Here is a thought that occurs to me from time to time, especially when I am particularly annoyed by the followers of certain thinkers, and many factions in politics.
It is typical to consider the content of doctrines in the abstract, and to argue for and against their rightness, justice, or pragmatism. Put these ways of judging them aside for the moment.
In the end, an important measure of the influence of any particular doctrine, anyone’s body of work, any set of ideas, can be taken in whether it has encouraged more tedious people on the Earth or fewer, and more interesting people or fewer, especially among those who espouse it.
More broadly—what has it made of them; what have they made of themselves with it?
Many grandiose-sounding doctrines breed lamentable and pathetic specimens. Other humble-sounding doctrines breed officious and arrogant specimens.
Finally, has a doctrine taught those who learned it—and those for whom it was meant—something they were able to use to become something more? Or have they even become something less?
Of course it is reasonable to ask and to wonder how much the thinker has been misunderstood by deficient followers. But one can also follow this by asking:
How do the living paragons of the doctrine of a thinker stand before the world? —remembering that the creator of a thing may not best deserve to represent it.