” don’t always make that clear, since print prices can vary pretty dramatically. So let’s keep the math rigorous: let’s look at base package savings vs. individual resources in Logos.

Turns out Portfolio’s such a good deal that, at Logos.com’s current prices, Portfolio’s 31 commentaries alone cost more than the entire 2,585-resource library. Still not convinced? Try picking up these 8 resources, all of which you’ll get in Portfolio:

  1. Sheffield/T&T Clark Bible Guides Collection (44 vols.): $849.95
  2. Second Temple Period Collection (19 vols.): $799.95
  3. The College Press NIV Commentary Series (40 vols.): $739.95
  4. Gnostic & Apocryphal Studies Collection (10 vols.): $649.95
  5. Hermeneutics Collection (12 vols.): $649.95
  6. Exegetical Summaries Series (24 vols.): $499.95
  7. Library of NT Studies: JSNTS on Paul (17 vols.): $449.98
  8. Charles Spurgeon Collection (86 vols.): $399.95

That’s already more expensive than Portfolio, and we’re still counting on our fingers—at this point, the rest of the library might as well be free! It’s simple: if you study lots of Logos books, you should look at Portfolio. And remember: if you already own something, you won’t pay for it twice—Dynamic Pricing gives you a special low price based on your current library.

Trouble is, Portfolio’s price tag can make it tough to work into your budget. That’s why we offer 12- or even 18-month payment plans. Choose Portfolio and an 18-month plan and you’re looking at payments of just $282—and that’s assuming you don’t already own even one resource in the base package! If you do, of course, your custom price will be even lower.

Why you should get Portfolio right now

OK: we’ve established that Portfolio is the biggest, smartest library. We’ve established that it’s far and away the best value. We’ve established that payments plans make budgeting easier. But you’re still on the fence.

Here’s why should get Portfolio right now:

1. For a limited time, you’ll save 15%

Logos’ Christmas sale is your chance to save 15% on a new base package, but it’s ending very soon. With an investment like Portfolio, 15% is a big deal—it corresponds to significant savings, or maybe to those bonus books you’ve had your eye on. Again, if you know you’ll be buying lots of Logos books, you should certainly look at Portfolio—and if you know you might eventually pick up Portfolio, why leave your 15% on the table?

2. You can customize your library with expanded bundles for 50% off

Topic-specific book bundles let you fine-tune your library to fit the disciplines you love—you can add hand-picked volumes on preaching, theology, apologetics, marriage, NT and OT studies, and far more, all for 50% off! This year’s bundles add lots of content to last year’s; they’re a wonderful way to deepen your study. Portfolio is already the biggest, smartest, best base package. Once you’ve customized it to fit exactly what you’re interested in, you’ll have the best Bible study library money can buy—at a special Christmas price.

If you do a lot of Bible study, you owe it to yourself to consider Portfolio this Christmas. For just a little while, you can take advantage of some special savings and finally build the library you’ve always wanted.

But you can’t wait—these discounts expire very soon.

Start using your dream library today: take 15% off Portfolio, make the payments easy with an 18-month plan, and customize your library with 50% off bundles.

Then check out the rest of our Christmas deals!

Win $500 and a Huge Classical Library!

noet-classical-foundations-bundleThe Noet Humanities Scholarship is back! Two lucky winners will receive not only $500 but also Noet’s immense Classical Foundations Bundle—an $800 library of philosophy, literature, and history. Enter to win before April 15 at Noet.com/Scholarship.

A complete classical library

The Classical Foundations Bundle sets you up with the West’s core texts:

  • 39 volumes of essential ancient and modern philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant
  • The legendary Harvard Classics collection, selected by a former Harvard president to deliver a college education on a five-foot shelf
  • Timeless works of world literature: Homer, Dante, Milton, Dostoyevsky, and more
  • 21 volumes of Greek and Latin resources
  • The 1,114-volume Perseus Classics Collection

And with Logos’ original-language tagging and smart searches, you’re not only getting essential scholarly works—you’re getting them in their most useful format ever. You’ll be ready to appreciate Greek and Latin nuance, make connections, and find precisely what you’re looking for. Enter to win this comprehensive library (plus $500!) at Noet.com/Scholarship.

In fact, if you know you want it, the best way to save is by pre-ordering the bundle right now—you’ll get 25% off, and if you win, you’ll of course get a full refund. Best-case scenario? You get a huge classical library—free—plus $500. Worst-cast scenario? You still get the library you want, and you still get the special introductory savings.

One-minute entry

No personal statements, résumés, or letters of recommendation—if you’re enrolled in a humanities degree program, you can enter in just a minute with nothing more than your phone number and email address. You can even improve your odds with extra entries: just fill out a few more steps in the entry form.

$500 and an enormous scholarly library? Not bad for a minute’s work! Enter to win at Noet.com/Scholarship.

Congratulations, Tabitha Shofner and Tom Derrick!

Tabitha-Shofner-Noet-Humanities-ScholarshipTom-Derrick-Noet-Humanities-ScholarshipTabitha Shofner (Eastern Kentucky University) and Tom Derrick (University of Leicester) are our two most recent scholarship winners!

Tabitha is studying art and liberal studies; Tom is working on his PhD in archaeology. Tabitha says, “Classic literature and philosophy are a font of inspiration, and their teachings have influenced the world. Noet is bringing these important thought-enablers to easier access and understanding.” Adds Tom, “I study Roman archaeology, so I am very fortunate that my time period has an ample selection of complementary surviving texts. I look forward to the release of the app and think that it will really help those of us who [utilize] Latin works.”

We think so, too. Congrats, Tabitha and Tom!

Win $500 and Noet’s Classical Foundations Bundle—enter to win right now at Noet.com/Scholarship.

Take It from the Church Fathers: You Should Read Plato

Christianity is the West’s most important worldview. Plato was the West’s most important philosopher. But the two have far more in common than just importance—in fact, Plato helped set the intellectual stage for the early church.

Dean Inge, the famous professor of divinity, writes that:

Platonism is part of the vital structure of Christian theology . . . . [If people would read Plotinus, who worked to reconcile Platonism with Scripture,] they would understand better the real continuity between the old culture and the new religion, and they might realize the utter impossibility of excising Platonism from Christianity without tearing Christianity to pieces. The Galilean Gospel, as it proceeded from the lips of Jesus, was doubtless unaffected by Greek philosophy . . . . But [early Christianity] from its very beginning was formed by a confluence of Jewish and Hellenic religious ideas.” (Emphasis added)

the-works-of-platoIf you’re interested in Christianity’s origins, there are some very good reasons to be interested in Platonism:

  • Plato understood the self as divided between body and soul, with the soul more closely related to goodness and truth; this made Christianity’s later soul-body division easier to understand. (Some early Christians, like Justin Martyr, even regarded the Platonists as unknowing proto-Christians, though this conclusion was later rejected.)
  • Plato’s theory of forms prefigured the Christian understanding of heaven as a perfect world, of which the physical realm is a mere imitation.
  • Both worldviews assume the existence of absolute truth and unchanging reality; again, Plato’s thought helped prepare people for Christianity.
  • Augustine, at the end of a line of influence that began with Plato and passed through Plotinus, understood logic and reasoning—disciplines concerned with absolute truth—as important complements, not enemies, of faith. That faith-reason partnership would characterize Christianity through at least Kierkegaard. (Francis Schaeffer argues that the early existentialist brought modernity past the “line of despair” by conceiving of Christianity as accessible only through a leap of faith, beyond reasoning.)

This idea—Plato as important precursor to Christianity—is far from new.

Let’s look at a few other thinkers who’ve found Plato important:

Augustine

“The utterance of Plato, the most pure and bright in all philosophy, scattering the clouds of error . . .”

“I found that whatever truth I had read [in the Platonists] was [in the writings of Paul] combined with the exaltation of thy grace.”

Eusebius of Caesarea

“[Plato is] the only Greek who has attained the porch of (Christian) truth.”

Clement of Alexandria

“. . . before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith . . . . For God is the cause of all good things, but of some primarily, as of the Old and New Testaments; and of others by consequence, as philosophy. Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily . . . . For [philosophy] was a schoolmaster to bring ‘the Hellenic mind . . . to Christ.’ Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation, paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ.” (Emphasis added)

To Dean Inge and to the early Church Fathers, readers of Plato, let’s add one more name—C. S. Lewis, who writes:

“. . . if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about ‘isms’ and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. . . . The student . . . . feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew [that] the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.”

So, in the spirit of Lewis, let’s not comment on Plato any further. Take Lewis’ advice: go read the legendary thinker for yourself. Right now, the Works of Plato collection is on Community Pricing for $30—83% off!—which is an astonishing value for such influential texts, now in their most useful format ever.

Join Augustine, Eusebius of Caesarea, Clement of Alexandria, and C. S. Lewis.
Know your faith’s Platonic influences.
Bid on the Works of Plato collection before it leaves Community Pricing.

 
Then keep reading—what does math have to do with philosophy and culture?

Why You Should Care about Math

“Mathematics,” wrote the agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell, “is, I believe, the chief source of belief in eternal and exact truth.” Of course, there are lots of other reasons to believe in eternal, exact truth, but Russell’s getting at something really interesting: math has consequences for how we think.

Here’s the story.

Pythagoras introduces abstract numbers

PythagorasFor the ancient Greeks, math was one with metaphysics. It all started in the sixth century BC, with Pythagoras—the first of the Greeks to treat numbers as abstract entities existing in their own right. (Before him, numbering was all about the things being numbered, not the numbers themselves—as David Foster Wallace puts it, “the Babylonians and Egyptians were . . . interested in the five oranges rather than the 5.”) In fact, as Russell explains, Pythagorean numbers and math were more real than sensory reality:

“Geometry [derived from Pythagorean math] deals with exact circles, but no sensible [perceptible] object is exactly circular . . . . This suggests the view that all exact reasoning applies to ideal as opposed to sensible objects; it is natural to go further, and to argue that thought is nobler than sense, and the objects of thought more real than those of sense-perception. . . . numbers, if real at all, are eternal and not in time. Such eternal objects can be conceived as God’s thoughts.”

And here’s the important part—for pretty much the first time ever, all this reasoning started spilling over into the observed world. Russell explains:

“Geometry . . . starts with axioms which are (or are deemed to be) self-evident, and proceeds, by deductive reasoning, to arrive at theorems that are very far from self-evident. The axioms and theorems are held to be true of actual space, which is something given in experience. It thus appeared to be possible to discover things about the actual world by first noticing what is self-evident and then using deduction.” (Emphasis added)

It’s largely thanks to Greek math that we have deductive philosophy, the rigor of logic, and the scientific method. Were it not for Pythagoras, Russell writes, “theologians would not have sought logical proofs of God and immortality.” Russell’s conclusion is simple: “I do not know of any other man who has been as influential as he was in the sphere of thought.”

Plato reimagines abstraction as the theory of forms

plato-greek-mathematicsThe Pythagoreans exerted tremendous influence on Plato, whose most important innovation was the theory of forms. Plato held that what’s real in the world is not matter, not individuals, but classes, genres, species. Over two thousand years later, Schopenhauer put it like this: “Whoever hears me assert that the grey cat playing just now in the yard is the same one that did jumps and tricks there five hundred years ago will think what he likes of me, but it is a stranger form of madness to imagine that the present-day cat is fundamentally an entirely different one.”

So here’s the cool part: Plato’s forms are abstract in the same way as Pythagoras’ numbers. As Wallace puts it, “The conceptual move from ‘five oranges’ and ‘five pennies’ to the quantity five and the integer 5 is precisely Plato’s move from ‘man’ and ‘men’ to Man.” (Mathematicians who believe that numbers and mathematical relations exist on their own, outside of human conception, are even called Platonists.) Russell made the same connection: “what appears as Platonism is, when analysed, found to be in essence Pythagoreanism. [Plato’s] whole conception of an eternal world, revealed to the intellect but not to the senses, is derived from him.”

And Plato’s forms, of course, influenced pretty much the whole of Western thought. It’s partially thanks to Greek math, then, that we so readily categorize the world.

Zeno and Aristotle argue about infinity

aristotle-greek-mathematics“There is a concept,” wrote Jorge Luis Borges, “that corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite.” The story gets even more interesting with Zeno, who, working in Pythagoras’ footsteps, was the first to tease out infinity’s corrupting, upsetting properties. He was the one who argued that fleet Achilles could never catch the tortoise—that, first, Achilles would have to cover half the remaining distance, then three-quarters, then seven-eighths, forever approaching but never passing his competitor. The thrust of the problem: Achilles must occupy every point previously occupied by the tortoise, but as soon as he does, the tortoise has moved on and Achilles has—forever—another vanishingly small point left to occupy.

Aristotle, a former star pupil of Plato’s, countered by proposing two senses of the infinite: actual and potential, corresponding to extension and subdivision. No real-life distance, he said, is actually infinite; every distance is potentially so. (An irony: Aristotle also countered Plato’s forms, arguing that if two men are joined by the form Man, the men and Man have something in common—and isn’t there, then, a third form comprising men and Man? And a fourth form comprising men, Man, and the third form that joins them? Aristotle rejected Zeno’s infinite regress as merely potential; he rejected Plato’s forms using an infinite regress that is itself potential.)

Satisfied? Me neither. But, though Aristotle’s answer to Zeno isn’t that compelling, it was enormously influential—by relegating infinity’s tricky parts to the merely potential, it basically let math keep functioning in the presence of the infinite.

Calculus and set theory finish what the Greeks started

Not until Leibniz and Newton invented calculus would Western math develop the tools to start really answering Zeno. And when they did, it was Aristotle’s potential infinities that allowed for infinitesimals—quantities so small they can’t be added, yet somehow big enough to serve as divisors. (Berkeley, the famous empiricist and apologist, argued that calculus, no less than religion, comes down to faith—that “he who can digest a second or third [infinitesimal ratio] . . . need not, methinks, be squeamish about [anything] in divinity.”) Calculus’ notion of limits lets us look at a Zenoan infinite sequence—one-half, one-quarter, one-eighth, one-sixteenth—and prove that the segments add up not to infinity but to one; this answers the paradox, though not in a way that’s philosophically interesting. After all, by relying on infinitesimals, it relies on Aristotle’s old loophole-esque potential infinities.

Even more interesting is the work of Georg Cantor, who defined an infinite set as that which can be divided into subsets that are also infinite. (Cantor felt that his insights into the infinite had been directly communicated to him by God.) Because no member of the infinite set {10, 20, 30, 40 . . .} lacks a corresponding number in the infinite set {1, 2, 3, 4 . . .}, there are precisely as many multiples of ten as there are of one. The part, infinitely subdivided, is just as large as the whole; there are as many points on Zeno’s racetrack as there are in the whole universe. So check it out: after Cantor, we can conclude that Achilles, despite the longer distance ahead of him, doesn’t need to cover more points. Since both distances’ points are infinite—actually infinite, not just potentially so—the sets are 1:1 matches, and Achilles’ greater speed can win the day. For Russell, this was the first response worthy of being called a true solution.

Thanks to Pythagoras, we can think about numbers as abstract entities existing in their own right. Thanks to Plato, we can apply the same kind of abstraction to forms in general. Thanks to Zeno and Aristotle, we can complete the process of abstraction by thinking about infinity. And thanks to modern calculus (with its Aristotelian infinitesimals) and set theory (with its deeply Zenoan behavior), we can do more than just function in the presence of infinity—we can use it to solve problems.

* * *

5 reasons you should study Greek math

pythagoras-greek-mathematicsIf you’ve found this interesting, it’s worth your time to keep learning about Greek math. Here’s why:

  1. Everyone involved was enormously influential. Pythagoras was, for Russell, the single most influential person in the sphere of thought. Plato and Aristotle are widely considered the fathers of Western philosophy. Zeno’s infinite regress has become something of a philosophical testing ground—it reappears not only in Aristotle but also in Agrippa, Plotinus, Aquinas, Leibniz, Mill, Bradley, Carroll, James, Cantor, and Russell himself.
  2. Greek math contributed to Platonism, and Platonism—through Clement, Origen, Augustine, and others—influenced early Christianity.
  3. Greek math is the context for some of modernity’s most interesting thought. Modern notions of infinity make more sense when you know Zeno’s and Aristotle’s arguments.
  4. These texts represent a remarkable value. You can get the Greek Mathematical Works Collection—which sets you up to study Pythagoras, Zeno, Greek geometry, and more—on Community Pricing for just $14; that’s 58% off. Then add the Works of Plato ($30 | 83% off), and deepen your study with the Select Works of Aristotle ($100 | 62% off). For such rich material, that’s a smart investment.
  5. The Logos editions are the most useful—ever. Math, with its refutations, its shared ideas, and its centuries-long lines of influence, is part of history’s Great Conversation. To study it, you need to be able to make connections. In the past, that would have required flipping through paper books and poring over indexes; not so with Noet, Logos’ philosophy and classics division. You’ll study primary texts alongside commentaries, follow lines of thought from author to author, and record your insights with notes and highlights that show up across all your devices.

Math matters. Understand its origins with the best texts and tools.

Bid on the Greek Mathematical Works Collection, the Works of Plato, and the Select Works of Aristotle, or browse more philosophical resources at Noet.com.

 
Then keep reading—you know why math’s important; what about philosophy?

What Did Ancient Heresy Mean for the Early Church?

Last week, we looked at the Epicureans, who sought to maximize individual pleasure. Two weeks ago, we looked at the Stoics, who sought freedom from the world. Now let’s look at another competitor with early Christianity, this one much closer to home—the Gnostics.

Everyone knows that Gnosticism, popular in the first few centuries AD, was rejected as heresy. What’s really interesting is what it meant for the early church.

Evil world, secret knowledge, layered heavens

irenaeus-gnosticismGnosticism was “a system of religious thought that blended elements of Christianity with Greek philosophy and Zoroastrianism. The basic tenet is that the created world [is] evil and salvation [comes] through secret knowledge (gnosis)” (FSB). But the diversity of Gnostic schools makes the system hard to pin down. Indeed, wrote a sarcastic Irenaeus, “since their teachings and traditions are different, and the newer ones among them claim to be constantly finding something new, and working out what no one ever thought of before, it is hard to describe their views.”

So let’s look at the strangest, most interesting cosmology: that of one of the later Gnostics, Basilides.

Basilides’ heaven was not one but many, concentric. At the distant center was a single god, ruling over seven lesser gods; these seven created a heaven. They also created seven more gods and another, lower heaven, the symmetrical image of the first; the gods of this lower heaven created yet another heaven, with its sevenfold pantheon; these, another, and so on—365 heavens total. (Thus was the problem of evil resolved: by sheer distance between the world and the divine.) At the very bottom was the god of the Hebrew Bible, who, reduced 365 times over, was nothing but a demiurge—a creator god, working not with essences (like the inner gods) but with mere matter.

From there, Gnosticism was characterized by:

  • Dualism between essence and matter, light and darkness, spirit and body. (Most Gnostics, judging all things fleshly as sinful, were ascetics; others, judging all things fleshly as equally sinful, were hedonists.)
  • A focus on enlightenment. The Gnostics thought that they, through divine revelation, possessed secret knowledge that would allow them to pass from earth up through the ringed heavens—enlightenment unavailable in Scripture alone. (Enlightened souls were the only thing on Earth worth redeeming.)
  • A vastly different notion of Christ. God took mercy on darkened, matter-bound humanity, sending a redeemer—a redeemer whose body was, since flesh and pure spirit are incompatible, merely an illusion. Therefore, Jesus’ physical crucifixion was illusory, too.

History tends to record Gnosticism as a subset of Christianity, but, given these radical departures, it’s more accurate (and interesting) to regard it as a standalone worldview. That’s especially true when you consider its diverse heritage.

Where did Gnosticism come from?

plato-gnosticismGnosticism’s three great influences were Platonism, Zoroastrianism, and elements of Christianity.

  1. From Plato, the Gnostics inherited the distinction between spirit and flesh, key to the Gnostic conception of personal enlightenment. Likewise, the Platonic distinction between form and matter influenced the Gnostic distinction between an essential heaven and a material earth. And the demiurge, too, comes to Gnosticism from Plato, who imagined a creator god in his Timaeus.
  2. From Zoroastrianism, the Gnostics inherited the dualism between light and darkness. More generally, Gnostic dualism owes something to Zoroaster’s consolidation of the Iranian pantheon into opposing forces of “illuminating wisdom” and “destructive spirit.”
  3. From Christianity, Gnosticism inherited pieces but by no means the whole: Jesus, but not his physical resurrection; the Bible, but only as an untrustworthy text to be modified by aggressive misreading and supplemented by such forged additions as the Gospel of Judas. (The Gnostic tendency to modify Scripture is unsurprising—they thought of it, after all, as the work of an inferior deity, given to errors, omissions, and deceit.)

Irenaeus’ counterarguments

Alarmed by the Gnostic worldview, Irenaeus set out to disprove it in Against Heresies. He argued that:

  • The church was authoritative because of apostolic succession. According to the Gnostics, only their oral tradition, derived from the apostles, granted divine knowledge; Irenaeus countered that “The Church . . . received from the apostles and their disciples its faith.” Because the church leaders learned from people who’d learned from people who (a few steps earlier) had learned directly from Christ and his apostles, the church was to be trusted.
  • The gospel was reliable because it was written after the apostles came to divine knowledge. The Gnostics thought the gospel was written before the apostles came to full enlightenment; Irenaeus responded that, right after the Resurrection, “the Holy Spirit came upon [the apostles], and they were filled with all things and had perfect knowledge.”
  • The sheer diversity of competing Gnostic viewpoints undermined the Gnostic claim to truth. With so many Gnostics “constantly finding something new, and working out what no one ever thought of before,” how could any one be correct?

Gnosticism’s defeat was decisive—so much so that we know the school primarily through the writings of Irenaeus and other critics.

Gnosticism’s consequences

The debates over Gnosticism helped shape the early church in three ways. They contributed to:

  1. An increased focus on apostolic succession, so important to Irenaeus’ arguments.
  2. A standardized scriptural canon. In AD 150, Marcion proposed his own canon, which omitted the OT and was edited by Marcion himself. Irenaeus responded with a list of 21 canonical books, including the four Gospels.
  3. An emphasis on creeds to separate false from proper belief. The Apostles’ Creed, specifically, not only predates but also answers Gnostic heresy: “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” rejects the Gnostics’ subaltern demiurge and flawed physical world; “Jesus Christ . . . born of the virgin Mary” rejects the Gnostic conception of Jesus’ body as illusory; “I believe in the holy catholic [universal] church” rejects the Gnostic claim that enlightenment is for a select few.

Gnosticism was remarkable not only for its strangeness, its startling diversity of cosmologies, but for its historical consequences. It’s in large part thanks to Gnosticism that the third- and fourth-century Christians solidified the doctrines we now regard as orthodox; that alone makes the Gnostics worth studying.

* * *

prudentius-gnosticismIf you’re interested in church and intellectual history, you should know the rise and fall of Gnosticism. Noet sets you up with many of the school’s most important texts, as well as smart tools for better scholarship.

  1. Understand its Hellenistic origins (and the origins of so much of Western thought) with the 24-volume Works of Plato, on Community Pricing for 83% off.
  2. Examine its rise with Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.
  3. Know the arguments against heresy with Irenaeus’ Against Heresies and the Works of Prudentius (who refuted the dualism of Marcion), on Community Pricing for 73% off.

Or extend your library with Noet’s enormous Classical Foundations Bundle, which sets you up to study antiquity across philosophy, history, and literature.

Then keep reading about early-church context:


 

What if Life Were All about Pleasure?

Paul, in Acts 17:18, addresses adherents to two philosophical schools: Stoicism and the Epicureanism. We already know that the Stoics had much in common with the early Christians; not so the Epicureans, for whom life’s highest goal was individual pleasure.

But Epicureanism is worth studying as more than just early-church context. Though it fell out of favor in the third century AD, it nevertheless anticipated today’s intellectual climate in startling ways.

So, who were the Epicureans?

diogenes-laertius-lives-of-eminent-philosophers

  1. Moderates, not hedonists. “The philosophy,” notes the Faithlife Study Bible, “emphasized physical and intellectual pleasure and emotional calm (the most pleasure with the least pain).” But, though epicurean’s modern sense connotes excess, the ancients were moderates: Epicurus, quoted in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers, writes that “Nature’s wealth . . . is easy to procure; but the wealth of vain fancies recedes to an infinite distance.” Therefore,

    “When we say . . . that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality. . . . By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry . . . it is sober reasoning . . . and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.”

  2. Utilitarians. The Epicurean approach to pleasure was practical. They tolerated pain when it brought about greater pleasure; they obeyed social contracts to avoid crime’s anxiety, shame, and punishment; they did good deeds so that others might respond in kind.
  3. Empiricists. “[A]ll our notions are derived from perceptions,” wrote Epicurus, “either by actual contact or by analogy, or resemblance, or composition, with some slight aid from reasoning.” That is, the senses are the best criteria for knowledge.
  4. Atomists. They argued, notes the FSB, that “the world was made of atoms and that such material was all that the world contained.” Even the gods were made of atoms; so were souls.
  5. Believers in distant, nonintervening gods. Their gods were immortal, blissful, and almost infinitely distant—”limited beings” made from the same atomic stuff as humans, who, in their divine equanimity, didn’t care about evil and had “no real effect on the world” (FSB).
  6. Disbelievers in the afterlife. Since souls, made of atoms, disintegrate at death, and since the gods don’t care about evil, there’s no afterlife of divine punishment to fear. Instead, we should:

    “Accustom [ourselves] to believe that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply sentience, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable . . . by taking away the yearning after immortality. . . . Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.”

    For Epicurus, the fear of death was the “greatest anxiety of the human mind”—the pain most worth eliminating.

How did the Epicureans anticipate modernity?

classics-in-empiricist-philosophy-collectionAs you can see, Epicureanism disagreed with Christianity on an awful lot: cosmology, theodicy, the meaning of life.

No, its conclusions are familiar for another reason—they sound like those of modern secular culture.

  • Epicurean empiricism prefigured that of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. In fact, it even came close to anticipating the idealism of the last two, according to which only perceptions exist, not objects. Epicurus writes, “the objects presented to madmen and to people in dreams are true, for they produce effects—i.e., movements in the mind—which that which is unreal never does” (emphasis added).
  • Epicurean atomism was remarkably similar to nineteenth-century atomic chemistry: atoms as indivisible, eternal building blocks, things as mere accumulations of atoms colliding with each other. More, the Epicureans came up with a “many worlds” cosmology long before twentieth-century quantum physics did, if for different reasons. Writes Epicurus:

    “there is an infinite number of worlds, some like this world, others unlike it. . . . For the [infinite] atoms out of which a world might arise, or by which a world might be formed, have not all been expended on one world or a finite number of worlds, whether like or unlike this one.”

  • Epicureanism’s matter-of-fact approach to social living shares much with Locke’s utilitarianism, and even modern libertarianism. Since individuals are their own best judges of how to live, society means essentially “Leave me free to maximize my pleasure; in turn, since I don’t want the negative repercussions, I won’t infringe on the freedom of others.” Libertarians, sound familiar?
  • The Epicureans thought the fear of death animated the rest of life’s anxieties; in the twentieth century, Heidegger and the existentialists agreed. (Of course, from there, their conclusions differed: For the Epicureans, the fear of death was illusory, to be transcended; for the existentialists, it was key to living bravely and authentically.)

Empiricism, atomism, extreme individuality, fear of death as the root of all anxiety—what makes these parallels really interesting is that they aren’t straighforward lines of influence. From the third century AD to the sixteenth, Epicureanism was almost entirely forgotten.

* * *

lucretius-on-the-nature-of-thingsThere are two reasons you should know Epicureanism:

  1. It, with Stoicism, was a big part of the context against which early Christianity established itself. Studying it helps you understand the early church—you’ll get more out of passages like Acts 17:18 and Phil. 3:18.
  2. As we’ve seen, it’s an indirect precursor to secular modernity—one that’s even more interesting for its indirectness. Even though Epicurean philosophy is largely forgotten, modernity tends toward the Epicurean; if you’re interested in engaging the culture, you’ll want to understand this fascinating echo.

Epicurus left us very little—Diogenes Laertius lays out his thought (and quotes him at length) in Lives of Eminent Philosophers, and Lucretius, in On the Nature of Things, builds on Epicurus’ destroyed magnum opus, On Nature. Luckily for scholars, we’re building Logos editions of both through Logos’ philosophy/classics division, Noet—and, right now, you can get these foundational texts on Community Pricing for $5 each. For such rich context, that’s a tiny investment.

Study ancient thought for the best price—bid now on Lives of Eminent Philosophers and On the Nature of Things.

Then build your library with Noet’s Ancient and Modern Philosophy bundles, or deepen your study with the immense Classical Foundations Bundle—124 volumes of philosophy, history, original-language scholarship, and literature.

P.S. Still not convinced that philosophy matters?

How Ancient Thought Agreed (and Disagreed) with the Early Church

Stoicism, a school of Hellenistic thought founded in the third century BC and popular through AD 529, was more than a philosophy—it was a way of life. In this scope as a worldview, it was, writes Paul Tillich, “the only real alternative to Christianity in the Western world.”

But, fascinatingly, Stoicism shared more than scope with Christianity. It came to many of the same conclusions about how to think and live.

Who were the Stoics?

stoics-of-the-roman-era-collectionBeginning with Zeno of Citium, the Stoics located happiness not in goods or success but in virtue alone; they emphasized self-control as the path beyond destructive emotions. This self-control took the form of:

  • Meditation. The Stoics would, visualizing their personal futures, imagine the worst possible outcomes—not as distant, unlikely events, but as present sufferings. They sought to realize that even the worst misfortunes can be survived and are not worth fearing.
  • Training. They practiced rigorous physical discipline, from sexual abstinence to hard exercise to the avoidance of tempting foods.
  • Self-vigilance. They monitored their thoughts and emotions, seeking to avoid lust, greed, and ambition in favor of reason.

Seneca and Epictetus argued that a properly practicing Stoic was, in a sense, beyond misfortune. The Faithlife Study Bible’s article on Paul and the Stoics notes, “Stoics believed that the ideal sage was one who could face calamity and misfortune with casual indifference, feeling neither sorrow nor regret. Stoics were proud of their ability to endure hardships and often paraded their fortitude and strength through ‘hardship catalogs,’ which listed the adversities they had endured.” (It’s that serene indifference to misfortune that colors our modern sense of stoic.)

Similar notions of the self

If contemplation, discipline, and vigilance sound familiar, it’s because the early church and Stoicism were in so many ways alike. Both were characterized by:

  • An emphasis on hardship. As the FSB points out, Paul’s letters also feature “hardship catalogs”—for example, 2 Cor. 4:8–9 and 6:9–10. And, like the Stoics, Paul believed that enduring hardships leads to growth in character: he writes, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character” (Rom. 5:3–5; cf. 1 Cor. 9:24–27).
  • A sense of man’s depravity, and a constant self-examination. Like the early Christians, the Stoics regarded humanity’s natural state, with its lust, ambition, and other impulses, as deeply flawed. Both worldviews focused on the observation of self and the suppression of wrong thought.
  • An inner freedom from the world. Adherents to both worldviews lived apart from the world’s shortcomings and hardships. The early Christians looked with hope to the world that is to come; the Stoics reminded themselves that all is predetermined and that misfortune is illusory.
  • An aversion to excess. Since the Stoics and the Christians both regarded greed as wrong thinking, they shared a distaste for material excess. For the Stoics, mere wealth wasn’t bad—it simply wasn’t good. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions,” said Epictetus, “but in having few wants.”

Differing notions of the divine

But, though Stoicism shared much with Christianity, it differed profoundly in its account of the divine. For the Stoics, the universe was “a vast quasi-rational being with intelligence and will” (FSB), whose animating force they called (what else?) logos. They didn’t believe in the afterlife; they did believe that the universe would end and then repeat itself.

(You’ll notice that the Stoic outlook far anticipated cosmologies we regard as modern. The notion of God as the universe’s totality reappeared with Spinoza and, famously, Einstein; eternal recurrence was taken up by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.)
reading-mark

Of course, Christianity’s and Stoicism’s distinct understandings of divinity entailed differing ways of life. Sharyn Dowd, in Reading Mark, notes that:

The Stoics . . . were also determinists; they believed that everything that happened was caused by the universal divine logos that pervaded and controlled all nature and human life. Therefore, the Stoics did not believe in petitionary prayer. People should accept the life circumstances decreed for them by the divine and not seek to change those circumstances in any way. (Emphasis added)

Even the Christian ascetics, so like the Stoics in their emphasis on discipline and their distaste for worldly excess, operated within different spheres and worked toward different goals:

  • For the Stoics, the work of self-examination was largely private. For the early Christian ascetics, penance and self-examination were deeply public, instantiated in professions of faith and confessions.
  • The Stoics sought self-control in order to master the self. The ascetics sought self-control in order to renounce the self.
  • For the Stoics, dependence on the world was to be replaced by dependence on oneself—”The wise person,” taught Seneca, “is self-sufficient.” Paul, in contrast, taught that Christians are profoundly dependent on God (FSB).
  • For the Stoics, love was at best suspect, toxic to self-sufficiency. For Paul and the early Christians, love was everything (FSB).

But despite these key differences, the parallels between Stoicism and Christianity—an emphasis on hardship, an understanding of humanity as innately flawed, a vigilant self-examination, an inner freedom, an aversion to excess—are remarkable.

* * *

diogenes-laertius-lives-of-eminent-philosophersStoicism was the immediate context within which early Christianity flourished—the great alternative in terms of scope as a worldview, the status quo that the church rejected in radical ways. To know the one is to better know the other.

Noet offers the key Stoic texts in the Stoics of the Roman Era Collection (currently 81% off on Community Pricing!), which sets you up with the core works of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. The early Stoics—Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus—left us less, but we can still study them in Diogenes Laertius’ invaluable Lives of Eminent Philosophers, on Community Pricing for 83% off.

Keep learning about Stoicism and Greco-Roman context: place your bids on the Stoics of the Roman Era Collection and Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers.

Then deepen your library with Noet’s vast Classical Foundations Bundle—39 volumes of essential ancient and modern philosophy, 21 volumes of Greek and Latin resources, the famous Harvard Classics (designed as a Harvard education on a five-foot shelf), and the 1,114-volume Perseus Classics Collection.

P.S. Still not convinced that philosophy matters?

Latin Scholars: Save on Key Resources Before Prices Go Up!

Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic aren’t the only ancient languages of theological importance. Many of the church’s richest texts were written in Latin—Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and far more. That wealth of early-Christian content makes learning Latin a valuable investment in your studies.

And for a little while longer, you can get Pre-Pub savings on two educational collections from Focus Publishing / R. Pullins, plus even deeper Community Pricing discounts on Latin primary sources and the famous Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary!

27% off the Introduction to Latin Collection

introduction-to-latin-collectionThis three-volume collection, an up-to-date first-year college grammar, gives you everything you need to learn and teach the language. The companion workbook adds challenging exercises, extensive vocab lists, and comprehensive English–Latin and Latin–English glossaries. You’ll also get By Roman Hands, a look at Latin inscriptions and graffiti as they appeared on Roman monuments, walls, and tombs. The result is an innovative union of language and culture—one that prepares you to grasp and discuss Latin nuance. Pre-order now and get 27% off!

30% off the New Steps in Latin Collection

new-steps-in-latin-collectionThese three volumes, designed for beginning students, set aside abstract grammatical principles in favor of need-to-know grammar, morphology, and syntax. Each volume consists of 30 lessons intended for a year-long course in Latin; the collection deals with numerous Latin documents, helping you learn in context. The vocabulary is based on Cicero, Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny the Younger, so once you’ve worked through the New Steps, you’ll be ready to explore the classics. Pre-order now and get 30% off!

70% (or more!) off Latin primary sources

You’ve learned Latin. Now it’s time to polish your skills with some of the West’s greatest authors. You can pick up these primary sources for 70% off or more—and with more bids, prices could go even lower.

  • Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things | currently 72% off
    Lucretius’ only surviving work aligns with the Epicurean philosophy against divine intervention. This book, the primary source of modern knowledge on Epicurean thought, played an important role in the development of Atomism.
  • Works of Prudentius (4 vols.) | currently 73% off
    Prudentius, the famous fourth-century hymnist and poet, influenced such famous works as the Divine Comedy, Everyman, and The Pilgrim’s Progress. In his collected works, you’ll find his thoughts on Christ’s divinity, Marcion’s gnostic dualism, and the Bible’s iconic scenes.
  • Latin Language and Culture Collection (18 vols.) | currently 74% off
    Study On the Latin Language (one of the earliest ventures into linguistics), Remains of Old Latin (a freezeframe of Latin in the making), and Attic Nights (a look at the intersection of Latin language and Roman culture).
  • Pliny’s Natural History (20 vols.) | currently 80% off
    Across 37 volumes, Pliny the Elder covers botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, geography, mineralogy, and more. This is a crucial source of information on the Roman era’s characteristics and technological advances.
  • Works of Ovid and Horace (16 vols.) | currently 83% off
    Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a mythological history of the world, is regarded as one the most influential poems in history; Horace’s witty, serious poems, wildly successful in their time, have remained popular through the ages.

82% off Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary

lewis-and-shorts-latin-dictionaryYou have the Latin skills. You have the primary sources. Now you’re ready to take advantage of the best Latin dictionary. Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary, better known as “Lewis and Short,” covers the classical through late-medieval periods. You’ll get 2,000-plus pages of lexical data, contextual examples, and Logos’ smart tagging—when you come across unfamiliar Latin words in tagged texts, you can jump to definitions quickly and easily.

This classic resource won’t be on Community Pricing for long. Bid now at 82% off!

Study theology and church history in the original Latin: invest in these resources before the prices go up.

Or keep reading—how well do you know the sophists?