Here I address issues about criteria for ranking philosophers.
Here are some characteristics of some of the most important, interesting, influential, etc. philosophers in history. The more characteristics a philosopher has, the more likely the philosopher will have a higher ranking:
- Addressing matters of philosophical method, preferably including an explicit treatment of the subject of dialectic. Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, and Hegel are canonical instances. Rand, mostly via her student Peikoff in lecture courses, addresses method as centrally important subject matter. Marx addresses dialectic, although I would need to investigate further on his treatment of methodological issues generally.
- Addressing matters of what Aristotle and Kant call categories, conceptually fundamental means of organizing our thoughts about the world. Hegel is very big on this as well.
- Addressing matters in aesthetics. Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Rand are examples.
- (Relates to first bullet-point) Addressing matters of metaphilosophy, i.e., defining philosophy and its place or role in the theoretical sciences and human life generally. Authors who have "philosophy" in their book titles would be candidates. Examples of this last qualification include Boethius, Hegel, Dewey, Wittgenstein, Rand, Rorty, Nozick, and Deleuze & Guattari.
- (This would apply to more recent philosophers) Explicitly addressing the "meaning of life" subject at length. Examples include Nozick and Metz (and figures listed in Metz's bibliography).
- Addressing criteria for how to rank philosophers (heh heh) or teleological measurement generally
- Addressing and rigorously adhering to principles of interpretive charity or steelmanning opposing positions. Examples include Mill and Dennett.
- Leading an exemplary life (opinions about instances/examples vary)
- Expertise in non-philosophy fields is a plus - e.g., figures identifiable as polymaths (Aristotle, Leibniz), or contributors to the canon of economic theory (Smith and Mill; Marx's contribution to economic literacy is a matter of great controversy)
- [Addendum: Signs of a supposedly controversial because substantive philosophical thesis, position, or even tendency or temperament - the more explicit and self-conscious the better - of perfectionism, and (preferably) more specifically intellectual perfectionism. The leading figures here are Aristotle, Aquinas, and Rand, followed by Hegel and Nietzsche, then Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Marx, Bradley, T. H. Green, Norton, Den Uyl and Rasmussen, Hurka. Might a mapping of the intellectual landscape here aid most usefully in what I might term 'end of history'-ology (which would entail among other things a dialectical weighing and selecting partially or wholly from Kant's Kingdom of Ends, Nietzsche's Ubermensch, Hegel's Absolute Spirit (and/or end of history), Plato's Republic, etc.; the more (and more perfected) the intellectual and moral, and aesthetic attributes these notions point to that exist in a human being, the better, amiright?).]