Monday, December 22, 2014

The heroes we have - Are Philosophers nicer people than Artists? (and what about gardeners?)

There is an area of interest in Philosophy about being authentic, in the 20th century the big names associated with this theme include the existentialists  Sartre and Heidegger.
A bonfire of the vanities

Of course this did not arrive unheralded in 1900 and  other philosophers including Kierkegaard  had identified this theme before

What I note looking particularly at Heidegger is that although by virtue of his work and his scholarly achievements he has few equals as a public person he seems to be a lamentable specimen .

Martin Heidegger was as a person, if the literature about him is to be believed  a provincial man who cast aside his friends and lovers for career and showed little sign of regret for his part in adding credibility to the Nazi establishment in Germany ahead of  and through World War II.

This has set  me to thinking about heroes we have - as a younger person I suppose I was almost automatically drawn to admire certain figures, for me Bobby Charlton or The Beatles rather than Napoleon, Macmillan  or Sir Walter Raleigh   at the time I put these people on pedestals,  there was less in the way of a revelatory culture at this time about the weakness of public figures and it's fair to say that more leeway is granted to popular music figures than a Prime-minister.

So it is in Philosophy as in other aspects of our life that when we choose to follow a school of thought or perspective on life we attach more than we should (emotionally and intellectually)  to the figures who champion it.
Would Roy Lichtenstein be amused? I'd like to think so.  

I suppose in fact in Philosophy one has so much more riding on the direction chosen - how can existentialism be so good if Nazi Heidegger was a proponent?

Much as in our lovers and friends we can admire quirks and idiosyncrasies that in others are severe flaws of character we should perhaps accept or look at as irrelevant to their work their own weaknesses (as perceived by us in our supposed perfection).

As I mature (or get older anyway) I'm still drawn to irrationally admire some figures only to find later that do have the customary feet of clay, be it Gandhi or Heidegger- well here's a list of traits that can be viewed in a positive or less positive way.

And I think artists like Picasso, Dali and Mondrian were probably just as flawed as a Sartre or a Nietzsche but the standards we hold them too are somewhat lower and at least they were generally less likely to be hypocrites. Sad top say too that the respect we have for a shop-worker is often  lower than that we may lavish on a President of Russia.

It might be that the 'virtues' we see -perhaps being single minded  are not always virtues - where's your hinterland? others might ask.

And of course we may wish to take the approach that much (or even all) of a person's personality  is down to Genetic inheritance or even Social conditioning - so although we take no blame for a poor action we can also take no credit  for a good one.

Well for me we can strive to take  the good bits of a person or their ideas and aggregating it with other admirable ideas and attitudes from others and become a better more rounded person this way rather than  slavishly trying to emulate another be it a person we know or a person (more accurately) that we think we know.
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