The Most Disruptive Philosophical Idea

The Most Disruptive Philosophical Idea


On the occasion of its 85th anniversary, Businessweek put together a list of the 85 “most disruptive” ideas during the past 85 years. Containing some predictable entries like the birth-control pill and email, as well as some odd ones such as kitty litter and name-brand jeans, the list offers not one philosophical idea. It is, of course, a business magazine; no surprise, then.

So let’s imagine a philosophy version with a little more time to work with, and ask, what is the most disruptive philosophical idea of the past 200 years? Try to keep your nominations and explanations (if needed) short — say, no more than  three sentences. If we get enough entries perhaps we’ll run a poll and decide, decisively and scientifically, what the most disruptive philosophical idea of the past 200 years has been.

(art: detail of Tor by David Schnell)

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Peter Sjöstedt-H
6 years ago

Hume’s is-ought gapReport

Adam Omelianchuk
Adam Omelianchuk
6 years ago

The Gettier problem.Report

Niklas Rydberg
Niklas Rydberg
6 years ago

Poppererian falsificationReport

Rob
Rob
6 years ago

The Übermensch.Report

Peter Sjöstedt-H
6 years ago

(Well last 300 years!)Report

DC
DC
6 years ago

Natural selection.Report

Peter Sjöstedt-H
6 years ago

God is DeadReport

alethia. m
alethia. m
6 years ago

Wittgenstein.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

It’s taking a long time to fully arrive, but when it does, moral incompatibilism.Report

SM
SM
6 years ago

“[T]he list offers not one philosophical idea.”

Is it possible this is a sign that the last 85 years’ mainstream philosophical inquiry has been too remote from our culture’s concerns, or perhaps too conservative in orientation? If Socrates taught us anything, it’s to disrupt our culture, and yet much of what we do and have done is either irrelevant or anything but disruptive.Report

Eddy Nahmias
6 years ago

I presume Marxism would have made the business list if they’d included a longer timeline. He’s an obvious choice for any list with disruptive in the title!
I’d put Rawls on there.
And Naturalism (as a trend going back farther than 200 years but rejuvenated by Darwin and developed by a long line of philosophers of mind and science, such as Dennett).Report

anonymous prof
anonymous prof
6 years ago

The Begriffsschrift!!

Also…
the downfall of the analytic/synthetic distinction
the necessary a posteriori
semantic externalism
logical positivism (not all disruptive ideas are good ideas)Report

Brock
Brock
6 years ago

“To be is to be the value of a variable.”Report

Chris D
Chris D
6 years ago

Paradigm shifts.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Disruptive within philosophy or in the world at large? The nominations so far seem to presuppose one or the other.Report

Richard Zach
6 years ago

Modern Logic
CommunismReport

anon
anon
6 years ago

Neurophilosophy and mind/brain identity (Patricia Churchland).Report

Zara
Zara
6 years ago

In Philosophy: Russell’s Paradox, The Indeterminacy of Translation (these wouldn’t be #1, but they’re in the top 50)
At large: the equality of women and men, the equality of humans regardless of “race”, the idea of multiple gendersReport

Zara
Zara
6 years ago

I should also add animal liberation.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

A 200-year time horizon makes the philosophy/science boundary a bit vague. But if we construe philosophy broadly enough, I’d have thought evolution by natural selection wins by an overwhelming margin (and is a pretty good candidate for most disruptive idea ever).Report

Carlos
6 years ago

I’d also add the Duhem-Quine thesis, the exploration of indeterminism, and development of antirealism in various contexts.Report

adam
adam
6 years ago

Turing machines and speech acts. OK Turing machines were originally a mathematical notion, but close….Report

Alessandro
Alessandro
6 years ago

Predicate logic.Report

Aldo Antonelli
6 years ago

The Church-Turing thesis and Turing’s analysis of the notion of computationReport

Anon faculty
6 years ago

Nietzsche on genealogy
Alienation (in Marx and others)
IdeologyReport

MA Student
MA Student
6 years ago

Given what the Duhem-Quine thesis did to logical positivism/logical empiricism, and how strong a program positivism had been, it certainly should rank among the most disruptive of philosophical ideas. It did, after all, literally disrupt a whole philosophical program.Report

Eric Winsberg
6 years ago

If we are being liberal about the science/philosophy boundary, then these are my vote for the top 6, in order:
Evolution by natural selection
Communism
Racial Hygiene etc (disruption needn’t be good, right?)
Relativity of Simultaneity,
Entanglement
Diagonalization (Russell’s paradox is just a version of this, of course, so its funny to put it there by itself)Report

Matthew J. Brown
6 years ago

John Dewey’s idea, taken to an extreme by Richard Rorty, than many philosophical problems are not universal but rather products of our particular choice of concepts, and that rather than solve such problems we must just get over them.Report

Anon Grad
Anon Grad
6 years ago

The idea that women are persons. In political philosophy, at least, we are just beginning to grapple with what that means for the just and fair organization of social life. This idea also has tremendous implications for what knowledge gets produced and how in settings like the academy. But perhaps this idea should not win this contest because the disruption is just getting started.Report

Nathan
Nathan
6 years ago

Quine’s ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ and the groundwork it lay for his subsequent work on a naturalised take on language.

Also:
Hume’s problem of induction; and Hume’s Treatise more generally
Frege’s contributions to language leading to Russell’s
Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’ (only joking)Report

Ryan Carmody
Ryan Carmody
6 years ago

Mind/Brain identity.
The illusion of transparent access to mental processes.Report

soup
soup
6 years ago

existentialism
feminism
marxism
positivism
incompleteness of arithmetic
semantic externalism
wittgensteinian quietism
utilitarianism
randian politicsReport

ABC
ABC
6 years ago

Goodman’s grue “paradox” should be a candidate.Report

Roberta Millstein
6 years ago

Lots of good ones on this list, which I won’t repeat (instead I just gave thumbs up). I’d add the Ghiselin/Hull individuality thesis, which not only spawned a huge literature in phil bio but also put the nail in the coffin (or should have) of the idea that species are classes.Report

Charlie
Charlie
6 years ago

MacIntyre’s thesis that the Enlightenment has failed, though most haven’t realized it yet, and we are all flailing about in the ruins of post-liberialism.Report

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

A few possible candidates from the 20th Century:
Semantic externalism/Putnam’s Twin Earth example.
The relationship between meaning and use (summarized in LW’s too often quoted PI 43)
I’m not sure how to phrase it but Moore’s argument in ch 1 of Principia Ethica and the following acceptance by many that moral (and aesthetic values) cannot be derived from statement’s of fact
Modal Realism
Modal Logic particularly S5Report

Alan White
Alan White
6 years ago

I like many of these, especially David Wallace’s vote for evolution.

Though the formalization of logic is mentioned, within that response I would nominate in terms of disruption competing analyses of conditionals, including of course modals.Report

Matt Weiner
6 years ago

Grice’s notion of conversational implicature (in particular its effect on attempts to read meaning straightforwardly from use)
Moore’s proof of the external world

In response to [email protected]; I would say that it’s not such a shame for philosophy if none of our ideas appear on this particular list of disruptive ideas; it’s inevitably business-centric and a pernicious and obnoxious bit of jargon in any case. It seems to reduce feminism to a product (the birth control pill) and a legal decision affecting business (about sexual harassment), and is the civil rights movement in there at all except in relation to the Southern Strategy? In any case there is one piece of philosophy on there, Milton Friedman’s attack on the social responsibility of corporations, though it’s a really bad piece of philosophy and I would question how disruptive it really was (surely corporations didn’t need Friedman to tell them to abandon their social responsibilities).Report

Aaron Garrett
Aaron Garrett
6 years ago

Olympe De Gouges Declaration of the Rights of Women, which was one of the causes of her being guillotined — https://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/293/
Bentham’s various arguments that all pleasure seekers and pain avoiders have moral standing
Hume on causationReport

Charles Malone
Charles Malone
6 years ago

Most Disruptive Philosophical Thought
“6. The true world — we have abolished. What world has remained? The apparent one perhaps? But no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one.” Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols. What, now becomes the task of philosophy? ‘Nuff said!Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Heidegger’s existential analytic of Dasein.Report

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

I would (gently) suggest that this is not really “MacIntyre’s” thesis, so described. I think that a great many philosophers of the 20th century, particularly the post-Nietzscheans, would have found it almost obvious.Report

Memento
Memento
6 years ago

Nietzsche is dead, but God is still alive.Report

Bob
Bob
6 years ago

Solipsism –Report

Bob
Bob
6 years ago

American exceptionalism and Rawl’s “A Theory of Justice”
– $18 trillion dollars of debt.Report

Koray
Koray
6 years ago

¨matter¨ being an idea, and Berkeley’s dismissal of material substanceReport

Anne Jacobson
Anne Jacobson
6 years ago

Austin on speech acts – its been picked it up by lots of people outside of philosophy..Report