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The Great Philosophers

     The word 'philosophy' stems from the Ancient Greek philosophia, which literally means the "love of wisdom". Philosophy is a study that seeks to answer fundamental problems prevalent within the world pertaining to topics such as ethics, knowledge, existence causality, mind, reason, language, etc. Philosophy is also uniquely distinguished by its method of arriving at conclusions through rational argument and systematic reasoning.


     One of the most famous methods of philosophical inquiry was Socrate's dialectic questioning. In the 5th century BC, Socrates used this approach to examine the moral concepts of goodness and justice. His other important topics include virtue, politics and the nature of knowledge. Since Socrates did not write any philosophical texts, all our knowledge of Socrates' philosophy is given to us through his students Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon and Aristophanes. Although Plato's Socratic dialogues were instrumental in passing on Socrate's philosophies, Plato himself was also a much accomplished philosopher throughout the late 5th century to early 4th century BC. One of Plato's most influential works was The Republic in which was outlined important ideas on justice, virtue, the nature of good and the ideal state. Students may also be familiar with some of his other famous concepts such as the Theory of Forms and the Allegory of the Cave. Plato also founded one of the first academic schools of philosophy, the Academy in Athens, where Aristotle was an avid student. During the 4th century BC, Aristotle wrote on a wide array from subjects from metaphysics to the fine arts to politics to zoology. Plato's thought primarily revolved around deductive reasoning, whereas Aristotle used both to incorporate inductive and deductive reasoning in combination; this began the groundwork for our modern scientific method. Furthermore, within his Metaphysics, Aristotle laid down many crucial ideas pertaining to causality, existence and motion.


     Fast forward to the Renaissance and we see the emergence of the prominent figure Rene Descartes, the father of modern Western philosophy, in the 17th century. His Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be an important work which outlines his thoughts in moral philosophy, philosophy of religion and rationalism. Following this came the period of enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries and we witness another legion of incredibly important philosophers: Locke, Hume, and Kant. John Locke was one of the first British empiricists and is most famous for his development of political philosophy and epistemology. Later in the 18th century, David Hume, a notable Scottish empiricist and skeptic, continued to develop many ideas such as causation and the theory of knowledge. Hume was also well known for his ideas on free will, utility and ethics. Some of his most notable works include A Treatise of Human Nature and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Hume's works found a reaction in Immanuel Kant who is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophers in modern philosophy. One of his greatest works, The Critique of Pure Reason contained many of his most important ideas on epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics that became irreplaceable foundations for future philosophers.


     Finally we see an emergence of modern philosophy during the 19th century through other great philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche is well known for his work on religion, morality and philosophy of science. Many of Nietzsche's thought such as the death of god and nihilism were considered incredibly radical. Other notable Western philosophers not mentioned here include St. Thomas Aquinas, Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, Karl Marx and the list goes on. 


First image credit: Matt Neale

Categories within The Great Philosophers


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Socrates was an Ancient Greek philosopher who developed the Socratic method and examined ideas on good and justice.


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Plato was a student of Socrates and is well known for his work 'The Republic' where he wrote on justice, good, and virtue.


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Aristotle was a student of Plato, who wrote many texts on metaphysics, physics, biology, zoology, politics, ethics, etc.


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David Hume was a Scottish philosopher who discussed ideas of causation, epistemology and morality.


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Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher considered by some to be the most important figure in modern philosophy for his work on epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics.


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John Locke was a British philosopher who made important contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory within his ideas on political philosophy.


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Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philologist, philosopher, and poet who wrote critical texts on religion, morality, and science.


Postings: 26

Rene Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’.

Pluralism and Atheist Rationality

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Plato's "Apology" and Nietzsche's "Ubermensch"

I know this is long.. I had to read these 2, but have a bunch of questions before writing a response to them.. This is based on Plato, The Apology Obviously you know that Socrates was put on trial and killed by his contemporaries in Athens because he would not back down from his position. But what exactly was that position, a

Plato's Allegory of the Cave & Buddha's 4 Noble Truths

Did any of these give you a strong reaction and why? Which one surprised you most? Is there any in which you agree/disagree? I chose Plato and Buddha to do my write up, however, you do not have to answer about those 2. I'm trying to get a broader idea of what expert thinkers are thinking, for a larger paper down the line. Thanks

A Day Without Air Conditioning

See the attached file. 1- Assist with ideas and help write a brief, but well written summary of the article. Then a second paragraph discussing: What would a day without AC be like for you? Think of a typical day and whether it would be an enjoyable experience. Why or why not? Article: Washington didn't grind to a swe

Watson on Jeopardy

Computers have evolved from machines able to complete simple math problems to ones that can now process information faster than the human brain. "Watson" is computer and "he" appeared on Jeopardy, the TV show. This IBM-powered machine was designed to take on the smartest humans in the world in a trivia game. Watch the YouTub

Aristotle's Doctrine of the Four Causes.

Aristotle's analysis of being depends on his account of the Four Causes. Explain the theory of the Four Causes. Explain the account figures in Aristotle's metaphysical theory.

Psychodynamic Perspectives

Imagine that an existential psychotherapist and a Freudian psychoanalysis encounter the same scenario where a person seeks help with recurring episodes of serious anxiety. What are some other psychodynamic perspectives?

Freudian Psychoanalysis

1. Freud was a physician by training. What was the role of human biology in his psychosexual development theory and the psychodynamic theory (id, ego, and superego)? According to those theories, what was Freud's conception of the mind-body relationship? 2. Imagine that an existential psychotherapist and a Freudian psychoanaly

Skinnerian Application

How would Skinner answer the issue of motivation and the rat's behavior? Would Skinner and Watson hold the same view? [250 plus word count.] (2) Provide an example of how Watson's theory can be applied to our daily life; provide a second example of how Tolman's theory can be applied. Which theory, in your estimation, can have th

Neo-Behaviourism and Skinnerian Ideas of Reinforcement

Research has shown that monetary incentive does not always work in motivating workers and may in fact hinder performance. This seems to go against the Skinnerian idea of reinforcement in behaviour. What factors might prevent monetary reward from motivating workers to better performance?

Functionalism and Structuralism Approach to Studying Autism

1) Provide a brief description of Functionalism and structuralism research hypothesis from each perspective. Which school is most likely to endorse a qualitative method? Which is a quantitative method? 2) Autism is a diagnosis attracting a lot of attention lately in the media. Describe how a structuralist and a functionalist

Functionalist and a structuralists

Describe how functionalists and structuralists might study a topic in human intelligence. Show how these two approaches illustrate the nomothetic and the idiographic perspectives.

Consciousness and Blacking Out

Have you ever worked such long hours that you "blanked out" on your drive home? That is, you arrived at your destination but honest'y don't remember stopping at certain intersections or making certain turns (kind of scary, right?). Here's the important question: Were you conscious during your "black out"? How would James exp

E.C. Tolman, Learning and Modified Behaviorism

Tolman initially was attracted to Watsonian behaviorism but eventually developed a more sophisticated view of animal and human behavior as purposive and goal-driven. We must focus on Tolman's legacy in the research on motivation. Examine Tolman's legacy in research on motivation. In your response, include discussion of the fo

Darwin's Theory: Non-Human Psychology

Explain how Darwin's theory supported psychological research on nonhuman animals. Provide one research question that can only be answered by doing experiments with nonhuman animals in order to shed light on human psychology.

The Relation of the Frontal Lobe to Personality Changes

In 1987, Dr. John Doe's father suffered a heart attack. He never lost consciousness but immediately needed quadruple bypass surgery. Through the help of anesthesia, he was put under for a long period of time as the major arteries were repaired. The surgery was a success but he seemed to change in regards to personality. Where he

Proliferation of Neuroimaging Technologies

Describe how a neuroscientist and a psychophysicist, respectively, might try to answer the research question, "How long does it take for a person to become aware of a flashing light?"

Localization of Mental Functions

In the now famous case of "Phineas Gage", the damage in his prefrontal cortex (in the orbital and medial regions) resulted in a loss of reasoning abilities and an alteration of personality. On the other hand, confabulation (a type of memory disorder) has been associated with damage in different parts of the prefrontal cortex. Ho

These notes offer an explanation of Plato's epistemology in the Republic.

The argument of Republic 5 is one of the most difficult in the Platonic corpus. It is crucial for an understanding of both Plato's epistemology in general and also the specific political proposals of the Republic. I will start by offering some contextual information, and then lay out the argument as a whole. I will then offer a

Transcendental deduction and imagination

Consider the following passage from Critique of Pure Reason B-143: "The manifold given in sensible intuition is necessary subject to the original synthetic unity of apperception, because in no other way is unity of intuition possible (17). But the act of understanding by which the manifold of given representations (be they in

Exploring the Meaning of Life: Plato and Kant

I need some help getting started on the following: - Identify 2 philosophers, ethical writers, or theorists who have written about the meaning of life. - Explain why you chose the two writers. - Describe, in your own words, their philosophies of life. - Discuss the differences or similarities, if any, in the philosophies o

philosophy discussion questions

1. How does Plato's view on the nature of reality differ from Aristotle's? Which view do you find most compelling and why? 2. Explain the Cartesian proof for the existence of god. Does his version of god resemble any of the concepts of the divine proposed by the major world religions? Can his account apply to more than one

Plotinus Pointers

In 300 hundred words or less, describe why someone would want to sit down to dinner with the great philosopher of Neoplatonism, Plotinus.