This blog post highlights the greatest philosophers of all time, and what they are known for. It also contains the origin of philosophy and how the ideas of philosophers have helped humanity in no small way. I urge you to read through it with your undivided attention.
Truth be told, the ideas and facts established by these greatest philosophers of all time have helped us comprehend certain things about the world we live in, and also given us a better understanding of the human psyche.
I won’t be wrong to say that philosophers helped shape and are still shaping this world using their critical thinking and questioning abilities. Philosophers were not the ones to accept whatever that was presented. They made sure they subject almost every idea, belief, and opinion to rational scrutiny before adoption.
Now, before we delve properly into the greatest or most famous philosophers of all time, it is important we explore how the term “philosophy” came about. From deep research, philosophy originated from two Greek words Philo- to love, and Sophia- to be wise. These two words together can be expressed as “the love of wisdom”. Hence, philosophy is said to be the study of knowledge, existence, or the search for reality.
Philosophers tend to dig deep into nature, ethics, logic, metaphysics, aesthetics, knowledge, theory, human existence, etc. Even, most of them ask questions about God that will amaze you. Their teachings and theories having been centered on human existence, outlive them, and some of them still hold water up to this day.
Greatest Philosophers Of All Time
Without any further ado, let us see below the list of the greatest philosophers of all time, and things they were known for. We would also explore some background information about these philosophers.
- Immanuel Kant
- John Locke
- Karl Marx
- Friedrich Nietzsche
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Aristotle is the first on our list of greatest philosophers of all time. He was a well-known Greek philosopher who lived in 384- 322 BC in ancient Greece. He was also considered the first scientist to exist, following his philosophical and non-philosophical work.
Aristotle was a student of Plato and has more than 200 treatises to his name, of which about 30 are still in use today. He established the empirical biology i.e., the theories on animal and plant observation. His other works focused on political theory, aesthetics, and rhetoric, disciplines, philosophy of mind through ethics, etc.
Other works of Aristotle for which he is remembered today include; the field of formal logic and the scientific method, the theory of deduction (syllogism), and the identification of methods of rhetoric (ethos, pathos, and logos).
The next on our list is Socrates. Socrates was a Greek philosopher who hails from Athens and is referred to as the father of Western philosophy. He founded the Socratic dialogue, a literary genre designed in such a way that people can be taught by asking them questions. He was also the first moral philosopher of the ethical tradition of thought.
He has no written words, rather he is remembered for his posthumous accounts of his students- Xenophon and Plato. He was accused of corrupting the youth, and not recognizing the city’s official gods. He was sentenced to death for these reasons in 399 BC.
Another great philosopher of all time is Lao-Tzu. He came up with the idea of Taoism and even authored a book on it around 500 BCE in Ancient China. Taoism explains in detail how humans and animals should be allowed to live together in the universe. It (Taoism) also talks about the balancing of forces, such as yin and yang, hot and cold, light and dark, action and inaction, etc.
Taoism took over the Tang dynasty in the 8th century CE, and remained one of the core religions in China, aside from Confucianism and Buddhism.
Lao-Tzu is a firm believer in spiritual immortality as he claims that when a being dies, his soul does not, rather it becomes one with the universe. He is remembered today due to his work in Taoism.
4. Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant is a famous philosopher who lived near the Baltic Sea from 1724- 1804. He was among the modern philosophers that have his works spread across pure reason, power of judgment, and critiques of practical reasons.
He insisted that actions should be measured to be right or wrong based on if or not they fulfill our duty, rather than the consequences of the action. He backed up this claim with his fundamental law of morality where he argues that moral reason overrides any other type of reason.
Kant’s other works that made him an influential philosopher in modern Western philosophy cut across metaphysics, aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, etc.
5. John Locke
John Locke is also one of the greatest philosophers of all time on our list. He was well-versed in medical research, and a product of Oxford University. He lived in Europe in the 17th century.
His works majored in enlightenment and liberalism where he argues that all persons have the right to life, right to liberty, right to property, etc. He stated that a king or ruler must adhere to an individual’s rights or stand the chance of being removed.
Locke believed that the primary duty of government is to be answerable to the people, and no government has divine rights.
Another well-known philosopher that has ever lived is Epicurus. He founded Epicureanism and lived from 341- 27 BCE. He argues that happiness is the greatest form of living, and this happiness emanates from the absence of physical pain, and mental disturbances.
He believes that anxiety comes from irrational desires, fear of punishment, death, etc., and if all these can be eliminated, one can relieve himself of anxiety and find happiness, hence the happiness for a good life is derived from the pursuit of pleasure, not the pure exercise of living.
7. Karl Marx
Karl Marx lived in the 1800s and is among the most influential German philosophers of all time. He brought up the idea of Marxism that discusses the political, social, and economic theory which states that there is a continuous struggle between the capitalists and the working class.
He, being a strong supporter of communism believed that someday, the working class would win the capitalist class in a revolution, and take control of the economy.
8. Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche is a German philosopher that introduced nihilism, a claim that nothing in life has meaning, including life itself. He also wrote on other subjects that cut across science, culture, history, art, and many others.
Friedrich was 24 years old when he held the chair of classical philology at the University of Basel in 1869, and he was the youngest person ever to do that.
Confucius is another great philosopher that made our list. He lived from 770 – 481 BCE and hails from China. He was a strong advocate for ethical and moral social standards and also believed that everyone should be educated, hence the need for teaching to be adopted as a proper career. He had five constant virtues which he upheld. They are righteousness, trustworthiness, benevolence, wisdom, and propriety.
Confucius established Confucianism, a school in which morality and personal ethics were incorporated into the curriculum. Confucianism has four main principles which are beneficence, justice, non-maleficence, and respect for autonomy.
10. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson is an American philosopher, essayist, and lecturer who impacted society through his essay writings. One of the essays that registered his name in the mind of people was titled ‘Self Reliance’
He lived in the 1800s and believed in the connection between God, man, and nature. His works endear people to trust their instinct, judgment, etc., above any other thing.