• Shawn
    12.8k
    It seems to me that divorcing the philosopher from who he or she was as a person is difficult and often doesn't happen. Then again, this might be true for the armchair philosopher on a forum as opposed to the academic philosopher.

    To give an example, take Socrates. His life and philosophy seemed inseparable. His dictum, to live the examined life was only emulated by few notable philosophers, such as, in my opinion, Wittgenstein and others. Then there's the distaste for philosophers like Heidegger, who stands out for his personal life associated with Nazism.

    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?

    Thanks.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    I would never assume we are in a position to know who the philosopher is as a person. All we have is a text and the text is a fecund vehicle for alternative interpretations. But I recognize that old school criticism would have it that the artist and their life is the context of a work when fully understood. I think this has limited application and is subject to many flights of psychologizing fancy.

    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn

    I assume most people (philosophers or not) are flawed and limited beings - so no.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    But I recognize that old school criticism would have it that the artist and their life is the context of a work when fully understood. I think this has limited application and is subject to many flights of psychologizing fancy.Tom Storm

    So, goes it. Heidegger just lost the game if you're right. Then again, had the victor had their ways as spoke Thrasymachus, then he would have been idolized by everyone nowadays. Strange counterfactual, eh?

    What do you mean about the "psychologizing fancy" part?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn

    I think it depends on their philosophy.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    What do you mean about the "psychologizing fancy" part?Shawn

    Just the tendency of some people (even biographers) to think they can explain a thinker's work based on their imagining of a writer's psychological state. Conjecture. Or even the claim that they know what a writer intended based on the writer's (putative) psychological state. Whatever that means.

    Heidegger just lost the game if you're right.Shawn

    Whether Heidegger was a Nazi or not (for me) may well taint our experience of his work, but it says little or nothing about whether the work is any good.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    I think it depends on their philosophy.Leontiskos

    Can you specify what you mean by "their philosophy?"

    Is this a reference to their narrative or system of thought or something else?
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    Just the tendency of some people (even biographers) to think they can explain a thinker's work based on their imagining of a writer's psychological state. Conjecture. Or even the claim that they know what a writer intended meaning based on the writer's (putative) psychological state. Whatever that means.Tom Storm

    But, philosophy isn't mathematics, in that it isn't self-evident. How do you counter that?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Can you specify what you mean by "their philosophy?"Shawn

    Their philosophy: the philosophy they do.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    But, philosophy isn't mathematics, in that it isn't self-evident. How do you counter that?Shawn

    I have no idea what this comment means in relation to what I wrote.

    I am not a fan of psychologizing the work of anyone, whether it is a philosopher or a movie actor.
  • Outlander
    1.9k
    If we threw away everything or better yet were forbidden by law to use anything invented or that came about as an invention by way of a person who's view we didn't share, well, that'd make for mighty simple living now wouldn't it? :grin:
  • Shawn
    12.8k


    Yes; but, people have psychologies.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn
    No. Except where a philosopher proposes, in the e.g. Hellenic sense, 'philosophy as a way of life' (P. Hadot), I think a philosophy ought to be judged on the basis of its own merits/demerits like any other textual, formal or scientific artifact. How a philosopher lives may or may not be exemplary to us independent of – though there may be evident biographical influences on – her philosophy.
  • Heracloitus
    497
    I don't see why you put Witty on a pedestal. It's well known that he was an awful person. How do you know he led such an "examined life"?
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    No. Except where a philosopher proposes, in the e.g. Hellenic sense, 'philosophy as a way of life' (P. Hadot)180 Proof

    That's a good point.
  • Ciceronianus
    3k
    Then there's the distaste for philosophers like Heidegger, who stands out for his personal life associated with Nazism.Shawn

    Distaste for Heidegger? You astound me.

    He certainly was a stand out Nazi. Stood by them as well.
  • jkop
    711
    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn

    The kids who always talk about being fair and sharing," I recall him saying, "mostly just want you to be fair to them and share with them.Davy
  • Ludwig V
    1k
    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn
    The public certainly seem to think that everyone in the public eye is expected to do that. Yet it is not clear to me that the public think that they should uphold the same standards. One might argue that people in the public eye are often role models for others and so have an additional responsibility to conform to a higher standard. But if that's so, everyone is in the eye of some of the public and is likely to be a role model for some people, so everyone has a similar responsibility.

    I assume most people (philosophers or not) are flawed and limited beingsTom Storm
    And one would have thought that a certain level of tolerance and even forgiveness might be expected of the public - unless the public never sins.

    All we have is a text and the text is a fecund vehicle for alternative interpretations.Tom Storm
    It certainly is. A biography is also subject to interpretation. It is probably a good idea to wait until it is over, but even then a final judgement is difficult to arrive at.

    To give an example, take Socrates. His life and philosophy seemed inseparable.Shawn
    It's a good idea to remember always that Plato's account was more hagiography than biography.

    Whether Heidegger was a Nazi or not (for me) may well taint our experience of his work, but it says little or nothing about whether the work is any good.Tom Storm
    The interesting question is what basis, if any, there is for Nazism in his philosophy. I don't think there is a determinate answer, but it is worrying.

    I don't see why you put Witty on a pedestal. It's well known that he was an awful person.Heracloitus
    I agree. Yet he had friends. I don't think I could have been friends with him, and I don't suppose he would have wanted to be friends with me. I don't care either way, he is an amazing philosopher.

    There are questions to be asked about the involvement of both Berkeley and Locke in the slave trade as well. In their case, there is a tricky issue about how far we pay attention to the context that they lived in. I don't suppose anyone is much bothered about whether Plato and Aristotle (or Socrates) owned slaves. Rousseau's life presents other issues.
  • kazan
    40
    Shawn, Your thread question may become moot if ever AI becomes refined/enhanced to the point of producing/remixing different philosophies into "original or apparently new" philosophic directions/ideas.
    Such "creations" being seemingly closer than might be wanted by existing philosophers is one perspective. Denying that AI could ever have such capacity is another perspective.
  • kazan
    40
    Tom Storm,
    If this analogy to your overall answer to Shawn's question is acceptable... play the ball, not the man... then.... agreed.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    If this analogy to your overall answer to Shawn's question is acceptable... play the ball, not the man... then.... agreed.kazan

    Not sure I follow, can you clarify?
  • kazan
    40
    Surprised by your reaction. Merely agreeing that philosophic understanding is best served by examination of the expressed thoughts than guessing at the circumstances of philosophers' lives, much of which is conjecture from a later era.
    Apologies, thought you may have seen a connection between ballsports having a process to purpose and philosophic processes.with purpose.
  • kazan
    40
    Sorry, perhaps "...interpreting from.."rather than "...guessing at..." is a better expression by way of explanation.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    [reply="kazan;907493" Ok, now see I thought you were referring to an analogy I had made. The syntax confused me, not the idea. Yes.
  • Tzeentch
    3.5k
    Philosophers should practice what they preach.

    Precisely because philosophy isn't a hard science, the philosopher themselves should act as a 'living proof' of the validity of their views and lead by example.

    If they do not, then the philosophy should be looked upon with a degree of skepsis.
  • kazan
    40
    Tzeentch,
    Nihilists would/could live short " living proof(s) of the...........". smile.
    Tom Storm,
    Glad that's cleared up.:grin:
  • Christoffer
    1.9k
    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn

    A person who does not live by his own philosophy comes off as being dishonest. But there are a few more sides to it.

    If the philosopher is pushing for a certain moral praxis, then why wouldn't they follow it themselves? Being convinced that a certain moral praxis is the right way to live would be informed by living that experience in some way.

    However, there are philosophies that can extend beyond the ability to fully live by it. For instant, a marxist political philosopher can criticize capitalism and the modern free market and its culture, but living by that is close to impossible. This is also why I detest the kind of counter arguments against great thinkers today by dismissing them because they're not fully living by their own teachings. For instance, someone releasing a book that tries to argue for a world without the normal monetary transactions on the free market; would still need to operate within this free market to reach out with his/her ideas and will probably need to sell a few books in order to continue their work without the need for distracting side gigs and burnout.

    Or think about someone criticizing the current social media behavior and TikTok addiction. What's the best way to talk about such ideas? To have an account on social media and TikTok and spread that knowledge there, especially communicating that knowledge within the context of behaviors that people have on these platforms.

    This is all a gradient of course. A moral philosopher in a totalitarian state would look like a fool if they argue against killing innocent people in society if they at the same time also participate in that practice. But at the same time, there's been such thinkers in nations that were in between, arguing against the practice of the state within the context of the political ideologies in power, and subsequently leading to the people slowly turning away form those ideologies over time.

    In the end, it doesn't really matter who the person was or how they lived. We don't dismiss Heidegger's philosophies because he became a Nazi, that's how the mob in society operates. We examine the ideas on their own merits and we examine them in context.

    Philosophy isn't one idea over all else, it's a pattern of different ideas that interplay into a holistic wisdom. The relations between many philosophical ideas are just as important, if not more important than any single idea. This is why I do not like it when people stick to a favorite philosopher and argue any topic as some kind of zealot to that philosopher. That's not the point of philosophy, it's about the progress and evolution of ideas into better wisdom and knowledge.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn

    Well, the public sentenced Socrates to death for living a certain life that they thought threatened their way of life.

    Historically, the practice of philosophy moved from the personal to the impersonal, under the assumption that the truth is independent of the thinker. For Heidegger thought itself, as what is to be thought, is independent of man in so far as what is to be thought withdraws from man. Accordingly, man's responsibility is toward thinking itself.
  • Manuel
    4k
    No. Unless they are primarily focused on ethics and wishes to show how one's beliefs lead to a change in behavior.

    That aside, it's a (near) complete mistake to associate the person who does philosophy with the philosophy itself. By that standard we wouldn't read anyone.

    Most of the big names were either racist, sexists, imperialists, etc. I don't think past people should be judged by the standards of our time.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.1k


    It was a norm that philosophers should be exceptional people who "lived out their ideals" up to the modern period. Many seemed to do this quite well, although it's not always clear how far hagiography departs from reality here. Appolonius of Tyana or Pythagoras would be key examples outside of Socrates in the Pagan tradition, and then there is Origen, St. Anthony the Great, Evargrius Pontus St. Maximus the Confessor, etc. in later antiquity. With the Medievals, there is some overlap between the saints and major thinkers, e.g. Bonaventure, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard, and this strand continues into the modern period to some degree with John of the Cross, etc. Ferdinand Ulrich is still alive but retired into contemplation decades ago. Pope/St. John Paul II might be another example, as he had both a very active life and serious philosophical chops before his big promotion ate into his time. You might throw in the transcendentalists in here as more modern examples outside the Catholic tradition.

    Departing with wealth and status were the common mark of a philosopher into the later middle ages.


    Also relevant:

    6nlus90hzw8zdgla.jpg
  • T Clark
    13.1k
    Do you agree that the philosopher must uphold, almost, a fiduciary duty towards the public, in terms of living a certain life?Shawn

    Anyone who accepts anything any philosopher ever says without reflection is a fool. We're not supposed to use philosophy to tell us how to think. We're supposed to use it as a guide to insight. We have to discover the world ourselves. Philosophy is just a road map. We are responsible for what we believe and how it leads us to act, not any philosopher.

    So - the philosophy stands on its own feet, although a philosopher's life might lead me to choose whether or not to read their works.
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