Contents

The 20 Most Influential Philosophers

past TBS Staff

Updated September 7, 2022

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Philosophy is complicated stuff. Information technology’due south the search for meaning, for greater understanding, for answers to the questions surrounding our existence, our purpose, and the universe itself. So manifestly, attempting to sum it up in a few pithy blurbs is a fool’s errand. Well, consider usa your fool, because that’s exactly what nosotros’ve set out to do.

We’re certain Socrates would question our motives, Emerson would criticize us for writing on the subject area so far removed from nature, and Nietzsche would make fun of us until nosotros cried. Only nosotros recollect information technology’southward worth the risk to give yous a quick shot of knowledge while you fix for your examination, tighten up your essay, or begin the enquiry process.

Considering philosophy is such a broad and encompassing subject — I mean, information technology’s basically nigh everything — we don’t claim to embrace the subject comprehensively. Honestly, the only existent way y’all tin can fully comprehend the theories, epistemologies, and frameworks described hither is to read the writing created by — and critique dedicated to — each of these thinkers. But what follows is your introduction, a rapid-fire wait at 20 Major Philosophers, their Large Ideas, and their most of import written works. But recollect fast, considering these mindblowers come at a furious pace.


Philosophers Tabular array of Contents

  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Aristotle
  • Confucius
  • René Descartes
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Michel Foucault
  • David Hume
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Søren Kierkegaard
  • Lao-Tzu
  • John Locke
  • Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Karl Marx
  • John Stuart Mill
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Plato
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Socrates
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein

Major Philosophers and Their Ideas

ane.
Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)

Thomas Aquinas was a 13th century Dominican friar, theologian and Md of the Church, born in what is known today every bit the Lazio region of Italian republic. His most of import contribution to Western thought is the concept of natural theology (sometimes referred to as Thomism in tribute to his influence). This belief system holds that the existence of God is verified through reason and rational explanation, every bit opposed to through scripture or religious feel. This ontological approach is amongst the central premises underpinning modernistic Catholic philosophy and liturgy. His writings, and Aquinas himself, are still considered among the preeminent models for Catholic priesthood. His ideas also remain central to theological debate, discourse, and modes of worship.

Aquinas’ Big Ideas

  • Adhered to the Platonic/Aristotelian principle of realism, which holds that certain absolutes exist in the universe, including the existence of the universe itself;
  • Focused much of his piece of work on reconciling Aristotelian and Christian principles, only also expressed a doctrinal openness to Jewish and Roman philosophers, all to the end of divining truth wherever information technology could exist found;
  • The Second Vatican Quango (1962–65) declared his Summa Theolgoiae — a compendium of all the teachings of the Catholic Church to that point — “Perennial Philosophy.”

Aquinas’ Key Works

  • Summa Theologica
    (1265–74)
  • Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings

2.
Aristotle (384–322 BCE)

Aristotle is among the most important and influential thinkers and teachers in human history, often considered — alongside his mentor, Plato — to be a father of Western Philosophy.” Built-in in the northern part of aboriginal Greece, his writings and ideas on metaphysics, ethics, knowledge, and methodological inquiry are at the very root of human idea. Most philosophers who followed — both those who echoed and those who opposed his ideas — owed a direct debt to his wide-ranging influence. Aristotle’southward enormous impact was a consequence both of the breadth of his writing and his personal reach during his lifetime.

In addition to being a philosopher, Aristotle was besides a scientist, which led him to consider an enormous array of topics, and largely through the view that all concepts and knowledge are ultimately based on perception. A small sampling of topics covered in Aristotle’southward writing includes physics, biology, psychology, linguistics, logic, ethics, rhetoric, politics, government, music, theatre, verse, and metaphysics. He was also in a unique position to prevail directly over thinking throughout the known globe, tutoring a immature Alexander the Bang-up at the request of the hereafter conqueror’s father, Phillip Two of Macedon. This position of influence gave Aristotle the means to establish the library at Lyceum, where he produced hundreds of writings on papyrus scrolls. And of class, it also gave him straight sway over the mind of a man who would i day command an empire stretching from Hellenic republic to northwestern Republic of india. The result was an enormous sphere of influence for Aristotle’s ideas, one that only began to exist challenged by Renaissance thinkers nearly ii,000 years afterward.

Aristotle’southward Large Ideas

  • Asserted the utilize of logic equally a method of argument and offered the basic methodological template for analytical soapbox;
  • Espoused the understanding that cognition is congenital from the written report of things that happen in the world, and that some knowledge is universal — a prevailing ready of ideas throughout Western Civilisation thereafter;
  • Divers metaphysics as “the knowledge of immaterial existence,” and used this framework to examine the relationship between substance (a combination of matter and form) and essence, from which he devises that man is comprised from a unity of the two.

Aristotle’due south Key Works

  • The Metaphysics
  • Nicomachean Ethics
  • Poetics

3.

Confucius (551–479 BCE)

Chinese teacher, author, and philosopher Confucius viewed himself as a channel for the theological ideas and values of the regal dynasties that came before him. With an emphasis on family and social harmony, Confucius advocated for a fashion of life that reflected a spiritual and religious tradition, but which was too distinctly humanist and even secularist. Confucius — thought to be a contemporary of Taoist progenitor Lao-Tzu — had a profound impact on the evolution of Eastern legal customs and the emergence of a scholarly ruling course. Confucianism would engage in historic push button-pull with the philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism, experiencing ebbs and flows in influence, its high points coming during the Han (206 BCE–220 CE), Tang (618–907 CE), and Vocal (960–1296 CE) Dynasties. As Buddhism became the dominant spiritual force in Communist china, Confucianism declined in do. However, information technology remains a foundational philosophy underlying Asian and Chinese attitudes toward scholarly, legal, and professional pursuits.

Confucius’ Big Ideas

  • Developed a conventionalities system focused on both personal and governmental morality through qualities such every bit justice, sincerity, and positive relationships with others;
  • Advocated for the importance of strong family bonds, including respect for the elder, veneration of ane’due south ancestors, and marital loyalty;
  • Believed in the value of achieving ethical harmony through skilled judgment rather than knowledge of rules, denoting that 1 should achieve morality through self-cultivation.

Confucius’ Key Works

  • The Analects
  • The Complete Confucius

4.
René Descartes (1596–1650)

A French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, Descartes was born in France but spent twenty years of his life in the Dutch Republic. As a fellow member of the Dutch States Army, then as the Prince of Orange and afterward as
Stadtholder
(a position of national leadership in the Dutch Democracy), Descartes wielded considerable intellectual influence over the menstruation known every bit the Dutch Gold Age. He often distinguished himself by refuting or attempting to disengage the ideas of those that came before him.

Descartes’ Big Ideas

  • Discards belief in all things that are not absolutely certain, emphasizing the understanding of that which tin can be known for sure;
  • Is recognized as the father of analytical geometry;
  • Regarded as one of the leading influences in the Scientific Revolution — a period of intense discovery, revelation, and innovation that rippled through Europe between the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras (roughly speaking, 15th to 18th centuries).

Descartes’ Key Works

  • Meditations on Commencement Philosophy
    (1641)
  • Principles of Philosophy
    (1644)
  • The Passions of the Soul and Other Tardily Philosophical Writings
    (1649)

5.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 82)

A Boston-born writer, philosopher, and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson is the father of the transcendentalist movement. This was a distinctly American philosophical orientation that rejected the pressures imposed by social club, materialism, and organized religion in favor of the ethics of individualism, freedom, and a personal emphasis on the soul’due south relationship with the surrounding natural world. Though not explicitly a “naturalist” himself, Emerson’s ethics were taken upwards by this 20th century move. He was too seen as a key effigy in the American romantic movement.

Emerson’s Large Ideas

  • Wrote on the importance of subjects such as cocky-reliance, experiential living, and the preeminence of the soul;
  • Referred to “the infinitude of the individual human” as his cardinal doctrine;
  • Was a mentor and friend to fellow influential transcendentalist Henry David Thoureau.

Emerson’s Key Works

  • Nature and Other Essays
    (1836)
  • Essays: First and Second Serial
    (1841,1844)

6.
Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Historian, social theorist, and philosopher Michel Foucault, born in the riverfront city of Poiltiers, France, defended much of his didactics and writing to the examination of power and knowledge and their connexion to social control. Though often identified as a postmodernist, Foucault preferred to think of himself every bit a critic of modernity. His service as an international diplomat on behalf of France also influenced his understanding of social constructs throughout history and how they take served to enforce racial, religious, and sexual inequality. His ideals have been especially embraced by progressive movements, and he centrolineal with many during his lifetime. Active in movements against racism, human rights abuses, prisoner abuses, and marginalization of the mentally ill, he is often cited as a major influence in movements for social justice, human rights, and feminism. More broadly speaking, his exam of ability and social control has had a direct influence on the studies of sociology, communications, and political science.

Foucault’south Big Ideas

  • Held the conviction that the study of philosophy must brainstorm through a close and ongoing study of history;
  • Demanded that social constructs be more closely examined for hierarchical inequalities, too as through an analysis of the corresponding fields of cognition supporting these unequal structures;
  • Believed oppressed humans are entitled to rights and they accept a duty to rising up against the corruption of power to protect these rights.

Foucault’s Cardinal Works

  • The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences
    (1966)
  • The Archaeology of Knowledge: And the Soapbox on Language
    (1969)
  • Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison house
    (1975)

7.
David Hume (1711–77)

A Scottish-born historian, economist, and philosopher, Hume is ofttimes grouped with thinkers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Sir Francis Bacon as role of a movement called British Empiricism. He was focused on creating a “naturalistic science of man” that delves into the psychological conditions defining man nature. In contrast to rationalists such as Descartes, Hume was preoccupied with the mode that passions (equally opposed to reason) govern man beliefs. This, Hume argued, predisposed human being beings to knowledge founded not on the beingness of sure absolutes simply on personal experience. As a effect of these ideas, Hume would be among the outset major thinkers to refute dogmatic religious and moral ideals in favor of a more sentimentalist approach to human being nature. His belief organisation would assist to inform the future movements of utilitarianism and logical positivism, and would have a profound impact on scientific and theological discourse thereafter.

Hume’s Big Ideas

  • Articulated the “problem of induction,” suggesting we cannot rationally justify our belief in causality, that our perception just allows us to experience events that are typically conjoined, and that causality cannot be empirically asserted as the connecting force in that human relationship;
  • Assessed that human beings lack the chapters to achieve a true conception of the self, that our conception is merely a “bundle of sensations” that we connect to formulate the thought of the self;
  • Hume argued against moral absolutes, instead positing that our ethical behavior and treatment of others is compelled by emotion, sentiment, and internal passions, that we are inclined to positive behaviors past their likely desirable outcomes.

Hume’s Key Works

  • A Treatise of Human being Nature
    (1739)
  • An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
    (1751)
  • The History Of England
    (1754–62)

eight.
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)

Prussian-born (and therefore identified as a German philosopher), Kant is considered amid the nigh essential figures in modern philosophy, an advocate of reason equally the source for morality, and a thinker whose ideas go along to permeate ethical, epistemological, and political debate. What perhaps most distinguishes Kant is his innate desire to find a synthesis between rationalists like Descartes and empiricists like Hume, to decipher a middle footing that defers to human experience without descending into skepticism. To his own way of thinking, Kant was pointing a way forrad by resolving a central philosophical impasse.

Kant’s Big Ideas

  • Defined the “Categorical imperative,” the idea that there are intrinsically good and moral ideas to which we all have a duty, and that rational individuals will inherently find reason in adhering to moral obligation;
  • Argued that humanity can attain a perpetual peace through universal republic and international cooperation;
  • Asserted that the concepts of time and space, also every bit cause and consequence, are essential to the man experience, and that our agreement of the world is conveyed only by our senses and non necessarily by the underlying (and likely unseen) causes of the phenomena we observe.

Kant’s Fundamental Works

  • Critique of Pure Reason
    (1781)
  • Critique of Judgment
    (1790)
  • The Metaphysics of Morals
    (1797)

9.
Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55)

A Danish theologian, social critic, and philosopher, Kierkegaard is viewed by many equally the near important existentialist philosopher. His work dealt largely with the idea of the single individual. His thinking tended to prioritize concrete reality over abstract thought. Within this construct, he viewed personal selection and commitment as preeminent. This orientation played a major part in his theology likewise. He focused on the importance of the private’due south subjective relationship with God, and his work addressed the themes of organized religion, Christian love, and human emotion. Because Kierkegaard’s work was at first merely available in Danish, information technology was only afterwards his work was translated that his ideas proliferated widely throughout Western Europe. This proliferation was a major force in helping existentialism take root in the 20th century.

Kierkegaard’s Big Ideas

  • Explored the thought of objective vs. subjective truths, and argued that theological assertions were inherently subjective and arbitrary considering they could non be verified or invalidated by science;
  • Was highly critical of the entanglement between State and Church;
  • Start described the concept of angst, defining it as a dread the comes from anxieties over choice, freedom, and ambiguous feelings.

Kierkegaard’southward Central Works

  • The Concept of Dread
    (1844)
  • Final Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Book one
    (1846)
  • Practice in Christianity
    (1850)

ten.
Lao-Tzu (likewise Laozi, lived between the 6th and 4th century BCE)

Historians differ on exactly when Lao-Tzu lived and taught, but it’s largely held that some time betwixt the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, the “old main” founded philosophical Taoism. Viewed as a divine figure in traditional Chinese religions, his ideas and writings would form ane of the major pillars (alongside Confucius and the Buddha) for Eastern thought. Lao-Tzu espoused an ideal life lived through the Dao or Tao (roughly translated equally “the way”). As such, Taoism is equally rooted in faith and philosophy. In traditional telling, though Lao-Tzu never opened a formal schoolhouse, he worked as an archivist for the imperial court of Zhou Dynasty. This gave him access to an extensive body of writing and artifacts, which he synthesized into his ain poesy and prose. Every bit a result of his writing, his influence spread widely during his lifetime. In fact, i version of his biography implies he may well have been a directly mentor to the Buddha (or, in some versions, was the Buddha himself). There are lot of colorful narratives surrounding Lao-Tzu, some of which are almost certainly myth. In fact, there are some historians who even question whether or not Lao-Tzu was a real person. Historical accounts differ on who he was, exactly when he lived and which works he contributed to the canon of Taoism. However, in most traditional tellings, Lao-Tzu was the living apotheosis of the philosophy known as Taoism and writer of its primary text, the
Tao Te Ching.

Lao-Tzu’s Large Ideas

  • Espoused awareness of the self through meditation;
  • Disputed conventional wisdom as inherently biased, and urged followers of the Tao to find natural balance between the body, senses, and desires;
  • Urged individuals to achieve a state of
    wu wei, liberty from desire, an early staple tenet of Buddhist tradition thereafter.

Lao-Tzu’south Key Works

  • Tao Te Ching

xi.
John Locke (1632–1704)

An English language physicist and philosopher, John Locke was a prominent thinker during the Enlightenment flow. Part of the movement of British Empiricism alongside beau countrymen David Hume, Thomas Hobbes, and Sir Francis Bacon, Locke is regarded as an important contributor to the development of the social contract theory and is sometimes identified as the father of liberalism. Indeed, his discourses on identity, the self, and the impact of sensory experience would exist essential revelations to many Enlightenment thinkers and, consequently, to real revolutionaries. His philosophy is said to accept figured prominently into the formulation of the Proclamation of Independence that initiated America’s state of war for independence from the British.

Locke’s Large Ideas

  • Coined the term
    tabula rasa
    (blank slate) to denote that the human mind is born unformed, and that ideas and rules are only enforced through feel thereafter;
  • Established the method of introspection, focusing on one’s own emotions and behaviors in search of a better understanding of the cocky;
  • Argued that in order to exist truthful, something must be capable of repeated testing, a view that girded his ideology with the intent of scientific rigor.

Locke’s Key Works

  • Two Treatises of Government
    (1689)
  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
    (1690)
  • Some Thoughts Apropos Pedagogy
    (1693)

12.
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527)

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli is at once among the virtually influential and widely debated of history’s thinkers. A writer, public office-holder, and philosopher of Renaissance Italy, Machiavelli both participated in and wrote prominently on political matters, to the extent that he has even been identified by some as the father of modern political science. He is too seen as a proponent of deeply questionable — some would argue downright evil — values and ideas. Machiavelli was an empiricist who used experience and historical fact to inform his beliefs, a disposition which allowed him to divorce politics not just from theology but from morality as well. His almost prominent works described the parameters of effective rulership, in which he seems to advocate for leadership by any means which retain power, including deceit, murder, and oppression. While it is sometimes noted in his defense that Machiavelli himself did not live according to these principles, this “Machiavellian” philosophy is often seen every bit a template for tyranny and dictatorship, fifty-fifty in the nowadays solar day.

Machiavelli’due south Big Ideas

  • Famously asserted that while it would be best to be both loved and feared, the 2 rarely coincide, and thus, greater security is plant in the latter;
  • Identified as a “humanist,” and believed information technology necessary to establish a new kind of country in defiance of constabulary, tradition and peculiarly, the political preeminence of the Church;
  • Viewed ambition, competition and state of war as inevitable parts of man nature, even seeming to embrace all of these tendencies.

Machiavelli’s Key Works

  • Discourses on Livy
    (1531)
  • The Prince
    (1532)
  • The Art Of State of war
    (1519–twenty)

13.
Karl Marx (1818–83)

A High german-born economist, political theorist, and philosopher, Karl Marx wrote some of the most revolutionary philosophical content e’er produced. Indeed, then pertinent was his writing to the human condition during his lifetime, he was exiled from his native country. This result would, however, as well make information technology possible for his about important ideas to find a popular audience. Upon arriving in London, Marx took up piece of work with young man German Friedrich Engels. Together, they devised an cess of form, guild, and ability dynamics that revealed deep inequalities, and exposed the economic prerogatives for state-sponsored violence, oppression, and war. Marx predicted that the inequalities and violence inherent in capitalism would ultimately pb to its collapse. From its ashes would rising a new socialist organization, a classless society where all participants (as opposed to only wealthy private owners) have access to the means for product. What made the Marxist system of idea so impactful though was its innate call to action, couched in Marx’s advocacy for a working class revolution aimed at overthrowing an diff system. The philosophy underlying Marxism, and his revolutionary fervor, would ripple throughout the earth, ultimately transforming entire spheres of thought in places like Soviet Russian federation, Eastern Europe, and Ruddy Red china. In many ways, Karl Marx presided over a philosophical revolution that continues in the nowadays day in myriad forms of communism, socialism, socialized democracy, and grassroots political organization.

Marx’due south Big Ideas

  • Advocated a view called historical materialism, arguing for the demystification of idea and idealism in favor of closer acknowledgement of the concrete and cloth actions shaping the world;
  • Argued that societies develop through class struggle, and that this would ultimately lead to the dismantling of capitalism;
  • Characterized capitalism equally a product organization in which there are inherent conflicts of interest between the bourgeoisie (the ruling class), and the proletariat (the working course), and that these conflicts are couched in the idea that the latter must sell their labor to the former for wages that offer no stake in product.

Marx’s Key Works

  • Critique of Hegel’south “Philosophy Of Correct”
    (1843)
  • The Communist Manifesto
    (1848)
  • Capital: Volume one: A Critique of Political Economy
    (1867)

xiv.
John Stuart Mill (1806–73)

British economist, public servant, and philosopher John Stuart Manufacturing plant is considered a linchpin of mod social and political theory. He contributed a critical body of piece of work to the school of idea called liberalism, an ideology founding on the extension of private liberties and economical freedoms. As such, Factory himself advocated strongly for the preserving of individual rights and called for limitations to the power and authority of the state over the individual. Manufactory was also a proponent of utilitarianism, which holds that the best activeness is one that maximizes utility, or stated more but, one that provide the greatest benefit to all. This and other ideas found in Manufactory’due south works accept been essential to providing rhetorical basis for social justice, anti-poverty, and homo rights movements. For his own part, as a member of Parliament, Mill became the starting time part-holding Briton to abet for the right of women to vote.

Factory’s Big Ideas

  • Advocated strongly for the human right of free spoken communication, and asserted that free discourse is necessary for social and intellectual progress;
  • Determined that well-nigh of history can be understood as a struggle between liberty and potency, and that limits must be placed on rulership such that it reflects society’due south wishes;
  • Stated the need for a organization of “constitutional checks” on state authority as a way of protecting political liberties.

Mill’south Key Works

  • On Liberty and the Subjection of Women
    (1859, 1869)
  • Utilitarianism
    (1861)

15.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)

Friedrich Nietzsche was a poet, cultural critic, and philosopher, as well as owner of among the most gifted minds in human history. The German language thinker’s system of ideas would have a profound touch on on the Western Earth, contributing deeply to intellectual discourse both during and after his life. Writing on an enormous breadth of subjects, from history, religion and scientific discipline to art, culture and the tragedies of Greek and Roman Antiquity, Nietzsche wrote with savage wit and a love of irony. He used these forces to pen deconstructive examinations of truth, Christian morality, and the impact of social constructs on our formulation of moral values. As well essential to Nietzshe’s writing is joint of the crisis of nihilism, the basic idea that all things lack significant, including life itself. This idea in detail would remain an important component of the existentialist and surrealist movements that followed.

Nietzsche’due south Large Ideas

  • Favored perspectivism, which held that truth is non objective simply is the consequence of diverse factors effecting individual perspective;
  • Articulated upstanding dilemma every bit a tension betwixt the master vs. slave morality; the former in which we make decisions based on the assessment of consequences, and the latter in which nosotros make decisions based on our formulation of skilful vs. evil;
  • Believed in the individual’s creative chapters to resist social norms and cultural convention in club to alive according to a greater set of virtues.

Nietzsche’due south Fundamental Works

  • The Birth of Tragedy
    (1872)
  • The Gay Scientific discipline
    (1882)
  • On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo
    (1887, 1908)

16.
Plato (428/427?–348/347? BCE)

Greek philosopher and teacher Plato did naught less than found the first institution of college learning in the Western World, establishing the Academy of Athens and cementing his own status equally the most important effigy in the development of western philosophical tradition. As the educatee of Socrates and the mentor to Aristotle, Plato is the connecting figure in what might be termed the groovy triumvirate of Greek thought in both philosophy and scientific discipline. A quote past British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead sums upwardly the enormity of his influence, noting “the safest full general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Indeed, it could be argued that Plato founded political philosophy, introducing both the dialectic and dialogic forms of writing as means to explore various areas of thought. (Often, in his dialogues, he employed his mentor Socrates as the vessel for his own thoughts and ideas.) While he was not the first private to partake of the activity of philosophy, he was perhaps the beginning to truly ascertain what it meant, to articulate its purpose, and to reveal how information technology could exist applied with scientific rigor. This orientation provided a newly concreted framework for because questions of ethics, politics, knowledge, and theology. Such is to say that it is near incommunicable to sum upwards the impact of Plato’s ideas on science, ethics, mathematics, or the evolution of thought itself other than to say it has been total, permeating, and inexorable from the tradition of rigorous thinking itself.

Plato’due south Big Ideas

  • Expressed the view, often referred to as Platonism, that those whose behavior are limited but to perception are failing to achieve a higher level of perception, i available only to those who can see across the textile world;
  • Articulated the theory of forms, the belief that the material world is an apparent and constantly changing world simply that another, invisible world provides unchanging causality for all that nosotros practice see;
  • Held the foundational epistemological view of “justified true conventionalities,” that for one to know that a proposition is true, 1 must have justification for the relevant true proposition.

Plato’s Key Works

  • The Republic
    (380 BCE)
  • The Laws
    (348 BCE)
  • Plato: Consummate Works

17.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78)

Rousseau was a writer, philosopher, and — unique among entrants on this list — a composer of operas and classical compositions. Built-in in Geneva, then a city-land in the Swiss Confederacy, Rousseau would be ane of the well-nigh consequential thinkers of the Enlightenment era. His ideas on human being morality, inequality, and nigh chiefly, on the right to rule, would have an enormous and definable touch non simply on thinking in Europe, but on the actual power dynamics within Western Civilization. Indeed, his most important works would identify personal belongings every bit the root to inequality and would refute the premise that monarchies are divinely appointed to dominion. Rousseau proposed the earth-shattering thought that only the people have a true right to rule. These ideas fomented the French Revolution, and more broadly, helped bring an end to a centuries-former entanglement between Church building, Crown, and Country. Rousseau may be credited for providing a bones framework for classical republicanism, a form of authorities centered around the ideas of civil lodge, citizenship, and mixed governance.

Rousseau’due south Big Ideas

  • Suggested that Man was at his best in a archaic state — suspended between brute animalistic urges on one terminate of the spectrum and the decadence of civilization on the other — and therefore uncorrupted in his morals;
  • Suggested that the further we deviate from our “state of nature,” the closer we movement to the “disuse of the species,” an idea that comports with modern environmental and conservationist philosophies;
  • Wrote extensively on education and, in advocating for an education that emphasizes the development of individual moral graphic symbol, is sometimes credited as an early proponent of kid-centered pedagogy.

Rousseau’southward Key Works

  • A Discourse on Inequality)
    (1754)
  • The Social Contract
    (1762)
  • Emile: Or On Instruction
    (1762)

18.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80)

A French novelist, activist, and philosopher, Sartre was a leading exponent of the 20th century existentialist movement also equally a vocal proponent of Marxism and socialism. He advocated for resistance to oppressive social constructs and argued for the importance of achieving an accurate way of being. His writing coincided with, and contrasted, the sweep of fascism through Europe, the rise of authoritarian regimes, and the spread of Nazism. Sartre’s ideas took on increased importance during this time, every bit did his actions. Sartre became active in the socialist resistance, which aimed its activities at French Nazi collaborators. Of note, one of his activist collaborators was both a romantic partner and a fellow major accomplice of existentialism, Simone de Beauvoir. Post-obit the war, Sartre’s writing and political appointment centered on efforts at anticolonialism, including involvement in the resistance to French colonization of Algeria. In fact, his interest earned Sartre two near-miss bomb attacks at the easily of French paramilitary forces. Too notable, Sartre was supportive of the Soviet Matrimony throughout his lifetime. Though occasionally serving to raise issues regarding human rights abuses as an outside observer, he praised the Soviet Marriage’s endeavour at manifesting Marxism.

Sartre’s Big Ideas

  • Believed that human being beings are “condemned to exist complimentary,” that because at that place is no Creator who is responsible for our actions, each of u.s.a. alone is responsible for everything we practice;
  • Called for the experience of “death consciousness,” an understanding of our bloodshed that promotes an authentic life, one spent in search of experience rather than knowledge;
  • Argued that the existence of free will is in fact bear witness of the universe’s indifference to the individual, an illustration that our freedom to deed toward objects is essentially meaningless and therefore of no event to be intervened upon by the earth.

Sartre’s Key Works

  • Being and Pettiness
    (1943)
  • Existentialism Is a Humanism
    (1946)
  • Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume Ane
    (1960)

19.
Socrates (470–399 BCE)

A necessary inclusion by virtue of his role equally, essentially, the founder of Western Philosophy, Socrates is all the same unique among entrants on this list for having produced no written works reflecting his cardinal ideas or principles. Thus, the body of his thoughts and ideas is left to be deciphered through the works of his two near prominent students, Plato and Xenophon, every bit well as to the legions of historians and critics who have written on him since. The classical Greek thinker is best known through Plato’south dialogues, which reveal a fundamental contributor to the fields of ethics and education. And because Socrates is all-time known as a teacher of thought and insight, it is perhaps appropriate that his nearly widely recognized contribution is a mode of approaching pedagogy that remains fundamentally relevant even today. The so-chosen Socratic Method, which involves the use of of questioning and discourse to promote open dialogue on complex topics and to lead pupils to their ain insights, is on particular brandish in the Platonic dialogues. His inquisitive arroyo also positioned him as a central social and moral critic of the Athenian leadership, which ultimately led to his trial and execution for corrupting the minds of immature Athenians.

Socrates’ Big Ideas

  • Argued that Athenians were wrong-headed in their emphasis on families, careers, and politics at the expense of the welfare of their souls;
  • Is sometimes attributed the statement “I know that I know nothing,” to denote an sensation of his ignorance, and in general, the limitations of human knowledge;
  • Believed misdeeds were a result of ignorance, that those who engaged in nonvirtuous behavior did so considering they didn’t know any meliorate.

Socrates’ Cardinal Works

  • Early Socratic Dialogues

20.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951)

Born in Austria to a wealthy family unit, Wittgenstein is one of philosophy’s more than colorful and unusual characters. He lived a life of eccentricity and professional person nomadism, dabbling in academia, military service, educational activity, and even as a hospital orderly. Moreover, during his life, he wrote voluminously but published only a single manuscript. And all the same, he was recognized past his contemporaries as a genius. The posthumous publication of his many volumes confirmed this view for future generations, ultimately rendering Wittgenstein a towering figure in the areas of logic, semantics, and the philosophy of listen. His investigations of linguistics and psychology would prove particularly revelatory, offering a distinctive window through which to newly empathize the nature of significant and the limits of human conception.

Wittgenstein’s Big Ideas

  • Argued that conceptual confusion virtually language is the basis for most intellectual tension in philosophy;
  • Asserted that the pregnant of words presupposes our understanding of that meaning, and that our particular assignment of meaning comes from the cultural and social constructs surrounding us;
  • Resolved that because idea is inextricably tied to linguistic communication, and because language is socially constructed, we accept no real inner-space for the realization of our thoughts, which is to say that the linguistic communication of our thoughts renders our thoughts inherently socially synthetic.

Wittgenstein’southward Central Works

  • Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
    (1921)
  • Philosophical Investigations
    (1953)
  • On Certainty
    (1969)

We promise this was enlightening for y’all. If information technology doesn’t assist y’all ace your exam, it should at least give you plenty to recall about. By all means, go ponder the universe, yourself, and that frail, fickle matter we call the man status.

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