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.