Top 100 Philosophers

This article shows the top 100 most important philosophers in the Western civilization from the ancient Greek classics such As Socrates, Plato and Aristotle’s to contemporary philosophers such as Levi-Strauss and Foucault, passing by great masters such as Descartes or Spinoza.

What is Philosophy?

The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek philosophia, which literally means "love of wisdom". Philosophy can be define as the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.   It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.


Topics

Our structure follows the different time period of the various Western Philosophers.  Those are divide into the following categories:




The Ancient Philosophers

Ancient philosophy is that of the Greco-Roman world from the 6th century BC to the 6th century AD.  Those Philosophers are usually divided into three time periods including the pre-Socratic period, the Socratic with Plato and Aristotle and finally the post-Aristotelian (or Hellenistic) period.  A fourth period that is sometimes added includes the Neoplatonic and Christian philosophers of late Antiquity.

The most important of the ancient philosophers (in terms of subsequent influence) are Plato and Aristotle.  In this period the crucial features of the philosophical method were established: a critical approach to received or established views, and the appeal to reason and argumentation.

Top Ancient Philosophers

The top ancient philosophers include:

  1. Thales of Miletos
  2. Pythagoras of Samos
  3. Xenophanes of Colophon
  4. Parmenides of Elea
  5. Heraclites
  6. Zeno of Elea
  7. Socrates
  8. Plato
  9. Aristotle
  10. Democritus
  11. Epicurus
  12. Diogenes of Sinope
  13. Marcus Tullius Cicero
  14. Philo of Alexandria
  15. Lucius Anneas Seneca
  16. Marcus Aurelius
  17. Sextus Empiricus
  18. Plotinus

Thales of Miletos

Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece and often regarded as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition. Thales was one of the first to try to explain natural phenomena without reference to mythology and was tremendously influential in this respect.

Learn more about Thales.

Thales of Miletos - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thales of Miletos - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Pythagoras of Samos

Pythagoras of Samos was an Ionian Greek philosopher and known mathematician.

Learn more about Pythagoras.

Pythagoras of Samos - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Pythagoras of Samos - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Xenophanes of Colophon

Xenophanes of Colophon was a Greek philosopher known for criticizing wide range of ideas, including Homer and Hesiod, the belief in the pantheon of anthropomorphic gods and the Greeks’ veneration of athleticism. He is also the first Greek poet who claims explicitly to be writing for future generations.

Learn more about Xenophanes.

Xenophanes of Colophon - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Xenophanes of Colophon - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Parmenides of Elea

Parmenides of Elea was an ancient Greek philosopher founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy and is mostly known for his poem, On Nature, which describes two views of reality, ideas which strongly influenced the whole of Western philosophy and especially on Plato.

Learn more about Parmenides of Elea.

Parmenides of Elea - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Parmenides of Elea - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Heraclites

Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, who regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom.  He was often referred to as the " Obscure" or the "Weeping Philosopher", mainly because the lonely life he led as well as for his riddling nature of his philosophy and his contempt for humankind in general.

Learn more about Heraclites.

Heraclites - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Heraclites - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Zeno of Elea

Zeno of  was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of southern Italy and a member of the Eleatic School founded by Parmenides. Aristotle called him the inventor of the dialectic and is best known for his paradoxes, which Bertrand Russell has described as "immeasurably subtle and profound".

Learn more about Zeno of Elea.

Zeno of Elea - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Zeno of Elea - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Socrates

Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher known as one of the founders of Western philosophy. He is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.

Learn more about Socrates.

Socrates - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Socrates - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Plato

Plato was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.  Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.

Learn more about Plato.

Plato - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Plato - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Aristotle

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great, covering many topics including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theatre, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government and ethics. Together with Plato and Socrates, Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy, being the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality, logic and science, politics and metaphysics.

Learn more about Aristotle with Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)  and Aristotle’s The Politics.

Aristotle - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Aristotle - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Democritus

Democritus was an Ancient Greek philosopher born in Greece who formulated an atomic theory for the cosmos and therefore many consider home to be the "father of modern science".

Learn more about Democritus.

Democritus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Democritus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Epicurus

Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism which describes the purpose of philosophy was to attain a happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia, peace and freedom from fear, and aponia, the absence of pain, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

Learn more about Epicurus.

Epicurus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Epicurus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy who believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He was a controversial figure, known for living in a tube as he moved to Athens to debunk cultural conventions, after being exiled from his native city for defacing the currency.

Learn more about Diogenes.

Diogenes of Sinope - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Diogenes of Sinope - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist often considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

Learn more about Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Marcus Tullius Cicero - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Marcus Tullius Cicero - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria who used philosophical allegory to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy and Jewish traditions. His method followed the practices of both Jewish exegesis and Stoic philosophy.

Learn more about Test.

Philo of Alexandria - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Philo of Alexandria - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca often simply known as Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist and in one work humorist of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He is also famous for being the tutor and later advisor to the emperor Nero.

Learn more about Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Lucius Annaeus Seneca - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was the last of the Five Good Emperors  also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.

Learn more about Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Marcus Aurelius - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Sextus Empiricus

Sextus Empiricus was a physician and philosopher famous for writing the most complete surviving account of ancient Greek and Roman scepticism. He is known to have belonged to the "empiric school", as reflected by his name but based on his writings seems to place himself closer to the "methodic school".

Learn more about Sextus Empiricus.

Sextus Empiricus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Sextus Empiricus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Plotinus

Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world famous for his system of theory from which there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul.  He is known to belong the school of Neo-Platonism philosophy which was influential in Late Antiquity.

Learn more about Plotinus.

Plotinus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Plotinus - Top 100 Western Philosophers



Medieval philosophers

Medieval philosophy is the philosophy of Western Europe during the Middle Ages, roughly extending from the Christianization of the Roman Empire until the Renaissance.  It is defined partly by the rediscovery and further development of classical Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, and partly by the need to address theological problems and to integrate the then widespread sacred doctrines of Abrahamic religion (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) with secular learning. The western Medieval Philosophers includes some of the top Christians and  scholastic Philosophers.

Top medieval philosophers

The top medieval philosophers include:

  1. St. Augustine of Hippo
  2. Boethius
  3. Anselm
  4. St. Thomas of Aquino
  5. Johannes Duns Scotus
  6. William of Occam
  7. Modern Philosophers

St. Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo also known as St. Augustine, Bishop of the Hippo Region was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian, whose writings became a very influential force in the development of Western Christianity.

Learn more about St. Augustine of Hippo.

St. Augustine of Hippo - Top 100 Western Philosophers

St. Augustine of Hippo - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Boethius

Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century and while in jail composed his Consolation of Philosophy, a philosophical treatise on fortune, death and other issues which became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages.

Learn more about Boethius.

Boethius - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Boethius - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Anselm

Anselm of Canterbury was a Benedictine monk and philosopher known as the founder of scholasticism and famous for being the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God.

Learn more about Anselm.

Anselm - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Anselm - Top 100 Western Philosophers

St. Thomas of Aquino

Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican priest and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. His influence on Western thought is considerable as much of modern philosophy was conceived as a reaction against, or as an agreement with his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law and political theory.

Learn more about St. Thomas of Aquino.

St. Thomas of Aquino - Top 100 Western Philosophers

St. Thomas of Aquino - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Duns Scotus

Duns Scotus was one of the more important theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages with considerable influence on Roman Catholic thought especially through his best known doctrines the "univocity of being".

Learn more about Duns Scotus.

Duns Scotus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Duns Scotus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

William of Occam

William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher considered to be one of the major figures of medieval thought and commonly known for Occam’s razor, the methodological principle that bears his name.

Learn more about William of Occam.


Modern Philosophers

Modern philosophers include those between the 17 century and 19 century, known as the age of reason as a lot of the text published were based on science.  That period is also known as the Renaissance, a French word that can be translated to being born again.

William of Occam - Top 100 Western Philosophers

William of Occam - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Top Modern Philosophers

The top modern philosophers can be divided into the following categories:


The scientific area philosophers

The scientific area philosophers believed that philosophy is just one more science and that it should apply the hypothetical-deductive method like any other science.  Its object of study is the reality as a whole: it is all that is relevant to build our vision of the world and our place in it, but it does not want to look at concrete details, which are the object of study of other sciences.

The top scientific area philosophers include:

  1. Nicolas Copernicus
  2. Niccolo Machiavelli
  3. Desiderius Erasmus
  4. Thomas More
  5. Francis Bacon
  6. Galileo Galilei
  7. Thomas Hobbes
  8. Sir Isaac Newton

Nicolas Copernicus

Nicolas Copernicus was a Polish Renaissance astronomer and the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the centre of the universe, best known for his On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres masterpiece.

Learn more about Nicolas Copernicus.

Nicolas Copernicus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Nicolas Copernicus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance and known to be the  main founders of modern political science.

 Learn more about Niccolo Machiavelli.

Niccolo Machiavelli - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Niccolo Machiavelli - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Desiderius Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, and a theologian, called the crowning glory of the Christian humanists.

Learn more about Desiderius Erasmus.

Desiderius Erasmus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Desiderius Erasmus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas More

Sir Thomas More was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist known to coined the word "utopia" – a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, published in 1516.

Learn more about Thomas More.

Thomas More - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas More - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and famous for being a philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution.

Learn more about Francis Bacon.

Francis Bacon - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Francis Bacon - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei commonly known as Galileo, was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution known for improvements to the telescope and support for Copernicanism and ofteh  called the "the Father of Modern Science".

Learn more about Galileo Galilei.

Galileo Galilei - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Galileo Galilei - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy and his 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory.

Learn more about Thomas Hobbes.

Thomas Hobbes - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Hobbes - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer and natural philosopher, mostly known for publishing Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687 considered to be one of the most important scientific books ever written.  He describes universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, which will dominate the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries.

Learn more about Isaac Newton.

Isaac Newton - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Isaac Newton - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The rationalist philosophers

The rationalists philosophy could be defined as "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification".

The top rationalists philosophers include:

  1. René Descartes
  2. Antoine Arnauld
  3. Nicolas Malebranche
  4. Benedict de Spinoza
  5. Gottfried von Leibniz

René Descartes

René Descartes was a French philosopher dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy” known for publishing his Meditations, for developing the Cartesian coordinate system and being a key figure in the Scientific Revolution.  He is perhaps best known for the philosophical statement "Cogito ergo sum", which can be translated into I think, therefore I am.

Learn more about René Descartes.

René Descartes - Top 100 Western Philosophers

René Descartes - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Antoine Arnauld

Antoine Arnauld  was a French Roman Catholic theologian, philosopher, mathematician and one of the leading intellectuals of the Jansenist group of Port-Royal and had a very thorough knowledge of patristic.

Learn more about Antoine Arnauld.

Antoine Arnauld - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Antoine Arnauld - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Nicolas Malebranche

Nicolas Malebranche was a French Oratorian and rationalist philosopher known for synthesizing the thought of St. Augustine and Descartes, in order to demonstrate the active role of God in every aspect of the world and famous for his doctrines of Vision in God and Occasionalism.

Learn more about Nicolas Malebranche.

Nicolas Malebranche - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Nicolas Malebranche - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Benedict de Spinoza

Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher who revealed considerable scientific aptitude and laid the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism.  He came to be considered one of the great rationalists of the 17th-century philosophy and his magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics has also earned him recognition as one of Western philosophy’s most important philosophers.

Learn more about Benedict de Spinoza.

Benedict de Spinoza - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Benedict de Spinoza - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Gottfried von Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician who occupies a prominent place in the history of mathematics and the history of philosophy, famous for developing the infinitesimal calculus independently of Isaac Newton

Gottfried von Leibniz - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Gottfried von Leibniz - Top 100 Western Philosophers

The  empiricist philosophers

In philosophy, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which opposes other theories of knowledge, such as rationalism, idealism and historicism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes primarily via sensory experience as opposed to rationalism which asserts that knowledge comes from pure thinking.


Top Empiricist Philosophers

The top Empiricist philosophers include:

  1. John Locke
  2. David Hume
  3. Thomas Reid
  4. Voltaire
  5. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  6. Denis Diderot

John Locke

John Locke widely known as the Father of Liberalism was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers.  His contributions to liberal theory are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.

Learn more about John Locke.

John Locke - Top 100 Western Philosophers

John Locke - Top 100 Western Philosophers

David Hume

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and scepticism. He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment.

Learn more about David Hume.

David Hume - Top 100 Western Philosophers

David Hume - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Reid

The Reverend Thomas Reid was a religiously trained Scottish philosopher founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, and played an integral role in the Scottish Enlightenment.

Learn more about Thomas Reid.

Thomas Reid - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Reid - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Voltaire

Voltaire was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion and free trade.  Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.

Learn more about Voltaire.

Voltaire- Top 100 Western Philosophers

Voltaire - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a major Genevan philosopher known for his political philosophy which heavily influenced the French Revolution. His Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and his On the Social Contract are cornerstones in modern political and social thought and make a strong case for democratic government and social empowerment.

Learn more about Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot was a French philosopher,  prominent during the Enlightenment and is best-known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie.

Learn more about Denis Diderot.

Denis Diderot - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Denis Diderot - Top 100 Western Philosophers

The idealists philosophers

The idealists philosophers maintain that experience is ultimately based on mental activity. In the philosophy of perception, idealism is contrasted with realism, in which the external world is said to have an apparent absolute existence. Epistemological idealists such as Kant claim that the only things which can be directly known for certain are just ideas (abstraction).


Top idealists philosophers

The top idealists philosophers include:

  1. George Berkley
  2. Immanuel Kant
  3. Johan Schiller
  4. Frederick Schelling
  5. George Hegel
  6. Arthur Schopenhauer

George Berkley

George Berkley was an Anglo-Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism"  also referred to as "subjective idealism" which denies the existence of material substance and instead contends that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers, and as a result cannot exist without being perceived.

Learn more about George Berkley.

George Berkley - Top 100 Western Philosophers

George Berkley - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel was a German philosopher perhaps best known for his masterpiece the Critique of Pure Reason, which aimed to unite reason with experience to move beyond what he took to be failures of traditional philosophy and metaphysics.

Learn more about Kant.

Immanuel Kant - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Immanuel Kant - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright known for his collaboration with Goethe  referred to as the Weimar Classicism.

Learn more about Friedrich Schiller.

Friedrich Schiller - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Schiller - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Schelling

Friedrich Schelling was a German philosopher known for contributing to the development of German idealism.

Learn more about Friedrich Schelling.

Friedrich Schelling - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Schelling - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Georg Hegel

Georg Hegel was a German philosopher famous for being one of the creators of German Idealism and developing a comprehensive philosophical framework, or "system", of Absolute idealism. He developed the concept that mind or spirit manifested itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that it ultimately integrated and united, without eliminating either pole or reducing one to the other.

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Georg Hegel - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Georg Hegel - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity and with  most influential work, The World as Will and Representation, claimed that the world is fundamentally what humans recognize in themselves as their will.

Learn more about Arthur Schopenhauer.

Arthur Schopenhauer - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Arthur Schopenhauer - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The liberal philosophers

At its very root, liberals Philosophers are concern about the meaning of humanity and society.  

The top liberal philosophers include:

  1. Adam Smith
  2. Mary Wollstonecraft
  3. Thomas Paine
  4. Jeremy Bentham
  5. John Stuart Mill
  6. Auguste Comte

Adam Smith

Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy, as well as one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment.  He is mostly known as the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and widely cited as the father of modern economics and capitalism.

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Adam Smith - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Adam Smith - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

Learn more about Mary Wollstonecraft.

Mary Wollstonecraft - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Mary Wollstonecraft - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, famous for his Common Sense (1776) pamphlet, which became the all-time best-selling American book that advocated colonial America’s independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Learn more about Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Paine - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher and legal and social reformer who became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He is best known for his advocacy of utilitarianism and animal rights.

Learn more about Jeremy Bentham.

Jeremy Bentham - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jeremy Bentham - Top 100 Western Philosophers

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher and an influential contributor to social and political theory as well as political economy.  His conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control.

Learn more about John Stuart Mill.

John Stuart Mill - Top 100 Western Philosophers

John Stuart Mill - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte  was a French philosopher known to be the founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism.  He is often regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term.

Learn more about Auguste Comte.

Auguste Comte - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Auguste Comte - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The evolutionists Philosophers

The top evolutionists philosophers include:

  1. Charles Darwin
  2. Henri Louis Bergson
  3. A.N. Whitehead

Chalesr Darwin

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist famous for establishing that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry.  He proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, showing compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species.

Learn more about Charles Darwin.

Chalesr Darwin - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Chalesr Darwin - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Henri Bergson

Henri-Louis Bergson was a major French philosopher, influential especially in the first half of the 20th century by convincing many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition are more significant than rationalism and science for understanding reality.

Learn more about Henri Bergson.

Henri Bergson - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Henri Bergson - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead was an English mathematician who became a philosopher known for influencing all of analytic philosophy and being the co-author of the classic Principia Mathematica with Russell.

Learn more about Alfred North Whitehead.

Alfred North Whitehead - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Alfred North Whitehead - Top 100 Western Philosophers



Contemporary Philosophers

The Contemporary Philosophers are the most recent philosophers, mainly from the

20th century. 

Top Contemporary Philosophers

The top contemporary philosophers can be grouped into the following categories:


The pragmatist philosophers

Pragmatism is an American philosophical tradition centred on the linking of practice and theory.  It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice.

The top pragmatist philosophers include:

  1. Ernst Mach
  2. Charles Peirce
  3. William James
  4. John Dewey

Ernst Mach

Ernst Mach was an Austrian physicist and philosopher of science, who had a major influence on logical positivism and through his criticism of Newton, a forerunner of Einstein’s relativity.

Learn more about Ernst Mach.

Ernst Mach - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Ernst Mach - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Charles Peirce

Charles Sanders was an American philosopher who was employed as a scientist for 30 years. Today he is appreciated largely for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy and semiotics, as well as the founding father of pragmatism.

Learn more about Charles Peirce.

Charles Peirce - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Charles Peirce - Top 100 Western Philosophers

William James

William James, brother of novelist Henry James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience, mysticism and on the philosophy of pragmatism.

Learn more about William James.

William James - Top 100 Western Philosophers

William James - Top 100 Western Philosophers

John Dewey

John Dewey was an American philosopher who was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology.

Learn more about John Dewey.

John Dewey - Top 100 Western Philosophers

John Dewey - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The materialist  philosophers

In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter, that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance.

The top materialists philosophers include:

  1. Karl Marx
  2. Friedrich Engels
  3. Vladimir Lenin
  4. Sigmund Freud
  5. Carl Jung
  6. John Maynard Keynes

Karl Marx

Karl Heinrich was a German philosopher and revolutionary socialist who developed the socio-political theory of Marxism. His ideas have since played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement. He published various books during his lifetime, with the most notable being The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Capital (1867–1894), many of which were co-written with his friend, the fellow German revolutionary socialist Friedrich Engels.

Learn more about Karl Marx.

Karl Marx - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Karl Marx - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research. In 1848 he produced with Marx The Communist Manifesto and later he supported Marx financially to do research and write Das Kapital.

Learn more about Friedrich Engels.

Friedrich Engels - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Engels - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary and philosopher, creator of the Soviet Communist Party, leader of the 1917 October Revolution, and founder of the USSR.  His extensive theoretical and philosophical contributions to Marxism produced Leninism.  As the Bolshevik Revolution is considered the most significant political event in the 20th century, then Lenin must for good or ill be regarded as the century’s most significant political leader.

Learn more about Vladimir Lenin.

Vladimir Lenin - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Vladimir Lenin - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and the mechanism of repression.  He was also responsible for creating the clinical method of psychoanalysis for investigating the mind and treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient  and a psychoanalyst.

Learn more about Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Sigmund Freud - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Carl Jung

Carl Gustav was a Swiss psychiatrist founder of analytical psychology and often considered the first modern psychologist to state that the human psyche is "by nature religious" and to explore it in depth. He is also known for being a pioneer in the field of dream analysis.

Learn more about Carl Jung.

arl Jung - Top 100 Western Philosophers

arl Jung - Top 100 Western Philosophers

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments. His ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics.

Learn more about Keynes.

John Maynard Keynes - Top 100 Western Philosophers

John Maynard Keynes - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The existentialist philosophers

Existentialism is a term applied to the work of a number of philosophers since the 19th century who, despite large differences in their positions, generally focused on the condition of human existence with an individual’s emotions, actions, responsibilities, and thoughts as well as the meaning or purpose of life

The top existentialist philosophers include:

  1. Soren Kierkegaard
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche
  3. Edmund Husserl
  4. Martin Heidegger
  5. Jean-Paul Sartre
  6. Albert Camus
  7. Simone de Beauvoir

Soren Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian, religious author and widely considered, along with Friedrich Nietzsche, to be one of the founders of existentialism.

Learn more about Soren Kierkegaard.

Soren Kierkegaard - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Soren Kierkegaard - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm was a 19th-century German philosopher who wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, science and famous for displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Learn more about Friedrich Nietzsche.

Friedrich Nietzsche - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Friedrich Nietzsche - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Edmund Husserl

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a philosopher founder of the 20th century philosophical school of phenomenology.

Learn more about Edmund Husserl.

Edmund Husserl - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Edmund Husserl - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger was an influential German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."

Learn more about Martin Heidegger.

Martin Heidegger - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Martin Heidegger - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher and one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary and philosophical existentialism. He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature but refused it.

Learn more about Jean-Paul Sartre.

Jean-Paul Sartre - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jean-Paul Sartre - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Albert Camus

Albert Camus was a French author, journalist and key philosopher of the 20th-century who was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”.

Learn more about Albert Camus.

Albert Camus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Albert Camus - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir was a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, and social theorist  best known for her metaphysical novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins.  She is also famous for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism.

Learn more about Simone de Beauvoir.

Simone de Beauvoir - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Simone de Beauvoir - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The linguistic school philosophers

The top linguistic school philosophers include:

  1. Gottlob Frege
  2. Bertrand Russell
  3. Ludwig Wittgenstein
  4. Ferdinand de Saussure
  5. George Edward Moore
  6. Moritz Schlick
  7. Lev Vygotsky
  8. Rudolph Carnap
  9. A.J. Ayer
  10. Alfred Tarski
  11. J.L. Austin
  12. Gilbert Ryle
  13. Noam Chomsky

Gottlob Frege

Gottlob Frege was a German mathematician who became a philosopher and who is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy, through his writings on the philosophy of language and mathematics.

Learn more about Gottlob Frege.

Gottlob Frege - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Gottlob Frege - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian and social critic. At various points in his life he imagined himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things, in any profound sense.

Learn more about Bertrand Russell.

Bertrand Russell - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Bertrand Russell - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher known for having inspired two of the century’s principal philosophical movements, logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy.  His posthumously published Philosophical Investigations (1953) was ranked as the most important book of 20th-century philosophy.

Learn more about Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Ludwig Wittgenstein - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Ludwig Wittgenstein - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Ferdinand de Saussure

Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist whose ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in linguistics in the 20th century and widely considered one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics.

Learn more about Ferdinand de Saussure.

Ferdinand de Saussure - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Ferdinand de Saussure - Top 100 Western Philosophers

George Edward Moore

George Edward Moore was an English philosopher known as one of the founders of the analytic tradition in philosophy and along with Russell he led the turn away from idealism in British philosophy and became well known for his advocacy of common sense concepts.

Learn more about George Edward Moore.

George Edward Moore - Top 100 Western Philosophers

George Edward Moore - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Moritz Schlick

Moritz Schlick  was a German philosopher, physicist and the founding father of logical positivism and the Vienna Circle.

Learn more about Moritz Schlick .

Moritz Schlick - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Moritz Schlick - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Lev Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky was a Soviet psychologist, the founder of cultural-historical psychology as well as the leader of the Vygotsky Circle.

Learn more about Lev Vygotsky.

Lev Vygotsky - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Lev Vygotsky - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Rudolf Carnap

Rudolf Carnap was an influential German-born philosopher who was active in Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter known for being a key member of the Vienna Circle and an advocate of logical positivism.

Learn more about Rudolf Carnap.

Rudolf Carnap - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Rudolf Carnap - Top 100 Western Philosophers

A.J. Ayer

Sir Alfred Jules Ayer was a British philosopher known for his promotion of logical positivism, particularly in his books Language, Truth, and Logic (1936) and The Problem of Knowledge (1956).

Learn more about A. J. Ayer.

A.J. Ayer - Top 100 Western Philosophers

A.J. Ayer - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Alfred Tarski

Alfred Tarski was a Polish logician and mathematician member of the Lwow-Warsaw School of Logic and the Warsaw School of Mathematics and philosophy.  He emigrated to the USA in 1939, where he taught and carried out research in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Learn more about Alfred Tarski.

Alfred Tarski - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Alfred Tarski - Top 100 Western Philosophers

J.L. Austin

John Langshaw Austin was a British philosopher of language,  educated at Oxford University and widely associated with the concept of the speech act and the idea that speech is itself a form of action.

Learn more about J.L. Austin.

J.L. Austin - Top 100 Western Philosophers

J.L. Austin - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Gilbert Ryle

Gilbert Ryle was a British philosopher, a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosophers that shared Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophical problems and is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase "the ghost in the machine".

Learn more about Gilbert Ryle.

Gilbert Ryle - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Gilbert Ryle - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist well known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics and a major figure of analytic philosophy.  He is author of more than 150 books and has received worldwide attention for his views

Learn more about Noam Chomsky.

Noam Chomsky - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Noam Chomsky - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The postmodernist philosophers

The top postmodernist philosophers include:

  1. Claude Levi-Strauss
  2. Michel Foucault
  3. Jacques Derrida

Claude Levi-Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist known to be the father of modern anthropology.  He became famous for arguing that the "savage" mind had the same structures as the "civilized" mind and that human characteristics are the same everywhere  in his famous book Tristes Tropiques.

Learn more about Claude Levi-Strauss.

Claude Levi-Strauss - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Claude Levi-Strauss - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas who held a chair at the prestigious College de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought" and also taught at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.

Learn more about Test.

Michel Foucault - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Michel Foucault - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida was a French Pied-noir philosopher, born in French Algeria who developed the critical theory known as deconstruction.  His work has been labelled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy.

Learn more about Jacques Derrida.

Jacques Derrida - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Jacques Derrida - Top 100 Western Philosophers



The new scientist philosophers

The top new scientist philosophers include:

  1. Emile Durkheim
  2. Albert Einstein
  3. Karl Popper
  4. Kurt Gödel
  5. Alan Turing
  6. B.F. Skinner
  7. Thomas Kuhn
  8. Paul Feyerabend
  9. W.V.O. Quine

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist known for establishing sociology as a recognized academic discipline and also became France’s first professor in that field.

Learn more about Emile Durkheim.

Emile Durkheim - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Emile Durkheim - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history.  He is mostly famous for developing the theory of general relativity for which he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics which later became pivotal in establishing quantum theory within physics.

Learn more about Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Albert Einstein - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Karl Popper

Karl Popper was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics  regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century and also known for his extensive writing on social and political philosophy.

Learn more about Karl Popper.

Karl Popper - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Karl Popper - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Kurt Gödel

Kurt Gödel was an Austrian logician, mathematician and philosopher who emigrated to the United States to escape the effects of World War II.  He became one of the most significant logicians of all time and had an immense impact upon scientific and philosophical thinking in the 20th century.

Learn more about Kurt Gödel.

Kurt Gödel - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Kurt Gödel - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Alan Turing

Alan Turing was an English mathematician and computer scientist who is often regarded as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, by providing a formalisation of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer.

Learn more about Alan Turing.

Alan Turing - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Alan Turing - Top 100 Western Philosophers

B.F. Skinner

Burrhus Frederic was an American behaviourist and social philosopher known for being the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974 where he performed some of the greatest psychological experiments.

Learn more about Skinner.

B.F. Skinner - Top 100 Western Philosophers

B.F. Skinner - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Samuel Kuhn was an American physicist and philosopher who wrote extensively on the history of science.  His best known book is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962).

Learn more about Thomas Kuhn.

Thomas Kuhn - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Thomas Kuhn - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Paul Feyerabend

Paul Karl Feyerabend was an Austrian-born philosopher of science best known for his work as a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley

Learn more about Paul Feyerabend.

Paul Feyerabend - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Paul Feyerabend - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Willard Van Orman Quine

Willard Van Orman Quine was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition, best known for his continuous affiliation with Harvard University.

Learn more about Willard Van Orman Quine.

Willard Van Orman Quine - Top 100 Western Philosophers

Willard Van Orman Quine - Top 100 Western Philosophers