Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Most overrated philosopher ever

For those of you too nice to indulge in this sort of thing, how about your submissions for the most underrated philosopher?

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wilhelm Dilthey

an ominous moderator said...

Under or over?

Anonymous said...

under

uturn said...

Kant.

uturn said...

Overrated, that is.

Anonymous said...

I'll probably get flamed for suggesting this, but, for the category of most overrated, I nominate Descartes.

Great mathematician? Absolutely. Great scientist (for his day)? Sure. Great philosopher, considering his stature in the Western philosophical canon? Meh.

Once you factor out what he borrowed from his predecessors and contemporaries (e.g. Augustine and Beeckman, to cite but two), there remains little truly original and truly great philosophical work, at least in comparison to lesser names in the history of philosophy. And then there's the often disappointing nature of his replies to his critics.

Bear in mind that in PHIL 101 courses Descartes's probably the most widely read historical figure, after Plato and perhaps Aristotle, so he's got a tall reputation to live up to. And I'm not convinced his original and distinctively philosophical work lives up to that reputation (which is not to say he shouldn't be read as much as he is).

Alright, Descartes scholars, bring it.

Anonymous said...

I recommend that everyone actually provide, um, you know, a justification for their nomination. Anyone can throw out a name.

Anonymous said...

Damn, I second Descartes. Most overrated contemporary is Plantinga.

[I'm taking the rating to be done by people who rate rather than by philosophers, per se. And, while this should be obvious, overrating is all about the size of the gap. It is possible to be the most overrated and the greatest. I don't think that's the case with my choices, but I'm not saying that either is bad or less than good.]

Anonymous said...

Most Underrated: Thrasymachus. Easily could have defeated Plato in a no-rules cage match.

Anonymous said...

"And then there's the often disappointing nature of his replies to his critics."

Disappointing, yes (sometimes). But why? I submit it's often because he is not often concerned to explain his view fully, and just sets out the kernel of his response. His replies, in my view, are often far more cogent and relevant than they first appear.

Anonymous said...

Most underrated: David Lewis.

While he's widely thought to be among the best of the 20th century, he should be widely thought to be among the best of all time.

Anonymous said...

Most overrated: Richard Dawkins. Not that most (any?) philosophers consider him part of the guild, but most non-philosophers do. The quality of his arguments [sic] certainly indicates otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Continental vs. analytic?
Descartes vs. Kant?

You call this gossip?? Seriously, did nothing happen at the APA? Does no one have fly-out stories?

Anonymous said...

I second Anon @ 6:41.

I've gone to numerous underwhelming Plantinga presentations and was rather confused just why so many people totally revered him.

Justification?: SUPER nice guy, but the whole "Protestant Pope of Philosophy" title has made him pretty shoddy in his argumentation and reasoning. Besides "Modus-Tollens-ing" criticisms, his shield of choice against opposing arguments to his is the trusty argumentum ad ignorantium.

e.g. "p? Well, I just don't see how ~p..."

Anonymous said...

Your favorite philosopher-completely overrated

your least favored philosopher-completely underrated

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:24 AM,

The absence of gossip of that sort is more likely due to the fact that nothing is happening to generate such gossip. From all gossipy accounts I've received, the Eastern APA was a deadstick; the follow up to that--on campus interviews--is bound to be even less exciting. We should all consider this year's job cycle officially over. The next JFP will have more pages devoted to administrative detail, repeated in every issue and a f--n waste of paper, than it will for *new* job announcements.

Anonymous said...

Rawls -- because he coasted on one good idea.

Anonymous said...

Kant overrated? No way! He may be underrated. Seriously.

In a similar vein: Sellars-underrated.

I may actually agree with those above suggesting that Descartes is overrated. I will continue to assign the Meditations in every Intro class I teach though.

....David Lewis. hmmm. True, he is a philosophy god. He is probably just-right-rated though. I mean, I haven't ever heard anyone suggest that he is overrated.

one last thought. G.E. Moore may be a tad underrated. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

"I haven't ever heard anyone suggest that [David Lewis] is overrated."

Most Overrated - David Lewis. He was wicked clever, but burdened by a weirdo agenda he inherited from Quine and endorsed with a dogmatism that would make Jerry Falwell blush. "Let's do everything in terms of sets and individuals. What? This is going to lead to a seriously CRAZY view of modality? Oh well, let's do it."

And how good is this straight-faced argument for modal realism?: "The hypothesis is serviceable. And that is reason to think it is true." W T F ? I guess it makes sense if you drank the Kool-Aid of the sets/individuals cult. Then modal realism starts looking pretty good, and you start thinking it's really darn "serviceable."

There's only one impossible proposition huh? And that's the null set? Really? And the proposition "There is no null set" just is the null set? Sure buddy, whatever. Just keep passing to your left.

And the semantics for counterfactuals? Seriously? I just check out the "nearest" possible world? Cool. Thanks. Let me get my tape measure. I thought we left the metaphors to the Continentals. Zing!

I'm pretty sure that in 100 years these views - modal realism, realizer-functionalism, his semantics of counterfactuals, etc. - will be mere historical curiosities.

And don't get me started on his forays into philosophy of religion...

And "Kellogg"? Seriously? "Kellogg"?? He could have done better.

--------
Most underrated: the fusion of Plantinga and van Inwagen.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I misspoke. I should have said, "I haven't ever heard anyone credibly suggest that he is overrated."

Still haven't.

Anonymous said...

"I misspoke. I should have said, "I haven't ever heard anyone credibly suggest that he is overrated."

Still haven't."


Why do you say that wasn't credible?

Anonymous said...

Why do you say that wasn't credible?

Well, the considerations raised in the post seem to boil down to the following: (1) Lewis was in part carrying forward someone else's agenda. (2) Lewis had some crazy ideas (that is, he argued for some prima facie wildly implausible conclusions). (3) Some of the arguments Lewis made were bad.

None of this, by itself, distinguishes Lewis from Plato. So the case Anon 11:35 makes above seems somewhat insubstantial. (Perhaps 'credible' wasn't the right word.)

Anonymous said...

None of this, by itself, distinguishes Lewis from Plato.

Might that not just give us reason to suppose that Plato too is overrated? Wouldn't you need to argue that Plato in fact is not overrated for this to be a counterexample?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't you need to argue that Plato in fact is not overrated for this to be a counterexample?

It's absolutely true that I relied on some unstated assumptions--for example, that Plato was a very fine philosopher. However, I don't think I'm committed to the premise that Plato is not overrated.

Suppose it were true that (1) Plato is a great philosopher, and (2) some of us who deny that Lewis is overrated do not also think that Lewis would rank ahead of Plato in order of greatness. Then, one could hold that Plato is overrated and at the same time use the comparison between Lewis and Plato to suggest that considerations in favor of thinking that Lewis is overrated aren't convincing. (Lewis could possess flaws similar to Plato and still be pretty great.)

I don't happen to think that Plato is overrated. But I don't see how that matters.

I suppose you might reframe your question: "Wouldn't you need to argue that Plato is a great philosopher for this to be a counterexample?" But while Plato might be overrated, I'm having a hard seriously considering the possibility that he wasn't a great philosopher. I'd have to hear reason to think he wasn't.

Anonymous said...

Wittgenstein. Overrated. No question. Ruined good philosophy for the rest of us.

Plato said...

Fila mou to kolo.

Anonymous said...

Jesus?

Anonymous said...

Gossip? Yes - I've heard plenty of that. Philosophy? Hardly - not much philosophical discourse going on here, simply unsupported (even unwarranted) statements and opinions about who is 'over-rated' or 'under-rated'. Isn't this blog supposed to be 'philosophy' & gossip, and not just gossip? If it's both, can we please see some philosophical discussions, arguments, justifications for why & how you think so and so deserve the worthy titles you've bestowed on them?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with the person that said Moore might be one of the most underrated philosophers. Sense and Sensibilia is brilliant. Also, pointing out how dumb skepticism is a great contribution as well.

Indeed, it seems that while his contemporaries in Cambridge were wasting time trying to out posture each other about rather pointless issues, Moore was saying sensible stuff. While it seems that every single undergrad has read everything written by Wittgenstein and Russell, most graduate students I've met have only briefly perused Moore's work.

I must grant though, much the above really speaks more to my biases than anything. I tend to find much of the stuff happening in the middle part of the twentieth century sort of silly.

get it together, man! said...

Skeptical worries aside, I'm quite confident Austin wrote Sense and Sensibilia.

Anonymous said...

Most overrated: Searle.
Justification:so many of his "arguments" consists of sweeping, unsubstantiated claims conjoined with the dismissal of his opponents as "obviously wrong." Drives me crazy.

Anonymous said...

Most underrated: A. N. Whitehead. He'll be the next Kant, it's just a matter of time.

Why? Process metaphysics is the only articulated systematic metaphysics that makes sense given contemporary understandings of reality. Anglo-American philosophers are just turned off by having to learn his lingo.

Anonymous said...

Get it together man:

You're right. I had a severe brain fart when I said Moore wrote Sense and Sensibilia, for some reason Austin and Moore merge into the same person in my brain when I'm not paying attention.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Which is probably partly why I thought he was so underrated I was crediting him with both his work and Austin's work. If a single person did all that, they would be a pretty awesome philosopher.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, I'm liking the Whitehead call.

Overrated from here in the Continental corner: Deleuze. Beyond a few happy metaphors (don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for those)... it's all a bit all mouth and no trousers, new for the sake of new.

Chris said...

I second Wittgenstein as most overrated.

Descartes is maybe overrated, but his single-handed delivery of the epistemological turn is massive. The fact that all of his arguments are weak and all of his claims are false is irrelevant to his contribution, which was entirely methodological.

Anonymous said...

Quine. Skilled prose writer, mixed bag on the logic/set theory front. Philosopher? Hardly. His forays into serious philosophy smack the conscientious reader as dilettantish at best, vacuous at worst. Ontology, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of language; mostly a bust in all of these. Some of his disciples and students had some things to say, but that's about it...

Christopher said...

Although Descartes may be somewhat overrated (and although his "cogito ergo sum" is certainly repeated to such a point as to be devoid of any conscious meaning), I think it is difficult to highly overestimate his contributions to philosophy. His logical skepticism profoundly influenced the flow of rational philosophical thought (particularly, of course, that of Leibniz and Spinoza), and his popularization of axiomatic, simple-->complex argumentation pervades the works of Wittgenstein and the analytic philosophers, the philosophy of mathematics, etc. Likewise, the entire problem of duality between the mind and body had remained in a much more abstract state before his ideas. He may not have been the most fruitful philosopher, and he may have had a few logical lapses, but the ideas he set forth have no doubt profoundly shaped philosophy's course. One might even go so far as to argue that Descartes was the pivotal factor in the transition from Scholasticism to "Modern" philosophy.

said...

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=114232131937839&ref=ts

here's a group called "Philosophy is Overrated" on Facebook! you guys should join it and say you opinion it :)

Anonymous said...

Most underrated (and unwarrantedly beat up on): Searle. He anticipates Kripke's central Naming and Necessity argument (proper names, 1958), but is never credited for it. And his social stuff is way ahead of the pack even today - people will be working out Constructing Social Reality for decades. And you're dam right this is anonymous!

Anonymous said...

PLATO hands down.
Cashed in on the death and lack of written work of Socrates then uses him in dialogs in The Republic to push his own contradicting points of views on human worth, values, limiting breeding, arguments against all arts, police states, controlling policies of leaders and the 'role' of philosophers as teachers for the chosen few who would be given power.
His legacy had more a negative impact on future free thinkers than positive.
Let's not forget the cave allegory. This was a good jumping off point for human awareness. The problem was that his view of it was dogmatic at best. I have read dozens and dozens of essays and books (and countless interpretations in music and movies) that related this in a much better way and made the correlation between the idea of the cave and much broader sense of reality.
You can exit your cave and escape 'the shadows' (illusions of reality) and seek knowledge of 'the world' and the virtues of 'the sun' (the good), but as a wise man once sang, 'everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon'

Anonymous said...

Overrated? Kripke. His contributions pale in comparison to those of Lewis, or, say, Putnam, and are strangely amateurish. His work on modal logic is undeniably good, but much of the 'pure' philosophy, particularly on Wittgenstein, is naive and simplistic. I doubt he'll prove influential in the future. Searle is also overrated: his contributions are largely naive recapitulations of Husserl.

Wittgenstein, if anything, is underrated.

On the theme of underrated, I'd say one of the most underrated philosophers of all time is Peirce.

Ralph Pessah said...

If you want to see a really convincing indictment of Wittgenstein's superficiality please read Rebecca Goldstein's beautiful book on Godel, "Incompleteness". Turns out he never understood the Incompleteness Proof, called it a "conjuring trick" (p.117). Oh, but the INTENSITY of the man. How could so many people have been taken in. Just finished the Tractatus. Did you know that as per entry 6.125 "Hence there can never be any surprises in logic". Maybe I missed something. Won't be the first time.

Anonymous said...

@Ralph Pessah -

You should do rather more digging and analysis before tossing out off-hand remarks about things you don't understand. Look at Hilary Putnam's defense of Wittgenstein's remarks, for instance. The general consensus is that Wittgenstein did not consider Godel's results to have any relevance for PHILOSOPHY, their (clear) mathematical import notwithstanding. It's also accepted that Wittgenstein never properly read Godel's actual proof, although given his views on the inability of mathematics to directly bear upon philosophy, it would have made no difference if he had. Wittgenstein never claimed that the incompleteness theorems failed to prove what they proved -merely that many philosophical inferences drawn from the proof were, on his view, illegitimate.

Moreover, both the Tractatus and the Investigations were and are tremendously influential both in philosophy and in cognate disciplines. If you think that Russell, Davidson, Kripke, Putnam, Dummett, Searle, Dennett, etc. - all of whom extended Wittgenstein's work and paid tribute to his genius - were all cranks, then you should probably try a different discipline.