Sunday, March 1, 2009

Greatest Philosopher of the 20th-Century?

Vote here.

6 comments:

mj said...
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j matthias dow said...

i voted for sellars. and, yes i have an argument for his being the greatest...

Gabriel Gottlieb said...

the argument is?

j matthias dow said...

being the greatest philosopher of a century means something like "best representing the kind of philosophy done in that century." now, suppose that the philosophy done in the 20th century is defined by a focus on three major areas: (a) analysis of logic and language; (b) dealing with problems arising from the philosophical historical inquiry of modern period; and (c) a focus on the cognitive. Do these not typify the 20th century engagement in philosophy? Who could deny that analytic philosophers were in the business of analyzing logic and language in the 20th century? Who could deny that continental philosophers were struggling to respond to modern problematics? Who could deny that the advent of cog sci wasn't a hugely important trend in the 20th century? and, sellars best engages each of these major trends...

Gabriel Gottlieb said...

Ok. But I'm not sure your conditions are enough. Influence? Depth of analysis? One might say Heidegger or Merleau-Ponty meets a version of (a) certainly (b), and I think also (c), but their influence is greater and on some of these points one might argue their depth of analysis greater.

j matthias dow said...

i don't think greatest of the 2oth century can be determined in terms of influence. it's only 2009. we simply don't have enough temporal distance from the 20th century to say that one or other is influential. think about 1909, 1809, 1709. what would have philosophers at those times said about who was most influential in their respective previous centuries? i just don't buy that influence is a good measure. i also don't know what you mean by depth of analysis? are you suggesting that H. and MP presented versions of the metatheoretical proofs in logic? how was heidegger analyzing language? his venture seemed more creative than analytical? i agree that H. approached condition b, but did MP really? how is the phenomenology of perception dealing with a historical philosophical problem? H. and M. have little influence on those philosophers continuing to engage in philosophy that meets condition a. H. and M. also present their own historical philosophical problems for those engaging in philosophy that meets condition b, but they are just two among many continental philosophers. i don't see them as being especially salient historical figures as apart from Husserl, Sartre, Bergson, Deleuze, Derrida, etc. And, the latter seems to have the greatest extra-philosophical influence, for better or worse. also, while it is true that some figures are attempting to bring Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty into contact with cognitive science, i'm not sure that contact is indispensible. sorry Dreyfus.