Top 10 Strangest Philosophies

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Despite many believing philosophy is a “useless major” or a “waste of time,” it’s definitely a great way to boggle your mind by your own doing. It’s one thing to be confused by someone else, and a completely different feeling to confuse your own self. Who doesn’t enjoy perplexing themselves to no end, or thinking so hard your head literally hurts? Count me in.



I’m no philosopher, nor a philosophy major, but I can say in my time of reading works by some of the most famous philosophers to even some of the lesser known ones, and from browsing random books and websites, I’ve run across some extremely odd theories. Some of them make some sort of sense, while others completely go over my head. Of course, they do all make sense when looking at society and views of life during that time. As the great Cicero once said, “There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.” Here is a list of 10 philosophies that are just pure strange.

10. Idealism

aristotle

Idealist theory says that there are no foundational beliefs. Instead, our beliefs exist in a system of interconnected perceptions. With this theory, you can ultimately conclude that no one belief is more important than the next. In the end, this theory is extremely circular. If a certain belief is true because it coheres or fits with others, then what do they cohere with? Sadly, there is no answer. In the end you’re stuck in an infinite regression.

9. Innatism (Innate ideas)

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Innatism states that the mind is born and already loaded with ideas as well as knowledge. This view was created in order to disprove John Locke’s idea of the human mind being a “tabula rasa” that is eventually filled throughout life with experience. The theory holds that the we already known simple mathematical truths, such as 2+2=4 and the truths about God. But, if this theory is true, why do humans have a hard time adding up larger numbers? (ie. 1359+3515) And, if we have these innate ideas, why doesn’t everyone believe in the religious truths? And how do we know we learned something? Could it be that we just remembered it?

8. Animism

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The Wish Tree on Calton Hill, Scotland, viewed on Beltane Eve (April 30). A wish tree is a modern practice based on the animism practised by early pagan peoples of Europe such as the Celts and Anglo-Saxons.

Animism states that when looking at souls and spirits, the two not only exist in humans and animals, but they also exist in things such as rocks, plants, thunder, mountains, and other objects. Many argue that animism is only used in cultures where religion and society aren’t as built-upon science and math. Many critics explain that the philosophy of animism is only used to provide answers to unknown questions. I can’t believe the rock I run over on an unpaved road has a soul.

7. Logical atomism

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Popularized by Bertrand Russell, the theory states that world consists of logical “facts” (aka “atoms”) that cannot be broken down any further. It also states that all truths are dependent upon a layer of atomic facts. Therefore, the theory asserts that language mirrors reality. This is just one philosophy that I don’t understand. In the end it says that the world is just made up of facts that are extremely simple and easy to comprehend.

6. Deconstructionism

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Given the name by Jacques Derrida, the theory states that there is no one meaning when observing a piece of text. Instead, a text has several different meanings. The theory also states that when given a piece of literature, the reader ultimately decides what the meaning is, not the text in the book. I used to find deconstruction pretty valid, but in a sense, it does make literature meaningless. If you reduce and reduce the meaning of something so much, it in the end has no purpose. And if we always determine the meaning of something, how can anyone ever have a misunderstanding? You can just simply say no, that is my interpretation of what you said.



5. Phenomenalism

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Phenomenalism states that physical objects do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena. Meaning, we can’t know anything is real beyond what we perceive and verify. Despite how neat it sounds, phenomenalism has its issues. What do we consider “verified?” And what about math? Math surely is real and it doesn’t require sensory perception.

4. Ethical egoism

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Ethical egoism states that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. Basically, it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be morally right that it is able to maximize one’s self-interest. This means that we only act on certain morals and actions because of our own self-interest and that these actions are right. The theory would basically support that stealing money is right, as it feeds our self-interest and brings a higher reward.

3. Moral absolutism

Pope

In my mind, nothing is absolute, so moral absolutism just doesn’t work for me. The theory holds that there are absolute rights and wrongs, no matter the context of the act. This brings up one of the more popular philosophical questions; is it okay to lie for a greater good? Let’s say you tell a lie to save a life. Is that morally wrong because lying is seen as wrong? Who knows, it never ends. Then you start wondering if morals are even real. photo by Michael Guerreiro

2. Neutral monism

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Neutral monism says that the mental and the physical are not two fundamentally different things. Instead, the view holds that the body and the mind are made up of the same material, which isn’t mental or physical. Only problem I see with this theory is that it is entirely mental. Is it not? The theory assumes that the mind is “real” and relies heavily on mental ability. And…do we experience outside of our minds? Perception? Sensation? Where do they fit in? photo by hyg-27

1.  Solipsism

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Comic from Toothpaste for Dinner

I’d have to say that solipsism is what made me want to write this list. By dictionary definition, solipsism is a philosophical theory that states that a person can know nothing but that he/she exists, and that the self is the only existent thing. In common words, solipsism expresses that you believe you are the only real thing. Talk about extremely egocentrism. I think I’ll start a solipsism club!

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61 Comments

  1. This is a very interesting article and I’m glad I came across it.
    Having majored in philosophy in college, I have come across many of these ideas at one time or another, only not by those names; I’m guessing that they were renamed at a subsequent time to the respective philosophers’ proposing of the ideas. I respect your opinion, but I think that you think some of them are strange because you do not fully understand them; some others are strange because they lack necessary premises in order to make them valid. This note will be entirely too long if I give examples to every one of them and I am having some trouble typing this, so I’ll just give a few examples.
    Solipsism, as you call it, reminds me of something René Descartes wrote. He pondered how he knows if reality, as we perceive it, really exists. Like if you had a dream, let’s say, and while you are dreaming, you honestly believe that what is happening is real (as surreal as it may be in comparison to what we believe to be real in the conscious world). You only realize that it was a dream when you wake up. So how do we know that our experiences are not part of some kind of altered state of mind and are not reality? Descartes concluded that we don’t know, because we can’t prove it isn’t. Makes sense. But he knows that at least he exists, because he is able to think (not only of such things, butjust think). Does it make sense now?
    Moral absolutism sounds quite familiar with me, but not by that name. The name escapes me at the moment, but I don’t really see the point in looking it up. Some morals are absolute, I think, like it’s wrong to do bad things and good to do good things. What is considered bad or good is determined by different societies under the theory of ethical relativism (an idea which asserts that ethics are relative to different societies, but is not the converse of moral absolutism). But I digress. I think moral absolutism is perfectly fine, if you confine it within it’s bounds.
    Ethical egoism would sound monstrous if put next to a picture of Hitler, but it is not as bad as you may think. I am going on long enough with simple, but possibly complicated looking explanations, so I will use a few words in an example. Capitalism is based on moral egoism, everyone acts according to what benefits themselves and the society as a whole will flourish. It is fundamentally flawed, yes, but it’s not as bad as you’re trying to make it out to be.
    About phenomenalism, the idea sounds familiar, but I’m afraid that you do not understand it. It’s not referring to mathematical facts, as those are known as empirical facts. I wish I could elaborate further, but I’m not even sure why you don’t understand it.
    As for Bertrand Russell, I wouldn’t put much into his theories, as he tended to be oversimplistic, coming to simple conclusions based on faulty logic. Eg he avowed that God did not exist. His reason? Because he’s never heard of an argument that’s definitely proved God’s existence to him, so therefore he believes that God does not exist. How’s that?
    Animism sounds like what the early Greek philosophers believed in, when they subscribed to the Forms theory. The native Americans had a similar theory too. We come from a different line of thought regarding this, you and me. But great minds subscribed to this idea, so I wouldn’t be so quick to presume I’m right and they’re wrong, or especially poo poo it, as you did.

    • Washington Irving on

      The lack of an absolute truth is not itself an absolute truth. Unicorn’s aren’t nonexistent because there’s a law of nature that makes them so, it’s because they just don’t exist. So far we haven’t dug up an ‘Absolute truth’ from under a rock… therefore as far as we know they are just manifestations of the mind.

      • When you say there are no absolutes (or claim a “lack” of absolutes) then is your statement absolutely true? If you say no then you contradict yourself. If you say yes then you contradict yourself. So is there absolute truth or isn’t there?

        • Washington Irving on

          Firstly, and most importantly, what is a truth? How do you know that what you consider a truth also exists as such for every other individual, creature, or particle of matter throughout the universe?
          And I get really frustrated at this “the claim there is no absolute truth is an absolute truth” argument because it’s derived from a very Western either-or dualistic thinking process; the universe doesn’t work in terms of ultimatums. If you read into certain theories in quantum mechanics most of the things we consider scientific ‘absolute truths’ go out the window. I can relate it to morality as well- just because I can argue that something isn’t inherently good doesn’t mean I’m saying it’s inherently bad. I’m saying i just is and the rest is a conclusions your mind reaches based on its own perceptions.
          I can’t say my explanation is absolutely true as there’s some form of reality which exists that we all perceive and live within… but our senses and minds are not able to grasp the whole, we only know what our senses pick up what out of that our brains are able to process. That’s not nearly enough to able to say “X is an absolute.”

  2. Nice list, I see you adhere to the ever so popular strawman philosophy. I mean come on dude. I don’t agree with most of these ideas but at least provide some kind of argumentation as to why they don’t work or why they are weird that isn’t obviously fallacious. If you don’t understand something, that’s cool. There is a lot about this world I don’t understand. But don’t go around making lists and spreading ignorance and poor reasoning skills to the public. I wouldn’t make a list about the top ten strangest plants because my knowledge of vegetation is limited at best. I would highly suggest taking an introduction to philosophy class of some kind.

  3. I would have liked this article even more if you had gone into more depth on each one. More honestly though, I’m just glad I clicked on something that made me think.

  4. The main point I got from this article is that you have no idea what any of these theories are trying to say. You don’t even have a grasp of the basic concepts behind the philosophies. Go do a little research, then you can write an article like this. Either that, or you could simply admit that some things are over your head.

  5. The author of this list shows little knowledge of the exposed matter, reducing the previous philosophies to childish levels and including his personal experiences in them –rather than building an objective analysis.

  6. Philosopher John on

    Neutral monism actually makes a lot of sense. Rather than thoughts creating brain chemistry or brain chemistry creating thoughts our thoughts are just a sensory experience we have (with our sense of “thought”) that in some way represents the chemical reactions, just like our sense of smell is indirectly a sense of the molecules coming into our nose.

    If this is the case then any chemicals being processed through the mind would be perceived as thoughts or be beyond our perception but still thoughts and perhaps perceptible to other beings just as some animals can smell things that we can’t. In that way every single molecule would be a thought or at least a component of it.

    This would also make animism real, although it may be the individual molecules or clusters of molecules in the rock that have souls rather than the rock itself.

  7. Empirical mind on

    You mixed a bit of religious ideals such as animism and on the other hand “pure sciense” like neutral monism which just pretty much states that there is no supernatural phenomena. I wouldn’t really categorize these as philosophies. By what we know today with science and fact logical atomism seems to hold true in a sense. Of course it states as well that everything can be deconstructed. The thing we do not know yet is that can whole be more than its parts?

  8. interesting list, though I’m not always keen on how it’s explained… just to name one : “ethical egoism” is explained in naive terms, and that picture doesn’t present at all what it means… ethical egoism can also mean for example to love and help people around u, just so it makes you feel better ::: help others => helping yourself => loving yourself => loving others, that’s one need you might want to accomplishe above others.

  9. Greg Aitchison on

    Moral absolutism is a strange philosophy?? Seriously???

    You can honestly say that torturing babies for no reason or raping women for fun is not morally wrong in all times, places, and cultures? Or that full-scale genocide of Jews is right for some people but wrong for others? That it all just depends on one’s own subjective opinion in the end?

    Good grief… Pope Benedict XVI may very well be right: The “dictatorship of relativism” is quite possibly the most dangerous philosophy of our time.

    Also, your example of lying is often used by those with little to no understanding of moral philosophy, specifically the three determinants that make an action either good or evil: the object of the action, the circumstances, and the intention. Of course it wouldn’t be wrong to lie in order to save an innocent person’s life. Your intentions would be pure and the circumstances would have forced you into making the best moral choice.

    Please do yourself a favor and either read through or listen to Peter Kreeft’s talk, “Refutation of Moral Relativism” (can be found at PeterKreeft(DOT)com or at the links below). He helps flip the lid on all the silly nonsense that western culture constantly spits about morality just being “different strokes for different folks”:

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/05_relativism.htm
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/05_relativism/relativism_transcription.htm

    Cheers,
    Greg