7) Judith Butler - Following the equally weird Jacques Derrida whose views on the relation between language and reality influenced her to adopt such a position, Butler conceives of reality as entirely constructed from language. It is undeniable, on the one hand, that language, both as an innate feature of our cognitive life, and as something whose features contain a great deal of socially and historically contingent elements, exert a great deal of influence on our thought. One may grant th at our perception of reality is constructed to a certain degree insofar as it is influenced by linguistically mediated social and cultural norms; but it is always constructed from something. Oftentimes the material from which we construct our reality is quite intractable to our demands for it to be one way and not another. Yet Butler won't be having it!:
There is no gender identity or anything like a pure material substrate that exists prior to these performances. Linda Martín Alcoff (2006) characterizes Butler's position as ‘synthetic constructivism’ to highlight that Butler's theory is as much a metaphysical account of gender as an epistemological account; our very bodies are synthetic rather than natural objects...for Butler, it makes no sense to postulate a materiality outside of discursive systems, thus to posit that there is a pre-discursive (pure) materiality that cultural systems of meaning inscribe, is unthinkable on Butler's terms. The idea of a pre-discursive reality is only posited, retrospectively...Hence, the notion of a pre-discursive reality is simply contradictory: reality is discursive—if you will—so the very idea of a ‘pre-discursive reality’ is incoherent(Hansen, 2013).
What do we make of this? Does someone who is sufficiently disabled that they can neither understand nor use language, therefore totally lack a reality? Does the universe cease to exist when language-using agents cease to exist? Can a cancer patient be cured of his disease by speaking of it in a certain way? `If she rejects these positions, she is left with a more moderate position according to which language influences the way we perceive an antecedent material substrate. But this clearly does not seem to be the position she takes at all.
The somewhat less weird Michel Foucault is oftentimes lumped in the same category of weirdness as those like Butler and Derrida. But as the analytic philosopher John Searle, who was a personal friend of Foucault, points out, this is not quite fair:
With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he’s so obscure. Every time you say, “He says so and so,” he always says, “You misunderstood me.” But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that’s not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking in French. And I said, “What the hell do you mean by that?” And he said, “He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying. That’s the obscurantism part. And then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part.” And I like that(Searle)
Well-known for her own obscurantism, Butler holds the dubious honor of winning a Bad Writing Contest in 1999, hosted by the journal Philosophy and Literature. Here is the sentence:
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
Can't argue with that!
6) Alexius Meinong - Meinong sought to develop an ontological account of objects. Fair enough. But among the kinds of objects for which he attempted to account, were so-called "non-existent objects." He articulated this position in terms of two principles:
1) The independence principle - The fact that an object has such-and-such properties has nothing to do with whether or not exists(Marek, 2013).
a) the characterization principle - Any object has the properties which it is characterized as having (presumably regardless of whether or not the object actually exists)(Marek, 2013)
b) the denial of the ontological assumption - Just because something does not exist does not mean that properties cannot be predicated of it(Marek, 2013).
2) The indifference principle - Objects are indifferent to being. Although non-being may be guaranteed by an object's nature, non-being does not itself constitute an object's nature(Marek, 2013).
5) David Lewis - David Lewis is famous for his defense of the existence of possible worlds. In his work "Counterfactuals", he argues:
I believe, and so do you, that things could have been different in countless ways. But what does this mean? Ordinary language permits the paraphrase: there are many ways things could have been besides the way they actually are. I believe that things could have been different in countless ways; I believe permissible paraphrases of what I believe; taking the paraphrase at its face value, I therefore believe in the existence of entities that might be called ‘ways things could have been.’ I prefer to call them ‘possible worlds.’ (1973a: 84)
Call me an actualist, but I was under the impression that nothing "actually" exists unless it...well...actually exists. Just because we use the language of possibility in ordinary speech does not mean that possibilia actually exist. It could just means that we are habitually subject to modal illusion(the specious attribution of actual reality to something that is merely possible).
4) Ludwig Wittgenstein - Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is perhaps most commonly (mis?)read according to a popular logical positivist interpretation, according to which it lays the groundwork for the aforementioned epistemology, coordinate with a logical atomist ontology. According to this view, the only kinds of statements are analytic a priori truths (tautologies, such as the laws of logic) and synthetic a posteriori statements (empirically verifiable facfts). But does this really do justice to what Wittgenstein was trying to do? Such a reading seems to gloss over important statements from the text itself:
My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)
He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly(6.54).
What's that, Wittgenstein? You want me to surmount your propositions?
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent(7).
Many suggest that Wittgenstein's aim was to present philosophy as a kind of therapy, according to which, as Wittgenstein himself puts it, philosophy is a kind of ladder to be thrown away after we climb it. According to such interpreters, therefore, Wittgenstein's Tractatus was not an attempt to lay a dogmatic ontology and essentialize an approach to epistemology at all.
The later Wittgenstein is more interesting yet, though for all that, no less weird. In his "Philosophical Investigations", he denies that language refers to an external world, and instead argues that language is to be understood instead in terms of its coherence and use within a "language-game." This language-game serves the purpose of making sense of a form of life. The aim of the Investigations thus ends up addressing much more immediate, existential concerns, though in a way that is quite...well...weird.
3) Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer - Influenced by the idealism of Kant and Schopenhauer, Brouwer developed a school of thought within the philosophy of mathematics known as intuitionism, according to which no mathematical truth exists outside of the mind. He ended up denying the validity of the Law of Excluded Middle, according to which all logical propositions are either true or false, but not both.
Brouwer characterized mathematics primarily as the free activity of exact thinking, an activity which is founded on the pure intuition of (inner) time. No independent realm of objects and no language play a fundamental role. He thus strived to avoid the Scylla of platonism (with its epistemological problems) and the Charybdis of formalism (with its poverty of content). As, on Brouwer's view, there is no determinant of mathematical truth outside the activity of thinking, a proposition only becomes true when the subject has experienced its truth (by having carried out an appropriate mental construction); similarly, a proposition only becomes false when the subject has experienced its falsehood (by realizing that an appropriate mental construction is not possible). Hence Brouwer can claim that “there are no non-experienced truths” (Brouwer, 1975, p.488)(van Atten, 2011).
2) Franz Xaver von Baader - A Roman Catholic mystic, theologian and philosopher. According to Baader, humankind was initially androgynous and without distinct biological sex:
"The Androgyne is the harmonious fusion of the sexes, resulting in a certain asexuality, a synthesis which creates an entirely new being, and which does not merely juxtapose the two sexes 'in an enflamed opposition' as the hermaphrodite does."
For Baader, sexual intercourse consisted in each of the sexes mutually pointing towards their original, androgynous state by which they have been alienated because of sin:
"The secret and the sacrament of true love in the indissoluble bond of the two lovers, consists in each helping the other, each in himself, towards the restoration of the androgyne, the pure and whole humanity."
Baader believed that mankind would return to its primordial androgyny following the return of Christ, whose sacrifice made such an ultimate dissolution of biological sex possible.
1) Giovanni Gentile - Described by the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce as one who held "...the honor of having been the most rigorous neo–Hegelian in the entire history of Western philosophy and the dishonor of having been the official philosopher of Fascism in Italy", Gentile was a neo-Hegelian idealist who proclaimed himself as "The Philosopher of Fascism." Mussolini himself likewise christened Gentile with such a title.
His philosophical basis for fascism was rooted in his understanding of ontology and epistemology, in which he found vindication for the rejection of individualism, acceptance of collectivism, with the state as the ultimate location of authority and loyalty to which the individual found in the conception of individuality no meaning outside of the state (which in turn justified totalitarianism)(medlibrary.org).
He was shot to death by a group of angry anti-fascists led by Bruno Fanciullacci, on his way bed from the Prefecture in Florence, where he had been arguing for the release of fascist intellectuals. His neo-Hegelianism was described as "Actual Idealism" or "absolute immanentism":
Therefore Gentile proposed a form of what he called 'absolute Immanentism' in which the divine was the present conception of reality in the totality of one's individual thinking as an evolving, growing and dynamic process. Many times accused of solipsism, Gentile maintained his philosophy to be a Humanism that sensed the possibility of nothing beyond what was colligate in perception; the self's human thinking, in order to communicate as immanence is to be human like oneself, made a cohesive empathy of the self-same, without an external division, and therefore not modeled as objects to one's own thinking(medlibrary.org).
Hansen, Jennifer, "Continental Feminism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/femapproach-continent....
Counterfactuals, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers and Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973, Reprinted with revisions, 1986.
Marek, Johann, "Alexius Meinong", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/meinong/>.
van Atten, Mark, "Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/brouwer/>.