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Massimo Pigliucci: Most overrated 20th century philosophers

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#1 Ken Gilmore

Ken Gilmore


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Posted 12 January 2013 - 02:07 AM

Philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, inspired by an Oxford University Twitter survey to find the greatest philosophers of all time, has created a survey asked the opposite question - who is the most overrated 20th century philosopher:

Here were the philosophers I submitted as competitors for the un-prize of most overrated during the last century:

Willard van Orman Quine, best known for his criticism of logical positivism and his push for a “naturalized” philosophy. He denied the existence of a meaningful distinction between values and facts, as well as between analytic and synthetic propositions (take that, Kant).

Ludwig Wittgenstein, had two completely different careers, the “early” Wittgenstein being a champion of the logical positivists (see above), the “late” Wittgenstein arguing that all philosophical problems are just misunderstandings of language (I’m simplifying here).

Michel Foucault, a major exponent of structuralism and post-structuralism, famous for his critiques of historical reason, particularly in his The History of Madness in the Classical Age. And for his debate with Chomsky on justice and power.

Jacques Derrida, famous for being the epitome of the obscure or obfuscating philosopher (ok, ok, that’s a bit of poisoning of the well), a deconstructionist and literary critic. As the Stanford Encyclopedia puts it: “deconstruction is relentless in [the] pursuit [of rendering justice] since justice is impossible to achieve.” Whatever that means.

Bertrand Russell, one of the founders of the modern analytical approach to philosophy, best known for his works on the philosophy of mathematics and his contributions to logic. He was the lead character in the Logicomix.

Martin Heidegger, a major practitioner of the phenomenological and existentialist approaches in philosophy, buddy of the Nazi (the well! what the well!), and a top competitor with Derrida for most obscure philosophical writer of the 20th century. He talked a lot about Being (and Time).

I'm nodding very vigorously (head-banging in fact) at Heidegger, Derrida and Foucalt. Personally, I'd include Lacan, Baudrillard, Lyotard and Rorty, but one can't be greedy. It's a good start, anyway.

Edited by Ken Gilmore, 12 January 2013 - 02:15 AM.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

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