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Who are the most influential thinkers in world?

Identify leaders in your chosen discipline, research top professors in your area of study, and search for schools based on the luminaries who most inspire you!

Note: These rankings change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.

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List of the most influential people in Philosophy, for the years 1200 – 2020

Immanuel Kant
# 1
Immanuel Kant

1724 - 1804 (80 years)

#9 person's overall influence

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics have made him one of the most influential figures in modern Western philosophy.

Friedrich Nietzsche
# 2
Friedrich Nietzsche

1844 - 1900 (56 years)

#30 person's overall influence

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, 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 44, he suffered a collapse and afterward a complet

Karl Marx
# 3
Karl Marx

1818 - 1883 (65 years)

#6 person's overall influence

Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at university. He married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the reading room of the British Museum. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet

Martin Heidegger
# 4
Martin Heidegger

1889 - 1976 (87 years)

#94 person's overall influence

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher and a seminal thinker in the Continental tradition of philosophy. He is best known for contributions to phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
# 5
Ludwig Wittgenstein

1889 - 1951 (62 years)

#98 person's overall influence

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

John Locke
# 6
John Locke

1632 - 1704 (72 years)

#18 person's overall influence

John Locke 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, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American Revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanis...

René Descartes
# 7
René Descartes

1596 - 1650 (54 years)

#22 person's overall influence

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. One of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age, Descartes is also widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy.

David Hume
# 8
David Hume

1711 - 1776 (65 years)

#32 person's overall influence

David Hume 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 , 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.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
# 9
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

1770 - 1831 (61 years)

#67 person's overall influence

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher and an important figure in German idealism. He is considered one of the fundamental figures of modern Western philosophy, with his influence extending to the entire range of contemporary philosophical issues, from aesthetics to ontology to politics, both in the analytic and continental tradition.

Thomas Aquinas
# 10
Thomas Aquinas

1225 - 1274 (49 years)

#17 person's overall influence

Thomas Aquinas 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 and the . The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism; of which he argued that reason is found in God. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his idea...

Søren Kierkegaard
# 11
Søren Kierkegaard

1813 - 1855 (42 years)

#140 person's overall influence

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against litera...

Edmund Husserl
# 12
Edmund Husserl

1859 - 1938 (79 years)

#75 person's overall influence

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a German philosopher who established the school of phenomenology. In his early work, he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic based on analyses of intentionality. In his mature work, he sought to develop a systematic foundational science based on the so-called phenomenological reduction. Arguing that transcendental consciousness sets the limits of all possible knowledge, Husserl redefined phenomenology as a transcendental-idealist philosophy. Husserl's thought profoundly influenced 20th-century philosophy, and he remains a notable ...

Jean-Paul Sartre
# 13
Jean-Paul Sartre

1905 - 1980 (75 years)

#95 person's overall influence

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

Jacques Derrida
# 14
Jacques Derrida

1930 - 2004 (74 years)

#101 person's overall influence

Jacques Derrida was an Algerian-born French philosopher best known for developing a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction, which he discussed in numerous texts, and developed in the context of phenomenology. He is one of the major figures associated with post-structuralism and postmodern philosophy.

Michel Foucault
# 15
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#26 person's overall influence

Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.

John Stuart Mill
# 16
John Stuart Mill

1806 - 1873 (67 years)

#35 person's overall influence

John Stuart Mill , usually cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher, political economist, and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism, he contributed widely to social theory, political theory, and political economy. Dubbed "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century", he conceived of liberty as justifying the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state and social control.

Arthur Schopenhauer
# 17
Arthur Schopenhauer

1788 - 1860 (72 years)

#244 person's overall influence

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation , which characterizes the phenomenal world as the product of a blind and insatiable metaphysical will. Building on the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, Schopenhauer developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that rejected the contemporaneous ideas of German idealism. He was among the first thinkers in Western philosophy to share and affirm significant tenets of Indian philosophy, such as asceticism, denial of the self, and the notion of the world-as-appear

William James
# 18
William James

1842 - 1910 (68 years)

#23 person's overall influence

William James was an American philosopher and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States, and the "Father of American psychology".

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
# 19
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

1646 - 1716 (70 years)

#91 person's overall influence

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a prominent German polymath and one of the most important logicians, mathematicians and natural philosophers of the Enlightenment. As a representative of the seventeenth-century tradition of rationalism, Leibniz developed, as his most prominent accomplishment, the ideas of differential and integral calculus, independently of Isaac Newton's contemporaneous developments. Mathematical works have consistently favored Leibniz's notation as the conventional expression of calculus. It was only in the 20th century that Leibniz's law of continuity and transcendental law

John Dewey
# 20
John Dewey

1859 - 1952 (93 years)

#60 person's overall influence

John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He is regarded as one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.

Thomas Hobbes
# 21
Thomas Hobbes

1588 - 1679 (91 years)

#73 person's overall influence

Thomas Hobbes , 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.

Isaac Newton
# 22
Isaac Newton

1642 - 1727 (85 years)

#5 person's overall influence

Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica , first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.

Max Stirner
# 23
Max Stirner

1806 - 1856 (50 years)

#3582 person's overall influence

Johann Kaspar Schmidt , better known as Max Stirner, was a German philosopher who is often seen as one of the forerunners of nihilism, existentialism, psychoanalytic theory, postmodernism and individualist anarchism.

Gottlob Frege
# 24
Gottlob Frege

1848 - 1925 (77 years)

#441 person's overall influence

Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analytic philosophy, concentrating on the philosophy of language, logic, and mathematics. Though he was largely ignored during his lifetime, Giuseppe Peano and Bertrand Russell introduced his work to later generations of philosophers.

Karl Popper
# 25
Karl Popper

1902 - 1994 (92 years)

#45 person's overall influence

Sir Karl Raimund Popper was an Austrian-born British philosopher, academic and social commentator.

Gilles Deleuze
# 26
Gilles Deleuze

1925 - 1995 (70 years)

#323 person's overall influence

Gilles Deleuze was a French philosopher who, from the early 1950s until his death in 1995, wrote on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. His metaphysical treatise Difference and Repetition is considered by many scholars to be his magnum opus. An important part of Deleuze's oeuvre is devoted to the reading of other philosophers: the Stoics, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, and Bergson, with particular influence derived f

Alfred North Whitehead
# 27
Alfred North Whitehead

1861 - 1947 (86 years)

#169 person's overall influence

Alfred North Whitehead was an English mathematician and philosopher. He is best known as the defining figure of the philosophical school known as process philosophy, which today has found application to a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology, among other areas.

Benedictus de Spinoza
# 28
Benedictus de Spinoza

1632 - 1677 (45 years)

#309 person's overall influence

Baruch Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Sephardi origin. One of the early thinkers of the Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism, including modern conceptions of the self and the universe, he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. Inspired by the groundbreaking ideas of René Descartes, Spinoza became a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza's given name, which means "Blessed", varies among different languages. In Hebrew, it is written . In the Netherlands he used the Portuguese name . In his Latin and Dutch wor...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
# 29
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

1712 - 1778 (66 years)

#59 person's overall influence

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought.

Benjamin Tucker
# 30
Benjamin Tucker

1854 - 1939 (85 years)

#5385 person's overall influence

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker was an American anarchist and socialist.

Jürgen Habermas
# 31
Jürgen Habermas

1929 - Present (92 years)

#106 person's overall influence

Jürgen Habermas is a German philosopher mostly associated with the influential Frankurt School in Germany, part of the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt, and historically an important center for research on social theory and critical philosophy. Habermas, now 90, earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Bonn in 1954. Habermas is a famed philosopher who has taught a number of influential philosophers, including Hans Joas at the University of Chicago.

Francis Bacon
# 32
Francis Bacon

1561 - 1626 (65 years)

#50 person's overall influence

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, , 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 credited with developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution.

Richard Rorty
# 33
Richard Rorty

1931 - 2007 (76 years)

#530 person's overall influence

Richard McKay Rorty was an American philosopher.

Ayn Rand
# 34
Ayn Rand

1905 - 1982 (77 years)

#209 person's overall influence

Ayn Rand was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926. She had a play produced on Broadway in 1935 and 1936. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own peri...

Charles Sanders Peirce
# 35
Charles Sanders Peirce

1839 - 1914 (75 years)

#319 person's overall influence

Charles Sanders Peirce was an American philosopher, logician, mathematician, and scientist who is sometimes known as "the father of pragmatism". He was educated as a chemist and employed as a scientist for thirty years. Today he is appreciated largely for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy, scientific methodology, and semiotics, and for his founding of pragmatism.

Voltaire
# 36
Voltaire

1694 - 1778 (84 years)

#28 person's overall influence

François-Marie Arouet , known by his nom de plume Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity—especially the Roman Catholic Church—as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

Willard Van Orman Quine
# 37
Willard Van Orman Quine

1908 - 2000 (92 years)

#474 person's overall influence

Willard Van Orman Quine was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition, recognized as "one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century." From 1930 until his death 70 years later, Quine was continually affiliated with Harvard University in one way or another, first as a student, then as a professor. He filled the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard from 1956 to 1978.

John Rawls
# 38
John Rawls

1921 - 2002 (81 years)

#388 person's overall influence

John Bordley Rawls was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition. Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls' work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."

Friedrich Engels
# 39
Friedrich Engels

1820 - 1895 (75 years)

#105 person's overall influence

Friedrich Engels , sometimes anglicised as Frederick Engels , was a German philosopher, historian, political scientist and revolutionary socialist. He was also a businessman, journalist and political activist, whose father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford and Barmen, Prussia .

Leo Tolstoy
# 40
Leo Tolstoy

1828 - 1910 (82 years)

#61 person's overall influence

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy , usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He received multiple nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906 and nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1910, and that he never won is a major controversy.

Albert Camus
# 41
Albert Camus

1913 - 1960 (47 years)

#154 person's overall influence

Albert Camus was a French-Algerian philosopher, author, and journalist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957, the second-youngest recipient in history.

George Berkeley
# 42
George Berkeley

1685 - 1753 (68 years)

#355 person's overall influence

George Berkeley – known as Bishop Berkeley – was an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism" . This theory denies the existence of material substance and instead contends that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers and, as a result, cannot exist without being perceived. Berkeley is also known for his critique of abstraction, an important premise in his argument for immaterialism.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
# 43
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

1809 - 1865 (56 years)

#1404 person's overall influence

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French socialist, politician, philosopher, economist and the founder of mutualist philosophy. He was the first person to declare himself an anarchist, using that term and is widely regarded as one of anarchism's most influential theorists. Proudhon is considered by many to be the "father of anarchism". Proudhon became a member of the French Parliament after the Revolution of 1848, whereafter he referred to himself as a federalist. Proudhon described the liberty he pursued as "the synthesis of communism and property". Some consider his mutualism to be part of indiv...

Adam Smith
# 44
Adam Smith

1723 - 1790 (67 years)

#13 person's overall influence

Adam Smith was a British economist, philosopher, and author born in Scotland, as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy, and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment,. Smith wrote two classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations . The latter, often abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. In his work, Adam Smith introduced his theory of absolute advantage.

Albert Einstein
# 45
Albert Einstein

1879 - 1955 (76 years)

#4 person's overall influence

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics . His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula , which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Henri Bergson
# 46
Henri Bergson

1859 - 1941 (82 years)

#215 person's overall influence

Henri-Louis Bergson was a French philosopher who was influential in the tradition of continental philosophy, especially during the first half of the 20th century until the Second World War. Bergson is known for his arguments that processes of immediate experience and intuition are more significant than abstract rationalism and science for understanding reality.

Daniel Dennett
# 47
Daniel Dennett

1942 - Present (79 years)

#171 person's overall influence

Currently appointed as the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University (and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies) Daniel Dennett is a philosopher concerned with questions of the mind and cognitive science, and is colloquially known as one of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism.” As an undergraduate, Dennett studied at Wesleyan University and Harvard University before earning his PhD in philosophy at Oxford University in 1965.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
# 48
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

1775 - 1854 (79 years)

#616 person's overall influence

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later 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.

Henry David Thoreau
# 49
Henry David Thoreau

1817 - 1862 (45 years)

#271 person's overall influence

Henry David Thoreau was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience" , an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

Murray Rothbard
# 50
Murray Rothbard

1926 - 1995 (69 years)

#557 person's overall influence

Murray Newton Rothbard was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, economic historian and political theorist. Rothbard was the founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism and a central figure in the 20th-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, revisionist history, economics, and other subjects.