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Philosopher - Lover of wisdom


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Philosopher - Lover of wisdom

A Philosopher is a person who engages in the study of fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, ethics, logic, and other aspects of the human experience.
Philosophers seek to critically examine and understand the world and our place in it, often through reasoned argument and analysis.
They may explore questions such as the nature of reality, the meaning of life, the foundations of morality, the limits of knowledge, and the nature of human consciousness, among many other topics.

The following is a list of just a few of the most prominent philosophers in human history.
While this list is by no means complete, it is meant to pique your interest in learning more about these individuals who have had a significant impact on shaping our world.
The links provided by Stanford and IEP offer more information on these and many other philosophers.


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
https://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP)
https://iep.utm.edu/

 

Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC), China
https://iep.utm.edu/confucius/
Key works: Analects
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Five virtues (benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness)
Controversial idea: Advocated for filial piety, the importance of respecting and caring for one's parents and ancestors.

Sunzi {Sun Tzu} (544 BC - 496 BC), China
Key works: The Art of War
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/132
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Sun Tzu's philosophy in The Art of War, which emphasized strategic thinking, understanding the enemy, and using deception as a key tactic in warfare, has been influential for centuries and is still studied today.
Controversial idea: Some have criticized Sun Tzu's teachings as amoral or even immoral, arguing that they prioritize winning at all costs over ethical considerations.
Religious affiliation: It is unclear whether Sun Tzu had any particular religious affiliation or beliefs.

Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC), Greece
https://iep.utm.edu/socrates/
Key works: None (as far as we know) {Socrates' teachings and ideas were transmitted orally and were not written down until after his death}
Memorable thoughts and ideas: The Socratic Method, which involved questioning assumptions and arriving at truth through dialectical inquiry.
Controversial idea: Socrates was sentenced to death for "refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state" and for "corrupting the youth."

Plato (428/427 BC - 348/347 BC), Greece
https://iep.utm.edu/plato/
Key works: The Republic, The Symposium, The Apology
"The Republic": https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1497
"The Symposium": https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1600
"The Apology": https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1656
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Theory of Forms, Allegory of the Cave, idea of the philosopher-king
Controversial idea: Plato's ideal state is often criticized as being authoritarian and anti-democratic.

Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), Greece
https://iep.utm.edu/aristotle/
Key works: Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, Metaphysics
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics by H. Rackham, Ed. https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0054
Aristotle on the art of poetry by Aristotle https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6763
Aristotle’s Metaphysics {Not aware of a public link to the full book}  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/ and https://iep.utm.edu/aristotle-metaphysics/
Aristotle: Politics  https://iep.utm.edu/aristotle-politics/
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Golden mean, syllogism, principle of non-contradiction
Controversial idea: Aristotle's views on slavery and women have been criticized for being sexist and oppressive.

Zhuangzi (369 BC - 286 BC), China
https://iep.utm.edu/zhuangzi-chuang-tzu-chinese-philosopher/
Key works: Zhuangzi
Zhuangzi   https://iep.utm.edu/zhuangzi-chuang-tzu-chinese-philosopher/
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Free and easy wandering, relativism, the butterfly dream
Controversial idea: Zhuangzi's skepticism about objective reality and the value of human knowledge challenges traditional epistemological assumptions.

Epicurus (341 BC - 270 BC), Greece
https://iep.utm.edu/epicur/
Key works: Principal Doctrines, Letter to Menoeceus
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Hedonism, atomism, the problem of evil
Controversial idea: Epicurus's view that the gods are distant and uninvolved in human affairs challenged traditional religious beliefs.

Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC), Rome
https://iep.utm.edu/cicero-roman-philosopher/
Key works: On the Republic, On the Nature of the Gods, On Duties
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Natural law, stoicism, the orator as philosopher
Controversial idea: Cicero's skepticism about the possibility of attaining absolute knowledge has been criticized for being overly cautious and limiting.

Seneca (4 BC - 65 AD), Rome
https://iep.utm.edu/seneca/
Key works: Letters from a Stoic, On the Shortness of Life, On Benefits
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Stoicism, the importance of reason and virtue, living in accordance with nature
Controversial idea: Seneca's belief in the importance of living a simple, self-sufficient life has been criticized for being unrealistic and out of touch with the realities of society.

Augustine of Hippo (354 AD - 430 AD), North Africa
https://iep.utm.edu/augustine-political-and-social-philosophy/
Key works: Confessions, City of God, On Christian Doctrine
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Original sin, predestination, the problem of evil
Controversial idea: Augustine's views on sexuality and original sin have been criticized for being oppressive and anti-feminist.

Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274), Italy
https://iep.utm.edu/thomas-aquinas/
Key works: Summa Theologica, On the Eternity of the World
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Natural law, the relationship between faith and reason, the Five Ways
Controversial idea: Aquinas's views on the nature of God and the relationship between reason and faith have been the subject of much debate and controversy.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Alighieri
Key works: The Divine Comedy, De vulgari eloquentia
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, theological reflections on love, beauty, and salvation, exploration of the human condition
Controversial idea: Dante's views on the afterlife and his use of allegory have been subject to debate and interpretation, and his works have been criticized for their depiction of non-Christian cultures.

William of Ockham (1285 - 1347), England
https://iep.utm.edu/ockham/
Key works: Summa Logicae, The Razor
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Ockham's Razor, nominalism, political liberalism
Controversial idea: Ockham's nominalism challenged traditional notions of metaphysics and epistemology, and his political views were considered radical for his time.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italy
https://iep.utm.edu/machiave/
Key works: The Prince, Discourses on Livy, The Art of War
Memorable thoughts and ideas: The pursuit of power, the role of the state, the use of deception and force in politics, the concept of a "new prince"
Controversial idea: Machiavelli's views on politics and morality have been controversial since the publication of The Prince, with some critics accusing him of advocating for tyranny and unethical behavior.

Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592), France
https://iep.utm.edu/montaigne/
Key works: Essays
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Skepticism, humanism, the importance of self-reflection and introspection
Controversial idea: Montaigne's frank and open discussion of sex and bodily functions in his writing challenged traditional taboos and social norms.

René Descartes (1596 - 1650), France
https://iep.utm.edu/rene-descartes/
Key works: Meditations on First Philosophy, Discourse on the Method
Memorable thoughts and ideas: "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am), mind-body dualism, the method of doubt
Controversial idea: Descartes's views on the relationship between mind and body have been the subject of much debate and criticism, and his emphasis on reason and rationality has been criticized as overly narrow and limiting.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), France
https://iep.utm.edu/pascal-b/
Key works: Pensées, The Provincial Letters, Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Pascal's wager, the nature of faith and reason, the limits of human understanding, the concept of "the infinite"
Controversial idea: Pascal's views on religion and skepticism have been subject to debate and interpretation, with some critics arguing that his arguments for faith are flawed or incomplete.

Baruch Spinoza {Benedict de Spinoza} (1632 - 1677), Netherlands
https://iep.utm.edu/spinoza/
Key works: Ethics, Theological-Political Treatise
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Pantheism, the unity of all things, the freedom of the individual
Controversial idea: Spinoza's views on God and religion challenged traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs, and his political views were considered radical and subversive.

John Locke (1632 - 1704), England
https://iep.utm.edu/locke/
Key works: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Two Treatises of Government
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Empiricism, social contract theory, natural rights
Controversial idea: Locke's views on property and the accumulation of wealth have been criticized for contributing to economic inequality and social injustice.

Voltaire (1694-1778), France
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/voltaire/
Key works: Candide, Letters Concerning the English Nation, The Philosophical Dictionary
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Critique of religious and political institutions, defense of reason and free inquiry, advocacy for tolerance and human rights
Controversial idea: Voltaire's criticisms of organized religion and traditional morality have been controversial, and his works have been banned and censored at various times throughout history.

David Hume (1711-1776), Scotland
https://iep.utm.edu/hume/
Key works: A Treatise of Human Nature, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Empiricism, skepticism, the problem of induction, the is-ought problem
Controversial idea: Hume's skepticism and criticism of religion and traditional morality were controversial in his time, and his works continue to be the subject of debate and interpretation today.

Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804), Germany
https://iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/
Key works: Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, Critique of Judgment
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Categorical imperative, noumena and phenomena, transcendental idealism
Controversial idea: Kant's views on morality and the nature of reality have been the subject of much debate and criticism, and his emphasis on reason and rationality has been criticized as overly abstract and disconnected from human experience.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831), Germany
https://iep.utm.edu/hegelsoc/
Key works: Phenomenology of Spirit, Elements of the Philosophy of Right
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Dialectical method, master-slave dialectic, absolute idealism
Controversial idea: Hegel's views on history and the role of the state have been criticized as overly idealistic and authoritarian.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), United States
https://iep.utm.edu/ralph-waldo-emerson/
Key works: Nature, Self-Reliance, The American Scholar
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Transcendentalism, individualism, the divinity of nature, the importance of nonconformity
Controversial idea: Emerson's rejection of traditional religious and social norms was controversial in his time, and his works continue to be the subject of debate and interpretation today.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), United Kingdom
https://iep.utm.edu/milljs/
Key works: On Liberty, Utilitarianism, The Subjection of Women
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Liberty, utilitarianism, the harm principle, the rights of women
Controversial idea: Mill's advocacy for individual liberty and the rights of women were controversial in his time, and his works continue to be the subject of debate and interpretation today.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), Denmark
https://iep.utm.edu/kierkega/
Key works: Fear and Trembling, Either/Or, The Sickness Unto Death
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Existentialism, the leap of faith, the three stages of life
Controversial idea: Kierkegaard's rejection of systematic philosophy and his emphasis on subjective experience and personal choice have been highly controversial and have inspired both admiration and criticism.

Karl Marx (1818 - 1883), Germany
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marx/
Key works: The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Historical materialism, the labor theory of value, the class struggle
Controversial idea: Marx's views on capitalism and the need for a proletarian revolution have been highly controversial and have inspired both admiration and criticism.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), Russia
https://iep.utm.edu/fedorov/
Top key works: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from Underground
Memorable thoughts and ideas: The human condition, morality, free will, redemption
Controversial idea: Dostoevsky's exploration of themes such as crime, guilt, and redemption challenged conventional religious and philosophical beliefs about the nature of the human person.
Religious affiliation: Russian Orthodox Christian

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900), Germany
https://iep.utm.edu/nietzsch/
Key works: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, The Genealogy of Morals
Memorable thoughts and ideas: The death of God, the will to power, the Übermensch
Controversial idea: Nietzsche's critiques of morality, religion, and traditional values have been highly controversial and have inspired both admiration and criticism.

Lev Shestov (1866-1938), Russia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Shestov
Top key works: Athens and Jerusalem, All Things Are Possible, In Job's Balances
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Radical subjectivity, existentialism, faith and reason
Controversial idea: Shestov's rejection of rationalism and his advocacy for a more subjective and experiential approach to philosophy challenged the dominant philosophical paradigms of his time.
Religious affiliation: Russian Orthodox Christian

Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948), Russia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Berdyaev
Top key works: The Meaning of the Creative Act, The Destiny of Man, The Philosophy of Inequality
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Christian existentialism, personalism, freedom and creativity
Controversial idea: Berdyaev's rejection of materialism and his emphasis on the spiritual nature of reality challenged the dominant scientific and philosophical paradigms of his time.
Religious affiliation: Russian Orthodox Christian

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), Austria/United Kingdom
https://iep.utm.edu/wittgens/
Key works: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Philosophical Investigations, On Certainty
Memorable thoughts and ideas: The limits of language and meaning, the idea of language games, the private language argument
Controversial idea: Wittgenstein's ideas about language and meaning were controversial in his time and continue to be the subject of debate and interpretation today.

Martin Heidegger (1889 - 1976), Germany
https://iep.utm.edu/heidegge/
Key works: Being and Time, The Question Concerning Technology
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Dasein, hermeneutics, the ontological difference
Controversial idea: Heidegger's association with the Nazi party and his controversial views on language and history have been highly controversial and have inspired both admiration and criticism.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 - 1980), France
https://iep.utm.edu/sartre-ex/
Key works: Being and Nothingness, No Exit, Nausea
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Existentialism, freedom, bad faith
Controversial idea: Sartre's rejection of traditional morality and his emphasis on radical freedom have been highly controversial and have inspired both admiration and criticism.

Michel Foucault (1926-1984), France
https://iep.utm.edu/foucault/
Key works: Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, Discipline and Punish, The History of Sexuality
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Power and knowledge, the construction of identity, the history of social institutions, the concept of "power/knowledge"
Controversial idea: Foucault's ideas about power and knowledge, and his critique of social institutions such as the prison and mental health system, have been the subject of controversy and debate, with some critics accusing him of being overly pessimistic and of promoting relativism.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), Germany/United States
https://iep.utm.edu/hannah-arendt/
Key works: The Human Condition, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Eichmann in Jerusalem
Memorable thoughts and ideas: The banality of evil, the nature of political power, the importance of individual responsibility and action, the relationship between politics and philosophy
Controversial idea: Arendt's analysis of the role of ordinary people in perpetuating evil during the Holocaust, and her critique of the conduct of the Eichmann trial, have been the subject of controversy and debate, with some critics accusing her of being insensitive to the victims of the Holocaust.

Albert Camus (1913-1960), France
https://iep.utm.edu/albert-camus/
Key works: The Stranger, The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus
Memorable thoughts and ideas: Absurdism, existentialism, the importance of individual freedom, the rejection of authority
Controversial idea: Camus' work has been criticized for its perceived lack of engagement with broader social and political issues. Some critics argue that his focus on individual freedom and the rejection of authority is insufficient to address the complex problems of the modern world.

 

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