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.
With an HPI of 91.80, Friedrich Nietzsche is the most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 156 different languages on wikipedia.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (; German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈniːtʃə] (listen) or [ˈniːtsʃə]; 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher, cultural critic and philologist whose work has exerted a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest person ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. Nietzsche 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 45, 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 many strokes and pneumonia. Nietzsche's writing 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 favor 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 characterization 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 and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. After his death, his sister Elisabeth became the curator and editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts. She edited his unpublished writings to fit her German ultranationalist ideology while 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, poetry, politics, and popular culture.
With an HPI of 89.62, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is the 2nd most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 119 different languages.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; German: [ˈɡeːɔʁk ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈheːɡl̩]; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German philosopher. He is considered one of the most important figures in German idealism and one of the founding figures of Modern philosophy, with his influence extending from epistemology, logic, and metaphysics to aesthetics, philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, and the history of philosophy.Hegel's principal achievement was the development of a distinctive articulation of idealism, sometimes termed absolute idealism, in which the dualisms of, for instance, mind and nature and subject and object are overcome. In contrast to Immanuel Kant, who believes that the subject imposes rational a priori pure concepts of understanding upon the sense-data of intuitions, Hegel believes that the pure concepts are grounded in reality itself. Pure concepts are not applied subjectively to sense-impressions, but rather things exist for their concept. The unity of concept and reality is the idea. The idea itself is dynamic, active, self-determining, self-moving, and purposive. The idea properly exists as life. In life, the parts of the body are unified for the final cause of actualizing the living organism. Non-organic nature is also grounded in the concept, but is only "latent" and not fully self-determining. Geist, or Spirit, is the highest form of life and the idea. Geist is the collective purposive agency and genus of man. Geist is equally substance and subject, meaning that geist is not only a living organic substance, but also a subject involved in complex normative and social spaces. Hegel is also known for his dialectical logic, which is mostly contained within his Science of Logic. In this book, Hegel creates a presuppositionless logic of pure thought, which begins with pure being. In the logic, positions and ideas are examined and revealed to be immanently contradictory. The contradiction within the position and itself is sublated [aufgehoben], in which a new position is posited which negates the previous position's contradiction. An example of sublation is the contradictory nature of pure indeterminate being. Pure being is revealed to be both equal to and different from nothing. This contradiction within being is resolved with its sublation into becoming, in which nothing passes into being and being passes into nothing. However, becoming also reveals its own contradictions and is sublated into determinate being. The logic progresses along through contradictions and sublations until there are no more contradictions that can be sublated. This is the absolute, which for Hegel is the idea. Hegel influenced a wide variety of thinkers and writers. For example, theologian Paul Tillich wrote that the historical dialectical thought of Hegel "has influenced world history more profoundly than any other structural analysis." In his work Systematic Theology, Tillich referred to Hegel's work as "perfect essentialism," later writing "essentialism was in Hegel's system fulfilled." Karl Barth described Hegel as a "Protestant Aquinas" while Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote that "all the great philosophical ideas of the past century—the philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche, phenomenology, German existentialism, and psychoanalysis—had their beginnings in Hegel." Michael Hardt has highlighted that the roots of post-structuralism and its unifying basis lies, in large part, in a general opposition not to the philosophical tradition tout court but specifically to the "Hegelian tradition" dominating philosophy in the twentieth century prior to post-structuralism.Hegel's work has been considered the "completion of philosophy" by some of the most influential thinkers in existentialism, post-structuralism, and twentieth-century theology. Jacques Derrida wrote of Hegel in his work Of Grammatology that "if there were a definition of Différance, it would be precisely the limit, the interruption, the destruction of the Hegelian dialectical synthesis wherever it operates." Martin Heidegger observed in his 1969 work Identity and Difference and in his personal Black Notebooks that Hegel's system in an important respect "consummates western philosophy" by completing the idea of the logos, the self-grounding ground, in thinking through the identification of Being and beings, which is "the theme of logic", writing "[I]t is... incontestable that Hegel, faithful to tradition, sees the matter of thinking in beings as such and as a whole, in the movement of Being from its emptiness to its developed fullness." Heidegger in various places further stated Hegel's thinking to be "the most powerful thinking of modern times."
With an HPI of 87.10, Friedrich Engels is the 3rd most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 115 different languages.
Friedrich Engels ( ENG-(g)əlz, German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈʔɛŋl̩s]), sometimes anglicised as Frederick Engels (28 November 1820 – 5 August 1895), was a German philosopher, critic of political economy, historian, political theorist and revolutionary socialist. He was also a businessman, journalist and political activist, whose father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford (Lancashire, England) and Barmen, Prussia (now Wuppertal, Germany).Engels developed what is now known as Marxism together with Karl Marx. In 1845, he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research in English cities. In 1848, Engels co-authored The Communist Manifesto with Marx and also authored and co-authored (primarily with Marx) many other works. Later, Engels supported Marx financially, allowing him to do research and write Das Kapital. After Marx's death, Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital. Additionally, Engels organised Marx's notes on the Theories of Surplus Value which were later published as the "fourth volume" of Das Kapital. In 1884, he published The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State on the basis of Marx's ethnographic research. On 5 August 1895, aged 74, Engels died of laryngeal cancer in London. Following cremation, his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head, near Eastbourne.
With an HPI of 86.01, Martin Heidegger is the 4th most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 92 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. He is among the most important and influential philosophers of the 20th century.In Heidegger's fundamental text Being and Time (1927), "Dasein" is introduced as a term for the type of being that humans possess. Dasein has been translated as "being there". Heidegger believes that Dasein already has a "pre-ontological" and non-abstract understanding that shapes how it lives. This mode of being he terms "being-in-the-world". Dasein and "being-in-the-world" are unitary concepts at odds with rationalist philosophy and its "subject/object" view since at least René Descartes. Heidegger explicitly disagrees with Descartes, and uses an analysis of Dasein to approach the question of the meaning of being. This meaning is "concerned with what makes beings intelligible as beings", according to Heidegger scholar Michael Wheeler. Heidegger was a member and supporter of the Nazi Party. There is controversy as to the relationship between his philosophy and his Nazism.
With an HPI of 84.07, Hannah Arendt is the 5th most famous German Philosopher. Her biography has been translated into 77 different languages.
Hannah Arendt (, US also , German: [ˈaːʁənt]; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a political philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. Her contributions influenced 20th and 21st century political theorists. Arendt was born in Linden, which later became a district of Hanover, in 1906, to a Jewish family. At the age of three, her family moved to Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia, so that her father's syphilis could be treated. Paul Arendt had contracted the disease in his youth, and it 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 was an ardent supporter of the Social Democrats. After completing her secondary education in Berlin, she studied at the University of Marburg under Martin Heidegger, with whom she had a four-year affair. She obtained her doctorate in philosophy writing on Love and Saint Augustine at the University of Heidelberg in 1929 under the direction of the existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers. Hannah Arendt married Günther Stern in 1929, but soon began to encounter increasing anti-Jewish discrimination in 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 in Nazi Germany. 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. Divorcing Stern in 1937, she married Heinrich Blücher in 1940, but when Germany invaded France in 1940 she was detained by the French as an alien, despite having been stripped of her German citizenship in 1937. 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. 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. In the popular mind she is best remembered for the controversy surrounding the trial of Adolf Eichmann, 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". She is commemorated by institutions and journals devoted to her thinking, the Hannah Arendt Prize for political thinking, and on stamps, street names and schools, amongst other things.
With an HPI of 82.73, Johann Gottlieb Fichte is the 6th most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 76 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.
With an HPI of 82.63, Ludwig Feuerbach is the 7th most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 69 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, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Nietzsche.An associate of Left 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.
With an HPI of 82.13, Karl Jaspers is the 8th most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 68 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. After being trained in and practicing 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.
With an HPI of 81.94, Jürgen Habermas is the 9th most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.
Jürgen Habermas (UK: , US: ; German: [ˈjʏʁɡn̩ ˈhaːbɐmaːs]; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher and sociologist 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 was 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.
With an HPI of 81.86, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling is the 10th most famous German Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 64 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.
Pantheon has 129 people classified as philosophers born between 1096 and 1964. Of these 129, 7 (5.43%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living philosophers include Jürgen Habermas, Peter Sloterdijk, and Axel Honneth. The most famous deceased philosophers include Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Friedrich Engels. As of October 2020, 9 new philosophers have been added to Pantheon including Jakob Friedrich Fries, Philipp Mainländer, and Carl Dahlhaus.
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Which Philosophers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Philosophers since 1700.