Who Are the Most Pernicious Thinkers? A List of Five Bad Western Philosophers: Name Your Own


Over at his blog Leit­er Reports, UC Chica­go pro­fes­sor of phi­los­o­phy Bri­an Leit­er is cur­rent­ly con­duct­ing a very inter­est­ing poll, ask­ing his read­ers to rank the 25 philoso­phers of “the mod­ern era” (the last 200 years) who “have had the most per­ni­cious influ­ence on phi­los­o­phy.” The pool of can­di­dates comes from an ear­li­er sur­vey of influ­en­tial philoso­phers, and Leit­er has imposed some con­di­tions on his respon­dents, ask­ing that they only rank philoso­phers they have read, and only include “seri­ous philosophers”–“no char­la­tans like Der­ri­da or ama­teurs like Rand.” While I per­son­al­ly wince at Leit­er’s Der­ri­da jab (and cheer his exclu­sion of Rand), I think his ques­tion may be a lit­tle too aca­d­e­m­ic, his field per­haps too nar­row.

But the polem­i­cal idea is so com­pelling that I felt it worth adopt­ing for a broad­er infor­mal sur­vey: con­tra Leit­er, I’ve ranked five philoso­phers who I think have had a most per­ni­cious influ­ence on the world at large. I’m lim­it­ing my own choic­es to West­ern philoso­phers, with which I’m most famil­iar, though obvi­ous­ly by my first choice, you can tell I’ve expand­ed the tem­po­ral para­me­ters. And in sport­ing lis­ti­cle fash­ion, I’ve not only made a rank­ing, but I’ve blurbed each of my choic­es, inspired by this fun Neatora­ma post, “9 Bad Boys of Phi­los­o­phy.”

While that list uses “bad” in the Michael Jack­son sense, I mean it in the sense of Leit­er’s “per­ni­cious.” And though I would also include the pro­vi­so that only “seri­ous” thinkers war­rant inclu­sion, I don’t think this nec­es­sar­i­ly rules out any­one on the basis of aca­d­e­m­ic canons of taste. One might as well include C.S. Lewis as Jean Bau­drillard, both of whom tend to get dis­missed in most phi­los­o­phy depart­ments. My own list sure­ly reveals my anti-author­i­tar­i­an bias­es, just as some oth­ers may rail at fuzzy think­ing with a list of post­mod­ernists, or social­ism with a list of Marx­ists. This is as it should be. Defin­ing the “bad,” after all, is bound to be a high­ly sub­jec­tive exer­cise, and one about which we can and should dis­agree, civil­ly but vig­or­ous­ly. So with no more ado, here are my five choic­es for “Most Per­ni­cious West­ern Philoso­phers.” I invite—nay urge you—to make your own lists in the com­ments, with expla­na­tions terse or pro­lix as you see fit.

1. Thomas Aquinas

The Domini­can fri­ar and author of the near-unread­ably dense Sum­ma The­o­log­i­ca made it his life’s work to har­mo­nize log­i­cal Aris­totelian thought and mys­ti­cal Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy, to the detri­ment of both. While for Aquinas and his medieval con­tem­po­raries, nat­ur­al the­ol­o­gy rep­re­sents an ear­ly attempt at empiri­cism, the empha­sis on the “the­ol­o­gy” meant that the West has endured cen­turies of spu­ri­ous “proofs” of God’s exis­tence and com­plete­ly incom­pre­hen­si­ble ratio­nal­iza­tions of the Trin­i­ty, the vir­gin birth, and oth­er mirac­u­lous tales that have no ana­logue in observ­able phe­nom­e­na.

Like many church fathers before him, Thomas’s employ­ment as a kind of Grand Inquisi­tor of heretics and a cod­i­fi­er of dog­ma makes me all the more averse to his thought, though much of it is admit­ted­ly of great his­tor­i­cal import.

2. Carl Schmitt

Schmitt was a Nazi, which—as in the case of Mar­tin Heidegger—strangely hasn’t dis­qual­i­fied his thought from seri­ous appraisal across the polit­i­cal spec­trum. But some of Schmitt’s ideas—or at least their application—are par­tic­u­lar­ly trou­bling even when ful­ly divorced from his per­son­al pol­i­tics. Schmitt the­o­rized that sov­er­eign rulers, or dic­ta­tors, emerge in a “state of exception”—a secu­ri­ty cri­sis with which a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety can­not seem to cope, but which is ripe for exploita­tion by dom­i­neer­ing indi­vid­u­als. These “states” can legit­i­mate­ly appear at any time, or can be ginned up by unscrupu­lous rulers. The cru­cial insight has inspired such left­ist thinkers as Wal­ter Ben­jamin and the­o­rists on the right like Leo Strauss. Its polit­i­cal effects are some­thing alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent. Writes Scott Hor­ton in Harper’s:

It was Schmitt who, as the crown jurist of the new Nazi regime, pro­vid­ed the essen­tial road map for Gle­ich­schal­tung – the lev­el­ing of oppo­si­tion with­in Germany’s vast bureau­cra­cy – and it was he who pro­vid­ed the legal tools used to trans­form the Weimar democ­ra­cy into the Nazi night­mare that fol­lowed it.

This same road map—many have alleged—guided the uni­lat­er­al sus­pen­sions of con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­tec­tions and human rights pro­to­cols machi­nat­ed by Bush and Cheney’s Neo­con­ser­v­a­tive legal advi­sors after 9/11, who read Schmitt thor­ough­ly. (I intend here no direct com­par­i­son what­ev­er between these two regimes, God­win will­ing.)

3. John Locke

Though he wrote copi­ous­ly on epis­te­mol­o­gy, reli­gious tol­er­a­tion, edu­ca­tion, and all sorts of oth­er impor­tant top­ics, Locke is often remem­bered as everyone’s favorite lib­er­al polit­i­cal philoso­pher. His anony­mous­ly pub­lished Two Trea­tis­es of Gov­ern­ment has had an out­sized influ­ence on most mod­ern demo­c­ra­t­ic con­sti­tu­tions, and giv­en his pri­ma­ry antag­o­nist in the first part of that work—Sir Robert Filmer, staunch defend­er of the divine right of kings and nat­ur­al hierarchies—Locke seems pos­i­tive­ly pro­gres­sive, what with his defense of a civ­il soci­ety based on respect for labor and pri­vate prop­er­ty against the unwar­rant­ed pow­er and abuse of the aris­toc­ra­cy.

But Locke’s Filmer works as some­thing of a straw man. Exam­ined crit­i­cal­ly, Locke is no demo­c­ra­t­ic cham­pi­on but an apol­o­gist for the pet­ty tyran­ny of landown­ers who grad­u­al­ly erod­ed the com­mons, dis­placed the com­mon­ers, and seized greater and greater tracts of land in Eng­land and the colonies under the Lock­ean jus­ti­fi­ca­tion that a man is enti­tled to as much prop­er­ty as he can make use of. Of course, in Locke’s time, and in our own, pro­pri­etors and landown­ers seize and “make use of” the resources and labor of others—slaves, indige­nous peo­ple, and exploit­ed, land­less workers—in order to make their extrav­a­gant claims to pri­vate prop­er­ty. This kind of appro­pri­a­tion is also enabled by Locke’s thought, since prop­er­ty only just­ly belongs to the “indus­tri­ous and the ratio­nal”— char­ac­ter­is­tics that tend to get defined against their oppo­sites (“lazy and stu­pid”) in any way that suits those in pow­er.

4. Rene Descartes

Anoth­er dar­ling of Enlight­en­ment tra­di­tion, Descartes gets all the cred­it for found­ing a phi­los­o­phy on rad­i­cal doubt, and there­by doing away with the pre­sup­po­si­tion­al the­o­log­i­cal bag­gage imposed on thought by scholas­tics like Aquinas. And yet, like Locke, Descartes gets too easy a pass for reduc­ing his method to terms that are by no means unequiv­o­cal or uni­ver­sal­ly mean­ing­ful, though he pre­tends that they are.

Descartes explains his method as a means of elim­i­nat­ing from his mind all con­cep­tu­al clut­ter but those ideas that seem to him “clear and dis­tinct.” Odd­ly the two bedrock con­cepts he’s left with are an unshake­able faith in his own indi­vid­ual ego—or soul—and the exis­tence of a monothe­is­tic cre­ator-God. Thus, Descartes’ method of rad­i­cal doubt leads him to reaf­firm the two most core con­cepts of clas­si­cal West­ern phi­los­o­phy, con­cepts he more or less assumes on the basis of intuition—or per­haps unex­am­ined ide­o­log­i­cal com­mit­ments.

5. Søren Kierkegaard

This is a tough one, because I actu­al­ly adore Kierkegaard, but I love him as a writer, not as a philoso­pher. His cri­tiques of Hegel are scathing and hilar­i­ous, his take­downs of the self-sat­is­fied Dan­ish petit-bour­geoisie are epic, and the tonal range and iron­ic deft­ness of his numer­ous lit­er­ary voices—personae as diverse as desert saints and schem­ing seducers—are unequalled.

But I recoil from the eth­i­cal phi­los­o­phy of Søren Kierkegaard, as so many peo­ple recoil from Nietzsche’s brinks­man­ship with tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian moral­i­ty. Kierkegaard’s reduc­tion of the human expe­ri­ence to a false choice paradigm—“Either/Or”—, his ethics of blind irra­tional­ism couched as a jus­ti­fi­able leap of faith, exem­pli­fied by his glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Abraham’s will­ing­ness to kill his son Isaac… these things I can’t help but find abhor­rent, and if I’ve ever been tempt­ed to read them as iron­ic expres­sions of the author’s many masks, fur­ther study has robbed me of this balm. Kierkegaard the writer offers us a great deal; Kierkegaard the moral philoso­pher, not so much.


So there you have my list—riddled, to be sure, with inac­cu­ra­cies, prej­u­dice, and super­fi­cial mis­read­ings, but an hon­est attempt nonethe­less, giv­en my inad­e­quate philo­soph­i­cal train­ing. Again I’ll say that the inclu­sion of any of these five names in a list of philoso­phers, per­ni­cious or no, means that I believe they are all thinkers worth read­ing and tak­ing seri­ous­ly to some degree, even if one vio­lent­ly dis­agrees with them or finds glar­ing and griev­ous error in the midst of seas of bril­liance.

Now that you’ve read my “Five Most Per­ni­cious Philoso­phers,” please tell us read­ers, who are yours, and why? Your grip­ing expla­na­tions can be as short or long as you see fit, and feel free to vio­lent­ly dis­agree with my hasty judg­ments above. Ad hominem attacks aside, it’s all with­in the spir­it of the enter­prise.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy, from 600 B.C.E. to 1935, Visu­al­ized in Two Mas­sive, 44-Foot High Dia­grams

Take First-Class Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es Any­where with Free Oxford Pod­casts

Down­load 90 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (37)
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  • Jason says:

    Der­ri­da-pho­bia is a pathet­ic ill­ness of ‘cool dudes’ like Leit­er. Its bet­ter that leit­er stick to phi­los­o­phy of law and play with Niet­zsche’s thoughts since that is all he can do. I am dead sure he has not read Der­ri­da, and will not be able to under­stand him even if he does, since it is a bit dif­fi­cult for his tiny brain. Leit­er is a pathet­ic char­la­tan him­self, a dis­mal moron crav­ing to label Niet­zsche as ana­lyt­ic.

  • Dean says:

    You prob­a­bly expect­ed some back­lash by fan­boys, so I’ll meet that expec­ta­tion and say your read­ing of Kierkegaard is too reduc­tion­is­tic and it seems you’ve fall­en for the joke of the pseu­do­nyms. Read­ing some arti­cles by K. com­men­ta­tor Edward F. Mooney might help to ease some of your fears.

  • Hal O'Brien says:

    I’ve met Der­ri­da. “Char­la­tan” isn’t right; “satirist” comes clos­er to the mark. It became clear in our dis­cus­sions that he was being very play­ful, and was gen­uine­ly bemused at the earnest­ness of his Amer­i­can hosts in tak­ing him so seri­ous­ly — much more so than he took him­self or his writ­ings. But if they were will­ing to pay for him to win­ter in Irvine, Calif., he was will­ing to put up with such earnest­ness, how­ev­er mis­placed he believed it to be.

  • Andrew Varnell says:

    Or just a list of my favorite thinkers in order…

  • avtar says:

    I’m not sure if I’m a fan of this list. Also, I’m sad that Ayn Rand isn’t at the top of the list.

  • Adrian Turcu says:

    John Locke?
    Not Marx, not Malthus?
    The revi­sion­ism is strong with this one.

  • Aidan Wright says:

    I am not much for the term “per­ni­cious”. It is a bit too alarmist for my taste. I do agree with you, how­ev­er, in that this is large­ly a sub­jec­tive endeav­or. In real­i­ty it is more of a list­ing of philoso­phers you dis­like or dis­agree with rather than those who are “per­ni­cious” the the world of phi­los­o­phy. If “per­ni­cious” is to be used, then I can’t imag­ine why you would­n’t include Niet­zsche. I very much enjoy read­ing Niet­zsche but there is no doubt that his phi­los­o­phy great­ly influ­enced much of the 20th cen­tu­ry dic­ta­to­r­i­al vio­lence, and so his omis­sion in this list is curi­ous indeed. The list would be bet­ter if it focused on either “poor” philoso­phies of “per­ni­cious” philoso­phies.

    In any case, keep post­ing things like this because they are very inter­est­ing!


  • Shaun says:

    I agree with AW in the mis­read­ing of the title, these philoso­phers where more poor than per­ni­cious, at least for what is obvi­ous to me.

    Jean Jacque Rosseau for exam­ple was not much of a philoso­pher. He had a way with words and noble sen­ti­ments regard­ing what man should be. But a read­ing of his phi­los­o­phy requires a slight sus­pen­sion of log­ic. Nev­er­the­less, how much good has he done! It may be incal­cu­la­ble. The num­ber of free­dom fight­ers and lib­er­al aca­d­e­mics he’s encour­aged with his way of words must have lit­tle par­al­lel in the world.

    Pla­to and Aris­to­tle — how much evil has their philoso­phies encour­aged? Their anti-eng­light­en­ment ideas used by the church for mil­lenia to keep a log­ic over exper­i­ment phi­los­o­phy.

    Fichte and Niet­zsche con­tributed to much of the Nazi way of thought. Even if Niet­zsche was mis­in­ter­pret­ed, he was undoubt­ed­ly per­ni­cious.

    Inter­est­ing read though.

    PS One last thought. With­out Kierkegaard, we would not have Sartre in the same way we do. That’s got to be worth his knights of faith!

  • Shaun says:

    PPS: Here’s a quote from Carl Sagan on Aris­to­tle and Pla­to. “They were both com­fort­able in a slave soci­ety, they offered jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for oppres­sion, they served tyrants, they taught the alien­ation of the body from the mind…They sep­a­rat­ed thought from mat­ter, they divorced the Earth from the heav­ens.”

  • sgtoox says:

    Apprent­ly Sagan nev­er read a word of Aristotle,as his entire phi­los­o­phy revolves around prov­ing that there is not true sep­a­ra­tion of body and mind, form and mat­ter. His set him­self up over and against Pla­to’s thought in that regard. But yes, lets lis­ten to a pop­u­lar intel­lec­tu­al from cos­mol­o­gy tell us about philo­soph­i­cal his­to­ry.…

  • Lev Lafayette says:

    I reject your assess­ment of Locke being “..an apol­o­gist for the pet­ty tyran­ny of landown­ers who grad­u­al­ly erod­ed the com­mons”.

    On the con­trary Locke estab­lished a very strong pro­vi­sio that land could only be claimed home­steading could only be jus­ti­fied where “…at least where there is enough, and as good, left in com­mon for oth­ers”.

    Now, he can cer­tain­ly be blamed for not elab­o­rat­ing the eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of such a onto­log­i­cal require­ment. But you can see Lock­e’s thoughts on the mat­ter through econ­o­mists such as Smith, Ricar­do, Mill and oth­ers, all who effec­tive­ly demand­ed the abo­li­tion of land­lordism.

  • HeroAdAbsurdum says:

    Hegel. I’d explain why, but nobody under­stands any­thing he ever said so what would be the point?

  • Gerald Sallier says:

    How are CS Lewis, Ayn Rand, and Sam Har­ris not on this list? Should­n’t arm­chair phi­los­o­phy trump con­tro­ver­sial phi­los­o­phy on a list of per­ni­cious thinkers?

  • iŷē poppie says:

    And you say? obvi­ous­ly does not like “reli­gious philoso­phers” of any stripe.makes it hard to take him to seri­ous. And you say?

  • vorone says:

    Wittgen­stein should be num­ber 1, pathet­ic list by the way.

  • Phyllis says:

    The per­ni­cious ideas of Friedrich von Hayek top my list. Thatch­er in a Cab­i­net meet­ing once slammed his “Road to Serf­dom” down on the table, say­ing, “This is what we believe in!” … an ide­o­log­i­cal lega­cy that’s play­ing out now through the dis­man­tling of the NHS and tre­bling of tuition fees cost­ing the UK tax pay­er more than the sys­tem it replaced…

  • lolipsist says:

    Sun Tzu. The lan­guage of war used to jus­ti­fy cut­throat cap­i­tal­ism — does it get more per­ni­cious than that?

  • Josh Jones says:

    @Dean: I’ve always read K’s fideism as his most sin­cere­ly held posi­tion, against which he takes every iron­ic stance. I’ve nev­er seen it as a joke, but I could cer­tain­ly be entire­ly mis­read­ing him. I’ll check out Mooney.

    @Lev: Fair point, but I think that’s mere­ly a rhetor­i­cal con­ces­sion. Lock­e’s rea­son­ing in “Of Prop­er­ty” seems to dic­tate that com­mon land exists in a state of nature and is invari­ably seized through acts of war or pri­vate­ly appro­pri­at­ed through indus­try. He does­n’t seem to think that com­mons are sus­tain­able. It seems to me that he makes mag­nan­i­mous claims about enough land for all because he is a colo­nial­ist. He spends a good cou­ple pages mak­ing cal­cu­la­tions about how the Euro­pean use of North Amer­i­can land is more prof­itable than the Native, and hence implic­it­ly jus­ti­fies the land’s appro­pri­a­tion.

    Locke seems most­ly con­cerned that land use pro­duce max­i­mum prof­its (for the indi­vid­ual, and–he writes elsewhere–for the nation). Land that is not used for prof­it, or not used at all, he deems “waste” and “spoilage.” (See Bar­bara Arneil, James Tul­ly, Ellen Meiskins Wood and Neal Wood, and Karl Widerquist on this point).

    To those who’ve con­tributed noth­ing but insults and ran­cor to the dis­cus­sion, thanks for con­tribut­ing less than noth­ing and com­plete­ly ignor­ing the point of the exer­cise, which is clear­ly stat­ed in the title: Don’t like my list? “Make your own” (or at least offer sub­stan­tive cri­tique).

  • Mr. Beer N. Hockey says:

    I vote for Jesus.

  • Rudolf Root says:

    Mar­tin Luther (1483–1546).
    Aside from his atti­tude towards the oppressed (“Against the Mur­der­ous, Thiev­ing Hordes of Peas­ants”, 1525 —“against the mur­der­ous and thiev­ing hordes of peas­ants […] who­ev­er can do, one should destroy them, stran­gle, prick, in secret or pub­lic, like bat­ting to death a rabid dog”) his writ­ings laid the foun­da­tion for chris­t­ian anti­semitism (“On the Jews and Their Lies”, 1543 — “[…] we are at fault in not slay­ing them”).

  • Andrea Ostrov Letania says:

    No Karl Marx whose ideas led to death of 70 mil­lions?

    Carl Schmidt had no effect on intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry. The Nazis did­n’t come to pow­er with the force of ideas. But Marx did have an impact on ideas.

    I guess Jones does­n’t care about dead peo­ple if they were killed by left­ism.

    He’s as sick as the Nazis.

  • Shaun says:

    Andrea, what a vile use of hyper­bole.

    I don’t remem­ber read­ing any­thing about starv­ing eth­nic­i­ties and dis­ap­pear­ing peo­ple in Marx. Can you please ref­er­ence the pages/works so that I can reread them and find what I missed?

    “The Nazis did­n’t come to pow­er through the force of ideas”. Yes, they did. In fact they were elect­ed because of their Nation­al­is­tic sen­ti­ments and atti­tude to the econ­o­my.

    Please keep dig­ging a hole below.

  • Shaun says:

    Also do this left vs right deba­cle:

    Josh Jones, as he has explained above, is anti-author­i­ty. Eco­nom­ic ques­tions do not nec­es­sar­i­ly dic­tate an author­i­tar­i­an or social lib­er­al­ism. Please be clear­er with your terms and under­stand­ing in future.

    If you dis­agree, make a list, demon­strate some wis­dom instead of mak­ing a show of your lim­it­ed philo­soph­i­cal knowl­edge and vocab­u­lary by writ­ing curse words from the safe­ty of your par­en­t’s base­ment.

  • José Vidal says:

    Que abu­sivos estos… Claro: el más maldito de la his­to­ria de la Filosofía toda, San­to Tomás… Sabrán estos ataran­ta­dos el daño que causa espar­cir nociones tan des­cuidada­mente absur­das? Renée Descartes (músi­co, matemáti­co, físi­co — escritor sobre el alma: con­cep­to que ofende a los ateos meta-eti­cos de la vol­un­tad inser­vi­cial: pa’ matar) el número cua­tro, segui­do por Søren Kierkegaard en la quin­ta posi­ción. Estos últi­mos super­a­dos en acidez cor­rup­to­ra solo por John Locke (obje­tivizador del val­or de la ley que con­duce al stan­dard legar — por supuesto, imper­don­able). El Nazi en segun­do puesto; y es que San­to Tomás fue el más maldito de todos los tiem­pos…

  • Barley says:

    This is a fine list if the most per­ni­cious threat to the world at this moment is per­ceived to be Chris­tian­i­ty; I myself am not so sure. You are right to note that these types of lists are doomed to be guid­ed by essen­tial­ly prej­u­dice or as you also say, ide­o­log­i­cal com­mit­ments.

    Nonethe­less, good food for thought.

  • Sebastian says:

    Since I haven’t read much Thomas Aquinas, I can­not say too much about his war­rant on the list. Hav­ing read some con­tem­po­rary philoso­phers that are Thomists, I will say that this is wild­ly exag­ger­at­ed. The only seri­ous oppo­nent in social/political phi­los­o­phy the Thomist has is a Marx­ist, as both are the only ones who will crit­i­cize the lib­er­al for not being a moral real­ist (at least this will go for more ortho­dox Marx­ists; also Mac­In­tyre had at least 2 con­ver­sions, from Catholic to Marx­ist, and from Marx­ist to Thomist, strange bed­fel­lows, but not so strange if you know some­ht­ing about their respec­tive philoso­phies.)

    Locke is per­ni­cious in a lot of ways, but I will say that the First Trea­tise is not straw-man­ning Filmer. When Locke picks apart the ridicu­lous­ness of the his­to­ri­og­ra­phy that has to be true in order to trace cur­rent kings back to Adam is absurd beyond all stan­dards of ratio­nal think­ing.

    Descartes is wide­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed, and I would seri­ous­ly con­sid­er re-read­ing the Med­i­ta­tions if you real­ly think that all that he’s up to is to jus­ti­fy a cre­ator God (what kind of God he jus­ti­fies is still a mys­tery to me, but the proof in Med­i­ta­tion 3 has struc­tur­al sim­i­lar­i­ties to what some ana­lyt­ic philoso­phers have to say about the nec­es­sary iden­ti­ty of nat­ur­al kind terms and their phys­i­cal con­stituents)

    I would prob­a­bly say that the most per­ni­cious philoso­phers are the non-philoso­phers that get them­selves tak­en seri­ous­ly as doing phi­los­o­phy, as well as the ones that legit­imize a cer­tain way of doing phi­los­o­phy that is beyond ratio­nal think­ing. Thus, in no par­tic­u­lar order, Richard Dawkins, Christo­pher Hitchens, Slavoj Zizek (love the guy, but boy does he mis­rep­re­sent phi­los­o­phy), Jacques Der­ri­da (prob­a­bly had some­thing inter­est­ing to say, but I can’t make any sense of most Der­rideans), Richard Rorty (real­ly smart guy, but he prob­a­bly just got fed up with the com­mu­ni­ty of philoso­phers that he was raised in and said ‘screw it’, I’m gonna do some­thing dif­fer­ent)

  • jkop says:

    It occurs to me the most per­ni­cious influ­ence on phi­los­o­phy comes from works which pri­mar­i­ly sat­is­fy a will to pow­er.

    Al-Ghaz­a­li and Aquinas inhib­it­ed the progress of thought for cen­turies. In mod­ern times clar­i­ty of thought was inhib­it­ed by Hegel and Hei­deg­ger while Marx, Niet­zsche and Fou­cault replaced the truth of thought with pow­er. Hence their pop­u­lar­i­ty.

    But with­out true thoughts any­thing goes and noth­ing mat­ters. Hence their deplorable effect on phi­los­o­phy.

  • Boldriks says:

    While I’m pleased to see the con­tempt with irra­tional­i­ty in those philoso­phers men­tioned in your list, I’m just as much (more, actu­al­ly) appalled with the stance on Ayn Rand, who in my opin­ion is THE great­est philoso­pher of 20th cen­tu­ry. I would def­i­nite­ly put her besides Aris­to­tle as one of the greats of phi­los­o­phy of all time. “Ama­teur like Rand”? Just what the hell does that mean? Can one be con­sid­ered a philoso­pher only if he/she teach­es the sub­ject in school?

  • Affable says:

    The author says “Again I’ll say that the inclu­sion of any of these five names in a list of philoso­phers, per­ni­cious or no, means that I believe they are all thinkers worth read­ing and tak­ing seri­ous­ly to some degree, even if one vio­lent­ly dis­agrees with them or finds glar­ing and griev­ous error in the midst of seas of bril­liance.”

    She’s not a seri­ous thinker, or in any way wor­thy of being con­sid­ered a philoso­pher. She’s just a hack writer with lousy ideas.

  • Dieter says:

    What about the Ukrain­ian star­va­tion?
    It has its own Wikipedia entry.

    Wal­ter Duran­ty got a Pulitzer writ­ing for the NYTimes and lying about it.
    He has his own entry also.

    ‘vile?’ is that like ‘canard?’

  • bob says:

    @Jason: Accord­ing to Fou­cault (as recount­ed by Sear­le), “[Der­ri­da] writes so obscure­ly you can’t tell what he’s say­ing. That’s the obscu­ran­tism part. And then when you crit­i­cize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t under­stand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the ter­ror­ism part.” You’re giv­ing us all a beau­ti­ful exam­ple of this obscu­ran­tist intel­lec­tu­al ter­ror­ism.

    In Fou­cault’s own words: “(…) It’s a lit­tle ped­a­gogy, his­tor­i­cal­ly well-deter­mined, which is very appar­ent. (…) A ped­a­gogy which gives to the voice of the mas­ter an unlim­it­ed sov­er­eign­ty which allow it to indef­i­nite­ly re-say the text.”

    It is end­less­ly sur­pris­ing and sad to see so many pupils vol­un­teer­ing to receive Der­ri­da so sub­mis­sive­ly. Or per­haps they are try­ing to imi­tate him, so they can become mas­ters too, ris­ing from the bot­tom of this intel­lec­tu­al pyra­mid scheme?

  • ShashankSP says:

    Your com­ment con­tra­dicts Der­ri­da

  • Alfie says:

    1. René Descartes
    The mind-body prob­lem haunt­ed West­ern Phi­los­o­phy for too long; dual­ism did more harm than good.
    2. Jean-Paul Sartre
    He is mere­ly a shad­ow of Hei­deg­ger.
    3. Robert Noz­ick
    He was a bright philoso­pher, but his polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy did more harm than good; his track­ing the­o­ry of knowl­edge or plea­sure machine thought exper­i­ment are not impor­tant enough to make up for his polit­i­cal influ­ence.
    4. Alain de Bot­ton
    I don’t want to con­sid­er him a philoso­pher, but he does inter­act with and com­ment on the philo­soph­i­cal lit­er­a­ture (much more than Ayn Rand). His phi­los­o­phy squeezed all of the rig­or and nuance out of great thinkers and turned it into a cor­po­rate empire that equiv­o­cates phi­los­o­phy with cheap, self-help books.
    5. John Locke
    His thoughts were nev­er that pro­found, and he made a lot of argu­ments that oth­ers have put more elo­quent­ly.

    P.S. I did­n’t include Ayn Rand, because she is not a philoso­pher. She does­n’t under­stand basic philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts, and gross­ly mis­un­der­stands key philoso­phers like Kant and Aris­to­tle in ways that one would only expect from stu­dents in phi­los­o­phy 101.

  • Adam says:

    Thank you kind com­mie for giv­ing me this list, if you hate these philoso­phers so much they must all be pret­ty good. I’ll be sure to read more of their works.

  • Andrew says:

    It’s inter­est­ing that you crit­i­cized Rand, declar­ing her not a real philoso­pher. She might praise you for try­ing to cre­ate a sim­i­lar “bad guys of philo­soph­i­cal his­to­ry.” It’s cer­tain­ly the case that this is as child­ish as her attempt was.

  • Claire says:

    Arthur Schopen­hauer lit­er­al­ly wrote an entire book on why women are trash. Let’s add him to the list.

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