Advanced Search

Who would you say is the most influential philosopher of all time? I am taking

Who would you say is the most influential philosopher of all time? I am taking about a philosopher who has not just made a fundamental impact on Western philosophy, but also on Eastern philosophy, and all the other ones of which I am not aware. I am also not taking about the best, greatest, or most known, loved, cited, quoted, or recognized. My question is solely based on influence, whether it was good, bad, both, or neither.

I will take a shot at this question, though with great hesitancy. The three philosophers that pop to mind are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. And because you are requesting a single philosopher, I would place a small wager on Plato for it is through Plato that we learn the most about Socrates (there are other sources, but Plato's is the richest, I suggest) and Plato was Aristotle's teacher (for about 20 years). A great 20th century British philosopher once observed that the history of philosophy is the history of footnotes on Plato. That, of course, over-states things and perhaps sacrifices accuracy to wit.

In good conscience, I must confess that I understand myself as a Platonist --so it may be that I am not the most objective in such matters. Although A.E. Taylor's work is a bit dated, I highly recommend his work on Plato --very accessible and puts Plato in context.

I will take a shot at this question, though with great hesitancy. The three philosophers that pop to mind are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. And because you are requesting a single philosopher, I would place a small wager on Plato for it is through Plato that we learn the most about Socrates (there are other sources, but Plato's is the richest, I suggest) and Plato was Aristotle's teacher (for about 20 years). A great 20th century British philosopher once observed that the history of philosophy is the history of footnotes on Plato. That, of course, over-states things and perhaps sacrifices accuracy to wit. In good conscience, I must confess that I understand myself as a Platonist --so it may be that I am not the most objective in such matters. Although A.E. Taylor's work is a bit dated, I highly recommend his work on Plato --very accessible and puts Plato in context.

Do any professional philosophers have admiration or use for Alan Watts? Even

Do any professional philosophers have admiration or use for Alan Watts? Even though I have a Masters in Philosophy, I never heard of him until recently. If professionals think of him as a mere entertainer, I suppose that is fair enough, but he is a pretty good explainer.

I doubt most professional philosophers think of Alan Watts as "a mere entertainer," but that may partly because he is probably not widely known by professional philosophers. I have not seen his work discussed in philosophical texts (books, journals, conference papers), though I think his work deserves engagement especially when it comes to thinking about Asian philosophical traditions. Those philosophers aware of him, probably think of him as part of the counter-cultural movement (Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman), but I think he was a more disciplined thinker than, say, Alduous Huxley and he had a gift for making Asian thought (Taoist / Buddhist....) accessible.

I doubt most professional philosophers think of Alan Watts as "a mere entertainer," but that may partly because he is probably not widely known by professional philosophers. I have not seen his work discussed in philosophical texts (books, journals, conference papers), though I think his work deserves engagement especially when it comes to thinking about Asian philosophical traditions. Those philosophers aware of him, probably think of him as part of the counter-cultural movement (Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman), but I think he was a more disciplined thinker than, say, Alduous Huxley and he had a gift for making Asian thought (Taoist / Buddhist....) accessible.

Hello there. Some contemporary philosophers say that Aquinas' arguments for the

Hello there. Some contemporary philosophers say that Aquinas' arguments for the existence of God are good arguments (eg John Haldane), whilst others think they are no good. Lots and lots of philosophers and philosophy books seem to not understand the arguments properly (I can remember being taught the arguments in the philosophy department of one of the most prominent universities in my country where, looking back, with hindsight I am pretty sure the teacher did not understand the arguments well at all). So who to believe?? Any suggestions would be interesting! Thank you in advance.

I go on to recommend some other texts below and address the topic of philosophical disagreements and consensus, but first a comment on Stephen Maitzen's observation about not being under any obligation to believe either side in a dispute over theistic arguments. I am not disagreeing with Stephen on this, but I do wonder about the general point of when one might be obligated to come to terms (oneself) in believing one side or another in a philosophical debate.... Here is a suggestion:

Let's say you have been appointed the task of establishing a university in a developing nation in which there are different religious communities (Christian and Islamic or Hindu and Buddhist, for example). You have enough funds to establish sound programs in engineering, the sciences, languages...and now you are considering how much to devote to a philosophy department and, perhaps more specifically, you must decide whether that department or a religion department should include scholars who are well trained and are excellent in teaching who would be able to engage students (undergraduate and graduate) with arguments for and against theism or Monism, beliefs in Karma, philosophical investigations of faith and reason.... Imagine the decision is wholly up to you and (for some reason) there is no body of neutral "experts" you can consult. I think that under THOSE conditions, you may well have an obligation (as part of your task in establishing a university) to sufficiently inquire into the debates to see whether they can be carried out with fairness, skill, openness to listening and considering carefully to both sides. I suppose this is not at all a disagreement with Stephen, for I am not arguing that under those circumstances you would have an obligation to believe one side or the other. But you might have an obligation to inquire further into the debates until you are able to form a reasonable overview of the terrain...

In terms of further reading on theistic arguments, I would recommend the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy (SEP) entries on Philosophy of Religion as well as entries on specific arguments like the Cosmological argument. Oppy's book on Arguing about gods (recommended by Stephen) is brilliant in many respects, but I think it would be tough reading on your own; it is sometimes highly technical. There are some good recommendations in the SEP. I also co-edited The Routledge Companion to Theism (which Oppy contributed to) and this contains lots and lots of (what I hope you will find) interesting entries.

As for your general point about disagreements in the case of theism, I suggest that some disagreements in philosophy can stem, not from vigorous "objective" and "impartial" reasoning in which philosophers have enough time and energy to patiently review all the relevant arguments and objections. In this matter, theism is no different as a topic than, say moral realism (the conviction that there are moral facts that are as 'objective' as the fact that I am posting a reply to you now). Actually, topics in religion and ethics can be a bit more vexing than, say, philosophy of language, because the stakes are a bit high. Imagine that a philosophical argument in environmental ethics gives you convincing reasons to change how you live and what you eat and wear or whether you have children or adopt, etc... In matters of religion, some of those who grow up to become professional philosophers have had backgrounds in religion that are unfortunate (they were told to believe X on the basis of authority rather than good reasons) and this can taint one's interest in philosophically exploring religion as adults. So, background, time-constraints, patience or lack of patience... can all come in to account for there not being consensus (yet) in philosophy of religion and, I believe, in ethics, political theory, philosophy of mind and some other areas.

I hope we have not discouraged you from doing your own exploring of the philosophical literature. A nice pairing of opposing philosophers can be found in the book Debating Christian Theism.

I go on to recommend some other texts below and address the topic of philosophical disagreements and consensus, but first a comment on Stephen Maitzen's observation about not being under any obligation to believe either side in a dispute over theistic arguments. I am not disagreeing with Stephen on this, but I do wonder about the general point of when one might be obligated to come to terms (oneself) in believing one side or another in a philosophical debate.... Here is a suggestion: Let's say you have been appointed the task of establishing a university in a developing nation in which there are different religious communities (Christian and Islamic or Hindu and Buddhist, for example). You have enough funds to establish sound programs in engineering, the sciences, languages...and now you are considering how much to devote to a philosophy department and, perhaps more specifically, you must decide whether that department or a religion department should include scholars who are well trained and are...

Can a person be a historian and a philosopher at the same time. I have a

Can a person be a historian and a philosopher at the same time. I have a passion for history and a joint passion for Philosophy? Nathan V.

Yes The clearest case of when you would need to be both a historian and a philosopher is when you write a history of philosophy. Expertise in both fields would also be highly valuable in writing philosophy of history. Apart from these two categories, the blending of philosophy and history (or the virtues of being both a philosopher and a historian) may vary.

Consider matters from the standpoint of history: When would a history (or a historian) be aided by philosophy?

Because one may write a history of any number of things (persons, events...) from a history of warfare to a history of agriculture, it may not be obvious when philosophy comes into play. Off hand, it seems that some philosophy will be inevitable in any history insofar as the history reflects a view (or a philosophy) of evidence, explanation, relevance, reasons and causes. But there are cases when philosophy seems more explicit as in a history of the French revolution versus a history of the first cities in the world.

From the standpoint of philosophy: When would philosophy (or philosophers) be aided by history? Some historical grounding seems important in even the most abstract philosophical matters (the philosophy of mathematics, for example), but there are philosophical questions that seem less sensitive to historical conditions. Arguably, questions about whether there can be an actual infinite does not depend (or depend significantly) on the time or place they are raised. Arguments about infinity are not merely of academic interest, but they have been employed by many philosophers (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) in arguments for the existence of God.

Yes The clearest case of when you would need to be both a historian and a philosopher is when you write a history of philosophy. Expertise in both fields would also be highly valuable in writing philosophy of history. Apart from these two categories, the blending of philosophy and history (or the virtues of being both a philosopher and a historian) may vary. Consider matters from the standpoint of history: When would a history (or a historian) be aided by philosophy? Because one may write a history of any number of things (persons, events...) from a history of warfare to a history of agriculture, it may not be obvious when philosophy comes into play. Off hand, it seems that some philosophy will be inevitable in any history insofar as the history reflects a view (or a philosophy) of evidence, explanation, relevance, reasons and causes. But there are cases when philosophy seems more explicit as in a history of the French revolution versus a history of the first cities in the world. From the...

How arrogant are philosophers? Are they more or less easily to have their minds

How arrogant are philosophers? Are they more or less easily to have their minds changed as compared to scientists or theologians?

Two very difficult questions! Your first question about 'how arrogant are philosophers' suggests you are not asking whether philosophers are arrogant, but asking about the magnitude of arrogance. Before replying to your question, please allow me to back-up a bit.

First, when is anyone arrogant? I suggest that someone is arrogant when he thinks, acts and/or feels with vanity or presumptuousness; typically an arrogant person may claim to know what is right or make assumptions about other persons or things without sensitivity or a properly humble effort to learn about others. When I picture an arrogant character, I imagine him or her as someone who is not at all self-critical; an arrogant person seems (in a typical case) someone who would never dream or imagine that he or she is wrong on some opinion or conviction.

In keeping with the above account, I should add that the above portrait may be wrong and I am open to changing my mind in light of better suggestions. I imagine that the last thing you are in the mood for is an arrogant account of arrogance!

As for philosophers, let me approach the matter from three angles in terms of ideals or models; philosophers historically; professional philosophers today.

In terms of ideals or models, 'philosophy' (which means the love of wisdom, from 'philo' for love and 'sophia' for wisdom) seems the very opposite of arrogance. Many see Socrates as a model philosopher and he was deeply committed to questioning when persons make claims to know about justice, holiness, courage, and so on, without proper grounds or justification. In Plato's early dialogues, Socrates is very reluctant to describe himself as wise or make presumptuous claims about being an expert on the soul, though he did commend to his fellow Athenians to care for their souls.

Historically, it is not easy to categorize philosophers in terms of arrogance, though some philosophers, like Socrates, stand out as stressing the importance of humility. Perhaps C.S. Pierce and William James are two 20th century cases. You ask about philosophers changing their minds. From the beginning, Plato did change his mind on several points and one may see through his dialogues a restless re-examination of earlier positions. Probably the most famous philosopher in the twentieth century to change his mind on many occasions is Bertrand Russell.

Today? There are some amazingly humble, self-critical, sensitive philosophers such as Ernie Sosa. Speaking personally, I have changed my mind on many fronts over the years. I began as a nominalist, but came to believe that was inadequate and I am currently a Platonist; I was an atheist then became agnostic and am currently a theist. Unfortunately or fortunately, there have not been (to the best of my knowledge) sociological studies that measure the arrogance of self-identified or professional philosophers in comparison with scientists and theologians. There is also the problem that just as a humble person is unlikely to announce that she is humble, it is just as unlikely that an arrogant philosopher (or plumber or taxi driver) will announce that he is arrogant.

For what its worth, in my view a philosopher who is arrogant usually does not advance in the profession. If you are utterly vain and allergic to self-questioning, chances are grim that your teaching evaluations will get you tenure and you are probably the last person on earth to be sought out to serve as an editor for philosophy journals and publications.

In sum, I do not see heaps of arrogance among philosophers either today or historically. But I could be blind on this point and might be wrong.

Two very difficult questions! Your first question about 'how arrogant are philosophers' suggests you are not asking whether philosophers are arrogant, but asking about the magnitude of arrogance. Before replying to your question, please allow me to back-up a bit. First, when is anyone arrogant? I suggest that someone is arrogant when he thinks, acts and/or feels with vanity or presumptuousness; typically an arrogant person may claim to know what is right or make assumptions about other persons or things without sensitivity or a properly humble effort to learn about others. When I picture an arrogant character, I imagine him or her as someone who is not at all self-critical; an arrogant person seems (in a typical case) someone who would never dream or imagine that he or she is wrong on some opinion or conviction. In keeping with the above account, I should add that the above portrait may be wrong and I am open to changing my mind in light of better suggestions. I imagine that the last thing you...

Why did Descartes pick thinking of all possible attributes to logically

Why did Descartes pick thinking of all possible attributes to logically establish existence? Rocks exist but don't think. What exactly did he have in mind to establish? Was it really existence? Did he have any valid reason to doubt his or our existence? Wouldn't pain be a better criterion? Or movement? Or change? If a non-philosopher raised such a question we would certainly look askance at him and not value his "evidence" either way.

Aha! My answer seems to have crossed in the mail, as it were, with Charles Taliaferro's. Well, there you go, two for the price of one! The price, of course, being free: isn't this a lovely site?

Thank you for this inquiry. You are on to a very important point. First, some thoughts on Descartes: Descartes set up the ultimate skeptical project: In an age of the emergence of modern science, he asked what we can really have unmistakable certainty about? To take your example, can we have absolute, uncorrectable (incorrigible) certainty that the rocks we see and study are as they appear? He proposed the massive skeptical hypothesis: Can we rule out that there is an all powerful evil genius who is making us appear (again, using your example) to see, observe, and study the movement, change, and location of rocks when, in fact there are no such rocks? In contemporary popular cultural terms, can we rule out that we are in the Matrix? Or to use terms that were popular in the 1980s, can you rule out that your brain is now in a vat at MIT and electrochemically stimulated such that you are having all the experiences you have now and so you are in a kind of virtual world, but not an actual world? ...

DESCARTES AND RUSSELL

DESCARTES AND RUSSELL Can anyone please explain how Russell thinks there is an error in saying 'I am a thing that thinks' (Descartes). I understand he talks about language, substance theory etc but his whole argument still remains unclear to me. HERE IS THE PASSAGE FROM THE BOOK (PORTRAITS FROM MY MEMORY): What I wish to emphasize is the error involved in saying "I am a thing that thinks." Here the substance philosophy is assumed. It is assumed that the world consists of more or less permanent objects with changing states. This view was evolved by the original metaphysicians who invented language, and who were much struck by the difference between their enemy in battle and their enemy after he had been slain, although they were persuaded that it was the same person whom they first feared, and then ate. It is from such origins that common sense derives its tenets. And I regret to say that all too many professors of philosophy consider it their duty to be sycophants of common sense, and thus, doubtless...

I think you are quite right to be puzzled. I believe that, when Russell wrote the above (he changed his mind on all sorts of topics, so one has to deal with-- as it were-- more than one Russell), he rejected a philosophy of substances and, instead, proposed that the concept of an event is more accurate. So, in another essay or book, Russell charged that Descartes' inference "I think, therefore I am" begs the question. It assumes the very thing it sets out to argue for. Russell thought that Descartes should rather lay claim to this thesis: "There is thinking." Such an event does not (according to Russell) commit us to positing a substance, the thinker, just as the statement "It is raining" does not commit one to holding that there is a thing that is raining. His absolutely mind-blowingly bizarre comments on cannibalism to one side (what evidence could Russell possibly be relying upon), Russell is claiming that our "common sense" inclination to think in terms of substances is owing to our use of language with subjects and predicates. Is Russell's position plausible?

I think his position is quite suspect. Recall that Descartes set out to doubt all that he could. He imagined an all powerful deceiver who might deceive Descartes into merely thinking he exists. He finally came to the point where he found his own being unmistakable, for he concluded that he could not doubt he existed unless he exists. Indeed, I suggest that our awareness of ourselves as thinking, acting, feeling, etc beings over time is self-evident. Contra Hume, I suggest that every time you feel pain or see red, you aware of yourself (as an individual subject) feeling pain and you are aware of yourself seeing red. Back to Russell: I do not think we can make sense of there being a state of affairs of 'there is thinking' without there being a thinker. This is not a reflection of a merely contingent characteristic of language. It makes no sense for the event "running the New York marathon" to take place, without there being runners. Yes, we have the words "running" and "runner" but to suppose you could have running without runners is a logical or conceptual point. It also seems misleading to think the event "It is raining" is utterly void of individuals or substances --be they clouds or water droplets or H20.

There is not a huge consensus on the nature of events today, but a common one is that an event consists of an individual or individuals and at least one property such as "People thinking." Some philosophers think an event also needs to add a time. And I must note that while my own judgment is quite solidly Cartesian contra Russell, there are a range of thinkers who have sought to dispense with individuals and put in their place processes or fields or (as Russell does) events. Nelson Goodman once (I believe) observed that, in his view, the White Cliffs of Dover, is an extremely long event.

I think you are quite right to be puzzled. I believe that, when Russell wrote the above (he changed his mind on all sorts of topics, so one has to deal with-- as it were-- more than one Russell), he rejected a philosophy of substances and, instead, proposed that the concept of an event is more accurate. So, in another essay or book, Russell charged that Descartes' inference "I think, therefore I am" begs the question. It assumes the very thing it sets out to argue for. Russell thought that Descartes should rather lay claim to this thesis: "There is thinking." Such an event does not (according to Russell) commit us to positing a substance, the thinker, just as the statement "It is raining" does not commit one to holding that there is a thing that is raining. His absolutely mind-blowingly bizarre comments on cannibalism to one side (what evidence could Russell possibly be relying upon), Russell is claiming that our "common sense" inclination to think in terms of substances is owing to our use of...

In his "Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason", Kant argues that it is

In his "Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason", Kant argues that it is possible for people to become moral by following the example of Jesus Christ. How then would he comment on Abraham's actions during the Binding of Isaac? Isn't Abraham treating Isaac as a means to an end, even if that commandment is from God during a time when Jesus was not yet born? In other words, is Jesus just one example of moral guidance out of many and there is no one true religion; that is, anyone else can serve the same role?

Actually, I am 99% sure Kant actually rejected the (at least surface) interpretation of the narrative of the binding. That is, Kant thought it would never be reasonable for Abraham to think God (or any good being) would require a sacrifice of the innocent. My own reading of the text is that it should be read chiefly as a prohibition of child-sacrifice. The point of the story is that the God of Abraham is NOT like the other gods who demand human offerings. The purpose of the (divine) command of offering Abraham's son (verse 2) is only to set the stage for the dramatic prohibition of such sacrifice (11-12). The narrative stress on God providing a ram to take the place of Abraham's son further highlights the emphatic prohibition of human sacrifice. Abraham's naming the place where this substitution took place "God provides" (verse 14) rather than something like "This is the place where I almost lost my son" or "This is the place where Kant would have insisted that what I thought was a command to sacrifice my son was an illusion" (joke) makes the story about God providing ways of divine offerings that are NOT human.

If the above interpretation is plausible, then the lesson of the narrative is that Isaac should not be treated as a means to an end (a means of offering a proper sacrifice to God).

As for Kant's view of Jesus Christ, this is a matter of massive scholarly debate. John Hare at Yale goes quite far in reading Kant as more in line with traditional Christianity than some others who see Jesus as only a moral exemplar. You might check out Hare's book, The Moral Gap. According to Hare, Kant thought that grace was needed for us to overcome the gap that separates us from rectitude. To investigate this further, you might look at Kant's view of radical evil.

Actually, I am 99% sure Kant actually rejected the (at least surface) interpretation of the narrative of the binding. That is, Kant thought it would never be reasonable for Abraham to think God (or any good being) would require a sacrifice of the innocent. My own reading of the text is that it should be read chiefly as a prohibition of child-sacrifice. The point of the story is that the God of Abraham is NOT like the other gods who demand human offerings. The purpose of the (divine) command of offering Abraham's son (verse 2) is only to set the stage for the dramatic prohibition of such sacrifice (11-12). The narrative stress on God providing a ram to take the place of Abraham's son further highlights the emphatic prohibition of human sacrifice. Abraham's naming the place where this substitution took place "God provides" (verse 14) rather than something like "This is the place where I almost lost my son" or "This is the place where Kant would have insisted that what I thought was a command to...

How would Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle feel about guns and gun control?

How would Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle feel about guns and gun control?

Not an easy question to take on! This sounds like a question about the USA theatre of debate on gun control and not, say, a question about Great Britain. I will assume a USA context and the debate about background checks, allowing for conceal and carry, and the permissibility of allowing private citizens to have guns that are "military grade" such as an AK-47 or an uzi.

None of the three were pacifists or believed that it was wrong to serve in the Athenian army or navy; Socrates actually served as a foot soldier and was a veteran of the war between Athens and her allies and Sparta and her allies. We have some reason to think Socrates served with distinction. In Plato's version of Socrates' trial (the Apology), Socrates spoke to his judges and the people of Athens to not neglect the care of their souls. This may plausibly be understood as Socrates urging others not to be victims of their own pride, to question their claims to know what is just or holy. Such self-questioning and questioning the convictions of others is only possible under conditions that are pacific or at least non-violent. If you are not safe challenging the "wisdom" of others, your life as a philosopher may be limited and, worse, quite short. So Socrates and his student Plato, and Aristotle (who was Plato's student) had an interest in a culture in which violence (unjustified or tyranical force) is minimal. Based on this, I think the three of them would oppose a heavily armed population with weapons of widely destructive power. So, I suspect they would not want average Athenians to have access to "Greek fire" (a kind of petroleum based weapon that cannot be put out with water, or at least not put out easily). And, if that is right, I suppose they would oppose wide spread possession of military grade weaponry --minimally no shoulder launched anti-aircraft rockets and no machine guns. Also, I think that if they (or we) want a safe context do practice philosophy, we would all want weapons not to be sold to people who have had history of mental illness, violence, a criminal record, and so on. So, while your question is on the verge of being completely impossible to answer (such as asking whether Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle would drive a hybrid), we may be able (very tentatively) to see how their teachings might lead one to support those in the USA who are seeking tighter controls on guns for the sake of public safety. Still, who knows? Maybe they might all three want to join the NRA.

But if you or anyone has read this reply up to now, I will hazard a guess about what Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would do if they found themselves in the USA. I think they might board the next plane to the UK where there is far less gun violence

Not an easy question to take on! This sounds like a question about the USA theatre of debate on gun control and not, say, a question about Great Britain. I will assume a USA context and the debate about background checks, allowing for conceal and carry, and the permissibility of allowing private citizens to have guns that are "military grade" such as an AK-47 or an uzi. None of the three were pacifists or believed that it was wrong to serve in the Athenian army or navy; Socrates actually served as a foot soldier and was a veteran of the war between Athens and her allies and Sparta and her allies. We have some reason to think Socrates served with distinction. In Plato's version of Socrates' trial (the Apology), Socrates spoke to his judges and the people of Athens to not neglect the care of their souls. This may plausibly be understood as Socrates urging others not to be victims of their own pride, to question their claims to know what is just or holy. Such self-questioning and...

Would Socrates consider any of the professional academics on this site, who

Would Socrates consider any of the professional academics on this site, who offer themselves for anyone who wants to ask anything, philosophers?

Your question combines two thoughts about Socrates that are often put together: that he never charged a fee for talking to people, and that (therefore) he was available to everyone. For you describe the panelists as offering themselves "for anyone who wants to ask anyone."

Now, it's true that in some portrayals, especially those written by Xenophon, Socrates equates the non-payment with a spirit of democratic openness. Not charging tuition or other fees means (on this interpretation of Socrates) being free to all. But a fascinating article from nearly thirty years ago, David Blank's "Socratics versus Sophists on Payment for Teaching," challenges this assumption. Blank grants the distinction between Socrates and the sophists on the basis of their charging (high) fees for instruction while he charged nothing. He only questions whether Socrates' purpose was to give his time and effort to all who wanted it.

On the contrary, says Blank, sometimes it appears that Socrates keeps himself free by not charging money. If he were to charge a fee he would be obligated to keep company with the one who paid it. Then it wouldn't be up to him to choose who deserved his company and who did not. What seems very democratic at first in his practice turns out to be an aristocratic attitude, one that holds itself above the vulgar earning of a wage.

So, to get back to your question: Socrates may well applaud the panelists' love of philosophical discourse that keeps them answering the questions people send in. He might only look askance at their democratic desire to send philosophical comments out for all to read. For all his merits, Socrates was a profoundly anti-democratic thinker, and we don't want to paper over that side of him.

Interesting question --not unlike questions like "Would Jesus recognize those who call themselves 'Christians' as true followers of him? Or would Marx recognize those who call themselves 'Marxists' truly followers of his work? I think Socrates might have a few things to say to us all. Here are four things Socrates might communicate to you and I: First, Socrates might prefer that philosophical dialogue take place in person rather than through writing. In one of Plato's dialogues Socrates expressed some misgivings about writing. He (or at least the character 'Socrates' in the dialogue) argued that in-person dialogue was superior to writing for when we engage in dialogue (practicing philosophy) we can pick up clues straightaway about whether one has been misunderstood or has offended or pleased one's dialogue partner. Maybe Socrates might suggest this site includes skyping and audio transmission. Second, Socrates might be especially pleased about this site, for while we are each "professional"...

Pages