The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Philosophers of all time. This list of famous 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 Philosophers.
With an HPI of 87.23, Thales of Miletus is the most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 106 different languages on wikipedia.
Thales of Miletus ( THAY-leez; Greek: Θαλῆς; c. 624/623 – c. 548/545 BC) was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and pre-Socratic philosopher from Miletus in Ionia, Asia Minor. He was one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristotle, regarded him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, and he is otherwise historically recognized as the first individual known to have entertained and engaged in scientific philosophy. He is often referred to as the Father of Science.Thales is recognized for breaking from the use of mythology to explain the world and the universe, instead explaining natural objects and phenomena by offering naturalistic theories and hypotheses. Almost all the other pre-Socratic philosophers followed him in explaining nature as deriving from a unity of everything based on the existence of a single ultimate substance instead of using mythological explanations. Aristotle regarded him as the founder of the Ionian School of philosophy, and reported Thales' hypothesis that the originating principle of nature and the nature of matter was a single material substance: water.In mathematics, Thales used geometry to calculate the heights of pyramids and the distance of ships from the shore. He is the first known individual to use deductive reasoning applied to geometry by deriving four corollaries to Thales' theorem. He is also the first known to whom a mathematical discovery has been attributed.
With an HPI of 82.80, Heraclitus is the 2nd most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 93 different languages.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (; Greek: Ἡράκλειτος Herakleitos, "Glory of Hera"; fl. c. 500 BCE) was an ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher from the city of Ephesus, which was then part of the Persian Empire. Little is known of Heraclitus's life. He wrote a single work, only fragments of which have survived. Most of the ancient stories about him are later fabrications based on interpretations of the preserved fragments. His paradoxical philosophy and appreciation for wordplay and cryptic utterances has earned him the epithet "the obscure" since antiquity. He was considered a misanthrope who was subject to melancholia. Consequently, he became known as "the weeping philosopher" in contrast to the ancient philosopher Democritus, who was known as "the laughing philosopher". The central idea of Heraclitus' philosophy is the unity of opposites. One of his most notable applications of this idea was to the concept of impermanence; he saw the world as constantly in flux, changing as it remained the same, which he expressed in the saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice." This changing aspect of his philosophy is contrasted with that of the ancient philosopher Parmenides, who believed in "being" and in the static nature of the universe.
With an HPI of 81.49, Anaximander is the 3rd most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 87 different languages.
Anaximander (; Greek: Ἀναξίμανδρος Anaximandros; c. 610 – c. 546 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia (in modern-day Turkey). He belonged to the Milesian school and learned the teachings of his master Thales. He succeeded Thales and became the second master of that school where he counted Anaximenes and, arguably, Pythagoras amongst his pupils.Little of his life and work is known today. According to available historical documents, he is the first philosopher known to have written down his studies, although only one fragment of his work remains. Fragmentary testimonies found in documents after his death provide a portrait of the man. Anaximander was an early proponent of science and tried to observe and explain different aspects of the universe, with a particular interest in its origins, claiming that nature is ruled by laws, just like human societies, and anything that disturbs the balance of nature does not last long. Like many thinkers of his time, Anaximander's philosophy included contributions to many disciplines. In astronomy, he attempted to describe the mechanics of celestial bodies in relation to the Earth. In physics, his postulation that the indefinite (or apeiron) was the source of all things led Greek philosophy to a new level of conceptual abstraction. His knowledge of geometry allowed him to introduce the gnomon in Greece. He created a map of the world that contributed greatly to the advancement of geography. He was also involved in the politics of Miletus and was sent as a leader to one of its colonies.
With an HPI of 81.46, Diogenes is the 4th most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 77 different languages.
Diogenes ( dy-OJ-in-eez; Ancient Greek: Διογένης, romanized: Diogénēs [di.oɡénɛːs]), also known as Diogenes the Cynic (Διογένης ὁ Κυνικός, Diogénēs ho Kynikós) or Diogenes of Sinope, was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. He was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia (Asia Minor) in 412 or 404 BC and died at Corinth in 323 BC.Diogenes was a controversial figure. He was allegedly banished, or fled from, Sinope for debasement of currency. He was the son of the mintmaster of Sinope, and there is some debate as to whether or not he alone had debased the Sinopian currency, whether his father had done this, or whether they had both done it. After his hasty departure from Sinope he moved to Athens where he proceeded to criticize many cultural conventions of the Athens of that day. He modeled himself on the example of Heracles, believing that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple lifestyle and behavior to criticize the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt, confused society. He had a reputation for sleeping and eating wherever he chose in a highly non-traditional fashion and took to toughening himself against nature. He declared himself a cosmopolitan and a citizen of the world rather than claiming allegiance to just one place. There are many tales about his dogging Antisthenes' footsteps and becoming his "faithful hound". Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar, or pithos, in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts, such as carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for a "man" (often rendered in English as "looking for an honest man"). He criticized Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates, and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting listeners by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having mocked Alexander the Great, both in public and to his face when he visited Corinth in 336 BC.Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold into slavery, eventually settling in Corinth. There he passed his philosophy of Cynicism to Crates, who taught it to Zeno of Citium, who fashioned it into the school of Stoicism, one of the most enduring schools of Greek philosophy. No writings of Diogenes survive, but there are some details of his life from anecdotes (chreia), especially from Diogenes Laërtius' book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers and some other sources.
With an HPI of 78.41, Anaxagoras is the 5th most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.
Anaxagoras (; Greek: Ἀναξαγόρας, Anaxagóras, "lord of the assembly"; c. 500 – c. 428 BC) was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae at a time when Asia Minor was under the control of the Persian Empire, Anaxagoras came to Athens. According to Diogenes Laërtius and Plutarch, in later life he was charged with impiety and went into exile in Lampsacus; the charges may have been political, owing to his association with Pericles, if they were not fabricated by later ancient biographers. Responding to the claims of Parmenides on the impossibility of change, Anaxagoras introduced the concept of Nous (Cosmic Mind) as an ordering force. He also gave a number of novel scientific accounts of natural phenomena, including the notion of panspermia, that life exists throughout the universe and could be distributed everywhere. He deduced a correct explanation for eclipses and described the Sun as a fiery mass larger than the Peloponnese, as well as attempting to explain rainbows and meteors.
With an HPI of 76.38, Epictetus is the 6th most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 66 different languages.
Epictetus (; Greek: Ἐπίκτητος, Epíktētos; c. 50 – c. 135 AD) was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was born into slavery at Hierapolis, Phrygia (present-day Pamukkale, in western Turkey) and lived in Rome until his banishment, when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece for the rest of his life. His teachings were written down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses and Enchiridion. Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not simply a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are beyond our control; we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.
With an HPI of 76.12, Xenophanes is the 7th most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.
Xenophanes of Colophon (; Ancient Greek: Ξενοφάνης ὁ Κολοφώνιος [ksenopʰánɛːs ho kolopʰɔ̌ːnios]; c. 570 – c. 478 BC) was a Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and critic of Homer from Ionia who traveled throughout the Greek-speaking world in early Classical Antiquity. As a poet, Xenophanes was known for his critical style, writing poems that are considered among the first satires. He also composed elegiac couplets that criticized his society's traditional values of wealth, excesses and athletic victories. He also criticized Homer and the other poets in his works for representing the gods as foolish or morally weak. His poems have not survived intact; only fragments of some of his work survives in quotations by later philosophers and literary critics. Xenophanes is seen as one of the most important pre-Socratic philosophers. A highly original thinker, Xenophanes sought explanations for physical phenomena such as clouds or rainbows without references to divine or mythological explanations, but instead based on first principles. He also distinguished between different forms of knowledge and belief as an early proponent of epistemology. Later philosophers such as the Eleatics and the Pyrrhonists also saw Xenophanes as the founder of their doctrines, and interpreted his work in terms of those doctrines, although modern scholarship disputes these claims.
With an HPI of 75.27, Gregory of Nazianzus is the 8th most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 65 different languages.
Gregory of Nazianzus (Greek: Γρηγόριος ὁ Ναζιανζηνός, Grēgorios ho Nazianzēnos; c. 329 – 25 January 390,), also known as Gregory the Theologian or Gregory Nazianzen, was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople and theologian. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained orator and philosopher, he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials.Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek and Latin-speaking theologians, and he is remembered as the "Trinitarian Theologian". Much of his theological work continues to influence modern theologians, especially in regard to the relationship among the three Persons of the Trinity. Along with the brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers. Gregory of Nazianzus is a saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity. In the Catholic Church he is numbered among the Doctors of the Church; in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, along with Basil the Great and John Chrysostom. He is considered one of the Great Fathers in both Eastern and Western Christianity. He was considered the patron saint of Kotromanić dynasty and medieval Bosnia during the first half of the 15th century, while Saint George, the miracle-worker, has been the patron saint since at least mid-13th century, although confirmed by the papacy much later in 1461. St. Gregory the Great was also considered the patron of both, the state and dynasty in the late 15th century.He is also one of only three men in the life of the Orthodox Church who have been officially designated "Theologian" by epithet, the other two being John the Theologian (the Evangelist), and Symeon the New Theologian.
With an HPI of 74.33, Anaximenes of Miletus is the 9th most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.
Anaximenes of Miletus (; Greek: Ἀναξιμένης ὁ Μιλήσιος; c. 586 – c. 526 BC) was an Ancient Greek, Ionian Pre-Socratic philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), active in the latter half of the 6th century BC. The details of his life are obscure because none of his work has been preserved. Anaximenes' ideas are only known today because of comments about him made by later writers, such as Aristotle.As the last of the three philosophers of the Milesian School, considered the first philosophers of the Western world, Anaximenes is best known and identified as a younger friend or student of Anaximander, who was himself taught by the first philosopher Thales. Each developed a distinct cosmology without completely rejecting their predecessors views. Each were material monists who sought to discover the arche; the one, underlying physical yet divine basis of everything. Thales proposed all was made of water; Anaximander proposed all was made of apeiron or something indefinite rather than something specific, and Anaximenes proposed all was made of air, or literally aer which may also include mist or vapor. More condensed air made for colder, denser objects and more rarefied air made for hotter, lighter objects.Much of his astronomical thought was based on Anaximander's, though he altered Anaximander's astrological ideas to better fit his own philosophical views on physics and the natural world. Anaximenes believed the Earth was flat like a disc and rode on air like a frisbee. The Anaximenes crater on the Moon is named in his honor. Some of Anaximenes' writings are referenced during the Hellenistic Age, but no record of these documents currently exist. Apollodorus of Damascus estimated Anaximenes' lifespan as having flourished during the same time period in which Cyrus the Great defeated Croesus at the Battle of Thymbra in 546 BC. Philosophy may have spread elsewhere because Miletus was captured by the Persian army in 494 BC.
With an HPI of 73.77, Ibn Taymiyyah is the 10th most famous Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Ibn Taymiyyah (January 22, 1263 – September 26, 1328; Arabic: ابن تيمية), birth name Taqī ad-Dīn ʾAḥmad ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm ibn ʿAbd al-Salām al-Numayrī al-Ḥarrānī (Arabic: تقي الدين أحمد بن عبد الحليم بن عبد السلام النميري الحراني), was a Sunni ʿĀlim, muhaddith, judge, proto-Salafist theologian, and sometimes controversial thinker and political figure. He is known for his diplomatic involvement with the Ilkhanid ruler Ghazan Khan and for his involvement at the Battle of Marj al-Saffar which ended the Mongol invasions of the Levant. A member of the Hanbali school, Ibn Taymiyyah's iconoclastic views that condemned numerous folk practices associated with saint veneration and the visitation of tomb-shrines; made him unpopular with many scholars and rulers of the time, and he was imprisoned several times.A polarising figure in his own times and in the centuries that followed, Ibn Taymiyyah has emerged as one of the most influential medieval writers in contemporary Sunni Islam. He was also noteworthy for engaging in intense religious polemics that defended Athari school against the followers of rival schools of Kalam (speculative theology); namely Ash'arism and Maturidism. This would prompt numerous clerics and state authorities to accuse Ibn Taymiyyah and his disciples of being guilty of "tashbīh" (anthropomorphism); which eventually led to the censoring of his works and subsequent incarceration. Nevertheless, Ibn Taymiyya's numerous treatises that advocated "creedal Salafism" (al-salafiyya al-iʿtiqādīyya), based on his particular interpretations of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, constitute the most popular classical reference for later Salafi movements.Ibn Taymiyya's rejection of some aspects of classical Islamic tradition are believed to have had considerable influence on contemporary militant Islamist movements such as Salafi-Jihadism. Major aspects of his teachings such as upholding the pristine monotheism of the early Muslim generations and campaigns to uproot what he regarded as shirk (idolatry); had a profound influence on Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Hanbali reform movement practiced in Saudi Arabia, and on other later Sunni scholars. Syrian Salafi theologian Muhammad Rashid Rida (d. 1935 C.E/ 1354 A.H), one of the major modern proponents of his works, designated Ibn Taymiyya as the Mujaddid (renewer) of the Islamic 7th century of Hijri year. Ibn Taymiyyah's doctrinal positions on the necessity of an Islamic political entity and his controversial fatwas, such as his Takfir (declaration of unbelief) of the Mongol Ilkhanates, allowing jihad against other self-professed Muslims, are referenced by al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups to justify militant overthrowal of contemporary governments of the Muslim world.
Pantheon has 53 people classified as philosophers born between 623 BC and 1950. Of these 53, 1 (1.89%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living philosophers include Seyla Benhabib. The most famous deceased philosophers include Thales of Miletus, Heraclitus, and Anaximander.
623 BC - 546 BC
535 BC - 470 BC
610 BC - 546 BC
404 BC - 322 BC
500 BC - 428 BC
50 - 135
570 BC - 475 BC
329 - 389
585 BC - 525 BC
1263 - 1328
281 BC - 208 BC
135 BC - 51 BC