The Most Famous

PHILOSOPHERS from Egypt

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This page contains a list of the greatest Egyptian Philosophers. The pantheon dataset contains 1,089 Philosophers, 20 of which were born in Egypt. This makes Egypt the birth place of the 13th most number of Philosophers behind Poland and Russia.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Egyptian Philosophers of all time. This list of famous Egyptian Philosophers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Egyptian Philosophers.

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1. Origen (185 - 254)

With an HPI of 84.50, Origen is the most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 66 different languages on wikipedia.

Origen of Alexandria (c. 184 – c. 253), also known as Origen Adamantius, was an early Christian scholar, ascetic, and theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. He was a prolific writer who wrote roughly 2,000 treatises in multiple branches of theology, including textual criticism, biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, homiletics, and spirituality. He was one of the most influential and controversial figures in early Christian theology, apologetics, and asceticism. He has been described as "the greatest genius the early church ever produced".Origen sought martyrdom with his father at a young age but was prevented from turning himself in to the authorities by his mother. When he was eighteen years old, Origen became a catechist at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. He devoted himself to his studies and adopted an ascetic lifestyle as both a vegetarian and teetotaler. He came into conflict with Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, in 231 after he was ordained as a presbyter by his friend, the bishop of Caesarea, while on a journey to Athens through Palestine. Demetrius condemned Origen for insubordination and accused him of having castrated himself and of having taught that even Satan would eventually attain salvation, an accusation which Origen vehemently denied. Origen founded the Christian School of Caesarea, where he taught logic, cosmology, natural history, and theology, and became regarded by the churches of Palestine and Arabia as the ultimate authority on all matters of theology. He was tortured for his faith during the Decian persecution in 250 and died three to four years later from his injuries. Origen was able to produce a massive quantity of writings because of the patronage of his close friend Ambrose of Alexandria, who provided him with a team of secretaries to copy his works, making him one of the most prolific writers in all of antiquity. His treatise On the First Principles systematically laid out the principles of Christian theology and became the foundation for later theological writings. He also authored Contra Celsum, the most influential work of early Christian apologetics, in which he defended Christianity against the pagan philosopher Celsus, one of its foremost early critics. Origen produced the Hexapla, the first critical edition of the Hebrew Bible, which contained the original Hebrew text as well as four different Greek translations of it, and one Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, all written in columns, side by side. He wrote hundreds of homilies covering almost the entire Bible, interpreting many passages as allegorical. Origen taught that, before the creation of the material universe, God had created the souls of all the intelligent beings. These souls, at first fully devoted to God, fell away from him and were given physical bodies. Origen was the first to propose the ransom theory of atonement in its fully developed form, and he also significantly contributed to the development of the concept of the Trinity. Origen hoped that all people might eventually attain salvation, but was always careful to maintain that this was only speculation. He defended free will and advocated Christian pacifism. Origen is considered by some Christian groups to be a Church Father though he does not have this status in Orthodox Christianity. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential Christian theologians. His teachings were especially influential in the east, with Athanasius of Alexandria and the three Cappadocian Fathers being among his most devoted followers. Argument over the orthodoxy of Origen's teachings spawned the First Origenist Crisis in the late fourth century, in which he was attacked by Epiphanius of Salamis and Jerome but defended by Tyrannius Rufinus and John of Jerusalem. In 543, Emperor Justinian I condemned him as a heretic and ordered all his writings to be burned. The Second Council of Constantinople in 553 may have anathematized Origen, or it may have only condemned certain heretical teachings which claimed to be derived from Origen. His teachings on the pre-existence of souls were rejected by the Church.

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2. Plotinus (203 - 270)

With an HPI of 83.77, Plotinus is the 2nd most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.

Plotinus (; Greek: Πλωτῖνος, Plōtînos; c. 204/5 – 270) was a major Hellenistic Greek philosopher born and raised in Roman Egypt, regarded by modern scholarship as the founder of Neoplatonism. His teacher was the self-taught philosopher Ammonius Saccas, who belonged to the Platonic tradition. Historians of the 19th century invented the term "Neoplatonism" and applied it to refer to Plotinus and his philosophy, which was vastly influential during Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. Much of the biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' most notable literary work, The Enneads. In his metaphysical writings, Plotinus described three fundamental principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His works have inspired centuries of Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, and Islamic metaphysicians and mystics, including developing precepts that influence mainstream theological concepts within religions, such as his work on duality of the One in two metaphysical states.

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3. Athanasius of Alexandria (295 - 373)

With an HPI of 80.20, Athanasius of Alexandria is the 3rd most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.

Athanasius I of Alexandria (c. 296–298 – 2 May 373), also called Athanasius the Great, Athanasius the Confessor or, primarily in the Coptic Orthodox Church, Athanasius the Apostolic, was the 20th bishop of Alexandria (as Athanasius I). His intermittent episcopacy spanned 45 years (c. 8 June 328 – 2 May 373), of which over 17 encompassed five exiles, when he was replaced on the order of four different Roman emperors. Athanasius was a Christian theologian, a Church Father, the chief defender of Trinitarianism against Arianism, and a noted Coptic Christian (Egyptian) leader of the fourth century. Conflict with Arius and Arianism as well as successive Roman emperors shaped Athanasius' career. In 325, at the age of 27, Athanasius began his leading role against the Arians as a deacon and assistant to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria during the First Council of Nicaea. Roman emperor Constantine the Great had convened the council in May–August 325 to address the Arian position that the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, is of a distinct substance from the Father. Three years after that council, Athanasius succeeded his mentor as archbishop of Alexandria. In addition to the conflict with the Arians (including powerful and influential Arian churchmen led by Eusebius of Nicomedia), he struggled against the Emperors Constantine, Constantius II, Julian the Apostate and Valens. He was known as Athanasius Contra Mundum (Latin for Athanasius Against the World). Nonetheless, within a few years of his death, Gregory of Nazianzus called him the "Pillar of the Church". His writings were well regarded by subsequent Church fathers in the West and the East, who noted their devotion to the Word-become-man, pastoral concern and interest in monasticism. Athanasius is considered one of the four great Eastern Doctors of the Church in the Catholic Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church Athanasius is the first person to identify the same 27 books of the New Testament that are in use today. He is venerated as a Christian saint, whose feast day is 2 May in Western Christianity, 15 May in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and 18 January in the other Eastern Orthodox Churches. He is venerated by the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran churches, and the Anglican Communion.

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4. Philo (-15 - 45)

With an HPI of 79.98, Philo is the 4th most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

Philo of Alexandria (; Ancient Greek: Φίλων, romanized: Phílōn; Hebrew: יְדִידְיָה הַכֹּהֵן‎‎, romanized: Yedidia (Jedediah) HaCohen; c.  20 BCE – c.  50 CE), also called Philo Judaeus, was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, in the Roman province of Egypt. Philo's deployment of allegory to harmonize Jewish scripture, mainly the Torah, with Greek philosophy was the first documented of its kind, and thereby often misunderstood. Many critics of Philo assumed his allegorical perspective would lend credibility to the notion of legend over historicity. Philo often advocated a literal understanding of the Torah and the historicity of such described events, while at other times favoring allegorical readings.Though never properly attributed, Philo's marriage of Jewish exegesis and Stoic philosophy provided a formula later picked up by other Midrash content from the 3rd and 4th centuries C.E. Some claimed this lack of credit or affinity for Philo by the Rabbinic leadership at the time, was due to his adoption of allegorical instead of literal interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, though it was likely due to his criticism of Rabbinic scholars, citing their works and ideas were "full of Sybaritic profligacy and licentiousness to their everlasting shame", "eager to give a specious appearance to infamous actions, so as to secure notoriety for disgraceful deeds", and ultimately, that he "disregards the envious disposition of such men, and shall proceed to narrate the true events of Moses' life" of which Philo felt were unjustly hidden and covered over. According to Josephus, Philo was largely inspired by Aristobulus of Alexandria and the Alexandrian school. The only event in Philo's life that can be decisively dated is his participation in the embassy to Rome in 40 CE; whereby he represented the Alexandrian Jews in a delegation to the Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Caligula) following civil strife between the Alexandrian Jewish and Greek communities.

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5. Sextus Empiricus (160 - 210)

With an HPI of 76.56, Sextus Empiricus is the 5th most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Sextus Empiricus (Greek: Σέξτος Ἐμπειρικός; c. 160 – c. 210 AD) was a Greek Pyrrhonist philosopher and a physician. His philosophical works are the most complete surviving account of ancient Greek and Roman Pyrrhonism, and because of the arguments they contain against the other Hellenistic philosophies they are also a major source of information about those philosophies. In his medical work, as reflected by his name, tradition maintains that he belonged to the Empiric school in which Pyrrhonism was popular. However, at least twice in his writings, Sextus seems to place himself closer to the Methodic school. Little is known about Sextus Empiricus. He likely lived in Alexandria, Rome, or Athens. The Suda, a 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia, states that he was the same person as Sextus of Chaeronea, but this identification is commonly doubted.

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6. Muhammad Abduh (1849 - 1905)

With an HPI of 75.24, Muhammad Abduh is the 6th most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.

Muḥammad 'Abduh (1849 – 11 July 1905) (also spelled Mohammed Abduh, Arabic: محمد عبده‎) was an Egyptian Islamic scholar, jurist, theologian and writer. He also wrote, among other things, "Treatise on the Oneness of God", and a commentary on the Quran. He briefly published, alongside Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, the Pan-Islamist anti-colonial journal Al-Urwah al-Wuthqa.

Photo of Ammonius Saccas

7. Ammonius Saccas (175 - 242)

With an HPI of 73.03, Ammonius Saccas is the 7th most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 36 different languages.

Ammonius Saccas (; Greek: Ἀμμώνιος Σακκᾶς; 175 AD – 242 AD) was a Hellenistic Platonist self-taught philosopher from Alexandria, generally regarded as the precursor of Neoplatonism and/or one of its founders. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught from 232 to 242. He was undoubtedly the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of Neoplatonism, although little is known about his own philosophical views. Later Christian writers stated that Ammonius was a Christian, but it is now generally assumed that there was a different Ammonius of Alexandria who wrote biblical texts.

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8. Saadia Gaon (882 - 942)

With an HPI of 70.37, Saadia Gaon is the 8th most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Sa'adiah ben Yosef Gaon (Arabic: سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي‎ Saʻīd bin Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi; Hebrew: סעדיה בן יוסף אלפיומי גאון‎; alternative English Names: Rabbeinu Sa'adiah Gaon ("our Rabbi [the] Saadia Gaon"), often abbreviated RSG (RaSaG), Saadia b. Joseph, Saadia ben Joseph or Saadia ben Joseph of Faym or Saadia ben Joseph Al-Fayyumi; (882/892 – 942) was a prominent rabbi, gaon, Jewish philosopher, and exegete who was active in the Abbasid Caliphate. Saadia is the first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Judeo-Arabic. Known for his works on Hebrew linguistics, Halakha, and Jewish philosophy, he was a practitioner of the philosophical school known as the "Jewish Kalam" (Stroumsa 2003). In this capacity, his philosophical work The Book of Beliefs and Opinions represents the first systematic attempt to integrate Jewish theology with components of ancient Greek philosophy. Saadia was also very active in opposition to Karaite Judaism in defense of rabbinic Judaism.

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9. John Philoponus (490 - 570)

With an HPI of 69.44, John Philoponus is the 9th most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

John Philoponus (Greek: ; Ἰωάννης ὁ Φιλόπονος; c. 490 – c. 570), also known as John the Grammarian or John of Alexandria, was a Byzantine Greek philologist, Aristotelian commentator, Christian theologian and an author of a considerable number of philosophical treatises and theological works. He was born in Alexandria. A rigorous, sometimes polemical writer and an original thinker who was controversial in his own time, John Philoponus broke from the Aristotelian–Neoplatonic tradition, questioning methodology and eventually leading to empiricism in the natural sciences. He was one of the first to propose a "theory of impetus" similar to the modern concept of inertia over Aristotelian dynamics. Later in life Philoponus turned to Christian apologetics, arguing against the eternity of the world, a theory which formed the basis of pagan attacks on the Christian doctrine of Creation. He also wrote on Christology and was posthumously condemned as a heretic by the Imperial Church in 680–81 because of what was perceived as a tritheistic interpretation of the Trinity.His by-name ὁ Φιλόπονος translates as "lover of toil", i.e. "diligent," referring to a miaphysite confraternity in Alexandria, the philoponoi, who were active in debating pagan (i.e. Neoplatonic) philosophers. His posthumous condemnation limited the spread of his writing, but copies of his work, The contra Aristotelem, resurfaced in medieval Europe, through translations from Arabic of his quotes included in the work of Simplicius of Cilicia, which was debated in length by Muslim philosophers such as al-Farabi, Avicenna, al-Ghazali and later Averroes, influencing Bonaventure and Buridan in Christian Western Europe, but also Rabbanite Jews such as Maimonides and Gersonides, who also used his arguments against their Karaite rivals. His work was largely debated in the Arabic scholarly tradition, where he is known as Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī (i.e. "John the Grammarian"), and his views against Aristotelian physics were defended by philosophers at the court of Fatimid Imam Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, particularly Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani, who debated Avicenna on the topic, and Hamza ibn Ali. His critique of Aristotle in the Physics commentary was a major influence on Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Galileo Galilei, who cited Philoponus substantially in his works.

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10. Valentinus (100 - 160)

With an HPI of 69.17, Valentinus is the 10th most famous Egyptian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Valentinus (also spelled Valentinius; c. AD 100 – c. 160) was the best known and, for a time, most successful early Christian Gnostic theologian. He founded his school in Rome. According to Tertullian, Valentinus was a candidate for bishop but started his own group when another was chosen.Valentinus produced a variety of writings, but only fragments survive, largely those quoted in rebuttal arguments in the works of his opponents, not enough to reconstruct his system except in broad outline. His doctrine is known only in the developed and modified form given to it by his disciples, the Valentinians. He taught that there were three kinds of people, the spiritual, psychical, and material; and that only those of a spiritual nature received the gnosis (knowledge) that allowed them to return to the divine Pleroma, while those of a psychic nature (ordinary Christians) would attain a lesser or uncertain form of salvation, and that those of a material nature were doomed to perish.Valentinus had a large following, the Valentinians. It later divided into an Eastern and a Western, or Italian, branch. The Marcosians belonged to the Western branch.

Pantheon has 20 people classified as philosophers born between 100 BC and 1946. Of these 20, 2 (10.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living philosophers include Ahmad al-Tayyeb and Leila Ahmed. The most famous deceased philosophers include Origen, Plotinus, and Athanasius of Alexandria. As of October 2020, 5 new philosophers have been added to Pantheon including Julius Pollux, Ahmad al-Tayyeb, and Nasr Abu Zayd.

Living Philosophers

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Deceased Philosophers

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Newly Added Philosophers (2020)

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