What Makes a Philosopher Great?: Thirteen Arguments for Twelve Philosophers

Stephen Hetherington

November 9, 2017 by Routledge
Reference - 272 Pages
ISBN 9781138936164 - CAT# Y204082

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  • Asks contemporary philosophers to justify the "greatness" of some highly influential thinkers in the history of philosophy, bringing philosophical rigor and questioning to bear upon the field’s history??
  • Written by some of the most active and respected researchers working in philosophy today, leading figures representing most areas of philosophy
  • Covers a wide range of leading figures in the history of philosophy, from Plato to Wittgenstein
  • Offers a novel way of doing meta-philosophy, providing a nice text for a capstone course for philosophy majors
  • Includes coverage of many of the major areas of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and logic.
  • Edited and introduced by a well-known and accomplished philosopher and experienced editor


This book is inspired by a single powerful question. What is it to be great as a philosopher? No single grand answer is presumed to be possible; instead, rewardingly close studies of philosophical greatness are developed. This is a scholarly yet accessible volume, blending metaphilosophy with the long history of philosophy and traversing centuries and continents. The result is a series of case studies by accomplished scholars, each chapter trying to understand and convey a particular philosopher’s greatness:

Lloyd P. Gerson on Plato

Karyn Lai on Zhuangzi

David Bronstein on Aristotle

Jonardon Ganeri on Buddhaghosa

Jeffrey Hause on Aquinas

Gary Hatfield on Descartes

Karen Detlefsen on du Châtelet

Don Garrett on Hume

Allen Wood on Kant (as a moral philosopher)

Nicholas F. Stang on Kant (as a metaphysician)

Ken Gemes on Nietzsche

Cheryl Misak on Peirce

David Macarthur on Wittgenstein

This also serves a larger philosophical purpose. Might we gain increased clarity about what philosophy is in the first place? After all, in practice we individuate philosophy partly through its greatest practitioners’ greatest contributions.

The book does not discuss every philosopher who has been regarded as great. The point is not to offer a definitive list of The Great Philosophers, but, rather, to learn something about what great philosophy is and might be, from illuminated examples of past greatness.


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