“Who Is The Best Philosopher Of All Time?” and other important questions…


Every once in a while we get really strange and amusing search terms in our stats section – some people come across this blog while searching for names or unfamiliar concepts, some come by the way of strange strange coincidences (for example, by searching for “body modification perversions”) – but there is an increasing number of search terms that actually constitute full questions.  It is fascinating, I think, that some people just type in a full question into a search engine and expect it to work like a magic mirror and provide a full answer to questions like: “Was Stockhausen a Jew?” or “Is Kant elitist?” or, my favorite so far, “Who is the best philosopher of all time?”  Now it is silly to pick on people who use Google (and other search engines) as a way of doing research – I have seen too many students plagiarizing or creatively copying the contents of encyclodepia entries, websites and blogs – one might speak of a whole new generation that relies on the resources of the internets, resources that were not available when I was going to school, resources like reference materials, maps, movies schedules, free (even if illegal) music and much much more.

This morning I have decided to cross the invisible line that separates my old-fashioned search engine routine and step into the new stream of ‘full sentence questions’ strategy: maybe it really does work and I will finally find answers to all of my questions? Let’s start with a some simple ones – these will be the three websites from Google results:

What Should I Wear Today?

#1: Surprise, surprise – a blog that is called What Should I Wear Today? The last entry was made in September and it’s mostly dedicated to women’s clothing so not very useful in my case, but I am now very hopeful.

#2: Nice, this one addresses me directly and inquires: What Should You Wear Today? Also appears to be a dead blog with a last entry in April, and it also features clothing for women – damn!

#3: Well, I am growing slightly disappointed, this one is question/answer from Yahoo! Answers:

Girl: girls and guys, i dunno what to wear, it is extremely hot outside, so include that…but i dunno…pleez help!

Best Answer (chosen by the above girl): Depends where you are living and what you intend to do, of course…!
A light top that isn’t tight should do it – and perhaps a skirt or shorts or whatever you have.

Absolutely not helpful! What am I going to wear today? The question remains unanswered… Ok, to the next important issue:

What Should I Do With My Life?

#1: Ok, an article from Fast Magazine that is titled: What Should I Do With My Life? Subtitled: The Real Meaning of Success and How To Find It. Nice! This could be the answers to all of my questions – let’s see. Apparently it’s an article form a business magazine and among many wonderful semi-answers it has such pearls as these:

Most of us don’t get epiphanies. We only get a whisper — a faint urge. That’s it. That’s the call. It’s up to you to do the work of discovery, to connect it to an answer. Of course, there’s never a single right answer. At some point, it feels right enough that you choose, and the energy formerly spent casting about is now devoted to making your choice fruitful.

Or something like this:

Probably the most debilitating obstacle to taking on The Question is the fear that making a choice is a one-way ride, that starting down a path means closing a door forever. “Keeping your doors open” is a trap. It’s an excuse to stay uninvolved. I call the people who have the hardest time closing doors Phi Beta Slackers. They hop between esteemed grad schools, fat corporate gigs, and prestigious fellowships, looking as if they have their act together but still feeling like observers, feeling as if they haven’t come close to living up to their potential.

Wow, this is fucking inspirational!

#2: Strangely enough, this is an article about the same guy who wrote the above piece: Po Bronson – well, I know what he‘s doing with his life then?

Novelist and business writer Bronson spent two years interviewing more than 900 people who had weighed or were weighing that question. From his research came the book, What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question.

No way! 900 people! That’s almost all of them, isn’t it? How could he manage that? So this is an interview with an all-wise Po Bronson in which he says cool things like:

Most attempt to answer it with one eye open, one eye closed. We let our fears govern our decisions; rather than challenging the validity of those fears, we accept the boundaries set by those fears, and end up confining our search to a narrow range of possibilities, like the guy looking for his car keys under the streetlight because he’s afraid of the dark.

And also things like:

I think that’s playing a game of semantics, when people say “There is no wrong answer because you learn from your mistakes and it’s all part of a process.” I do think there are wrong turns and we should be willing to take a stand and call them out. Such as: when people betray themselves, when people betray others, when people cheat or lie or fool themselves, when people act unethically to get ahead, when people pretend they will get rich when they won’t, when fathers abandon support for their children, etcetera. The list of wrong answers is endless.

I think I am learning at such speed, I will not be able to survive – Po’s new book should be called A Game of Semantics And How To Play It – I will buy it… 

#3: Ok, so it seems that Po Bronson completely took over the question: What Should I Do With My Life? because most of the Google references point either to his articles or his book – so this is a reflection by some blogger on the article by Po Bronson:

That bothers me. A lot. I’ve always felt a little smarter than the pack when it came to selecting a career. Why? Back in college I never changed my major. In fact, I’ve been reasonably sure of what I wanted to do for a long, long time. I just never considered anything else. I liked what I was doing. Recently, however, some things have caused that to change. Some of my older passions and ideas have resurfaced and they’re making me question what I’m doing now.

I.e. the fellow is asking a question: What Should I Do With My Life? and reading the article by Po Bronson is not giving him too many answers! Well, so instead of finding an answer to my question I now know that some other people are asking the same question and some of those people are writing books about it… Wealth of information! Ok, and now to the featured question of today:

Who Is The Best Philosopher Of All Time?

#1: Crooked Timber comes in at first place with its profound mention of Choose The Greatest Philosopher Of All Time survey!  CT sends everyone to BBC Radio 4 website where the voters chose KARL MARX as the “greatest philosopher of all time” – no real explanation is given, just the fact that the people chose Marx – democracy in action!

Before we go to the #2, here is a cool reaction to the BBC list from a polite and reserved blogger:

As usual, people are dumb-asses. This is the worst list for best philosopher ever that I’ve ever seen. Anyone in the know will tell you that any list of the greatest philosophers ever has to include Bertrand Russell, William of Ockham, and Thomas Hobbes. Moreover, who includes Karl Marx (ranter), Plato (dumbass), and Socrates (is more of a fictional character invented by Plato than anything). Indeed, the best work done by Karl Marx was done by Jean Jacques Rousseau, Plato’s most important achievement was to train Aristotle who disagreed with all his views, and Socrates never wrote anything and if he was as Plato portrays him, then he was a pompous jerk who picked arguments with idiots and then bragged about winning. I’m almost of a mind to boycott the BBC over this foolishness.

#2: Here is another vote and Karl Marx wins again! Who is this “Karl Marx” fellow? I am intrigued now. No one seems to be asking the very simple question: How is it possible to even consider asking such an idiotic question?  

#3: Why argue who the “best philosopher” is if you can simply get a mug that clearly states that you are the best one?! I am ordering TEN, the issue is clearly settled…

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16 thoughts on ““Who Is The Best Philosopher Of All Time?” and other important questions…

  1. i wish this is what i had spent my morning doing. i should have asked google to tell me what my strengths were instead of trying to think of them on my own.

    i love that now anyone else searching for “what should i wear today?” and “what should i do with my life?” will be led here for fantastic advice on the subject.

  2. Intriguing. Such final decisive questions… and I would have thought that anyone seriously interested in philosophy would reject such hierarchies… and that anyone with a window in their apartment and a potentially limited number of clothes would at least resort to pulling something out blindly from their wardrobe rather than google a question…

    The most common search engine hit for my blog is something like “Julia Roberts’s nightgown.” I had no idea what that was supposed to mean until I asked a friend who is a big Pretty Woman fan what that could be all about. I learned that there is a “legendary” white silk nightgown that JS wears in Pretty Woman. As you can imagine, being unaware of that, I had never written a word about it.

    But I learned so much, didn’t I;-)

    And hey, Mr. Emelianov, maybe it would be a good tip for those not sure what to wear on a warm, sunny day, to point them to the said nightgown? But again, that wouldn’t work for you. Unless you like cross-dressing:-)

    Best wishes for 2008!

  3. Perfect!!!!!!!
    keep it up

    The question is absolutly interguing,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but I always go to the Greeks as the precursors of the present philosophy.

  4. It is not unphilosophical at all. Philosophy is not the pursuit of subjective truth. Like science, it is the pursuit of objective truth, only confined generally to cognition. There is nothing inherently anti-hierarchal about philosophy despite the claims of many charlatans on the website. I actually find the question intriguing. It is interesting to bounce your own opinions off those who ponder the philosophies of the great minds of human history, and see who is thought to have produced the most valid, time tested, and true theories. It is not silly at all. It is only silly to fools who reject classification and standards to begin with, who think all people, all ideas, and all philosophies are equal or delude themselves into thinking that others think the same way. Nihilism, constructivism, and relativism are just three philosophical theories and second or third rate ones at that. Do not let her condescension force you into embarrassed submission, Mikhail, because she’s talking utter nonsense, sorry.

  5. C’mmon now, Shahar – we love pedagogic and preachy, it’s the perfect combination of attitudes.

    Philosophy as the objective pursuit of truth about cognition? Isn’t it science really? Can you rate scientists? Who is the best scientists of all times? What are the criteria?

    And who is this “her” with “her condescension”?

    And why does this old and sarcastic post attracts attention with serious answers? Read it again, it’s a joke…

  6. This is a tragedy. How do you fail to nominate my greatest philosopher of all times? Fyodor Dostoyevsky? Should think about… you all.

  7. I will, for a second, agree that people decided to choose KARL MARX as our “greatest philosopher.” Thanks for their efforts. However, we do not have even one real explanation as to why he was the chosen one. His later students criticized his work. He failed in explaining to us that a classless society is completely possible. In real sense, is a classless society possible at all in this world? Even in the countries that applied Communism, you will bet that a classless society was unachievable. Some people became rulers of others hence disorienting the whole idea and concept. I will not say that he was not a great thinker, but we still have more people to give the title. Voters, it is the time you gave us reasons for voting Karl Marx as the greatest philosopher. May be philosophy is incomprehensible to the greatest majority of men. There is no justice in this!!!!

  8. There is no doubt that plato was the greatest of the philosophers, his works cuts across all spheres of life, the plato’s republic is highly regarded as the greatest work of philosophy ever done, he is only neared by Aristotle and socrates so plato is the greatest…

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