What Makes A Good Philosopher?

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Wesgtr
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What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Wesgtr » April 22nd, 2018, 2:02 pm

After finishing a degree in theology, where most of my concentration work was in philosophy or philosophical theology, and having completed a BA in English Literature, consisting of philosophically and theologically influenced Literature, I have come to ask the question why philosophy? Personally, I have to ask why either philosophy, English, or theology, because I intend to continue on the beaten path of academia, finishing another MA in a yet decided discipline and then a PhD. I want to teach. But, back to the topic why philosophy?

Why do we do philosophy? And, what makes a good philosopher?

I think we do it because many of us see it as an innate desire or possession. We are either driven to know about ourselves and the world around us or we have a knowledge base that we want to explore further. I deeply believe it is largely between these two. That one would want to know is beside the case when we consider how many have a desire for learning. Philosophers, even we aspiring ones, do what they do for a cause or belief. I believe philosophy can be for the good of humanity. I believe it helps others to learn about themselves and their world. One can gain skills that are also invaluable. Analytical and Critical thinking skills are gained through the reading and discussion of philosophical texts.

A good philosopher is fairly difficult to spot, don't you think? There are only a handful of predominant philosophers that we read in say a philosophy degree. But, those are great philosophers. I would think a good philosopher has some understanding of philosophy as a whole and can do some philosophy. But, even so if we say a good philosopher is one who can do enough philosophy to be coherent and conversational with very good philosophers say a philosophy PhD, but perhaps a good philosopher is not formally educated or is only educated to a degree and only knows so much. Compared to a very good philosopher, I would think a good philosopher has very limited knowledge. I do think a very good philosopher is someone with formal training and expertise. Perhaps a great one is only a Kant or Hegel or Aristotle or Plato. I could see it no other way. The big names of philosophy are the greats. We are doing well to be good philosophers.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Namelesss » April 22nd, 2018, 5:41 pm

Wesgtr wrote:
April 22nd, 2018, 2:02 pm
What Makes A Good Philosopher?
A philosopher has the ability to engage in original critical examination/thought.
A philosopher is on the cutting edge of science (QM) (all sciences are feeder branches on the tree of philosophy), and beyond!
Non-conversant with science is not a philosopher, but a 'pretender', at best. A mental masturbator.
Also the philosopher must be an (original) artist, 'creative', to be able to synthesize divergent paths into an original consistent/cohesive theory.
There is no form of human Knowing that is not a feature of philosophy!
A philosopher must, also, be a mystic!
Put it all together, and that is what is a philosopher!
There might be a small handful still extant (as 'thought/ego' dies)!

"...philosophers and not "philosophologists", a term coined by Robert Pirsig ("Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", "Lila") to denote people who study other people's philosophy but cannot do philosophy themselves. He also says that most people who consider themselves philosophers are actually philosophologists. The difference between a philosopher and a philosophologist is like the difference between an art and aesthetics; one does and the other studies what the other does and theorizes about it."
I have come to ask the question why philosophy?

If one naturally thinks philosophically, that makes him a philosopher. Simple.
If it quacks like a duck... *__-
say a philosophy PhD...
I do think a very good philosopher is someone with formal training and expertise.
My experience is that formal academic training can be/is given to monkeys.
Afterwards, they are just trained monkeys (filled with the thoughts of others) and not philosophers.
Training does not make an artist, it makes a trained monkey.
I have seen no 'philosophers' worth a damn having been spewn from academia (entertainers, perhaps...).
They (generally) appear lacking in vital areas!

What does one do with a 'philosophy degree'?
Teach/spew the same old recycled academic fodder into bright-eyed empty cups who dream of being a Plato! *__-

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Eduk » April 22nd, 2018, 6:08 pm

For me a good philosopher is simply correct (or to be more precise, more correct). This means a theologian cannot be a good philosopher (at least on subjects pertaining to theology, on other subjects they could be very good phiolosphers). For it is impossible to both believe in God and have good judgement on how reasonable it is to believe in God (well not impossible, but rare). Of course you could be a theologian debunking theology (but that's a bit of an edge case).
As to why be a philosopher. I think being a philosopher (professionally) is quite challenging but that is to mystify the role of philosophy. I make computer games and on each project you must work out what philosophy you have for each project. By which I mean you must work out what you are trying to do, otherwise you end up with a mess. For me part of the problem is that everyone is taking part in philosophy (day to day) without recognising that they are.
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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Spectrum » April 22nd, 2018, 11:13 pm

Wesgtr wrote:
April 22nd, 2018, 2:02 pm
Why do we do philosophy? And, what makes a good philosopher?
I think we do it because many of us see it as an innate desire or possession. We are either driven to know about ourselves and the world around us or we have a knowledge base that we want to explore further. I deeply believe it is largely between these two. That one would want to know is beside the case when we consider how many have a desire for learning.

Philosophers, even we aspiring ones, do what they do for a cause or belief.

I believe philosophy can be for the good of humanity. I believe it helps others to learn about themselves and their world. One can gain skills that are also invaluable. Analytical and Critical thinking skills are gained through the reading and discussion of philosophical texts.
I agree with the above.

The problems with the question of Philosophy [e.g. what is philosophy, a good philosopher?] is the term 'philosophy' is too loose. Philosophy seemingly encompass whatever 'there is.' This is how we can prefix 'philosophy' to anything as 'The Philosophy of X.' As such there are 'infinite' forms of philosophy and most do not bother to understand its essence or substance of philosophy.

Thus we need to define 'philosophy' effectively to establish the 'substance' that underlies whatever all the various forms of philosophy.

As you had alluded to, I believe the substance of philosophy-proper is an inherent and intrinsic potential within ALL human beings but active in various degrees within different people.

From empirical evidences of reality and humanity, one can abstract the substance of philosophy is reducible to the drive for "continuous improvements" that is inherent within all human beings and qualified specifically to what is 'good' and 'progress' for humanity.

One will also note 'Philosophy' started with covering all aspects of life as its forms [while most a ignorant of its substance]. Then the forms of philosophy started to drop off as their own specialized subject, e.g. physics, mathematics, science, etc. Soon logic, morality & ethics will also be separated from Philosophy. Metaphysics will be dead and will disappear in the future.
What will be left with Philosophy then will its inherent and intrinsic drive [embedded within the brain], i.e. the drive for continuous improvement for the well being [good] of humanity.

Therefore a good philosopher is one who is understand the inherent and intrinsic drive for continuous improvements and its underlying principles and able to systematize them to the various forms of philosophy and other fields of knowledge for the good, better well being of humanity. A good philosopher is also a good practitioners of the principles of philosophy.

At present, the common reference to philosophy and philosophers is directed to academic philosophy which is a bastardized form of philosophy-proper. I believe academic philosophy is still a critical necessity but it must starts with philosophy proper as a basis of whatever forms of philosophy is to be taught and deliberated.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by LuckyR » April 23rd, 2018, 4:11 am

The title of this thread is a bit misleading. I expect most who read it assumed that a good philosopher was compared to a bad one, whereas the OP seems to be contrasting good philosophers with great and very good ones.
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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Burning ghost » April 24th, 2018, 8:38 pm

For me there are two components and a philosopher has to excel in one area if the other is lacking.

1) The ability to use language well and push it to its limits.

2) Creativity and exploration.

Basically, linguistic talent is probably the most important quality and only rivalled by artistic ability - I am thinking along the lines of prose and poetry here, and use of analogy and metaphor to express difficult ideas. Some are more skewed toward one than the other.
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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Greta » April 25th, 2018, 12:46 am

Like Lucky, I'm not sure we can readily think of philosophers as good or bad. So I'll add a few thoughts based on the contrast between the theoretical "bad philosopher" or pseud and a professional:

1. Correctness and knowledge: As Eduk and Nameless noted, reference to the most up to date and correct information is an important starting point. The same can be said for historical interpretations. Some knowledge of science, history, psychology, the arts and mysticism would seem essential.

2. Eloquence: As BG noted, being able to render the seemingly ineffable, effable - preferably in a way that can be understood by mere mortals. The idea is to extend a sense of understanding rather than impress and confuse.

3. Intense curiosity: A relentless rather than whimsical drive to better understand what is going on. One needs relentlessness in any field to get on, to access flow states that build on each other.

4. Authenticity: To some extent this takes some level of self-knowledge and questioning of one's own possible biases. It is difficult to be true, no matter how sincere, if you don't know yourself.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Fooloso4 » April 25th, 2018, 2:45 pm

I think that one thing “good philosophers” have in common is the ability to see things in novel ways. It may be an all-encompassing systematic view of the whole or a limited view of some particular area or problem. I think there is some overlap between a “good philosopher” and a good teacher of philosophy. The latter may focus on the work of others, bring to light what is not immediately evident in that work, and get you to think about and look at things you might never have done on your own.

In my opinion the history of philosophy and more than a passive acquaintance with the central figures of the tradition is of central importance, but there have been philosophers who have been influential who have had little knowledge or interest in the tradition. In line with this I think the ability to carefully read and interpret texts is essential, but this is not a skill that is typically cultivated in analytic philosophy (although that may be changing).

If one wishes to be a “good philosopher” we need to look a bit deeper at what is desired. Is philosophy to be a way of life or a set of skills or a body of knowledge? While these are not mutually exclusive one need not have extensive knowledge of the tradition or sophisticated analytical and argumentative skills in order to live what Socrates called the “examined life”. But there have been brilliant philosophers whose personal lives are a mess or who are moral failures. Argumentative skills may be be useful but on their own do not result in more than technical prowess.

Those who are dismissive of academic philosophy and reading the works of the philosophers are not entirely wrong, but still, are wrong. There is a depth of knowledge and understanding that one will remain ignorant of as long as they do not put in the hard work and effort. It is not simply a matter of learning what others have thought but of learning how to think by attempting to think along with and against those who have the most profound thoughts. Those who think they have no need for teachers are those most in need of them if they are ever to grow beyond the confines of their narrow limits. But many are quite comfortable with those limits and may even think that they are the least limited.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Greta » April 25th, 2018, 8:45 pm

Fooloso, would you agree that philosophy spans the space between poetry and science? My impression is that the poetic leaning types find the cut-and-drIed language of science of formal philosophy a turn-off, and vice versa. There is a schism of both language and priority. The former tend to lean towards examination of self, rationalising that, without consciousness there is nothing. The latter focused more on the environment on the basis that that self is one very tiny player on a much larger stage. The arguments seem to stem from the question as to which is more fundamental - energy or being.

Many non-philosophers dislike wrestling with such existential matters, becoming frustrated and disappointed at how difficult reality is to understand. Then they give up and focus on an unexamined existence - until events force them to examine. Many here won't relate to that - the questioning being more pleasure than chore.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Namelesss » April 25th, 2018, 10:07 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
April 25th, 2018, 2:45 pm
Those who are dismissive of academic philosophy and reading the works of the philosophers are not entirely wrong, but still, are wrong.

Not entirely wrong means predominately correct!
Of course academically being trained to read is something that can vastly assist in learning for ourselves.
On the other hand, imbibing the thoughts of others, in the guise of 'masters' that should be 'learned' fills our cup with the thoughts of others. That is not philosophy but philosophology!
Rare is the graduate well capable for 'thinking for himself' (philosophy).
Of course I'll not use terms like 'always' and 'never', so such should never be inferred from my writings. *__-
There is a depth of knowledge and understanding that one will remain ignorant of as long as they do not put in the hard work and effort.

I disagree! 'Depth of Knowledge and understanding' naturally arise to Perspective at appropriate moments.
It is not simply a matter of learning what others have thought but of learning how to think by attempting to think along with and against those who have the most profound thoughts.

The most profound philosophical thought is informed by cutting edge science.
That makes it a Here! Now! thing!
Reinventing the wheel is for dotards.
Those who think they have no need for teachers are those most in need of them if they are ever to grow beyond the confines of their narrow limits. But many are quite comfortable with those limits and may even think that they are the least limited.
You are taking your argument to the extreme in order to be able to support it, so I have no need to speak to your extreme and irrelevant points.
Some basic training is most often helpful; reading, for instance.
Or, how can we know that all of Aristotle's 'laws of logic' are refuted by QM?
Of course, after learning to read, I can read Aristotle for myself if I need.
Knowing QM is sufficient without the Aristotelian reference. But is helps in philosophical discussions.
You have never heard of Einstein's 'Beginner's Mind' being so important?
What do you think he was talking about, some PhD all filled with his training/'education'?
A certificate on the wall proclaiming him a 'philosopher'? Hahahaha!
Or, perhaps, someone who didn't learn 'the way it is', and is still free to explore and can think 'for himself'?

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Fooloso4 » April 26th, 2018, 12:18 pm

Greta:
Fooloso, would you agree that philosophy spans the space between poetry and science? My impression is that the poetic leaning types find the cut-and-drIed language of science of formal philosophy a turn-off, and vice versa.
I think that in general this is true, although Wittgenstein said:
I think I summed up my position when I said: Philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry. (Culture and Value)
Lakoff and Johnson emphasize the centrality of metaphor to language.(Metaphors We Live By, Philosophy in the Flesh)

Sean Carroll also cuts across this division with his ‘poetic naturalism’.
The former tend to lean towards examination of self, rationalising that, without consciousness there is nothing. The latter focused more on the environment on the basis that that self is one very tiny player on a much larger stage.
In the twentieth century what came to be known as ‘analytic philosophy’ eschewed any discussion of the self as ‘psychologism’ and held that it had no place in the search for objective universal truths. That assumption has recently been questioned by some within that tradition. The philosophy of consciousness and neurophilosophy are burgeoning fields, although this is not the quite the same ‘know thyself’.
The arguments seem to stem from the question as to which is more fundamental - energy or being.
Some hold that Mind or Consciousness is fundamental.
Many non-philosophers dislike wrestling with such existential matters, becoming frustrated and disappointed at how difficult reality is to understand.
I agree, but there are also those who fancy themselves philosophers who claim that it is thinking that creates the problem, that reality makes itself known when we are silent. I am a skeptical agnostic when such things are said by someone who might have gained ‘enlightenment’ but simply a skeptic when it comes to those who read about it and spout off as if having heard something they know something.
Many here won't relate to that - the questioning being more pleasure than chore.
I think that if philosophy is not a form of pleasure it can lead to despair, for philosophy may not provide the answers one seeks. If one does not find the activity of questioning meaningful in itself and cannot bear the puzzlement and uncertainty they are likely to find philosophy unsatisfactory. But then again, there are those who imagine they have found the answers. Those for whom philosophy is a kind of religion.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Eduk » April 26th, 2018, 12:32 pm

Aristotle's 'laws of logic' aren't refuted by QM.
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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Fooloso4 » April 26th, 2018, 12:46 pm

Nameless:
Not entirely wrong means predominately correct!
That is entirely wrong! Even one percent correct would mean not entirely wrong!
On the other hand, imbibing the thoughts of others …
No one who is properly trained “imbibes” thoughts.
Rare is the graduate well capable for 'thinking for himself' (philosophy).
I have know some who were and some who were not. It was not the fault of their training that those who were not are not.
There is a depth of knowledge and understanding that one will remain ignorant of as long as they do not put in the hard work and effort.
I disagree! 'Depth of Knowledge and understanding' naturally arise to Perspective at appropriate moments.
You cannot know the depth of knowledge of an author’s thoughts “naturally”. You must read the author in depth.
The most profound philosophical thought is informed by cutting edge science.
Here you display your lack of knowledge of the tradition as well as "cutting edge science".
Those who think they have no need for teachers are those most in need of them if they are ever to grow beyond the confines of their narrow limits.
But many are quite comfortable with those limits and may even think that they are the least limited.
You are taking your argument to the extreme in order to be able to support it, so I have no need to speak to your extreme and irrelevant points.
On the contrary. I am getting to the heart of the issue. It seems it hits a little too close to home for you. That you think the need for teachers is an extreme position is telling.
Some basic training is most often helpful; reading, for instance.
Hermeneutics is not basic training. It is a highly developed skill with notable masters. Commentary has always been and will continue to be an essential part of philosophy, but of course a skill that is not really necessary if one’s idea of philosophy is "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".
Or, how can we know that all of Aristotle's 'laws of logic' are refuted by QM?
First of all, there is no general consensus as to what is going on at the quantum level. It is not clear whether a probability function is an epistemic or ontological determination. Although popular accounts like to dwell on a conscious observer there are many prominent physicists who reject the idea. Second, Aristotle’s logic is not refuted by QM. Like classical physics it remains useful at the macro level. We do not encounter quantum superposition or entanglement in our everyday experience.
Of course, after learning to read, I can read Aristotle for myself if I need.
You can read the words and perhaps even imagine you are “imbibing” his thoughts, but you will not understand Aristotle at more than a very superficial level. Don’t take my word for it, read him and then read one of the better commentaries and see for yourself how much you did not see or understand. It need not be Aristotle either. Any work of sufficient depth and complexity will do. Perhaps there is the rare autodidact who can make remarkable progress on their own but that ain't you or me, and even they would benefit from becoming conversant with the literature. No one can see everything there is to see or make all the connections that can be made.
Knowing QM is sufficient without the Aristotelian reference.
Sufficient for what?
You have never heard of Einstein's 'Beginner's Mind' being so important?
"Einstein’s 'beginner’s mind'"? Beginner’s mind is a concept from Zen. Some authors make a connection with Einstein but I do not know of anywhere in his writings, speeches, or recorded conversations where Einstein uses the phrase. Some people love to attribute things to Einstein as if it renders some kind of unimpeachable authority to it.
Or, perhaps, someone who didn't learn 'the way it is', and is still free to explore and can think 'for himself'?
One does not do physics without “training/education”. Physicists actually study the work of Einstein and others. Learning ‘the way it is’ is a necessary and indispensable step if one is to go and and think ‘for himself’. You are free to explore and free to ignore the work that has been done and is being done in physics, but doing so is not the key to thinking for yourself if you are to think anything relevant to physics. Or perhaps I am wrong. So tell us what your contribution is to the field. What have you discovered without learning something from others? One benefit of others is that they can tell us where we are misinformed and misguided. Where what we think for ourselves is at odds with the facts.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Namelesss » April 26th, 2018, 12:59 pm

Eduk wrote:
April 26th, 2018, 12:32 pm
Aristotle's 'laws of logic' aren't refuted by QM.
Yes they are.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Eduk » April 26th, 2018, 1:29 pm

Nameless you can't have it both ways. Either the rules of logic are refuted and I'm correct in saying they aren't or the rules of logic aren't refuted and I'm correct in saying they aren't.
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