The Great Philosophers: Elder wisdom, Thinkers, and Creators Since Antiquity

Some say there’s nothing new under the sun. Maybe we don’t need to go that far — but we should definitely appreciate the voluminous contributions of the ancient thinkers and great philosophers of antiquity, who figured out a dizzying array of complicated concepts long before the modern era.

We have much to learn from our ancestral teachers. Here’s a place to start — which shall grow over time as the knowledge is passed down yet again, age unto age. Things that stand the test of time are valuable, no matter what the currency of the day.

The Great Philosophers

NameKnown forBornDiedWhere livedInfluenced
St. Thomas AquinasSumma Theologiae12251274Italy
Anaxagoras
Hannah Arendt
Aristotle384 BC322 BCGreece
Marcus AureliusRoman emperor and Stoic philosopher who advocated for cultivating an ethos of impermanence and doing one's duty.121180Roman Empire
Avicenna9801037Persia
Francis Bacondeclaring that human intellect and reason are means of discovering the truth: "Knowledge is powerβ€œ15611626England
Roger BaconMost celebrated European scientist of the Middle Ages.12201292
Pierre Bourdieu
Jeremy Benthamfather of Utilitarianism17481832England
Daniel BernoulliSwiss mathematician widely credited for pioneering the field of statistics17001782Switzerland
Jacob Bernoulli
Jean Boudin15301596France
Louis Braille18091852France
Brunelleschi
Joseph Campbell
Andrew Carnegie18351919Scotland, America
Cicero
Marquis de CondorcetFrench philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist who played a key role in transforming European society from feudalism to modern secular democracy.17431794FranceThomas Jefferson
ConfuciusConfucianism -- a system of ethics and morals to guide "right" behavior551 BC479 BC
Marie Curie
Leonardo da Vinci14521519Italy
Charles Darwin1882England
Democritusbasic theory of the atom: a fundamental building block unit of all things that itself is not divisible (although later we would discover even smaller particles, the atom is still essentially the most basic building block)460 BC371 BCGreece
RenΓ© Descartescogito ergo sum: I think therefore I am15961650France
Alexis de Tocqueville
DiogenesThe most famous of the Cynics, a school of philosophy founded in Athens c. 400 BC, advocating the pursuit of happiness through avoiding the unnecessary temptations of material goodsGreeceZeno
EmilΓ© Durkheimanomie β€” concept of lack of a shared moral order. Normlessness.
Albert Einstein
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Empedocles
Epicurus341 BC270 BCGreece
Erasmus14661536
Euclid
Michael Faraday17911867
Enrico Fermi
Foucault
Sigmund Freud18561939
John Kenneth GalbraithConcept of countervailing power β€” that collective worker power is needed to balance against growing corporatism in the economy
Galen130200
Galileo
Siddharta GautamaThe Buddha; achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in India563 BC483 BCIndia
Ghiberti
Johann GutenbergInvented the printing press, democratizing the dissemination of information for the first time.13941468
JΓΌrgen Habermaspublic opinion / public sphere
Friedrich Hegel17701831Germany
Martin Heidigger18891976Germany
Heraclitusposited that change or flow is the most basic character of nature; that the world is characterized by opposites; and that God or "logos" is the essence of nature's constant flux and source of all things535 BC475 BCGreece
Herodotusfirst historian; first journalist; first foreign correspondent480 BC425 BC
Hippocrates
Thomas Hobbes15881679England
Homer
David Hume17111776Scotland
William James
Thomas Jefferson17431826America
Carl Jung18751961
Immanuel Kant17241804Prussia
John Maynard Keynes
SΓΈren Kierkegaard
Thomas Kuhntheory of scientific paradigms and paradigm shifts
Lao Tzuthe Dao de Ching and philosophy of Daoism6th c. BC6th c. BCChina
Lamark17441829France
Gottfried Liebniz16461716Prussia
Vladimir Leninthe Russian Revolution of 1917 that overthrew the tsarist regime
Carolus Linnaeus17071778Sweden
John Lockephilosophy of liberty and natural rights16321704England
Martin Luther
James Madison
Karl Marx
John Stuart Mill18061873
MoziAn ethical philosophy advocating the caring for everyone equally470 BC391 BCChinaLegalism
Mohammad570632
Isaac Newtongravity and the laws of motion16421727
Friedrich Nietzsche18441900Germany
Alfred Nobel18331896
Georgia O'Keeffe
Thomas PaineBritain; America
Parmenidesearly Rationalist; believed our perceptions are an illusion shielding us from true reality, which is only discernable via human reason515 BC445 BCGreecePlato
Louis Pasteur18221895France
Petrarch13041374
Philo of Alexandria
PlatoPlatonic Forms427 BC347 BCGreeceAristotle
Pliny2379
Marco Polo
Neil Postman
ProtagorasRelativism490 BC420 BCGreece
PythagorasThe Pythagorean theorem570 BC495 BCGreeceParmenides
Rabelais14831553France
John Rawls
Jean-Jacques Rousseau17121778France
Jean-Paul Sartre19051980France
Arthur Schopenhauer17881860Poland
Joseph Schumpeter
SenecaRhetoric teacher and Stoic philosopher55 BC37 ADRoman Empire
Adam Smith
SocratesWidely considered a founder of philosophy; the dialectic method, among much else469 BC399 BCGreecePlato
Spinoza
Nicholas Nassim Taleb
Thalesposited water as being the basic material of the cosmos624 BC546 BCMiletus, Greece
Theocritus
Thucydides460 BC400 BCGreece
Edward Tufte
Virgil
Vitruvius
Voltaire16941778France
James Watson
Max Weber
Ludwig Wittgenstein18891951Austria
ZenoFounder of the Stoic school of philosophy in 4th c. BCE Greece and Parmenides's most famous student.Greece