Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top Ten List - World Philosophy Division

How about a list blog? A question by a student in American Philosophy led me to contemplate an impossible question. What are the top ten Philosophers of all time? Actually, there are all manner of questions and the topic is fraught with peril. And, it's a pretty meaningless question anyway. So, that's a pretty good reason to ask it. :)

Problems. What are the criteria for such a judgment? Influence? Obstacles overcome? The degree to which the philosopher gets it (what's "it"?) right?
The question wasn't actually about the top ten. Rather, it was whether or not William James, the pre-eminent American philosopher, belongs even among the top 20. My initial reaction was no. But, it got me thinking.

There's a less frivolous issue. My Intro text approaches the teaching of philosophy by using only a few figures and examining their work in considerable depth. Thus, rather than including 100 or more, mine includes 15. Incidentally, James isn't one. How did I make the choices I made? Influence on the the progress of thought. Even if the work is somewhat superceded (hotly debatable) Plato's work is unquestionably influential.

So, on to a top ten. I'd love to have commentary. (Roman, you can make the case for Rorty or Wittgenstein if you must).
1. Plato (this is controversial. Aristotle apologists can make the arguments here)
2. Aristotle (not with a bullet)
3. Hume
4. Kant (another controversial choice - Hume over Kant)
5. Confucius
6. Mencius
7. Lao-Tzu (the Socrates/Plato/Aristotle of the east)
8. St. Augustine
9. St. Thomas
10. The Buddha

Those just outside the 10...
Marcus Aurelius
James (the more I think, the more I am convinced I'm wrong about James - he's top twenty)

And no, Wittgenstein doesn't make the cut. Not even top fifty.