Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, August 29, 2016

Happy birthday, John Locke & Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

It's the birthday of the man who said, "The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts": British philosopher John Locke (books by this author), born in Wrington, Somerset, England (1632). He believed all of our knowledge is derived from the senses. He also believed that we can know about morality with the same precision we know about math, because we create our ideas. His Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1688) was an instant success and sparked debate all across Europe.

Locke said, "Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours."

And, 

It's the birthday of the man who said, "Love is the master-key that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most easily of all, the gate of fear. How terrible is the one fact of beauty!" That's 19th-century poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (books by this author), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1809).

He ran in the same circles as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and other Boston intellectuals. He helped found The Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1857, and it was Holmes himself who came up with the name. He published his poetry and articles in The Atlantic Monthly at the same time he practiced medicine and taught at Harvard Medical School. He's also the father of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

He's perhaps best-known for his essays that make up the "Breakfast Table" series. In The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1872) he wrote, "We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible."

He said: "Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked. Good mental machinery ought to break its own wheels and levers, if anything is thrust among them suddenly which tends to stop them or reverse their motion. A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad."

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