Yes, and Aristotle for providing a complete and largely rational philosophical system, the first in history. Plato was the first to present a complete philosophical system, but Aristotle presented the first rational one. Without the contributions of Aristotle, there would have been no Renaissance and likely no Ayn Rand.
I would also add to the list Aquinas for bringing the work of Aristotle back to the Western World during the Middle Ages. Thus making it possible for the West to rediscover reason and consequently make the Renaissance possible.
And let’s not forget Thales for being the first known philosopher in the Greek tradition. As well as the “Father of Science”. He is the first known person to attempt to explain natural phenomena by appealing to non-supernatural explanations.
Granted, we no longer agree with all of his explanations, but I think we can cut the guy from about 2600 years ago some slack. He was the first to try, that is what really counts.
I must say, these are all inspiring individuals! But let’s talk about some of our least favorite figures in science and philosophy, to put it mildly.
Ah yes, putting it mildly indeed, as you will see. Unfortunately, I have far more of these than I would like. I will name some of my arch-enemies here.
To start off, Bohr was a devout disciple of Kant and believed that you cannot know physical reality, only mathematical appearances. Heisenberg essentially agreed and worked as a loyal disciple.
Got to mention Einstein, who in his youth, was a major advocate of a kind of Kantian subjectivism and mathematical appearances and this taints his work, especially relativity.
Then there’s Hawking who is a fairly typical modern rationalist. Not to mention his fatalistic and silly ramblings about aliens, man destroying himself and other nonsense.
Max Tegmark is a supreme example of a Platonic rationalist. This guy seriously believes that existence is a special kind of multiverse. In his system, each different universe is a different kind of mathematical structure.
If it sounds like something from Plato’s Timaeus, that is only because that is probably where he stole that idea off from.
What about the mathematicians?
Well, there’s Cantor for his awful work on infinity, which causes a lot of massive and horrible confusion to this day.
And Kurt Gödel, for his Incompleteness Theorems which are a senseless objection to the validity of mathematical principles and an attempt to justify the existence of unprovable truths.
Yeah, this seems like a pretty small list, with only two people. Several other mathematicians, mostly for their extreme rationalism, could go on this list. But, these two stand out for more interesting reasons.
Also, some of the other mathematicians that qualify are already in the philosophy section. There are many philosophy figures that could go on the list of arch-nemeses.
Indeed, Plato, Kant, Pythagoras, Descartes, Augustine, Hume. I could go on. Unfortunately, it seems that the history of philosophy has a lot more bad philosophers than truly great ones.
Now, Plato is essentially the father of every major irrational philosopher, all of whom borrow elements from his work. Plato holds that physical reality is secondary to a world of abstract ideas, which form the true reality.
He based a comprehensive philosophy around this tenant and used it to justify many monstrous things, such as dictatorship, censorship of ideas and so on.
In holding ideas as independent of and superior to reality, Plato was the supreme rationalist and under the influence of his philosophy, man has been attempting to sever ideas from reality ever since. With ruinous consequences.
Oh and then we have Kant, the ultimate evil in philosophy. His philosophy is the ultimate conclusion of over 2000 years of irrational philosophy in the West.
It is the most blindly irrational philosophy ever invented and condemns man to the most blindly irrational fate possible, all in the name of faith and blind duty.
His philosophy has massive influences on philosophy, physics and the morality of many people. For instance, it influenced Bohr and Einstein in their notion that you cannot know reality, only mathematical appearances.
Pythagoras was a mathematical mystic. He held that reality is actually just numbers. In several ways his ideas are similar to that of Plato and Plato may have been inspired by Pythagoras in some respects.
Then there’s Descartes, who was a major rationalistic influence on modern philosophy.
Augustine helped define the philosophy of Christianity and infused it with a further heavy element of Neoplatonism. And is thus a major influence on the blindly irrational theology of Christianity.
Hume helped to sever experience from knowledge. He argued that we cannot really rely on cause and the practical impossibility of concluding anything about the future. We have plenty of skeptics like this guy around us today.
Wow, those are some seriously damaging ideas! Let’s go back to something inspiring again.
What is your favorite quote?
“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong. ” – Ayn Rand.
Yes, that’s a good one!