To my mind philosophy can be divided into a chart. Let us plot understanding on the x-axis and plot frequency of being spoken about decreasingly on the y-axis. In just this way can philosophy be spoken about.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 15.53.25

In the bottom left we have that philosophy about which the world and his wife have some view. This is because it is “accessible” philosophy and tends to have some very catch lines affiliated with it. Into this category let us put Communism. Most people seem to be able to grasp “from each according to his ability to each according to his need”. Another nice example is Utilitarianism. Apart from the irritating fact that this splits into two camps, the first Utilitarianism (Act) is very easy to grasp: let us maximise pleasure (of any sort). Things are good in so far as they generate more pleasure than pain and its easy to rank the extent to which things are good because they create more pleasure. Easy and everyone can see an immediate flaw in the argument of bad intentions and good outcomes. Doesn’t exist on many philosophical levels, so happy days: easy philosophy for the common man.

Move up the y axis and you reach I can only describe as “uninteresting” philosophy. It is remains as easy to grasp, but just does not capture public interest. I think someone like John Stuart Mill falls into this category. His great work “On Liberty” is the cornerstone of free speech in this great nation, but nobody knows his name. I wish to point out here that everyone knows Karl Mark and the closest we have come to him in Britain is Jeremy Corbyn – and I am not just referring to the beard. On Liberty puts forward this very easy idea: allow freedom of expression because that is how ideas develop. If someone had suppressed the Wright Brothers, when would we have discovered the possibilities of flight: for how many centuries was Da Vinci’s helicopter design lost because he was perceived a lunatic!? But it is not as exciting as interesting as Marx and there are no really good lines.

Back down the ‘y’ and across the ‘x’ and we reach “pretentious” philosophy. This is philosophy that brings the peacocks to the table. This category tends to be on everyone’s radar because of a trite quotation or expression: “Cogito urgo sum”. Descartes is the epitome of pretentious philosophy. People love to speak about it because, at a basic level its just an assertion that we are here. But Descartes is certainly not a circle that you want to jump into: cue the person who knows a bit about Descartes: “what do you think of the cartesian circle?” All of a sudden we reach challenging philosophy territory, is this an ontological question, epistemological, or is the ontology founded on an epistemological assertion such as knowing I am here instantiating that I am here. It already sounds pretentious the minute you leave normal language behind. It arguably starts that way since the chump that kicked the invigorating Descartes chat off began in Latin.

Then we reach it, top of “y” far right of “x”. We arrive at the Germans. To be honest you can pick whoever you want, it will be wholly inaccessible. From the Heaglian dialectic, to Kantian ethics, from Nietzsche’s nihilism to Schopenhauer’s aestheticism; none of them come close to Wittgenstein! At undergraduate degree level philosophy one studies peoples’ interpretations of Wittgenstein! His prolific work the “Tractatus” often gets referred to as the Language-games text. My best assimilation of sources is that he challenges the existence of language as a real thing and asserts that language has no fixed basis, its best described as a game we are accustomed to playing and know the rules of. When Wittgenstein finished the Tractates, his tutor came to him and commended him for his great work, W. replied to Bertram Russell – that it would be a shame he could not understand it. Philosophy so impenetrable that one of history’s greatest philosophical minds is seen as incapable of understanding it. That about says it all!?

Its difficult to know what catharsis to reach having berated all forms of thought. But I hope that I am an accessible, if somewhat uninteresting and pretentious German.