Monday, December 20, 2010

The philosopher, something either monstrous or god-like...

Nurtured in freedom and taking their time, there is something dreadfully uncanny about the philosopher, something either monstrous or god-like or indeed both at once. This is why many sensible people continue to think the Athenians had a point in condemning Socrates to death.-Critchley

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and political activist. He is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is well known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics, and a major figure of analytic philosophy. Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissident and an anarchist,[8] referring to himself as a libertarian socialist. Chomsky is the author of more than 150 books and has received worldwide attention for his views, despite being typically absent from the mainstream media.

Chomsky is also the eighth most cited human being in history, behind Karl Marx, Lenin, Shakespeare, Aristotle, the Bible, Plato and Freud.

In the 1950s, Chomsky began developing his theory of generative grammar, which has undergone numerous revisions and has had a profound influence on linguistics. His approach to the study of language emphasizes "an innate set of linguistic principles shared by all humans" known as universal grammar, "the initial state of the language learner," and discovering an "account for linguistic variation via the most general possible mechanisms." He elaborated on these ideas in 1957's Syntactic Structures, which then laid the groundwork for the concept of transformational grammar. He also established the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power. In 1959, Chomsky published a widely influential review of B. F. Skinner's theoretical book Verbal Behavior. In this review and other writings, Chomsky broadly and aggressively challenged the behaviorist approaches to studies of behavior and language dominant at the time, and contributed to the cognitive revolution in psychology. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has influenced the philosophy of language and mind.

Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, first articulated in his 1967 essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" and later extended in his American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. He has since become an outspoken political commentator and a dedicated activist; he is a self-declared anarcho-syndicalist[12] and a libertarian socialist, principles he regards as grounded in the Age of Enlightenment and as "the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society."

Chomsky's social criticism has also included an analysis of the mass media; Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), co-written with Edward S. Herman, articulated the propaganda model theory for examining the media.

According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992. He is also the eighth most cited source of all time, and is considered the "most cited living author". He is also considered a prominent cultural figure, while his status as a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy has made him controversial.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Albert Camus ([albɛʁ kamy ] (7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960) was a French Algerian author, philosopher and journalist. He was a key philosopher of the 20th-century, with his most famous work being the novel L'Étranger (The Stranger). In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.

Camus was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times". He was the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, after Rudyard Kipling, and the first African-born writer to receive the award. He is the shortest-lived of any Nobel literature laureate to date, having died in an automobile accident just over two years after receiving the award.

Although often cited as a proponent of existentialism, the philosophy with which Camus was associated during his own lifetime, he rejected this particular label. In an interview in 1945, Camus rejected any ideological associations: "No, I am not an existentialist. Sartre and I are always surprised to see our names linked..."

Specifically, his views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism. He wrote in his essay "The Rebel" that his whole life was devoted to opposing the philosophy of nihilism while still delving deeply into individual freedom.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Aristotle (Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης, Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Together with Plato and Socrates (Plato's teacher), Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. Aristotle's writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics.

Aristotle's views on the physical sciences profoundly shaped medieval scholarship, and their influence extended well into the Renaissance, although they were ultimately replaced by Newtonian physics. In the zoological sciences, some of his observations were confirmed to be accurate only in the 19th century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, which was incorporated in the late 19th century into modern formal logic. In metaphysics, Aristotelianism had a profound influence on philosophical and theological thinking in the Islamic and Jewish traditions in the Middle Ages, and it continues to influence Christian theology, especially the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church and some strains of Eastern Orthodox thought. His ethics, though always influential, gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics. All aspects of Aristotle's philosophy continue to be the object of active academic study today. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues (Cicero described his literary style as "a river of gold"), it is thought that the majority of his writings are now lost and only about one-third of the original works have survived.