The Most Famous

PHILOSOPHERS from Germany

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This page contains a list of the greatest German Philosophers. The pantheon dataset contains 1,267 Philosophers, 133 of which were born in Germany. This makes Germany the birth place of the most number of Philosophers.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary German Philosophers of all time. This list of famous German 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 German Philosophers.

Photo of Friedrich Nietzsche

1. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)

With an HPI of 86.89, Friedrich Nietzsche is the most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 164 different languages on wikipedia.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest person to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24, but resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life; he completed much of his core writing in the following decade. In 1889, at age 44, he suffered a collapse and afterward a complete loss of his mental faculties, with paralysis and probably vascular dementia. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897 and then with his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Nietzsche died in 1900, after experiencing pneumonia and multiple strokes. Nietzsche's work spans philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism, and fiction while displaying a fondness for aphorism and irony. Prominent elements of his philosophy include his radical critique of truth in favour of perspectivism; a genealogical critique of religion and Christian morality and a related theory of master–slave morality; the aesthetic affirmation of life in response to both the "death of God" and the profound crisis of nihilism; the notion of Apollonian and Dionysian forces; and a characterisation of the human subject as the expression of competing wills, collectively understood as the will to power. He also developed influential concepts such as the Übermensch and his doctrine of eternal return. In his later work, he became increasingly preoccupied with the creative powers of the individual to overcome cultural and moral mores in pursuit of new values and aesthetic health. His body of work touched a wide range of topics, including art, philology, history, music, religion, tragedy, culture, and science, and drew inspiration from Greek tragedy as well as figures such as Zoroaster, Arthur Schopenhauer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Wagner, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. After his death, Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth became the curator and editor of his manuscripts. She edited his unpublished writings to fit her German ultranationalist ideology, often contradicting or obfuscating Nietzsche's stated opinions, which were explicitly opposed to antisemitism and nationalism. Through her published editions, Nietzsche's work became associated with fascism and Nazism. 20th-century scholars such as Walter Kaufmann, R. J. Hollingdale, and Georges Bataille defended Nietzsche against this interpretation, and corrected editions of his writings were soon made available. Nietzsche's thought enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1960s and his ideas have since had a profound impact on 20th- and early 21st-century thinkers across philosophy—especially in schools of continental philosophy such as existentialism, postmodernism, and post-structuralism—as well as art, literature, music, poetry, politics, and popular culture.

Photo of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

2. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831)

With an HPI of 85.15, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is the 2nd most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 132 different languages.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German philosopher and one of the most influential figures of German idealism and 19th-century philosophy. His influence extends across the entire range of contemporary philosophical topics, from metaphysical issues in epistemology and ontology, to political philosophy, the philosophy of history, philosophy of art, philosophy of religion, and the history of philosophy. Born in 1770 in Stuttgart, Holy Roman Empire, during the transitional period between the Enlightenment and the Romantic movement in the Germanic regions of Europe, Hegel lived through and was influenced by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. His fame rests chiefly upon The Phenomenology of Spirit, The Science of Logic, his teleological account of history, and his lectures at the University of Berlin on topics from his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. Throughout his work, Hegel strove to address and correct the problematic dualisms of modern philosophy, Kantian and otherwise, typically by drawing upon the resources of ancient philosophy, particularly Aristotle. Hegel everywhere insists that reason and freedom are historical achievements, not natural givens. His dialectical-speculative procedure is grounded in the principle of immanence, that is, in assessing claims always according to their own internal criteria. Taking skepticism seriously, he contends that people cannot presume any truths that have not passed the test of experience; even the a priori categories of the Logic must attain their "verification" in the natural world and the historical accomplishments of humankind. Guided by the Delphic imperative to "know thyself", Hegel presents free self-determination as the essence of humankind – a conclusion from his 1806–07 Phenomenology that he claims is further verified by the systematic account of the interdependence of logic, nature, and spirit in his later Encyclopedia. He asserts that the Logic at once preserves and overcomes the dualisms of the material and the mental – that is, it accounts for both the continuity and difference marking the domains of nature and culture – as a metaphysically necessary and coherent "identity of identity and non-identity".

Photo of Friedrich Engels

3. Friedrich Engels (1820 - 1895)

With an HPI of 82.77, Friedrich Engels is the 3rd most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 125 different languages.

Friedrich Engels ( ENG-gəlz; German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈʔɛŋl̩s]; 28 November 1820 – 5 August 1895) was a German philosopher, political theorist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. He was also a businessman and Karl Marx's closest friend and collaborator, serving as a leading authority on Marxism. Engels, the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer, met Marx in 1844. They jointly authored works including The Holy Family (1844), The German Ideology (written 1846), and The Communist Manifesto (1848), and worked as political organisers and activists in the Communist League and First International. Engels also supported Marx financially for much of his life, enabling him to continue writing after he moved to London in 1849. After Marx's death in 1883, Engels compiled Volumes II and III of his Das Kapital (1885 and 1894). Engels wrote eclectic works of his own, including The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), Anti-Dühring (1878), Dialectics of Nature (1878–1882), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), and Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1886). His writings on materialism, idealism, and dialectics supplied Marxism with an ontological and metaphysical foundation.

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4. Martin Heidegger (1889 - 1976)

With an HPI of 81.05, Martin Heidegger is the 4th most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 105 different languages.

Martin Heidegger (; German: [ˈmaʁtiːn ˈhaɪdɛɡɐ]; 26 September 1889 – 26 May 1976) was a German philosopher who is best known for contributions to phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism. His work covers topics including technology, Immanuel Kant, metaphysics, and humanism. He is often considered to be among the most important and influential philosophers of the 20th century. In April 1933, Heidegger was elected as rector at the University of Freiburg and was widely criticized for his membership and support for the Nazi Party during his time as rector. After World War II he was dismissed from Freiburg and was banned from teaching after denazification hearings at Freiburg. There has been controversy about the relationship between his philosophy and Nazism. In Heidegger's first major text, Being and Time (1927), Dasein is introduced as a term for the type of being that humans possess. Heidegger believed that Dasein already has a "pre-ontological" and concrete understanding that shapes how it lives, which he analyzed in terms of the unitary structure of "being-in-the-world". Heidegger used this analysis to approach the question of the meaning of being; that is, the question of how entities appear as the specific entities they are. In other words, Heidegger's governing "question of being" is concerned with what makes beings intelligible as beings.

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5. Hannah Arendt (1906 - 1975)

With an HPI of 78.74, Hannah Arendt is the 5th most famous German Philosopher.  Her biography has been translated into 88 different languages.

Hannah Arendt (, US also , German: [ˌhana ˈaːʁənt] ; born Johanna Arendt; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-American historian and philosopher. She was one of the most influential political theorists of the 20th century. Her works cover a broad range of topics, but she is best known for those dealing with the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. She is also remembered for the controversy surrounding the trial of Adolf Eichmann, for her attempt to explain how ordinary people become actors in totalitarian systems, which was considered by some an apologia, and for the phrase "the banality of evil." Her name appears in the names of journals, schools, scholarly prizes, humanitarian prizes, think-tanks, on stamps, in street names, monuments, and is attached to other cultural and institutional markers that commemorate her thought. Hannah Arendt was born to a Jewish family in Linden (now a district of Hanover, Germany) in 1906. When she was three, her family moved to the East Prussian capital of Königsberg for her father's health care. Paul Arendt had contracted syphilis in his youth but was thought to be in remission when Arendt was born. He died when she was seven. Arendt was raised in a politically progressive, secular family, her mother being an ardent Social Democrat. After completing secondary education in Berlin, Arendt studied at the University of Marburg under Martin Heidegger, with whom she engaged in a romantic affair that began while she was his student. She obtained her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg in 1929. Her dissertation was entitled Love and Saint Augustine, and her supervisor was the existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers. Hannah Arendt married Günther Stern in 1929 but soon began to encounter increasing antisemitism in the 1930s Nazi Germany. In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler came to power, Arendt was arrested and briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo for performing illegal research into antisemitism. On release, she fled Germany, living in Czechoslovakia and Switzerland before settling in Paris. There she worked for Youth Aliyah, assisting young Jews to emigrate to the British Mandate of Palestine. She was stripped of her German citizenship in 1937. Divorcing Stern that year, she then married Heinrich Blücher in 1940. When Germany invaded France that year she was detained by the French as an alien. She escaped and made her way to the United States in 1941 via Portugal. She settled in New York, which remained her principal residence for the rest of her life. She became a writer and editor and worked for the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, becoming an American citizen in 1950. With the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951, her reputation as a thinker and writer was established, and a series of works followed. These included the books The Human Condition in 1958, as well as Eichmann in Jerusalem and On Revolution in 1963. She taught at many American universities while declining tenure-track appointments. She died suddenly of a heart attack in 1975, at the age of 69, leaving her last work, The Life of the Mind, unfinished.

Photo of Johann Gottlieb Fichte

6. Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762 - 1814)

With an HPI of 76.61, Johann Gottlieb Fichte is the 6th most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (; German: [ˈjoːhan ˈɡɔtliːp ˈfɪçtə]; 19 May 1762 – 29 January 1814) was a German philosopher who became a founding figure of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, which developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant. Recently, philosophers and scholars have begun to appreciate Fichte as an important philosopher in his own right due to his original insights into the nature of self-consciousness or self-awareness. Fichte was also the originator of thesis–antithesis–synthesis, an idea that is often erroneously attributed to Hegel. Like Descartes and Kant before him, Fichte was motivated by the problem of subjectivity and consciousness. Fichte also wrote works of political philosophy; he has a reputation as one of the fathers of German nationalism.

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7. Ludwig Feuerbach (1804 - 1872)

With an HPI of 76.61, Ludwig Feuerbach is the 7th most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (German: [ˈluːtvɪç ˈfɔʏɐbax]; 28 July 1804 – 13 September 1872) was a German anthropologist and philosopher, best known for his book The Essence of Christianity, which provided a critique of Christianity that strongly influenced generations of later thinkers, including Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Engels, Mikhail Bakunin, Richard Wagner, , Frederick Douglass and Friedrich Nietzsche. An associate of Young Hegelian circles, Feuerbach advocated atheism and anthropological materialism. Many of his philosophical writings offered a critical analysis of religion. His thought was influential in the development of historical materialism, where he is often recognized as a bridge between Hegel and Marx.

Photo of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

8. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775 - 1854)

With an HPI of 76.47, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling is the 8th most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 68 different languages.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈjoːzɛf ˈʃɛlɪŋ]; 27 January 1775 – 20 August 1854), later (after 1812) von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Johann Gottlieb Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, his one-time university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its evolving nature. Schelling's thought in the main has been neglected, especially in the English-speaking world. An important factor in this was the ascendancy of Hegel, whose mature works portray Schelling as a mere footnote in the development of idealism. Schelling's Naturphilosophie also has been attacked by scientists for its tendency to analogize and lack of empirical orientation. However, some later philosophers have shown interest in re-examining Schelling's body of work.

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9. Karl Jaspers (1883 - 1969)

With an HPI of 76.18, Karl Jaspers is the 9th most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Karl Theodor Jaspers (, German: [kaʁl ˈjaspɐs] ; 23 February 1883 – 26 February 1969) was a German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher who had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry, and philosophy. His 1913 work General Psychopathology influenced many later diagnostic criteria, and argued for a distinction between "primary" and "secondary" delusions. After being trained in and practising psychiatry, Jaspers turned to philosophical inquiry and attempted to discover an innovative philosophical system. He was often viewed as a major exponent of existentialism in Germany, though he did not accept the label.

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10. Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929)

With an HPI of 75.85, Jürgen Habermas is the 10th most famous German Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 76 different languages.

Jürgen Habermas (UK: , US: ; German: [ˈjʏʁɡn̩ ˈhaːbɐmaːs] ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher and social theorist in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. His work addresses communicative rationality and the public sphere. Associated with the Frankfurt School, Habermas's work focuses on the foundations of epistemology and social theory, the analysis of advanced capitalism and democracy, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, albeit within the confines of the natural law tradition, and contemporary politics, particularly German politics. Habermas's theoretical system is devoted to revealing the possibility of reason, emancipation, and rational-critical communication latent in modern institutions and in the human capacity to deliberate and pursue rational interests. Habermas is known for his work on the concept of modernity, particularly with respect to the discussions of rationalization originally set forth by Max Weber. He has been influenced by American pragmatism, action theory, and poststructuralism.

People

Pantheon has 150 people classified as German philosophers born between 1096 and 1964. Of these 150, 6 (4.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living German philosophers include Jürgen Habermas, Peter Sloterdijk, and Axel Honneth. The most famous deceased German philosophers include Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Friedrich Engels. As of April 2024, 17 new German philosophers have been added to Pantheon including Hans Robert Jauss, Valentin Weigel, and Theodoric of Freiberg.

Living German Philosophers

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Deceased German Philosophers

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Newly Added German Philosophers (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Philosophers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Philosophers since 1700.