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Famous Philosophers and there Teaching to Change Your Personality

Written By Franklin V on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | 10:14 AM

Important thinkers have been revered throughout time. Whether it’s trying to figure out human nature, standing up for rights of others through logical discourse, or coming up with new ways to approach the world, their ability to think through issues and present them to society provides the rest of the world with a glimpse into a new, and often better, way of thinking. The following philosophers, listed in chronological order, offer something for you to discover if you are looking for self-improvement or even just a stimulating read.
  1. Confucius (551-479 BC). Born into a humble family, Confucius entered into a life of politics but early on left due to his disappointment with the leader of his state and turned instead to teaching in order to help create better leaders from an early age. Confucius believed that peace and orderliness could come through living a life of virtue and the way to achieve this was through study. The writings of Confucius are credited by many to be the foundation from which many Asian societies have grown.
  2. Socrates (469-399 BC). Often said to be the founder of western philosophy, Socrates and his work are best known through the writings of his students, in particular, Plato. His style of asking a series of questions in order to help students explore knowledge is known as the Socratic Method. Socrates was primarily concerned with virtue and justice, and ironically, was jailed and sentenced to death on charges of corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens as his philosophical pursuits were at odds with the social climate of the times.
  3. Plato (427-347). A student of Socrates, Plato later became a teacher and philosopher in his own right. Such ideas as his Theory of Forms (the idea that the physical world is much more than what we as humans can perceive) and philosopher kings (rulers who value truth, reason, and wisdom in their leadership of mankind) have shaped the fields of mathematics, science, philosophy, rhetoric, and logic.
  4. Aristotle (384-322 BC). A student of Plato’s, Aristotle first began his education studying medicine, then continued with his training in philosophy. Aristotle was known as an elegant writer who covered topics ranging from science to metaphysics to poetry to politics. His works include a formal study of logic that has evolved to the current formal system of logic studied today.
  5. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 BC). This Roman emperor is also famous for his stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius wrote Meditations as a way for his own self-improvement and focuses on ways to live a better and happier life through self-control and living simply and in harmony with nature. Some claim Marcus Aurelius is a true example of Plato’s philosopher king.
  6. Rene Descartes (1596-1650). Famous for his quote, "I think, therefore I am," Descartes philosophy was rooted in the idea that the fact that humans can think is the evidence of their existence. Descartes is also famous for his ideas of dualism, or that the body and mind are two separate entities. The body, which he believed operated like a machine, is different from the mind, which is not ruled by the laws of physics, and therefore, must be separate.
  7. David Hume (1711-1776). The thoughts of Hume have influenced such popular thinkers and scientists as Darwin, Kant, and Thomas Henry Huxley. The basis of Hume’s ideas are that we can only know what we experience. By Hume’s beliefs, scientific study can only be carried out through observance and experience. Hume is often thought of as an early explorer of the cognitive sciences.
  8. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Famous for his political and social theories, Rousseau believed strongly in human freedom and wrote about the chains that bind mankind coming from corrupt governments that impose their will on otherwise well-intended people. He also wrote about education and upheld the belief that children should be brought up in a natural learning environment where they could learn the logical consequences of their actions.
  9. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Considered one of the most influential Western philosophers, Kant believed that by studying human knowledge–where it comes from and its limits–can provide answers to life’s questions. He promoted a belief that reason alone could not provide human knowledge, but that it must come from both reason and experience.
  10. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). Largely considered one of the founders of feminist philosophy, Wollstonecraft wrote about the rights and the education of women. She believed that women were not inferior to men, but merely less educated. She herself lived an infamous life on the fringes of what was acceptable to society due to her beliefs about marriage and her rocky relationships.
  11. Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). One of the creators of German idealism, Hegel’s beliefs and works revolve around the idea that contradictions ultimately reconnect and unite without negating either original idea. Metaphysics play an important role in Hegel’s beliefs and his is often considered one of the most difficult philosophers to read. Don’t let this deter you from studying his works, though, as his ideas about thought and reality are intriguing.
  12. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Famous for his transcendentalist school of thought, Emerson was an incredibly popular orator who drew large crowds when he would speak on the topics of nature and individualism. His works center around his beliefs of how religion and nature are entwined and the independence and self-reliance of mankind.
  13. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Reared by his father, also a philosopher, to be a great thinker, Mill was educated in the classics from a very young age and only allowed to be among adults–his siblings being his only exposure to children. As an adult, Mill was concerned with many social issues and often wrote on liberty and women’s rights (often working together with his close friend and later, wife, on the feminist pieces).
  14. Margaret Fuller (1810-1850). Born to a father who educated her early and aggressively, Fuller became the first woman to use the Harvard Library, the first female book-reviewer, the first female foreign correspondent, and published the first major feminist work. She believed in equal rights, education, and employment for women and was also an important figure in the transcendental movement–a contemporary of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
  15. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Famously opposed to the work of Hegel, Kierkegaard’s writings often have a strong religious tone, incorporating the idea that understanding one’s self through introspection is the key to understanding. A prolific writer known for his topics in theology and psychology, many of Kierkegaard’s early work was done under pseudonyms. Categorizing this philosopher is difficult, with some calling him an existentialist, a postmodernist, an individualist, and a humanist.
  16. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). One of the transcendentalists, Thoreau is famous for his bookWalden, which he uses to describe his experience living at Walden Pond and as a metaphor for society at large on living simply and in harmony with nature. Thoreau was also a proponent of what he termed civil disobedience in his essay by the same name, or gently refusing to comply with an unjust government. His philosophical writings have influenced many renowned thinkers including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as a whole host of important literary figures.
  17. Karl Marx (1818-1883). Known mostly as a revolutionary communist, Marx was educated as a philosopher and believed that human nature is in a constant state of transition. This theory of transition bled over to his political philosophy that he wrote about in The Communist Manifesto where he explains that economic systems will transition from one to the other kind until eventually a classless, communist state will result. Other Marxist works focus on his ideas about human nature, history, and class relations.
  18. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). The enthusiasm and passion with which Nietzsche writes his ideas have sparked the interest of many readers throughout the years. Embracing existentialism and finding the power of change in the hands of those seeking the change in themselves, Nietzsche writes of how one can break out of the society-driven mode of trying to find the easiest way to live life to embrace a life full of power and strength to become the Superman.
  19. Ayn Rand (1905-1982). Rand was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. in 1926 where she developed the philosophy she called Objectivism–goals of which include personal happiness and productive achievement and reason being the only absolute. Among her writings are the two novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which still enjoy popularity today.
  20. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). Thought of by many as one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, Sartre believed in a unique existentialism that describes a freedom that everyone has, but must face and for which he must accept responsibility if she is to grow as a person. Sartre’s novels, plays, and other writings all revolve around his philosophy and, unlike many philosophers, are very approachable.
  21. Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986). Tied to existentialism through her lifelong relationship with Sartre, Beauvoir was a philosopher apart from him as well. Her works focused heavily on social issues, especially as they pertain to women. Beauvoir believed that women are equal to men and that historically, men have created an aura of mystery about women in order to keep them repressed and without power. Her most popular books, She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, explore issues of friendship, sexuality, and other aspects of her philosophy.
  22. Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001). Anscombe is well-known for her lifelong study of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and translation of his work as well as her own work as an important philosopher. Her book,Intention, is the description of human action and will through intentions and is her most famous work. She was heavily involved in the philosophy of ethics and made famous stances against abortion and Harry S. Truman (for his use of atomic bombs in Japan).
  23. Mary Midgley (1919-present). Midgley believes that there is an important connection between humans and animals, and values exploring this connection to understand humanity. She is also opposed to reductionism, or the idea that any one approach is the only correct way to see something. While her beliefs about God are sometimes written as nonexistent and other times a bit more ambiguously, she staunchly defends religion as something that cannot be dismissed.
  24. Dame Mary Warnock (1924-present). A philosopher still currently at work, Warnock has become famous for her work in the fields of ethics, education, and existentialism. She has written extensively about Sartre as she embraces his brand of existentialism. She has also published several books and papers on her own philosophical beliefs that have been widely studied and discussed around the world.
  25. Michel Foucault (1926-1984). Foucault looked at human nature and sought answers from the fields of history, psychology, and sociology. He was a strong literary and political figure who fought for many marginalized sections of society, including homosexuals, the mentally ill, and prisoners. Foucault was working on a multi-part work exploring ancient philosophy and it’s relation to modern day sexuality that was left incomplete after his untimely death.
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