We, humans, are curious about knowing the meaning of our life. That’s why we turn to philosophy. Philosophy is a Greek term meaning “love of wisdom.” It studies fundamental life issues, such as reality, logic, mind, behavior, and more. Philosophy promotes rational thinking and is the foundation of all knowledge. This makes philosophy existentially useful for the development of society.
Hinduism is an example of philosophy. It details four objectives of human life, including Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Here, Dharma refers to duties, while Artha means wealth. Likewise, Kama indicates desires, and Moksha is all about salvation. This article aims to introduce you to the 15 best philosophers of the world and their impact on our society as a whole.
The term philosopher refers to someone who engages in philosophical discussion. According to the traditional definition of a philosopher, they adhered to a specific style of living and sought answers to existential questions. Modern philosophers’ definitions include those who contribute to aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, science, logic, metaphysics, social theory, philosophy of religion, and political philosophy. Philosophers may also have contributed to other humanities and social sciences that have diverged from philosophy over the centuries, such as sociology, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, and theology.
Evolution of Philosophy
Western civilization has been influenced by philosophy for centuries. Many thousands of years of thought have been influenced by the works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, becoming dominant in the Roman world, the Middle Ages, and eventually resurfacing in the Renaissance. Greek philosophy reached its height in the 5th century BC in Athens.
Epistemology and new ethical schools emerged during the 18th century. As questions of language, logic, and meaning took center stage in the late 1800s, the 20th century saw one of the most significant bursts of philosophical work. Science, warfare, politics, and artificial intelligence all fall under philosophical thought today.
15 Best Philosophers In The World
Now that we’ve discussed what philosophy is, you must be curious to know the best philosophers in the world. Just read on; here’re the top 15 of them.
For many, Aristotle is the “Father of Western Philosophy.” Unsurprisingly, he was a learned man who could read several languages. The philosopher contributed to different branches of philosophy, like speculative philosophy, which includes logic, metaphysics, and epistemology.
His contributions to the field of natural physiology are immense. He worked in physics, astronomy, geology, biology, and psychology. As it turns out, Aristotle covered diverse topics, many of which were not discussed before his time.
2. Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher with contributions to multiple domains of philosophy. That made him one of the most influential figures in modern western philosophy. He is best remembered for his contributions to the epistemology of transcendental idealism.
Kant argued that space and time are just forms of intuition. According to him, we think about objects through our understanding and experience them through judgment. Also, his moral philosophy of practical reason autonomy is highly appreciated even today.
3. John Locke
John Locke was an English physicist and arguably one of the best philosophers in the world. He was one of the first British empiricists and the founder of the school of philosophy. They also call him “the Father of Liberalism.” his most significant work is the “Theory of Mind.” It deals with the origins of modern conceptions of identity and self.
Given his work, Locke was an influential man with remarkable contributions to physical and moral science. Also, we acknowledge him for his Letter Concerning Toleration and his efforts in drafting the Constitution of Carolina.
4. Zeno of Citium
He was a Hellenistic philosopher of Phoenician origin, born in 334 BC. Zeno founded the Stoic School of Philosophy, his most significant contribution. Stoicism is all about living a virtuous life close to Mother Nature. This lifestyle, according to Zeno, could bring peace of mind.
Zeno divided philosophy into three parts: logic, physics, and ethics. Unfortunately, none of his original works survive except fragmentary quotations. His other notable work is Zeno’s Republic. Though the work doesn’t survive, it is more well-known than his other works.
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who founded Epicureanism, a highly influential school of philosophy. In his impressive career, the philosopher originally wrote over 300 works. His major works include Physics, ethics, epistemology, and theology.
He is credited with writing the famous Letter to Menoeceus, Pythocles, and Herodotus. Regrettably, the majority of his works have been lost. But a few of his quotes and other writings have survived.
The list of the best philosophers in the world is incomplete without Plato. He is associated with two of the most influential philosophers in history, Aristotle and Socrates. They also call him the founder of western religion and spirituality. Aristotle was his student, and Socrates was his teacher.
We know very little about his early life and education. However, we know that Pythagoras and Socrates significantly influenced Plato. His contributions are remarkable in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and art & poetry. Plato’s notable works include thirty-five dialogues and thirteen letters (epistles). Aristotle, his worthy student, carried on his legacy exceptionally well. No wonder Plato’s ideas were visible in Aristotle’s work.
Confucius was a Chinese philosopher and politician. He’s among the most influential people in human history. He founded a school of philosophy, Confucianism, which is a part of the Chinese way of life.
Confucianism’s philosophy emphasizes personal and government morality and the correctness of social relationships. Confucius’s philosophies are a queer mixture of politics and ethics. His philosophy turned into various rules, gathering many followers and practitioners.
8. David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist. He is best known for his philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism. Also, Hume comes across as a sentimentalist who believed that ethics result from emotions and sentiments.
He believed that self-experience was only a bundle of sensations and self-made perceptions. His best works include “A kind of history of my life” and “A treatise on human nature.” Both were written in the mid-18th century.
9. Rene Descartes
He is a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist known as the “father of modern philosophy.” His contributions to physics, science, and maths are genuinely renowned. Moreover, Descartes’ work in epistemology has been extensive. This includes Dualism, which explains the connection between mind and body.
However, what makes him one of the best philosophers in the world is his versatility. He also contributed to physiology, psychology, moral philosophy, religion, and natural science, among other fields.
He was a Classical Greek philosopher. You can call him one of Western philosophy’s founders and the first Moral Philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought. Socrates is best known for his contributions to ethics and epidemiology. His most important contribution is the dialectic method of inquiry, also known as the Socrative method of “elenchus.”
Socrates wrote a majority of his ideas in the form of paradoxes. For him, virtue is more important than wealth. The philosopher also contributed to the field of politics. He firmly believed in “I know that I know nothing.” Socrates seemed to support the mystical side of reincarnation and mystical religions. Many consider it an act of covertness.
11. Karl Marx
Among his many achievements, Karl Heinrich Marx FRSA was a philosopher, theorist, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, and journalist. The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, and Das Kapital, a four-volume work, is his most well-known. Among Marx’s many contributions to philosophy was an essay entitled Civil Disobedience, which advocated for individual freedom from governmental oppression.
Known better as Voltaire, Francois Arouet is one of the most influential French Enlightenment writers. A prolific writer, he wrote thousands of letters, books, pamphlets, essays, plays, and other forms of writing.
The outright skepticism Voltaire expressed toward the government and church during his time caused much controversy. Still, he remained a progressive thinker regarding civil rights issues and advocated for freedom of religion, speech, and trial.
The contemporary theory of probabilities, a field of mathematics concerned with the analysis of random processes, was founded by the French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher of religion, Blaise Pascal. Contrary to the views of French philosopher René Descartes, he promoted a religious theory that claimed that one experiences God via the heart rather than through reason.
The father of the modern Italian language is thought to have been the medieval Italian poet and philosopher Dante. Discussions of rhetoric around moral philosophy and political ideas can be found in Dante’s significant theoretical writings.
15. Mary Wollstonecraft
In her writings and intellect, Mary Wollstonecraft advocated for women’s equality within society. She was an ardent feminist who believed men and women had equal rights and responsibilities. She argued that women should have equal rights and education commensurate with their status in society. Among her most famous works is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, regarded as the first great feminist treatise.
The philosophy itself makes us think about the universe differently. Throughout history, we have seen some brilliant philosophers who led to the creation of new knowledge. They came up with unique ideas about our world and changed our perception for good. So, with a list of the best philosophers in the world, we celebrate their work and contributions.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What does philosophy mean?
Ans: Philosophy studies fundamental life issues, such as reality, logic, mind, behavior, and more.
2. Who is the father of philosophy?
Ans: Among the most famous figures in world history, Socrates of Athens (470/469-399 BCE) is known as the “Father of Western Philosophy” because of his contributions to ancient Greek philosophy.
3. Who started philosophy?
Ans: The Greek philosopher Pythagoras is credited with creating the phrase philosophy (6th century BCE).
4. Is philosophy hard to study?
The readings for philosophy courses are typically short, but they are challenging and complex. Some students seem to thrive on the arduous study required, while others cannot handle it.
5. Can you be a philosopher without a degree?
Ans: That’s right. Philosophy studies profound questions in ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields.
6. Is philosophy a promising career?
Ans: Researched philosophers may find teaching jobs in universities, colleges, and research institutes. A philosophy graduate can also work as an advisor, lobbyist, or HR specialist. Additionally, a degree in philosophy can prepare you for careers in law and government.