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The “should be” greats


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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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There have been some very interesting lists of “great 8” philosophers offered in response to Kleiner’s post — check them out! It leads me to raise a related question: what is your list of philosophers whom you think really are valuable and important but who are either unknown, or are wrongly neglected, or at any rate should be more widely read?



  1. Huenemann says:

    My own list, to get the ball rolling:

    1. Leslak Kolakowski — a massively learned historian of philosophy, known mainly for his devastating critique of Marxism, but I like him for his essays which are profound, skeptical, and gnomic.

    2. Lou Salome — Nietzsche’s friend and Freud’s pupil, really astute

    3. Walt Whitman — widely read, of course, but I don’t think philosophers study him as much as they should.

    4. Terry Gilliam — not to be read, but seen; his film works are as philosophical as anyone’s; why is he ignored?


  2. Mike says:

    Simone de Beauvoir — I would much rather read her than Sartre. Wikipedia says “The ambiguity about which Beauvoir writes clears up some inconsistencies that many, Sartre included, have found in major existentialist works such as Being and Nothingness.” Her writing is much more understandable which leads me to believe she’s the greater thinker.

    Montaigne — especially his influence on Nietzsche but also as a grandfather of animal rights (as opposed to Descartes). Correct me if I’m wrong but I think he also had an influence on Kierkegaard. He also demonstrates one of my favorite forms of life, the heretic. A cursory look at the wikipedia entry shows that there are quite a few more who Montaigne influenced including Shakespeare, Pascal and Emerson.

    Wilmington Michel de Montaigne occupies a unique place in Nietzsche’s history of ideas. He is one of a very few figures for whom Nietzsche expresses deep admiration and about whom he has virtually nothing critical to say. This is a rare enough mark of distinction; but contrary to what it might lead us to expect, the relationship between Montaigne and Nietzsche has seldom been carefully examined. There has yet to be a book-length study devoted solely to Montaigne and Nietzsche, and article-length treatments of the relationship between their works and thought have been surprisingly scarce. What discussions there have been tend to locate the connections between Nietzsche and Montaigne mainly in matters of either literary or personal style, but studies that examine Montaigne’s influence on Nietzsche with an eye toward philosophical rather than literary or stylistic issues have been almost non-existent.

    “We do not place ourselves above other animals and reject their condition and companionship by right reason but out of stubbornness and insane arrogance.” –from google-ing

    Dostoevsky – To the extent Philosophy is really about embodied attitude, he’s the master. He demonstrates the extent to which he understands and he understands as only a madman can.

    Sorry I don’t have anything more obscure to add. I’ve heard Native American tradition and practice resembles eastern thought in some profound ways but I have yet to investigate.

    “Wikipedia says” is the new “Confucius say”.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Simone de Beauvoir, Montaigne and Dostoevsky all famous and all widely read…


  4. Joe says:

    1. Moses Maimonides – much of Aquinas’s work was influenced by Maimonides “via negativa.”

    2. Bernard Bolzano – the analytic philosophy movement began with him, not Frege and Russell. In fact, much of what Frege and Russell have argued appears in Bolzano’s works.

    3. Jean Buridan – His work in logic was very influential in early modern Europe, but he has been overshadowed by Ockham.

    4. Rogers Albritton and Burton Dreben – two relatively unknown figures who taught at Harvard for a very long time with Quine, Putnam, and Rawls. They were very influential upon them, but they will remain unknown because they never really published anything super substantive.


  5. Huenemann says:

    Joe — good list! Re. Bolzano, there is a very good book called “The semantic tradition from Kant to Carnap” by Alberto Coffa, which examines many interesting and neglected 19th-c. figures, including Bolzano. Re. Dreben, I met him a couple of times, and he really had a mesmerizing personality, and influenced a generation of philosophers who are “in charge” now. Complicated and interesting guy, I am led to believe (two of my own teachers were his students). You can gather some of his influence here:


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