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The 100 Greatest Philosophers

Provided their main branch of interest, nationality and primary contributions, guess the 100 greatest philosophers to have ever lived (according to philpapers.org). The best of luck to you all; never concede the conquest of knowledge!
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Last updated: January 12, 2024
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First submittedJuly 2, 2022
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Average score19.0%
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The 100 Greatest Philosophers
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Branch
Nationality
Main Contributions
Philosopher
Mathematics
Greek
His theorem related to right-angled triangles; the theory of melodical octaves in music.
Pythagoras
Ethics
Chinese
Promoted education as a vocation; his ideas about the hierarchy of the state and loyalty.
Confucius
Metaphysics
Greek
Said that fire forms the basic material principle of the universe; formulated the 'Analogy of the River'.
Heraclitus
Ontology
Greek
Invented the method of reasoned proof for assertions; pioneered the field of ontology.
Parmenides
Metaphysics
Greek
His ingenious paradoxes related to motion; considered the founder of the dialectic.
Zeno of Elea
Epistemology
Greek
His technique for arguing a point; claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living.
Socrates
Metaphysics
Greek
The formulation of an atomic theory of the universe; rejected divine intervention in science.
Democritus
Metaphysics
Greek
Founded the Academy; helped people recognise what it means to be virtuous.
Plato
Asceticism
Greek
Advocated complete truthfulness at all times; developed cynicism and austere asceticism.
Diogenes
Biology
Greek
Invented the field of formal logic; pioneered zoology with his theories on classification.
Aristotle
Ethics
Chinese
Advocated light taxes, free trade and welfare for the elderly; said that the human nature is good.
Mencius
Daoism
Chinese
Promoted Daoist thought on nature and being; developed ideas on pragmatics and semantics.
Zhuang Zhou
Epistemology
Greek
Founded skepticism; advocated the suspension of judgement over the truth of all beliefs and dogma.
Pyrrho
Metaphysics
Greek
Taught that the basic constituents of the world are atoms; promoted empiricism and hedonism.
Epicurus
Logic
Greek
Founded the Stoic school of philosophy; laid significance of the attainment of peace of mind.
Zeno of Citium
Jewish Theology
Roman
Used philosophy to justify religious teachings in the Torah; combined Jewish exegesis with Stoicism.
Philo
Ethics
Roman
His 'Meditations' on Stoic philosophy; one of the first 'philosopher kings'.
Marcus Aurelius
Buddhism
Indian
Articulated the doctrine of emptiness; founded the Madhyamika (“Middle Way”) school.
Nagarjuna
Platonism
Roman
Developed a spiritual cosmology involving three elements: the One, the Intelligence, and the Soul.
Plotinus
Epistemology
Greek
Stated that the ultimate goal of philosophical research is to achieve ataraxia: a state of peace.
Sextus Empiricus
Christian Theology
Roman
Adapted Classical thought to Christian teaching; discussed the notions of the soul, creation and evil.
Augustine of Hippo
Mathematics
Roman
Leader of the Neoplatonist school of philosophy in Alexandria; her development of geometry.
Hypatia
Epistemology
Roman
Taught that everything is by nature as it desires; developed the idea of autonomous knowledge domains.
Boethius
Hinduism
Indian
Reformed the Vedanta tradition of Hinduism; founded four monasteries in every corner of India.
Adi Shankara
Islamic Theology
Arab
Propagated philosophy in the Islamic world; founded a metaphysical dualism differentiating body and mind.
Al-Kindī
Metaphysics
(Asian)
Divided logic into Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof); introduced the theory of the Ten Intelligences.
Al-Fārābī
Medicine
Arab
His work 'Al Qanun Fi Al-Tibb' (The Canon of Medicine); his theory of essence posits three modalities.
Avicenna
Hinduism
Indian
Developed the basis for the bhakti; taught that the phenomenal world is real and provides real knowledge.
Rāmānuja
Neoplatonism
Andalusian
Posited that all things comprise matter and form (Universal Hylomorphism); influenced Christian Scholasticism.
Solomon ibn Gabirol
Christian Theology
Italian
Discovering the “ontological argument” for the theory of God in the Proslogion; his doctrine of the atonement.
Anselm of Canterbury
Islamic Theology
Persian
Developed of a systematic view of Sufism; combined Islamic spiritualism and fundamentalism.
Al-Ghazālī
Logic
French
Argued that God and the universe can be known via logic and emotion; the father of metaphysical nominalism.
Peter Abelard
Islamic Theology
Andalusian
Asserted that humans share the same intellect; contended that philosophy is just the revelation of God's might.
Averroës
Neo-Confucianism
Chinese
Said that the cosmos has two aspects: the indeterminate and the determinate; systematised the Confucian ideals.
Zhu Xi
Islamic Theology
Sephardic Jewish
Codified Jewish Law through 'The Guide for the Perplexed'; reconciled Aristotelian philosophy with the Torah.
Moses Maimonides
Islamic Theology
Andalusian
Taught that by self manifestation, one acquires "the primordial spirit of Muhammad"; wrote on Quranic exegesis.
Ibn al-'Arabī
Buddhism
Japanese
Taught that Pure Land Buddhism was the best path to mappō; found reciprocity between Amida and Sakyamuni.
Shinran
Christian Theology
Italian
The five proofs of God's existence; incorporated Aristotelian philosophy in Christianity in the 'Summa contra Gentiles'.
Thomas Aquinas
Metaphysics
Scottish
Argued that God can create and conserve “prime matter”; the idea of haecceity - giving the individual identity.
John Duns Scotus
Natural Philosophy
English
Challenged scholasticism and the papacy, partially ending the medieval period; developed the principle of parsimony.
William of Ockham
Political Philosophy
Italian
Argued that politics has no relation to morality; prioritised empirical reasoning over religious dogma.
Niccolò Machiavelli
Neo-Confucianism
Chinese
Stated that the difference between good and evil is intuitive; propagated a genuine understanding of the self.
Wang Yangming
Natural Philosophy
English
Thought to be the father of empiricism; contributed to the development of the scientific method.
Francis Bacon
Political Philosophy
English
Justified government autocracy on the basis of public consent; stated that government's goal is upholding peace.
Thomas Hobbes
Epistemology
French
Invented analytical geometry with the use of algebra; made skepticism an essential part of the scientific method.
René Descartes
Epistemology
English
Known as the 'father of liberalism'; pioneered the ideas of natural law, social contract, and religious toleration.
John Locke
Epistemology
Dutch
His pantheistic monism: that God did not create, but forms part of nature; criticised Biblical and Cartesian thought.
Baruch Spinoza
Mathematics
German
Proposed that the universe is made of an infinite number of "monads"; invented differential and integral calculus.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Epistemology
Italian
Invented the philosophy of history; coined the constructivist aphorism "Verum esse ipsum factum".
Giambattista Vico
Metaphysics
Irish
Developed immaterialism - the being of objects "is to be perceived"; stated that one's duty is to obey God's laws.
George Berkeley
Political Philosophy
French
Promoted the separation of state powers: executive, legislative and judicial; defended private property.
Montesquieu
Epistemology
British
Anticipated modern monetarism, such as interest rate; "causes and effects are discoverable by experience".
David Hume
Political Philosophy
Genevan
Formulated the social contract theory; developed radical ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Aesthetics
German
Considered space and time "forms of intuition" in his idealist doctrine; elucidated a priori knowledge of objects.
Immanuel Kant
Jewish Theology
German
Combined Judaism with the rationalism of the Enlightenment; advocated religious toleration.
Moses Mendelssohn
Political Philosophy
French
Advocated economic freedom and legal and educational reform; an early abolitionist, transhumanist, and feminist.
Nicolas de Condorcet
Political Philosophy
British
Founded modern utilitarianism; his radical political views are associated with the welfare state.
Jeremy Bentham
Epistemology
German
Developed a dialectical scheme emphasising the progress of history; presented self-determination as man's essence.
Georg Hegel
Aesthetics
German
Created an atheistic metaphysical system; taught that humans are solely driven to act by the "will".
Arthur Schopenhauer
Epistemology
French
Introduced sociology and positivism; founded the 'Religion of Humanity': a secular belief system.
Auguste Comte
Political Philosophy
British
Wrote 'On Liberty': applying utilitarianism to society and state; praised eccentricity as a source of ideals.
John Stuart Mill
Epistemology
Danish
Deemed the first existential philosopher; argued that reality is more subjective rather than objective.
Søren Kierkegaard
Political Philosophy
German
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs"; "Religion is the opium of the masses".
Karl Marx
Biology
British
Applied evolutionary theory and Darwinism to philosophy; formulated three principles regulating the universe.
Herbert Spencer
Anthropology
German
Held that man can only be comprehended by historical knowledge; worked on hermeneutical research.
Wilhelm Dilthey
Pragmatism
American
Advanced the pragmatist movement; posited that emotions arise from physiological responses to external events.
William James
Aesthetics
German
His critique of morality and simultaneous praise and scorn of nihilism; conceived the 'Übermensch' and 'will to power'.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Mathematics
German
Founded analytic philosophy; held the truths of arithmetic are logical truths in the 'Begriffsschrift'.
Gottlob Frege
Ontology
German
Established the school of phenomenology; criticised historicism in logic based on intentionality.
Edmund Husserl
Metaphysics
French
His theory of “duration": the irreducible reality; discussed dualism in 'Matière et mémoire'.
Henri Bergson
Epistemology
American
Leading proponent of pragmatism; reconnected philosophy with the mission of education-for-living.
John Dewey
Metaphysics
British
Argued that reality is a process and not material; his 'Principia Mathematica' is a key work in mathematical logic.
Alfred North Whitehead
History
Italian
Coined the circularity among “moments” of the four aspects of spirit; said that art is the expression of emotion.
Benedetto Croce
Metaphysics
Japanese
Taught that the “Non-self ” is the ultimate reality where all subject–object cleavage is overcome.
Kitarō Nishida
Logic
British
Championed analytic philosophy; developed the axiomatic method for logical deduction from basic propositions.
Bertrand Russell
Epistemology
British
Led the turn from idealism to common-sense judgment; advocated non-ethical naturalism.
G.E. Moore
Ontology
Austrian
His work 'Ich und Du' - expressing the dialogue of man with other beings; promoted Zionist thought.
Martin Buber
Metaphysics
Austrian
Wrote on the logical relationship between propositions and the world; advocated a highly restrictive language use.
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Metaphysics
German
Reinvigorated phenomenology and promoted postmodernism; devised a theory for technology.
Martin Heidegger
Logic
German
His theory of logical syntax; his book 'Der Raum' established a logical basis for the space-time theory.
Rudolf Carnap
Rationality
Austrian
Rejected the inductive method in the empirical sciences; replaced critical realism with critical rationalism.
Karl Popper
Sociology
German
Argued that a capitalist society was a consumer society; coined 'identity thinking' to describe categorical thought.
Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno
Epistemology
French
Dsscribed humans' freedom and responsibilities; defined two types of reality in 'Being and Nothingness'.
Jean-Paul Sartre
Political Philosophy
German
Coined the phrase "the banality of evil"; outlined the faculty of human judgment in relation to political systems.
Hannah Arendt
Political Philosophy
French
A pioneering figure of contemporary philosophical feminism; asserted that the individual is fundamentally free.
Simone de Beauvoir
Logic
American
Replaced first-order logic with his system 'New Foundations'; developed an indispensability argument.
Willard Van Orman Quine
Epistemology
British
Presented the verification principle as the only valid basis for philosophy; wrote 'Language, Truth and Logic'.
A.J. Ayer
Philosophy of Mind
American
Dubbed foundationalist epistemology the "Myth of the Given"; described the behavioural web of language.
Wilfrid Sellars
Political Philosophy
American
His "justice as fairness" recommends equal basic liberties to eliminate inequality; devised the 'original position'.
John Rawls
Philosophy of Science
American
Argued that scientific fields undergo periodic "paradigm shifts"; defined five cognitive values, such as 'precision'.
Thomas S. Kuhn
History
French
Traced the development of Western civilisation; addressed the relations between power and knowledge.
Michel Foucault
Philosophy of Language
American
Reformed linguistics with such theories as 'Transformational Generative Grammar'; promotes non-interventionism in war.
Noam Chomsky
Social Theory
German
Argued that technological transformations had bettered society; developed the theory of communicative reason.
Jürgeb Habermas
Ethics
British
Coined the term 'moral luck'; his denial of political moralism, claiming that politics is never regulated by ethics.
Bernard Williams
Epistemology
French
Invented 'deconstruction'; developed logocentrism: placing one concept at the centre of theorising meaning.
Jacques Derrida
Philosophy of Language
American
Blended philosophy and literature into 'neopragmatism'; advocated sentimental education to promote human rights.
Richard Rorty
Political Philosophy
American
Pioneered three principles to determine how one deserves something; worked on decision theory.
Robert Nozick
Logic
American
Undermined the idea that all propositions are a priori; his semantics for modal logic involving possible worlds.
Saul Kripke
Metaphysics
American
Argued that states of the mind are simply states of the brain; developed the metaphysics of modality.
David Kellogg Lewis
Ethics
Australian
Defined ethical actions as those that maximise overall pleasure; wrote on ideals to end global poverty.
Peter Singer
19 Comments
+1
Level 80
Jul 3, 2022
Amazingly thorough, I learned about a few of these I didn't know. Nominated!
+3
Level 52
Jul 3, 2022
Much appreciated, I spent a lot of time on this quiz, and I enjoyed working on it. I also acquired quite a great deal of knowledge about philosophy whilst creating it.
+2
Level 57
Jul 8, 2022
Great one!
+1
Level 71
Feb 2, 2023
Great! I tried "Scottish Duns" and it didn't work, maybe loosen that one a little.
+1
Level 65
Feb 2, 2023
Brilliant. A lot of work went into that. Thank you. Nominated
+1
Level 75
Feb 2, 2023
I only got James by typing in random names.
+1
Level 95
Feb 2, 2023
Only 84, disappointed with myself. Especially considering I missed Sartre and Chomsky... Fun quiz, thank you!
+1
Level 57
Feb 2, 2023
I'd like to thank the philosophy department of the University of Wooloomooloo for the few I got right here.
+1
Level 77
Jun 20, 2023
Me too. I might have scored more than 22% had I not been following the "I drink therefore I am" principle with the aid of half a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
+2
Level 52
Feb 8, 2023
Thank you all for your kind comments; great job to every one of you for devoting yourself to learning new things.
+1
Level 64
Jun 29, 2023
"laid emphasis on living in accordance in nature" - this seems likely to be a conflation of Zeno of Elea with the other Zeno, that of Citium who founded Stoic philosophy. Zeno of Elea is known for his paradoxes and his argumentative style, not for any philosophy on how to live. "Living in accordance with nature" is however a hallmark of Stoicism.
+1
Level 52
Jun 29, 2023
Valid argument, a new hint stating "considered the founder of the dialectic" shall replace it. See if you concur.
+1
Level 64
Jun 29, 2023
I concur :)
+1
Level 67
Aug 24, 2023
Expected Voltaire to be on here
+1
Level 52
Aug 25, 2023
Seeing how instrumental Voltaire was in the birth of secularism in Europe, and that other enlightenment thinkers, such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Kant were included, that indeed was surprising. However, it is worth noting that only a hundred could be included on the list, those who drafted it would have wanted to incorporate philosophers from different time periods - to create variation. Thank you for attempting my quiz.
+2
Level 44
Jan 12, 2024
this quiz is one of the best on this platform! as a philosophy student, it was rather fun, although i haven't finished it yet. should come and try later, not in the middle of the night after long hours of working on my thesis.

seriously, excellent!

+2
Level 52
Jan 12, 2024
Thank you for your comment, I am proud that my work has helped fellow students. Philosophy is a way of life, keep pursuing it!
+2
Level 54
May 21, 2024
I love the inclusion of so many non-western philosophers in the first 50 or so philosophers, especially considering how often they get overlooked by westerners!

I think that there are many from the 1800-today period that you could have also included, many imo more relevant than others on this list: Fanon, Mao, Suzuki come to mind. And of course Laozi should clearly be last on the list as the immortal hermit that he is!

+1
Level 52
May 21, 2024
Thank you jonh for your comment!! Yes, I feel that us Westerners are missing out on a lot... Eastern philosophy should be given at least some importance in schools, for example. If you're interested in the philosophy of society or education, I would certainly recommend Confucius.