What is it with dead philosophers? You can’t have a decent philosophical conversation with anyone without them bandying about a Kant or Decartes or Russell as soon as they can. Occasionally, if you’re dealing with a classical type of guy, they’ll whip out an Aristotle like their facebook friends.
Why can’t we have a good philosophical discussion without referencing some dead guy’s concepts or name? Is it possible that nothing more substantive came from all their life’s work than a few of their scattered thoughts?
Frankly, I don’t really care if Hegel or Bacon said something brilliant or called a great insight by a particular name. What I care about is that insight itself, that philosophical stepping stone that allows me to understand our world more clearly, more deeply.
Therein lies the problem, because for every great thought of Schopenhauer I can find a contrary thought by Nietzsche. Or for the highly popular thoughts of Marx we can find opposing thoughts from Mills.
Or are they truly opposing thoughts? This is another tough one, because besides dropping dead names, philosophers are also extremely good about not defining things. Any things.
Here’s a fun game to play when you meet someone studying or practicing philosophy. Quick – define philosophy itself! What about truth? Reality? Justice? Mind? Soul? Pick one, they’re all fun. For extra credit, tell them that you’ll buy them a drink if they keep it under 25 words. Under 10 words and you’ll buy them TWO drinks!
My guess is that you’ll keep them quiet for some time with that challenge.
And my advice if you’re the type who likes to talk philosophy; lose the names. Keep the concepts, and think definitions. Oh, and what is philosophy?
Thinking about thinking.
So, where are my drinks?