[ExI] living philosphers of import

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun May 12 17:47:31 UTC 2013

On 12/05/2013 12:44, Gordon wrote:
> Someone online just a moment ago asserted that most people in that 
> forum could probably not name an any important living philosophers. I 
> know of several and named them.
> I thought it would be interesting to ask this same question of my 
> friends here on ExI. Who are the most important living philosophers? 
> And why?

Hmm, take my comments with a grain of salt, since I am actually embedded 
in the field and know them (bias galore). Plus, to some extent, this 
will of course be philosophers I like:

Derek Parfit - I am not too up to date with his recent moral philosophy 
work, but I think he has been seminal for a more relaxed concept of 
personal identity. He also made important contributions to thinking 
about rationality, existential risk and the value of the future.

David Chalmers - I can honestly not say much about his actual 
philosophical contributions, but I do think he is crucial 
sociologically. He turned consciousness studies into a subject of 
interdisciplinary scientific study, and currently is turning singularity 
studies into something regarded as worthy of proper consideration - even 
the people who think it is bunk now have to try to respond to his 
arguments with reason.

Nick Bostrom - Important because he has been the first widely recognized 
philosopher to explain and argue in favour of transhumanism, because he 
really showed the moral priority of existential risk, and because of him 
partially starting the school of crucial consideration-focused 
scientifically informed philosophy (and not just because he is my boss ;-)

Peter Singer - Most famous for his animal rights work, but generally the 
big consequentialist today. His work on poverty and our moral 
obligations is very influential. The efficient altruism community owes 
much to him (and to some extent Nick).

Julian Savulescu - Important because of his position in the core of the 
network of pro-enhancement bioethicists. Can't make up my mind about his 
moral enhancement work, but as we learn more about the neurobiology of 
decision-making and social cognition it is going to be really important.

Eliezer Yudkowsky - Yes, I regard him as a proper philosopher despite 
lacking any formal academic standing (the famous greek beards also 
started out as opionated people who talked with their followers; they 
built academies in the end, not at the start). Maybe most important 
because he was the first to dig into the AI risk problem, state the 
friendly AI problem, and show that it was *hard*. Also, by starting the 
rationality community he might have set off a very important 
social/intellectual movement.

Some other people who come to mind: David Deutsch (quantum computing, 
maybe constructor theory), John Broome, Gregory Chaitin (he is at least 
listed on Wikipedia as a 21st century philosopher), Peter Sloterdijk, 
Thomas Pogge, Toby Ord, Allen Buchanan...

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University

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