Here I do not mean philosophy as its original ancient greek meaning, love of the wisdom. What I mean is a person who establishes the central ideas of some movement, cult, etc.

If the answer is yes, what philosophers are similar to him? Michel Foucalt and Slavoj Zizek come to my mind. Am I right? Are there others?

In particular, I am interested in this text: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rpt9v3

A quote:

First, recall that states are systems through which coercive force flows. Factions within a state may compete for support, leading to democratic surface phenomena, but the underpinnings of states are the systematic application, and avoidance, of violence. Land ownership, property, rents, dividends, taxation, court fines, censorship, copyrights and trademarks are all enforced by the threatened application of state violence.

Most of the time we are not even aware of how close to violence we are, because we all grant concessions to avoid it. Like sailors smelling the breeze, we rarely contemplate how our surface world is propped up from below by darkness.

In the new space of the internet what would be the mediator of coercive force?

Is it similar to something that you have already read?

A related question about being a philosopher is: Is everyone considered a "philosopher"?

  • 1
    I don't know enough about Assange to post an answer, but the 'great' philosophers tend to be known for taking their ideas to their logical conclusions—or at least doing a much better job of this than many people. They are also known for representing their opponents' arguments as best they can—to fail this today is to guarantee you won't make it into a top-tier philosophy journal.
    – labreuer
    Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 19:29

1 Answer 1


Terms like "philosopher" can be used in a descriptive sense, or an evaluative sense, and once you make clear which sense you mean, the remaining questions are rather more particular, and not well-contained enough for a forum like this one.

  • The descriptive sense of "philosopher" usually refers to someone's relationship to the institution of professional philosophy. Does the person in question have an academic position in a Department of Philosophy (or similar) or an advanced degree in philosophy from a recognized university? Has he/she published articles in the journals of the philosophical profession, or written books published as philosophy? Or, unusually, are that person's ideas discussed so often in the profession that they are recognizably part of it (like the ideas of Socrates)? If the answers to some of these is "yes," that person is a philosopher in this sense.

  • The evaluative sense of "philosopher" suggests that the person in question is to some degree a good philosopher or accomplished at philosophy. This is independent of whether one is a philosopher professionally or otherwise in the first sense. Charles Schultz's character Snoopy could be a philosopher in that he offers philosophical ideas occasionally. I leave it to you whether he is a good one. Similarly, I could call myself a "magician" in that I know one card trick, which I perform badly, but in the evaluative sense, this would be quite a stretch. It's not really true, by virtue of being barely so. However, if I were very good at magic tricks, then you might recognize that by calling me a magician, regardless of my relationship to the institution or profession of professional magicians.

The term "political philosopher" works the same way. And Assange, for his part, studied a little philosophy as an undergraduate at Melbourne, and so doesn't meet the first definition. So your question thus becomes evaluative: Does he advance thoughtful and compelling enough arguments about political philosophy that he deserves the merit-term? The answer to that turns on considering quite a lot more evidence than you've included.

To answer your particular question about what philosophers offer arguments about coercion, and the state as coercive, you might start with philosopher Robert Nozick.

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    Ho, ho. Not so fast. "Once sworn to the Oath, one is considered a magician[.]" Wikipedia :)
    – user3164
    Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 22:19
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    Ha. So, nice example of an institution with a very low bar! "Artist" works as another example. Unless you whip out your art club membership card ... Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 23:20

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