Who is the worst philosopher? + How is philosophy useful? + B Russell & common sense

#1
Bertrand Russell & Common Sense for Savages: Stephen Leach considers what Bertrand Russell thought about common sense & reality – and how the one does not necessarily show you the other.
https://philosophynow.org/issues/135/Ber...or_Savages

EXCERPT (Stephen Leach): Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) believed that reality is knowable, but ordinary language is apt to deceive us as to its nature. For example, an assertion about ‘the present king of France’ is understandable, but ‘the present king of France’ does not denote an entity in the real world, and so anything said about ‘him’ that implies his existence will be false. Misleading assertions such as these are likely to entangle the unwary philosopher; but, Russell believed, an ideal language, discovered through careful logical analysis and rigorously applied, would prevent us from being deceived.

At the turn of the twentieth century he set out to formulate this ideal language [...] Given his view of the misleading nature of ordinary language, one might expect Russell to have been extremely wary of common sense, which after all is invariably expressed in ordinary language. However that is not quite Russell’s view. [...] However, this tolerance of common sense as at least providing the starting point of an investigation does not seem to chime with one of the most famous of Russell quotations: “Common sense is the metaphysics of savages.” Intrigued by this disparity, I have searched for the original source of this quotation. It seems to first occur not in Russell’s writings, but in a paraphrase of Russell’s views by the American theologian Douglas Clyde MacIntosh, in 1915... (MORE - details)



Is there anything especially expert about being a philosopher?
https://aeon.co/ideas/is-there-anything-...hilosopher

EXCERPT (Sam Dresser): Outside a university setting, telling people that I’m pursuing a career in philosophy can be a bit of a conversation stopper. More times than I can count, I’ve faced the bemused but well-intentioned question: ‘How is that useful?’ I seem like a nice guy, smart, capable – why am I intent on doing something that won’t make me rich and won’t in any appreciable way make the world a better place?

This sort of befuddlement afflicts labourers in the humanities more generally. In contrast with the ‘hard’ disciplines of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), the humanities are often disparaged as ‘soft’. You don’t need an advanced degree to read a novel, the thinking goes, so why bother?

What do these adjectives ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ denote? The ‘hardness’ is often glossed in terms of difficulty, but there’s nothing easy about work in the humanities – as my students often learn to their dismay, after turning in the first essay in which they confidently claim that the topics we’re studying are ‘subjective’ or ‘relative’ and therefore not open to rigorous critical scrutiny. It might be closer to the truth to say that the ‘hardness’ of the STEM fields is owing to their more technical nature, even if the humanities disciplines also have their technical aspects, as anyone who’s taken a course in logic or struggled with scansion can attest. But that answer just invites a further question: what is it about the STEM disciplines that requires a greater density of technical apparatus?

Let me work toward an answer to this question by way of an analogy. [See article for elaboration.]

[...] So how is philosophy useful? The response I’ve learned to counter with is that the question being asked is itself a philosophical question. One of the things we do in philosophy is precisely to ask what’s worth doing and why. For the most part, my questioners have already presupposed a fairly limited set of acceptable answers to the question of what’s worth doing – answers that generally bottom out in the material wellbeing of oneself and others. But those answers, innocuous as they might seem to the speaker, are philosophical answers to a philosophical question.

In other words, we’re all doing philosophy all the time. We can’t escape the question of what matters and why: the way we’re living is itself our implicit answer to that question. A large part of a philosophical training is to make those implicit answers explicit, and then to examine them rigorously. Philosophical reflection, once you get started in it, can seem endlessly demanding. But if we can’t avoid living philosophically, it seems sensible to learn to do it well. (MORE - details)



Question of the Month: Who Is The Worst Philosopher?
https://philosophynow.org/issues/135/Who...hilosopher

Jonathan Tipton (Preston, Lancashire): . . . So, who is ‘the worst philosopher’? It is difficult to say, as there are so many poor ones from whom to choose, and the decision will reflect your own personal interests and perspectives. But I would suggest Ayn Rand...

[...] D.E. Tarkington (Bellevue, Nebraska): My first impulse is to stab a sacred cow: Friedrich Nietzsche. He tended to work from a position of fancy and romanticism, thinking that he was more ready for action than he really was. [...] The next logical choice, being a source of Nietzsche’s fancy, would be Herbert Spencer, for his Social Darwinism. But Spencer is too discredited to be worth wasting this opportunity to internationally air my contempt. Therefore I would turn towards a more recent expression of Spencer’s Social Darwinism: Ayn Rand. I do so because she has been a major influence on our social, economic, and political life; and she did so by appealing to the same fancy as Spencer and Nietzsche...

[...] Frank S. Robinson (Albany, New York): ... If, however, by ‘worst philosopher’, you mean the most pernicious, that’s surely Friedrich Nietzsche. Of course that does not refer to everything he wrote and others may have spouted worse vileness....

[...] Shail Thakker (Edgware, London): Judging philosophers seems like a lost cause – until you discover those who threatened the very foundation of the discipline, and eventually, of knowledge, and Moritz Schlick, leader of the Vienna Circle, is a prime example. Responsible for the Logical Positivist movement, the group of philosophers he led attempted to curtail the criteria of what was considered ‘meaningful’, and hence worthy of pursuit. Surely an offense like this shouldn’t be pardoned.

At the base of logical positivism was the Principle of Verification, which says that only ideas capable of empirical verification are worth contemplating, or indeed, meaningful. Although a seemingly noble attempt to make better use of human time and effort, such stern conditions of meaning not only invalidate centuries of quality work contributed by exceptional thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, or Kant, but also throw out entire branches of philosophy, such as theology, ethics, and metaphysics, as ‘speculative trash’.

For any naturalists feeling smug here, however, the implications go far beyond philosophy, into science, where for instance, theories relating to quantum entanglement, dark matter, and M-theory would have to be thrown out if they cannot be shown to be empirically verifiable. Social sciences such as psychology and sociology would soon follow suit… leaving a void in the very foundation of knowledge, to the point where observation and experimentation of any kind would become impossible.

Fortunately, the theory proved to be self-contradictory, with the Principle of Verification itself being not quite empirically verifiable. This crucial drawback not only establishes the idea as a complete failure, but also establishes Moritz Schlick and his dour band of companions as narrow-minded and unimaginative thinkers.


[...] John Talley (Rutherfordton, North Carolina): ... There are, unfortunately, numerous candidates for this dubious distinction, but my vote is for Karl Marx. Marx’s philosophy led to the totalitarian communist regimes of Russia, China, and other countries, and so to the mass killings of more people than even fascism. Then Russia and its satellite countries had to abandon it, and China has had to greatly modify it. Further, Marx claimed that his theories were scientific and thus capable of predictions, but his mistaken predictions were so numerous that there is not space in this little essay to list them...

[...] Paul Vitols (North Vancouver, British Columbia): I nominate John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) as the worst philosopher. ... Keynes’s popularity is based not on originality or on truth, but on his telling everyone what they want to hear: workers should spend everything they earn and never suffer a pay cut; governments should borrow money and print it too, in order to keep everyone at ‘full employment’. Keynes is less a philosopher than a guy who shows up with a bag of cocaine and says “Let’s party!”

Martin Jenkins (London): ... I will offer two nominations. For muddled thinking, I would suggest René Descartes (1596-1650), simply because his physics – the famous vortices – is not only nonsense, but based on no scientific evidence. For his sheer hypocrisy, I propose Seneca the Younger (4BC-65AD), who preached stoicism while making a fortune and enjoying the luxury of Nero’s court – and, I would argue, only relapsed into stoicism by committing suicide when he couldn’t find any alternative. (MORE - details)
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#2
Ayn Rand with her little cult following. Yeah..she never really had much to say beyond "Be selfish and ambitious." More of a cultural symptom of her time.
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#3
Who is the worst philosopher?

One answer might be: Somebody who we have never heard of. The worst philosopher won't have made a reputation for him or herself as a philosopher. Just think of all the people who think that philosophy is bullshit. (That's a philosophical proposition I guess, so they should count as philosophers in the most minimal sense.)

But among the more canonical philosophers?

Probably Karl Marx. If you want pernicious historical effect (totalitarian regimes and the death of millions) and crazy cult-like following (even among many professors today), he's your guy. I don't think that his intellectual contributions (such as they are) make up for that either. His early 19th century economics is outmoded and his historical materialism isn't plausible.

Honorable mention might go to Nietzsche, and after him, to many of the trendy Parisian literary-theorists/philosophers.

Most overrated? Perhaps Hegel.
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#4
I usually don't even think of Marx as a philosopher, but yeah, he was the worst, by far. Nietzsche obviously had such a problem communicating that people still aren't sure what he was on about. Coincidentally, both Marx and Nietzsche criticized Hegel, but recognizing bad philosophy doesn't make yours good.

Rand's take on life being the pursuit of happiness seems fairly aligned with the modern leftist's self-indulgence, like people being whatever gender they "feel" like at any given moment. Leftists just don't like that she favored freedom and capitalism.
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#5
Quote:In other words, we’re all doing philosophy all the time. We can’t escape the question of what matters and why: the way we’re living is itself our implicit answer to that question.

That about sums up the importance of philosophy for me: that it is a fundamental attitude toward life and the world that we live out and experiment with. Our values, our ethical assumptions, our personal goals and vision of our future, our worldview, our spirituality, and our particular brand of rationality are all informed and shaped by the philosophical demands of our primal situation. Heidegger called it "being thrown into the world", our "thrownness", as the basic situation of our being arbitrarily put here beyond our choice or desire. We all find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a situation not of our making, obligated to take responsibility for how we will respond to its universal issues. We cannot escape having to make a choice everyday in how we will work to resolve the dilemmas of human being alone in the universe. How we live our lives expresses our particular answer to the questions inherent to our condition. Or at least how we manage to live sanely and happily with those unanswered questions.
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#6
(Dec 16, 2019 08:57 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: Heidegger called it "being thrown into the world", our "thrownness", as the basic situation of our being arbitrarily put here beyond our choice or desire. We all find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a situation not of our making, obligated to take responsibility for how we will respond to its universal issues.

Just because we do not remember making the choice doesn't mean we didn't make it. And as with most things in like, if we behave as if we did choose it, things tend to work out better.
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#7
Quote:Just because we do not remember making the choice doesn't mean we didn't make it.

No..noone makes the choice to be born into the life situation they are in. That's insane. We are all thrown here and must adapt to the cards that are dealt us. Noone is responsible for the circumstances they are born into or raised in.
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#8
(Dec 16, 2019 11:59 PM)Magical Realist Wrote:
Quote:Just because we do not remember making the choice doesn't mean we didn't make it.

No..noone makes the choice to be born into the life situation they are in. That's insane. We are all thrown here and must adapt to the cards that are dealt us. Noone is responsible for the circumstances they are born into.

Many people believe in reincarnation, and many more believe in a soul. Even just in this life, our attitude determines our circumstances. That attitude is well within our ability to alter, even if we don't remember how we came to feel the way we do.
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#9
Quote:Many people believe in reincarnation, and many more believe in a soul.

It's a pernicious and superstitious attempt to blame people for the conditions they are born into. Lepers were criminals in a previous life, etc. It's stupid and it's evil. We are all thrown here beyond our choice. And how we give that meaning is the story of our lives.
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#10
(Dec 17, 2019 12:23 AM)Magical Realist Wrote:
Quote:Many people believe in reincarnation, and many more believe in a soul.

It's a pernicious and superstitious attempt to blame people for the conditions they are born into. Lepers were criminals in a previous life, etc. It's stupid and it's evil. We are all thrown here beyond our choice. And how we give that meaning is the story of our lives.

No, it just encourages taking responsibility, if not for the circumstances at least for our attitude and actions. It's 2019. No one thinks leprosy is due to someone's past life. But apparently some people are still condemning beneficial beliefs with archaic notions that no longer apply. Rolleyes
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