- Debate was held
- March 17 at 9:05pm – March 25/31 (?)
- The greatest philosopher that ever lived is?
- A great question to start an argument among philosophers!
- I think it should be aristotle.
- Actually, I'd say that it's possibly an unanswerable question. Aristotle was certainly one of the greats, but he was standing on the shoulders of those who had gone before. Socrates was a seminal figure whose voice echoes throughout history, but didn't come up with a system like Aristotle - but he didn't have as much previous philosophy to work with. Plato still has followers today and the literary and pedagogical value of his surviving works is outstanding. Thomas Aquinas created a synthesis of much of the philosophy that proceeded him, including Aristotle, and used it brilliantly in theology, but he had more than a thousand years of other thinkers to learn from. And that's just to name a few of the my favorites among the big contenders.
So, who is greater? The pioneer who goes where no one has gone before? The systematizers who bring together many insights from many thinkers into a new whole with their own new contributions? Those who inspire most people to take up philosophy? I guess it comes down to the question: what is greatness? And, what is greatness in philosophy? Ergo, philosophandum est!
(Note: Aristotle was historically very close to Socrates, but a lot was happening in philosophy at that time. Aristotle possibly wouldn't have been as great as he was without Plato, nor Plato without Socrates.)
- Good comment! i would love to learn more from you. i just gained admission to study classics in the university! can i add you as a friend?
- «Aristotle», you can add me as a friend, but don't expect too much on-line philosophizing from me nowadays... I'm (unfortunately) not working in that field anymore. However, I might throw out the occasional pithy comment!
I honestly don't know that much about Confucius. In my philosophical studies, we only got a quick overview of him in history of philosophy class, never to revisit him again. Very Eurocentric.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
- Do you have to be a halfway decent, humane person to be a great philosopher?
- WAIT? Someone mentioned Witty?
New blog on the kid : Quand Witty ne l'était pas
- Plato, Aristotle, Kant — it is generally agreed by historians of philosophy that these 3 stand alone: you cannot add any other name to this sentence without diminishing the level. All others are second or third tier.
- Like I say, a great way to start an argument among philosophers.
- No, the argument would come with what 5 you want to put in the 2nd tier: Augustine, Descartes, Wittgenstein, Marx, Heidegger.
- In absolute terms it is impossible to say who is the the best as it depends on one's own philosophical preferences.
- See? We're arguing!
(Which, I should say, is not a bad thing. Philosophy wouldn't go anywhere without differences of opinion and discussion.)
- "it is generally agreed by historians of philosophy that these 3 stand alone: you cannot add any other name to this sentence without diminishing the level."?
Kant among the three?
I'd say Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Bishop Tempier, C S Lewis.
Adding Kant would be lowering.
- Aquinas does not rate because he depended on Aristotle so much. CS Lewis . . . you've got to be kidding me, HGL. You'd have to dig pretty far to find the last time a graduate seminar in a philosophy department was offered on Mr. Lewis — if ever; whereas you'd have to look equally as hard to find a major department that did not have a Kant specialist (or 2) on staff. I suppose there would be an objective way to settle this, if any librarian knew how to search for sheer number of scholarly publications devoted to the individuals recognized as philosophical giants. Your list suggests a certain Catholic-Christian bias: and Theology and Philosophy are generally viewed as separate disciplines.
- Although I like Aquinas more than Kant, it's true that he relied a great deal on Aristotle, and part of his greatness comes precisely from his genius at using Aristotelian philosophy to systematize and explain Catholic theology. Kant doesn't come out of nowhere either - he also uses and builds on others' ideas - but his thought is more original and more strictly philosophical, and hence influential across the board (I think one can safely say that more Catholics continue to be influenced by Kant than non-Catholics by Aquinas).
- "Aquinas does not rate because he depended on Aristotle so much."
Not too much to correct, even [searching arguments] from Plato, and from others and [from] himself and [from] Scripture, [the] Aristotelians who depended MORE on Aristotle [than he did]. Namely the Sorbonne Averroists.
"CS Lewis . . . you've got to be kidding me, HGL. You'd have to dig pretty far to find the last time a graduate seminar in a philosophy department was offered on Mr. Lewis — if ever"
I was talking about great philosophers according to objective greatness, not according to the rankings of graduate seminars.
The fact that you include Kant as one of the great, when he was in more than one respect a klutz and incompetent, since incapable of seizing distinctions, says something about the lopsidedness of your seminars.
The one point which he had was the transcendental argument for God, which CSL presents more corectly in Miracles.
"whereas you'd have to look equally as hard to find a major department that did not have a Kant specialist (or 2) on staff."
Oh, I totally believe you. So?
"I suppose there would be an objective way to settle this, if any librarian knew how to search for sheer number of scholarly publications devoted to the individuals recognized as philosophical giants. Your list suggests a certain Catholic-Christian bias: and Theology and Philosophy are generally viewed as separate disciplines."
The librarians would certainly objectively find out the bias of philosophy departments.
St Thomas Aquinas considered Revealed Theology and Natural Theology (a k a Metaphysics) as two related but still distinct disciplines.
As far as I know, the only way of being unbiassed for or against Catholicism in any field it touches (including obviously very many ones of Philosophy) would be to be unaware of it. Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Buddha, Krishna, Odin, Epicure, Zeno were philosophers unbiassed about Catholicism. Very hard to say that about Kant : he was certainly biassed against both St Thomas Aquinas and the Galileo judges.
"I think one can safely say that more Catholics continue to be influenced by Kant than non-Catholics by Aquinas"
Not sure. CSL and Lyndon LaRouche are at least as influenced by Aquinas as by Kant. And Kantian Catholics ... sure they count as Catholics? I have very great doubts about Schoenborn, who disfigures the archbishop function at Vienna.
- Odin a philosopher? Or Krishna? Both belong to the sphere of mythology. Of course one can admire the Bhagavad Gita, but to infer from that the reality of Krishna is a bit strange..
- I infer the reality of Krishna from the context of Mahabharata.
Not sure whether Kurukshetra War was really pre-Flood (as Krishna's death was 155 or 135 years before the Flood, counting after their Kali Yuga reckoning) or whether it was post-Flood, in which a literal recording of Bhagavad Gita after event is likelier to have occurred, but in which case bragging has added antiquity to the time elpased since events and universality to their geographic scale. Either way, someone wrote or said the words of Bhagavad Gita, which I do by the way not admire, and that someone is in Hindoo tradition supposed to have been Krishna, more precisely during his mortal life.
If the original was pre-Flood, which I doubt, it would have been translated from Hebrew to Sanskrit also.
I could have added Caesar to the likes of Odin and Krishna, except that Caesar was hardly a philosopher; rather a man of action.
Havamal, if by Odin, was certainly translated from the Proto-Norse language (or other languages available to him around the time of Caesar) to the Old Norse we find it in. Here we have Nordic tradition tracing the genealogy of Ynglings to Odin's stepson Yngwe who was also deified as "Frey". In these cases, like the Krishna case, there is also a clear tradition of the supposed "god" ceasing to live among men, and when it was written down by Christians like Snorri or Saxo at least, it involved the false gods dying and their promoters making false claims about what happened agfter they died.
In Krishna's case the poet says he had a vision of Krishna being received by the gods and hailed as greater than them - a vision which as Christian I believe was diabolic.
Though Odin was very unwise to pose as a god, Havamal is the work of a man with some wisdom.
Some needs emendation:
"Better burden, beareth no man
than much manly wit"
Well, what about the Cross of Christ? But that level was hardly accessible to a man who sunk so low as to pose falsely as a god and deceive Swedes to get a crown.
But some (yes, I have read Hávamál but not Bhagavad) is good as it is:
"Die farm beasts, die friends,
die wilt thou the same
One thing I know which never dieth:
doom over dead man"
(it is appointed for man to die and then judgement).