Quora answer: Will there ever be any more great philosophers?

There will definitely be more great philosophers in the Western tradition.

Funny if you use the google historical word search mentions of Analytical Philosophy are on the decrease and Continental philosophy mentions are rising almost exponentially. But since about 1995 all mentions of philosophers seem to be decreasing. So that is not a good sign. However I am happy that the tricky European philosophers are of more interest in the 4% of all books that the google historical word search covers and that interest in this form of philosophy is rising rapidly. That is mainly because it has become a hit with English professors and graduate students who have to have some viewpoint to write their essays from, and Continental Philosophy offers many interesting viewpoints. Also Continental Philosophy has always used Literature as a test case for their ideas, and they have not buried themselves away in Academic towers like the Analytical philosophers have done. Zizek follows this tradition by having an opinion on every cultural phenomena under the sun.

First of all we know so little about the Western tradition itself, despite having so many great philosophers within it. And we have not really come to terms with the other philosophical traditions in the world, such as those in Buddhism for instance. So both on the home front and with respect to intercultural work there is still much to be done, and surely that will lead to new deep insights.

My own study is of Emergence and what I found out was that it creates discontinuous changes at random intervals like the black swan effect that Talib talks about at various scopes like givens, facts, theories, paradigms, epistemes, ontos, existence, and absolutes. Many times these emergent effects are captured by the Great Philosophers because they show us a new way to look at philosophy that had not been realized before.

For instance, the whole line of tricky Continentals, who all kinds of people are finding interesting other than Analytic philosophers, such as Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Deleuze, Levinas, Baudrillard, Bataille, Lacan, Badiou, Zizek etc. Of these, Heidegger is the Greatest who has like Kant turned the whole tradition in a different direction. No one can not be affected by his thought except Analytical Philosophers because they are insulated from everything interesting that happens in the world. Perhaps that is why they are not tricky enough to keep Analytical Philosophy afloat.

Now the raging issue in Continental Philosophy is when will the Metaphysical Era be over. Is it already over and we just don’t realize it yet, or is its end still coming? Heidegger thought Nietzsche was the last philosopher in the Metaphysical Era. So of course he thought he was initiating a new era that was Post-metaphysical. Since him almost everyone has claimed to be the bringer of a new Era to philosophy and our worldview, but still metaphysics drags on, like the living dead we cannot seem to kill off.

Badiou as made the most recent attempt with his Being and Event and its sequel.
Zizek does not care, he does not mind wallowing in the Metaphysical if it will help him clarify all the obscurities in Lacan by reinterpreting him in light of Hegel.

My own view is this. The great philosopher is someone who digs deeper into the structure of the Western worldview and increases our self-knowledge within the context of that worldview. Now what I discovered was that the worldview is organized by Emergent Events and those are structured through the meta-levels of Being. I wrote my first dissertation on that. The meta-levels of Being apply Russell’s logical type theory from Principia Mathematica (via Copi) to the various kinds of Being discovered by those tricky europeans philosophers which the Analytical philosophers have such a hard time understanding. It turns out if you look at the various kinds of Being they discuss as being structured as meta-levels of Being then they actually make some sense. It is interesting that after Quine the Analytical Philosophers abandoned Russell’s type theory because they thought it too complicated. It took me years to find the next book that developed the idea of Russell further, and that turned out to be the Logic of Sense by Deleuze.

Anyway I won’t go into the details here, but you can read about it on my various websites. The point is that what Continental Philosophy discovered was that Being was fragmented into modalities of Dasein. Heidegger talked about the first two in Being and Time. Later he discusses a third one which is also treated by Merleau-Ponty in The Visible and the Invisible where the fourth kind of Being is described. For years I thought there were only four, but recently I discovered how to thing about the fifth meta-level of Being. Now the fascinating thing is that these meta-levels of Being structure the Emergent Event. (which is the Event that Badiou is talking about too).

Now what I think is that the Great Philosophers sum up the changes in the worldview that are brought on by Emergent Events within the tradition, for instance Kant summed up the Newtonian revolution in Science basically by patterning his philosophy on the Calculus and attempting to give grounding to Newtonian science.

Hegel extends this idealism by taking it into History and dealing with time. I think the author of the other post is correct that most of Continental Philosophy is rooted in Hegel while Analytical Philosophy tends to trace its roots back to Frege and early Wittgenstein. Frege critiqued Husserl’s dissertation, and Husserl changed his course based on that criticism, yet Analytical Philosophy has little to say about Husserl.

Heidegger interestingly enough uses Hegel’s term Dasein for the central character in Being and Time, and at one point also says Dasein is Pure Spirit, and he ends by critiquing Hegel. So that makes us think that Heidegger in order to get some distance from the Phenomenology of Husserl had gone back to connect with the Phenomenology of Hegel through Heidegger’s new analysis of Aristotle and the various ways of knowing that Aristotle identifies.

But who ever is the next great philosopher will solve the problem of the end of metaphysics once and for all. I think that will come from taking Buddhist Philosophy seriously for a change. Hegel took Buddhism seriously and identified Buddhist emptiness with the Nothing at the base of his Logic with Being.

That was a fundamental step toward taking Buddhism and other world religions that have philosophies of significance seriously. Parkes talks about the Asian influences on Heidegger.

I personally think the next great philosopher will explain the relation between Being and Existence as empty (as seen in Buddhism) or void (as seen in Taoism). And I think that will finally put the stake through the heart of the Metaphysical Era that we have been trapped in for so long (since Anaximander).




Posted February 1, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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