The Greatest Philosopher


Who is the greatest philosopher of all time? This is not a question to which we are likely to find a staightforward answer, but it remains an important one.

The BBC ran a vote in 2005, and Karl Marx came out as the clear winner. But the list itself provdes a good starting point for learning about some of the most important philosophers. The top twenty are Aquinas, Aristotle, Descartes, Epicurus, Heidegger, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Marx, Mill, Nietzsche, Plato, Popper, Russell, Sartre, Schopenhauer, Socrates, Spinoza and Wittgenstein. At this retrospective webpage you can read more about each of them and list to an audio track where a modern thinker champions each of them. There are also useful links to find out more.

I’d suggest that there are two things you might want to think about here. Firstly, what does it mean for a philosopher to be ‘great’? Is it a question of the influence they have had, or how successful their life was, or how ‘right’ they were, perhaps? Secondly… why is it that all of these candidates are men? Don’t women make good philosophers?


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