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Old August 25th, 2017, 07:01 AM   #1

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Some philosophy on philosophers


In the history education that I got, we spent a lot of time on philosophers and writers. They were considered extremely important, in fact you could get the sense that Locke invented liberalism or Marx was the sole cause of socialism in Europe. The point is, I've always been rather critical of the deemed importance of these thinkers. I consider them more as storytellers of their own time, that they write excellent texts on the societal forces they see in effect, but not so much influence them. And then, in retrospect, we give them too much credit, simply because their words beautifully convey what people were thinking, or starting to think, at the time.

So what do you think? Do the writings cause change, or do the writers get inspiration from change that is already happening and that would inevitably happen anyway?
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Old August 25th, 2017, 09:53 AM   #2

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Tocqueville was one writer who thought that writings caused change. In his The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution he credits Voltaire, et al, with precipitating the French Revolution by popularizing revolutionary ideas among the French aristocracy. The Old Regime and the Revolution - Online Library of Liberty.

I think so too. Although certain ideas might be floating in the air, so to speak, when a great writer captures and compresses those ideas logically into writing, he or she spreads the ideas much farther than they would have gone on their own.
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Old August 25th, 2017, 10:35 AM   #3

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Some of the prominent philosophers owe their reputation as game changers because they happened to be there when the time was right for them and their philosophy. Other philosophers either ignored or even hated during their times, because their ideas were too far ahead of their time, became well known and respected eventually because the society was more receptive to them and their ideas at these later dates. So it is a question of ' survival of the fittest ' , may be.
Take for example Schopenhauer. He gave all his best into writing his book ' The World as will and Idea ' He was sure of the wisdom that was expressed in it. While sending his MS to the publisher, he wrote that ' here was no mere rehash of old ideas, but a highly coherent structure of original thought, clearly intelligible,, vigorous and not without beauty '. The book hardly attracted any attention. The world was too poor and exhausted to read about its poverty and exhaustion. Sixteen years after the publication, Schopenhauer was informed that most of the edition had been sold as waste paper.
Similarly seven years after this book, he arranged to get published a beautiful book called ' Parerga Et Parliapomena ' meaning ' Byproducts and Leavings'. For his most readable work , he received the compensation of ten free copies !

Yet towards the end of his life, people started appreciating his wisdom !
( Schopenhauer's story is based on the chapter on him in the book ' The Story of Philosophy ' by Will Durant. )
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Old August 26th, 2017, 07:00 PM   #4

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Depends on the philosopher and philosophy. Before science became more robust 'thinking' was all you could really do to change things.

Some philosophers had good ideas which resulted in good things, other philosophers had ideas with the right intention but which resulted in bad things (Marx comes to mind), and yet more philosophers had ideas with no impact whatsoever.

If someone was a prominent writer in say, early-modern France, they most certainly would have had a level of influence on their society. Maybe not the spark that lit the match, but an integral part of the revolution.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 11:49 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Voltaires Hat View Post
Depends on the philosopher and philosophy. Before science became more robust 'thinking' was all you could really do to change things.

(...)

If someone was a prominent writer in say, early-modern France, they most certainly would have had a level of influence on their society. Maybe not the spark that lit the match, but an integral part of the revolution.

Thinking was all you could do to change things? What about kings and emperors who conquer and rule, revolutions of the masses, coalitions of lords against the king etc? Surely everyone could bring about change, and usually not through thinking?
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Old August 27th, 2017, 04:55 AM   #6
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Some things are a product of their time, some things are timeless, the concept that a human inherently deserves freedom especially in the eyes of god is a timeless concept that was forwarded by John Locke. The basis of all socialism and social entities (including medicare and medicaid in the United States) Is a timeless understanding of Marxism. However poorly implemented it has been (outside of Northern Europe). These people still have influence regardless.

Thomas Hobbes for instance, all life would be nasty, poor, brutish and short without some kind of leadership is still as relevant today as it was when Hobbes stated it. You have to read between the lines as with everything to what cuts through. None of these thinkers were perfect and neither is any human being. But what they have had to say is as relevant now as it has ever been.

I should warn here that what Marx suggested was nothing to do with communism, this is an American misconception. Pure Marxism has nothing to do at all with Stalinist/Maoist dictatorships at all. The misconception of Marx was largely created and caused by McCarthyism.

Last edited by orestes; August 27th, 2017 at 05:02 AM.
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