Power to the People

One problem with the recent rash of “Vote for the Greatest Canadian/American/Brit/etc.” contests is that the masses don’t always give you the result you expect. Here we had Don Cherry and Wayne Gretzky make the top ten Canadians, and down south they had Elvis Presley, Lance Armstrong, Muhammed Ali, Oprah Winfrey, and Bob Hope on their top 25.

The Greatest Philosopher vote had less room for personality cults (there being few philosphers in entertainment and professional sports) but still the people overwhelmingly chose the most controversial candidate on the list. The greatest philosopher, according to the BBC’s audience, is the politically incorrect Karl Marx. I’m not enough of a philosophy expert to comment intelligently on Marx, but, as much as I am a socialist (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, tax the rich, collectivize utilities, that sort of thing), when I went through the descriptions on the Greatest Philosopher website, Marx didn’t come out as a particularly important philosopher, in the grand scheme of things. My top picks were Aquinas, Plato, Socrates, Kant, and Kierkegaard (in that order), and all but Kierkegaard made the top ten.  Here are the numbers:

1. Karl Marx, 27.93%
2. David Hume, 12.67%
3. Ludwig Wittgenstein, 6.80%
4. Friedrich Nietzsche, 6.49%
5. Plato, 5.65%
6. Immanuel Kant, 5.61%
7. St. Thomas Aquinas, 4.83%
8. Socrates, 4.82%
9. Aristotle, 4.52%
10. Karl Popper, 4.20%


5 comments on “Power to the People

  1. Stefanie says:

    Interesting. I thought Aristotle would have finished higher and I'm surprised Sartre didn't make the final cut. Very disappointed there were no women in even in the short list.

  2. Jodie says:

    Whu? I wouldn't even have said Marx was a philosopher.

  3. Sylvia says:

    Apparently Marx's more philosophical works are not well known and were not published until long after his death. During his time, “empirical” philosophy was valued more than “speculative” philosophy, so Marx kept his philosophical speculation to himself. The explanation in “Masterpieces of World Philosophy” is that Marx had a “habit of keeping his philosophical way of thinking out of view in the works he prepared or authorized for publication, largely in order to preclude any intimation of idealism, which he felt would undermind the urgency of his message to the working class.” No ivory tower for Marx!

  4. andy says:

    I went for Hume 'cos he introduced psychology into thinking with some purpose, or rather that we couldn't eliminate questions of psychology from philosophy
    As usual CathEncly does it well:
    linking to :
    a telling explanation of influences on Hume's thinking.

  5. Sylvia says:

    Thanks for the links, I'll look into it.

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