Updated April 6th, 2011.
On this page, I honor a few of my favorite philosophers.
You’ll notice that none of them are old dead guys who spoke in poetic generalizations. My favorite philosophers are all alive and productive, and highly informed of the very latest science (and often, producing some of it).
Some favorite philosophers of mine:
- Eliezer Yudkowsky (independent) only does philosophy because he needs to solve philosophical problems to build Friendly AI. As a philosophy outsider, he has managed – mostly on his own – to solve a great many philosophical problems correctly. There is, simply put, no philosopher with whom I agree more often. My one major complaint is that he does not write academic articles, citing the relevant research and speaking the same language as others and so on. (But, this is partly why he has made so much fast progress. Academic papers are clear and crisp and well-footnoted and thus kind to their readers, but they take a long time to write.) If I could fuse the minds of Yudkowsky and Bostrom, that person would be an even better philosopher. Luckily, those two minds seem to be slowly fusing on their own. (Yudkowsky is tugging Bostrom his way, and Bostrom is tugging Yudkowsky his way.)
- Nick Bostrom (Oxford) is one of today’s most important philosophers. This is not due to Kripkean superintelligence or Einsteinian revolutionary insights – though, Bostrom is no slouch in intellect or insight – but because he has devoted himself to working on the most important problems. Oddly enough, these were problems that (at the time) nobody else was working on very seriously: existential risks to humanity.
- Noam Chomsky (MIT) is an interdisciplinary genius. The most important linguist of the 20th century, he is also one of the founders of cognitive science, a major geopolitical theorist, a philosopher, and one of the most productive social activists. He embodies his philosophy more successfully than any other philosopher I know. Though he holds different philosophical positions than I do, in many ways his views are like mine but with an extra dose of skepticism about everything.
- Stephen Stitch (Rutgers) is one of the “guardians” of good philosophy, arguing against unproductive analytic practices like heavy appeal to intuition, and working so vigorously at the border of science and philosophy that he played a founding role in the rise of experimental philosophy. He has also done a great job of mentoring younger philosophers, preparing them to go to war for productive, scientific philosophy in a land where most philosophers are still doing the pre-Quinean kind of philosophy.
- Hilary Kornblith (Massachusetts, Amherst) is a leading proponent of naturalized epistemology. He is also a leading critic of conceptual analysis, and thus another “guardian.”
- Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside) is another guardian of good philosophy, and spends much of his time chastising those philosophers who have way more faith in their powers of intuition and introspection than contemporary cognitive science should allow.
- Michael Bishop (Florida) is another guardian, and was a student of Stitch. He doesn’t just chastise philosophers for continuing to use failed methods, but offers a productive alternative grounded in the latest cognitive science and experimental psychology: what he calls “strategic reliabilism.” For him, epistemology shouldn’t be concerned with a conceptual analysis of knowledge terms, but with getting at true belief. Unfortunately, this isn’t yet obvious to most of the rest of his profession.
I’m sure I’ll think of others, later.
Who are some of your favorite philosophers?