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Favorite philosophers

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MadArchitect

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Re: Favorite philosophers

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I guess I should answer my own question, huh?Plato's a long-standing influence, and though I often find myself disagreeing with his conclusions, I find both his method and his concern engaging and crucial. The more you learn about Plato's influence (via neo-Platonism), the more likely you are to think he's something of a crackpot. Here, after all, is the guy that gave us Atlantis, banned poets from the ideal commonwealth, and suggested that all knowledge is the memory of things known to the soul all along. But going back to the source material is a quick way to remind yourself that Plato's interests were rooted in humane sympathy, that his solutions were often intended as symbols rather than literally, and that his method was calculated to give every idea a fair shake even as it tested it to the breaking point.A big influence on the way I look at history and culture is Giambattista Vico, an obscure Renaissance jurist whose "New Science" was a huge influence, via Herder, Michelet and others, on the development of the modern social sciences. Vico basically laid the philosophical groundwork that made anthropology, sociology and modern historical method possible. His book is labrynthine and probably a little too tied up with the notion of eternal recurrence, but startlingly innovative nonetheless.Like Niall, I feel a begrudging affinity for Foucault. His method is often slip-shod, and his conclusions are sometimes dubious, but I feel a great deal of respect for his willingness to doubt recieved wisdom about the past and for his desire to engage the past from the mindset that understanding how people thought requires understanding their context and crediting them with the same degree of humanity that we credit ourselves. Reading him in conjunction with Vico demonstrates the extent of Foucault's debt to "New Science", but Foucault develops it in ways that Vico never did and probably couldn't have. They're birds of a feather in many ways.Can't forget Ernst Cassirer, a German historian of philosophy and a philosopher who wrote very insightfully on the nature and function of symbols. His "An Essay on Man" forwards an interesting variation on the question of what makes us human, and "The Myth of the State" is a fruitful inquiry into the consequences of nationalism.Those are the ones that spring to mind.
bradams
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I know I'm probably exposing my empiricist leanings, but...

John Locke - a man of good common sense, but not immune to the latest scientific developments. As Frederick Copleston wrote of him, when you read Locke you don't have to continually ask yourself whether he really could have believed the things he wrote. The father of liberalism and toleration.

Aristotle - whilst he got some major issues wrong, particularly on slavery and women, again he used critical common sense. He wrote widely on a variety of topics and made great progress in biological science.

C.S. Peirce - particularly his writings on logic and belief, especially "The Fixation of Belief." Shows us how inquiry should proceed.

J.S. Mill - If Locke was the father of liberalism, Mill expressed it most clearly and insightfully.

Charles Taylor - Taylor's style of philosophy is unique in the modern world. I particularly enjoy the way he manages to hold two horns of a dilemma in tension and explore where this might lead rather than seeking simplistic either/or solutions.

Bernard Williams - possibly the most profound thinker in the field of ethics so far.

Alasdair MacIntyre - unlike myself, MacIntyre is conservative and Catholic but he usually has some serious and thought-provoking insights into any topic he writes on.

Robert Nozick - I disagree with his libertarianism but his style of writing is wonderful and his ideas are often original.

Sorry I couldn't narrow my list down any further!
MadArchitect

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Don't apologize! That's a pretty impressive list. Some I've read before, some are still on my to-do list. If I get around to any of them in the near future, I'll let you know, and we can discuss them in more detail. (Actually, I'm gearing up to better familiarize myself with the pragmatist school of Pierce and James, so that'll probably be the first on the itinerary.)
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