…who, or what would you talk about?
Anthony Kenny has finished a mighty tome; of the history of Western Philosophy; and towards the end, he addresses the issue of the best philosophers of the recent period. Being a Wittgenstein commentator; he mentions Wittgenstein; he also mentions Strawson as the last great philosopher.
I will not deny that Strawson is a fine philosopher; but the latest greatest philosopher should surely be David Lewis. I can accept that Kenny can’t make everyone happy and indeed he will necessarily upset some people.
This led me to think; who are the greatest philosophers of the last century? I’ll make a list of 15.
- David Lewis (worked in decision theory, ‘ethics and political philosophy’, metaphysics, epistemology and logic)
- Peter Strawson (metaphysics and epistemology, Kant, disagreed with Quine a lot)
- Willard Quine (epistemology and metaphysics, semantics)
- Bertrand Russell (best contributions of his are in semantics, mind, epistemology and metaphysics … his political writings are ‘interesting’)
- Hilary Putnam (metaphysics, semantics)
- Saul Kripke (semantics, modality)
- Elizabeth Anscombe (ethical theory, virtue ethics, philosophy of action)
- Ernst Nagel (political philosophy and metaethics)
- Rudolf Carnap (philosophy of science, Vienna circle)
- Karl Popper (various toics; most poignant for his doctrines on philosophy of science, and his ‘Open Society’ – publically recognisable philosopher)
- Martha Nussbaum (political and legal philosophy, ethics, Aristotle and ancient philosophy)
- John Rawls (ethics, political philosophy, Kant)
- Karl Hempel (Philosophy of science)
- Amaryta Sen (political philosophy)
I didn’t put anyone in aesthetics, because of my lack of familiarity with the area.