Can a bad person be a philosopher?

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Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 09:13 am
In his book, Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy, the author, Emmanuel Faye argues that Martin Heidegger was not a philosopher, and that his works should not be classified under "philosophy" because they were entirely based on National Socialism. Faye argues that Heidegger's work should be classified under "hate speech".

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/books/09philosophy.html?_r=1&ref=arts

I think this view is just wrong. Heidegger was certainly a bad man, and (IMO) he was a bad philosopher. But (again in my opinion) just as a bad man need not be a bad plumber, so a bad man need not be a bad philosopher. Being a bad philosopher is being bad at philosophizing, and being a bad person is being bad at being a person (in this view I am taking from Aristotle) Both are "jobs", but being bad at the one job has nothing to do with being bad at the other "job". "Bad philosopher" carries no ethical meaning, but "bad person" certainly does.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 09:52 am
@kennethamy,
I don't think it comes of necessity that a bad man = a bad philosopher or vice versa.

I do feel it happens to be true in the case of Heidegger himself, though.

I think that one needs to be somewhat familiar with Hitler's 2-bit philosophy to understand how it found its way into Heidegger. For instance, one of Hitler's strongest philosophical convictions was that Thou Shalt not Kill should be rejected as nonsensical weakness and a constraint on greatness. This finds its way more subtly into Heideggers' idea that conventions should be questioned or broken -- again an elaboration of Hitler's mode of thinking.
 
sarek
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 10:00 am
@kennethamy,
I really wish that philosophy was a route that led exclusively to 'good' thoughts. But philosophy is in essence a-moral, as are all the products of the mind.
 
agaton
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 01:04 pm
@kennethamy,
What do you mean by bad philosopher? Some one who is not accepted, who has opinions that differ from 'official' line? How can we judge? We who tend to be mistaken, who tend to change opinions so often?
 
Sasori-sama
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 02:21 pm
@agaton,
What is a bad person?
What do you need to think or do in order to be called a bad person?

Doesn't this depend on the one who judges?


I would say that rather the person who judges other philosophers by only his own moral attitudes is the one to be called a bad philosopher.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 02:34 pm
@agaton,
agaton;102649 wrote:
What do you mean by bad philosopher? Some one who is not accepted, who has opinions that differ from 'official' line? How can we judge? We who tend to be mistaken, who tend to change opinions so often?
Well, I think what's meant here is not bad by logical process but rather bad by espousal of bad things -- like inhumanity, cruelty, violence. And I don't think we really need to go down the road of absolute moral judgements to agree that most healthy humans are averse to cruelty and violence and share in general terms the ideas of good and bad.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 07:05 pm
@Sasori-sama,
Sasori-sama;102661 wrote:
What is a bad person?
What do you need to think or do in order to be called a bad person?

Doesn't this depend on the one who judges?


Here we go again with moral relativism in its normative form. According to this normative ethic, there are no bad people, and a person can only be considered to be bad by their own standards. Therefore, you can rape a child, kill millions of innocent people, and still not be considered to be a bad person. This is the negation of morality disguised as theory.

Sasori-sama;102661 wrote:
I would say that rather the person who judges other philosophers by only his own moral attitudes is the one to be called a bad philosopher.


Ah, but you would say this, for this is your attitude. This is probably the most self-defeating sentence I've ever read.
 
Fido
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 09:24 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;102594 wrote:
In his book, Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy, the author, Emmanuel Faye argues that Martin Heidegger was not a philosopher, and that his works should not be classified under "philosophy" because they were entirely based on National Socialism. Faye argues that Heidegger's work should be classified under "hate speech".

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/books/09philosophy.html?_r=1&ref=arts

I think this view is just wrong. Heidegger was certainly a bad man, and (IMO) he was a bad philosopher. But (again in my opinion) just as a bad man need not be a bad plumber, so a bad man need not be a bad philosopher. Being a bad philosopher is being bad at philosophizing, and being a bad person is being bad at being a person (in this view I am taking from Aristotle) Both are "jobs", but being bad at the one job has nothing to do with being bad at the other "job". "Bad philosopher" carries no ethical meaning, but "bad person" certainly does.

I am a lousy person, with nearly zero social skills, and I struggle with all my relationships, so naturally, I hope bad people can be philosophers... If you look at philosophers you see that few were able maintain relationship, but then, philosophy uses reason while relationships live or die on the strength of emotion...This lack of emotional connectedness is what we see most in bad people...If they cannot feel good, or bad as emotional states that cause one as much pain as another, then they will never recongize good or bad as forms...

---------- Post added 11-09-2009 at 10:31 PM ----------

sarek;102612 wrote:
I really wish that philosophy was a route that led exclusively to 'good' thoughts. But philosophy is in essence a-moral, as are all the products of the mind.

Not true... Science, and physics are amoral, but all other philosophy is entirely moral... All the forms of non physical philosophy are moral forms... If we can abstract all good into a single idea, it is life; but how do we know life except as a series of pleasant or painful sensations causing us recognizable emotional states???...
 
TalkingBook
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 03:37 am
@kennethamy,
Quote:
...Emmanuel Faye argues that Martin Heidegger was not a philosopher, and that his works should not be classified under "philosophy" because they were entirely based on National Socialism. Faye argues that Heidegger's work should be classified under "hate speech".
This is an interesting argument, as I'd class National Socialism itself as a sort of incomplete philosophy (albeit one that just about nobody ascribes to today).

In fact, it sounds like the entire book is a literal case of a "reductio ad Nazium". Ideas should of course be considered for themselves, and not with relation to their creator. Hitler commissioned the creation of the Volkswagen, but I'll be damned if I don't see them all over the place, shouldn't they be considered "hate machines" under this logic?
 
Fido
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 06:09 am
@TalkingBook,
TalkingBook;102741 wrote:
This is an interesting argument, as I'd class National Socialism itself as a sort of incomplete philosophy (albeit one that just about nobody ascribes to today).

In fact, it sounds like the entire book is a literal case of a "reductio ad Nazium". Ideas should of course be considered for themselves, and not with relation to their creator. Hitler commissioned the creation of the Volkswagen, but I'll be damned if I don't see them all over the place, shouldn't they be considered "hate machines" under this logic?


I doubt that people can create ideas, though I do not doubt that one person or another can be the first to express an idea which is a certain relationship between a mental state and reality... I like Heidegger; and I only have one book by him, on Kant, but if he absorbed any of Kant, then it sort of points to a possible defect of Kant... I read the other day that Hitler, who claimed to be a great reader, carried Schopenhaur into the first world war... Because of his mental defects he more represented Nietzsche's Overman: Cold, distant, and unable to relate...
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 07:41 am
@agaton,
agaton;102649 wrote:
What do you mean by bad philosopher? Some one who is not accepted, who has opinions that differ from 'official' line? How can we judge? We who tend to be mistaken, who tend to change opinions so often?


That is an interesting question, but that really is not relevant. The issue is whether a bad man (like Heidegger) must also be a bad philosopher, as the author of the book seems to think.
 
sarek
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 07:54 am
@Fido,
Fido;102706 wrote:


Not true... Science, and physics are amoral, but all other philosophy is entirely moral... All the forms of non physical philosophy are moral forms... If we can abstract all good into a single idea, it is life; but how do we know life except as a series of pleasant or painful sensations causing us recognizable emotional states???...


I would say a philosopher is free to think and write about whatever comes to mind. Morals? Maybe. The nature of reality? Maybe.
Fact is that the choice is a free one. You can decide whether or not to talk about moral viewpoints and when you do you are still free to take any position you like.
I do not see an inherent fundamental requirement for a philosopher to take any kind of moral standpoint.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 08:01 am
@sarek,
sarek;102766 wrote:
I would say a philosopher is free to think and write about whatever comes to mind. Morals? Maybe. The nature of reality? Maybe.
Fact is that the choice is a free one. You can decide whether or not to talk about moral viewpoints and when you do you are still free to take any position you like.
I do not see an inherent fundamental requirement for a philosopher to take any kind of moral standpoint.


This is not about Heidegger's (or anyone's) moral standpoint.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 08:03 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;102769 wrote:
This is not about Heidegger's (or anyone's) moral standpoint.
I disagree. If Heidegger's philosophical writings are morally vague (i.e. they address general principles and not specifics), but his personal philosophy in life was Naziism, then we're talking about a bad person and a philosophy that is a distillation of this bad person.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 08:13 am
@kennethamy,
It was not that long ago that Marxists dismissed Mill's On Liberty by arguing that it was "merely" the expression of his economic class, or from other sources that Nietzsche's works were the ravings of a madman. This seems a reductionism of the many different motives that cause someone to write what they write.

It assumes that a work is always the result of one motive that is believed to dominate a person's life. That would be like arguing that Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" is an example of gay music; Copeland was gay, therefore every action must be defined by his "gayness." And what are we to make of "The Importance of Being Earnest"?

Just as importantly, such attributions seem to ignore that once a work is published, it takes on a certain independence from its origins, and stands or falls on its own merit. While true in the arts or literature, this is especially true of philosophical works because they are subject to examination by reason which is common to all men. We do not admire a philosophy because it was written by a likable or decent person of good morals, but because the perspective presented rings true.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 08:26 am
@kennethamy,
But Copeland was a musician -- this is an abstract art.

Nietzsche and Heidegger and Mill communicated specific ideas. One need not be a philosopher, I mean a novelist or poet could do it too.

I actually find Nietzsche's personal ideas somewhat admirable in that he utterly took on his revolting former friend Richard Wagner for his antisemitism, and his eventual insanity only affects one's reading of his philosophy if you think it lacks the coherent thought of someone sane. I find Nietzsche's misogyny to be horrible; I find the antisemitism to which he's ascribed to be misinterpreted, because this was a philosophical position about morality that was conflated with antisemitism by others. Nietzsche was not always careful about choosing his words, and I think he comes off as more abrasive and angry than the mere content of his ideas suggest.

Heidegger's philosophy has a very close relationship with Hitler's ideas, it's much 'cleaner' though in that he doesn't accrete ideas like conquering Russia and exterminating Jews to it.

One always better understands a thinker by understanding their era. Some contemporaneous philosophers, like Camus and Sartre, expressed a certain defense of humanity and human freedom in response to Naziism. Why shouldn't we judge Heidegger in the same context?
 
Lily
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 08:42 am
@kennethamy,
I think that being a philosopher is looking for answers, and of course one could find the "wrong" answers. Like when I'm looking for something and end up finding something else...
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 08:50 am
@Aedes,
Aedes;102771 wrote:
I disagree. If Heidegger's philosophical writings are morally vague (i.e. they address general principles and not specifics), but his personal philosophy in life was Naziism, then we're talking about a bad person and a philosophy that is a distillation of this bad person.


Yes, I think that was what I was saying. Heidegger was an evil person, quite apart from his moral philosophy.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 09:46 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;102784 wrote:
Yes, I think that was what I was saying. Heidegger was an evil person, quite apart from his moral philosophy.
The most important questions for me are how separable are his philosophy from his politics? Is Naziism immediately evident in his philosophy even if he doesn't name it?

Not all of Naziism was gas chambers and eugenics and war, of course. The question is whether this philosophy is best expounded by Heidegger, and if so is the implementation of this philosophy something that would 'inevitably' lead to Hitler?


When you think about it, Plato's Republic is one of the most repulsive Utopian visions imaginable. To put that philosophy into practice would be horrible. In other words, I think implementation of Plato's Republic would inevitably lead to a terrible society.

One big question about Plato is whether he believed that or not. I've always wondered since reading the Republic whether Plato had a huge tongue-in-cheek when writing it, i.e. he wrote it with a little bit of irony.


I bring this up because with Heidegger you don't get a Utopian vision, but you get a marriage between a philosophy and a related political system. Related, at the least, because they call directly upon Nietzsche's ideas of transcending the constraints of past morals. So Heidegger had the opportunity to see the abstract and the actuality in parallel -- Plato never did.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Tue 10 Nov, 2009 09:50 am
@Aedes,
Aedes;102776 wrote:
I actually find Nietzsche's personal ideas somewhat admirable in that he utterly took on his revolting former friend Richard Wagner for his antisemitism, and his eventual insanity only affects one's reading of his philosophy if you think it lacks the coherent thought of someone sane. I find Nietzsche's misogyny to be horrible; I find the antisemitism to which he's ascribed to be misinterpreted, because this was a philosophical position about morality that was conflated with antisemitism by others. Nietzsche was not always careful about choosing his words, and I think he comes off as more abrasive and angry than the mere content of his ideas suggest.


I agree with you on Nietzsche. By all accounts, the man was courteous, polite, and kind, but you wouldn't get that impression from his writings. He comes off as someone who is concerned with the cultural developments of his time, but more often than not he comes off as being a bit angry and abrasive as you said. The odd thing about Nietzsche is that while he scorned antisemitism and praised the Jews, you can see how his absolute valuation of the will to power could be used as nazi propaganda. I believe that power is worth being valued, but the violent domination and subjugation of fellow human beings should not be. Some things are so dark and counterproductive to the well being of our species, that they should be universally objectionable. Power should be valued primarily as a means of self-overcoming and self-fulfillment. The will to power can express itself in both beautiful ways and ugly ways. We should seek to express our will in beautiful ways and overcome our darker inclinations.
 
 

 
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