Greatest Philosopher in History

by Carinthium1 min read9th Aug 201362 comments


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Since LessWrong is a major congregation point for certain philosophical ideas, and because people here tend to be more objective (in the sense of not being self-deluded) than elsewhere, I thought I'd ask people's views.

To be clear, by "Greatest Philosopher" I am referring not to the most correct philosopher in human history but the one who deserves the most credit for advancing human philosophy towards being more true.

Off the top of my head I would say that a prime candidate would be Hume- amongst other things he rejected the idea of a soul, realised to a much greater extent than his predecessors the limits of human knowledge, and opposed the idea that reason is somehow an objective force that can make priorities independent of emotions.

Aristotle deserves considerable credit relative for his time but doesn't make the list because although it wasn't his fault his ideas were dogmatically accepted and held back both science and philosophy later on.

Your thoughts?

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Related amusing anecdote:

The Nov. 30th episode of Philosophy Bites was kind of amusing. A bunch of philosophers, including famous ones, gave their answers to "Who's your favorite philosopher?" IIRC, when giving their reasons for liking their favorite philosopher, almost nobody said "because this philosopher turned out to be correct about so much" — except for all the people who picked Hume.

One could make a case for Epicurus -- see e.g. Yvain's review of a book about him (and much else). Warning: I have seen it claimed (1) that the book is full of errors and (2) that in any case much of what's there ascribed to Epicurus was in fact borrowed from other earlier thinkers. I do not know enough about Greek philosophy (or the other things about which the book is alleged to be wrong) to adjudicate any of those fights.

[-][anonymous]8y 12

Other than Hume, I would vote for Quine, for espousing naturalism, for demolishing the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements, and for placing constraints on metaphysical discourses -- constraints which, unfortunately, many philosophers today have ignored to their own peril.

In your opinion, what's the clearest, shortest section by Quine that would have the greatest likelihood possible to catch my attention in terms of what it demonstrates about his ability to think clearly and make important insights?

I've heard his name so many times, but I've never attempted to read anything by him because I once ran into someone really into Quine who seemed to demonstrate all sorts of cognitive habits diametrically opposed to all the reasons I consider Hume such a great thinker.

I'm asking this question because you mentioned Hume first, but then also Quine. Considering I find Hume to be so insightful, do you have any suggestions on what would convince me that Quine is a great thinker as well?

[-][anonymous]8y 7

The quickest and easiest read among Quine's works is perhaps 'The Web of Belief' -- it is very engagingly written and serves as a solid introduction to rational thinking and scientific methodologies. :-)

I'll check it out. Thanks!

Quine is extremely readable. He's certainly one of the most important philosophers to understand in order to understand other contemporary philosophers, though I'd say a fair amount of his influence has been negative. On What There Is is charming, and gives a good overview of his approach to metaphysics.

Thales of Miletus (the so-called 'Father of Science') seems to be the first philosopher of the Greek tradition.

Now, obviously, he was wrong about nearly everything, but the leap from being silent to being wrong may have been humanity's greatest step towards being more true.

I'd (idiosyncratically) consider Thales' pupil Anaximander the first philosopher, as we understand 'philosopher' today, and consider Thales more the ur-scientist. From what little information remains about them, Anaximander's doctrines were more traditionally metaphysical than Thales', and he was a deeper and more systematic thinker; we also have a single line of actual prose from him, the oldest extant piece of philosophy in human history (excepting maybe some stuff from the Upanishads).

I thought this was going to be a post about Hume.

Greatest ever: Hume

Honorable Mention: Democritus

20th Century: Quine

This is an interesting suggestion for me. I used to read a lot of Austrian economics, and I remember someone who I respected highly in that field once said that Francis Bacon was one of the greatest philosophers (along with Hume, which added more epistemic credibility in my mind, as Hume has long been my favorite, and the reasons he gave for Hume being so great were in line with the sorts of things I think about him). I never attempted to read any of Francis Bacon's work, but the name did stick for this reason.

Do you have any particular (preferably short) sections you recommend by him that would be likely to catch the attention of the sort of person who posts here on LW (me or other people reading this)?

The New Organon, particularly Aphorisms 31-46, show not only an early attempt to diagnose human biases (what Bacon referred to as "The Idols of the Mind") but also some of the reasons why he rejected Aristotelian thought, common at the time, in favor of experimental practice.

Do you have any particular (preferably short) sections you recommend by him that would be likely to catch the attention of the sort of person who posts here on LW (me or other people reading this)?

No, I only know him by reputation, and found Eliezer's concise characterisation of him striking.

Ah I see. I didn't read Eliezer's post until now. Thanks.

I will second this, Bacon is the LW patron saint. He was all about "idols". (I wouldn't call him the greatest philosopher, but then that's the silly game of "ordering things from best to worst").

I agree with listing Wittgenstein as a good philosopher, but Zizek is out of the question, he's not even trying to break his claims down into clear arguments and I'm not aware of anything significant or useful he wrote.

I would go with Hume as well. Not only was he far ahead of his time, but it also seems as if virtually everyone who came after him demonstrated a significant backslide from the extremely high level of clarity he brought to the table on so many topics.

Also I should mention that it's my contention that despite being considered by virtually all accounts to be one of the greatest thinkers in history, it nevertheless seems to be the case that there are large parts of his work that most people haven't yet seen the significance of. He apparently once stated that justice will not be done to him in his lifetime. I'd go further and make the perhaps controversial point that justice still hasn't been done to him. I hope to work toward changing this at some point.

Disclaimer: No evidence given here. Just throwing my opinion out there.

This conversation has made me want to read Hume, thus – on that note, is there anything in particular you think I should pay attention to?

I think Alejandro1 gave a good answer as well, but my answer will be slightly different.

I'd suggest starting with An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding if you're more interested in epistemology, or otherwise An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals if you have greater interest in the foundation of morality, ethics, justice, etc.

As the familiar story goes, Hume wrote A Treatise of Human Nature, and then found the reception for this work to be extremely unsatisfactory (everyone seemed to misunderstand it, and many just ignored it). He decided that this was a matter not of the content, but of the writing style and quality, and thus set out to recast his most important insights in a fashion that would be more readable, engaging, etc. In this way the Enquires mirror the Treatise, and are a restatement of what he deemed most important and interesting.

But what I should mention is that although it is the case that the Enquires restate a lot of the content of the Treatise, and that they're much more readable, at the same time I would say that they leave out a lot of the most important content in the Treatise, and they're a lot more impersonal and less autobiographical. The Enquiries are very insightful, and very easy to read. The Treatise on the other hand is ridiculously difficult to read, but once some of the key pieces are understood, it becomes an incredible, introspective journey through the mind of who I consider to be most likely one of the most rational, lucid, insightful, brilliant people in the history of civilization.

The Enquiries are absolutely wonderful, and a perfect example of some of the most lucid, insightful non-fiction prose in history. But I consider them in a way to be somewhat of a stepping stone or reference for understanding what's contained in the Treatise. I would recommend starting with the Enquires, beginning with whichever seems like it would be more interesting for you personally, and then moving onto his much deeper, much more difficult, much more autobiographical work: A Treatise of Human Nature.

The two best works to begin with are the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; they are highly readable and contain most of his key insights in epistemology and philosophy of religion, respectively. The Treatise on Human Nature is much longer exposition of the same points of the Enquiry; it has many of Hume's greatest and deepest passages (including the famous one about deriving "ought" from "is") but it is quite more difficult for the casual reader.

[-][anonymous]8y 6

Sir Karl Popper nudged us to be less wrong, ever less wrong.

Sextus Empiricus is an important candidate I don't see discussed on LW. I don't endorse his positive philosophy, but his positive philosophy wasn't really what had the biggest influence; it was the distrust of speculation and theorizing he helped inspire. Historically, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Sextus' demolition of all the theories of the day had a larger impact on the growth of science than any particular positive epistemological doctrine.

Anselm is another good candidate, surprisingly. He made philosophy cool again after the age of darkness, inadvertently planting seeds of intellectual investigation and disputation that would cause Christian thought to burn itself out. And scholasticism wasn't a thing yet, so he didn't even have much obfuscatory systematicity on his side to slow the rot.

Also, Anselm's philosophy was arguably atheistic despite its theological vocabulary.

I know he's a boring choice, and also probably wrong about a lot of things (though that claim is complicated by the difficulty in figuring out what he really believed anyway), but Plato was by far the most effective and influential early advocate of an attitude of questioning everything and figuring things out for yourself. As such, I think he deserves more credit than anyone else for most of subsequent Western philosophy.

Hmm. At first, I was inclined to agree with you. But the more I think about it, the more I suspect that Plato and Aristotle may have had a net negative effect on humanity, if only because they were too awesome. Placing philosophy's heavyweights right at the start of its history might well have discouraged a lot of philosophical diversity, particularly since it occurred at a time when antiquity was so central to authority. This is more the case for Aristotle, since he expressed less confusion and unclarity in his arguments. But unclarity can also have a stultifying effect, as shown by Christianity and, more generally, Neoplatonism.

If there weren't a lot of other philosophers at the time (including three other schools independent of Plato/Aristotle that were also founded by students of Socrates), I'd be more inclined to agree. But it's not clear to me that the course of philosophical history needed someone as amazing as Plato or as Aristotle, at that point in time. A slower development might have been healthier.

[-][anonymous]8y 0

But given that philosophy just didn't really emerge elsewhere, it seems like it's a pretty contingent fact about human beings. If it weren't for Plato and Aristotle, there just might never have been anything like it at all. And then what the hell would we do with our time?

Major philosophical traditions seem to have arisen independently three times: In Greece (following Thales and Anaximander), in India (following the Upanishads and Śramaṇa), and in China (following the Confucian texts). That's a pretty high success rate for large, long-lasting literary civilizations. It also suggests a selection effect; philosophy-like things probably arise frequently and just aren't recorded as well in most cultures.

'Philosophy', though, is probably too coarse a category for us here. More interesting would be 'philosophy vibrant and robust enough to survive sophism', since sophists did a lot to weaken early Chinese and Indian thought as forerunners to science and rationalism.

And, as I noted, Plato and Aristotle founded Western philosophy about as much as Ronald Reagan invented liberal democracy. In both cases, the 'founder' in question appears some 200 years late.

[-][anonymous]8y 0

That's a pretty high success rate for large, long-lasting literary civilizations.

Sorry, 'emergence' was probably the wrong word. 'Persistence' or 'development' is probably more to the point. The Chinese got unlucky with that madman of an emperor, but in any case I don't think anything coming from either the Indian or the Chinese tradition can really be compared to the European/Greek tradition after Aristotle. I'm not extremely confident in that judgement. My exposure to Indian and Chinese philosophy is not trivial, but obviously not extensive. I'd be pretty surprised to find that there's something in the Chinese or Indian tradition, at any period, that's anywhere in the ballpark of Kant, or even an early medieval commentary on Aristotle.

philosophy-like things probably arise frequently and just aren't recorded as well in most cultures.

Maybe. I expect there's going to be a close enough relationship between literacy and philosophy that this isn't a safe claim.

since sophists did a lot to weaken early Chinese and Indian thought as forerunners to science and rationalism.

Can you elaborate on that?

And, as I noted, Plato and Aristotle founded Western philosophy about as much as Ronald Reagan invented liberal democracy. In both cases, the 'founder' in question appears some 200 years late.

Maybe we disagree about Ronald Reagan, but it seems to me that Plato and Aristotle marked a radical upswing in sophistication. And both did found philosophy in many ways: everything that preceded them was comparatively narrow in scope, and generally lacked any systematic or thoughtful approach to ethics, logic, epistemology, etc.

Ibn Al-Haytham or Francis Bacon would both be candidates.

How about Machiavelli? He was perhaps the first person 1500 years to say sensible things about politics-as-they-are, rather than about politics-as-we-would-wish them. He had very substantial influence on the modern understanding of politics and government -- People in England and France who were building modern states seem to have read him closely.

In terms of philosophical method: His rhetorical style is to look around, give examples, and discuss counter-evidence -- rather than to reason forward from definitions. Perhaps relatedly, he was one of the few notable philosophers with real experience in the field he was writing about. He was a senior civil servant in Florence, with responsibility for military and diplomatic affairs. As a result, he was personally acquainted with many of the major figures in Italian politics of the time. He wasn't simply guessing how these things worked.

Perhaps relatedly, he was one of the few notable philosophers with real experience in the field he was writing about. He was a senior civil servant in Florence, with responsibility for military and diplomatic affairs. As a result, he was personally acquainted with many of the major figures in Italian politics of the time. He wasn't simply guessing how these things worked.

Which perhaps suggests it would be doing him a disservice to accuse him of being a philosopher. (Somewhat tongue in cheek.)

A bit of a silly thing to say, even if it is tounge-and-cheek.

1- The line between political philosopher and political scientist in Machievalli's context is an arbitrary imposistion, however the most credible way to do it is to distinguish one from the other based on whether they used abstract reasoning or empirical evidence to come to their conclusion.

Although it would be true to say that Machievalli was a political scientist in the same way, say, Aristotle, was a scientist about empirical matters, he lived in a time before political philosophy became useless. Writers such as Locke, Volitare, and Marx were part of movements that, whilst they had little correlation with reality, were effective at creating change- in the case of Volitaire's French Revolution, triggering a definite net improvement in the long run over the old reigme. Prior to 1900, the thesis "Political philosophers are useless" is utterly silly.

2- A good philosopher (as opposed to a bad one) will clarify thinking on the matter concerned and, by getting rid of irrationalities existing in the subject matter, improve thought. Take Hume for an example of this. Philosophy is not astrology- done right, rare though that may be, it can be helpful.

A good philosopher (as opposed to a bad one) will clarify thinking on the matter concerned and, by getting rid of irrationalities existing in the subject matter, improve thought.

"The purpose of philosophy is to destroy philosophy."

-- me, right here

If you mean that philosophers should find answers to philosophical questions, thus (in theory) ultimately leading to no more need for philosophical speculation, in terms of what would be best, I agree. However, teaching things of a philosophical nature would still be necessary even in such an ideal world in order to improve thought.

If you mean that philosophy should ultimately be transformed into other fields, I will say that in some areas I'm not sure but there are areas where this isn't really possible- making the refutation of the skeptic a non-philosophical question, for example, is impossible. Another example would be ethics in a prescriptivist sense, or the problem of personal identity. There are ways of solving these, but there is no way to make them non-philosophical.

A bit of a silly thing to say, even if it is tounge-and-cheek.

I disagree and reject your labelling. I'd go as far as calling your objection naive.The difference between things-that-philosophers-do and the things that Machiavelli did point to important distinctions in reality. Regardless of whether or not 'philosopher' is stretched to include people that are atypical of the class it remains important to at least acknowledge that there is a difference that is being glossed over.

A- I was not saying that Machievalli wasn't a political scientist- the distinction is considerably vague and I know so little I don't consider an assertion in the negative justified. However, to claim it was a disservice would imply it was somehow insulting to suggest he was a philosopher. Would it be a disservice to Einstein to suggest he was a biologist? No- however silly it would be in that less ambigious case. B- If we take examples in the period between, say, 1400 and 1600 of "political scientists", and "political philosophers", then the distinction becomes very vague. Most examples are ambigious rather than clearly one or clearly the other. I would venture a guess (though I don't know quite enough to assert it) that most of them would draw on experience of the world (sort-of scientific), not do experiments (impossible for practical purposes to experiment- very ocassionally a ruler could test out a political philosophy but this is the limit and still not scientific), and include implicit philosophy through the use of ethics in terms of what sort of society would be 'best' (for example, Machievalli himself implicitly assumed in the Prince, although I'm given to understand it's a bit different in other works, that the fact men are evil means a ruler is not obliged to treat them in a good fashion. This is an ethical claim).

If there is intended to be paragraph breaks here (including before the "B-" marker) keep in mind that markdown syntax requires two 'enters' to indicate paragraphs.

Being a Freudian and a Marxist is the modern equivalent of being an astrologer and alchemist.

I suppose it counts in Hume's favor that he was a big influence on Adam Smith (and so on economics becoming something like a science) and on Edward Gibbon (and so on history becoming something like an objective investigation).

The earlier you are, the more non-obvious leverage you have; the later you are, the more obvious leverage you have. I'll tentatively go with Aristotle; I think that "his ideas were dogmatically accepted and held back both science and philosophy later on" is a (likely ideologically tainted) mischaracterization of the history of Western philosophy & science.

On those criteria, I would say Plato. Because Plato came up with a whole mess of ideas that were... well, compelling but obviously mistaken. Much of Western Philosophy can be put in terms of people wrestling with Plato and trying to show just why he is wrong. (Much of the rest is wrestling with Aristotle and trying to show why HE is wrong... but then, one can put Aristotle into the camp of "people trying to show why Plato is wrong.")

There's a certain sort of person who is most easily aroused from inertia when someone else says something so blatantly, utterly false that they want to pull their hair out. Plato helped motivate these people a lot.

So you're looking for a person who's ideas (not necessarily due to their own merit) had the most positive effect on science and philosophy in the future?

Well, I'm not sure why you're interested... Although I'll add that does seen to exclude people currently alive like Nick Bostrom, who's effect upon the future is currently unknown to us (I would assume that calculating his effects upon the probability of saving the whole human race and the future, and thus causing a near infinite amount of science, might make him beat any others I know).

I'm interested because one of the things I am meant to be studying is the history of philosophy and I consider it best practice when studying a topic to do one's best to properly understand it.

(In case it isn't obvious, I'm asking Lesswrong because although I disagree on some things I think the aggregate of forum opinion more accurate on this sort of question than my own)

Asuming "Eliezer Yudowzsky" is not allowed? Alan Turing.

Curious about your reasoning here- could you explain, please?

Not sure what you mean. I just thought of a bunch of specific philosophical ideas I thought important and he got the greatest score.

Wittgenstein advanced philosophy to the point where it could have become an applied discipline, having solved many philosophical problems once and for all, but philosopher's balked at the idea of an ultimate resolution to philosophical problems.

Hume also showed the problems with design arguments which today's creationists still haven't fully appreciated.

I want to point out what may be two incorrect presuppositions in the question. First:

I am referring [...] to [...] the [philosopher] who deserves the most credit for advancing human philosophy towards being more true.

There may be an assumption here that the work of "advancing philosophy towards being more true" is mostly done by philosophers (in which case, it's reasonable to ask which of those philosophers has done the biggest slice of that work). But actually it seems likely, at least to me, that if you look at present-day philosophical opinions and long-ago philosophical opinions, pick out the changes about which we can be most confident that today's opinions are better, and ask how it came about that philosophers used mostly to believe X but now mostly believe Y -- then in many cases the reasons would be largely down to progress in (what is now called) science rather than in philosophy.

So if the question were altered slightly, asking for the person rather than specifically the philosopher who deserves most credit for advancing human philosophy towards being more true, people like Eratosthenes and Darwin and Einstein might be better candidates than the likes of Socrates and Hume and Russell.

The second possible incorrect presupposition is that "being more true" is the best way to compare the merits of philosophical positions. Isn't it possible, and even likely, that many philosophical questions are ones for which there is, actually, no fact of the matter about whether one answer or another is correct? Some philosophical questions might be important even if they don't have true answers as such; answering them one way rather than another might lead to greater happiness or scientific progress or something.

In such cases it might actually be best to find a way to reframe the debate so that it doesn't take the form of arguing about truth and falsehood. (So, for instance, suppose it turns out that moral realism is wrong, so that many, many philosophical debates about substantial questions of ethics were asking questions that have no true answers; it might then be better to ask questions like "what moral principles tend to lead to stable societies and happy lives?" or something.)

In terms of what counts as "philosophy", I was using a fairly modern conception of it. If that is granted (although come to think of it I could be challenged on that), then it follows that modern scientists have generally not considered such questions- Einstein, Darwin etc have not considered questions that fit into the modern idea of philosophy.

I also see no reasonable way to argue that there is "no fact of the matter" about whether morality is true or not. The basic idea of "just plain right/wrong" is incoherent and therefore clearly wrong in the same sense free will is clearly wrong.

What counts as philosophy: my point wasn't that science should be included under the heading of "philosophy", but that scientific advances may have had a big impact on philosophical questions.

Morality: I think I wasn't clear enough. (Either that or I'm now misunderstanding you.) I wasn't saying there might be no fact of the matter about whether moral realism is correct; I was saying that if moral realism is incorrect, there might be no fact of the matter about any question of the form "is doing X in situation Y morally right or not?". (As to the question of whether moral realism is incorrect, I am inclined to agree with you that it is. But that wasn't my point; I was just offering a concrete example.)

On that matter, could you give some more evidence to demonstrate your points? I'm curious but a bit skeptical without examples to back it up- modern philosophy is in a metaphorical sense designed by retreating further and further from empirical questions, and thus would not have in its domain questions which scientific advances can help with.

As for morality- let's assume moral realism is incorrect (a highly credible hypothesis). This puts moral realism on the same sort of level as free will. Therefore, if asking "Is doing X in situation Y morally right or not?" the correct answer in any case is "No- there is no such thing as 'morally right'." This is just asking the question "Does person X in situation Y have free will or not?" (common in law and ethics) is one where in all cases the answer is "No- there is no such thing as 'free will'."

Origins of philosophical progress: Take as an example the "mind-body problem", which one could state as follows: Our bodies appear to be machines made of meat, but somehow thinking doesn't tend to feel like an activity done by meat machines; how does that work out? Once upon a time, the great bulk of answers given by good philosophers would have fitted into the framework of "substance dualism"; there's mind-stuff and matter-stuff, and then various ways of explaining how they are connected (e.g., Descartes thought they interacted somehow in the pineal gland, Leibniz had his "pre-established harmonies", etc.).

Nowadays, there are still substance dualists but most philosophers are physicalists, and the terms of the debate have changed considerably. And I think this is mostly for two reasons. First, science and medicine have uncovered more and more reasons to think that our thinking is done by our brains, and that our brains are indeed meat machines. Second, religious belief has declined, mostly (I think) for reasons that have nothing much to do with the activities of professional philosophers in the intervening time, though some of them have a lot to do with the activities of scientists (e.g., Darwin and other evolutionary biologists giving a better explanation for the variety and adaptedness-to-environment of life; Newton and his many successors giving credible candidates for literally all-encompassing physical theories).

Morality: Assuming moral nonrealism, it isn't necessarily best to declare all moral judgements false. It might well be better to regard them as (e.g.) statements about the values of the person making those judgements (or the society they're in, or something). If we do -- and perhaps even if we don't -- then we should evaluate those statements by criteria other than truth. Suppose one person says "Sending Jews to the gas chambers is morally wrong" and another says "Sending Jews to the gas chambers is morally right". I have, and I bet you have, and I bet we would both prefer as many people as possible to have, a very strong preference (to say the least) for the first of those statements over the second. Which, still conditional on moral nonrealism, indicates that sometimes statements need evaluating on grounds other than objective truth even if at first glance they look like attempts to state objective truths.

(For the avoidance of doubt: I am not trying to make, explicitly or implicitly, the argument that goes "See, you're capable of seeing that 'gassing Jews is wrong' is better than 'gassing Jews is right'; therefore you must embrace moral realism because otherwise there's no coherent way to see that". I think that's a very wrong argument, though I recognize its psychological force.)

Origins of philosophical progress: Strictly speaking, this fits into my point- the idea of philosophy has been redefined and modern mind-body theories use arguments that aren't empirically verifiable. Some might consider this a dubious distinction, however, so I'll ignore that.

It should also be pointed out that the progress in philosophy was done much sooner- there were physicalist philosophers since the earliest period of history. There are more physicalist philosophers than mind-body dualist philosophers nowadays, but physicalism hasn't triumphed in the sense of becoming a philosophical consensus.

The scientists who ensured the triumph of physicalism would have converted future philosophers to physicalist viewpoints, but would not have greatly contributed to the progress of the philosophical minority who would have advanced its progress anyway. Even in the hypothetical world where there was no Industrial Revolution whatsoever for some reason, a philosophical minority would have proceeded to get as far as proper philosophers have today (case in point- look at Epiricus and how much he suceeded at on something approximating pure reason). The difference would be that there would be innumerable false theories out there as well.

Morality: Any believer in moral objectivity would consider this approach utterly patronising (I know partially because I once was one)- it is that much, as it assumes they are wrong without actually showing why. Back in the day, I would punch you for saying something like that.

The problem with your conception is that it makes it hard to consider some sorts of philosophical questions that deserve considering if the human "model" of these matters is to be as accurate as possible. For example, imagine trying to consider a question "Should I act selfishly or selflessly?" whilst considering the pros and cons of it. A flawed philosopher might argue something like "Selflessness is my subjective preference, so I'm going to go with that" without considering the implications of alternatives properly. Things worth considering for said philosopher include the implications of acting in various ways

Of course, it also means it becomes significantly harder for history students to have a decent understanding of the past- the conception of things as morally wrong has, as a concept, played a massive role in history. Many parts of history cannot be understood if you do not realise that people saw morality as more than a subjective matter of feelings.

What's the answer gonna be in a hypothetical post-Singularity which was positively shaped by FAI?

Either the AI itself, or, if the AI is very well-designed, anyone and everyone who would really enjoy being the greatest philosopher in history.

[-][anonymous]8y -2

For me it's Nietzsche by a wide margin. After Nietzsche, you can safely throw away most of your philosophy books. Nietzsche brought psychological insight that Western philosophy had never seen before. Nietzsche dared to deconstruct and challenge the foundations of Judeo-Christian morality, rationalism and liberalism. Nietzsche created potent memes like the Ubermensch, the Last Man, God is Dead, the Will to Power, and the coming of the strangest of all guests, Nihilism, that shape our intellectual discourse to this day. Nietzsche was perhaps the closest thing the West has seen to a prophet -- a dark Buddha or Antichrist who haunts the Western philosophical enterprise like a specter. Nietzsche has been ignored, misinterpreted and criticized relentlessly, but his challenges to the philosophers are as potent as ever.

These are my thoughts.

Nietzsche by a wide margin