10 Philosophers

I like philosophy, so let me introduce 10 of my favorite philosophers: Kant, Montaigne, Epicurus, Socrates, Bloch, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers and Adorno. I composed also a little BLURB notebook with a similar content at http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2432766
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Giordano Bruno
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Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) wrote: “It is the greatest incumbency of a philosopher and becomes most seldom found anyway to be consistently …”. If one connects this with his remark: “A religion, which makes humans dark, is wrong…” – then one has to brood, how consistent people have to behave versus a gloomy religion opinion. Since “September Eleven” one asks not only how to react versus the Islamistic fundamentalism, but also how to act against obstinately Christian crusade reflexes. Kant behaved with pleasure quite rationally vs. common religiousness: “Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck.” Kant trusted in the strength of the law, trusted in the conscience, inherent to every human being. Pertinaciously he stuck to this believe – and expressed thereby a careful protest against the power of the princely potentates and religion representatives. So he became a quiet advocate of the French idea of revolution while he declined any brute force at the same time. While insistently preaching the necessity of using rational intelligence, he became the spiritual founder of the UN, the personification of that hope, that the community of nations should be able to come to an agreement to inform each other in such a way, that to harm each other can not be the interest of one’s own mutually. Though Kant did not have the experiences of the two World Wars, showing the effect of modern technology, destroying masses, he already wrote: “Anger is a shock that activates all one’s strength to resist evil.” We, at least, should have this anger. Into the today’s turmoil some of his aphorisms are very encouraging: “If a man makes himself a worm, he must not complain when he is trodden on.” Despite UNO or international Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, reason still has not been able to gain acceptance continuously vs. a national horizon limitedness, though. Last Kant-quotation, spoken in direction to the first world, considering the troubles of the “third world”: “Mankind could perhaps become richer by growing poorer and win by losing…” How is it about wasting resources? So, I think, we still need the spirit of Immanuel KANT!

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Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592) wrote in his chapter “On Three Kinds of Relationships”: “My library is in the third story of a tower; on the first is my chapel, on the second a bedroom with ante-chambers, where I often lie to be alone; and above it is a great wardrobe. My library is a very neat little room, in which a fire can be laid in winter, and which is pleasantly lighted by a window…”. Montaigne liked to retire, searching for distance to a world of bloody fights between religious groups. Did these things develop to a better dialog, 400 years later? Montaigne tried to escape narrow-minded dogmatic thoughts, tried to find a new way of creating thoughts via his typical relaxed method of writing. Living 200 years earlier than the other genius of essay, the poor Soeren Kierkegaard, Montaigne was not as filled up with anxiety as the Danish philosopher – he instead managed to stay calm with a solid resource of optimism, though things outside his favorite tower often run very worse. His courageous goal was the overcoming of the stereotyped medieval conception of the world, in which humans usually had been overwhelmed by church- or government-authorities like puppets on a string. Montaigne established the departure to individual noticing, founded an anthropocentric view of world. This probably has something fresh to his contemporary readers. Montaigne’s program was to dip down in one’s own mind: “Everyone, who is listening to his inner landscape of thoughts, is able to discover his identity, so that he is able to repel everything, which does not fit this.” About his style of writing essayist Elias Canetti noticed: “Montaigne is most beautiful, because he does not hurry.” Aged 17 Michel de Montaigne had ridden to Paris, to complete his humanistic education. There he had attached important relations, had operated with prostitutes notoriously and had squandered the family wealth, until the father pulled the emergency brake and called him back to Bordeaux, where he had to begin a boring job at the local court (if we can trust the speculations of the French biographer Lacouture). Historically more safe is the knowledge about Montaigne’s political identity: France of his time had torn up, the faith splitting escalated to the “St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre” in Paris on 24 August 1572, bloody amok in many other French cities followed, also in Montaigne’s Bordeaux. He had been the mayor then, and particularly in the second term of office 1583-85, he skillfully succeeded to calm down the parties (Catholics tried to slaughter the Protestant Huguenots). His “ideology-free” position had been developed in expanded studies of the classical philosophers – and in a thereupon diametrically opposite literary attempt to justify an own individual kind of thinking and writing: precisely analyzing human conditions (using oneself as the only field) without being paralyzed by social regulations of how to search and communicate. “I do not proclaim doctrines of faith, but not obligatory opinions, which one can classify as a gesture alike done by children, trying to show their experiments: they only want to learn, not to instruct or indoctrinate.” The skeptical, further-asking, essentially open dialog of Montaigne influenced such thinkers as Diderot, Lichtenberg or Nietzsche. His writing method encouraged philosophy, psychology – and hundreds of essayists. Indeed we hope, that Montaigne’s voice will never get lost …

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70% of Americans believe in the devil as a Gallup Poll found out. I am an atheist. No God, no devil waiting for me. Fairy tales for children. But for adults? Please give a better education, maybe a little Greek philosophy, Socrates, Epicurus? Or German philosophy, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx? Maybe then not 70% of US citizens believe, that there a devil is waiting for some of us? Nor 70 virgins, as Muslim terrorists hope? I once wrote about the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who lived 2000 years ago (341 – 270 BC): It is the shabby trade of the denominations and religion bureaucracies, that they (with infiltrated awe vs. God and the beyond) always try to stir up and bedevil naive humans: Epicurus wanted to cut those puppet works. In the today’s fundamentalist meets religious stir-up-neighborhoods and other morass know how to produce foolish terrorists with sentences like: “In the sky” (the Taliban suicide assassins are instructed) “you will get seven virgins for reward”! The scholars barely can be waiting to enter the promised life after death. “The Clash Of The Civilizations” (written by Samuel P. Huntington) since September 11 made a worse climax, 2300 years after Epicurus – and this completely uninfluenced by any realizations of Greek philosophy. One could generally doubt, if philosophy is able at all, to clear up brains. Fortunately in parts of Western cultures and counter-cultures however fragments of Epicurism, Skepticism and Stoicism are still living on. Epicurus (with honorable persistence) tried to weaken the fear vs. Gods and their punishment-actions and the awe concerning the certain coming death (all animals fate). And on the other hand Epicurus also recommended to keep a distance to the political scene (which too often is involved into corruption or riot, filled with hollow slogans or hate-sermons). Epicurus preferred not to work on public places but only in his lovely garden, talking to a handful of well-known friends. This conception requires to proof not only the habits of a sensible life-style but more deeper the patterns of personal identity and the consciousness of using time. “A free live is not able to acquire much money , because this is not easy to get without being serviceable to the rich or the mediocre people …” Epicurus wrote – and he is not frightened at the opulence deficit. “The voice of our bodies: do not be hungry, thirsty, cold!” Indeed, some non-European, especially African nations are demonstrating persistently to the rest of the world, how to overcome with low costs – without loosing dignity. Today, an Epicurean often has the bad image of an exhausted wine-sipping decadent, practicing unalloyed hedonism and wild orgies, sex and drugs and rock and roll. This is completely wrong. Pleasure is defined by Epicurus as the avoidance of pain and passion, of mania and addiction, is defined as a stabilization of emotions. Epicurus preached as a goal of our mortal life to minimize our excitements and anxieties, dependencies and crazes. Not an everlasting carnival was intended, but calmness as a lifestyle. Of course not a cramped indigence and having of no wants combined with self-punishment and self-indebted hate-the-own-body-attitude. Few philosophers have been more maligned and under-appreciated. Epicurus still delivers important annotations. A last quotation: “You must comprehend the fact, that a long and a short statement are able to reach the same aim.” I hope so.

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Socrates (469–399 BC) is maybe the most known founder of Western philosophy. As many of his followers in other centuries he got some trouble by politicians, judges, private enemies: Let’s take a look back in those times: The Greek leader Pericles pushed Athens into risky power politics, those led into the Peloponnesian war (431-404 before Christ). The second woman of Pericles, Aspasia, participated in the philosophical discussions of Socrates and became highly estimated by him. She was accused like Socrates (by Pericles and his ministers) of being not as religious as she should be. Of course the boring-questioner and rebel Socrates became a feedback not only ironically (e.g. by the comedy poet Aristophanes) but also by others with heavy rage: started by the government clique around President Pericles. The goal to awaken the common people from their sleep in the depth of propaganda-smeared opinions, – this had to provoke official counter actions. In his defense speech at court Socrates didn’t own much time. The limit was set by a pot of water, having a whole. In the very moment, when all the water had run out, he had to stop his speech. The jury of 500 Athenians didn’t like to listen at all – and they were happy, to bring that thing quickly to an end. The three prosecutors of Socrates by the way had been lynched a few weeks later: Probably the thoughts become accepted to which Socrates had wanted to inflame: “… perhaps you might possibly be offended, like the sleeping who are awakened, striking me, you might easily kill, then the rest of your lives you might continue sleeping…” – Socrates maintained his integrity as hero until the end. His radical critique of the Athenians fundamental values are the starting point of western philosophy, of the modern debate over civil disobedience (compare Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and so on…). Today it’s still amusing to follow the way, how the master shredded the weaknesses in faulty arguments. Socrates had tried to make publicly, what later should be named as “try-and-error procedures of thinking”. And he didn’t allow the mighty ones to intimidate him. There are cultural fluctuations with regard to the allowance to think opposite. Jesus or Spartacus (or the American Socrates-scientist Vlastos, notified by the FBI and threatened with deportation to Canada because he didn’t agree to the Vietnam-war), Angela Davis, Sinead O’Connor or Michael Moore – they had their special versions of trouble. Today we don’t need a death-sentence; there are smaller and more effective tricks, to produce a YES to nearly everything. So we still need such a hero of dissidence like Socrates – or should we stop thinking self-confidently? Nearly 500 years before Christ this Socrates gave an unforgettable sign of a solid character. He didn’t beg the judge committee, to stop the death penalty, he didn’t agree to accept exile – in the contrary he made a request for the highest honor in Athens at that time: the daily free meal-supply in the city hall. He was an ironic man and he knew this request had been a little too much for the nervous jury…

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Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) was a professor for philosophy at the University of Leipzig from 1949-1956. But September 20, 1961 Associated Press reported: “The internationally admitted philosopher professor Ernst Bloch did not return from a visit in the Federal Republic (BRD, West-Germany) to the Soviet Zone (GDR, East-Germany).” One of his reasons: The building of the wall between the two German states August 13, 1961. In his suitcase Bloch did not have no more possession than a crime-book of Agatha Christie. A typical nonchalant gesture of the philosopher of hope and progress. He wrote to the GDR-administration: “I am no longer determined to offer my work and myself to unworthy conditions.” His peerless magnus opus, “The Principle of Hope”, he wrote in the years 1938-1947 in the “Public Library” in Manhattan at the 42nd street – after he had been driven out of Germany by the Nazis, who burned books and terrorized jews and socialists. His wife Karola earned the money, working as an architect in New York. Back in Germany (1949) he at first helped to evolve Marxian thinking. But it did not last long, then he wrote: “Now chess must be finally played – instead of Bingo.” “Nowadays one can select between dull or wrong. With a wrong shoe however no one is able to walk far. A cloudy glass also makes anything cloudy, which is poured in…” With such aphorisms Ernst Bloch very soon became a mentor in the epicenter of the 1968 student movement in Tuebingen, a famous university in West-Germany. Bloch often tried to convince via small anecdotes, for example the description, how Stephenson, the inventor of the steam engine, managed not to lose HOPE: “In vain he followed the first boiler on wheels running behind. The steam machine more and more rapidly approached a curve. The mother of all railway engines drove straightforward and exploded at the wall of a house. Stephenson now everything had understood completely. He built a new machine, equipped with a steering-wheel, using an iron-track.” Like the art of engineering philosophy should never forget, that to proceed is an important component. This still has been the reasonable message of Bloch’s philosophy – though, in the meantime, some states (i.e. hammers and sickles) have had to change their doctrines fundamental …

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Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) was strong enough to choose his own way, producing no copies. Schopenhauer’s father committed suicide. Son Arthur had been very devoted to his father Heinrich Floris. The high-sensitive son could not deal with the fact, that his mother Johanna had preferred to talk with Goethe in her Weimar Literary Salon instead of helping her husband, getting more and more depressed as a salesman in Hamburg. A typical, later on dialog between mother (at that time she was a famous novelist) and son, a poor university lecturer: “One still will read my writings, at a time, when your books are out of stock and only one copy can be found in a lumber-room.” Mother thereupon sneering: “The whole, complete edition of your writings, my son, still will be waiting to get an order to be shipped…” (the writer of this blog fears that his own frizztext-book might have to suffer the same fate). “The World as Will”, as too much inconsiderate will-to-live – in such a way Schopenhauer described the whole human being. With persistence and arrogance, with brain and bile, suffering and bitterly, but with sensitivity and empathy as well he wrote – trying not to get overwhelmed by disgust. He had a deep neurotic aversion against women (surely involved by his mother). Once he pushed in anger his charwoman down the stairs backwards. But this female individual offered resistance very intellectually: She successful called a judge and Schopenhauer was sentenced, to pay a pension to her – all her life long. But exactly this evil bile encouraged him, on the other hand, to fight against mother Johanna and Goethe, against Hegel and diverse money-lenders. However just opposite to his choleric, hot-tempered way of life, his philosophical theory proclaimed to be calm as a Buddha. He adored Eastern Vedic (Buddhist) Scriptures. He adored enjoying art as a way out of the more mediocre and less passionate masses. The summary of his philosophy finally is the reference to the noblesse to demand nothing; this German philosopher’s hope is, that “willing” might be silenced. 150 years and some wars later we all should agree. “To be vulgar is nothing else than giving the leading role in our consciousness to the will and not to the cognition.” Schopenhauer’s thoughts are still able to help today’s readers to climb not a meditative, but a thoughtful level. And still his aphorisms are not out of stock in the most nations …

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The father of existentialism Sören Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) had demanded (for his part back-reminding of Socrates), to try it with irony. Kierkegaard experimented to realize a clearly more individual life concept than it came (at that time) into the common horizon of the orthodox piety. He used philosophical statements, long literature tours and risky own-life entanglements to develop his thoughts. ANTI-CLERICAL: It has been told, that Kierkegaard admired a Danish clergyman, who shouted to his (a little bit too much affected) congregation: “Do not cry, dear children, – it could be lied everything!” Another anti-clerical statement of S.K.: “You cannot live on nothing, it is often told, particularly of ministers and precisely the clergymen succeed this feat: not at all there is any Christianity – and they live nevertheless on it.” This is Kierkegaard’s typical method of irony, a method of producing distance against the usual social milieu. IRONY: “The Concept of Irony, with Continual Reference to Socrates” was the title of Kierkegaard’s dissertation (1841), no, it had not this title, but: “Om Begrebet Ironi med Stadigt Hensyn til Socrates…” DECONSTRUCTION: The XV. and last thesis read: “ut a dubitatione philosophia, sic ab ironia vita digna, quae humana vocetur, incipit.” = “Just like philosophy begins with the doubt, equally live (an existence, you can call dignified) begins with the irony.” French philosophers like Jacques Derrida and other deconstructionists have claimed Kierkegaard as their hero. DOGMATISM: Formal, turgid style was an atrocity for Kierkegaard, neither it was placed in a sermon by Christian dogmatics nor in state philosophy – as declaimed by the German Georg W.F. Hegel. Kierkegaard, listening in Berlin to his philosophy, hated to be a “Hegelian fool.” He wrote: “A passionate, tumultuous time will drag down everything. However a reflecting time will transform the expression of force into a dialectic feat: let exist everything, but cunningly deprive everything of its significance.” Only in 20th century developed the large systems, Marxism, Fascism, which suppressed the individual and made personal statements suspicious. Kierkegaard a hundred years before brought the idea into the daily consciousness of humans, that the individual has the right to be a censorship instance against church, state, ordered political correctness. DON JUAN: This sort of extreme individualism hindered Kierkegaard’s sexuality. He feared to make solid obligations with his fiancée Regine Olsen. Instead he liked to read the story of Don Juan – and wrote the famous “Either-Or”. Did Kierkegaard visit prostitutes? Biographer Joakim Garff, associate professor at the Sören Kierkegaard Research Center at the University of Copenhagen, – he has no chance than to speculate. SIN and ANXIETY: Kierkegaard’s father had been an orthodox Christian dogmatist. Apparently too often he made sermons about sin to his son. In “The Concept of Anxiety” Kierkegaard accepts anxiety (later Heidegger’s ANGST in “Being and Time”) as a creative, liberty starting element in every human beings existence. No independence without the deep anxiety, to make all things wrong. The fear of getting punished is the basis of the free will and the power to make decisions nevertheless. Not only modern psychologists have to tell that, giving depressed searchers the strength to go on, in philosophy Nietzsche, struggling against Hegel alike Kierkegaard, had to reach the same level as the Danish thinker. Nietzsche wrote “Genealogy of Morals”, leaving the secure ground of Christianity as well. LITERATURE: “Equal a princess in a “1001 night”-story I saved live by narrating, i.e. by producing dazzling literary work. Tremendous heavy melancholy, inside suffer, everything I could master – if I was allowed to produce. Ill treatment, abuse, which would have made another unproductive – these things made me only more productively…” K. noted, who experienced himself maybe more as poet than as philosopher. JOURNALISM: His horror of the compelling journalism, which multiplied the consent of all meaning, – this fright brought him to write: “The multitude of crowd is the untruth.” “To draw the attention to the category of the individual, that is the main achievement and significance of my lifelong work. I recognized it as my task to make attentive on it.” Kierkegaard was encouraged enough, to throw himself back to a most subjective, occasionally despairing lonely sort of giving one’s opinion, naturally not accompanied by much external applause. In the contrary: He had some disastrous sparring with his critics, especially with the journalists and cartoonists working for the Copenhagen newspaper “The Corsair.” How to make irony on this topic? Kierkegaard wrote: “As perhaps some thing was lost, because an assisting world was missing, then on the other hand some thing was spoiled, because the whole world was allowed to help.” MONEY: Kierkegaard died aged 42, exactly in the same moment, as the money which he inherited from his father was used up. His courageous irony died in the nervous run of his relatively short life, defeated by an unfortunately much bigger, always persistent anxiety. He certainly was not a man of action like Hemingway. But he was a moving and thought provoking writer, an excellent starter of a modern way of feeling, reacting and ideological whistle-blowing …

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900), a great essayist, philosopher, maybe the first effective psychoanalyst – he composed many ways of a new thinking, maybe modern times started with his thinking. “As long as one is still young, one tries to philosophize. One guesses the delirium which philosophy has produced, one dreams of copying it and of carrying it further. The youth likes itself in the trick of the heights; with a thinker youth loves the tightrope walker; in Nietzsche they loved his poses, his mystic clownery; really a summit fun fair …” once Emile Cioran wrote. But nowadays especially Germany has big problems with Nietzsche. Nazi-leaders misinterpreted and misused Nietzsche for their race theories, veiled by Richard Wagner’s melodramatic style. If one takes his gossip of the “Superhuman” [Übermensch], nevertheless, as the psychoanalytic classified attempt, to know himself as gotten sick in need of care (fallen ill with Syphilis) between sister and mother, rescue less wedged, and therefore, as a counterbalance, get lost in the daydream to be a new Dionysus or a Greek God (at first mockingly, then in the final stage schizophrenic megalomania), – then his efforts seem to be “human, all too-human”. “What does not kill me will make me stronger …“ he tried to persuade himself emphatically, in fear to have a lack of courage. The treating physicians probably did not tell him (regarding the prudery of that time) the shocking truth of the irreparable gravity of his illness. “Philosophy is a kind of revenge versus reality …“ he wrote full energy, high-spirited. One dreams to have a power, which one does not possess in the reality. Nietzsche’s writings are a sort of compensation of a frustrated human being, writings like a battle-cry, tattooed deep in the soul, hoping to get managed a departure into success. The only germ of a flaming up love relationship – namely to Lou Salome (later companion of Rainer Maria Rilke and at the same time famous first female psychoanalyst in the circle of Sigmund Freud) – this only germ, rich in chances of an erotic self-realization, was trampled down by the heavy envy and jealousy of his frigates-like sister and his mother. Aged twenty, however, he had used a experimental way, practicing his sort of sexuality, which seemed at first sight easy and more cheap, in the final effect has been full of pain: “There are two things, a genuine man wants: danger and play. Therefore, he wants the woman, as the most dangerous toy …” he noted in juvenile carelessness. He himself reported to the doctors in Leipzig and Jena, who should treat him against his Syphilis infection, that he had practiced brothel visits 1865 in Cologne and 1866 in Leipzig. Indeed, he had a strange nervous breakdown already in 1865 in Trieste by the fact that he, weeping, embraced a horse (hit by a coachman) and then collapsed. The actually heavy outbreak of the mental illness caused by Syphilis is dated by doctors on 1888. Nietzsche’s note “The degree and kind of person’s sexuality reaches up into the topmost summit of his spirit …“ oscillates on this background ambiguously of course with a maybe unintentional double-sense. Certain are that only the final phase of his writing (ecce homo) is to be considered as intellectually clouded. Yet we have the duty to weigh with necessary care the writings before 1888. But even as a heavy nursing-destitute he still produced some special diamonds of written language: “If you look for a long time into an abyss, the abyss afterwards also looks into you inside … “; “He who has a goal to live for, is able to endure almost everything … ” or: “There are servile souls, which propel the appreciation for given benefactions so far, that they strangle themselves with the snare of gratitude …” That means evidently, that he only rather sullenly will have submitted himself under the over-protection, coming from his sister and mother. Nevertheless, no superhuman-power could help him to escape their claws. On the other hand, maybe just by the distance to an everyday life Nietzsche was able to focus the society in such a cool manner – and to daydream completely undisturbed a total free self-reliant human being. This ideal type is a little bit shaped like Nietzsche himself: The “Superhuman” is a strong-minded and unbound philosopher, but sometimes the cautious and shy philologist Nietzsche is shining through. On the one we remember the popular Nietzsche-slogan “God is dead”, then, on the other hand, we feel, that his origin from a priest’s family has not passed – and we even suppose, that the negative posture towards the religion and the minister’s family, are finally only the two sides of the one and same coin. Though – the religious criticism of Nietzsche is not to understand only psychologically as an opposition against his family background (11 forefathers on the paternal side were ministers): To see denominations critically has been the intellectual behavior of that time. Nature science, Kant, Descartes: they shocked the church authorities of those days. Nietzsche’s mocking remark “Madness of single persons is something rare, but the madness of groups, parties, crowds seems to be the rule … ” qualifies his personal fate (syphilis) nearly not as bad as the (“healthy”) foolishness of the masses – especially, if one considers, what the German history planned to bring up … And because he wrote (and his power-mad sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche has forgotten to censure and to extinguish that during the posthumous publication of his writings:) “He who thinks a lot, is not suitable for a party man; too soon he thinks through the party throughout … ” – because he wrote this, it is not to be accepted seriously, that he could have live in harmony with a National Socialist party N.S.D.A.P. Also he brought on paper: “I mistrust all dogmatic and systematic and avoid to contact them. The will to a system is a lack of righteousness.” And, elsewhere: “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of the truth than lies.” Or (without ever having heard an O-tone of Goebbels or Hitler, Nietzsche formulated timeless brilliantly): “With a very loud voice in the neck one is nearly unable to think fine things.” “The most valuable examinations are found latest, but the most valuable examinations are the methods“- Nietzsche wrote. Indeed: if one did not take Zarathustra’s words as instructions for war lords or other dubious idols, but, in the contrary, classifies this work as a brilliant, highly ironical effort to use language creatively, Nietzsche’s books would have a fair chance to survive. Maybe his ability to describe psychological subjects will live longer than some of his philosophical disputes.

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Already as a child, German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) suffered under bronchiktasis and an accompanying heart insufficiency, which was classified as incurable and life-shortening. The fear to die early pushed him to live concentrated and not to waste any time. Being exhausted very soon, throughout his life he was forced to work lying horizontal on a divan. His daily creative working periods (of reading and writing) had been very short, so he was obliged to budget his targets carefully. “A man will be, what he will be, via the things, he has chosen for his own affair…” was the way, he programmed himself. “The minimum of being self-determinate is associated with the joy to work. Without that, everyone will get paralyzed. Therefore to save the joy of working is the main problem in the technical world. Assigned work mostly is a work, which separates being a human and being a worker. But the duties of a physician, teacher, minister etc. cannot not be technically rationalized, because they depend on vital existence …” Jaspers noted in his tiny but important book “The Mental Situation Of Our Age”. Beginning as a psychiatrist (among other things with the fundamental work “PSYCHOLOGY of the WORLD VIEWS”) he extended his horizon of views to a stable existence-philosophical theory, which at first united him with the academic colleague Martin Heidegger, then however, ethical standardizes taking seriously, had to lead him away from this Nazi-collaborator. Jaspers wrote after the end of WWII to the American Military Government in Germany: “Heidegger’s kind of thinking appears to me unfreely, dictatorial, without any sense for communication. Nowadays it would (practiced at universities) have a fatal effect …”. Added to the lifelong illness of Jaspers was the threat by the Third Reich. Jaspers’ woman was Jewess. The married couple during the Nazi-era always carried in their pockets cyanide-capsules, to be faster, if Gestapo would try to arrest them. “No longer able to continue the fight, suicide becomes more and more fascinating. It seems to be the last moral effort of autonomous humans. To end voluntary is like coming home to oneself… ” Jaspers wrote in those dark days. “The rule of the apparatus favors humans, who live contemplativelessly without any leisure , bedeviled sleeplessly by their wishes of climbing up the social ladders. It is required to be skilful, slippery, oily. You have to become beloved, you must ingratiate on everyone with a clever fuss of persuading and captivating, you have to become zealous, indispensable, you have to be silent, insidious, you have to present a modest gesture, you have to work only to please your chief, you never are allowed to show any independence against a superior …”. Jaspers analyzed the Hitler-Germany and Martin Heidegger, the post war German society and “The Question of German Guilt” – but in the center he defined how to live with dignity – in any time…

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Theodor W. Adorno (* 11. September 1903 – † 6. August 1969), at first grown up upper-class-protected, became acquainted with the horror only outside the family (his mother was a classical musician). Outside: on the school-yards, pursued and pushed by his peer group, because he always was teacher’s darling. Outside: being a Jew walking on Nazi-streets of a pre-Hitler Germany with subtle racial discrimination. They soon would build Auschwitz. The same pattern, which at first as the contempt of mediocre school-gangs came into much too close contact to Adorno, secondly reached more painful intensity in the shape of the ideological constructions and daily realities of the National Socialism in the Third Reich. Though no one had a presentiment of the coming Holocaust, Adorno told, that the exploding of inhumanity did not astound him, after all that he had to suffer in the years before. Adorno fled to the U.S. for political reasons and because his father had Jewish roots. He worked in New York in the “Institute for Social Research”. After exile (in the 1950s) Adorno returned to Frankfurt. He soon became a hero of the student revolts of 1968, but unfortunately students preferred a style of discussion and acting (Adorno’s lectures were disrupted by bare breast girls), – a style of discussion and acting, which the (latent conservative) upper-class child Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (called “Teddy” by the students) disliked in the beginning, in the middle and at the end of his life. His literary and philosophical masterpiece MINIMA MORALIA however is a testament of a razor-sharp philosophical mind, using an élitist, brilliantly aphoristic language. He continually followed the principle, that the only method to write nowadays is an essayistic, non-systematic, code word analyzing method, considering the fact, that big mega-philosophies (fascism, Marxism …) always tumble down after a while or seep silently, trickle away by the working process of dialectic thinkers. Since the attack against the World Trade Center in New York the understanding grows, that living in bondage with a false philosophy or a fundamentalist religion or an impudence nation (sometimes difficult to decide) nearly inevitably leads into a catastrophe. It is a maybe confusing but easily remembered coincidence, that Adorno’s birthday is on a “September Eleven” (9/11/1903), duplicating the hint at the warning that ideological instigation gives rise to an escalation of terrible disasters. Like a Noam Chomsky or a grandchild of Nietzsche, Marx and Kierkegaard this German philosopher, co-founder of the so-called “Frankfurter Schule”, provides with ample food for thought with his dense, challenging prose. But on the other hand he very lowly uses language as a poet, describing daily life and it’s false consciousness: leading the view to Proust or Sigmund Freud, to “Golden Gate” or “Tough Babies”, to cats or mammoths, to marriage and divorce, to “L ‘inutile beauté” or “Wishful Thinking”, to “Il servo padrone” and “They, the people”: if you decide to read Adorno, you will forget the present world of violence and you will enter an inspiring galaxy of ideas. The modesty of Adorno’s working method, trying to convince linguistically only by small artful steps, this could be a comfort-rich meditation assistance for those, who live in rough political and urban scenes …

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17 responses to “10 Philosophers

  1. Wow! That’s quite a list. Never read Bloch or Montaigne, but all the rest had an influence on me, some more than others–Socrates the most.

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  2. TBM

    Impressive list. I was happy that I knew all of them except Bloch. I’ll have to fix this.

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  3. Excellent list and I am impressed by your selections… Where do we find your book and is it in English? TY!🙂

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  4. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award « Flickr Comments by FrizzText

  5. Heidegger has not a high reputation in Germany – because he made some wrong things during the third Reich in Nazi Germany. After 1945 Karl Jaspers, Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt showed, how angry Heidegger made them…
    – just found my list of German philosophers at
    http://www.amazon.com/German-Philosophers/lm/1DFQPDQK06SUR
    greetings by frizztext, Germany

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  6. Cat Petition
    My cat Emily often bites in my fingers, she seems to be a censor! But my idol is Immanuel Kant,
    https://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/10-philosophers/
    and he said: Have the courage, to support the strategies of enlightenment – it’s a great European project – and we have to fight for it daily …

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