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Greatest philosopher of the 20th century

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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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Brian Leiter, whose webpage probably gets more attention from anglo-american philosophers than any other, hosted this poll. It’s closed now, but it’s interesting to see the results.



  1. Kleiner says:

    The analytic bias is interesting. David Lewis beat out Heidegger?!


  2. Huenemann says:

    Yes, more analytic “types” than continental “types” frequent Leiter’s page. But Leiter himself would bristle at that characterization — since, after all, he has worked on Marx, Foucault, Freud, and Nietzsche.


  3. Kleiner says:

    Leiter probably would not like that characterization. I did not see how Leiter voted, though his comment seems to suggest that he is skeptical about Heidegger’s position on the list: He was ‘not surprised, though equally skeptical on the merits, with regard to the strength of the results for Heidegger’.

    To my mind, Heidegger should win that poll in a runaway. If you think, for instance, that postmodernity is (for better or worse) a major movement in the history of western thought, then Heidegger becomes central. I think Heidegger will go down as a truly great philosopher (perhaps not on the level of a Plato or Aristotle, but perhaps on par with Hegel). Wittgenstein would be the closest second.

    For what it is worth, Heidegger and Wittgenstein made some of the lists in an old post on this blog on ‘must read great philosophers’. I don’t believe Russell, Lewis, Rawls, or Quine were on anyone’s list.


  4. Mike says:

    I can’t believe Jack Handey isn’t even a contender!


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