Great Philosophers in History

A list of 40 great philosophers and their ideas from ancient to contemporary times.
a data set by WorldExplorer
created January 9, 2017
PhilosopherPictureNationalityYear of BirthYear of DeathEraSchoolNotable IdeaNotable WorkQuote
ConfuciusChinese551 BC479 BCAncient PhilosophyConfucianismRen (benevolence or humaneness); Yi (righteousness); Li (proper rite); Zhi (knowledge); Xin (integrity)The Sayings of Confucius; Book of Rites; Book of Documents"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
ParmenidesGreek515 BCuncertainPre-Socratic PhilosophyEleatic SchoolThought and being are the same; The truth–appearance distinction On Nature; Parmenidis of Elea"We can speak and think only of what exists. And what exists is uncreated and imperishable for it is whole and unchanging and complete. It was not or nor shall be different since it is now, all at once, one and continuous."
MoziChinese470 BC391 BCAncient PhilosophyMohismJian Ai (impartial care); State consequentialism; Meritocratic government Mozi; The Book of Master Mo"All states in the world, large or small, are cities of Heaven, and all people, young or old, honourable or humble, are its subjects."
SocratesGreek469 BC399 BCAncient PhilosophyClassical GreekSocratic method; Socratic irony; I know that I know nothingThe Apology"An unexamined life is not worth living."
PlatoGreek428 BC348 BCAncient PhilosophyPlatonismTheory of Forms; Platonic idealism; Platonic realism; Plato's tripartite theory of soulThe Republic"Only the dead have seen the end of war."
AristotleGreek384 BC322 BCAncient PhilosophyPeripatetic School; AristotelianismGolden mean; Aristotelian logic; Syllogism; Hexis; Hylomorphism; Theory of the soulMetaphysics; Poetics; On the Soul"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
EpicurusGreek341 BC270 BCAncient PhilosophyEpicureanism "Moving" pleasures and "Static" pleasuresThe Art of Happiness"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."
Saint Augustine of HippoAlgerian354430Ancient PhilosophyChristian PhilosophyPredestination; Just war theoryConfessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine"Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe."
Avicenna Persian9801037Islamic Golden AgeIslamic Philosophy; AvicennismAvicennan metaphysics; Theory of the soulThe Book of Healing; The Canon of Medicine"The knowledge of anything, since all things have causes, is not acquired or complete unless it is known by its causes."
Thomas AquinasItalian12251274Medieval PhilosophyScholasticism; Thomism; Metaphysical Intellectualism; Medieval RealismFive waysSumma Theologica; Summa contra Gentiles"The things that we love tell us what we are."
Niccolo Machiavelli Italian14691527Renaissance PhilosophyRenaissance Humanism; Political Realism; Classical RepublicanismThe ends justify the means.The Prince; The Art of War"The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him."
John CalvinFrench15091564Renaissance PhilosophyChristian Philosophy; CalvinismPredestination; The absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation.Institutes of the Christian Religion; Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life"A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent."
Francis BaconBritish15611626Renaissance PhilosophyEmpiricismEverything is not as it appears.Essays; Novum Organum"Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man."
Thomas Hobbes British15881679Modern PhilosophySocial Contract Theory; Classical Realism; Empiricism; Determinism; Materialism; Ethical EgoismModern founder of the social contract tradition; Life in the state of nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short".Leviathan; De Cive"Leisure is the mother of philosophy."
René DescartesFrench15961650Modern PhilosophyRationalism; CartesianismCogito ergo sum; Method of doubt; Method of normals; Cartesian coordinate system; Cartesian dualismDiscourse on the Method; Principles of Philosophy; The World"It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well."
Blaise PascalFrench16231662Modern PhilosophyJansenism; Proto-ExistentialismPascal's Wager; Pascal's triangle; Pascal's law; Pascal's theoremPensées; Human Happiness"We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart."
John Locke British16321704Modern PhilosophyBritish Empiricism; Social Contract Theory; Natural LawTabula rasa; "Government with the consent of the governed"; State of nature; Rights of life; Liberty; PropertyTwo Treatises of Government; An Essay Concerning Human Understanding"All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions."
Gottfried Leibniz German16461716Modern PhilosophyRationalismCalculus; Monads; Best of all possible worldMonadology; Discourse on Metaphysics"Every present state of a simple substance is the natural consequence of its preceding state, in such a way that its present is big with its future."
Voltaire French16941778Modern PhilosophyLiberalism Freedom of religion; Freedom of speech; Separation of church and stateCandide; Dictionnaire Philosophique "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."
David HumeBritish17111776Modern PhilosophyScottish Enlightenment; Naturalism; Skepticism; Empiricism; Sentimentalism; LiberalismProblem of causation; Induction; Bundle theory; Association of ideas; Is–ought problem; Utility; Science of manA Treatise of Human Nature; An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals"Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them."
Jean-Jacques RousseauSwiss - French17121778Modern PhilosophySocial Contract Theory; RomanticismGeneral will; Moral simplicity of humanity; Child-centered learning; Civil religion; Popular sovereignty; Positive libertyThe Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts; A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality"People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little."
Adam SmithBritish17231790Modern PhilosophyClassical EconomicsClassical economics; Modern free market; Division of labour; The "invisible hand"The Wealth of Nations; The Theory of Moral Sentiments"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."
Immanuel Kant German17241804Modern PhilosophyKantianism; Enlightenment Philosophy; German IdealismTranscendental idealism; Critical philosophy; Categorical imperative; Hypothetical imperative; "Kingdom of Ends"; The primacy of the practical; Nebular hypothesiCritique of Pure Reason"Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life."
Thomas Paine British - American17371809Modern PhilosophyEnlightenment; Liberalism; RepublicanismDemocratic peace theoryCommon Sense; The Age of Reason"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
Mary WollstonecraftBritish17591797Modern PhilosophyFeminismGender equality; Gender performativityA Vindication of the Rights of Women"No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks."
Auguste ComteFrench1798185719th-century Philosophy PositivismPositivism; Law of three stages; Encyclopedic law; AltruismThe Course in Positive Philosophy; System of Positive Polity"The dead govern the living."
John Stuart MillBritish1806187319th-century PhilosophyEmpiricism; Utilitarianism; LiberalismPublic/private sphere; Hierarchy of pleasures in Utilitarianism; Liberalism; Early liberal feminism; Harm principle; Mill's MethodSystem of Logic"One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests."
Soren Kierkegaard Danish1813185519th-century PhilosophyChristian Existentialism; Existential Psychology; ExistentialismThe Absurd; Angst; Authenticity; Existential despair; Existential philosophy; Knight of faith; Leap of faith; Present ageFear and Trembling; Either/Or; Works of Love"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
Henry David ThoreauAmerican1817186219th-century PhilosophyTranscendentalismAbolitionism; Tax resistance; Development criticism; Civil disobedience; Conscientious objection; Direct action; Environmentalism; Anarchism; Simple livingWalden; On Civil Disobedience"Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify."
Karl Marx German1818188319th-century PhilosophyMarxismSurplus value; Contributions to the labour theory of value; Class struggle; Alienation and exploitation of the worker; Materialist conception of historyThe Communist Manifesto; Capital: Critique of Political Economy"The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles."
William JamesAmerican1842191019th/20th century PhilosophyPragmatism; Functional Psychology; Radical EmpiricismThe Will to Believe Doctrine; The pragmatic theory of truth; Radical empiricism; James–Lange theory of emotion; Psychologist's fallacy; Brain usage theoryThe Will to Believe; The Meaning of Truth"The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes."
Friedrich NietzscheGerman1844190019th-century PhilosophyContinental Philosophy German Idealism; Metaphysical VoluntarismApollonian and Dionysian; Übermensch; Ressentiment; "Will to power"; "God is dead"; Eternal return; "Last man"; Perspectivism; Master–slave morality; Transvaluation of values; Nietzschean affirmationThus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."
John DeweyAmerican1859195220th-century PhilosophyPragmatismReflective thinking; Immediate empiricism; Educational progressivismDemocracy and Education; Experience and Education"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."
Bertrand RussellBritish1872197020th-century PhilosophyAnalytic Philosophy; Linguistic Turn; LogicismRussel's paradoxWhy I Am Not a Christian; Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy; The Problems of Philosophy "To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom."
Ludwig WittgensteinAustrian - British1889195120th-century PhilosophyAnalytic Philosophy; Linguistic Turn; Logical AtomismPicture theory of language; Truth functions; States of affairs; Logical necessity; Meaning is use; Language-games; Private language argument; Family resemblance; Rule following; Wittgensteinian fideism; Anti-realism; Wittgenstein's philosophy of mathematics Philosophical Investigations"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
Erich Fromm German1900198020th-century PhilosophyFrankfurt School; Critical Theory; Humanistic Psychoanalysis; Humanistic JudaismBeing and Having Modes of Existence; Security versus Freedom; Social character; Character orientationEscape from Freedom; Man for Himself"Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence."
Jean-Paul SartreFrench1905198020th-century PhilosophyContinental Philosophy; Existentialism; Phenomenology; Existential Phenomenology; Hermeneutics,Western Marxism (early); Anarchism (late)Bad faith; "Existence precedes essence"; Nothingness; "Hell is other people"; "Every positional consciousness of an object is a non-positional consciousness of itself."; Sartrean terminologyNausea; The Age of Reason"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."
Hannah ArendtGerman - American1906197520th-century PhilosophyContinental Philosophy; Existential Phenomenology; Philosophy of Life; RepublicanismHomo faber; Animal laborans; The labor–work distinction; The banality of evil; Distinction between vita activa and vita contemplativa; Praxis as the highest level of the vita activa; Auctoritas; NatalityThe Life of the Mind; Some Questions on Moral Philosophy; The Human Condition"The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil."
Simone de BeauvoirFrench1908198620th-century PhilosophyExistentialism; Existential Phenomenology; French Feminism; Western Marxism"Ethics of ambiguity"; Feminist ethics; Existential feminismThe Second Sex; The Mandarins"One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion."
Michel FoucaultFrench1926198420th-century PhilosophyContinental Philosophy; Post-structuralismBiopolitics; Biopower; Disciplinary institution; Discourse analysis; Discursive formation; Dispositif; Governmentality; HeterotopiaDiscipline and Punish; The Archaeology of Knowledge"In its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing or educating."