ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

10 Great Thinkers

Updated on November 12, 2015


Rene Descartes said “Cogito ergo sum” – I think therefore I am. Everyone thinks and everyone thinks all the time. Nothing is as commonplace and ubiquitous as thinking, so why some philosophers are called great thinkers?

Philosophers think differently; by thinking they seek what is true and beautiful, and when they are enlightened by an insight they convey it to the humankind by expressing it in a logical, coherent, and persuasive manner. Here is a list of 10 great thinkers who inspired humankind and their philosophies are considered seminal and influential.

1. Buddha

Buddha found that misery is pervasive in all the life’s humdrum. Suffering is the very substance of life and it is ineluctable. He observed that pain and pleasure are two facets of the same coin and even moments of gratification are shrouded with the unavoidable and all-pervading misery.

After years of rigorous meditation Buddha found that a state of mind is attainable where the mind becomes unperturbed by the pains and uncertainties of life and stops craving for pleasure.

The meditating Buddha



2. Aristotle

Aristotle was the most prolific and versatile philosopher of all time. He touched every branch of knowledge and his work encompasses almost all the sciences and arts. His treatise on argumentation founded the discipline of logic.

Aristotle was born in 384 B.C in Greece. He was the guru of Alexander and disciple of Plato. Aristotle may be attributed as the first great intellectual who laid rationality as the foundation of all scientific thinking. All his predecessors (including Plato) believed in an aspect of reality inaccessible to human reason and distinct from materialism.

3. Avicenna

Avicenna was born in AD 980 in present day Uzbekistan. Avicenna studied works of great western philosophers and combined them with the Muslim theology. It is said that he read Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’ again and again until he totally memorized it and understood it completely.

Avicenna also studied medicine and became a doctor. Being a master doctor and a highly knowledgeable philosopher he became an influential intellectual at a young age. Once the king of Bukhara got very ill and Avicenna was summoned to treat him. He cured the king after which his name spread to distant places. His ‘Book of Healing’ and ‘Canon of Medicine’ are his most famous works.

Pineal Gland

4. Rene Descartes

Apart from being a philosopher Descartes was a great mathematician. He contributed to the development of Co-ordinate Geometry – a branch of mathematics in which geometrical curves and their algebraic interpretations are studied.

Descartes was born in 1596 in France. He grappled with the greatest philosophical questions about existence and consciousness. He suggested that the pineal gland located at the center of the brain is the ‘seat of the soul’. He thought that consciousness is ‘formed’ in the pineal gland. Unlike modern scientists and rationalists Descartes was a dualist who believed that soul, and the substance of which the brain is composed of, are distinct and independent of each other.

5. Voltaire

Voltaire was born in Paris in 1694. He observed that the society was fettered and people lived a subjugated life under social inequality and religious dogma. Voltaire was a prominent liberal who wrote polemically against the social and political evils. He is considered as the dominant literary figure of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’.

In France Voltaire is honored as a rebel who diligently fought for liberty and denounced social prejudice and religious dogma. He advocated for civil rights: freedom of speech, right to fair trial, and freedom of religion. The then social and political framework of France was structured in favor of the bourgeois and the clergy whom Voltaire regarded as parasites.



Immanuel Kant


6. Immanuel Kant

The Einstein of Philosophy. Kant (1724-1804) asserted that the shortcoming of philosophy in explaining the mind and the world is a result of the philosophers’ attitude in approaching the problem. Rather than speculating on the nature of reality, it would be more effective in making sense of the world by focusing on the processes that our mental faculties use to shape the world.

Kant stated that both the empiricist and the rationalist approach to understand reality are limited. Many of the things we know to be true are shaped more by our ‘intuition’ (a priori knowledge) than our experiences, for instance, we know “parallel lines never meet” and we don’t have to traverse infinitely along the lines to know this axiom is true. But the rational approach he thinks is limited too, because understanding such axiomatic truth through reason it requires that concepts such as space, time, and numbers need to be hardwired in our brains beforehand. But here determining the truth about the constitution of reality becomes impossible: if the world is shaped by our mental faculties that use concepts which are hardwired in our mind and independent of the outside reality, how can we know the true nature of reality. Thus our knowledge of reality is limited, Kant argues.

7. Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher whose philosophy was as enigmatic as his mysterious life and personality. His works challenged the predominant moral and philosophical views upon which human societies are based.

Nietzsche’s philosophy is tortuous and open to multiple interpretations. He stressed that Philosophy – which he thought had been confined to exist as an esoteric academic discipline – ought to be used as a guiding tool for individual growth. He defined a “higher individual” who stops following the “herd morality”, who is not afraid of suffering but rather learns from it and by finding purpose in it uses it as a tool for personal growth.

Nietzsche is famous for his quote “God is dead”. It is wrongly perceived by many as something derogatory about god, whereas Nietzsche’s words express a foreboding that the absence of a higher moral authority would turn the world into a nihilistic place.

Gervais - When Hitler misinterpreted Nietzsche

8. Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre (1905-1980) refused to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature. He believed that when a writer accepts some honour, he exposes his readers and followers to the danger of being subjected to the imposition of that institution which awards that honour.

Sartre’s philosophy is condensed in three words: “Existence precedes essence”. Essence of something is its characteristics and functionality. A human is different from an object such as a knife because its (human’s) existence defines its essence unlike the knife whose existence is defined by its functionality.

Humans are not like objects because they have not been created by a creator. There is no such entity as God who has created humans with a purpose in mind. Humans are free to act and their existence is appreciated by the manner in which they choose to act.

Introduction to existentialism

9. Bertrand Russell

Russell (1872-1970) was one of the greatest thinkers of all time. He was a great mathematician, social critic, philosopher, pacifist, and atheist.

Russell is one of the founders of Analytic Philosophy. Analytic Philosophy emphasizes the use of logic to answer philosophical questions.

Russell is also famous for his “teapot”: it is an analogy that expresses that the obligation to prove (burden of proof) a claim lies on the claimant and it does not become true (or an unsolved mystery) if others can’t disprove it. If someone claims that there is an almost impossible to observe teapot in distant space then the burden of proof lies solely on the claimant to prove such a teapot does exist. Russell was an atheist and by his analogy he argued that proving god’s existence lies solely on the believers.

Russell's Teapot


10. Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett (born 1942) is one of the greatest living thinkers. In his book “Consciousness Explained”, Dennett has proposed a physicalist model of consciousness called “Multiple drafts model” attempting to explain how the brain creates the world and the illusion of self.

Philosophers have expressed different points of view about the same subject; some were right, some were wrong, some saw the world with metaphysical eyes, some weighed it logically. However different their approaches and opinions might have been, they all were great thinkers who taught the world to think in a novel way and influenced the people with their wonderful insights and persuasive arguments.

Does God exist?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      Interesting, can you elaborate on their assumptions about political system and society plz.

    • Parimalpolymath profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhat Parimal 

      3 years ago from India

      I am glad you liked it. Thank You HSchneider

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very interesting and detailed list of the greater thinkers in our world history. It is amazing to see how philosophical and critical thought has built on itself over the centuries through these great thinkers. Excellent Hub, Parimalpolymath.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)