10 World’s Greatest Philosophers Of All Time

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Updated on 10 Apr, 2018 at 8:41 pm


Coming to the word ‘philosophy,’ this is derived from the Greek ‘Philosophia’ or “love of wisdom.” As this title indicates, this page is all about the world’s greatest philosophers.

1. Swami Vivekanand (1863-1902) – The agnostic turned seer

Disciple of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, this Indian philosopher tried to make everyone feel proud and declared – “The background, the reality, of everyone is that same eternal, ever blessed, ever pure and ever perfect one. It is the Atman, the soul, in the saint and the sinner, in the happy and in the miserable, in the beautiful and the ugly, in men and in animals; it is the same throughout. it is the Shining One. ” Swami Vivekanand began traveling all over the country since he was young, preaching the essence of the Vedas and Hinduism, trying to arouse Indians from their slumber. He traveled long distances on foot, only taking trains when somebody was kind enough to purchase his ticket. He exhorted all the upper castes to work for the uplift of the downtrodden. He preached that the salvation of mankind was more important than personal salvation. Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.


2. Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) – The Commentator

Born in Spain, Ibn Rushd is one of the foremost Islamic philosophers. He integrated Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotle’s teachings, and Islamic traditions into a school of thought of his own. Rejecting the belief that the universe was created during the history of time, he said the universe has no beginning. God is the prime mover, he stressed the self-moved force that stimulates all motion, transforming the potential into actual. The individual human soul was nothing but an emanation of the universal soul. Being fully conversant with the traditional Muslim sciences, he was appointed a judge in Seville and rose to the post of chief judge in Cordoba.


3. George W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) – The German idealist

Son of a revenue officer in the civil service, this German philosopher was brought up in the atmosphere of Protestant orthodoxy and was a great visionary in Greek and Roman classics. His first great work, Phanomenologie des Geistes (The Phenomenology of Mind) was published in 1807. Although difficult to comprehend, the book is a brilliant description of man’s mind rising from mere consciousness to self-consciousness, reason, spirit, and religion and finally to absolute knowledge. In Hegel’s view, philosophy had to chart the development of the Absolute Spirit. Hegel said the Absolute Spirit was nothing but pure thought or mind in the process of self-development, the manifestations of which he traced through simple consciousness.


4. Al-Farabi (870-950 AD) – The Second Master

Thanks to the Greek influence, Al-Farabi was one of the first Muslim thinkers to convey the teachings of Plato and Aristotle to the Islamic world. This was to exert a tremendous influence on later Islamic philosophers such as Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd. Farabi believed that a supreme being had created the universe through the exercise of rational intelligence. He held that it was this very rational intelligence that was also present in humans and the only aspect of humans that happened to be immortal. He opined that the primary goal for humans, therefore, was to ensure the development of this rational faculty.


5. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) – The Father of Modern Philosophy

One of the greatest thinkers in human history, this French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician was born in the family of a minor nobleman. Despite his rational and mechanistic ways, he accepted the theological doctrine about the immortality of the soul but held that the mind and the body were two distinct substances. This freed the mind from the mechanistic laws of nature, allowing it the freedom of will. Simply put, he said God had created two kinds of substances that comprise the entire universe: one with thinking substances or minds and the other with extended substances or bodies.


6. Confucius (551-479 BC) – China’s Supreme Sage


The Chinese philosopher and teacher, Ch’iu, later to become famous as K’ung-fu’tse (Confucius) or K’ung the philosopher, was born on the state of Lu in China in 551 BC. Belonging to the noble K’ung clan, his father was a commander of a district in Lu. Confucius had firm views on the art of governance and believed that the personal character and conduct of the ruler was very important. Responding to a prince on a related query, Confucius said: “To govern is to set things right. If you begin by setting yourself right, who will dare to deviate from the right?”


7. Aristotle (384-322) – The Peripatetic Teacher

One of the greatest philosophers of all time who contributed to the rise of modern philosophy. It was probably in Assus that he began work on two of his treatises, “Politics” and “On Kingship.” His philosophical leanings now began to take an independent stance from Plato’s. Along with his research into plant and animal life, he also began reflecting on the relation of the soul with the body. Here again, he differed with his mentor, Plato, who had opined that the soul was an entity independent of the body, simply using the body as a temporary residence. Aristotle stated that the soul was the vital principal essentially unite with them to form an individual person. He also believed that the heavenly bodies were composed of ether, an imperishable substance and were moved by God perpetually in perfect circular motion.


8. Plato (428-347 BC) – The World of Ideas

Plato’s main works focused on philosophy, mathematics, and science. Plato wrote around 39 dialogues, which were a series of discussion between Socrates and others. It is believed that Plato may have begun writing his dialogues around the time he began his Academy. It was through his dialogues that Plato wrote a lot on the theory of art, particularly music, dance, drama, poetry, and architecture. In philosophy, he discussed a range of topics that included ethics and metaphysics, where he talked of man, mind, realism, and immortality. He also discussed logic and legal philosophy, including rhetoric. In religious philosophy, the discussions revolved around atheism, dualism, and pantheism.


9. Socrates (469-399 BC) – The Father of Western Philosophy

A deeply pious philosopher, he nevertheless regarded the mythology of gods as an invention of poets. He held that God’s existence is shown not only by the providential order of nature but also by warning and revelations given in signs, dreams, and oracles. Indeed, it was the famous oracle of Apollo at Delphi that is said to have pronounced him the wisest of all men. Socrates believed in the immortality of the soul and believes that a man should not ruin his life by putting the care of the body or possessions before the care of one’s soul. A man’s true self was his soul or psyche and that is what counted more than anything else. A man’s happiness did not depend on material possessions but on how good or bad his psyche was.


10. Pythagoras (580-500 BC) – The semi-divine teacher

This Greek religious teacher and philosopher made major contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and music. Pythagoras opined that everything in nature, including music and astronomy, could be understood through mathematics and all things had their select number. This belief was to have a crucial bearing on the future development of mathematics and science. Through his mystic experiences, he also gauged that the movement of celestial bodies in the heavens created music, which was referred to as “The music of the spheres.” His other important beliefs were that philosophy should be used as a mean of spiritual purification and that the soul was destined for heaven and an eventual union with the Divine.