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Men are so made as to resent nothing more impatiently than to be treated as criminal on account of opinions which they deem true, and charged as guilty for simply what wakes their affection to God and men. Hence, laws about opinions are aimed not at the base but at the noble, and tend not to restrain the evil-minded but rather to irritate the good, and can not be enforced without great peril to the Government…. What evil can be imagined greater for a State, than that honorable men, because they have thoughts of their own and can not act a lie, are sent as culprits into exile! What more baneful than that men, for no guilt or wrongdoing, but for the generous largeness of their mind, should be taken for enemies and led off to death, and that the torture-bed, the terror of the bad, should become, to the signal shame of authority, the finest stage for the public spectacle of endurance and virtue!

—Benedict Spinoza

The word philosophy means the love of truth: “philo,” love; “soph,” truth; or, if you prefer, the love of that which is reasonable and right. Philosophy refers directly to the life of man–how shall we live so as to get the most out of this little Earth-Journey!

Life is our heritage–we all have so much vitality at our disposal–what shall we do with it?

Truth can be proved in just one way, and no other–that is, by living it. You know what is good, only by trying. Truth, for us, is that which brings good results–happiness or reasonable content, health, peace and prosperity. These things are all relative–none are final, and they are good only as they are mixed in right proportion with other things. Oxygen, we say, is life, but it is also death, for it attacks every living thing with pitiless persistency. Hydrogen is good, but it makes the very hottest fire known, and may explode if you try to confine it.

Prosperity is excellent, but too much is very dangerous to most folks; and to seek happiness as a final aim is like loving love as a business–the end is desolation, death. Good health is best secured and retained by those who are not anxious about health. Absolute good can never be known, for always and forever creeps in the suspicion that if we had acted differently a better result might have followed.

And that which is good for one is not necessarily good for another.

But there are certain general rules of conduct which apply to all men, and to sum these up and express them in words is the business of the philosopher. As all men live truth, in degree, and all men express some truth in language, so to that extent all men are philosophers; but by common assent, we give the title only to the men who make other men think for themselves.

Whistler refers to Velasquez as “a painter’s painter.” John Wesley said, “No man is worthy to be called a teacher, unless he be a teacher of teachers.” The great writer is the one who inspires writers. And in this book I will not refer to a man as a philosopher unless he has inspired philosophers.

Preachers and priests in the employ of a denomination are attorneys for the defense. God is not found in a theological seminary, for very seldom is the seminary seminal–it galvanizes the dead rather than vitalizes the germs of thought in the living. No man understands theology–it is not intended to be understood; it is merely believed. Most colleges are places where is taught the gentle art of sophistication; and memorizing the theories of great men gone passes for knowledge.

Words are fluid and change their meaning with the years and according to the mind and mood of the hearer. A word means all you read into it, and nothing more. The word “soph” once had a high and honorable distinction, but now it is used to point a moral, and the synonym of sophomore is soft.