Who is the most brilliant philosopher of all time?
It’s a question that forces us to try to answer what can’t be answered. This can be a healthy exercise if we look beyond the unhealthy part—ranking everything, which is so popular today. Still, we can begin with what makes a philosopher brilliant: his or her capacity to think. This is what makes me see, notice, and become aware of things that I can only perceive with their help. Their brilliance lies in the fact that the only true form of creation is the act of thinking. Those closest to my mind, I find, are Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, but, without doubt, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze is the one I have found to be the most brilliant. He is original in an extremely creative, yet compassionate and caring way. He is ethical without being normative—which I’ll get back to later.
Unlike most thinkers in the French post-World War II period, he didn’t return to Heidegger but, instead, dealt with Hume and Bergson, as well as Nietzsche and Spinoza. However, what makes him most interesting, among other things, is that he operates within a metaphysic of change or becoming, whereby he avoids the question of being that typically breaks the flow of our thoughts. Becoming is liberating since it resists the existing ideals and norms—or, at least, it doesn’t stop with them—and it is liberating because it dares to imagine another future. Deleuze resists this quagmire because he challenges how we tend to see thing, including challenging the history of philosophy. He even reads Nietzsche and the novelist Proust in a new way.
Deleuze is also ethical because of his utopian philosophy, in which utopia isn’t a good place that is inexistent but rather a now-here place. By paying attention to what happens now, he can decide what to actualize, that is, what to pass on to the next generation. He never settles, which to some can seem stressful and strenuous, but the point is that he can go on thinking. He frees what is kept imprisoned, for example, rigid identities or ideologies and ways of assuming how things are. In his book on Nietzsche, Deleuze writes, “The world is neither true nor real but living.” He then goes on to say that the living world is the will to power, which he translates into a will to create, that is, a will to evaluate, decipher, explicate, and, in short, to think.
The question was originally posed here.
See also Who Killed Gilles Deleuze?