What Makes A Good Philosopher?

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Fooloso4
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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Fooloso4 » April 28th, 2018, 8:13 am

Greta:
… and it's that similar excessive zeal that would seem to afflict philosophy buffs (I'm presuming not professionals?) who are caught up on style and schools.
Professional philosophers have been among the most abusive. The battle between continental and analytic philosophy was a prominent feature of 20th century philosophy. One problem is that they developed different technical languages and referenced different philosophers and so it was difficult for someone from one school to just pick up a work from the other and understand it. There are some philosophers now whose work centers on bridging the divide. As with other things there are trends and fashions, ideas play themselves out, and younger generations are not so keen on maintaining the old boundaries.

Having said that, when asked for advice from those looking to enter a graduate program I still advise them to check out various programs in order to find a good fit. Those teaching and studying in the heydays of the 20th century still make up a significant percentage of departments today. It is not uncommon for them to continue teaching well into their eighties.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Gertie » April 28th, 2018, 10:28 am

Greta wrote:
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.
I'm the opposite :). I think clarity in philosophy is one of the most important things. I really appreciate it when someone makes their position as clear and easy to understand as possible. Metaphors can help do that, but they can also obscure. Jargon only when everyone's clear what it means. Define your terms. Construct an argument which is easy to follow, and so on.

Some say that more poetic language can more clearly convey difficult ideas, but imo the more difficult the idea the more important clarity is.

For me art resonates in a different way, it communicates more personally without need for precision and clarity, it allows you to bring your own feelings and intuitions to the convo.

For example when examining ideas like 'Being' or 'God' in a philosophical way, it's very easy to allow lack of clarity to slide from one meaning to another, taking you to conclusions you haven't justified. Not deliberately. Creating goal-posts on wheels. And when such ideas have a resonance of profundity or otherness about them to us, I think we're particularly prone to resist clarity, perhaps thinking that mundane prosaic language loses something, some inherent specialness. But to me that's a sign that the 'something' lost needs thinking through, identifying, to see what it is we think is being lost, if it's real or if it's imbued by us.

Having said that, as you say it depends what you're looking for from philosophy. I like understanding things, so I want philosophy to be understandable. I think that's an element of the 'examined life', but everyone has their own complex and idiosyncratic and basically emotion-driven approach to that sort of self-reflection.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Fooloso4 » April 28th, 2018, 11:56 am

Gertie:
Some say that more poetic language can more clearly convey difficult ideas, but imo the more difficult the idea the more important clarity is.
As I see it, it is not a matter of poetic language but of the making of images. Traditionally this played a role in the domain of theology - gods and heavenly realms, for example. Plato attempted to beat them at their own game. His success can be measured in part by Christianity coming to be called “Platonism for the masses”. Nietzsche too has recognized the importance of a theological mythology. He reverses the order of Aquinas’ claim that reason or philosophy is the handmaiden of theology, which had reversed Plato’s making theology the handmaiden of philosophy. Nietzsche’s Dionysus is "a god who philosophizes", that is a god who desires rather than possesses wisdom. The fixed eternal truths of Platonized Christianity, the realm of “being”, is supplanted by “becoming”. A fixed order according to God is rejected. Like Plato, he creates, that is, makes images (poesis), that are to serve as a new public religious philosophy now the the old god(s) are no longer viable. (Or, more precisely, his Zarathustra says that he is the creator of creators. In other words, we do not find in Nietzsche a fully formed image of the whole. He leaves that to others who are to come.) And like Plato, this serves to mask his teaching for the philosophic few who desire the truth rather than require poetry. He calls these truths dangerous and as a benefactor of mankind he thinks are best that they be hidden. They are, however, no longer hidden. They have led to nihilism and must be countered by new salutary images of the truth.

Nietzsche’s dangerous truth is that we do not know the Truth. Philosophical poetry, a public philosophy, is intended to displace theological poetry, but that is not the whole of the role of image making. The role of the imagination is not simply to create a mythology. The imagination functions at all levels of thought. I started on a long excursion on Plato and the forms, which are themselves images that appear to be the opposite of images, but deleted it because I did not want to get too far off track. I will leave it to you to think about whether it is true that thinking involves the imagination, that thinking involves creating images. Doing so, I hope, will serve as a demonstration of its truth. One more point, the term from Plato translated as ‘form’ comes from the Greek, eidos, from which we get ‘idea’. Mental representation, whether we are forming images of things in the world or images of how things might be or work or how they might be related to other things is a function of the imagination.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Gertie » April 29th, 2018, 5:58 am

Fooloso

Fair points.

As someone who is looking to philosophy for understanding, rather than 'wisdom', my approach might be a little different to yours.

But you're right that I shouldn't argue against the role of imagining, using imagery, creative thinking, thought experiments or any way of exploring ideas. These can all elucidate, make surprising connections, and so on. And it's good to be able to ponder on a strange door which has been opened.

You mention two philosophers who have contempt for most of us, think 'You can't handle the truth!', aren't as clever or mature as them, and so we can't be treated like grown ups, clarity is dangerous. Maybe that was so for them then, I dunno. And exceptional original thinkers should be free to have their heads, go where-ever. 'Great Philosophers' should be left to do what they want.

'Good Philosophers' - clarity please :)

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Fooloso4 » April 29th, 2018, 2:40 pm

Gertie:
As someone who is looking to philosophy for understanding, rather than 'wisdom', my approach might be a little different to yours.
I really do not look to philosophy for wisdom. I agree with Socrates’ “human wisdom”, that is, knowledge of our ignorance. For me it is more a matter of learning about different ways of thinking about and seeing things.
You mention two philosophers who have contempt for most of us, think 'You can't handle the truth!', aren't as clever or mature as them, and so we can't be treated like grown ups, clarity is dangerous.
I don’t think they have contempt for us. I think it is that they are concerned with the problem of nihilism and ‘misologic’. I also think it fair to say that most of those who embrace these ideas do not fair well. They are also concerned with the opposite option - no one can say what is true so I can believe whatever I want to be true. Having said this, they are, undeniably, elitist. But elitism comes in various forms and flavors. As I see it, it is not a matter of regarding others as lower in order to elevate yourself, but of elevating yourself by creating an image of a higher self which you strive to attain. What Nietzsche calls self overcoming.

What is hidden from what Nietzsche calls “idle readers” is right there in the texts to be found. It is not that clarity is dangerous but rather that it is expected of the reader to able to clarify it. When this is done what may at first appear to lack clarity is remarkably clear.
'Great Philosophers' should be left to do what they want.
This is actually the other side of hiding, hiding oneself to avoid censorship and death.

Socrates was put to death for atheism and corrupting the youth. In the Republic justice is defined as “minding your own business”. This is Plato’s serious humor at play. In Plato’s imagined city (a city in speech), the philosophers rule in order for the city to be just, which means, in part, so that the philosophers are left to do what they want.

Modern thinks such as Bacon, Descartes, and Spinoza knew the risks of speaking openly and truthfully. Bacon’s essay "On Simulation and Dissimulation" is about the wisdom of “hiding and veiling of a man’s self”. Descartes chose to have inscribed on his tombstone Ovid’s motto: “He who lived well hid well”. Spinoza’s signet said “caution”.

The hard won battle for freedom of speech certainly has led to an openness that was not enjoyed in the past, but even if one is free to speak openly and honestly, we should not assume a great or even good philosopher living today will necessarily do so. Are there still truths that should be hidden? I cannot think of any that would be necessary in order to protect others, but given the polarization of opinion today it might still be necessary in order to preempt being dismissed by one side or the other.

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Re: What Makes A Good Philosopher?

Post by Greta » April 29th, 2018, 7:39 pm

To what end would we seek wisdom of understanding from philosophy? In a practical sense, philosophy is the eschewing of short term incident handling for longer term problem solving, "playing the long game" as in Epicurus's hedonism. Interestingly, numerous thinkers of the past had unhealthy personal habits - smoking, alcohol or psychoactive drugs - where they did not apply the same long term thinking approach, despite showing discipline in other areas.

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