Who's your favorite philosopher?

David Aames's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,314

Enlighten me, dear monkeys. Could be living or dead, though as one of my favorite comedians said: "I prefer my gurus to be dead" (meaning you can see their full body of work, and for those that are living you never know who might go a bit looney and start their own cult)

Also, i have a considerable amount of travel coming up, recommended reading list? So far I have gathered up some of the works of these fine scholars* (it's quite a variation as you can see):

-Camus
-Aleister Crowley
-Aldous Huxley
-Stephen Hawking
-Ray Kurzweil
-Alan Watts
-Obviously Aristotle and Plato

in a different category:
-Richard Dawkins
-Christopher Hitchens
-Sam Harris

*And and some have pointed out, my definition of philosopher is quite loose, so i'm renaming this post: "Who are some great minds with great philosophies on a topic that I should read up on"

Any female philosophers I should add to the list?
So many good religious works/philosophers out there from days past but i'm not well informed on the topic, open to any recommendations in this realm as well (would be a good balance for those atheists on the list). Bhagavad Gita is one i'd like to start with.

Comments (71)

Jul 7, 2016

Seneca

Jul 7, 2016

I absolutely love and adore Nietzsche. Moreover Kant is interesting but really hard to read.

Camus sure is a nice writer if you're into"L'existentialisme" you should check out Sartre and his wife. Both have written some badass books.

If you're in for a challenge try out Fyodor Dostoevsky. My personal favorites being Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Such powerful books.

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Jul 8, 2016

^This guy. He gets it.

Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil give such perspective to things.

Also, about to pick up Crime and Punishment and am super excited.

Nov 5, 2019

100% agree, Nietzsche really fucks you up, but in a good way.
Dostoyevsky I've not yet read but he's supposed to be great. As for authors with philosophic themes, Ernst Junger has had some great stuff, not only Storms of Steel, but also his later works. C.G. Jung, too, great guy.

Omnia facit Voluntas - Will alone suceeds

Jul 7, 2016

Epictetus. He has an interesting take on stoicism and taking things as they come, no matter how unfortunate.

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Jul 7, 2016

Carl Icahn

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Jul 7, 2016

Thomas aquinas

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Jul 7, 2016

Hobbes

Jul 7, 2016

Also Rousseau for contrast

Jul 7, 2016

I am pleasantly surprised to see Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens on your list. I absolutely love these guys.

You may also be interested in Sam Harris' "Waking Up with Sam Harris" podcasts. He releases new ones periodically, where he discusses current events.

Jul 7, 2016

yeah i'm big on the atheists, though i'm not one myself (agnostic). Sam Harris is a genius i've heard him on some podcasts, i'll check out the one you mentioned, thanks

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 8, 2016

Lol

Jul 7, 2016

Kant Kant Kant Kant Kant Kant..... Or Descartes, easy to relate to the time we live in now

Jul 7, 2016

The world would be a better place if more people read the writings of Reinhold Niebuhr

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Jul 9, 2016

True but consider the audience. I'm surprised no one said Joe Rogan yet

Jul 7, 2016

hands down Friedrich Nietzsche

Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: "To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods."

Jul 7, 2016
BayStreetShark:

hands down Friedrich Nietzsche

Noob question, but what is so appealing about Nietzsche? I've tried to read Thus Spake Zarathustra, but it just didn't seem that amazing. I feel like the 'God is dead' rhetoric would have been significant in it's time, but doesn't say much to a modern audience. Is there some other brilliant lens to his work that I'm missing?

Jul 8, 2016

While I totally disagree with just about everything Nietzsche has ever concluded, his arguments are so well formed that it's hard to deny his logic. He is in some ways the opposite of Hitler, who injected the Nazi idealism with pathos, whereas Fred created the same violent conclusions, with well structured arguements.

My favorite work is Genealogy of Morality.

Also Kierkegaard is my favorite outside of Plato.

Jul 8, 2016

I'm sure I'm doing this great injustice, but I'll try my best to articulate.

Telling people that "God is dead" was an attack on religious ideals that were created to control people, and, in a way, keep them from being themselves. Christianity, in particular, teaches its followers to inhibit emotions such as envy, sexual desire, and hatred. Nietzsche made the claim that, when used properly, these emotions can be used as a tool for one to truly understand who they really are and what they want out of life. The Ubermensch, as he called it, was someone who didn't give a shit about what others thought (or what institutionalized ideals were being forced upon him) and worked his ass off to reach his true desires. When someone truly dedicates oneself to this type of effort, he separates himself from the "herd".

Even in today's (mostly) secular world, people have ideals shoved down their throats and are being told to "follow the herd". Claiming that 'God is dead', and that man killed him, should be taken metaphorically. He is saying that there is nothing more powerful than the willpower of an individual person (whether it be God or some value), and that this power should be embraced in order to get the most out of life as possible.

Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: "To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods."

Jul 7, 2016

Gordon Gekko

Jul 7, 2016

Alan Watts - he speaks to the inherent worth of self, calls out society in a way that isn't too negative or cynical, points out the difference between much of what is real and imagined.

Though I admire Descartes for his minimalism. Watts most definitely is not a minimalist.

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Jul 7, 2016

If you can read French, or find a decent translation (I'm French, so I wouldn't know if there is any decent english translation around), Bergson writes beautifully and has a very interesting anti-analytic holistic approach.

Jul 7, 2016

Protagoras, Voltaire, Popper.

I recall mentioning the non-falsicability principle in a number of interviews, never got me through.

Jul 7, 2016

In terms of reading, an interesting read is A History of God. It's not really a philosophy book but it goes into how the abrahamic faiths have viewed god over time, which goes over a lot of famous philosopher's and theologians views of God. I'm about 1/3 of the way through, and so far the author's spent a decent amount of time on Plato and Aristotle's views on god, and how they may have shaped Jewish and early Christian beliefs.

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Jul 7, 2016

thanks all for the recommendations so far, keep them coming!

and thanks @itsanumbersgame for reminding me of Alan Watts, definitely adding that to the list

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 7, 2016

Dennis Gartman

Jul 7, 2016

Calling Dawkins a philosopher is an insult to the discipline (I'm a skeptic myself.. mind you). Personally I enjoy Hume, Pascal, and Mill.

"My dear, descended from the apes! Let us hope it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known."

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Jul 8, 2016

Wow your mentioning of David Hume took me back to the period when I started to become self-aware, problem of evil and whatnot

Jul 9, 2016

i'm using a very loose definition of philosopher here, i shouldve renamed the post, "Smart f*cking people who have a specific philosophy on a topic"

thanks for the recommendations

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 8, 2016

Plato, Mill, Hobbes, Sun Tzu, Descartes, Voltaire et al.

Probably in that order...

Jul 8, 2016

The School of Life is an excellent youtube channel for philosophy:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7IcJI8PUf5Z3zKxn...

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Nov 5, 2019

Cool, I'll give that a go later. Thanks!

Jul 8, 2016

Whitehead famously described European philosophy as "a series of footnotes to Plato"

You have a lot of good names on this list. I'd encourage you to read these works in chronological order (if you're starting with western thought, that really does mean Plato and Aristotle) and working your way forward. You will find that many 19th and 20th century philosophers refer habitually to their predecessors and expect familiarity with their ideas. It also provides context for the works as you tend to think of their author's relative places in history. Just my two cents.

On a final note, One name I haven't seen here and that I would absolutely encourage is Montaigne.

Jul 8, 2016

John Rawls' 'A Theory of Justice' is a must read (on the modern end)

Others:
Plato
De Montaigne
Proust
Hume

I'm also a fan of more traditional philosophers such as Mills and Kant.

Jul 8, 2016
GoldenEagle2009:

John Rawls' 'A Theory of Justice' is a must read (on the modern end)

Others:PlatoDe MontaigneProustHume

I'm also a fan of more traditional philosophers such as Mills and Kant.

Yes on Rawls.

My favs are Foucault and Deleuze

Jul 8, 2016

Foucault and Deleuze - never heard of them - similar to Rawls?

Rawls is spectacular for anyone who enjoys moral/dilemma ethics (the tough questions).

Jul 8, 2016

Seneca on how to approach life. As far as most interesting, the French post-structuralists. Baudrillard, Derrida, Lacan

Gimme the loot

Jul 8, 2016

Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein for their brilliance in the fields of the philosophy of language and epistemology. These two made an indelible mark on the younger version of me. Russell is a titan, probably one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations" blew me away. I love its manner, with the proposed thought experiments followed by the analysis. It makes the writing a bit more digestible than the standard "colossal wall of convoluted language and confusing ideas" style.

I also admire Heidegger's philosophy, though I must admit I admire the "idea" of it more than the actual practice of reading/discussing it. Heidegger's ideas were/are immense, complex, presented in a very "dense" manner, and are therefore overwhelming and difficult to the obtuse reader (such as myself). Dasein and its implications of "being-there" and "being-towards-death" are extremely interesting to me, particularly with how they relate to an "authentic" human experience, with death being the only true "unique" experience for the individual. But I must say that I simply don't have the time, attention, and aptitude to flesh it all out. Hermeneutics, phenomenology, and existentialism can drive you crazy. Heidegger's longtime girlfriend Hannah Arendt is another interesting philosopher. I enjoyed reading her "Eichmann in Jerusalem" when I was in college. The banality of evil is a cool topic.

I also like some of the more "fringe" philosophy, like that of Georges Bataille. He was half-philosopher, half-occult mystic, and somehow it worked. For me, there is something alluring with a philosophy that combines Western/Continental logical philosophy with mysticism. It's somewhat nonsensical and flies in the face of modern empiricism and rational/logical thought, but I really enjoy it.

I also enjoy reading the Apochrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and other gnostic texts. Exploring the lines between the Big 3 Abrahamic religions is fun.

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Nov 5, 2019

+1 for Wittgenstein, Heidegger & Arendt. I'll check Russel out - from a quick search he looks quite promising.

Jul 8, 2016

In college we had two mandatory year-long courses in philosophy (social sciences + humanities), so my suggestions are a distilled list of what we read:

Politics & Government: It's important to understand why democracy is preferential to a sovereign, and what the founders were thinking when they sought to create a stable and long-term government. I suggest comparing the three texts to best understand the merits and weaknesses of each argument: Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau are the golden triangle of literature on political philosophy.
- John Locke (Second Treatise of Government)
- Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan)
- Rousseau (A Discourse on Political Economy)

Economy & Finance: You (we all are, don't lie) are a glorified money mover, so why not understand what philosophers thought about the economy and how it should be organized? Maybe the next time you have to argue with a Bernie supporter about why we shouldn't live in a commune, you'll have something useful to say.
- Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations): It's not important to read the entire text, because you will eventually get bored of discussions of sheep shearing and button factories, but I can recommend sections to you, if you'd like.
- Karl Marx (Kapital Volume I): This book has been a serious influence on how I think about the economy and finance, and Marx's theory of wages as units of labor-time was revolutionary at the time. As with Smith, the whole text is dense, so I can recommend sections.
- Durkheim (The Division of Labor in Society): Why are you a banker, and not something else?

My personal recommendation to you, however, is to read the Epic of Gilgamesh. I know it's not a "philosophy" text, as we might define it, but honestly it's been one of the most foundational books I've read. It's only 97 (or 98?) pages, and makes a quick read, but it is a beautiful story of the evanescent nature of life. Once you've read it, read Shelley's "Ozymandias," and think about the two in comparison.

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Jul 9, 2016

thanks for the comment, will definitely check out the Epic of Gilgamesh, i've heard of it and have always wanted to read it

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 8, 2016

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

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Jul 8, 2016

You're a little loose with your definition of "philosopher." Half of those people are intellectuals, but I wouldn't include them in the same category as a Locke, Kant, Rousseau, Rawls, and all the rest

Jul 9, 2016

oh for sure it's a loose definition, i shouldve renamed the post after i started listing off names, something like: "Who are some great minds with great philosophies on a topic that I should read up on"

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 8, 2016

Interesting that people mostly mention continental philosophers with almost nothing from the modern analytic metaphysics, epistemology, or mind (I.e the stuff that most present day English speaking philosophy profs do). A few suggestions if you're looking to explore that angle:

Edmund gettier. As far as I know his published works consist of just one thirty or so page paper that just fleshes out a counter example example to the previously held view that knowledge is justified true belief. Reading that paper and than some other papers on various responses to that would give a good picture of how much of modern philosophy is conducted (I.e narrow and well defined debates versus sprawling works trying to express complete views of the world).

David chalmers. If there's anybody alive in the analytic tradition comparable to Russell in his time chalmers is it.

Bertrand Russell. Though really what I'm thinking of is the frege Russell godel story of how Russell first burned frege with his paradox only to in turn have his principia shown to be ridiculous by Godel's incompleteness.

Jul 8, 2016

some solid recommendations on here. I really liked Rene Descartes in college. Also John Stuart Mill (if you're looking for an ethicist)

Best Response
Jul 8, 2016

Tucker Max

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Jul 8, 2016
thebrofessor:

Tucker Max

Agreed

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Jul 9, 2016

the old tucker max or the new one? or both?

i've read some of his stuff, but not nearly enough. can you give me a top 3 to check out?

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 10, 2016

I didn't know he'd changed. I'm talking about the stuff I used to read about his sex life, his alcohol abuse, and just general disregard for social norms and others' feelings.

and if you took this as serious, wow, just wow.

Jul 8, 2016

Seth Klarman>Aristotle

Jul 8, 2016

All are appreciate with there work , but my favorite one is Stephen Hawking. Still he didn't move but gave great theory. I'm really impressed by his philosophy.

Jul 9, 2016

he didn't move? you mean like he's handicapped? i dont think you needed to mention that...

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 8, 2016

Biggie Smalls

Jul 9, 2016

very true. i tried to buy a little weed from a friend but didnt have any cash on me. his response: "rule #2, credit? forget it"

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 8, 2016

Guess...

Jul 8, 2016

For legitimate philosophy, Kierkegaard, Kant, Hume, Pascal and Locke are tops.

In terms of political philosophy, Mill, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Paine are good.

Jul 9, 2016

Absolutely hilarious you list Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris as "philosophers". Hitchens was a superlative polemicist, Dawkins a great scientist, and Harris a colossal windbag (with the creepiest cult followers I've ever seen).

To expand my critique of Harris as a thinker (that he is not a serious philosopher I think is beyond dispute), I'll leave a link here here. A little debate between him and a guy by the name of Scott Atran, probably one of the foremost scientific experts on terrorism in the world, who has studied every single case of suicide terrorism in depth , religious violence, conflict negotiations (fascinating study on "sacred values" in Israel/Palestine peace talks), and who regularly advises the National Security Council staff at the White House under both the Bush and Obama presidencies, the U.N. Security Council, etc.. You can be forgiven for not knowing who he is, I wouldn't have known myself if I had never got the opportunity to meet and work with him, but as far as the study of terrorism and terrorists goes he's one of the most serious names in the biz -- in a field otherwise chock full of know-nothings and talking heads.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MEJN7vtvMU

Atran completely shuts down every one of Harris' claims and hypothetical with cold hard data that he has spent years gathering, it's pretty embarrassing. Nevertheless you read the comments and everyone just drools over Harris to an extreme degree. Slavish personality cults are an ugly thing to behold and you'd think the "skeptic" community would be the last place to find that sort of thing.

But now to answer your question! It's a bit overwhelming picking what to recommend but I'll do my best.

I prefer Aristotle to Plato, but both are giants. Aristotle's book on Rhetoric especially really helped me a lot with crafting my own writing and thinking.

Epictetus -- probably the most practical, applicable to "daily life" philosopher and philosophy. The Enchiridion changed my life at a young age -- short, sweet, to the point, explains the core ideas very well. Marcus Aurelius' Meditations is a similar work, but longer, less simple, and a bit more redundant (hey I'm sure our own personal diaries aren't even half as prescient or well-put together so I'll let that slide). Also interesting to note Stoicisms' two greatest authors were a slave on the one hand and literally the most powerful man on earth at the time on the other...

Marx and Engles are great to read for the first real great Materialist philosophy and theory of history, their broken Ricardian "labor theory of value" being the foundation of their subsequently deeply flawed communist scheme aside, you cannot deny the analysis of revolution in the 18th Brumaire (one of the most quotable works of all time), or the how the criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism in his Critique of Hegel's Theory of Right, or the analysis of larger economic cycles, contradictions in capitalism, and the notion of class interests in Kapital and The Grundrisse that are deeply prescient today.

On the more intellectual/religious side: Aquinas and Al Ghazali are superb, the absolute apexes of both of their respective religious traditions. One could spend a lifetime studying the works of either -- Ghazali in particular is an astonishing case and was another big "life changer" for me, almost as much of a deconstructor of philosophy in his later works as much as a philosopher -- very much an attempt at crafting a science of the self. I imagine if the works of Ghazali were still studied in the Middle East today the region would be a very very different place.

Also since you're interested in religious traditions, a copy of The Study Quran is both deeply complex and also relevant to the modern era. I don't recommend reading the Quran just on its own -- much of the meaning gets lost without the contexts of the moments in which the particular verses were "revealed", how the verses were interpreted at the time by whom, the polysemic nature of most verses, etc. -- the Study Quran's a godsend in that regard and would I would have greatly appreciated it back when I was in academia, rather than having to consult the works of a dozen different Orientalists for the same thing. Anyway, I think most people have strong opinions about that religious tradition without actually even knowing much about it's foundational work. After working through even just a bit of that it throws into stark contrast the totalitarian ideology of Daesh and their Wahabbist cheerleaders.

Nietzsche is good for being the only real serious atheist philosopher who had the courage to take the Death of God's impact on morality seriously. A series of questions people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris would prefer not to face due to the fact that they're, well, not philosophers lol.

Foucault and other similar post-modernist philosophers -- I actually don't think they're worth the time. I spent a good time in undergrad reading Foucault, nearly every thing he ever wrote, and all those lectures that were recorded and published only a few years ago. The ideas are interesting, but not really philosophy or even entirely original. Language in his work (and that of Bordeieu, Derrida, and other modern French philosopher/social theorists) is intentionally obtuse and incredibly imprecise (once for fun I counted up the number of times in History of Sexuality Foucault defined the word "Power"... I quit after i got over 36 different definitions, many of which completely contradictory. Also remember that Scott Atran guy I told you about? He told me that he once helped Foucault with research on one of his books and that when directly contradictory evidence was found that Foucault pooh-poohed it and in general didn't have a serious attitude towards empiricism or intellectual honesty. In my opinion another example of intellectually stifling personality cults going overboard and you can see the results in the currently desiccated landscape of disciplines like Sociocultural Anthropology and compare them to the incredibly vibrant field of ideas they were just a few decades years ago. I will never get the years of life I devoted to studying Foucault's work back.

Also let me know if you'd be interested in social theory in general, I've got a lot of recommendations there as well.

Jul 9, 2016

thanks for the note, as i've mentioned to a few others i was definitely very loose with my definition of "philosopher" and some for sure don't belong on my original list. What i wanted to get at was something like this - "Who are some great minds with great philosophies on a topic that I should read up on"

And yes, please add some recs for works related to social theory, happy to check it out, and will also check out the sam harris related link

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

Jul 9, 2016

Homer Simpson

"Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers. "

It really doesn't get any better than this.

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Jul 9, 2016

"If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain."

Do you know which philosopher said that? Dolly Parton. And people say she's just a big pair of tits.

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Jul 9, 2016

Aristotle and Plato are as different as it gets, but to answer your question:

Karl Popper
Friedrich August von Hayek
Hilary Putnam

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Jul 9, 2016

Surprised nobody has said this so far, and I guess he's sort of a philosopher but Nassim Taleb's books are great, Fooled by Randomness, Black Swan, and Antifragile are all great reads and extremely relevant to those in finance (covers primarily risk)
I've heard that Bed of Procrustes is good and more philosophical

Jul 9, 2016
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