Exile, Occupation, Persecution: The Birth of Philosophers

Bertrand Russell, Typical Philosopher

Time to pick up where I left off last time—why so many of The Greats come from less-than-ideal circumstances. While today’s philosopher is stereotyped as a rather comfortable man in his armchair complete with tweed, pipe, and beard, it seems that most philosophers, especially before Kant, spent some time on the run, hungry, alone, forsaken, and with the law at their heels. For a few of them, there was a jail cell and executioner rather than departmental office and publisher.

I’m all about historical narratives around here, so let’s whip up another one—how philosophers found themselves on the wrong end of The Man: Continue reading

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Underrated Philosophers III: Blaise Pascal

This here is the absolute high point of anything I will ever write about underrated philosophers. Sure, there are others like Ramon Llull who are less known, some who get misinterpreted (Wittgenstein, anyone?), some who are so stunningly original that nobody quite realized the significance of what they were saying at the time (Dante), but none who are a combination of all the above like Pascal.

I’ve wanted to write about Pascal since I started this silly blog.* Okay, probably since before then. Pascal is my favorite philosopher by far, which is hard to explain to people; he’s also the one who’s most criminally ignored, which is hard for those of us who love him to explain. Continue reading

Underappreciated Philosophers: Marsilius of Padua

Sometimes, the cool people don’t get the attention they deserve. Marsilius is definitely one of these people.

Now, long-term readers have probably noticed me throwing this  name around quite a bit, usually as an example of a really brilliant philosopher who fits nobody’s tradition. I’ll probably keep doing this, of course, but it’s long past time for me to explain why he’s so awesome. Continue reading

Naming Roses

I alluded to it a bit in my last Google Penance post, but it’s time to address the semiotic nastiness directly: why bother with symbols when you could use names?  If you’ve got all those attributes of saints to remember and recognize from across a nave—assuming, of course, you’re not looking at some local bishop-saint, who looks like every other local bishop-saint—why not just write the names somewhere nearby? Continue reading