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The Arrogance Of Philosophers
Sugarfree
Ive been studying philosophy for 3 years now, this current year being the first of my a-levels (my second to last year at high school for those of you going 'eh?'), and one thing that has always astonished me is the sheer arrogance of philosophers.
It first became apparent to me when i was reading and interperating some of Plato's works. All of which is essentialy aimed at pursuading people to worship him (see theory of Philosopher Kings) and explaining away his own shortcomings, such as his apparenty unattractve appearence, as illustrated by his notion of forms and his disregard for this world, particularly our measurements of it i.e. the sences - Sight, touch, etc.
Throughout the year ive noticed the same arrogance in pretty much any philosopher i come accross, most notibly: Thomas Aquinas, Richard Dawkins, my own philosophy teacher (who we can call Walty) and even a guy in my class. It strikes me that philosophers are as unstable as any of us. Its often easy to note contradictions in the works of most philosophers and even easier to explain them.
Today my friend and i were discussing some of Thomas Aquinas' theories and the absolute absurdity of much of them. We discussed Aquinas' theory of Apparent and Real good and even the names Aquinas attributes to actions of humans irritates me. Who is he to say one act is Genuinely good and another is only Apparently good? The theory explains apparently good acts as those which appear good to humans but which are actualy not, for example, sex for pleasure appears good to us due to the pleasure of the experience but is not really a good act as the purpose of sex is to reproduce and if it is done for pleasure then it does not fullfill its purpose. My friend and i asked simply, 'why is something bad simply for not fullfilling its ultimate purpose?' and could find no answer. We thus concluded that Aquinas established this principle purely to defend the flawed logic upon which his entire ethics is founded, because i suppose, if it were acceptable to have sex simply for personal satisfaction then anything could be justified as a good act including murder (he deserved it), arson (ooh, pretty fire), etc.
Walty said Aquinas' based the Apparent and Real good theory on the work of Aristotle's theory of Telos (Purpose). Aristotle stated that something is good when it fullfills its own purpose (e.g. for a chair to be a good chair it must effectively be a chair), equally a human being is a good human being when it actualises its purpose - something Aristotle called Eudaimonia (often translated as happiness). I replied that Aquinas' was distorting Aristotle's theory as he makes purpose specific to each person and predetermined by God (i.e. God has a plan for us all).
Walty has a thing for Aquinas though (he dedicated several lessons to him) so i could have pulled out written evidence from the 13th century of medical records stating Aquinas' insanity and Walty would still follow him off a cliff were Aquinas to lead him to one. I even pointed out (knowing that Walty is a born-again) that much of Aquinas' theology was contradictory to itself and other Christian theology, but to no affect.
I requested nicely that perhaps he dedicate a few lessons to opposing arguments such as those of Kant as seems only fair to me. Walty told me that Kant 'came second after Aquinas' on the grand scale of great philosophers without offering evidence to support his claim. This only strengthens my argument that Walty - like all philosophers, including myself if it will strengthen my argument - is outright arrogant.

... Well we dont call this the Rant Room for nothing!
Edited by Sugarfree on 11/25/2008 19:29
 
RayvenAlandria
To be honest, during my studies, I too felt that all the philosophers were arrogant...and most likely stoned as hell.
 
catman
I don't think I'd want a philosophy instructor who was so enamored of Thomas Aquinas(!). I don't get the impression that Richard Dawkins is all that arrogant, but perhaps that is only because I agree with him so much. (He's at least as much a scientist as a philosopher.)

A philosopher has to have enough self-esteem to say what he thinks. A less self-confident person will be inhibited by thoughts such as, "Nobody cares what I think".
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
Sugarfree
For a long time i too never thought of Dawkins as being arrogant, but its a sentiment which has been repeated by atheists and theists alike. And having seen his TV show and read 'The God Delusion' i must admit there is truth in it, even though i agree with him.
Ive thought of course, about the confidence one needs to be a philosopher, particularly if they are to speak out against well established theories. My history studies cover Martin Luther, who for this reason i have developed great respect for even though i dont agree with his fundermental beliefs. But what ive mentioned is a level of arrogance i have noted in 'philosophers' accross the board, including teachers and fellow students.
Edited by Sugarfree on 11/26/2008 06:27
 
General-Pryce
Remember, the difference between arrogance and confidence is just another person's point of view.

I have to agree with the comment about philosiphers being arrogant. More so than Atheists can be. I know a few "philosiphers" and they are all arrogant (from my point of view).

It also, (in my experience) seems a lot of philosiphers tend to be quite agonstic or Pantheistic as well, opposed to out and out atheism of theism.

Even from a theatrical point of view I find them annoying- Satre and Beckett being amongst the most irksome.

 
Cynic
It's important to remember, IMO, that what makes philosophy fundamentally different than, say, science, is that it concerns things that cannot or have not been proven. The only way to advance a philosophy without appearing arrogant is to acknowledge that it might just happen to be bullshit from the outset, but you don't see a lot of philosophers doing that.
 
catman
That is quite so. Many philosophers think they have the Truth, just like the religious. However, GP, some atheists are every bit as arrogant as anyone else 'can be'. For example, some members of the RRS bear this out.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
Sugarfree
GP, though youre right, i would employ the evidence of popular opinion to support my point. Also, atheists too, can be philosophers and can certainly be arrogant. I mentioned Richard Dawkins who i - and most people i have spoken too about this - believe maintains both these qualities.

Cynic, the arrogance of philosophers is i think demonstrated within their theories themselves rather than by their assertion of them as being factual. Although it can be noted here too. Philosophers do indeed tend to think they have found the truth, it may be this dilusion which gives them the confidence to publicise their theories and in doing so, appear arrogant.
 
JDHURF
Youíve had a very poor introduction to philosophy. While it is certainly true that history has had itís share of arrogant philosophers, just as arrogance can be found in any field associated with human beings, to say that all of philosophy or all philosophers are arrogant is, well, almost arrogant itself (the belief that one is above philosophy).

Aquinas and Dawkins are surely not the best representatives of philosophy.

Spinoza, James, Fromm, Santayana, Dewey and a whole host of philosophers were and are actually very humble and modest.

There is also the tradition, recently made manifest most visibly by Slavoj Zizek, that views the task of philosophy as, in essence, anti-philosophy (the task of uncovering how the very way we understand and view a philosophical problem is a problem in and of itself and so on).

Philosophers like Kant I could see people viewing as arrogant, but I would argue that this charge of arrogance in this realm is more a result of the technical nomenclature and the writing style of the times in which people wrote back then.

Give philosophy a chance I recommend. Read some of the philosophers I mentioned for balance and perspective.

[img]http://www.atheists.org/images/headerLogo.png[/img] is not a valid Image.
 
derF
Philosophy is such an ethereal wispy subject to me. There have been self proclaimed philosophers who I felt had very little to offer and there were other men who I thought were quite gifted philosophers who were not considered philosophers by themselves or others. Philosophy causes people to think about certain topics and whether they do it arrogantly or not I feel it is a good thing. But my experience with philosophy is mostly of the ancient oriental, Greek, Roman philosophers. I'll will devote some reading time to some of the people discussed above.
I'll drink to that. Or anything else for that matter.
 
Sugarfree
JDHURF; please, i never proclaimed myself as being above philosophy, nor did i say all philosophers are arrogant. But it is certainly a trait i have noted in philosophers much more than in any other field, science and literature included.
Ive also studied Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Satre, Anselm, J. Locke, B. Williams and more, my 'introduction' (a-levels are somewhat more than this) to philosophy has actualy been quite good i think. I have another year and a half of philosophy ahead, but i will aim to include some of the philosophers you mention in my wider reading.
 
willie
SF. Interesting to hear what you have to say about Dawkins. I've always admired him as a scientist, speaker and atheist in general, but I'm also coming across an increasing number of people who voice an active dislike toward him, what's more most of them are people I consider to be firm atheists.

Keep up the studies.
Edited by willie on 11/28/2008 06:51
 
Sugarfree
I find him arrogant, doesnt mean i actively dislike him, although i too have found this opinion increasingly popular.
 
JDHURF
Sugarfree wrote: JDHURF; please, i never proclaimed myself as being above philosophy, nor did i say all philosophers are arrogant.


To clarify, I wasnít calling you arrogant. I was simply adding to the discussion the fact that there are people who view themselves as being above philosophy and so forth (I donít view you as one of them).

Sugarfree wrote: But it is certainly a trait i have noted in philosophers much more than in any other field, science and literature included.


I doubt that philosophy necessarily has more arrogance than other fields, itís possible, but there is definitely some extreme arrogance in literature as well as science. Maybe itís true there is more arrogance in philosophy, but I donít really see it.

Sugarfree wrote: Ive also studied Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Satre, Anselm, J. Locke, B. Williams and more, my 'introduction' (a-levels are somewhat more than this) to philosophy has actualy been quite good i think.


Are you just randomly studying these philosophers or is there some sort of coherent system to it? I would think that you wouldnít get anything out of Sartre, for instance, if you study some Descartes and Locke and then jump to Sartre.
Philosophy is better studied as a history, in chronological order, beginning wherever you please, but at least covering Descartes, rationalism, Berkeley, Locke, empiricism, idealism, materialism, Hume, phenomenalism, Kant and then go from there.
I donít see how anyone could properly understand Sartre without at least this minimal background. I always recommend Bertrand Russellís History of Western Philosophy. Itís a great introduction which includes not just the philosophy but the historical context as well.

Sugarfree wrote: I have another year and a half of philosophy ahead, but i will aim to include some of the philosophers you mention in my wider reading.


Please do. Philosophy is actually a very interesting and rewarding subject with practical implications for life.
[img]http://www.atheists.org/images/headerLogo.png[/img] is not a valid Image.
 
Bob of QF
willie wrote:
SF. Interesting to hear what you have to say about Dawkins. I've always admired him as a scientist, speaker and atheist in general, but I'm also coming across an increasing number of people who voice an active dislike toward him, what's more most of them are people I consider to be firm atheists.

Keep up the studies.


I like Dawkins, myself. Of course, I'm part of the "choir" so to speak, and some "non-choir members" find him strident.

I don't always agree with his every point of view, but so what?

I think we need loud persons like Dawkins, a man of both learning and intelligence, to try to offset the many centuries of brain-washing by religious dogma.

If Dawkins efforts can help to pull it all a bit back from the mire of "belief-think" towards the center a bit, then I say to him, "Damn the torpedoes, Full Steam Ahead".

I think he's doing more good than harm, myself.

Mostly, because what he says often requires a person to think, if only for a bit, in order to understand, if only a tiny portion.

And thinking is the correct path out of the tar pit of belief.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
catman
I agree, Bob. We need people like Dawkins. As for 'loud', Hitchens is loud!
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
Bob of QF
catman wrote:
I agree, Bob. We need people like Dawkins. As for 'loud', Hitchens is loud!


Grin

But, I think there's room for him, on the World's Stage, too.

Some decry that he's weakining the position of the more moderate non-believers.

I say, "how so?"

If there is room on the stage for kooks like Pat Robertson? There is more than enough room for the likes of Hitchens.

If he "weakens" a position? How strong was it to begin with?

Besides, he is also quite adept at making points that get people to go, "hmm".

We need more of that....more, "hmm" and more, "that's not right" when listening to the views of believers.

He doesn't have to be liked.

He just has to get people to think, a bit.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
Hypatia
Sometimes it's the 'type' of arrogance or loud that can make a difference. Hitchens' particular kind of loud and arrogant is one that is effective and brilliant at the same time, and a type I very much like as well.

I don't find Dawkins arrogant in the least myself, but I suppose that kind of thing is in the eye of the beholder.



 
Sugarfree
JDHURF wrote:
Sugarfree wrote: Ive also studied Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Satre, Anselm, J. Locke, B. Williams and more, my 'introduction' (a-levels are somewhat more than this) to philosophy has actualy been quite good i think.


Are you just randomly studying these philosophers or is there some sort of coherent system to it? I would think that you wouldnít get anything out of Sartre, for instance, if you study some Descartes and Locke and then jump to Sartre.
Philosophy is better studied as a history, in chronological order, beginning wherever you please, but at least covering Descartes, rationalism, Berkeley, Locke, empiricism, idealism, materialism, Hume, phenomenalism, Kant and then go from there.
I donít see how anyone could properly understand Sartre without at least this minimal background. I always recommend Bertrand Russellís History of Western Philosophy. Itís a great introduction which includes not just the philosophy but the historical context as well.

I havnt neccassarily studied them in that order. There is certainly chronological order to my course at school, which covered Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Aquinas, etc. Other philosophers i have looked at as part of extra-curricular conferences and lectures as well as under my own steam.
Ive never found an issue of prerequisites in my studies though it can certainly help to have studied Plato and Aristotle when it comes to reading much by Christian philosophers, particularly Aquinas. Most theories can be understood in and of themselves with perhaps some references here and there and explainations not neccassarily written by the philosophers themselves.
 
catman
Bob: I certainly didn't mean to imply that I think there is "no room on the world stage" for Hitchens! I was merely stating that his style is more 'in your face' than Dawkins'. I don't see that the latter is arrogant at all. Hitchens could be considered that by some, mainly theists, but I get a kick out of him. I suppose every school of thought needs its attack dogs. I'm simply glad he's one of ours!Wink
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
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