Philosophy

Philosophy

If you are interested in pursuing a degree or finding a job in the field of philosophy, everything you need is here. Find the best schools, career information, history of the discipline, influential people in the field, great books, and more.

What Is Philosophy?

Philosophy the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence . education, public policy, organizational leadership and more. Philosophy students study subjects such as epistemology, ethical theory, aesthetics, 19th Century philosophy, and symbolic logic.

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The Best Colleges and Universities for Philosophy Degrees

Best Philosophy Major Research Universities

  1. Harvard University
  2. Yale University
  3. Princeton University
  4. Columbia University
  5. University of Chicago

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Best Philosophy Major Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. Wesleyan University
  2. Swarthmore College
  3. Wellesley College
  4. Amherst College
  5. Williams College

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Best Philosophy Online Colleges

  1. University of Arizona
  2. University of Memphis
  3. Portland State University
  4. University of Southern Mississippi
  5. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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To view the entire list of top philosophy schools, including schools offering online degrees and a breakdown of the best philosophy colleges and universities in your state, visit our look at the Best Colleges and Universities for Philosophy Degrees.

For a dynamic, real-time listing of the most influential philosophy schools in the world, use our Custom College Ranking.

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Philosophy Degrees

What Will I Study as a Philosophy Major?

As a philosophy major, you’ll study topics like ethics, logic, religion, and social convention.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Philosophy?

A degree in philosophy can be a stepping stone to a career in law, business, government, social work, or even health management. Philosophy is also one of the top degrees held by law school students.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Philosophy

If you’d like to learn more, check out our extensive list of resources for philosophy students, graduates, and professionals...

How To Get a Degree in Philosophy

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The Best Online Philosophy Degrees

Philosophy is a degree that can lead to a diverse range of career possibilities. A growing number of reputable colleges and universities are satisfying demand for this degree by providing an array of high-quality online philosophy degree options. Using our InfluenceRanking engine, we’ve identified the best among them. Check out our growing set of rankings for online philosophy degree programs at every level of education.

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Who are the most influential philosophers of all time?

Philosophy is recognized as an expansive educational discipline, one touching on countless areas of life. This extremely nuanced and complex area of study has been shaped by the influence of pioneers in the field of philosophy Below, you will find some of the most influential philosophers of all time.

  1. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic school of philosophy, and the Aristotelian tradition.
  2. Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.
  3. 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.
  4. Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.
  5. Socrates was a Greek philosopher from Athens who is credited as a founder of Western philosophy and the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought.
  6. Bertrand Russell was a British polymath. As an academic, he worked in philosophy, mathematics, and logic. His work has had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, and various areas of analytic philosophy, especially philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher considered one of the most important figures in German idealism. He is one of the fundamental figures of 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.
  10. René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist who invented analytic geometry, linking the previously separate fields of geometry and algebra.
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Who Are the Current Top Philosophers?

The following are the top philosophers in the field today according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  • Sally Haslanger started 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 to these relatively modern areas of inquiry.
  • 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.” 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.
  • Linda Martín 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.
  • Martha 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.
  • David 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.
  • 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.
  • Noam Chomsky is either one of the most important linguists in modern times, one of the most important political thinkers, or (most often) both. 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.
  • Jürgen 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.
  • Robert 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.
  • George Yancy 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.

Learn more about other influential philosophers.

Interviews with Top Philosophers

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Great Books About Philosophy

The following are the most influential books in the field of philosophy today according to our backstage Ranking Analytics tool, which calculates the influence of various sources in both academics and popular culture using a numerical scoring of citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. A Theory of Justice by John Rawls was undoubtedly the most influential work of political theory in the analytical tradition during the second half of the twentieth century. It is best-known as the source of the classical Rawlsian idea that a just theory of government must be arrived at from behind a “veil of ignorance,” meaning that the author of the theory may not know what his own position would be within the society he is recommending.
  2. Being and Time by Martin Heidegger is admired by thousands as the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century, despite his collaboration with the Nazi regime.. It is incontrovertible that Being and Time, along with its signature themes of Dasein (human consciousness), Geworfenheit (“thrownness” of Dasein into the world), Sorge (care or concern of Dasein for certain ends that matter deeply to it), and many others, have had an incalculable impact on the development Continental philosophy, especially existentialism.
  3. The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle sets out his practical philosophy (theory of human action) and moral theory. The book has had an overwhelming impact, becoming the foundation for Christian moral philosophy. Aristotelian or “virtue” ethics then fell out of favor from the time of the Scientific Revolution until about the 1980s. However, it is undergoing a vigorous revival today.
  4. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant taught that all knowledge is ultimately a posteriori, but that it is necessarily interpreted by the pre-existing cognitive structures of the human mind as conforming to certain determinate a priori conceptual forms, such as three-dimensional space, time, and causation. Moreover, according to this doctrine, we find the world intelligible because we impose the structure of our own mind upon it.
  5. Symposium by Plato includes among its characters, in addition to Socrates, the comic playwright Aristophanes and the famous aristocrat and future general and politician, Alcibiades. The theme of the dialogue is the nature of love (eros). The Symposium is one of the most accessible and popular of Plato’s dialogues.
  6. Metaphysics by Aristotle contains Aristotle’s “first philosophy,” that is, his analysis of the most general and fundamental features of reality. Among the many topics covered in it, we may mention as holding special interest his penetrating discussions of being as such (“being qua being”), the various ways in which things may be said to exist (the “categories”), such basic features of reality as matter, form, change, actuality, and potentiality, and the four basic types of explanation for why change occurs (the “four causes”).
  7. Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein was assembled posthumously from his manuscripts and first published in an English translation. Wittgenstein views philosophy as an “illness” and the proper role of the philosopher as that of a “therapist” who attempts to cure the human intelligence of its “bewitchment” by language.
  8. The Republic by Plato is one of Plato’s most important and most read dialogues. Its subject is the nature of justice and the best form of government. However, the dialogue also ranges widely across many of Plato’s other philosophical concerns, containing several of the philosopher’s most important texts dealing with the theory of “forms” (see #5 above), such as the analogies of the Sun, the Divided Line, and the Cave.
  9. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory by David Chalmers ranges widely over contemporary work in neurobiology, cognitive science, and philosophy of mind. He makes several crucial distinctions and argues that nothing we currently know about the brain or the mind lends any support at all to the belief that “consciousness” in the basic sense of subjectivity or phenomenal experience (as opposed to its functional role) can be explained in any reductive terms whatsoever. The author’s notion of subjectivity as the distinctive “hard problem” of consciousness has now become the standard way to frame the problem in analytical philosophy.
  10. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn is not a work of philosophy strictly speaking. It is a work of history, philosophy, and sociology of science. However, some of the basic ideas advanced in it by the author have had a very strong influence on academic philosophy.

Learn about other influential philosophy books.