Responding to Morally Flawed Historical Philosophers and Philosophies

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology (2018)
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Abstract
Many historically-influential philosophers had profoundly wrong moral views or behaved very badly. Aristotle thought women were “deformed men” and that some people were slaves “by nature.” Descartes had disturbing views about non-human animals. Hume and Kant were racists. Hegel disparaged Africans. Nietzsche despised sick people. Mill condoned colonialism. Fanon was homophobic. Frege was anti-Semitic; Heidegger was a Nazi. Schopenhauer was sexist. Rousseau abandoned his children. Wittgenstein beat his young students. Unfortunately, these examples are just a start. These philosophers are famous for their intellectual accomplishments, yet they display serious moral or intellectual flaws in their beliefs or actions. At least, some of their views were false, ultimately unjustified and, perhaps, harmful. How should we respond to brilliant-but-flawed philosophers from the past? Here we explore the issues, asking questions and offering few answers. Any insights gained here might be applicable to contemporary imperfect philosophers, scholars in other fields, and people in general.
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