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The 30 most famous and important philosophers in history

The 30 most famous and important philosophers in history

February 12, 2024

Philosophy is a discipline that studies and tries to answer some fundamental questions for human beings: what is the meaning of existence, the search for truth, the moral , ethics, beauty, language, the mind, among many others.

In very broad strokes, in the West we have divided philosophy in some stages (for example, Greek philosophy, medieval philosophy and modern philosophy) and within each one we have located different thinkers who have helped us to understand and produce changes social and cultural

In this article you will find 30 of the most famous philosophers in history in Western societies, as well as a brief description of their theories.

  • Related article: "Differences between Psychology and Philosophy"

The most important and famous philosophers in history

Although the course of history involves thousands of people, there are thinkers whose influence on the intellectual is so relevant that modifies, to a greater or lesser degree, how societies evolve. In this selection of philosophers you will find the most relevant intellectuals in regards to the western countries.

1. Tales of Miletus (624-548 a.C.)

Considered the first philosopher of Western culture, he was one of the first to give a rational explanation to the phenomena of the world . He proposed that water is the element that gives rise to all living things and by the same relates to the soul, movement and divinity.

He is considered one of the first astrologers in Western history and is credited with the works The Solstice and The Equinox, although it has been difficult to verify if he actually wrote he wrote them.

  • "The 32 best phrases of Tales of Mileto"

2. Heraclitus (563-470 a.C.)

Also known as The Dark One of Ephesus, he used to lead a lonely life and is recognized as one of the inaugurators of metaphysics . He criticized some religious concepts of his time and considered that fire was the main element of life. He was one of the first to use the concept of "becoming" as a basic reality that underlies everything that exists.

  • "The 35 best phrases of Heraclitus"

3. Anaximenes (588-524 a.C.)

Anaxmenes explained some processes that were later taken up by modern physics, which are those of condensation and rarefaction. As well was one of the first to divide the days according to the geometry of the shadows , reason why it is attributed to him to have invented the clock.

Together with Thales and Anaximander of Miletus, he is recognized as one of the first astronomers and founders of the Ionian philosophy, which studied the atmospheric state and the movements of the celestial bodies.

4. Pythagoras (569-475 a.C.)

Philosopher and Greek mathematician, his thought is one of the oldest and most important antecedents of mathematics, analytic geometry and rational philosophy modern

He is remembered for having developed the Pythagorean theorem that is used to measure the length and angles of the rectangular triangle, and works such as The harmony of the spheres. In fact, in some contexts he is known as the number philosopher.

  • "The 35 best famous phrases of Pythagoras"

5. Democritus (460-370 BC)

One of the first to defend that everything that exists is made up of atoms (even the soul, which is where true happiness is found), for what has been placed in the group of atomist philosophers.

Maintains that ethics and virtue are achieved by the balance of passions, which in turn is achieved through knowledge and prudence . His theory includes both poetic, physical, mathematical, philological and technical books.

  • "The 24 best sentences of Democritus, Greek philosopher"

6. Socrates (469-399 a.C.)

Socrates is recognized as the thinker who transformed the direction of European philosophy and the wisest of the Greek philosophers. His works are written in the form of dialogues and were transmitted by his disciples.

The basis of his philosophy is the idea of ​​virtue as the foundation of knowledge and wisdom. Because it is recognized as a moral theory that is based on the recognition of good and justice.

  • "70 phrases of Socrates to understand his thought"

7. Plato (427-348 a.C.)

One of the most studied theories of Plato is the theory of ideas , with which he defends the existence of two opposing worlds: that of ideas (the universal reality that is immovable), and the sensible world (the particular reality that can be modified).

Plato was strongly influenced by the philosophy of Socrates, but also by the pluralists, the Pythagoreans and other pre-Socratic philosophers. It was also one of the first to study the body as a separate entity from the soul He insisted on form and eternal order, on the transience of sensible things, and on using logical reasoning based on mathematics and astronomy. All this has made this thinker one of the most important philosophers in history, especially within the scope of Ancient Greece.

  • Related article: "Plato's theory of ideas"

8. Aristotle (384-322 a.C.)

Student most recognized of Plato, sought the ultimate essence of the human being. I had a great interest in biology and his thought had an important medical heritage that was taken up in the beginnings of modern science.

He was also interested in the study of logic, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy, psychology and aesthetics, and is credited with establishing the great divisions of philosophy. He is one of the most representative figures of La Academia, the philosophical school founded by Plato, and later, he founded his own school: El Liceo.

  • "The 100 best phrases of Aristotle"

9. Epicurus (341-270 a.C.)

Philosopher who inaugurates the school of Epicureanism, where the central elements are the rational hedonism and atomism .

He defended the pursuit of pleasure directed to prudence. He rejected the idea of ​​destiny and also the idea of ​​fatality that was very recurrent in Greek literature.

  • "The 40 best phrases of Epicurus"

10. St. Augustine (354-430)

A philosopher-theologian, a prominent member of the school of Patristics, whose most remembered work is The City of God, where he tried to counteract the attack of those who thought or lived contrary to Christianity.

Among his outstanding reflections are, first of all, God, then the soul and finally the world. He defended the existence of logical truths , which for him resided in the cases in which the statements correspond to the external reality; and ontological truths, which refer to being.

11. Averroes (1126-1198)

Averroes was a philosopher of Andalusian origin who considered himself one of the most important masters of Islamic philosophy and laws, but also of medicine and astronomy.

His thinking influenced both western societies and Islamic philosophy and is recognized as a philosopher and theologian who questioned the relationship between religion and science , faith and reason, and with his philosophy he sought to validate both.

12. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Philosopher and theologian of the scholastic school , whose philosophy is fundamentally realistic and concrete, but based on the exploration of the idea that there is the divine. In order to describe reality, it takes as its starting point the existing world, so that a part of its thought is centered on the idea of ​​the Supreme Existence.

He recognized two dimensions of knowledge that in both cases come from God, so they are collaborative and give rise to theology: natural knowledge, which refers to reason and logic; and supernatural knowledge, which refers to faith.

  • "The 70 best phrases of St. Thomas Aquinas"

13. Guillermo de Occam (1288-1349)

Guillermo de Occam is recognized as one of the philosophers who laid the foundations for the change between the theological philosophy of the Middle Ages and modern philosophy. Distinguish between reason and faith , it is separated from the proposals of both San Agustín and Tomás de Aquino and develops a thought of its own that is known as nominalism.

According to Occam, we can not know the inner essence of beings through the reason that categorizes these beings into species, but we can only know them by their individuality and by the basic sensory experience. That is why his philosophy is recognized as the beginnings of modern experimental science.

14. René Descartes (1596-1650)

René Descartes is credited with establishing the foundations of modern philosophy. One of his most popular phrases is cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), with which he argues that the world is composed of two separate substances: the mind and the body. In short, it consolidates a dualist vision of reality.

He proposed a philosophy of reason centered on the subject, that is, that the absolute truth is in the mind , which equates with the idea of ​​God, and that valid knowledge that is constructed by rational thought and by calculation.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The valuable contributions of René Descartes to Psychology"

15. John Locke (1632-1704)

He is recognized as the father of classical liberalism and one of the main philosophers of the school of empiricism . His reflections revolve around the relationship between science and democracy, and his ideas inspired much of the foundations of contemporary democratic societies.

He rejected the existence of a biological determinism in the human being, so there are no innate ideas, but all come from experience. This greatly influenced modern epistemology, that is, the theory of knowledge that laid the foundations of scientific development.

  • "The 65 Best Famous Sentences of John Locke"

16. David Hume (1711-1776)

Represent empiricist philosophy, which considers that knowledge does not arise in an innate way (as rationalists argued), but is built by means of sensible experience.

He was interested in the relationship between the deep critical philosophy of religion and attentive to the transmission of the world by education and traditions. Among his most important works is the Treaty on human nature, and essays on morality and politics.

17. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

One of the main exponents of both empiricism and rationalism, argues that knowledge is composed not only of reason but also of experience. He tried to find the relationship between nature and spirit and discover the principles of action and free will.

For Kant, the primary forms of sensibility are space and time, and it is the categories that make reality intelligible. To achieve this intelligibility and to use the things of the world we must adapt them, so that finally we can not know them as they are, but in their manipulated version by ourselves. For this philosopher, what exists beyond human perception, the so-called noumenon , can not be known perfectly.

18. Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

He is considered the greatest representative of German idealism and one of the paradigms of modern man. He develops much of his thinking around the "absolute idea" that is the ultimate cause of the world, an objective cause that can only manifest itself in self-knowledge.

Defend that everything develops dialectically , that is, through constant change and the development of History. For Hegel the dialectical method has three moments: thesis, antithesis and synthesis, and serves to understand the real situation of the world.

  • "The 32 best famous quotes of Hegel"

19. Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

French philosopher who is known as the father of positivism, a philosophy that was considered superior to materialism and idealism and that proposes that authentic knowledge can only be achieved by the scientific method, that is, by testing hypotheses.

He is also remembered as one of the founders of modern sociology along with Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim. Another of his famous theories is the theory of evolution or law of the three stages, which served to describe the mind and knowledge as processes that progressed through a theological stage, then a metaphysical and finally a positive.

20. Karl Marx (1818-1833)

Recognized for making strong criticisms of capitalism, he proposed that capitalist societies are structured by social classes, and that the struggle of those classes is what makes societies change. In this sense, the ideal society is governed by the proletarian class and a stateless socialism.

He developed modern communism and together with Engels, Marxism. Some of his most important ideas are the surplus value, the theory of class struggle and the materialist conception of history .

21. Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)

One of the maximum defenders of revolutionary democracy, freedom and social transformation that comes from the hand of the people. Criticizes strongly to religion, as well as to the economic system based on private property.

Currently his most studied works are the Communist Manifesto, From utopian socialism to scientific socialism and the Introduction to the dialectic of nature.

22. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Of German origin, Nietzsche is mostly remembered for the phrase "God is dead" with which he wanted to criticize religion, Western ideals and philosophy based on moral and false norms .

He had faith in the appearance of a new man, whom he called Superman, who could overcome traditional morality and generate his own value system with a genuine will to power. That is why Nietzsche is considered one of the most powerful critics of modernity.

  • "The 60 best famous quotes of Nietzsche"

23. Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

Also of German origin, Heidegger is one of the representatives of existentialist philosophy , since it believes that the human being has been thrown into existence (without having asked), so the main mission of philosophy should be to clarify the meaning of being, what I call Dasein (be-there).

  • Related article: "What is Dasein according to Martin Heidegger?"

24. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

French philosopher considered one of the greatest exponents of the existentialist current, which became especially popular as a result of the Second World War.

Some of the key questions in your thinking have to do with the meaning of life in relation to the idea of ​​freedom and personal responsibility . Among his most famous works is Nausea Y Criticism of dialectical reason.

25. Jürgen Habermas (1921-)

The thought of Habermas has been one of the most influential in modern philosophy . Describes modern and contemporary values ​​proposing that modernity is based on a cultural disarticulation in the cognitive sphere (for scientific and technological progress), the value sphere (related to moral and ethical evolution); and the aesthetic-expressive sphere, which is expressed in the countercultural forms of life.

He is credited with making important contributions to critical social theory, the theory of science, the theory of language and meaning, and the theory of action and ethics.

26. Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017)

One of the most important contemporary sociologists , whose work has been considered key to understanding current societies. Bauman's thinking analyzes social networks, social changes caused by the expansion of the internet and social movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Perhaps the most outstanding term in Bauman's work is that of "liquid modernity" where he questions the life forms of the postmodern subject in the face of the multiplicity and instability of referents and imaginaries and the lack of lasting values.

  • "The 70 best sentences of Zygmunt Bauman"

27. Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Foucault is one of the most important thinkers of the 21st century, who has been characterized as a poststructuralist philosopher for his criticisms of the structuralist current that had defined activity in the social sciences.

He developed a new notion of subject that starts from a critique of contemporary institutions that objectify it (such as the prison, the psychiatric hospital, or the science itself), as well as the analysis of power relations and, above all, of the question about how it is that the human being converts himself or herself into a subject.

  • "75 phrases and reflections by Michel Foucault"

28. Noam Chomsky (1928-)

Chomsky is an American socialist philosopher, political scientist and linguist who has carried out very important studies in linguistic and cognitive theory as well as political activism. His most popular theory is universal grammar , with which he has proposed that the acquisition of language has common and innate principles in all languages.

He is also famous for defending libertarian political structures and for his criticism of capitalism, social Darwinism and US imperialism.

  • "Noam Chomsky's 30 Best Famous Phrases"

29. Slavoj Zizek (1949-)

Philosopher of Slovenian origin who is considered one of the most important critical thinkers of the modern era. His theories incorporate the proposals of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Marxist dialectical materialism and revolve around political and cultural movements , the current social crises, the construction of ideologies and contemporary thought systems.

Among his most outstanding works are The sublime object of ideology, Cultural studies reflections on multiculturalism Y Who said totalitarianism? Five interventions on the (wrong) use of a notion.

  • "The 20 best famous quotes of Slavoj Zizek"

30. Byung-Chul Han (1959-)

Philosopher and essayist originally from Seoul and teacher at the University of the Arts in Berlin, whose thinking has gained increasing importance in studies of the contemporary era.

His works make a criticism of economic and political systems based on neoliberalism , labor competition, digital exhibitionism and the little political transparency of current societies.

Bibliographic references:

  • Pérez, J. (2014). John Locke. Scientific culture notebook. Retrieved March 4, 2018. Available at //
  • Labrador, A. (2015). Jürgen Habermas: communicative action, reflexivity and world of life. Sociological act, 67: e24-e51.
  • Chávez, P. (2004). History of philosophical doctrines. National Autonomous University of Mexico: Mexico.
  • Roa, A. (1995). Modernity and Postmodernity. Matches and fundamental differences. Editorial Andrés Bello: Chile
  • Armstrong, A.H. (1993). Introduction to ancient philosophy. University of Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires
  • Leaman, O. (1988). Averroes and his Philosophy. Routledge: USA.
  • Copleston, F. (1960). Saint Thomas of Aquino. History of philosophy Volume II. Retrieved March 4, 2018. Available at // % 3D2_Copleston-Tomas.pdf

10 Greatest Philosophers of All Time And Famous Quotes (February 2024).

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