The Most Famous

PHILOSOPHERS from United Kingdom

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This page contains a list of the greatest British Philosophers. The pantheon dataset contains 1,089 Philosophers, 90 of which were born in United Kingdom. This makes United Kingdom the birth place of the 3rd most number of Philosophers behind Germany and France.

Top 10

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

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1. John Locke (1632 - 1704)

With an HPI of 90.25, John Locke is the most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 131 different languages on wikipedia.

John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, Locke is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American Revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence. Internationally, Locke’s political-legal principles continue to have a profound influence on the theory and practice of limited representative government and the protection of basic rights and freedoms under the rule of law.Locke's theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that, at birth, the mind was a blank slate, or tabula rasa. Contrary to Cartesian philosophy based on pre-existing concepts, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception, a concept now known as empiricism. Demonstrating the ideology of science in his observations, whereby something must be capable of being tested repeatedly and that nothing is exempt from being disproved, Locke stated that "whatever I write, as soon as I discover it not to be true, my hand shall be the forwardest to throw it into the fire". Such is one example of Locke's belief in empiricism.

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2. Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)

With an HPI of 90.24, Francis Bacon is the 2nd most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 108 different languages.

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are seen as developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution.Bacon has been called the father of empiricism. He argued for the possibility of scientific knowledge based only upon inductive reasoning and careful observation of events in nature. Most importantly, he argued science could be achieved by the use of a sceptical and methodical approach whereby scientists aim to avoid misleading themselves. Although his most specific proposals about such a method, the Baconian method, did not have long-lasting influence, the general idea of the importance and possibility of a sceptical methodology makes Bacon the father of the scientific method. This method was a new rhetorical and theoretical framework for science, whose practical details are still central to debates on science and methodology. Francis Bacon was a patron of libraries and developed a system for cataloguing books under three categories – history, poetry, and philosophy – which could further be divided into specific subjects and subheadings. About books he is credited with saying, "Some books are to be tasted; others swallowed; and some few to be chewed and digested." Bacon was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he rigorously followed the medieval curriculum, largely in Latin. Bacon was the first recipient of the Queen's counsel designation, conferred in 1597 when Elizabeth I of England reserved him as her legal advisor. After the accession of James VI and I in 1603, Bacon was knighted, then created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St Alban in 1621.He had no heirs and so both titles became extinct on his death in 1626 at the age of 65. He died of pneumonia, with one account by John Aubrey stating that he had contracted it while studying the effects of freezing on meat preservation. He is buried at St Michael's Church, St Albans, Hertfordshire.

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3. Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679)

With an HPI of 88.52, Thomas Hobbes is the 3rd most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 100 different languages.

Thomas Hobbes ( HOBZ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, in which he expounds an influential formulation of social contract theory. In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, jurisprudence, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, and ethics, as well as philosophy in general.

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4. David Hume (1711 - 1776)

With an HPI of 86.05, David Hume is the 4th most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 100 different languages.

David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, librarian and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism. Beginning with A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40), Hume strove to create a naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge derives solely from experience. This places him with Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and George Berkeley as a British Empiricist.Hume argued that inductive reasoning and belief in causality cannot be justified rationally; instead, they result from custom and mental habit. We never actually perceive that one event causes another but only experience the "constant conjunction" of events. This problem of induction means that to draw any causal inferences from past experience, it is necessary to presuppose that the future will resemble the past, a presupposition which cannot itself be grounded in prior experience.An opponent of philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passions rather than reason govern human behaviour, famously proclaiming that "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions." Hume was also a sentimentalist who held that ethics are based on emotion or sentiment rather than abstract moral principle. He maintained an early commitment to naturalistic explanations of moral phenomena and is usually taken to have first clearly expounded the is–ought problem, or the idea that a statement of fact alone can never give rise to a normative conclusion of what ought to be done.Hume also denied that humans have an actual conception of the self, positing that we experience only a bundle of sensations, and that the self is nothing more than this bundle of causally-connected perceptions. Hume's compatibilist theory of free will takes causal determinism as fully compatible with human freedom. His views on philosophy of religion, including his rejection of miracles and the argument from design for God's existence, were especially controversial for their time. Hume influenced utilitarianism, logical positivism, the philosophy of science, early analytic philosophy, cognitive science, theology, and many other fields and thinkers. Immanuel Kant credited Hume as the inspiration who had awakened him from his "dogmatic slumbers."

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5. Thomas More (1478 - 1535)

With an HPI of 84.47, Thomas More is the 5th most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 93 different languages.

Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, judge, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He also served Henry VIII as Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, which describes the political system of an imaginary island state. More opposed the Protestant Reformation, directing polemics against the theology of Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and William Tyndale. More also opposed Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and executed. On his execution, he was reported to have said: "I die the King's good servant, and God's first". Pope Pius XI canonised More in 1935 as a martyr. Pope John Paul II in 2000 declared him the patron saint of statesmen and politicians.

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6. Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903)

With an HPI of 82.40, Herbert Spencer is the 6th most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.

Herbert Spencer (27 April 1820 – 8 December 1903) was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist famous for his hypothesis of social Darwinism whereby superior physical force shapes history. Spencer originated the expression "survival of the fittest", which he coined in Principles of Biology (1864) after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The term strongly suggests natural selection, yet Spencer saw evolution as extending into realms of sociology and ethics, so he also supported Lamarckism.Spencer developed an all-embracing conception of evolution as the progressive development of the physical world, biological organisms, the human mind, and human culture and societies. As a polymath, he contributed to a wide range of subjects, including ethics, religion, anthropology, economics, political theory, philosophy, literature, astronomy, biology, sociology, and psychology. During his lifetime he achieved tremendous authority, mainly in English-speaking academia. "The only other English philosopher to have achieved anything like such widespread popularity was Bertrand Russell, and that was in the 20th century." Spencer was "the single most famous European intellectual in the closing decades of the nineteenth century" but his influence declined sharply after 1900: "Who now reads Spencer?" asked Talcott Parsons in 1937.

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7. William of Ockham (1285 - 1347)

With an HPI of 82.08, William of Ockham is the 7th most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.

William of Ockham (; also Occam, from Latin: Gulielmus Occamus; c. 1287 – 10 April 1347) was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher, and theologian, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, a small village in Surrey. He is considered to be one of the major figures of medieval thought and was at the centre of the major intellectual and political controversies of the 14th century. He is commonly known for Occam's razor, the methodological principle that bears his name, and also produced significant works on logic, physics, and theology. William is remembered in the Church of England with a commemoration on 10 April.

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8. Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832)

With an HPI of 81.76, Jeremy Bentham is the 8th most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.

Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 [O.S. 4 February 1747] – 6 June 1832) was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.Bentham defined as the "fundamental axiom" of his philosophy the principle that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He advocated individual and economic freedoms, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and (in an unpublished essay) the decriminalising of homosexual acts. He called for the abolition of slavery, capital punishment and physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known as an early advocate of animal rights. Though strongly in favour of the extension of individual legal rights, he opposed the idea of natural law and natural rights (both of which are considered "divine" or "God-given" in origin), calling them "nonsense upon stilts." Bentham was also a sharp critic of legal fictions. Bentham's students included his secretary and collaborator James Mill, the latter's son, John Stuart Mill, the legal philosopher John Austin, American writer and activist John Neal. He "had considerable influence on the reform of prisons, schools, poor laws, law courts, and Parliament itself."On his death in 1832, Bentham left instructions for his body to be first dissected, and then to be permanently preserved as an "auto-icon" (or self-image), which would be his memorial. This was done, and the auto-icon is now on public display in the entrance of the Student Centre at University College London (UCL). Because of his arguments in favour of the general availability of education, he has been described as the "spiritual founder" of UCL. However, he played only a limited direct part in its foundation.

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9. Roger Bacon (1220 - 1292)

With an HPI of 81.70, Roger Bacon is the 9th most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 63 different languages.

Roger Bacon (; Latin: Rogerus or Rogerius Baconus, Baconis, also Frater Rogerus; c. 1219/20 – c. 1292), also known by the scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis, was a medieval English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricism. In the early modern era, he was regarded as a wizard and particularly famed for the story of his mechanical or necromantic brazen head. He is sometimes credited (mainly since the 19th century) as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method. Bacon applied the empirical method of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) to observations in texts attributed to Aristotle. Bacon discovered the importance of empirical testing when the results he obtained were different from those that would have been predicted by Aristotle.His linguistic work has been heralded for its early exposition of a universal grammar. 21st century re-evaluations emphasise that Bacon was essentially a medieval thinker, with much of his "experimental" knowledge obtained from books in the scholastic tradition. He was, however, partially responsible for a revision of the medieval university curriculum, which saw the addition of optics to the traditional quadrivium.Bacon's major work, the Opus Majus, was sent to Pope Clement IV in Rome in 1267 upon the pope's request. Although gunpowder was first invented and described in China, Bacon was the first in Europe to record its formula.

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10. John Wycliffe (1324 - 1384)

With an HPI of 79.05, John Wycliffe is the 10th most famous British Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 61 different languages.

John Wycliffe (; also spelled Wyclif, Wickliffe, and other variants; c. 1320s – 31 December 1384) was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, biblical translator, reformer, priest, and a seminary professor at the University of Oxford. He became an influential dissident within the Roman Catholic priesthood during the 14th century and is considered an important predecessor to Protestantism. Wycliffe questioned the privileged status of the clergy which had bolstered their powerful role in England and the luxury and pomp of local parishes and their ceremonies.Wycliffe advocated translation of the Bible into the common vernacular. According to tradition, Wycliffe is said to have completed a translation direct from the Vulgate into Middle English – a version now known as Wycliffe's Bible. It is probable that he personally translated the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and it is possible he translated the entire New Testament, while his associates translated the Old Testament. Wycliffe's Bible appears to have been completed by 1384, additional updated versions being done by Wycliffe's assistant John Purvey and others in 1388 and 1395. More recently, historians of the Wycliffite movement have determined that Wycliffe had, at most, a minor role in the actual translations.Wycliffe's later followers, derogatorily called Lollards by their orthodox contemporaries in the 15th and 16th centuries, adopted many of the beliefs attributed to Wycliffe such as theological virtues, predestination, iconoclasm, and the notion of caesaropapism, while questioning the veneration of saints, the sacraments, requiem masses, transubstantiation, monasticism, and the legitimacy of the Papacy. Like the Waldensians, the Lollard movement is sometimes regarded as a precursor to the Protestant Reformation, though the movement was unknown to Martin Luther until after its commencement. Wycliffe was accordingly characterised as the "evening star" of scholasticism and as the morning star or stella matutina of the English Reformation. An epithet first accorded to the theologian by the 16th century historian and controversialist John Bale in his Illustrium maioris britanniae scriptorum (Wesel, 1548).Wycliffe's writings in Latin greatly influenced the philosophy and teaching of the Czech reformer Jan Hus (c. 1369–1415), whose execution in 1415 sparked a revolt and led to the Hussite Wars of 1419–1434.

Pantheon has 90 people classified as philosophers born between 360 and 1954. Of these 90, 13 (14.44%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living philosophers include Alasdair MacIntyre, Perry Anderson, and Richard Swinburne. The most famous deceased philosophers include John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes. As of October 2020, 8 new philosophers have been added to Pantheon including James Dunn, Eric A. Havelock, and John Major.

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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 25 most globally memorable Philosophers since 1700.