Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Philosophical Influences

Which philosophers have most influenced your thought? My top three would have to be:

1. Derek Parfit (moral philosophy, deflationary/"reductionist" metaphysics)
2. David Chalmers (deflationary metaphysics, 2-Dism, a priori entailments)
3. Michael Smith (rationality / coherence, ideal agents and constructed truthmakers)

After that it becomes less clear, but I guess I could round out my top 5 with:

4. J.S. Mill / R.M. Hare (indirect utilitarianism).
5. G.A. Cohen / Liz Anderson (money and freedom)

There should probably be a deliberative democrat on the list there somewhere, but I haven't really noticed any one in particular. I guess Habermas has been influential here -- but I've never actually read him myself. Rawls on public reason is another possibility. Back to metaphysics, David Lewis (4d-ism, counterparts, etc.) makes ten.

Your turn!


  1. To a large extent I invented a string of theories (like utilitarianism etc some of which I follow and some which I don't) and then discovered other people who agreed from a century or two ago. making it hard to separate influence from coincidence.

    But I suppose something like

    1. A mate from school (or two)
    2. Nietzsche
    3. William James
    4. Richard Chappell
    5. Blaise Pascal

  2. I'm not actually a philosopher, but I do love making top 5 lists.

    1. Wittgenstein (detaching semantics from phenomenology)
    2. Sellars (doing ontology in a way that's viable post-Wittgenstein)
    3. Peirce (doing epistemology in a way that's viable post-Wittgenstein, kinda)
    4. Adam Pautz (maybe not congruent with my first three choices, but I admire his non-question-begging anti-physicalist arguments)
    5. Marc Lange (my favorite work on lawhood, and the philosophical issue of lawhood is indirectly important for my work on fictional causality as a literary theorist)

  3. 1. Albert Camus - the most inspiring thinker to me (though not a professional philosopher). Two quotes which form the bedrock of my most enduring feelings: (1)"There always comes a time in history when the person who dares to say that 2+2=4 is punished by death. And the issue is not what reward or what punishment will be the outcome of that reasoning. The issue is simply whether or not 2+2=4." (2)"No, Father. I've a very different idea of love. And until my dying day I shall refuse to love a scheme of things in which children are put to torture."

    1.Friedrich Nietzsche - the most challenging philosopher; also, quite fun to read. "You must have chaos in your soul, to give birth to a dancing star." He reads like poetry.

    2. Martha Nussbaum - the most lucid and convincing philosopher I have ever read. An expert in many areas, always insightful and incisive, yet classy and level-headed.

    3. Aristotle, Rawls, Mill - mostly indirectly (from Nussbaum)

    4. Heidegger (Being and Time only) and Wittgenstein (Philosophical Investigations only) - influential, but to a lesser degree than the others

    5. Mackie - most influential philosopher by whom I have read nothing (quite fond of the error-theory, which I have read about many times)

    6. Russell - influential because of his humanist/atheist writing, not his technical/mathematical stuff

  4. Dead:
    1. Nietzsche
    2. Hegel
    3. Adorno
    4. Schopenhauer
    5. Rorty

    If philosophically interesting artists can be included, then I would need some way to work Wagner, Proust and Mann onto the list.

    Living (I can't decide on the order):
    1. Raymond Geuss
    2. Alexander Nehamas
    3. Michael Tanner
    4. Charles Taylor
    5. Robert Pippin

  5. For me, it always comes back to:
    1) Nietzsche (for the crazy)
    2) Kant (for the insight)
    3) Aristotle (for the sheer genius)
    4) JL Austin (for the clarity)
    5) Wittgenstien (for the influence on nearly all my classmates and teachers)

  6. 1. Saul Kripke (essence, modality, identity, names)
    2. David Lewis (modality, methodology, system building)
    3. George Bealer / David Barnett (intuitions, if, meaning, autonomy of philosophy, rationalism)
    5. WVO Quine / Rudolph Carnap (the right kind of skepticism about metaphysics, vernacular of philosophy, scope of philosophy)

    Then a medley of : Sartre, Nozick, Fine, Field, Rosen, Tooley, Armstrong, Frege, Russell, Stalnaker

  7. Looks like Nietzsche is wining this time.

  8. 1. Timothy Williamson: for his genius.
    2. T.M. Scanlon
    3. John Rawls
    4. Derek Parfit
    5. Frank Jackson
    6. J.S. Mill
    7. John Locke
    8. Saul Kripke
    9. David Lewis
    10. John Broome

  9. I'm suprised, too. It looks like:

    1. Nietzsche (4)
    2. JS Mill (3)
    3. Parfit, Kripke, Aristotle (2)

    If this were an election, I would be very frightened.

  10. I blame the low voter turnout! ;-)

  11. Well, to be clear, just because Nietzsche is a major influence, doesn't mean that the influenced subscribes to his views. He could have been a negative influence, or a goad to overcome positions that one might not have been fully aware of before. So, influence wouldn't translate to a vote in a President of Philosophy race, I think.

    If we had to vote, I would certainly vote for Martha Nussbaum.

  12. Indeed mathew - that is true for me anyway.

  13. 1. Betrand Russel for the comedy of doubting
    2. Kant for the OCD traits that I still have that annoys people
    3. Descartes because "I am"
    4. Epictectus because I love Life
    5. Plato for the Symposium for recognizing the futility of Unrequited Love
    6. Kierkegard, they are liars

  14. 1. Wittgenstein (a cliche perhaps, but true) for clarifying to an idealist (and idealistic) young man what philosophy is, or perhaps ought to be. Inspiring an essentially quietist approach to my 'philosophical method'

    2. Nietzsche, because of his emphasis on preserving one's psychological identity in negotiating the world: one must not be required in all things, to act as though one is someone else.

    3. Nicholas Taleb via Karl Popper, on the unmasterability of randomness and importance of a 'cautious' epistemology. Has inspired a skepticism of grand theories.

    4. Bernard Williams: cognition is not magnetic -- it is not enough to prove or understand, people must be moved to (want to?) act on those understandings (and I suppose G A Cohen).

    5. John Rawls, in defence of a welfare society

    6. Milton Friedman, in defence of the market.

    7. Richard Chappell: the importance of unflinching rigour in philosophy and disinclination to rely on spookiness shortcuts; a rejection of deontological ethics.

    8. Hayek, on the centrality of institutions to liberty


Visitors: check my comments policy first.
Non-Blogger users: If the comment form isn't working for you, email me your comment and I can post it on your behalf. (If your comment is too long, first try breaking it into two parts.)