Philosophy?! What?

I’m not defending Ayn Rand and way out of my depth in any philosophical discussions, but isn’t Nietzsche’s career - at least until he went insane - rather proof that acceptance from the good ol’ boys club is hardly necessary to being a heavyweight?

Actually, Nietzsche was an active member of the “good ol’ boys club,” as you put it, for most of his philosophical career. In fact, he was offered a professorship at the University of Basel even before he had completed his doctorate - at the incredible age of 25. With the exception of time in the Franco-Prussian war, he was an archetypal professional philosopher: publishing rapidly, lecturing extensively, and fully engaged in the debates of the day. When his health began to decline he had to retire from the position, but he was most certainly a professional philosopher in the academic sense.

You may be thinking more of the French, particularly Sartre and Camus, who popularized existentialism primarly through salon and cafe society in Sartre’s case, and novels and newspaper writing in Camus’. Both are generally held in high regard despite working primarily outside of the academy. In recent years Sartre’s stock has fallen dramatically and Camus has continued to be regarded as the truly human face of modern existentialism.

That Derrida was ever taken seriously would indicate to me that nothing has changed on that front.

Think for yourself. Draw your own opinions.

Never by the Brits.

Best to start with Quine, that way you can decide not to bother reading philosophy after all… Hehe, he actually has one relatively accessible book, not too much technical language, but sadly I forget which one it is.

Mainly I like Quine for two reasons:

  1. How can you not like someone called Willard Van Orman Quine?

  2. Quote: “Whistling in the dark is not the method of true philosophy.”

Hey, check it out, google says there’s a Hm, maybe the more accessible book I’m thinking of is Theories and Things but I could be wrong, that might be one of the more technical ones.

Ayn Rand??? Philosopher? Hahahaha. I’m not sure which she’d be considered worse at, philosophy or literature, but either way, not exactly one of history’s immortals.

OK, OK, I’m embarrassed to admit, I do agree with her on one thing: I also prefer non-ornamented modern architecture with tectonic design, as opposed to pointless post-modernist ornamentation, but that’s about the only point of agreement I can think of.

First of all, thanks for all the replies, specially Jim and Bill.

Secondly, I saw this at Strand for 10 bucks and am looking at this as one of the better recommended books out there.

Go cheap, or get both?

I wouldn’t get either. The first one is a tattered copy of who-knows-what from '73, and the second one is ridiculously expensive. If you want to start with a “menu” of western philosophy, then I would begin with Robert Audi’s The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. First, it is only $20 new. Second, it is not one author trying to survey the whole of western thought, which would be absurd for a single individual. Third, it is not a rote collection of primary sources stitched together poorly with unattributed and suspect translations.

It is essentially a gargantuan, authoritative, 900-page road map to philosophy, with discrete entries submitted by the top players in that field. The list of contributors is essentially a stunning who’s-who of contemporary philosophers. The entry on Collingwood is written by Alan Donagan; the entry on Social Contract theory is by Jean Hampton; Ralph McInerny pens the neo-Scholasticism entry; Robert Solomon on Camus and Sartre; Wippel on Aquinas, etc. The baseball equivalent would be a section on Joe DiMaggio’s batting abilities written by Albert Pujols - if you’re a baseball fan that helps; if you’re not then nevermind ;-)

It has entries on individual philosophers, philosophical movements, eastern thought, types of argument, propositional calculus, famous debates, etc. They are all brief and clear. It is not meant to be read from cover to cover, but is instead a compact reference work to be perused casually or referred to when needed. (Note the blurbs on the Amazon page from the likes of Rorty and Lemke, and the user reviews) If you are serious about getting into philosophy as it is codified and practiced in the West, then I’d start with this book as your first map.

Again, Thanks.