Friday, February 02, 2007

Chairman Miaow

The idea of non-ownership of self conjures up images of mindless masses smiling obsequiously at the head of state who will think for them. This would not be so much of a problem if the head of state was egoless. Instead a collective superego state is created, which is not true non-ownership of self, because the ego has been surrendered to another owner, not to the Self. Marxism can only work if each member of the 'commune' is Self-realised.
Crossposted from European Tribune:
Yes, I know that online polls of any kind shouldn’t be taken all that seriously. Still it is amusing, as well as a little depressing, that Karl Marx has been voted the greatest philosopher in history on the website of BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. He got 27,93 percent of the votes, well ahead of the runner-up David Hume at 12,63 percent, and the bronze medal winner Ludwig Wittgenstein at 6,80.
Though it’s uplifting that the voters obviously have seen past the horrific mockery of Marx’s ideas made by 20th century dictatorships - a cruelly ironic fate for one of the least statist and most anti-authoritarian thinkers ever - the ranking is patently ridiculous. True, Marx is without question a towering intellectual figure whose highly original output fills a hundred thick volumes and straddles a range of disciplines from history through sociology to economics. But only a fraction of it is usefully called philosophy and even the parts that are, like his thesis of self-realization through work, are heavily indebted to indefinitely more deserving nominees. Aristotle, anyone? He finished ninth.
As to the other top contenders, I personally don’t mind that the underrated David Hume smashed the anally-retentive Kant, who came sixth, but let’s face it: He isn’t the second greatest philosopher of the ages. The inscrutable Wittgenstein is an equally mysterious choice for #3.
On the face of it there is national chauvinism at play, inasmuch as all three highest-ranked thinkers either were British (Hume) or produced some of their most influential work in Britain (Marx and Wittgenstein). With all three of them living in the last three centuries and Plato - to whose thought all of Western philosophy has been called mere footnotes - clocking in fifth after Nietzsche, there is also a measure of time dilation involved. The end result reminds me a little of another British poll a few years ago which determined the greatest composer of all time to be Robbie Williams.

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