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7/14/2005

Marx is not the greatest philosopher

Longtime friend of this blog and all-around good guy Socialist Swine reports that the BBC has announced the results of its 'Greatest Philosophers' poll. The top 10:

1. Karl Marx
2. David Hume
3. Ludwig Wittgenstein
4. Friedrich Nietzsche
5. Plato
6. Immanuel Kant
7. St. Thomas Aquinas
8. Socrates
9. Aristotle
10. Karl Popper

The Swine critiques the list, taking issue with Marx, Plato (??), and Socrates. He also names his own top 10, as well as his 'bottom 10' - i.e., "people that I'm surprised are read by anyone and whom I think people mistakenly describe as philosophers." This is a fun game, so I'm going to steal his idea and list my own favorite and least favorite philosophers.

My top 10 philosophers of all time:

1. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Reading Wittgenstein will change the way you read every other philosopher. It will also save you a lot of work, as you will realize that the majority of philosophers make the same mistakes over and over again.

2. Immanuel Kant. He's Kant. You could spend a lifetime trying to get straight on what he was saying - and many people do. And it's worth it.

3. Plato. He's Plato. "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato." - Alfred North Whitehead.

4. Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche got so much right it's scary. Reading Nietzsche can shed light on almost any contemporary philosophical issue. And he said it all with style!

5. David Hume. Hume seems oddly contemporary even two and a half centuries later.

6. John Stuart Mill. Has more or less set the agenda for moral philosophy. Plus, managed to have a nervous breakdown without anyone noticing.

7. Baruch Spinoza. Nietzsche's 'precursor'; understood there was no God apart from Nature - and vice versa.

8. Plotinus. Western philosophy's first real mystic. Said cool stuff like: "We ourselves possess beauty when we are true to our own being; our ugliness is in going over to another order; our self-knowledge, that is to say, is our beauty; in self-ignorance we are ugly."

9. Arthur Schopenhauer. One miserable SOB. Hated Hegel. Said stuff like: "We can regard our life as a uselessly disturbing episode in the blissful repose of nothingness."

10. Bertrand Russell. Set the agenda for analytic philosophy; it is quite possible that without Russell, there would be no Wittgenstein. Is regarded by some as an advocate of materialism, but is more accurately described as a neutral monist - perhaps even a panexperientialist. Also, he and his wife were swingers.

Honorable mention: Rene Descartes, George Berkeley, Soren Kierkegaard, Gottfried Leibniz, John Locke, Alfred North Whitehead.


Now, my 10 least favorite philosophers of all time, in descending order of suckiness:

1. Patricia Churchland. Not so much a philosopher as a wannabe-scientist. Makes terrible arguments. Clearly thinks very highly of herself.

2. Saul Kripke. Actually an extremely bright guy, but he is responsible for the current obsession with semantics, an obsession that seems to have permeated almost every branch of philosophy. Also, is rumored to be a perv.

3. Martin Heidegger. I haven't actually read Heidegger, but he was a Nazi, and being a Nazi means you suck.

4. Hilary Putnam. Shares part of the blame with Kripke for the preoccupation with semantics.

5. WVO Quine. Said that atoms are on an ontological par with Homer's gods. Also just rubs me the wrong way.

6. Ayn Rand. "Fuck all y'all" is not a philosophy. Hated Kant and Native Americans. Had to write her views in novel form. Said shit like: "I am. Therefore I Think."

7. Ferdinand de Saussure. Just because.

8. Jacques Lacan. Makes no fucking sense. His followers will admit this, too. They suck.

9. Paul Churchland. More of a philosopher than his wife, and his arguments aren't quite as bad. But at the end of the day, he's wrong about almost everything, and his program is basically the same as Patty's.

10. Jean-Paul Sartre. Haven't really read Sartre, but that eye really creeps me the fuck out.

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