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I think Brian's reply here is a bit pessimistic. There are plenty of English speaking scholars with a strong interest in non-Western philosophy. Probably it wouldn't be a thousand-plus votes again but it could get into the hundreds, I'd have thought, if word got around on the net that the poll was happening. And that might be interesting in a similar way as this poll was. It would be very hard to compare the importance of figures from different traditions though (even if we could agree on what "importance" means). I mean, how would you decide whether Ibn Gabirol is more or less important than Praśastapāda? I've written podcasts on both and the best I'd be able to say is that both should be known far better than they are. Even comparing the importance of figures from different periods of the "Western" tradition, as I've intimated in my previous comments, is hard enough to make truly well-informed voting all but impossible. I have accused the voters of ignorance of the importance of Plotinus, but I myself am equally ignorant of the relative significance of many early modern thinkers. BL COMMENT: You're very optimistic!
Yes, I have a copy! People should get it: it's by Emilsson who is one of the best Plotinus scholars out there.
Well, I do think that if someone sits down to devise a list of 30 (or 32!) most historically important (in the sense of influential) "Western" philosophers of all time and leaves out Plotinus, the only explanation could be ignorance. I mean, this isn't controversial or a matter of quirky opinion on my part: Neoplatonism was a dominant force in philosophy for more than a millenium. As I concede here though, one could perfectly well exclude him if one means by "important" something like "speaks to our concerns" or "says things we tend to agree with." By those standards he arguably ranks very low! BL COMMENT: This was a poll, Plotinus was one of 87 choices, but the thousand plus readers who participated did not rank him among the top 32. If it cheers you up, the Plotinus volume I commissioned for my Routledge Philosophers series recently appeared!
Peter Adamson here from the History of Philosophy podcast... as you might imagine I find this list rather provocative and with some glaring gaps. Obviously "important" is, as the winning philosopher might say, said in many ways. But a couple of comments from someone who believes in the history of philosophy without any gaps: first, I actually tend to agree with the top three. Second, Plotinus is not on there. He initiated Neoplatonism, arguably the most successful philosophical approach of all time (measured by sheer duration). Maybe he is not top 5 but to claim that he is not among the top 10 (never mind top 32) most important figures in Western philosophy is plain ignorant, unless "important" means "had views we tend to agree with now and by 'we', we mean English speaking analytic philosophers." Third, there is a problem with the word "Western": presumably this is to free us from the responsibility of pretending we are in a position to compare, say, Hume to Confucius or Nagarjuna. However as I have noted elsewhere it isn't clear how "western" applies, or doesn't, to figures from the Islamic world: Avicenna was from central Asia but Averroes and Maimonides from Spain (which is further West than most of the places that produced the philosophers on this list). Avicenna is the most influential philosopher between Plotinus and, perhaps, Descartes - and was both deeply influenced by and deeply influential on the figures on this list; but he hasn't been allowed to compete because he is not "Western." Fourth, it's unsurprising that the only Latin medieval thinker on there is Aquinas, but I personally would put him behind Scotus, Abelard, and Ockham (as well as Avicenna) on any interpretation of "important." Aquinas is great of course but actually wasn't as influential as most people assume, less so in the subsequent generations than Scotus for example. BL COMMENT: Many of the figures Prof. Adamson mentions were included in the poll, but did not rank well. Prof. Adamson is certainly entitled to his opinion that people who disagree with his judgments about who is important are ignorant.
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Apr 25, 2017