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Why is Socrates so influential?

Why is Socrates so influential?

There are two kinds of responses people make to this question, because Socrates affected later philosophy in at least two ways. First of all, he must have been an extraordinary person, both charismatic and counter-cultural. He seemed to embody the values he inquired into. As a result he could ask probing questions about what a friend is without failing to be a friend. He could ask whether anyone understood courage, but ask as a courageous person rather than as a coward looking to undermine the virtue.

He struck his friends as possessing what we call a sixth sense, what he called a "sign" that a spirit brought him in certain circumstances.

That is Socrates the person. Meanwhile Socrates philosophized in a systematic way, trying to develop a new way for human beings to analyze and assess difficult concepts, and especially the concepts of moral and political philosophy. He was not the first ancient intellectual to prioritize thinking about values ahead of thinking about the non-human universe (the Sophists, to name only one group, preceded him there). But he seems to have been the first to work out methods and goals for identifying disputed terms and clarifying them through general definitions.

After his death the many friends and associates of Socrates expressed his influence on them in different ways. Some started philosophical circles, even what we today call a school -- Plato in the Academy, for instance. Others, like the early Cynics, emulated Socrates the person with (as far as we can tell) little interest in any particular doctrines or the arguments to defend them. For them Socrates was overwhelmingly the subject of anecdotes, a man in plain clothes and unadorned social presentation.

From what we know, Socrates stood out in both respects. His analytical method of definition inspired the philosophical tradition of examining and clarifying what we say and when, and it led to the development of logic. But as a human being he seems to have lived with integrity and steady virtue. (Famously, he did not escape execution despite having the opportunity to do so.) I think his unmatched status in philosophy has to do with this combination of personal magnetism and intellectual inventiveness and rigor.

Do implicit cultural biases, stereotypes, and even outright errors in Hegel's

Do implicit cultural biases, stereotypes, and even outright errors in Hegel's concrete historical claims about the past effect, in any serious way, the validity of his philophical views in general?

If Hegel relies on false observations about other cultures or false historical claims to make his arguments in the philosophy of history, then I would think that it would undermine those arguments. I suspect that those false claims do in fact serve as evidence for his views in the philosophy of history, which means that his views are indeed undermined.

But perhaps his false and distasteful historical and cultural claims are not meant as evidence for his theories, but illustrations of them. If so, then his claims are *again* weakened by his errors. For, if his theory makes predictions for phenomena that do not in fact obtain, then that would seem to suggest his theory is not satisfactory.

Finally, if his falsehoods are neither supporting his theories or supposed to stand as examples of the explanations those theories provide, then I suppose they would not weigh on his views, casting a bad light merely on his character.

But surely other readers of Hegel may disagree.

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.

Do philosophers raise their children differently? Is talking back to a teacher

Do philosophers raise their children differently? Is talking back to a teacher always a good thing so long as the child has good arguments?

Second question first: Of course not! If 'talking back' means picking arguments with a teacher, that's not very productive -- or very philosophically minded. That said, I think many philosophers would agree that too much of formal education emphasizes the memorization or assimilation of 'established' knowledge as the expense of the sort of curiosity and questioning found in philosophy. There's a worldwide movement to promote philosophy education for children. Here are some good resources on that front:
http://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/
http://p4c.com/

As to your first question: I don't have any empirical data to support this -- to my knowledge, how philosophers raise their children has never been studied. All the same , I would not at all be surprised to learn that many of the traits that one needs to be successful in philosophy -- a sense of puzzlement, attention to reasoning, comfort with uncertainty, respect for those with whom one disagrees -- are passed on by philosophers to their children. I can say in my own case that my family's dinner table conversation is very much enlivened by philosophical inquiry in which my children are active participants.

How often do philosophers admit their own defeat in their own published academic

How often do philosophers admit their own defeat in their own published academic articles?

Philosophy is a highly discursive discipline founded on argumentative give and take. Often when a philosopher's position is subject to criticism she believes she cannot answer, she modifies her position while trying to retain those elements of those position she believes are most central to it. In other words, the result of receiving criticism is rarely a philosopher 'admitting defeat.' Rather, her position evolves as she strives to absorb the criticisms as much as her extant positions allow.

That said, there are some prominent examples of philosophers who clearly changed their minds over their lifetimes. Perhaps the clearest is Wittgenstein: The 'early Wittgenstein' inspired logical positivism, the 'later' ordinary language Wittgenstein was a critic of positivism. Russell seemed to change his mind a fair bit too. A recent example is John Rawls, who gives a very different foundation for his political liberalism in his early work than in his later work. Kant certainly changed his mind regarding whether human freedom can be demonstrated. And Plato is an interesting case here too: It's tough to know if Plato ever believed the doctrines espoused by Socrates in the early Platonic dialogues, but the views defended in the later dialogues are clearly different.

In short, I suspect most philosophers try to strike a balance between a dogmatic embrace of the views they find plausible and the criticisms of those views, trying to identify the best overall synthesis of these. And in my view, that's as it should be. Philosophy is held back by dogmatism, but it also progresses in part because adherents of particular positions defend them to the utmost.

I have been reading some of Aristotle's explanations of physical phenomena and I

I have been reading some of Aristotle's explanations of physical phenomena and I'm left wondering, "Did he get anything right?" Did he?

I don't know how broadly or how narrowly you're using the word "physical," but if your "physical phenomena" include everything that takes place in the physical world, i.e. everything biological, then the answer is clearly Yes. As an observer of animals, the parts of animals, and their internal anatomy, both Aristotle's methodology and his actual statements are impressive. This is not to say he's right all the time, or even most of the time. Sometimes he can look right at an organ, like a heart, and misdescribe it. (This is not to mention his failure to understand how the blood circulates.)

I imagine you'd rather hear the assessment from a modern biologist than from a philosopher, and so I recommend the recent book THE LAGOON by Armand Marie Leroi. Leroi is a biologist who makes clear what Aristotle observed correctly, what he missed, and where (as in his thinking about natural selection) his presuppositions prevented him from drawing better conclusions from his observations. The book is written for a general audience, and if you're really interested it's a fine place to start.

If you already know something about biology, it might be more fun to jump right into Aristotle's observations, as in his HISTORY OF ANIMALS.

Do philosophers make good lawyers? If not is that due to a fault in the legal

Do philosophers make good lawyers? If not is that due to a fault in the legal profession or philosophy itself?

It's probably hard to generalise, since there are any number of other traits that make someone a good lawyer, apart from those shared with doing philosophy. However, I understand that law firms are very interested in taking people who have done a philosophy degree, and a good number of philosophy students show an interest in studying law. Several skills that are very important to philosophy are also important to law, in particular the abilities to make sense of abstract information and convoluted sentences, to construct arguments on both sides of a case, to anticipate objections and prepare replies, to spot fallacies and weaknesses in arguments, to integrate a wide range of different kinds of relevant information, and to write and speak clearly and persuasively, breaking down complexity into simple components. There may be other relevant traits that help as well, such as an interest in what is right or just, a good memory, motivation for hard work, and so on. On the other hand, IF philosophers are characterised by an interest in the truth, and IF a good lawyer is one who is interested in protecting their client or success (assuming a combative legal system like we have in the USA or UK), then there can be a conflict of motivation in the two professions, which would make philosophers bad lawyers unless they become public prosecutors! But these are big and controversial assumptions.

I would just like t to ask you a few questions. Locke speaks of Reason being

I would just like t to ask you a few questions. Locke speaks of Reason being the Law of Nature if I am correct but then sees that we need certain minimal authority within society to provide correctly measured punishment for those who go against another's natural rights. If Reason is the said Law of Nature then why can not most of us, according to Locke, decide these measurements of justice individually? I understand that he says 'those who will consult it' but if he sees that we naturally as a majority can live within equality and freedom due to Reason, why is this area of justice, in theory, any different? Furthermore I have a problem with his assumption that the moralities he defines would and should be the morality of everyone because many can and do Reason differently. I may not understand Locke completely though.

I shall address your question concerning reason and the law of nature and shall leave aside the last two sentences concerning morality.

It is true that Locke believes that reason allows those even in a state of nature to know the laws of nature and, therefore, to follow them. Thus, in principle, one might think that people could live in harmony in a state of nature, guided by reason alone.

Unfortunately, when people live together or interact with other, which we must necessarily do, disagreements will sometimes arise. What's more, when someone is a party to a dispute, they are not always able to reason properly concerning the dispute. This is a fact of human nature; we are not always good reasoners when our interests are involved.

In order to adjudicate such disputes, we need a third party to help us. Thus, because people will inevitably come into contract or property disputes, and because they cannot always adjudicate their own or their neighbors' and friends' disputes rationally, we must establish an independent judiciary, so to speak. In other words, we must agree to give up our natural rights in exchange for civil rights, which will make an independent system of justice possible.

In which book, which chapters does Hegel talk about 'everything happens for a

In which book, which chapters does Hegel talk about 'everything happens for a reason'? Are there other authors that talk about this topic? What are the titles?

I can answer the second part of this question, but not the first (sorry!). The claim that 'everything happens for a reason' is known as the Principle of Sufficient Reason. It is commonly associated with Leibniz (and before him, Spinoza), but played an important role in German idealism, and was the topic of Schopenhauer's doctoral dissertation. You can find the references for these and other discussions in this article from the Stanford Encyclopedia:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sufficient-reason/

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.

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