Peter A Goldsbury
Well, I would take issue with you about Quine, but this would cause too much thread drift. I know nothing about Hofstadter, except that he has written bestselling books. As has Dennett. When I was at Harvard in the mid 1970s, I took a course from Daniel Dennett, which was really a discussion of his first book. During the course, it became clear that he was not amenable to reasoned argument, so my respect for him diminished somewhat. By comparison John Rawls (A Theory of Justice) was an excellent teacher. His lectures and seminars were deathly, because he had a stutter. Harvard had 'pro-seminars', which in the case of Rawls meant three hours on Kant's ethical theory. But he supervised my thesis on Socrates and I found him a kind and caring teacher.
We will obviously have to discuss these and other issues when I come to the US.
Actually I wouldn't argue about Quine in terms of "correctness". There were many things with which I took exception. However, he certainly influenced a great number of people.
And having had the great pleasure of having had short discussions with Dennett on two occasions and having seen him speak, I would agree that he is quite, well, confident shall we say in his ideas. Not always the best property but I find myself doing the same sometimes.
I must admit for whatever reason I find Rawls difficult even on the written page. I remember reading Theory of Justice for a class and joking that I found reading Kant more involving. My colleagues thought I was insane, but for whatever reason I could never quite "get into sync" with Rawls even on the written page. He had interesting ideas and it was all good stuff, but something in my makeup simply made it difficult for me to process.
WRT this thread I would have to also comment that there are not many clear cut lines separating devoted groups from more "cult-like" groups. In some instances the subsequent behavior of a group (gassing a train line, mass suicides, violence against dissenting members, etc.) makes it quite clear that something singularly unhealthy was going on. But that sort of assessment is of the hindsight variety. And for a lot of years there was a lot of talk about "deprogramming" and the like that seemed themselves to suffer from some of the same problems they were trying to address. So there really is no agreed upon, clear cut set of criterion of any real value except for the obvious (performing terrorist acts, mass suicide, etc.).
That said, the "passion" and the concept of "complete" submission and/or sublimation of the will/ego many would find particularly disturbing. The OP may feel that such complete spiritual devotion is necessary for truly attaining some goals, however, I think most reasonable people would disagree. Or at least end up saying that if such extreme measures have to be taken that maybe it really isn't the road for them to be on. And I would think the OP would be fine with that point of view.
I *personally* find that spiritual growth is not an end to be pursued, but a by product of a life well-lived with awareness and authenticity. *How* one goes about that will vary. Of course some need more guidance than others, but guidance is quite difference from complete submission. My preference is walking the path *with* my teachers.