Who is the best philosopher and why?

Who is the best philosopher and why?
lostpainting
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Posted Mar 10, 2010 - 11:20 AM:

sheps wrote:
She wrote novels in order to sneak in her own ideas; regardless of their worth, I don't approve of philosophers using the novel form to get their point across under some appealing writing. In the same way, I don't approve of Sartre - philosophy should never be anything more than a literary tool or object of satire in the hands of a novelist, and those novelists who have used their literary talent to get across (at the very least) questionable ideas are not playing by the rules in my book. Philosophy sneaked in under the cover of flowery writing or appealing characters does not give the reader an opportunity to subject the ideas to critical reasoning; they're too often seduced by the prose.


Yeah, when I read that, I thought -- Wait, aren't you a Sartre fan? And then you addressed it.

As has been mentioned, she wasn't exactly subtle about it.

I have actually never read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead. My understanding of Rand's philosophy comes exclusively from her non-fiction.

Rand is an overhang of the 19th century movement to "free thyself." Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche also worked towards this fundamentally Romantic aim, except with somewhat more coherent systems and far less of Rand's conformity to the economic, moral and political status quo of her time.


Well, Rand did identify herself as a Romantic.

But anyone saying that Rand conformed to the economic, moral, and political status quo is either ignorant of Rand or ignorant of history. Reading the accounts of people like Nathaniel Branden, she was so depressed about the culture that she'd go into fits of isolated grief. She abhorred the fact that capitalism's defenders tried to give it a religious base and felt like she was fighting a one-woman crusade against the National Review types. She was depressed about the democratization of culture and the lowest-common-denominator mass-man. She was aghast at the slide away from a fairly capitalistic system toward an increasingly statist mixed-economy.

Utilitarianism? The Marxists? Surely if anything Rand's century has been characterized by Wittgenstein's phrase; that "philosophy is an activity?" Just look at the main figures of the 20th century - Gandhi, King, Guevara, Lenin - and you quickly see that people liked a "man of action." In part, you could even say that's why so many approved of Hitler when he first came to power: here was a man who knew himself, and what he wanted.


The Utilitarians gave us an ethical theory, but they gave it no grounding in anything in particular -- other than assertions. These are the good, practical effects, they say -- but what makes them good? No answer.

The problem with all of post-Rome Western moral philosophy to the present is that it's not really grounded in anything in particular. They're just assertions.

The Marxists at least gave us consistent answers -- man as an economic being; materialistic whim-fulfillment is a proper aim for man -- although their premises are ghastly.

Even in the philosophical sphere we saw greater action - most people liked (or knew of) Russell not for his brilliance in logic, but more for his pacifism and social activity.


Fair enough point, there.

Of all these more popular figures, I must say Rand stands out as probably the most discredited these days (not to say that most of the others are discredited at all) With the current economic crisis, she's even more disliked amongst educated people than Lenin; I can't imagine many predicted that at the fall of the Berlin Wall!


Discredited amongst whom? (The unstated answer: Amongst people who dislike her; amongst my crowd.)

With the current economic crisis? Now, I know you're a Marxist, but let's try to be intellectually honest, here -- a country such as the United States, with government-sponsored corporations (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), crony subsidies to 'independent' corporations, tariffs and barriers, a top tax rate inching on forty percent, inscrutable anti-trust laws, deficit and debt through the ceiling, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security isn't exactly some Randian paradise. confused
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#142 - Quote - Permalink
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Posted Mar 10, 2010 - 12:19 PM:

lostpainting wrote:
Discredited amongst whom?

Philosophers. Seriously, the profession thinks she's a joke.
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#143 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 10, 2010 - 12:32 PM:

Kwalish Kid wrote:

Philosophers. Seriously, the profession thinks she's a joke.


This can add to her strength to inspire, unfortunately. shaking head

Edited by sheps on Mar 10, 2010 - 1:08 PM
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#144 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 10, 2010 - 1:07 PM:

lostpainting wrote:
But anyone saying that Rand conformed to the economic, moral, and political status quo is either ignorant of Rand or ignorant of history. Reading the accounts of people like Nathaniel Branden, she was so depressed about the culture that she'd go into fits of isolated grief. She abhorred the fact that capitalism's defenders tried to give it a religious base and felt like she was fighting a one-woman crusade against the National Review types. She was depressed about the democratization of culture and the lowest-common-denominator mass-man. She was aghast at the slide away from a fairly capitalistic system toward an increasingly statist mixed-economy.


Statist economy? America when she was writing? Really? You don't even have universal health care now - this paranoia against any possible association with the common herd (or "lowest common denominator") really is secondhand Nietzsche. Plus, why the opposition to the influence of the state? If she's in favour of the rule of the few (which follows from her economic opinions), then surely she'd love all these self-conscious, rational Ubermensch to lord it over the rest of us?

lostpainting wrote:
The Utilitarians gave us an ethical theory, but they gave it no grounding in anything in particular -- other than assertions. These are the good, practical effects, they say -- but what makes them good? No answer.


The combined "good for the greatest number" is a bit vague and difficult to apply, but I think they had their feet rooted firmly in the material cause-and-effect of actions.

lostpainting wrote:
The problem with all of post-Rome Western moral philosophy to the present is that it's not really grounded in anything in particular. They're just assertions.


Perhaps, but she goes way too far the other way by appealing only to the egoistic self, when it is quite obvious from any casual glance at history that humans have empathy and altruism, plus a desire to group into societies of varying kinds. Anyone who lacks these qualities can be defined as a psychopath.

lostpainting wrote:
The Marxists at least gave us consistent answers -- man as an economic being; materialistic whim-fulfillment is a proper aim for man -- although their premises are ghastly.


"Materialistic whim-fulfillment?" If anything, Marxism aims to free humans from want of basic needs for human life so that they can develop creatively. No Marxist has ever proclaimed the fulfillment of shallow whims to be the highest calling for mankind.

lostpainting wrote:
With the current economic crisis? Now, I know you're a Marxist, but let's try to be intellectually honest, here -- a country such as the United States, with government-sponsored corporations (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac),


Hah, or corporation-sponsored government. The fact is that the government were forced to rescue FM and FC because of the wreckage left by neo-liberal capitalism. The policy of the US state has always been not to interfere - look at Goldman Sachs. They interfered with FM and FC because they were forced to; otherwise, you and I might well be starving now. However, maybe this is our just deserts for not being ruthless enough and raising ourselves to the magnificent level of the non-materially producing wall street executives. rolling eyes

lostpainting wrote:
crony subsidies to 'independent' corporations


In Britain (I can't speak for America, although the influence of the Bush ruling economic clique speaks volumes) the Conservative party are sponsored heavily by Lord Ashcroft (to the tune of £4 million given to marginal seats), despite the fact that he pays no tax on his earnings in Britain. Is this tax-dodging businessman someone Rand would approve of for undermining democracy so well in his own interests?

lostpainting wrote:
tariffs and barriers, a top tax rate inching on forty percent, inscrutable anti-trust laws, deficit and debt through the ceiling, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security isn't exactly some Randian paradise. confused


Admittedly, its not a Randian paradise. But she certainly got some of her ideas from the various laissez-faire policies pursued by America, and the only reason why America has not become a Randian paradise is because of the endemic defence of small private property, which can be traced back to the founding ideals of the country.

I'll just pick a couple of Randian points:

Ayn Rand wrote:
What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?


She later revised this. Unsurprisingly.

Ayn Rand wrote:
Kant is the most evil man in mankind’s history.


She's not going to find many friends round here... sticking out tongue
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#145 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 10, 2010 - 9:45 PM:

Kwalish Kid wrote:

Philosophers. Seriously, the profession thinks she's a joke.


She would have fit in amongst the classical philosophers, I believe: people who were interested in virtue, in system-building, in the art of living.

Now, the people who glorify Derrida, Lacan, Freud, and postmodernism certainly dislike her. The contemporary analytic philosophers, who have no use for practical philosophy, have no use for her. The academy, which gladly admits that the work it does has no practical application for the layman, had no use for her. It's a badge of shame she wore with pleasure.

Statist economy? America when she was writing? Really? You don't even have universal health care now - this paranoia against any possible association with the common herd (or "lowest common denominator") really is secondhand Nietzsche. Plus, why the opposition to the influence of the state? If she's in favour of the rule of the few (which follows from her economic opinions), then surely she'd love all these self-conscious, rational Ubermensch to lord it over the rest of us?


This is evidence that you are not familiar with her opinions -- you're just fighting against caricatures of her you've received from people who want to dismiss her as irrelevant.

She is not in favor of "the rule of the few." She is opposed to the entire concept of "ruling." She wants a government in which people do not "rule" over other people, but exists only to prevent the use of force. That doesn't mean that one is not allowed to have opinions about others -- and indeed, she detested the herd -- but she would never dream of trying to "rule" them.

Perhaps, but she goes way too far the other way by appealing only to the egoistic self, when it is quite obvious from any casual glance at history that humans have empathy and altruism, plus a desire to group into societies of varying kinds. Anyone who lacks these qualities can be defined as a psychopath.


She was not against empathy. She wrote an entire essay on this matter, saying that the rule for helping other people involves a subjective analysis of (1) How much trouble it would be for you and (2) How much you rationally care about the other person. For example: Braving a dangerous, piranha-infested river to try to rescue your wife is not an act of altruism, but a profoundly selfish act. Braving that same river to save a stranger -- or worse, an enemy -- is, because it shows that you value your own life and your own values no more than any random stranger's.

Giving a dollar to a man on the street is completely neutral, but it would be money better put toward a charity one cares about. For example, I care about reading and literacy -- so volunteering to help children learn to read, or to read books to the elderly who are losing the capacity to read is not an altruistic act, because I am trying to spread the kind of world I'd like to see.

"Materialistic whim-fulfillment?" If anything, Marxism aims to free humans from want of basic needs for human life so that they can develop creatively. No Marxist has ever proclaimed the fulfillment of shallow whims to be the highest calling for mankind.


That's the intelligible end of Marxism, if you're not dropping context. Develop creatively -- to what end? Only to see it confiscated from you "for the good of the collective; the proletariat." But why? Because someone else said that they want it. That's a whim, not a claim. Basic needs -- which are what? Does someone else owe you your basic needs? Are those needs, however they are defined, rights? How have we determined that they are rights? Etc, etc.

Hah, or corporation-sponsored government. The fact is that the government were forced to rescue FM and FC because of the wreckage left by neo-liberal capitalism. The policy of the US state has always been not to interfere - look at Goldman Sachs. They interfered with FM and FC because they were forced to; otherwise, you and I might well be starving now. However, maybe this is our just deserts for not being ruthless enough and raising ourselves to the magnificent level of the non-materially producing wall street executives. rolling eyes


This is so profoundly misinformed...The Bush and Clinton administrations laid the groundwork for this crisis by legally mandating the extension of mortgages to unqualified applicants and pumping in extra money to the banks through artificially low credit rates and subsidies. It's the "pro-ownership" cult mentality. The banks went through this endless process of selling no-down-payment sub-prime mortgages to people who couldn't afford them (Community Reinvestment Act), would sell them to government-backed enterprises like Fannie Mae, who would then sell them off again in mortgage-backed securities. Well, we know how that worked out.

There was also a massive influx of speculation in home-buying. People saw the prices skyrocketing, they'd buy up homes, renovate them, and re-sell them, and then everyone tried to sell them at once when they saw the prices decrease. This was all encouraged by the policies of the central bank -- pumping in money to banks to keep this ridiculous process going. But worst of all was Greenspan's history of bailouts, from the bailout of the Mexican peso onward, to some of the dot-com boom shit -- there was always a sense that things were "too big to fail," that a bailout would come if anything really bad happened.

NONE OF THAT has to do with "hands-off," "capitalist" economics. Capitalism as Rand defines it is the complete separation of the state and the economy. Bailouts are not capitalistic. A central bank is not capitalistic. Government-mandated mortgage requirements are not capitalistic. Artificially low credit rates are not capitalistic. Corporate welfare is not capitalistic. Government-sponsored enterprises are not capitalistic.

In Britain (I can't speak for America, although the influence of the Bush ruling economic clique speaks volumes) the Conservative party are sponsored heavily by Lord Ashcroft (to the tune of £4 million given to marginal seats), despite the fact that he pays no tax on his earnings in Britain. Is this tax-dodging businessman someone Rand would approve of for undermining democracy so well in his own interests?


No, Rand would not approve of him, nor would she approve of the system. The fact that you have to ask that question shows that you know nothing about Rand.

Admittedly, its not a Randian paradise. But she certainly got some of her ideas from the various laissez-faire policies pursued by America, and the only reason why America has not become a Randian paradise is because of the endemic defence of small private property, which can be traced back to the founding ideals of the country.


When she says laissez-faire capitalism, she means: the total separation of economics and state. Not "pro-business" policies. Not "pro-growth" policies. A total separation in which all exchanges are mutually voluntary and the government acts only as an umpire, preventing the use of force (and by extension, fraud).
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#146 - Quote - Permalink
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Posted Mar 11, 2010 - 4:25 AM:

lostpainting wrote:
She would have fit in amongst the classical philosophers, I believe: people who were interested in virtue, in system-building, in the art of living.

Now, the people who glorify Derrida, Lacan, Freud, and postmodernism certainly dislike her. The contemporary analytic philosophers, who have no use for practical philosophy, have no use for her. The academy, which gladly admits that the work it does has no practical application for the layman, had no use for her. It's a badge of shame she wore with pleasure.

I mean almost everyone, of every political stripe, in professional philosophy. You need to take a long, hard look at yourself and why you cling to the ravings of someone you read as a teenager. It's time to grow up and be an adult.
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#147 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 11, 2010 - 4:37 AM:

Kwalish Kid wrote:

I mean almost everyone, of every political stripe, in professional philosophy. You need to take a long, hard look at yourself and why you cling to the ravings of someone you read as a teenager. It's time to grow up and be an adult.


For a supposed adult, you sure do fall back on logical fallacies every time you talk about Rand.

So far, I have heard the following arguments employed against the woman:

"She's not a real philosopher."
"Real philosophers don't respect her."
"She was clearly nuts."
"She was a selfish bitch."

There's something about her that inspires this vigorous, passionate hatred from people who think that philosophy is about analyzing sentences and not about the art of living. (And then they wonder why nobody's interested in philosophy outside of a narrow academic circle.) Like I've said: Rand would have fit in amongst the classical philosophers. If an Epictetus popped up today, he'd probably be told to go stop his yapping about tranquility and go find Oprah -- doesn't this benighted fool know that philosophy isn't about tranquility, but about debating what we mean when we say that the cat is on the mat (and whether the cat is a sexualized subconscious representation of the ego manifesting itself in the concrete realm?). If Aristotle penned the Nicomachean Ethics today, it'd be subjected to a withering "deconstruction" as well as a "psychoanalytic" evaluation from half-wits and quarter-wits. Rand modeled herself after Aristotle, rather than after Kant, Freud, or Wittgenstein* -- and that's too much for the smug, self-contained contemporary pseudo-philosophers to take.

* (I actually do like much of Wittgenstein. But he spawned this pretentious army of sentence-analyzers that try to pass themselves off as philosophers.)
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#148 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 11, 2010 - 4:46 AM:

lostpainting wrote: If an Epictetus popped up today, he'd probably be told to go stop his yapping about tranquility and go find Oprah -- doesn't this benighted fool know that philosophy isn't about tranquility, but about debating what we mean when we say that the cat is on the mat (and whether the cat is a sexualized subconscious representation of the ego manifesting itself in the concrete realm?).


shocked Oprah?!?!? She despises cats! And just what is so wrong with a little tranquility to balance out the debate within a person?

Although debate is a large part of Philosophy I do not think you will get very far, at least in an inner peaceful way, by dismissing the benefits of such an important part of the Wisdom gained during times of tranquility (reflection).
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#149 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 11, 2010 - 4:59 AM:

SittinWSocratesTiff wrote:
shocked Oprah?!?!? She despises cats! And just what is so wrong with a little tranquility to balance out the debate within a person?

Although debate is a large part of Philosophy I do not think you will get very far, at least in an inner peaceful way, by dismissing the benefits of such an important part of the Wisdom gained during times of tranquility (reflection).


No, I like tranquility. I evangelize with Epictetus' Discourses. grin

I'm not dismissing analytic philosophy. I quite enjoy Wittgenstein and often turn to his works to browse. Excellent food for thought. It's a tradition dating back at least to Plato's Euthypro: the clarity of thought and of language, and the assumptions that underpin them. Wittgenstein, like few others, forces you to check your premises -- which few thinkers are able to do.
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#150 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 11, 2010 - 5:08 AM:

lostpainting wrote: Wittgenstein, like few others, forces you to check your premises -- which few thinkers are able to do.


I think there are more than a few Philosophers that force you to check your premises. Aristotle challenged premises constantly.
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