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June 13, 2005

On the BBC

A link sent by (of all people) my dad. (This is noteworthy because my dad is, in general, rather suspicious of philosophy. I think it stems from when I was an undergraduate and tried to explain the problem of induction to him. Since then he's suspected that philosophy secretly wants to subvert science (he trained in chemistry - surely the most real of the traditional sciences. I bet if we took a survey of working scientists and asked them whether they thought their best theories were true or merely empirically adequate, the chemists would have the highest proportion of people answering "true." Maybe I'm biased when it comes to chemists though. I lived with a bunch of graduate chemists for years. You can see why I need a blog - I could go on like this forever...)

Anyway, Radio 4 is having a vote to see who the public considers to be the greatest philosopher of all time. You can also take their philosophy quiz, and, best of all, see what various celebrities said when asked who the greatest philosopher of all time is. In an ideal world, this question would have been put to the likes of Britney Spears, Posh and Becks, and the cast of Big Brother and you'd have to drink every time someone replied "my mum." (If I'd had to pick people to ask I think Moby, Julian Cope and Bob Geldof might have been high on the list. Andrew Marr and Stephen Fry could definitely stay on too.) But in this world they've asked the likes of Anne Widecombe and Mariella Frostrup. As far as I can tell, each respondent has only had to pick a name and perhaps a quote, and then someone from Radio 4 wrote up a few paragraphs about each philosopher, complete with links to your friend and mine, the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.

Who is my favourite philosopher of all time? I don't really know. I might have said Tarski until recently. It's a hard call because you want it to be someone who's main message you agree with, but it also seems to matter than they worked on something important, and then it should be someone with whom you feel something of a connection. So here's a short list. It's very mixed, and people are on it for very mixed reasons: Berkeley, Tarski, Epicurus, Mill, Kripke, Wittgenstein, Marx, Russell. The thing is, half the people on this list I kind of hate too. I don't know how we ever manage to like whole people; they're so complicated.

Posted by logican at June 13, 2005 3:07 PM

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