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Greatest Minds and Ideas of the Western World

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Home Philosophers Scientists Mathematicians Greatest Ideas 6th Century BC

 

The Nine Greatest Philosophers

In my opinion, Western philosophy really begins with the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece.  During the 6th century B. C., these men virtually invented the intellectual category that we now call philosophy.  Prior to their time, secular philosophy did not exist.   Most topics that are now normally included in the study of philosophy were either not thought about at all, or were confined to the speculations of the religious authorities of the time.  We owe a tremendous debt to these early sages who collectively laid down the foundation that the nine great philosophers, cited below, could build upon.

This page provides summary biographical information for each of the nine philosophers I have selected.   The philosophers are cited in chronological order and are each linked to a recommended academic web page that offers additional biographical information.

1.  Heraclitus (ca. 535-475 B. C.)

Academic Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  Greek

Place of Birth:  Ancient Ephesus, Ionia

Most important Writing:  On Nature (only fragments survive)

Recommended Web Page:  Philosophy of Heraclitus

 

2.  Plato (427-347 B. C.)

Academic Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  Greek

Place of Birth:  Ancient Athens, Greece

Most important Writing:  The Republic

Recommended Web Page:  Selected Thoughts of Plato

 

3.  Aristotle (384-322 B. C.)

Academic Profession:  Philosopher and Natural Scientist

Nationality:  Greek

Place of Birth:  Ancient Stagirus, Macedonia

Most important Writing:  The Organum (6 Books on Logic)

Recommended Web Page:  Selected Thoughts of Aristotle

 

4.  Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

Academic Profession:  Philosopher and Mathematician

Nationality:  French

Place of Birth:  La Haye, Touraine, France

Most important Writing:  Meditations on First Philosophy (1641)

Recommended Web Page:  University of St. Andrews, Scotland

 

5.  David Hume (1711-1776)

Academic Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  Scottish

Place of Birth:  Berwickshire, Scotland

Most important Writing:  A Treatise of Human Nature (1739)

Recommended Web Page:  Stanford University, California

 

6.  Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Academic Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  German

Place of Birth:  Königsberg, East Prussia

Most important Writing:  Critique of Pure Reason (1781)

Recommended Web Page:  Trinity College, Hartford CN

 

7.  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

Hegel, steel engraving by Lazarus Sichling

Knowledge Category:  Philosopher

Nationality:  German

Place of Birth:  Stuttgart, Prussia

Most important Writing:  Phenomenology of Mind (1807)

Recommended Web Page:  Stanford University, California

 

8.  Frederick Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Knowledge Category:  Classical Philologist and Philosopher

Nationality:  German

Place of Birth:  Lützen, Saxony

Most important Writing:  Also Sprach Zarathustra (1883)

Recommended Web Page:  Stanford University, California

 

9.  Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

Academic Profession:  Philosopher

Nationality:  German

Place of Birth:  Messkirch, Southwest Germany

Most important Writing:  Sein und Zeit (1927)

Recommended Web Page:  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy