Famous American Philosophers

Do you deem philosophy as vacuous nonsense — a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing? Contrary to how most of us deem philosophy as, there is little denying that it is the noblest of all academic disciplines? But as the great Cicero once said, “There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.” So it’s easy to stumble upon philosophies that will boggle your mind and appear as pure strange. But that does not diminish the worth of it. We eat, live and sleep philosophy. Even if we don't realize it, nearly everything we believe is based on someone's philosophical soundings. To dishonor philosophy, the mother of all sciences as a "waste of the taxpayer's money" is to admit blatant witlessness. Despite many of us deeming philosophy is a “useless major” or a “clear waste of time,” it is as some may call it the path to enlightenment. Read on to explore the biography, timeline, trivia and fact of America’s famous philosophers.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson
5
Famous As: American Lecturer, Philosopher, Essayist & Poet
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 27, 1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher who led the transcendentalist movement that developed in the eastern United States in the 1820s and 1830s. He is credited with popularizing individualism through his numerous lectures and essays. Emerson influenced many thinkers and writers that followed him; he mentored Henry David Thoreau, who went on to become a leading transcendentalist.

 2 Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
4
Famous As: Founding Father of the United States
Birthdate: January 17, 1706
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Milk Street, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 17, 1790

Benjamin Franklin is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States as he was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He was a writer, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, an accomplished diplomat and much more. He is a key figure in the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity.

 3 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky
18
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Regarded by many as the father of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky has authored over 100 books on varied topics, such as politics, linguistics, and war. A multi-talented personality, Noam Chomsky is considered a popular figure in analytic philosophy. Apart from influencing a wide array of academic fields, he has also contributed to the development of cognitivism.

 4 John Dewey

John Dewey
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 20, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Died: June 1, 1952

A staunch advocate of progressive education and liberalism, the American philosopher and psychologist was the founder of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. John Dewey’s famous writings included The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology and Human Nature and Conduct. According to him, passion for knowledge and intellectual curiosity were central to a teacher. He called himself a democratic socialist.

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 5 William James

William James
4
Famous As: Philosopher, Psychologist
Birthdate: January 11, 1842
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: August 26, 1910

William James was an American psychologist and philosopher. Widely regarded as the father of American psychology and one of the most influential American philosophers, James was the first educator in the United States to offer a course in psychology. He is also credited with co-founding a psychological school of thought called functional psychology and establishing a philosophical school called pragmatism.

 6 Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
4
Famous As: Writer and Philosopher
Birthdate: July 12, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Concord, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 6, 1862

Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, essayist, poet, and naturalist. He is credited with popularizing transcendentalism and simple living. His philosophy of civil disobedience, which was detailed in his essay of the same name, later influenced world-renowned personalities like Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

 7 Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams
4
Famous As: Founding Father of the United States
Birthdate: September 27, 1722
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 2, 1803
Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, also served as the governor of Massachusetts. Samuel formed the Boston Tea Party and also played a major role in drafting the Articles of Confederation and the Massachusetts Constitution. He was a second cousin of President John Adams.
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 8 John Rawls

John Rawls
6
Famous As: American Philosopher
Birthdate: February 21, 1921
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Baltimore
Died: November 24, 2002

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.

 9 Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna
7
Famous As: Philosopher, Psychonaut, Ethnobotanist, Author
Birthdate: November 16, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paonia, Colorado, United States
Died: April 3, 2000
Philosopher, ethnobotanist, and public speaker Terence McKenna was the proponent of concepts such as the Novelty Theory and Machine Elf. His work revolved around subjects such as psychedelic drugs, shamanism, alchemy, and metaphysics. He wrote several books and supported the usage of psychedelic mushrooms to experience different states of mind.

 10 Judith Butler

Judith Butler
10
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 24, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

 11 Cornel West

Cornel West
6
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 2, 1953
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

Cornel West is an American philosopher, social critic, political activist, and author. He is renowned for drawing intellectual contributions from several traditions, such as Marxism, Christianity, transcendentalism, and neopragmatism. West is credited with authoring many influential books, such as Democracy Matters and Race Matters.

 12 Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 18, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: June 17, 1996

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.

 13 John Cage

John Cage
5
Famous As: Composer, Writer
Birthdate: September 5, 1912
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: August 12, 1992
John Cage was one of the most influential avant-garde composers of the post-World War II era. He pioneered many innovative techniques in music, such as the prepared piano and electroacoustic music. His composition 4′33″ involved musicians sitting silently, without playing any instrument, while the audience heard environmental sounds. 

 14 Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards
4
Famous As: Preacher, Theologian, Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1703
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Windsor, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 22, 1758

Jonathan Edwards was an American philosopher, revivalist preacher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Considered one of America's most prominent and influential philosophical theologians, Jonathan Edwards played a major role in shaping the Evangelical Revival of the 1730s and 1740s. His theological work is credited with paving the way for a new school of theology called the New England theology.

 15 Reinhold Niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr
4
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: June 21, 1892
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wright City, Missouri
Died: June 1, 1971
An American Reformed theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote and spoke frequently about the intersection of religion, politics, and public policy. He is widely known for his philosophical perspective known as Christian Realism and his book Moral Man and Immoral Society. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 and the Time magazine posthumously called him "the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards."

 16 Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 4, 1931
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: June 8, 2007

 17 Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen
3
Famous As: Revolutionary War Hero
Birthdate: January 21, 1738
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Litchfield, Connecticut
Died: February 12, 1789

As a child, Ethan Allen was fond of deciphering passages from the Bible. He grew up to co-establish Vermont and led the Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolutionary War. After failing to achieve Vermont’s separation from New York, he tried to unite Vermont with Canada.

 18 George Herbert Mead

George Herbert Mead
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 27, 1863
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: South Hadley, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 26, 1931

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.

 19 Martha Nussbaum

Martha Nussbaum
6
Famous As: Philosopher, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: May 6, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City

 20 Christina Hoff Sommers

Christina Hoff Sommers
4
Famous As: Author, Philosopher
Birthdate: September 28, 1950
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Petaluma, California, U.S.

 21 Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce
3
Famous As: Scientist, Philosopher
Birthdate: September 10, 1839
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 19, 1914

 22 Will Durant

Will Durant
3
Famous As: Writer, Historian, Philosopher
Birthdate: November 5, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: North Adams, Massachusetts
Died: November 7, 1981

Will Durant was an American writer, philosopher, and historian. He is credited with writing The Story of Philosophy which helped popularize philosophy in the USA. Will is also remembered for co-writing an 11-volume set of books titled The Story of Civilization along with his wife Ariel. Will and Ariel were awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 23 William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian, University teacher, Writer
Birthdate: August 23, 1949
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Peoria
William Lane Craig is an American analytic philosopher and theologian who is known for defending the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God. He has authored or edited over 30 books, and a hundred articles in professional journals. Craig is a professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology.

 24 Sam Harris

Sam Harris
30
Famous As: Philosopher, Author
Birthdate: April 9, 1967
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: United States of America

One of the "Four Horsemen of Atheism," neuroscientist and author Sam Harris is known for his works on topics such as religion, artificial intelligence, and terrorism. His books include the New York Times bestseller The End of Faith. He hosted the podcast Making Sense and released a meditation app, too.

 25 Douglas Hofstadter

Douglas Hofstadter
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Writer, University teacher, Computer scientist
Birthdate: February 15, 1945
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City

 26 John Lilly

John Lilly
3
Famous As: Neuroscientist
Birthdate: January 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Died: September 30, 2001

Born to rich Catholic parents, John Lilly spent his childhood treating science as a hobby. While studying medicine, he performed gruelling medical experiments on himself. He later invented isolating floatation tanks, studied bottlenose dolphins, and researched on psychedelic drug-induced near-death experiences. He also explored yoga and human consciousness.

 27 Norbert Wiener

Norbert Wiener
3
Famous As: Father of Cybernetics
Birthdate: November 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Columbia, Missouri, United States
Died: March 18, 1964

 28 Robert Nozick

Robert Nozick
3
Famous As: Philosopher, University Teacher
Birthdate: November 16, 1938
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: January 23, 2002

 29 Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 14, 1936
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City, New York (state) New York, United States

Pema Chodron is an American Tibetan Buddhist and an ordained nun. Born as Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in New York, she began studying with Tibetan Buddhist Lama Chime Rinpoche as a young woman. She eventually became a fully ordained nun or bhikṣuṇī. She is the author of several dozen books and audiobooks. She is the principal teacher at Gampo Abbey. 

 30 Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman
3
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: August 12, 1942
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Albany, New York, United States

 31 Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson
3
Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Philosopher, Essayist, Playwright, Psychologist, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: January 18, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brooklyn
Died: January 11, 2007

 32 John Searle

John Searle
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 31, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, United States

 33 L Ron Hubbard

L Ron Hubbard
13
Famous As: Founder of Church of Scientology
Birthdate: March 13, 1911
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tilden, Nebraska
Died: January 24, 1986

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.

 34 Ronald Dworkin

Ronald Dworkin
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 11, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Died: February 14, 2013

 35 Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett
5
Birthdate: March 28, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts

 36 Robert M. Pirsig

Robert M. Pirsig
3
Famous As: Writer, Philosopher
Birthdate: September 6, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Minneapolis, U.S.
Died: April 24, 2017

 37 Thomas Nagel

Thomas Nagel
3
Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher, Writer
Birthdate: July 4, 1937
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Belgrade

 38 Hilary Putnam

Hilary Putnam
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: July 31, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: March 13, 2016

 39 Willard Van Orman Quine

Willard Van Orman Quine
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Analytic philosopher, Philosopher of language, Epistemologist, Philosopher of science, University teacher, Professor, Philosopher
Birthdate: June 25, 1908
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Akron
Died: December 25, 2000

 40 Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer
3
Famous As: Theologian, Philosopher
Birthdate: January 30, 1912
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: May 15, 1984

Francis Schaeffer was an American philosopher, evangelical theologian, and Presbyterian pastor. He is credited with co-founding the L'Abri community, an evangelical Christian organization, along with his wife Edith Schaeffer. Francis Schaeffer's work has influenced several Christian conservative leaders like Tim LaHaye as well as members of the L'Abri community.

 41 Eric Hoffer

Eric Hoffer
3
Famous As: Writer, Philosopher, Psychologist
Birthdate: July 25, 1902
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: May 21, 1983

Social philosopher and author Eric Hoffer was rendered half-blind at 7 due to an accident but regained his sight at 15. Orphaned in his 20s, he took up odd jobs, and once even contemplated suicide. His first book, The True Believer, catapulted him to fame, and he never looked back.

 42 Murray Rothbard

Murray Rothbard
4
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: March 2, 1926
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States
Died: January 7, 1995

 43 Donald Davidson

Donald Davidson
3
Famous As: philosopher, university teacher
Birthdate: March 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Springfield
Died: August 31, 2003

 44 Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 19, 1856
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bloomington, Illinois, United States
Died: May 7, 1915

 45 R. C. Sproul

R. C. Sproul
3
Famous As: Theologian, Philosopher, Non-fiction writer, University teacher
Birthdate: February 13, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pittsburgh

R. C. Sproul was a Reformed theologian. He was an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America and also the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries. He has been described as the greatest proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the 20th century. He was a popular speaker and a  co-pastor at Saint Andrew's Chapel as well.  

 46 Allan Bloom

Allan Bloom
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 14, 1930
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Indianapolis
Died: October 7, 1992

 47 Walker Percy

Walker Percy
3
Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Philosopher
Birthdate: May 28, 1916
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: May 10, 1990

 48 Murray Bookchin

Murray Bookchin
3
Famous As: Writer, Historian, Philosopher, University teacher, Anarchist, Libertarian municipalism, Social ecology
Birthdate: January 14, 1921
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City
Died: July 30, 2006

Murray Bookchin, also known by his pseudonyms M.S. Shiloh and Lewis Herber, was an anarchist, a political philosopher, and an academic, best known for his fight against capitalism. The son of Russian immigrants, he followed communism since age 9. He had also penned books such as The Ecology of Freedom.

 49 Lewis Mumford

Lewis Mumford
3
Famous As: Architect, Historian of technology, Historian, Sociologist, Screenwriter, Literary critic, Philosopher, Journalist
Birthdate: October 19, 1895
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: January 26, 1990

Lewis Mumford was an American sociologist, historian, literary critic, and philosopher of technology. He made significant contributions to American literary and cultural history, social philosophy, and the history of technology. His works also influenced a number of thinkers and authors like Jacques Ellul and Amory Lovins. Lewis Mumford also had a strong influence on American cellular biologist Barry Commoner.

 50 Alonzo Church

Alonzo Church
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher, University teacher, Computer scientist
Birthdate: June 14, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
Died: August 11, 1995