Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Oh boy, another list!

As you may already be aware (see here and here and here, and links therefrom), the BBC has polled us all, philosophers and laity alike, in order to elect the Greatest Philosopher of All Time (so far).

Here is the resulting ranking:
1. Karl Marx [in a walk, apparently]
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
Except for #s 1 and 10, this is a decent list, better than one might expect. It's not particularly informative, though, given the vagueness of "greatest." In coming up with my own list, I used more specific, if also subjective, criteria: points were awarded for influence (on me, past or current), present usefulness (again, for me), general importance, and other assorted intangibles.
1. Wittgenstein
2. Donald Davidson
3. John McDowell
4. Kant
5. Nietzsche
6. Dewey
7. Gilles Deleuze
8. Aristotle
9. J. L. Austin
10. Stanley Cavell
Honorable mention [points awarded for: same as above, plus (if the philosopher is relatively new to me at present) estimated future usefulness]: Putnam, Rorty, Peirce, James, Isaac Levi, Robert Brandom, Dennett, Danto, Anscombe, Frege, Heraclitus, Zhuangzi, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Gadamer, Schleiermacher, Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, Jennifer Hornsby, Charles Taylor, John Haugeland, D. Z. Phillips. Okay, I'll stop now.

Bottom five [using analogously subjective criteria]:
1. Colin McGinn
2. Jerry Fodor
3. Ayn Rand [but see Dr. P's comments here]
4. David Stove
5. Jean Baudrillard
Also: Kripke, Husserl, Michael Devitt, Churchland(s)

Opponents; that is, very good philosophers who are, in some important way, wrong, wrong, wrong, and helpful despite/because of their errors (see my earlier post about this phenomenon):
1. Barry Stroud
2. John Searle
3. Roger Scruton
4. Crispin Sartwell
5. W. V. O. Quine
6. Philip Kitcher (or Dennett in his specifically naturalistic moods)
7. Plato et seq.
8. P. F. Strawson (on some subjects)
9, 10. Descartes and his contemporary minion Thomas Nagel
For Sartwell's own idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, see here.


Clark Goble said...

I have to agree that outside of 1 and 10 it wasn't as bad as I feared. But those two entries were so bad that it's hard to justify it all. I mean Marx?!?!? Come on.

I like your list, although I confess I know next to nothing about John McDowell. Perhaps you ought write about him?

I keep trying to get into Deleuze but haven't quite managed it yet. I need to since I've enjoyed some of the shorter excerpts by him I've read. But he definitely has prose that is very dense and a lot of work to read. I typically can only manage a few people like that.

Fully agree with you on Baudrillard. I read two or three of his books after seeing him in the Matrix. Lousy trivial stuff IMO.

Duck said...

I'm working up to writing on McDowell, promise. Deleuze is very hard. There are two ways in: via his (idiosyncratically interpreted) likes (Nietzsche, Spinoza, Bergson, Hume, Lucretius, etc.) and dislikes (Kant, Hegel), and via younger interpreters and fans (try Manuel Delanda). I'm almost ready for Difference and Repetition, which seems to be the key work. The stuff with Guattari is more fun, but it's hard to know how seriously to take it. Try the "Rhizome" chapter of Mille Plateaux.

Clark Goble said...

I think that was my problem. I tried to do Difference and Repetition which I have sitting on the shelf here mocking me. I thought because of my background with Derrida, Peirce and semiotics it would be an easier read than it was. It's definitely one a notebook and constant rereading of previous passages demands.