12 of the most famous philosophers and their ideologies that shaped the world

12 of the most famous philosophers and their ideologies that shaped the world

For many years, philosophers have shaped the entire globe and every person's intellectual tradition, and they remain pertinent today. The most famous philosophers of every generation have left a wealth of information for everyone to use to gain a greater understanding of the psychology of humans and their habitat.

famous philosophers
Some of the most famous philosophers. Photo: Ipsumpix, Science Source, Stock Montage, Keystone-France (modified by author)
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Philosophy teaches one critical thinking and logical reasoning skills, simplifying tough circumstances into various possible solutions by engaging them in lateral thinking. It broadens one's perspective of reality and makes them more conscious of the fundamental tenets of one's beliefs and observations, allowing one to make more rational and comprehensive decisions.

Most famous philosophers and scientists

The lives of philosophers were as fascinating as their theories. They lived in various eras and places and had distinct backgrounds and experiences. Each philosopher had a distinctive outlook on life, which influenced how they composed their works. But who are the greatest thinkers of all time?

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1. Aristotle

famous philosophers
Statue of Aristotle at the Athens Academy, Athens, Central Greece, Attica, Europe. Photo: Prisma
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Aristotle was a polymath and one of the top philosophers from Ancient Greece. His works vary across philosophy, natural sciences, economics, the arts, psychology, politics, and linguistics.

As the creator of the Peripatetic school of philosophy at Athens' Lyceum, he laid the framework for the subsequent Aristotelian custom, which laid the foundation for creating contemporary science.

2. Plato

famous philosophers
Circa 350 BC, A bust of the Greek philosopher Plato (c428 - c348 BC), one of the most influential philosophers in the history of humanity. Photo: Hulton Archive
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Plato was an ancient philosopher born in Athens in the classical era of Greek history. He established the academy in Athens, a philosophical school where he educated the philosophical theories that eventually became known as Platonism.

Plato pioneered the recorded dialogue and dialectic modes of philosophy. He addressed issues that would ultimately become all significant theoretical and practical philosophy disciplines. His most notable work is the Theory of Forms which has been understood as presenting an answer to what is now referred to as the issue of Universals.

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3. Socrates

famous philosophers
Socrates was a great philosopher. Bust, marble. Photo: Imagno
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Socrates was an Athenian Greek philosopher often regarded as the founding father of Western philosophy and one of the initial moral philosophers of the ethical school of thought. He was a mysterious individual who wrote no texts and is only known through the post-mortem recollections of ancient authors, notably his students Plato and Xenophon.

These narratives are composed of conversations in which Socrates and the other participants analyse a subject in the form of question and response; they gave origin to the literary genre of Socratic dialogue.

4. René Descartes

famous philosophers
Rene Descartes, portrait. After a lost original by Frans Hals. Oil on canvas. Photo: Imagno
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René Descartes was a French scientist, philosopher, and mathematician primarily regarded as pivotal in present-day philosophy and science development. Mathematics was essential to his investigation technique, and he combined the formerly distinct sciences of geometry and algebra to form analytic geometry.

Descartes devoted his professional existence to the Dutch Republic, first serving in the Dutch States Army and becoming a vital philosopher of the Dutch Golden Age.

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5. Immanuel Kant

famous philosophers
Immanuel Kant - portrait. Painting by Döbler, 1791. German Prussian philosopher, 22 April 1724 - 12 February 1804. Photo: Culture Club
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Immanuel Kant was a Prussian-born German philosopher who was a crucial Enlightenment thinker. He is regarded as one of the most significant philosophers in contemporary Western philosophy for his extensive and systematic writings in metaphysics, aesthetics, epistemology, and ethics.

Kant maintained in his philosophy of transcendental idealism that space and time are just the "forms of intuition" that shape all experience, whereas the objects of knowledge are "appearances." He authored his most famous work, the Critique of Pure Reason, to challenge the philosophical idea of scepticism.

6. John Locke

famous philosophers
Circa 1680, English philosopher John Locke (1632 - 1704) was the father of English Empiricism. Photo: Stock Montage
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John Locke FRS was an English physician and philosopher primarily recognised as one of the most prominent Enlightenment thinkers and renowned as the "Father of Liberalism." He is regarded as one of the earliest British empiricists in the lineage of Francis Bacon, and his contributions to the theory of social contract are significant.

His work significantly impacted the formation of epistemology and the philosophy of politics. His input to traditional republicanism and liberal ideology can be found in the United States Declaration of Independence.

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7. Voltaire

famous philosophers
Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet, 1694-1778), as a young man. Oil on canvas. Institut et Musee Voltaire, Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Imagno
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Voltaire was a writer, philosopher, and historian of the French Enlightenment. He was recognised for his humour and harsh critiques of Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church and slavery. Voltaire believed in free speech, religious freedom, and the dichotomy of church and state.

He was an outspoken supporter of civil liberties, often threatened by the Catholic French monarchy's strict censorship regulations. His polemics satirised prejudice, religious orthodoxy, and French institutions of the time. Candide, his most recognised work and opus, is a novella that reflects on, criticises, and mocks many historical events, intellectuals, and ideas of the period.

8. Karl Marx

famous philosophers
Karl Marx (1818-1893), German social theorist and revolutionary, circa 1870. Private collection. Photo: Roger Viollet
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Karl Marx was an economist, philosopher, sociologist, historian, journalist, political economist critic, political theorist, and socialist revolutionary from Germany. His most famous works include the 1848 booklet The Communist Manifesto and the (1867-1883) four-volume Das Kapital.

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Karl's philosophical and political ideas significantly impacted later economic, intellectual, and political history. His name has been employed as a noun, an adjective, and a school of social philosophy.

9. Bertrand Russell

famous philosophers
Bertrand Russell, Nobel Prize winner.
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Bertrand Russell was a logician, philosopher, mathematician, and public intellectual from the United Kingdom. He contributed significantly to logic, artificial intelligence, set theory, mathematics, computer science, linguistics, and cognitive science.

He also made considerable contributions to numerous fields of analytic philosophy, including philosophy of language, mathematics, metaphysics and epistemology.

10. David Hume

famous philosophers
Portrait of David Hume (Edinburgh, 1711-1776), Scottish philosopher and historian. Painting by Allan Ramsay (1766). Oil on canvas. Edinburgh, Scottish National Portrait Gallery Photo: DeAgostini
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David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment historian, philosopher, librarian, economist, and essayist most remembered today for his immensely influential philosophy of philosophical empiricism, scepticism, and naturalism.

Hume attempted to establish a naturalistic science of man, commencing with A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), by investigating the psychological underpinning of human nature. He maintained that there are no innate notions and that all human understanding is derived purely through experience.

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11. Confucius

famous philosophers
A statue of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher best known for promoting filial piety in the 6th century B.C., is pictured on the grounds of the Confucius Temple in Beijing. Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN
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Confucius was a Spring and Autumn period Chinese theorist and politician regarded as the pinnacle of Chinese sages. His teachings and philosophy play a pivotal role Chinese and East Asian societies and cultures today.

Confucius saw himself as a transmitter of ancient values that he thought had been forsaken in his day. Confucianism's philosophical principles emphasised individual and governmental morality, the propriety of social connections, justice, benevolence, and honesty.

12. Mary Wollstonecraft

famous philosophers
Mary Wollstonecraft (wife of William Godwin). Mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. British writer 27 April 1759-10 September 1797 colourised. Photo: Bridgeman
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Mary Wollstonecraft was a British author, philosopher, and feminist activist. Wollstonecraft's life, which included multiple unusual personal connections at the time, gained greater recognition than her writing until the late twentieth century.

Wollstonecraft is now considered one of the pioneering feminist theorists, and feminists frequently regard her life and writings as influential.

Most famous philosophers
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Who are the three most famous Greek philosophers?

The three most famous and great philosophers of Ancient Greece include; Aristotle, Plato and Socrates.

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Above are some of the most famous philosophers of all time. These great people have shaped the entire globe and many person's school of thought. They left a wealth of information for everyone to better understand the psychology of humans and the planet.

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Tatiana Thiga (Lifestyle writer) Tatiana Thiga is a content creator who joined Yen in 2022. She is an English literature graduate from Kenyatta University. She has amassed sufficient knowledge working on a variety of topics, including biographies, fashion and lifestyles, guides, and more. In 2023, Tatiana finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. You can reach her at tatianathiga@gmail.com