Influences & Heroes

In no particular order…

Below are the biggest influences on my thinking and my most idolized heroes.  I give a little explanation of what they mean to me and links so you can find out more yourself.  I hope you end up loving them as much as I do.

Please Excuse the Work in Progress Status of this Page.  It will be updated regularly.

———-

IMMANUEL KANT                                                                      

A corner stone German enlightenment thinker.  Kant’s statement “ought implies can,” his ideas on Moral Luck and his deontological ethics based on maxims and categorical imperatives have very deeply shaped my beliefs on religion, ethics and society.  These three concepts/theories have shaped every area of my thinking.  I also like a lot of his writing on religion, politics and basically everything else too.

Books: Grounding in the Metaphysics of Morals.

Quotation: “Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”

BARUCH SPINOZA

Another founder of Modern Philosophy.  I have been heavily influenced by his ideas on ethics, religion and politics.  Spinoza was the first to create a political philosophy that limited the government’s role over citizens thoughts and beliefs.  He is also a founding figure in hermeneutics and naturalistic ethics. “Know Thyself,” for me, brings to mind Spinoza.

Books: Theological-Political Treatise and Ethics

Quotation: “The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue”

LAO TZU                                                                                                  

I haven’t read nearly as much into Taoism as I’d like.  So I am using the possibly mythical Lao Tzu to represent my various gleanings of Tao and Paganism.  Like Spinoza above the idea is exactly the same but the focus is more on “Know Yourself in the World.”  In my happiest reflections I see myself in my life and future as a constant traveler.  This is why my old bag, for those who have met me, is one of my most prized possessions.

Quotation: “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”

JOHN STUART MILL

Thought I consider myself a deontologist and not a consequentialist (what matters in ethics is peoples wills/motives as opposed to the outcomes) I take very heavily from Rule Utilitarianism.  In my everyday thoughts on ethics, and any normative issue in general, I am heaviliy utilitarian and believe that rule utilitarianism (a natural consequence of ‘regular’ utilitarianism’) perfectly melds together with Kantian Categorical Imperatives.  (Note: in social sciences and politics ‘utilitarianism’ means something very narrow and subsequently is not at all what I am talking about.)

Books: Utilitarianism

DAVID HUME                                       

Certainly tied with Kant in my top two favorite and most influential thinkers.  In areas of epistemology, religion, and everything in between I have been influenced by some degree by Hume.  One of the most influential books in my life, a book Hume dare not publish while living, was his Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion.  It’s short and very accessible read.  I’ll leave it to you to take a look at it.

Books: Dialogue Concerning Natural Religions, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding

CHARLES DARWIN

Certainly one of the two most influential thinkers I believe has ever existed. While Darwin holds the British 10 pound note, the other of the two i have in mind has his face devoted to the British 20 pounder (I’ll let you look him up).  Growing up as a fundamentalist Christian I rejected the theory of evolution after “studying” Behe, Hovind, Johnson, etc until about half way through university.  After actually looking into it and taking a number of biology and evolutionary anthro courses, I’ve since realized that the struggle to keep legitimate science in the classroom is a central issue today in American Education.  I also love Darwin’s personal contribution to evolution, i.e. natural selection, and am awed how widely the theory can be applied to explain different phenomena.  For whoever is interested, I also have a number of posts about evolution, both scientific and social aspects of it.

Books: Origin of Species

Quotation: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

MOHAMMED (pbuh)                       

Even those that aren’t his biggest fans have to say he is probably the most influential individual in history.  Not only did he create/reveal a religion on par with Jesus’ (who arguably needed the spokesman and philosopher St. Paul to get the job done), but he also developed a new language, unified a warring nation, developed a civilization that conquered two world powers in a decade, wrote a best selling book  (while illiterate) and started the largest yearly gathering in the world.  To those that respond he was a war-monger, I hope you will please check out some of my posts on Islamic political/religious ethics.

Quotes: “Acquire knowledge: it enables its possessor to distinguish right from the wrong, it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless – it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends and an armor against enemies.”

JESUS

The founder of the world’s most professed religion.  I was raised bread and butter on the Gospels and memorized much of them (could recite the Sermon on the Mount at one time).  These teachings have influenced me in ways I will probably never be able to fully guage.  Though since I have learned to reflect critically on much of what I at first assumed I had to conform my thoughts to and now don’t agree with everyone, I certainly still hold close a number of verses.  One in particular has stayed with me over the decades.

Quotation: “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN                                                                  

This is my contribution to the debate: What did Einstein believe about God?  I will just leave a quote of his (in the style the debate so often takes).  I also like it because I back it 100% myself.  If I had to choose at a very broad level an organized religion, it’d be Buddhism.

Quotation: “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”

ARISTOTLE

Like most on this list, Artistotle is a popular figure almost everyone I’m sure would put up.  How he influenced me, then, is with his ideas on Virtue Ethics.  I really like Kantianism and utilitarianism, but my heart may lie with Virtue Ethics.  What does it mean to be a Good Flute player?  And then what does it mean to be a Good person?  We are social animals as much as rational and live our lives by pragmatically developing habits that benefit our social lives.  This is a poor explanation, which I’ll leave to you to look up a little bit more if you want to.

Quotation: “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.”

Book: The Nicomachean Ethics

PLATO 

Again I must mention Plato, though only his most influential work for my own thinking.  Here it again comes down to one basic book, Euthyphro.  I find endless resources for the understanding of God, Ethics and Reason in its main argument.  Again, I won’t get into here but will hope those that aren’t aware of it take a look.

Book: Euthyphro

 SOCRATES

And I can’t leave out the last of the trio, even though this likely fictional hero only founded the general ethos that has influenced me.  “Know Thyself” in the dialectical way that Socrates meant it has been the basis of my approach to my own studies.  I believe that knowledge is dialectical (I completely disagree with Kant on the issue).  The only way I can know one thing is by listening to the conversations and dialogues on the issue that has very likely been going on for centuries.  One simply cannot be justified in an argument made in ideological isolation.

Quotations: “Be as you wish to seem” and “The unexamined life is not worth living”

———

Some other (and more modern) heroes and influences will be added to the above when I get the time and energy.  But for now here is a taste of some of them:

Carl Sagan, B. R. Ambedkar, Amartya Sen, Robert Heinlein, A.C. Grayling, John Dewey, ee cummings, Christopher Hitchens, Thich Naht Hanh

Advertisements

Responses

  1. What, not us?!

    • I’ll get on that right away soufia, lol ;) There are a lot of personal heroes I have but it’d take too long if I included them (and I guess I don’t want to offend anyone).

  2. Excellent site! Your image with the arabic writing ‘MOHAMMED peace be upon him’ is beautiful. Can I please use it for some local not for profit artwork in United Kingdom. Please e-mail me.

    • Thanks, and Of course. I’ll send you an email later.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: