Top Influential Philosophers Today
Philosophers live in the moment, digging into questions that impact our daily lives, whether it be through the ethics of data mining in the age of social media, the legitimacy of political movements and entire governmental systems, the increasing porousness of borders between artificial and organic intelligence, or the complex and ongoing effects of imperialism on both the colonizers and the colonized. Read on to learn more about 25 top scholars studying philosophy today.
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Philosophy has classically been celebrated as the highest form of study, in which great minds set aside the trappings of the world and focus on the most fundamental (lofty) questions of existence. However, that is a pretty outdated model. Sure, philosophy still delves into the depths of the nature of reality and the human mind, but through the years it has been far from a fanciful pursuit of wisdom. Philosophers live in the moment, digging into questions that impact our daily lives, whether it be through the ethics of data mining in the age of social media, the legitimacy of political movements and entire governmental systems, the increasing porousness of borders between artificial and organic intelligence, or the complex and ongoing effects of imperialism on both the colonizers and the colonized.
Philosophy is not bound between the great columns of the forum of Athens, or the walls of the so-called ivory towers of the world’s major universities. It mingles with and affects so many aspects of our everyday lives, influencing the laws that you live under, the technology that you use, and even the entertainment that you consume.
The following 25 people have made a lot of noise in the philosophy world over the past 10 years. Through professorship, writing and publication, editing journals and anthologies, activism, and public discourse they have all played roles in directing the current course of philosophy. All are currently employed as professors, all are influential, and some are quite controversial.
Note: This isn’t simply a list of the most famous philosophers alive today. Here we are focused on the number of citations and web presence of scholars in the last 10 years. There are other highly influential scholars who simply haven’t been cited and talked about as much in the last 10 years, whereas some new faces have been making a splash in the news, speaking events, and publishing, publishing, publishing. Our machine learning is time sensitive. To find some of the big names you might have expected to see here, we encourage you to use our dynamic ranking system and check different influencers over the time.
Top Influential Philosophers 2010-2020
Note: The time-specific links above take you to rankings that dynamically change as our AI learns new things!
1. Sally Haslanger
Areas of Specialization: Analytic Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, Critical Theory, Metaphysics
Sally Haslanger, currently appointed the Ford Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), completed her undergraduate education at Reed College in 1977, and earned her PhD in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley in 1985. Currently the most influential person in philosophy, Haslanger has previously held appointments in the Ivy league, at Princeton University and at the University of Pennsylvania.
Haslanger’s work and influence are broad. Starting her career in the areas of analytic metaphysics and epistemology, Haslanger has since built on ancient philosophy foundations to create notable work in the realms of social and political philosophy. Haslanger is perhaps best known for her work in feminist theory and critical race theory, applying ancient and metaphysical principles (such as Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory) to these relatively modern areas of inquiry, especially in regards to the notion of social construction. On that topic, Haslanger has been a formidable voice, publishing groundbreaking pieces investigating and analyzing social categories that are traditionally seen as universal and unquestionable. Haslanger’s work is perhaps best represented in the book Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique, which collects two decades of her papers, covering and connecting topics including epistemology, metaphysics, and social and gender issues.
For her work, Haslanger has been named the 2010 Distinguished Woman Philosopher by the Society for Women in Philosophy, was the president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, and was the recipient of a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Major published works by Sally Haslanger:
2. Daniel Dennett
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science
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 University of Oxford in 1965.
Whether discussing consciousness, perception, or free will, the philosophy of mind is central to Dennett’s work. In particular, Dennett is known for calling for empirical explanations for processes of the mind, proposing models of thought and perception that are similar to mechanical calculation. Thought, perception, and all other mental activity occur with parallel processes in the brain, like a computer calculating input data. Dennett’s philosophy extends to debates about evolution, morality, and religion as well, arguing for evolution as a kind of algorithmic process, which produces outcomes including morality; religion too can be seen as resulting from a kind of naturalistic process.
Among numerous awards and honors, Dennett has received two Guggenheim fellowships and a Fulbright fellowship.
Major published works by Daniel Dennett:
3.Linda Martin Alcoff
Areas of Specialization: Epistemology, Feminism, Race Theory, Existentialism
Panama-born Linda Martin Alcoff is currently appointed as a professor of philosophy at Hunter College of the City University of New York. Alcoff earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1980 at Georgia State University, as well as her MA in 1983, and in 1987 earned her PhD in philosophy at Brown University. In her career, Alcoff has also held positions at Kalamazoo College, Syracuse University, Cornell University, and Brown University, among others.
Alcoff is best known for her intersectional approach to issues of race, gender, identity, and epistemology. Alcoff identifies location as a major component in both self-identity and how we identify and relate to others. In particular, Alcoff is known for an essay titled “The Problem of Speaking for Others,” in which she analyzed the discourse we use to speak of other people, finding rhetorical (and epistemic) tendencies for domination and mastery. Accordingly, Alcoff has been a vocal advocate of greater recognition and inclusion of marginalized and underrepresented groups in philosophy, allowing these groups to fully and accurately represent and speak for themselves.
For her work, Linda Martin Alcoff has received awards and honors such as an honorary doctorate from the University of Oslo, the Frantz Fanon Prize from the Caribbean Philosophical Association, and recognition as a Distinguished Woman in Philosophy from the Society for Women in Philosophy.
Major published works by Linda Martin Alcoff:
4. Martha Nussbaum
Areas of Specialization: Analytic Philosophy, Ethics, Political Philosophy, Feminism
Currently, Martha Nussbaum holds the position of Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. Too influential to be confined to one department, Nussbaum is appointed to the faculty of both the philosophy department and the law school. As an undergraduate, Nussbaum spent two years at Wellesley College, before deciding to pursue theatre studies at New York University. After, Nussbaum completed her graduate studies and PhD at Harvard University.
With roots in ancient philosophy and classics, Nussbaum is a significantly influential voice of feminism and liberalism. Her work draws on Aristotelianism and ancient Greek tragedy to investigate contemporary feminist theory and issues. Nussbaum also investigates the philosophy of emotion, often finding overlap between these realms, such as tying justice and ethics to questions about human flourishing. In her books Hiding from Humanity and From Disgust to Humanity, Nussbaum examined the role of shame and disgust in legal judgements and law, arguing that these notions cannot be the basis of truly just law. Similarly, in Sex and Social Justice, Nussbaum provided a feminist critique of liberalism, building on the notion of objectification, to show how sex and gender can be and is used as a tool of oppression, particularly of marginalized groups.
For her work, Nussbaum has received many awards and honors, including over 60 honorary degrees from universities including Emory University and The College of William and Mary, as well as awards including the Barnard College Medal of Distinction, the American Philosophical Society’s Henry M. Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence, and the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences.
Major published works by Martha Nussbaum:
5. David Chalmers
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Mind, Consciousness
David Chalmers serves currently as Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University, as well as University Professor, Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science, and co-Director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness (with philosopher Ned Block) at New York University. One of the world’s most influential philosophers on the problem of consciousness, Chalmers has a degree in pure mathematics from the University of Adelaide in Australia, and received his Ph.D. in philosophy and cognitive science from Indiana University Bloomington, where he studied with noted AI researchers and cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter.
Chalmers is best known for his insistence in the philosophy of mind that “the problem of consciousness” cannot be easily dismissed. Calling the subjective feel of conscious experience “the hard problem,” Chalmers has argued, famously, that purely scientific treatments of consciousness must grapple with the hard problem—and to date, we do not have a plausible scientific explanation of consciousness. The term “the hard problem” of consciousness has embedded itself in the lexicon in both philosophy and more broadly, in discussions about consciousness and the mind, due to Chalmers. Chalmers also works on issues in analytic philosophy and the philosophy of language, such as with problems of reference.
In 2013, Chalmers was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is an editor for the respected Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. In 2018, he became a judge for the Berggruen Prize, a $1 Million prize for outstanding work in philosophy.
Chalmers is author of the widely read The Conscious Mind published in 1996.
Major published works by David Chalmers:
6. Jennifer Saul
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Feminism
Jennifer Saul is currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield and the University of Waterloo in the UK, specializing in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of feminism. Saul received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Princeton University.
Jennifer Saul has had a large influence in two areas of philosophy, not immediately or obviously connected: analytic philosophy (especially of language), and the philosophy of feminism. Analytic philosophy is a more formal treatment of philosophy involving analyzing language and communication in terms of logic and theory. The philosophy of feminism is of course focused on theoretical issues concerning women and the treatment of women in society. Saul explores both areas, to good effect. And her topics in philosophy are sometimes surprising; her 2012 book titled Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics examines the difference between overt lying and misleading, and has been called an example of “applied philosophy of language.” Interestingly, she has also explored issues in pornography, objectification, and the history of the vibrator.
Saul won the Distinguished Woman Philosopher award in Washington, D.C. by the Society for Women in Philosophy in 2011. She is a co-founder and co-blogger for the popular blog Feminist Philosophers.
Major published works by Jennifer Saul:
7. Noam Chomsky
Areas of Specialization: Linguistics, Analytic Philosophy, Political Philosophy
Noam Chomsky currently holds joint appointments at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as Institute Professor Emeritus, and the University of Arizona as Laureate Professor. Chomsky completed his university studies between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.
The influence of Chomksy in both linguistics and political discourse cannot be overstated; regardless of what aspect of his work you are discussing, his name always perks a few ears. Depending on who is describing him, Chomsky is either one of the most important linguists in modern times, one of the most important political thinkers, or (most often) both. Chomsky began his career squarely in academia as a professor of linguistics at MIT. Most of Chomsky’s earliest books focus on biolinguistics (language as a biologically rooted phenomenon in humans), with titles such as Syntactic Structures (1957), Current Issues in Linguistic Theory (1964), and Language and Mind (1968). In these texts, Chomksy advanced his notion of “universal grammar.”
Chomsky’s role in modern linguistic philosophy is enough to make him well known and influential in academia. However, Chomsky is perhaps better known to the general public as a major political thinker and dissident. Chomsky’s involvement in the political discourse of the US began with participation in protests of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. Since then, he has published numerous books and given countless talks on subjects such as American Imperialism and US foreign policy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and media and propaganda.
For his work, Chomsky has received many awards and honors, including honorary doctorates from the University of London and the University of Chicago, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the Sydney Peace Prize.
Major published works by Noam Chomsky:
Areas of Specialization: Social Theory, Pragmaticism
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.
Habermas is known for his work on communicative rationality, a position that places emphasis on rationality developing out of interpersonal communication, rather than objective structures in the universe, as with traditional rationalism in philosophy. Significantly, Habermas’s theory attempts to advance the aims of human emancipation in terms of a universalism in morals. Habermas has drawn on diverse philosophical positions and schools, from the older German philosophical thought of legends like Kant to 19th century American schools such as pragmatism. Importantly, Habermas breaks with schools of thought like postmodernism, with his hope that Enlightenment rationality and science can be salvaged and developed within contemporary frameworks.
Habermas has won numerous awards throughout his long and distinguished career, including the Hegel Prize, the Sigmund Freud Prize, and the Theodor W. Adorno Award. He won the Karl Jaspers Prize in 1995, and the Viktor Frankl Award in 2011.
Major published works by Jürgen Habermas:
Areas of Specialization: Ontology, Political Philosophy, Racism
Robert Bernasconi is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy from the School of English and American Studies and a D.Phil at University of Sussex. His areas of specialization include critical philosophy of race, social and political philosophy, ethics, and nineteenth and twentieth century continental philosophy.
Most recently, Bernasconi has taught courses on Medieval Ethics, Critical Philosophy of Race, Sartre, Fanon, Levinas, and Modern Political Philosophy and Slavery. He is a prolific writer who writes at least one piece for each of his areas of interest each year. His most recent published works include “A Most Dangerous Error: The Boasian Myth of a Knock-Down Argument against Racism”, “The Other Does not Respond: Levinas’s Response to Blanchot”, and “Subjectivity Must Be Defended: Substitution, Entanglement, and the Prehistory of the Me in Levinas”.
Bernasconi is perhaps best well-known for his work on critical philosophy of race, and as a reader of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas, whose works are widely represented in Bernasconi’s catalog. He is also editor of three journals, titled, Critical Philosophy of Race, Levinas Studies, and Ecoethica.
Bernasconi has a cocktail named after him. The “Bernasconi” is made up of equal parts of citron vodka, Cointreau, Campari, a double part of fresh grapefruit juice, finished with prosecco and an orange slice.
Major published works by Robert Bernasconi:
Areas of Specialization: Critical Theory of Race, African American Philosophy, Philosophy of the Body
George Dewey Yancy is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Philosophy at Emory University. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh, an M.A. in philosophy from Yale University, an M.A. in Africana Studies, and a Ph.D. from Duquesne University. He is a distinguished Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College, a University of Pennsylvania Inaugural Provost’s Distinguished Visiting Faculty Fellow, and the founding editor of the Philosophy of Race book series.
He is best known for his scholarly work in critical whiteness studies, critical phenomenology, critical philosophy of race, and African American philosophy. He is a prolific writer with more than 150 published works, including Our Black Sons Matter: Mothers Talk About Fears, Sorrows, and Hopes and On Race: 34 Conversations in a Time of Crisis. He most recently published Across Black Spaces: Essays and Interviews from an American Philosopher, which was published in 2020. In 2017, Our Black Sons Matter was recognized by Booklist as a Top 10 Diverse Nonfiction book.
He has also appeared in two documentaries, Lillian Smith: Breaking the Silence, an independent documentary, and Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, a mini-series aired on Paramount.
Major published works by George Yancy:
Areas of Specialization: Legal and Political Philosophy, Perfectionist Liberalism
Joseph Raz is Columbia Law School’s Thomas M. Macioce Professor of Law Emeritus and a leading expert in moral, legal, and political philosophical thought. He earned a D. Phil from University of Oxford and a Magister Juris from Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 2018, Raz was awarded the Tang Prize in Rule of Law for his trailblazing work in legal philosophy. He is well known for his lectures, the most notable of which are the Minerva lecture on Human Rights, given at Tel Aviv University in 2006, as well as the Plenary Lecture at the World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy or Law and Social Philosophy in Beijing in 2009. His most recent prestigious lecture was the Howison Lecture, delivered at UC Berkeley in 2018.
Raz has also been a part-time Research Professor at King’s College, London since 2011. He has previously held faculty positions at the University of Toronto, Princeton University, Australian National University, Yale Law School, University of Oxford, Complutensa University in Madrid, and Balliol College. A fellow of the British Academy since 1987, Raz has been the recipient of honorary doctorates from schools such as Katholieke Universieteit of Brussels, King’s College, London, and The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Major published works by Joseph Raz:
12. Charles Taylor
Areas of Specialization: Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Social Science
Charles Taylor is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at McGill University, Canada. He is known best for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, and the philosophy of history and intellectual history. Taylor received a bachelor’s degree in History from McGill in 1953. As a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, Taylor took a first-class bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) from Oxford in 1961. Notably, his supervisor was Isaiah Berlin, the renowned British social and political theorist.
Taylor is considered part of the tradition of Canadian idealism, which itself traces back to British idealism as in the works of George Berkeley. He holds to the view that we cannot make sense of the world by representations and rules; following German philosopher Wittgenstein he believes that our ability follow rules and understand concepts takes place against a background of “tacit” or non-symbolic understanding, grounded in our experience of life. Taylor is also known for his rejection of naturalism, the philosophical position that the natural sciences should ground all of our knowledge. In place of naturalistic theories, Taylor offers hermeneutics, the view that we gain knowledge by interpreting meanings in communication acts rather than by a scientific and rational foundation. Taylor is also skeptical of secularism, at least as it has been used to argue for the shrinking of religious ideas in society.
Taylor’s work spans decades and his is truly an influential and respected philosopher. In addition to his Rhodes Scholarship at the outset of his studies at Oxford, Taylor has also won the Kyoto Prize, the Templeton Prize, the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy, and the John W. Kluge Prize.
Major published works by Charles Taylor:
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Law, Nietzsche, Continental Philosophy
Brian Leiter is the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence for The University of Chicago Law School and Founder and Director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago. He earned an AB in philosophy from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Michigan.
As an expert in moral, political, and legal philosophy, Leiter has published many works, including Naturalizing Jurisprudence: Essays on American Legal Realism and Naturalism in Legal Philosophy, Moral Psychology with Nietzsche, and Why Tolerate Religion. He is a sought-after speaker, delivering prestigious lectures such as the Paolo Bozzi Prize Address at the University of Turin, and the Julius Stone Address in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney.
A prolific writer, Leiter has also written many journal articles. The most recent of which, “Foucalt As A Kind of Realist: Genealogical Critique and the Debunking of the Human Sciences”, was published in Inquiry, An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, in 2020. He is a founder of the International Society for Nietzsche Studies. Since 2000, he has served as a faculty advisor for the Student Chapter for the National Lawyers Guild. He has also been a chair of the Graduate Studies Committee at the University of Texas-Austin Law School since 1999.
Major published works by Brian Leiter:
14. Alain Badiou
Areas of Specialization: Set Theory, Philosophy of Mathematics, Metapolitics, Ontology, Psychoanalysis
Alain Badiou is formerly chair of Philosophy at the École normale supérieure (ENS), and is a founder of the faculty of Philosophy of the Paris 8 University Vincennes-Saint-Denis along with French philosophy luminaries Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard. Badiou though associated with postmodern thinkers like Foucault maintains that his thought and work cannot be described adequately by postmodernism, though it is not also purely modern. He is a prominent advocate of a return to communism as a form of government.
Badiou received his diploma from the École Normale Supérieure, essentially a master’s degree in Philosophy, on the topic of modern philosopher Spinoza. He then taught at the Lycée Louis-Le-Grand, where he met playwright and philosopher François Regnault. The two became politically active, and in fact Badiou was later a founding member of the Unified Socialist Party. Badio’s philosophical work has focused on diverse subjects, including logic and set theory (a topic in mathematical logic) as well as topics considered part of Continental philosophy, like political theory and even psychoanalysis. In spite of his insistence that he should not be classified as a postmodernist, he is considered influential in that area of French philosophy.
Badiou served as Honorary President at The Global Center for Advanced Studies in 2014-15, an educational and research organization with locations in New York City and Dublin.
Major published works by Alain Badiou:
15. Mpho Tshivhase
Areas of Specialization: Applied Ethics, Philosophy of Psychology
Mpho Tshivhase is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Preoria, South Africa. She studied psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Johannesburg, and later received her master’s and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Johannesburg. Her dissertation, “Towards a Normative Theory of Uniqueness of Persons” drew from her earlier work on personal identity. In 2018, Tshivhase became the first black female to receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy in South Africa, and was celebrated in media publications like the Independent Online, a popular online news site in South Africa. In 2020, Tshivhase was awarded with the CEO’s Award by the South African company Institute of People Management (IPM). IPM is the human resource management mother-body of South Africa and beginning in 2017, has granted the annual CEO Award to an individual who has made a significant contribution in a field, profession, or in society that makes a difference and shatters perceptions.
Tshivhase’s work focuses on the idea of personal uniqueness, in particular whether pursuing a unique identity in a person’s development is worth pursuing in and of itself, and perhaps at the expense of the pursuit of other qualities. In addition, she explores the general concept of uniqueness as applied to personal identity and how people relate to the concept – what it means for them.
Areas of Specialization: Philosophical Logic, Trust and Meaning, Academic Philosophy
A.C. Grayling is Master of New College of the Humanities. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from both the Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Sussex. He went on to earn an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Sussex as well. He completed his D.Phil at the University of Oxford five years later.
His research interests have explored philosophical logic, concepts of trust and meaning, cognitive conditions for learning, and the acquisition of empirical knowledge. His writings have added to our understanding of the work of Descartes and Berkeley, the Enlightenment, and the emergence of modern philosophy. Among his works are The History of Philosophy, which is his most recent work, Scepticism and the Possibility of Knowledge, The Age of Genius, Liberty in the Age of Terror, and The Quarrel of the Age: The Life and Times of William Hazlitt.
Grayling has served as the chief officer of the Aristotelian Society from 1993-2003, fellow of the World Economic Forum, Trustee of the London Library, and as a supporter of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Amnesty International, and Greenpeace. He is the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s representative to the UN Human Rights Council and Vice President of the British Humanist Association. Since 1992, he has been a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford.
Major published works by A.C. Grayling:
17.Charles W. Mills
Areas of Specialization: Social Philosophy, Political Theory, Race, Human Rights
Charles Mills, who passed away Sept. 20, 2021, was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at CUNY Graduate Center, as well as a critically acclaimed philosopher on race. He earned his B.Sc. in physics from the University of the West Indies and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.
As the author of one of the most widely adopted texts on bigotry and human rights, Charles Mills is considered a foremost authority on social and political philosophy as they pertain to race. The aforementioned text, The Racial Contract, was awarded the Gustuvus Myers Outstanding Book Award. He has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2017. He is also the author of Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race, From Class to Race: Essays in White Marxism and Black Radicalism, and Radical Theory, Caribbean Reality: Race, Class and Social Domination. His most recent book, Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism, was published in 2017.
Mills published numerous articles on topics ranging from African American philosophy to Marxism. His most recent article, “The Racial Contract revisited: still unbroken after all these years,” was published in Politics, Groups, and Identities in 2015. Mills’ scholarly works have advanced our understanding of critical race theory.
Major published works by Charles Mills:
18. Patricia Churchland
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science
Patricia Churchland is UC President’s Professor of Philosophy Emerita at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She is also an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Churchland has made important contributions to the philosophy of mind and philosophical topics in neurobiology. She received her undergraduate education from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to study at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her master’s degree. She received a B.Phil. at the University of Oxford in 1969.
Patricia Churchland’s research has been an interdisciplinary effort in both philosophy proper and the sciences, particularly neuroscience and neurobiology. She is known for a philosophical position allied to scientific research known as “eliminative materialism,” where “folk” concepts like consciousness, free will, and other aspects of what we think of as the mind will eventually be eliminate in favor of purely scientific accounts of the brain. Thus she views philosophy itself as a discipline that is changing (or should change)—a kind of “proto science” at its best, where questions are raised in terms of our knowledge of the brain rather than historical conundrums.
Major published works by Patricia Churchland:
19. Thomas Nagel
Areas of Specialization: Political Philosophy, Ethics, Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology
Currently holding the title of University Professor of Philosophy and Law, Emeritus at New York University, Thomas Nagel previously held positions at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University, among others. Nagel earned a BA in philosophy from Cornell University in 1958, a BPhil in 1960 at the University of Oxford (as a Fulbright scholar, and studying under JL Austin, no less), and his PhD from Harvard University in 1963.
Though primarily working in political philosophy and ethics throughout his career, Nagel achieved quite a bit of (ongoing) fame and notoriety in the realm of philosophy of mind and epistemology with his 1974 essay “What is it like to be a Bat?” In the famed essay, Nagel investigated the phenomenal experience of being a bat and argued that consciousness has an innately subjective character that, at least under our current understanding of science and the physical world, cannot be explained satisfactorily from physical causes alone. The resulting debate from this essay still rages on. Beyond this, in political philosophy and ethics, Nagel has argued for a Kantian and rationalist approach to morality and law.
For his work, Nagel has received honors including fellowship with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Fellowship, and the Rolf Schock Prize.
Major published works by Thomas Nagel:
20. Anita L. Allen
Areas of Specialization: Legal Philosophy, Ethics, Feminism, Race Theory
Anita L. Allen current holds the titles of the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is Vice Provost of Faculty. Within the university, Allen has also worked with the bioethics department, the Africana Studies program, and the gender, sexuality, and women’s studies program. Outside of the University of Pennsylvania, Allen has also taught at places including Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Tel Aviv University. Allen received her BA from the New College of Florida, and her MA and PhD in philosophy from the University of Michigan.
Allen is often cited as an international expert on issues of law and ethics, especially in regards to privacy, as well as women’s rights and diversity in higher education. Much of Allen’s work investigates the intersection between privacy, ethics, and society, and what these things mean in an increasingly advanced age in which the nature and role of privacy in our everyday lives and decisions is constantly shifting. These concerns extended to bioethics as well; in fact, in 2010 Allen was selected by President Barack Obama for the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.
For her work, Allen has received numerous honors, awards, and appointments, including election to the National Academy of Medicine, the American Law Institute, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Association, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Major published works by Anita L. Allen:
Areas of Specialization: Bioethics, Applied Ethics
Peter Singer is a well-known Australian moral philosopher, Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, and Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He studied at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford.
Peter Singer first arrived on the scene of international prominence with the publication of Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement in 1975. In this book, he makes a compelling case for eschewing the eating of animals for a life of veganism. His critical essay, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” was also widely lauded for its advocacy for philanthropic efforts on behalf of the poor.
Among his other books are Democracy and Disobedience, How Are We to Live? Rethinking Life and Death, The President of Good & Evil: Questioning the Ethics of George W. Bush, The Life You Can Save, The Most Good You Can Do, and Ethics in the Real World. Singer holds his appointment at the Center jointly with his appointment as Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, attached to the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. Singer was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2012.
He is founder and board chair of The Life You Can Save, which is a nonprofit dedicated to fighting poverty.
Major published works by Peter Singer:
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Science, Natural Philosophy
Simon Schaffer is a professor of history and philosophy of science at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He has studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned his B.A., and later, a Ph.D. He studied at Harvard University as a Kennedy Scholar for one year.
Schaffer is a notable scholar of the history and philosophy of science and was awarded the History of Science Society’s Sarton Medal in 2013 for his lifetime of achievement. His research investigates the nature of seventeenth—nineteenth century scientific inquiry, as reflected by their early practices and materials.
His 1985 book, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, coauthored with Steven Shapin, was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 2005. He is also known in Britain for his role as a presenter on the Light Fantastic series on the BBC.
He is currently serving as co-investigator for “Making Climate History”, a Leverhulme Project and on the advisory board for the Science Museum. He has taught at Imperial College in London, UCLA, and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Most recently, Schaffer has served as co-editor with Bruno Latour and Pasquale Gagliardi for A Book of the Body Politic Connecting Biology, Politics and Social Theory, published in 2020.
Major published works by Simon Schaffer:
23. Judith Butler
Areas of Specialization: Feminism, Ethics, Political Philosophy, Gender Theory
Judith Butler is the Maxine Ellio Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. Butler earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy at Yale University in 1978, and her PhD at Yale in 1984. In addition to UC Berkeley, Butler has taught at Wesleyan University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and the University of Amsterdam.
Drawing on critical traditions including phenomenology, feminism, cultural criticism, and philosophy of language, much of Butler’s work focuses on issues of gender. At the core of her work is the argument that gender is performative, an idea heavily influenced by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Simone de Beauvoir. In this approach, Butler differentiates between sex as a biological designation, and gender as the product of culture and action. Consequently, however much a person identifies with or resists their declared gender is a matter of performativity in regards to established norms and expectations. From this, Butler argues gender is real in that we perform it and make it real, which also makes it fluid, and capable to change through our performative choices.
For her work, Butler has received numerous awards and honors, including honorary doctorates from McGill University and the University of Belgrade, the Theodor W. Adorno Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Major published works by Judith Butler:
Areas of Specialization: Political Philosophy, Ethics, Aesthetics
Simon Critchley is the Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at The New School for Social Research, a board member for the Onassis Foundation, and a professor of philosophy at the European Graduate School. He earned his M.Phil at the Côte d'Azur University (formerly University of Nice), and his Ph.D. at the University of Essex.
A former member of a punk band, his research interests have encompassed many aspects of the human experience, including political theory, psychoanalysis, ethics, and more. His broad interests are reflected in his writing; he has written on topics as varied as pop culture, soccer, religion, and suicide.
Serving as the moderator of The Stone at The New York Times, he solicits the opinions of philosophers on many topics — from politics to culture.
His most recent book, Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us, published in 2020. He has also published many other books, including The Book of Dead Philosophers, and Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Formerly Director of the Centre for Theoretical Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences and Directeur de Programme, College International de Philosophie, he currently teaches courses on Human Observation and The Abdication of Ecstasy, in addition to supervising senior projects.
Major published works by Simon Critchley:
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Religion, Moral Philosophy, Early Modern Philosophy
John Cottingham is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at University of Reading, Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London, and an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, University of Oxford. He studied at Merchant Taylor’s School and St. John’s College, Oxford.
He is co-editor and translator of the three-volume Cambridge edition of The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. He was formerly an editor of Ratio, the international journal of analytic philosophy, president of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, Chairman of the British Society for the History of Philosophy, and president of the Aristotelian Society.
He is perhaps best known for his introduction of trialism, which expanded upon the interpretation of Descartes’ mind-body dualism. In his new interpretation, Cottingham asserts that humans have additional dimensions to their experience (emotions, passions) that cannot be accounted for with a focus solely on mind and body. His research interests include philosophy of religion, moral philosophy, and seventeenth-century philosophy, especially that of Descartes and the Rationalists.
Major published works by John Cottingham:
- Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York University
- Ray Brassier, American University of Beirut
- Paul Churchland, University of California, San Diego
- John Martin Fischer, University of California, Riverside
- Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford
- Shaun Gallagher, University of Memphis
- Jay Garfield, Smith College
- Graham Harman, Southern California Institute of Architecture
- Philip J. Ivanhoe, Georgetown University
- Philip Kitcher, Columbia University
- Joshua Knobe, Yale University
- Saul Kripke, City University of New York
- Roderick Long, Auburn University
- Alasdair Macintyre, London Metropolitan University
- Quentin Meillassoux, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
- Shaun Nichols, Cornell University
- Graham Priest, City University of New York
- Nicholas Rescher, University of Pittsburgh
- Scott Soames, University of Southern California
- Peter Unger, New York University
- Cornel West, Harvard Divinity School
- Timothy Williamson, University of Oxford