Thursday, June 13, 2019

Who is your favorite philosopher?

Cameron Bertuzzi at Capturing Christianity asks: who is your favorite philosopher?

Of course, one could name famous philosophers across the ages like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Peter Abelard, Leibniz, Descartes, Kant, Hume, Reid, Paley, Gosse, Nietzsche, Sartre, Wittgenstein.

Alternatively, one could name modern philosophers like Alvin Plantinga, Peter van Inwagen, Bas van Fraassen, Richard Swinburne, Tim and Lydia McGrew, David Chalmers, John Searle, Thomas Nagel, Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, Graham Oppy, John Haldane, Peter Geach, Elizabeth Anscombe, Bertrand Russell, Alasdair Macintyre, Charles Taylor, David Oderberg, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, William Dembski, Doug Groothuis, Win Corduan, Greg Welty, James Anderson, Paul Manata, Tim Hsiao.

Perhaps some might even consider a place for "philosophers" like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Francis Schaeffer, R.C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias, James Sire, Dallas Willard, Peter Kreeft, Ayn Rand.

However, I'd like to take a different tack and name a philosopher that seems woefully underappreciated today. My favorite philosopher is the ancient Chinese sage Sum Tin Wong. Wong founded an influential school of Eastern philosophy that may not be well-esteemed among contemporary professional philosophers but that has a wide following in many regions of the world. For example, consider the tremendous influence of Wong's disciples who played Mencius to his Confucius: He He, Ai Bang Mai Ni, and No Khi Ding. Not to mention Wong's school has left us with a plethora of wit and wisdom such as "May you live in interesting times", "Snowflake in avalanche never feel responsible", "Lucky numbers 60, 2, 2140, 857, 10, 23", and "About time I get out of this cookie". In addition, many Westerners have been indirectly influenced by Wong. Consider the likes of Yogi Berra, Charles Barkley, your local bartender, and the masterminds behind the NYT best-sellers The Shack and The Secret.

My deep and abiding hope is more professional analytic philosophers will take Sum Tin Wong and his school of philosophy at least as seriously as they take continental philosophy.


  1. Good choice. A lot of people aren't familiar with how influential Sum Tin Wong has been. Sum Tin Wong inspired Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue, Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and many other influential books. Also Jordan Peterson.

  2. I read the title and had a completely different take on it: if it can be said that everyone is a theologian, then it can also be said that everyone is a philosopher. I've never met anyone who didn't hold their own system of belief, however good or bad, at least at its core, to be the best one out there. Let me speak for everyone:

    "Anyone who knows less than me is an idiot. Anyone who knows more than me only knows esoteric and unimportant things and has a false sense of priority with regard to their knowledge. Anyone who agrees with me thinks rightly. Anyone who disagrees with me thinks wrongly."

    Now obviously there are those with significant levels of teachability who strive for a higher level of knowledge and understanding from those who already have that understanding. That's a noble quality. Teachability is the core sensibility for these folks for which they generally tolerate little variance from others. That is, they hold that those who aren't teachable are in some way substandard. Teachability (or at least a certain level of teachability) is therefore part of their uncompromising core.

    Selection of a favorite philosopher, therefore, is generally subjective as are all things that deal in preferences. I for one don't have a favorite philosopher. I like philosophers that make me think and challenge my beliefs, whether or not I agree with the philosopher at the end of the day. That in no way makes such a one my "favorite." Ultimately, my greatest desire for understanding is to know God according to his revelation. Any philosopher who helps achieve that goal is worthy of my attention, for that is a core priority of mine.