Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Greatest Philosophers

Posted in: Philosophy

Greatest Philosophers
1. Plato - in terms of influence he really sets the stage for Western Philosophy
2. Aquinas - The only alternative to Plato and creator of the best philosophical system
3. Aristotle - Laid the foundation for Aquinas
4. Plotinus - If you are a Platonist today in any sense of the word it is most likely through Plotinus
5. Kant - In terms of influence I think he is the only modern that comes close to the "Big Four" above

I think greatness is a little pre-mature to be bestowing on any 20th Century thinker. If I had to choose based on influence I would go with Wittgenstein, Satre, Heidegger, Dewey (for his influence on Education alone - I was a high school teacher and endured endless amounts of Dewey) and Russell.

I will abstain from the underdog category except to echo a comment I read and add my vote for Berkeley as the ultimate underdog.

Most Destructive Philosophers - In terms of Impact on the Christian Worldview
1. Nietzsche
2. Hegel
3. Kant
4. Wittgenstein
5. Hume

I would also add 6. Spinoza, 7. Descartes, 8. Feuerbach, 9. Kierkegaard, and 10. Husserl


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike H-

I know it's trendy to label Kierkegaard's philosophy as destructive towards the Christian wordlview. Most of the people I've talked to though, who think Kierkegaard's philosophy is like that, have actually never read anything by him. There's a connection to Barth, but I think Barth deserves the rap, not Soren.

Have you ever read anything by Kierkagaard other than what Dr. Geisler has written about him? I think he ought to be read considered and critically by you before you label his philosophy as destructive.

6:08 AM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:50 AM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...

Yes, as a matter of fact I have read Kierkegaard and I did it all by myself too. This time, I didn't even ask Dr. Geisler what I should think about what I read. Its a new thing I'm trying.

And to be fair I also think that Kierkegaard was incredibly effective in dealing with Hegel and contributed much to both philosophy and Christianity. I also fully believe that Kierkegaard never intended for his philosophy to be taken where it was. That being said, Kierkegaard bought into a Kantian view and applied it to Christianity. Barth may have taken Kierkegaard to a place that Keirkegaard would not have but it is, all the same, the logical outworking of his starting point. The destructive influence was unintended no doubt, but it is there nonetheless and it is a major influence.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Though some of those philosophers I know through generalities and limited readings (Hegel, Husserl, Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Plotinus, and relatively speaking, everyone else on there!), this naive opinion shouts forth: good list!

8:24 AM  
Blogger davis said...

I agree with that list. Although I would place Aristotle in the influential list, and Kant in the desctructive list. I would also place Derrida somewhere in the 6-10 range for destructive influence.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you add Descartes to the "Most Destructive Philosophers" list?

10:50 AM  
Blogger davis said...

To paraphrase Etienne Gilson, anonymous, anytime you start your philosophy with ideas, in the head, chances are you'll never get out of your head. Descarte was part of the trend that switched philosophy from metaphysics to epistemology as the first science, as well as representationalism as the norm for epistemology. He's no doubt very influential, but not in a good sense.

10:53 AM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...

Davis - Aristotle is in the influential list - #3. Kant is also in the destructive list - also #3. As for Derrida, I considered him, but I think his influence although destructive is more of a fad than a lasting threat. Also I am not sure to what degree he is a philosopher and to what degree a linguist.

Anonymous #1 - Please forgive my sarcasm. You were right in your question, many people do not read the primary sources and only go on what others have heard. I should have been less defensive. I have however read Kierkegaard; though nothing close to his entire opus, enough to understand what he was saying. Also I put Kierkegaard where I did because of the influence his ideas have had not from any intention he himself may have had.

Anonymous #2 - I place Descartes on the destructive list because he was, in many ways, the one who directed philosphy down the road it has been on for the past 300-400 years. When he chose the mind as the starting point of truth and knowledge, we were epistemologically cut off from the real world. This has been incredibly destructive and as this fundamental idea has worked its way out it has resulted in the bifurcation of faith and reason, the death of metaphysics in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the death of epistemology in the 20th. He set the stage. In retrospect I probably should have placed him much higher than I did. His influence has been tremendous and in my opinion destructive; though he would have intended none of it.

11:04 AM  
Blogger davis said...

oops. I must have read someone else's list.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Franklin Mason said...

I'm curious about Descartes. Do you think that those who followed him simply worked out the implications of his system and thus D. is really ultimately to blame? Or did they simply append to his work certain views that do not naturally grow out of it?

5:20 PM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...


I lean more towards the former explanation than the latter though there are certainly elements of both. It seems to me that everyone after D. has a Cartesian starting point. Regardless I think his influence is both profound and on the whole, destructive to a Christian Worldview.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

To the list of destructive philosophers I would add Hobbes.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

You cant add Hobbes without adding Calvin too (get it? hahaha!)

5:23 PM  
Blogger Ross said...


Interesting stuff. My question is about the inclusion of Husserl in the list of destructive philosophers.

I don't know anything about Husserl, so I was hoping that you can give some basic reasons why his work was detrimental to the Christian worldview. The reason I ask is, as I'm sure you know, Dallas Willard is an expert on Husserl and heartily endorses much of Husserl's philosophy. Being that Willard is one of my favorite Christian philosophers and was highly influental in the philosophical thought of JP Moreland, I wonder why he would agree with Husserl if he was a destroyer of the Christian worldview.

Thanks in advance,

1:59 PM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...


Let me begin by saying that Dallas Willard and J. P. Moreland have made tremendous contributions to Christian Philosphy and that they have my utmost respect. I am currently working through Willard's "Renovation of the Heart" and very much enjoyed "Divine Conspiracy." All the same it is precicely because Husserl has had this wide influence that I think he deserves to be on the list. Husserl's phenomeneolgy basically maintains that the real is in the phenomenon or rather our interaction with it. As such, we are the creator of reality because we give intentionality to our experience as the subject which acts upon the phenomena and shapes it. This influence is clear in Wittgenstein and Heidegger, which was my main reason for adding him to the list; though I must admit I am less familiar with Husserl's influence on Willard and Moreland. I do not know how he has influenced them to be honest, but I think that phenomenology is definately not in line with a Christian Worldview. It leads to relativism and solipsism. I would be curious to hear more about how and why he has influenced Willard and Moreland. I would suspect though that his influence would be one of the reasons that Willard has gravitated towards a more mystical view at times. Anyway if you could provide more info on that I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for Reading


8:49 AM  
Blogger Johnny-Dee said...

I think I would put Heidegger on your most destructive list. He's the culprit I blame for the existentialist mess that often is falsely attributed to Kierkegaard. Overall, I like your list, but I still wonder if Descartes was as destructive as you suppose.

BTW, I laughed so hard when I read the anonymous commenter's words: "Have you ever read anything by Kierkagaard other than what Dr. Geisler has written about him?" You mean that you actually study real work at SES, not just Geisler's books on everything? I guess that's what some people think...

9:53 AM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...

I would agree that Heidegger is responsible for a lot and I strongly considered putting him on the list. He would be 11. It is hard to say. I still stand by my placement of Kierkegaard though. He opened the door to the application of a Kanitan view to a Christian Worldview and that had tremendous influence. I also stand by Descartes simply a light of the fact that he set the ball for modern philosphy rolling. As a non-Thomist (don't worry one day you'll see the truth) I would not expect you to see Descartes the same way. Keep in mind though that I am judging based on long-term impact as much as short-term.

Good to hear from you! Hope things are settling down and that you'll be blogging again soon.

12:31 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home