The Most Famous

PHILOSOPHERS from Italy

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This page contains a list of the greatest Italian Philosophers. The pantheon dataset contains 1,089 Philosophers, 64 of which were born in Italy. This makes Italy the birth place of the 5th most number of Philosophers behind United Kingdom and United States.

Top 10

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

Photo of Niccolò Machiavelli

1. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 - 1527)

With an HPI of 91.02, Niccolò Machiavelli is the most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 131 different languages on wikipedia.

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (, also US: ; Italian: [nikkoˈlɔ mmakjaˈvɛlli]; 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was a Florentine diplomat, philosopher, politician, historian and writer who lived during the Renaissance. He is best known for The Prince (Il Principe), written about 1513. He has often been called the father of modern political philosophy and political science.For many years he served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is of high importance to historians and scholars. He worked as secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. Machiavelli's name came to evoke unscrupulous acts of the sort he advised most famously in The Prince. His experience showed him that politics have always been played with deception, treachery and crime. He also notably said that a ruler who is establishing a kingdom or a republic, and is criticized for his deeds, including violence, should be excused when the intention and the result is beneficial. Machiavelli's Prince was much read as a manuscript long before it was published in 1532 and the reaction was mixed. Some considered it a straightforward description of the evil means used by bad rulers; others read in it evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power. Many scholars, such as Leo Strauss, stated that Machiavelli was a "teacher of evil".The term Machiavellian often connotes political deceit, deviousness, and realpolitik. Even though Machiavelli has become most famous for his work on principalities, scholars also give attention to the exhortations in his other works of political philosophy. While much less well known than The Prince, the Discourses on Livy (composed c. 1517) is often said to have paved the way of modern republicanism.

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2. Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274)

With an HPI of 89.88, Thomas Aquinas is the 2nd most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 139 different languages.

Thomas Aquinas (; Italian: Tommaso d'Aquino, lit. 'Thomas of Aquino'; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, he is also known within the latter as the Doctor Angelicus, the Doctor Communis, and the Doctor Universalis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy. Among other things, he was a prominent proponent of natural theology and the father of a school of thought (encompassing both theology and philosophy) known as Thomism. He argued that God is the source of both the light of natural reason and the light of faith. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory. Unlike many currents in the Catholic Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called "the Philosopher"—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.His best-known works are the Disputed Questions on Truth (1256–1259), the Summa contra Gentiles (1259–1265), and the unfinished but massively influential Summa Theologica, or Summa Theologiae (1265–1274). His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle also form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the church's liturgy. The Catholic Church honors Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, and canon law).Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church's greatest theologians and philosophers. Pope Benedict XV declared: "This (Dominican) Order ... acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honored with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools." The English philosopher Anthony Kenny considers Thomas to be "one of the dozen greatest philosophers of the western world".

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3. Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952)

With an HPI of 84.74, Maria Montessori is the 3rd most famous Italian Philosopher.  Her biography has been translated into 79 different languages.

Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori ( MON-tiss-OR-ee, Italian: [maˈriːa montesˈsɔːri]; August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy. At an early age, Montessori enrolled in classes at an all-boys technical school, with hopes of becoming an engineer. She soon had a change of heart and began medical school at the Sapienza University of Rome, where she graduated with honors in 1896. Her educational method is in use today in many public and private schools globally.

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4. Parmenides (-501 - -470)

With an HPI of 84.61, Parmenides is the 4th most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 82 different languages.

Parmenides of Elea (; Greek: Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; fl. late sixth or early fifth century BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia (meaning "Great Greece," the term which Romans gave to Greek-populated coastal areas in Southern Italy). He is thought to have been in his prime (or "floruit") around 475 BC.Parmenides has been considered the founder of metaphysics or ontology and has influenced the whole history of Western philosophy. He was the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy, which also included Zeno of Elea and Melissus of Samos. Zeno's paradoxes of motion were to defend Parmenides' view. The single known work by Parmenides is a poem whose original title is unknown but which is often referred to as On Nature. Only fragments of it survive, but its importance lies in the fact that it contains the first sustained argument in the history of Western philosophy. In his poem, Parmenides prescribes two views of reality. In "the way of truth" (a part of the poem), he explains how all reality is one, change is impossible, and existence is timeless, uniform, and necessary. In "the way of opinion", Parmenides explains the world of appearances, in which one's sensory faculties lead to conceptions which are false and deceitful, yet he does offer a cosmology. Parmenides' philosophy has been explained with the slogan "whatever is is, and what is not cannot be". He is also credited with the phrase out of nothing nothing comes. He argues that "A is not" can never be thought or said truthfully, and thus despite appearances everything exists as one, giant, unchanging thing. This is generally considered one of the first digressions into the philosophical concept of being, and has been contrasted with Heraclitus's statement that "No man ever steps into the same river twice" as one of the first digressions into the philosophical concept of becoming. Scholars have generally believed that either Parmenides was responding to Heraclitus, or Heraclitus to Parmenides. Parmenides' views have remained relevant in philosophy, even thousands of years after his death. Alexius Meinong, much like Parmenides, defended the view that even the "golden mountain" is real since it can be talked about. The rivalry between Heraclitus and Parmenides has also been re-introduced in debates in the philosophy of time between A theory and B theory.

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5. Zeno of Elea (-490 - -425)

With an HPI of 83.73, Zeno of Elea is the 5th most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Zeno of Elea (; Greek: Ζήνων ὁ Ἐλεᾱ́της; c. 495 – c. 430 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Magna Graecia and a member of the Eleatic School founded by Parmenides. Aristotle called him the inventor of the dialectic. He is best known for his paradoxes, which Bertrand Russell described as "immeasurably subtle and profound".

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6. Lucretius (-94 - -55)

With an HPI of 83.17, Lucretius is the 6th most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.

Titus Lucretius Carus ( TY-təs loo-KREE-shəs, Latin: [ˈtɪtʊs lʊˈkreːtɪ.ʊs ˈkaːrʊs]; c. 99 – c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem De rerum natura, a didactic work about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which usually is translated into English as On the Nature of Things. Lucretius has been credited with originating the concept of the three-age system that was formalised in 1836 by C. J. Thomsen. Very little is known about Lucretius's life; the only certainty is that he was either a friend or client of Gaius Memmius, to whom the poem was addressed and dedicated.De rerum natura was a considerable influence on the Augustan poets, particularly Virgil (in his Aeneid and Georgics, and to a lesser extent on the Eclogues) and Horace. The work was almost lost during the Middle Ages, but was rediscovered in 1417 in a monastery in Germany by Poggio Bracciolini and it played an important role both in the development of atomism (Lucretius was an important influence on Pierre Gassendi) and the efforts of various figures of the Enlightenment era to construct a new Christian humanism. Lucretius's scientific poem On the Nature of Things (c. 60 BC) has a remarkable description of Brownian motion of dust particles in verses 113–140 from Book II. He uses this as a proof of the existence of atoms.

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7. Empedocles (-490 - -430)

With an HPI of 83.00, Empedocles is the 7th most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.

Empedocles (; Greek: Ἐμπεδοκλῆς [empedoklɛ̂ːs], Empedoklēs; c. 494 – c. 434 BC, fl. 444–443 BC) was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a native citizen of Akragas, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for originating the cosmogonic theory of the four classical elements. He also proposed forces he called Love and Strife which would mix and separate the elements, respectively. Influenced by Pythagoras (died c. 495 BC) and the Pythagoreans, Empedocles challenged the practice of animal sacrifice and killing animals for food. He developed a distinctive doctrine of reincarnation. He is generally considered the last Greek philosopher to have recorded his ideas in verse. Some of his work survives, more than is the case for any other pre-Socratic philosopher. Empedocles' death was mythologized by ancient writers, and has been the subject of a number of literary treatments.

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8. Pliny the Elder (23 - 79)

With an HPI of 82.87, Pliny the Elder is the 8th most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 82 different languages.

Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/24 – 79), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian. He wrote the encyclopedic Naturalis Historia (Natural History), which became an editorial model for encyclopedias. He spent most of his spare time studying, writing, and investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field. His nephew, Pliny the Younger, wrote of him in a letter to the historian Tacitus: For my part I deem those blessed to whom, by favour of the gods, it has been granted either to do what is worth writing of, or to write what is worth reading; above measure blessed those on whom both gifts have been conferred. In the latter number will be my uncle, by virtue of his own and of your compositions. Among Pliny's greatest works was the twenty-volume work, Bella Germaniae ("The History of the German Wars"), which is no longer extant. Bella Germaniae, which began where Aufidius Bassus' Libri Belli Germanici ("The War with the Germans") left off, was used as a source by other prominent Roman historians, including Plutarch, Tacitus and Suetonius. Tacitus – who most scholars agree had never travelled in Germania – used Bella Germaniae as the primary source for his work, De origine et situ Germanorum ("On the Origin and Situation of the Germans").Pliny the Elder died in AD 79 in Stabiae while attempting the rescue of a friend and his family by ship from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which had already destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The wind caused by the sixth and largest pyroclastic surge of the volcano's eruption did not allow his ship to leave port, and Pliny died during that event, probably by exposure to volcanic fallout.

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9. Antonio Gramsci (1891 - 1937)

With an HPI of 82.11, Antonio Gramsci is the 9th most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 88 different languages.

Antonio Francesco Gramsci (UK: , US: ; Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo franˈtʃesko ˈɡramʃi] (listen); 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist philosopher, journalist, linguist, writer and politician. He wrote on philosophy, political theory, sociology, history and linguistics. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. Gramsci wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. His Prison Notebooks are considered a highly original contribution to 20th-century political theory. Gramsci drew insights from varying sources – not only other Marxists but also thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, Georges Sorel and Benedetto Croce. The notebooks cover a wide range of topics, including Italian history and nationalism, the French Revolution, fascism, Taylorism and Fordism, civil society, folklore, religion and high and popular culture. Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci's view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the "common sense" values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Cultural hegemony is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than the use of force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure. Gramsci also attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought, and so is sometimes described as a neo-Marxist. He held a humanistic understanding of Marxism, seeing it as a "philosophy of praxis" and an "absolute historicism" that transcends traditional materialism and traditional idealism.

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10. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463 - 1494)

With an HPI of 81.48, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola is the 10th most famous Italian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (US: , Italian: [dʒoˈvanni ˈpiːko della miˈrandola]; Latin: Johannes Picus de Mirandula; 24 February 1463 – 17 November 1494) was an Italian Renaissance nobleman and philosopher. He is famed for the events of 1486, when, at the age of 23, he proposed to defend 900 theses on religion, philosophy, natural philosophy, and magic against all comers, for which he wrote the Oration on the Dignity of Man, which has been called the "Manifesto of the Renaissance", and a key text of Renaissance humanism and of what has been called the "Hermetic Reformation". He was the founder of the tradition of Christian Kabbalah, a key tenet of early modern Western esotericism. The 900 Theses was the first printed book to be universally banned by the Church.

Pantheon has 64 people classified as philosophers born between 600 BC and 1964. Of these 64, 6 (9.38%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living philosophers include Giorgio Agamben, Antonio Negri, and Gianni Vattimo. The most famous deceased philosophers include Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Aquinas, and Maria Montessori. As of October 2020, 5 new philosophers have been added to Pantheon including John Italus, Camillo Berneri, and Andrea Carlo Ferrari.

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Deceased Philosophers

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Newly Added Philosophers (2020)

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Which Philosophers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 18 most globally memorable Philosophers since 1700.