greek philosophers

Famous Philosophers P-Z

Famous Greek Philosophers P-Z

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Famous Philosophers Country (today) Born / Died Thoughts, theories and and works of famous philosophers
Parmenides 🇬🇷 Greece 515 – 445 BC Parmenides was an important pre-Socrat and founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy who had a great influence on Plato. Parmenides was convinced thinking and being are identical. The only Parmenides work known to have survived is fragments of a poem in which he reasons reality is one, change is impossible, and that existence is timeless and uniform. One of the best known Greek philosophers. Famous Parmenides quote:

It is indifferent to me where I am to begin, for there shall I return again

Pascal, Blaise 🇫🇷 France 1623 – 1662 Blaise Pascal was a mathematician, logician, theologian, physicist and philosopher. Pascal assumed the mind and senses are wrong and searched for a way between dogmatism and rationalism. Pascal died before finishing his book “Pensèes: Thoughts on religion and other subjects” (1669 posthumously).
Paul of Tarsus 🇬🇷 Greece 5 BC – 67 AD Saint Paul of Tarsus (also known as Saul and Paul the Apostle) insisted faith in Jesus was all that was needed because the world is, and forevermore, will be under a state of Grace in Jesus, a core belief of all Christian sects. Paul is also credited with the concept that God’s moral law (the ten commandments) is innately understood by all humans that reach the age of reason.
Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni 🇮🇹 Italy 1463 – 1494 Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was a Renaissance philosopher who developed 900 theses “On the Dignity of Man”. The “900 theses” was the first printed book to be banned by the Roman Catholic church. In them Giovanni stated:

Freedom of will is the most characteristic feature of man

Plato 🇬🇷 Greece 427 – 347 BC Plato was a student of Socrates, a teacher of Aristotle and one of the most famous Greek philosophers. Plato saw dialogue as a method of gaining knowledge and founded transcendental idealism: “Knowledge is reasoned opinion”. Plato was one of the most famous Greek philosophers. Plato was very productive writing a total of 36 works including “Politeia”, which includes this famous Plato quote:

All that exists is but a shadow

Plotinus 🇬🇷 Greece 205 – 270 Plotinus (along with his teacher Ammonius Saccas) founded Neoplatonism, a doctrine which dates back to Plato. The living being and the universe both have a soul. The world soul stands as the third between being and matter. In order to become one with the one, it must be purified by sensuality. Plotinus’s writings have inspired metaphysicians and other thinkers throughout history.
Porphyry of Tyre 🇬🇷 Greece 234 – 304 Porphyry of Tyre was a neoplatonic philosopher, opponent of Christianity and vegetarian. Porphyry edited and published The Enneads. He also wrote a systematic introduction to the “Categories” of Aristotle, called “Isagoge”, a source for the dispute about universals. Famous Porphyry quote:

So people should abstain from other animals just as they should from the human

Popper, Karl
🇦🇹 Austria 🇬🇧 1902 – 1994 Sir Karl Popper represented “critical rationalism”. Popper’s main work: “Logik der Forschung” (1934) criticised “logical positivism” and the main representatives of the “Wiener Kreis” (Vienna Circle). Famous karl Popper quote:

True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it

Proclus (The Successor) 🇬🇷 Greece 412 – 485 Proclus Lycius, after Ammonios Sakkas, was one of the leaders of the Neoplatonic School of Athens. Proclus saw behind everything and described a fully developed elaborate system of Neoplatonism which widely influenced Western philosophy. Proklos was one of the most productive Greek philosophers, two of his most important surviving works are “The Elements of Theology” and “The Platonic Theology”.
Protagoras 🇬🇷 Greece 490 – 411 BC Protagoras taught relativism and was convinced truth depends on perspective and is therefore “relative”. “Man is (thereby) the measure of all things”. Protagoras was a wandering teacher (a sophist). He was mocked and sniped at by Socrates and Plato but they did not influence him. Protagoras said:

Judgments are always subjective

Ptolemy, Claudius 🇬🇷 Greece 100 – 170 Claudius Ptolemy, in addition to being a philosopher, was a skeptic, all-round genius, mathematician, geographer, astronomer and astrologer. Ptolemy developed a geocentric world view (i.e. Earth is at the centre of the universe) which was decisive during the Middle Ages. Ptolemy also wrote “Almagest” an extensive 13 volume work on mathematics and astronomy.
Pyrrhon of Elis 🇬🇷 Greece 360 – 270 BC Pyrrhon of Elis was the founder of Pyrrhonism and the first Greek skeptic philosopher. Truth can be established neither by sensory perception nor by judgement.
Pythagoras 🇬🇷 Greece 570 – 495 BC Pythagoras was the founder of Pythagoreanism which advocated vegetarianism, believing any being that experienced pain or suffering should not have pain inflicted on it unnecessarily. In Pythagoras’ philosophy of nature the harmony of numbers and order was the essence and structure of all things “The essence of the cosmos is the number”. Pythagoras also recognised the earth is spherical. Plato was not only one of the best known Greek philosophers he was also a famous mathematician. He developed the geometric Pythagorean theorem and equation for calculating the area of right-angled triangles: a²+b²=c².
Ramus, Petrus 🇫🇷 France 1517 – 1572 Petrus Ramus was a Renaissance humanist who developed a “non-Aristotelian” approach to pedagogy, seeking to simplify and bring order to philosophical and scholastic education (Ramism). Ramus, a Huguenot convert, was murdered by a Catholic mob during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre 23-24 August 1572.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 🇨🇭 Switzerland (Republic of Geneva) 1712 – 1778 Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer who saw, in society and civilization, the reasons for the evils of the time and called for a return to the virtues of freedom, innocence and nature in order to eliminate the inequality that had arisen among human beings. Rousseau wrote: “Man is born free and yet (through laws) lies in chains everywhere”, which included spiritual and social chains. Rousseau’s most notable work was: “The Social Contract” (Vom Gesellschaftsvertrag oder Prinzipien des Staatsrechtes) published in 1762.
Russell, Bertrand 🇬🇧 UK 1872 – 1970 Bertrand Russell was a logician, mathematician, historian, political activist, social critic, pacifist, liberal, socialist and philosopher. Russell was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950. Russell, along with Alfred Whitehead, represented New Realism as a mathematical-logical science and he was one of the founders of analytic philosophy. Russell published his views on all major areas of philosophy apart from aesthetics. Famous Bertrand Russell quote:

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly

Sartre, Jean-Paul 🇫🇷 France 1905 – 1980 Jean-Paul Sartre was the mastermind and main representative of existentialism and was also a dramatist, screenwriter, novelist and critic. Existence precedes being “Being is what it is”. Man is condemned to freedom. Responsibility cannot be discarded. Sartre’s main work: “Being and Nothingness” (1943). Sartre was the life companion of Simone de Beauvoir. Famous Jean-Paul Sartre quote:

My thought is me: that’s why I can’t stop

Schopenhauer, Arthur 🇩🇪 Germany 1788 – 1860 Arthur Schopenhauer’s best known work “The World as Will and Representation” (1818, expanded in 1844) describes the world as the product of a blind and insatiable metaphysical will. Schopenhauer builds on the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant and was one of the first western philosophers to absorb some tenets of Indian philosophy including denial of the self and asceticism. Famous Arthur Schopenhauer quote:

We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people

Seneca 🇮🇹 Italy 4 BC – 65 AD Seneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca / Seneca the Younger) was a Stoic philosopher, playwright and statesman during the Roman Imperial period. Seneca’s works discuss practical advice and ethical theory as separate but interdependent and believes philosophy is a “balm for the wounds of life”. Seneca considered it was important to confront one’s own mortality and be able to face death. Famous Seneca quote:

While we teach we learn

Smith, Adam 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland, UK 🇬🇧 1723 – 1790 Adam Smith was a renowned economist, author and moral philosopher. Smith wrote two classic works; “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” (1776) which advocated economic and individual liberalism. In “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” (1759). Smith said “man was an animal that did trade” and “barter is a purely human act”. Smith believed self-love, rather than humanity or compassion, is the driving force behind every action.
Sokrates 🇬🇷 Greece 470 – 399 BC Socrates was one of the greatest Greek philosophers who developed the scientific methods of dialectics, induction and definition. Socrates placed man at the centre of his contemplation: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing” and said “A life without self-exploration is not worth living”. Socrates developed a critical thinking technique, which became known as the “Socratic method”, involving Q&A conversations between individuals to tease out ideas and reveal preconceptions based on assumptions.
Speusippos 🇬🇷 Greece 408 – 339 BC Speusippus was a student of Plato and his nephew (by his sister Potone) and inherited the Platonic Academy after Plato’s death. Speusippus developed ideas on epistemology, ethics and metaphysics but rejected Plato’s Theory of Forms.
Spinoza, Baruch de 🇳🇱 Netherlands 1632 – 1677 Spinoza was one of the most important and original thinkers of the 17th century involved in most reas of philosophy. Spinoza developed his monist philosophy, which became known as Spinozism. Spinoza’s philosophical theories and views are included in his two main works; “Theologico-Political Treatise” (1670 anonymously) and “Ethics” (1677 posthumously). Famous Spinoza quote:

Happiness is a virtue, not its reward

Thales of Milet 🇬🇷 Greece 625 – 547 BC Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratician philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, one of the Seven Sages of Greece and father of modern science. Thales tried to explain natural processes and phenomena rationally. Thales believed water is the primordial material of the world; “Everything consists of water”. Thales was one of the first great Greek philosophers. As an astronomer Thales predicted a solar eclipse and as a mathematician the “Theorem of Thales” proves all angles on a semicircular arc are right angles. Famous Thales quote:

The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself

Theophrastos 🇬🇷 Greece 371 – 287 BC Theophrastus was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school of pholosophy. Theophrastus emphasised the natural causality rather than the target or purpose cause. Most of his writings have been lost so his opinions have been reconstructed from later works by Alexander of Aphrodisias and Simplicius. Famous Theophrastus quote:

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend

Valla, Lorenzo 🇮🇹 Italy 1406 – 1457 Lorenzo Valla (Laurentius) was a humanist, rhetorician, educator and Catholic priest. Valla examined the freedom of the human will and favored a positive evaluation of pleasure. Valla is considered the father of modern textual criticism.
Voltaire 🇫🇷 France 1694 – 1778 Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) was a French Enlightenment philosopher, historian and prolific writer who published over 2,000 books. He advocated freedom of speech and religion, separation of the church and state and civil liberties. Voltaire was involved with the Lumières and the Philosophes. Voltaire embraced Deism and Classical liberalism. Voltaire’s main work was “Candide” (1759). Famous Voltaire quote:

Man is free at the instant he wants to be

Whitehead, Alfred North 🇬🇧 UK 1861 – 1947 Alfred North Whitehead was a logician and mathematician who became one of the 20th century’s leading metaphysicians. With his friend and ex-student Bertrand Russell he wrote “Principia Mathematika” (1911-1913) an important three volume work on logic. In Whitehead’s “Process and Reality” (1929) he argues reality is an organism that develops dynamically. Famous Alfred North Whitehead quote:

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order

William of Occam 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England, UK 🇬🇧 1280 – 1347 William of Occam was a late scholastic who represented conceptualism and called for the separation of church and state. William of Occam was famed for his minimalist philosophers quotes:

Occam’s razor” – to understand something, eliminate unnecessary information to get to the truth or best explanation quickest

Wittgenstein, Ludwig 🇦🇹 Austria 🇬🇧 1889 – 1951 Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher primarily in logic but also mathematics, the mind and language. Wittgenstein belonged to the extended Viennese circle. His only published book during his lifetime was “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” (1921). Wittgenstein’s other manuscripts, including “Philosophical Investigations” (1953) were all published posthumously. Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein’s teacher, said:

Perhaps the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived; passionate, profound, intense, and dominating

Wolff, Christian 🇩🇪 Germany 1679 – 1754 Christian Wolff (Wolfius) was the best known German philosopher between Leibniz and Kant. His wide-ranging “Philosophia practica universalis, mathematica methodo conscripta” (1703) was presented in his demonstrative-deductive, mathematical method and was possibly the high point of Enlightenment rationality in Germany.
Wollstonecraft, Mary 🇬🇧 UK 1759 – 1797 Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights. Her unconventional lifestyle overshadowed her work but her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792) was one of the first examples of feminist philosophy and established her as an important feminist philosopher. She demanded women be treated as citizens with equal legal, social and political rights. Mary Wollstonecraft quote:

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world

Xenophanes of Colophon 🇬🇷 Greece 570 – 470 BC Xenophanes of Colophon was one of the earliest Greek philosophers. He was also a critic and poet. Fragments of his poetry quoted by later Greek writers are all that remain of his works. Famous Xenophanes quote:

Mortals deem that the gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes like theirs, and voice and form

Zeno of Elea 🇬🇷 Greece 490 – 430 BC Zeno of Elea was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He was a member of the monistic Eleatic school founded by Parmenides.
Aristotle said Zeno of Elea invented the dialectical method (a dialogue between two or more people with differing views seeking truth through reasoned argumentation). One of the best known Greek philosophers. Zeno of Elea examined space, time and movement and found 10 paradoxes, which Bertrand Russell described as “Immeasurably subtle and profound”.
Zeno of Citium 🇬🇷 Greece 336 – 264 BC Zeno of Citium was one of the earliest Greek philosophers and founder of Stoicism which focused on logic, physics and ethics. Zeno’s writings have only survived as fragments in quotations from later writers. Famous Zeno of Citium quote:

Happiness is a good flow of life

Zhongshu, Dong 🇨🇳 China 179 – 104 BC Dong Zhongshu was a Chinese philosopher, writer and politician who advocated Confucianism as the official ideology of the Chinese imperial state. Dong favored monistic heaven worship over the Chinese five elements cosmology. Dong wrote three chapters in “Ju Xianliang Duice” in the “Book of Han” (111) and although Dong is often credited with, at least, partial authorship of the 4th century “Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals” it’s most likely written by multiple authors.
Zwingli, Ulrich 🇨🇭 Switzerland 1484 – 1531 Ulrich Zwingli (Huldrych Zwingli) was primarily a church reformer, theologian and humanist rather than a philosopher. Zwingli was influenced by the writings of Erasmus. Zwingli served as a pastor and regarded himself as a soldier of Christ and he died in the second Kappel War fighting for Zürich. His student Heinrich Bullinger continued his reforms.

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