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When Everything Old Is New Again

Published: April 1, 2012

This February, Leonard Cohen, 1960s philosopher and guru to a generation of aging baby boomers, released his 12th album, titled Old Ideas.

Aristotle It was his first in eight years. Historic in its own way, the album also represents something new ... the rebirth of something old.

These days, everything old is new again. In Cohen's lyrics ("Show me the place where the world became a man; show me the place where the suffering began.") and in philosophical texts turned popular reading (such as The Latest Answers to the Oldest Questions: A Philosophical Adventure With the World's Greatest Thinkers by Nicholas Fearn) the world is rediscovering our debt to ancient thinkers.

Take Thales. This philosopher, who lived around 585 BC, was the father of the idea that everything is one.

Acknowledged as such by Nietzsche, Thales foreshadowed later Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, who effectively shaped our ideas of the universe.

In fact, our current notion of the holistic world had its origin with the ancient Greeks, whose worldview bound together philosophy and politics with culture and science.

Albert Einstein neatly summed up our debt to those who came before, stating, "We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium."

The distance from ancient Greece to the Middle Ages to our current iPad, the world is not as far as it seems.

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