"quality of perceiving a complex organization of things or events as an organized whole and also as more than the sum of the parts," 1922, from German Gestaltqualität (1890, introduced in philosophy by German philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels, 1859-1932), from German gestalt "shape, form, figure, configuration, appearance," abstracted from ungestalt "deformity," noun use of adj. ungestalt "misshapen," from gestalt, obsolete past participle of stellen "to set, place, arrange," from Old High German stellen, from Proto-Germanic *stalljanan, from PIE root *stel- "to put, stand, put in order," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place. As a school of psychology, it was founded c. 1912 by M. Wertheimer, K. Koffka, W. Köhler.
1853, "unselfishness, devotion to the welfare of others, opposite of egoism," from French altruisme, coined or popularized 1830 by French philosopher Auguste Comte, with -ism + autrui (Old French altrui) "of or to others," from Latin alteri, dative of alter "other" (see alter). The -l- is perhaps an etymological reinsertion from the Latin word.
There is a fable that when the badger had been stung all over by bees, a bear consoled him by a rhapsodic account of how he himself had just breakfasted on their honey. The badger replied peevishly, "The stings are in my flesh, and the sweetness is on your muzzle." The bear, it is said, was surprised at the badger's want of altruism. ["George Eliot," "Theophrastus Such," 1879]
when two competing hypotheses explain the data equally well, choose the simpler. Or, as Sir William Hamilton puts it, "Neither more, nor more onerous, causes are to be assumed, than are necessary to account for the phenomena." Named for English philosopher William of Ockham or Occam (c. 1285-c. 1349), "The Invincible Doctor," who expressed it with Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter neccssitatem.
So called after William of Occam (died about 1349): but, as a historical fact, Occam does not make much use of this principle, which belongs rather to the contemporary nominalist William Durand de St. Pourçain (died 1332). [Century Dictionary]
"a spider's web," early 14c., coppewebbe; the first element is Old English -coppe, in atorcoppe "spider," literally "poison-head" (see attercop). Spelling with -b- is from 16c., perhaps from cob. Cob as a stand-alone for "a spider" was an old word nearly dead even in dialects when J.R.R. Tolkien used it in "The Hobbit" (1937).
Figurative use for "something flimsy and easily broken through" is by 1570s. Plutarch attributes to Anacharsis, the 6c. B.C.E. Scythian-born philosopher in Athens, the statement, variously given, that laws were like cobwebs that entangled the little flies but wasps and hornets never failed to break through them. An old Norfolk term for a misty morning was cobweb-morning (1670s).
1590s, "pertaining to Pyrrho" (Greek Pyrrhōn, c. 360-c. 275 B.C.E.), skeptic philosopher of Elis, who held the impossibility of attaining certainty of knowledge. The name means "reddish" or "red-haired," from pyrrhos "flame-colored," from pyr "fire" (from PIE root *paewr- "fire"). Related: Pyrrhonism; Pyrrhonist.
The doctrine of Pyrrho was that there is just as much to be said for as against any opinion whatever ; that neither the senses nor the reason are to be trusted in the least ; and that when we are once convinced we can know nothing, we cease to care, and in this way alone can attain happiness. It is said that Pyrrho would take no ordinary practical precautions, such as getting out of the way of vehicles. [Century Dictionary]
a word used in philosophy and metaphysics of systems of thought which deduce all phenomena from a single principle (1832); also "the doctrine that only one being exists" (1862), from German Monism (by 1818) or directly from Modern Latin monismus, from Greek monos "alone" (from PIE root *men- (4) "small, isolated"); also see -ism. First used in German by German philosopher Baron Christian von Wolff (1679-1754), who applied it to those who deny the substantiality either of mind or matter. Fowler defines it as "any view of that makes the universe consist of mind with matter as a form of mind, or of matter with mind as a form of matter, or of a substance that in every part of it is neither mind nor matter but both," and writes that it is a contrast to dualism.
"of or in the mode of James," 1875 in reference to William James (1842-1910), U.S. philosopher and exponent of pragmatism; 1905 in reference to his brother Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. expatriate novelist.
[T]he long sentences piling themselves up in elaborate phrase after phrase, the lightning incision, the pauses, the slightly shaking admonitory gesture with its ‘wu-await a little, wait a little, something will come’; blague and benignity and the weight of so many years’ careful, incessant labour of minute observation always there to enrich the talk. I had heard it but seldom, yet it is all unforgettable. […] No man who has not lived on both sides of the Atlantic can well appraise Henry James; his death marks the end of a period. [Ezra Pound, from “Henry James,” Little Review, August 1918]
From 1610s in English in the sense "belonging to the classical Academy in Athens." Meaning "theoretical, not practical, not leading to a decision" (such as university debates or classroom legal exercises) is from 1886. In the arts, "rigidly conforming to academic style," 1889. Academic freedom "liberty of a teacher to state opinions openly without fear of retribution," is attested from 1901. Related: Academical; academically; academicalism (1874); Johnson has academial.
As a noun, "student in college or university life," 1580s (Latin academicus, Greek akademikoi meant "Academic philosopher"). Also academian (1590s), while academician (1746) mostly was confined to members of the old societies for the promotion of sciences and arts.
"one who makes use of fallacious arguments," mid-15c., earlier sophister (late 14c.), from Latin sophista, sophistes, from Greek sophistes "a master of one's craft; a wise or prudent man, one clever in matters of daily life," from sophizesthai "to become wise or learned," from sophos "skilled in a handicraft, cunning in one's craft; clever in matters of everyday life, shrewd; skilled in the sciences, learned; clever; too clever," of unknown origin. Greek sophistes came to mean "one who gives intellectual instruction for pay," and at Athens, contrasted with "philosopher," it became a term of contempt.
Sophists taught before the development of logic and grammar, when skill in reasoning and in disputation could not be accurately distinguished, and thus they came to attach great value to quibbles, which soon brought them into contempt. [Century Dictionary]
"student of plants and animals," c. 1600, from French naturaliste, from natural (see natural (adj.)). Earlier "one who studies natural, rather than spiritual, things" (1580s). A Middle English word for "natural philosopher or scientist" was naturien (late 14c.).
[The naturalist on expedition, pursued by a Nile crocodile, has climbed a palm tree for safety.]
Suddenly he experienced a new shudder of terror, as he remembered an article which he had inserted in the Belfast Review, and in which he had himself declared that crocodiles climb trees like cats. He would gladly have thrown this article into the fire, but it was too late, all Belfast had read it, it had been translated into Arabic and no Oriental author had yet refuted it, not even at Crocodilopolis. [Graham's Magazine, November 1855]