If others thought the body was the prison of the soul, Paul-Michel Foucault felt the other way round. The French philosopher, literary critic and Leftist who interpreted the link between power and knowledge, was a post-structuralist whose theories have left a mark on anthropology, psychology and criminology. The feminist was one of the noted personalities to have died of HIV/AIDS.
Albert Camus was a French philosopher and the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His philosophical views contributed to the rise of absurdism, a philosophical concept. Also a prolific writer, Albert Camus had an illustrious literary career; most of his philosophical essays and novels are still influential.
Regarded as the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud was a neurologist. Despite suffering criticism, psychoanalysis remains influential in the fields of psychology and psychiatry; such is the influence Freud has on humanities. Scholars believe that Freud is one of the most influential personalities of the 20th century and that his impact is comparable to that of Marxism and Darwinism.
Jean-Paul Sartre was a French philosopher, writer, literary critic, and political activist. One of the most important personalities in the philosophy of phenomenology and existentialism, Sartre played a crucial role in 20th-century French philosophy. His work continues to influence literary studies, post-colonial theory, sociology, and critical theory. He was honored with the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Hannah Arendt was a political theorist. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most prominent political thinkers, Hannah Arendt's articles and books have had a significant influence on philosophy and political theory. Her life and work inspired the 2012 biographical drama film, Hannah Arendt. Her work has also inspired several biographies written by popular authors.
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher remembered for developing deconstruction, a form of semiotic analysis. Derrida is one of the most influential figures associated with postmodern philosophy and post-structuralism. He also had a major influence on academic disciplines like philosophy, law, political theory, anthropology, applied linguistics, and historiography. He also influenced music, art criticism, art, and architecture.
Albert Schweitzer was an Alsatian polymath who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophical work, Reverence for Life. He is credited with founding the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which was a direct result of his philosophical expression. Schweitzer is also credited with influencing the Organ reform movement, which began in the mid-20th-century.
Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.
11 John Rawls
The Schock Prize and National Humanities Medal-winning American moral and political philosopher John Bordley Rawls is often counted among the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth-century. Notable books of Rawls, where he elucidated his theory of justice and which has influenced a variety of thinkers, includes A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism.
The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.
14 Carl Jung
Widely regarded as the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung is one of the most important contributors to symbolization and dream analysis. The concepts of socionics and a popular psychometric instrument called Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) were developed from Jung's theory. Apart from working as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung was also an artist, craftsman, builder, and prolific writer.
One of the most prominent intellectuals of the 20th century, Theodor Adorno was a pioneer of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and despised the culture industry. Born to a singer mother, the German sociologist grew up amid music and could even play Beethoven on the piano by 12.
17 Alan Watts
Alan Watts was a British writer, philosopher, and speaker. He is credited with popularizing Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism in the Western world. A prolific writer, Alan Watts wrote one of Buddhism's first bestselling books, The Way of Zen. He also explored psychedelics and human consciousness in his works, such as The Joyous Cosmology and The New Alchemy.
18 Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American philosopher and writer. Apart from publishing two best-selling novels, Ayn Rand is credited with developing a philosophical system called Objectivism. Over the years, Ayn Rand has been a major influence among American conservatives and libertarians. Some of the famous personalities influenced by her include Amber Heard, Vince Vaughn, Jimmy Wales, Ayelet Shaked, and Mary Ruwart.
Osho Rajneesh was an Indian godman and mystic. Also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, he was the founder of the Rajneesh movement. He preached the importance of meditation, mindfulness, celebration, love, courage, and creativity and called for a more open attitude to human sexuality, because of which he was considered a controversial new religious movement leader.
20 Thomas Kuhn
American philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn is noted for his book on history of science, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, publication of which marked a significant event in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. He presented his notion of paradigm shift and identified and elaborated on normal science in this book which remained influential in academic and popular circles.
21 Jean Piaget
Edmund Husserl was a German philosopher of Moravian origin. He established the school of phenomenology. He studied mathematics, physics, and astronomy at the University of Leipzig and worked as an assistant to mathematician Karl Weierstrass. He later became a professor of philosophy and taught for several years. He is considered a major figure in 20th-century philosophy.
French philosopher Louis Althusser is remembered for his effort to merge Marxism and structuralism. He taught at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and had been part of the French Communist Party. He spent several years in a mental institution after strangling his wife, Hélène, to death.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, and political prisoner. An outspoken critic of Communism and the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn helped raise awareness of the Gulag, a government agency that oversaw forced labor camps set up in accordance with Vladimir Lenin's order. His non-fiction text The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work and sold millions of copies.
28 Umberto Eco
Italian novelist Umberto Eco is best remembered for his novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. He also taught at the University of Bologna and had released quite a few children’s books and translations. He was also known for his work on semiotics and medieval studies.
30 Kurt Gödel
Hailed as one of the greatest logicians since Aristotle, Kurt Gödel was Austrian-born American mathematician, logician, and philosopher, who earned international stardom for his incompleteness theorem. Also credited with developing a technique called Gödel numbering, he later started working on Mathematical Platonism, a philosophical theory that failed to attract wide acceptance.
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian politician, journalist, philosopher, linguist, and writer. A founding member of the Communist Party of Italy, Gramsci went on to serve as the leader of the party before he was arrested by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. Since his death, Antonio Gramsci has been the subject of several plays and films.
33 John Cage
L. Ron Hubbard was an American author of fantasy and science fiction stories. In 1950, he wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and worked towards promoting Dianetics by conducting seminars and establishing a series of organizations. Credited with founding the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard oversaw the development of the church into a worldwide organization.
American philosopher and social psychologist George Herbert Mead was one of the pioneers of pragmatism and symbolic interactionism. He taught at the University of Chicago, and his ideas later came to be known as the Chicago school of sociology. His notable lectures were published as books only after his death.
37 Frantz Fanon
Frantz Fanon was a French-West Indian born in Martinique, a former French colony. A skilled psychiatrist and physician, he realized the impact of colonialism on the human mind while treating French soldiers and Algerians. The author of books such as The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon supported the Algerian independence movement.
38 Peter Singer
Australian moral philosopher, Peter Singer, is currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He specializes in applied ethics. He is best known for his book Animal Liberation, which is considered a seminal work in the animal liberation movement. The Council of Australian Humanist Societies recognized him as the Australian Humanist of the Year in 2004.
Indian Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi had run away to Arunachala, a sacred mountain in Tamil Nadu, at 16, and had stayed there throughout his life. He propagated vichara, or self-enquiry, as the primary means of self-realization, instead of the study of scriptures as proposed by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
Austrian philosopher and architect and Rudolf Steiner gained fame as a literary critic and published works such as The Philosophy of Freedom. His interests included esotericism and clairvoyance. He termed his work spiritual science. He designed the Goetheanum and also laid down concepts such as Waldorf education and biodynamic agriculture.
42 Paulo Freire
Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin was a passionate advocate of anarcho-communism. He was also an activist, revolutionary, economist, and sociologist. He was arrested and imprisoned for his activism in 1874. However, he managed to escape and lived in exile for over 40 years in different countries across Europe. He returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917.
45 J. L. Austin
Philosopher J. L. Austin is remembered for his study on ordinary-language philosophy and is also considered a pioneer of the theory of speech acts. His lectures at Harvard were later collected in How to Do Things with Words. He died of cancer while developing a theory on sound symbolism.
Born to a poet and carpenter, George Gurdjieff grew up reading a lot of science books in his hometown, Kars. He later laid down the concept of The Fourth Way, stating that humans can overcome their state of waking sleep through methods involving a combination of music, dance, and lectures.
48 Julius Evola
Julius Evola was an Italian poet, philosopher, painter, esotericist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, and occultist. Evola is extremely popular in fringe circles due to his supernatural, magical, and metaphysical beliefs. Due to his traditionalist views on gender, which advocated a purely patriarchal society, Evola is regarded as one of Italy’s most influential fascist racists of all time.
49 Erich Fromm
Erich Fromm was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, and socialist. A German Jew, he fled the Nazi regime and settled in the United States. He was a co-founder of The William Alanson White Institute and was associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. He is best remembered for authoring the book Escape from Freedom.
Swiss-born British philosopher and author, Alain de Botto,n is best known for his work, Essays in Love, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. He is one of the founders of the educational company, The School of Life, launched in 2008. He is a recipient of "The Fellowship of Schopenhauer", an annual writers' award from the Melbourne Writers Festival.