Famous British Philosophers

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Philosophy refers to the study of fundamental nature of knowledge, reason, mind, language and traditions. British philosophy is the study of the traditions of the people belonging to the United Kingdom. Since the medieval times, Britain has had a number of philosophers who have in their own ways greatly contributed to the British society. Francis Bacon was one of the most influential philosophical advocates of the early modern period in British history. A pioneer in the scientific revolution, it was through his works that he popularized scientific inquiry and thus was called the father of empiricism. However, the discussion of the early modern period of British philosophy remains incomplete without the mention of the classic trio, John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. From the mid-19th century, the country witnessed the beginning of British idealism that remained influential until the early twentieth century. Key philosophers of this time include T.H. Green, F.H. Bradley, H. H. Joachim and so on. In the early 20th century, G.E Moore and Bertrand Russell pioneered analytical philosophy that till date dominates the British philosophy. Through this section, find in detail about the life and works of important British philosophers.
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 1 
Ludwig Wittgenstein
(One of the Greatest Philosophers of the 20th Century)
Ludwig Wittgenstein
7
Birthdate: April 26, 1889
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: April 29, 1951

Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is remembered for his works related to logic, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of mathematics, and the philosophy of language. He taught at the University of Cambridge for many years. He published only one book during his lifetime. Most of his manuscripts were collected later and published posthumously.

 2 
John Locke
(Philosopher)
John Locke
23
Birthdate: August 29, 1632
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wrington, Somerset, England
Died: October 28, 1704
John Locke, also known as The Father of Liberalism, was a prominent Enlightenment Age philosopher. A qualified physician, Locke postulated the theory of mind, empiricism, and the idea of tabula rasa. His ideas influenced the social contract theory, the works of Kant and Rousseau, and the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
 3 
Bertrand Russell
(Philosopher)
Bertrand Russell
11
Birthdate: May 18, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Trellech, Monmouthshire, Wales
Died: February 2, 1970

Bertrand Russell was a British polymath and Nobel laureate. His work, which is spread across various fields, has had a considerable influence on philosophy, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, mathematics, linguistics, and logic. Russell is also credited with leading the revolt against idealism in Britain and is regarded as one of the founders of analytic philosophy.

 4 
Francis Bacon
(Philosopher, Politician)
Francis Bacon
10
Birthdate: January 22, 1561
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: York House, London, England
Died: April 9, 1626

Francis Bacon was a Renaissance philosopher and author who was known as the Father of Empiricism, because of his belief in the scientific method and theory that scientific knowledge can only be created through inductive reasoning and experience. He was later knighted and served as the first Queen's counsel.

 5 
Thomas Hobbes
(Philosopher)
Thomas Hobbes
11
Birthdate: April 5, 1588
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Westport, Wiltshire, England
Died: December 4, 1679

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher. Widely regarded as the co-founder of modern political philosophy, Hobbes is best known for his influential book Leviathan. Apart from political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes also contributed immensely to various other fields, such as ethics, theology, geometry, history, and jurisprudence.

 6 
Herbert Spencer
(Philosopher and Sociologist Known for His Hypothesis of ‘Social Darwinism’ and the Expression 'Survival of the Fittest')
Herbert Spencer
5
Birthdate: April 27, 1820
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Derby, Derbyshire, England
Died: December 8, 1903

Herbert Spencer was the man behind the expression “survival of the fittest,” after reading Charles Darwin's iconic work On the Origin of Species. The British anthropologist, sociologist, and philosopher introduced the concept of Social Darwinism, which applied the theory of evolution to societies and social classes.

 7 
John Stuart Mill
(The Most Influential English-Speaking Philosopher of the Nineteenth Century)
John Stuart Mill
8
Birthdate: May 20, 1806
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pentonville, London, England
Died: May 7, 1873
Nineteenth-century philosopher John Stuart Mill is best remembered for his work On Liberty, which spoke of personal freedom and "the harm principle.” His The Subjection of Women was one of the first works written by a male author that promoted women's rights. He supported Jeremy Bentham's ethical utilitarianism.
 8 
Alan Watts
(Writer)
Alan Watts
15
Birthdate: January 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chislehurst, Kent, England
Died: November 16, 1973

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.

 9 
Jeremy Bentham
(British Philosopher, Social Activist and One of the Founders of 'Modern Utilitarianism')
Jeremy Bentham
6
Birthdate: February 15, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
Died: June 6, 1832
Philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham is remembered as the pioneer of modern utilitarianism. He believed in economic freedoms, women’s rights, animal rights, the separation of the church and the state, and freedom of expression. Bentham wished for his body to be dissected and then to be displayed as an auto-icon.
 10 
Aldous Huxley
(Writer and Philosopher Best Known for His Novels: ‘Brave New World’, ‘Island’ and ‘Point Counter Point’)
Aldous Huxley
6
Birthdate: July 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Godalming, England
Died: November 22, 1963

English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley wrote countless books, including novels, short stories, non-fiction, and poems. He is best remembered for his science-fiction novels Brave New World and Island. The seven-time Nobel Prize nominee was also a Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature and a Vedanta believer.

 11 
Karl Popper
(Popper is known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method in favour of empirical falsification.)
Karl Popper
13
Birthdate: July 28, 1902
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: September 17, 1994
Austrian-British philosopher and academic Sir Karl Popper is remembered as one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century. He rejected the inductivist scientific method and advocated for the empirical falsification, detailing falsifiability in his book Logik der Forschung. He was also a supporter of liberal democracy. 
 12 
John Wycliffe
(Philosopher, Theologian)
John Wycliffe
6
Birthdate: 1328 AD
Birthplace: Hipswell, United Kingdom
Died: December 31, 1384

John Wycliffe was an English theologian, scholastic philosopher, biblical translator, priest, and reformer. He was also associated with the University of Oxford where he served as a seminary professor. John Wycliffe played a key role in the development of the Bible's translation into English. Wycliffe’s works also greatly influenced the teaching and philosophy of a Czech reformer named Jan Hus.

 13 
Mary Wollstonecraft
7
Birthdate: April 27, 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 10, 1797

Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, advocate of women's rights, and philosopher. Wollstonecraft, who attracted a lot of attention for her unconventional personal relationships, is widely considered a founding feminist philosopher. Although her unorthodoxy initially attracted criticisms, her advocacy of women's equality became increasingly important during the 20th century. Modern-day feminists cite her works and her life as important influences.

 14 
Robert Hooke
(Philosopher)
Robert Hooke
6
Birthdate: July 28, 1635
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Freshwater, Isle of Wight
Died: March 3, 1703

Scientist Robert Hooke, also called England's Leonardo, initially gained recognition as an architect, conducting surveys following the Great Fire of London. He also taught geometry and was part of the Royal Society. He assisted Robert Boyle and eventually developed his own microscope, thus becoming the first to visualize micro-organisms.

 15 
Edmund Burke
(Statesman)
Edmund Burke
5
Birthdate: January 12, 1729
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Died: July 9, 1797

Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke, was a member of parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of Great Britain for several years. He supported  Catholic emancipation and strongly opposed the French Revolution. He felt revolution destroyed the fabric of good society and traditional institutions of state and society. He is considered the philosophical founder of modern conservatism. 

 16 
George Boole
(Mathematician, Philosopher, and Logician Best Known as the Author of ‘The Laws of Thought’)
George Boole
4
Birthdate: November 2, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England
Died: December 8, 1864

George Boole is remembered for pioneering Boolean algebra, a tool used in digital computer circuits. More of a self-taught mathematician, Boole began teaching at 16 and later grew up to be a math professor at Queen’s College, Cork. His work in differential equations and algebraic logic was groundbreaking.

 17 
Samuel Coleridge
4
Birthdate: October 21, 1772
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ottery St Mary, Devon, Great Britain, United Kingdom
Died: July 25, 1834

Samuel Coleridge was an English poet, philosopher, theologian, and literary critic. He is credited with co-founding the Romantic Movement in England along with his friend William Wordsworth. Despite struggling from bouts of depression and anxiety throughout his adult life, Samuel Coleridge had a major influence on American transcendentalism and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 18 
Roger Bacon
(Philosopher)
Roger Bacon
3
Birthdate: 1214 AD
Birthplace: Ilchester
Died: 1294 AD
 19 
Alfred North Whitehead
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
Alfred North Whitehead
4
Birthdate: February 15, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ramsgate, Kent, England
Died: December 30, 1947

Alfred North Whitehead was a British mathematician and philosopher, best known for his collaboration with his student Bertrand Russell on Principal of Mathematics, a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics. Also known for his pioneering works on process philosophy and metaphysics, he is credited with developing a comprehensive metaphysical system that differs from most Western philosophies.

 20 
John Dee
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
John Dee
5
Birthdate: July 13, 1527
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tower Ward, London
Died: February 29, 1609

Anglo-Welsh mathematician, occultist, astronomer, teacher, astrologer and alchemist John Dee is best-remembered as advisor to Queen of England, Elizabeth I. Dee coined the term British Empire and advocated its formation by founding of English colonies in the New World. He had one of the largest libraries in England at the time and wrote on astrology, geography, trigonometry, navigation and calendar reform.

 21 
Robert Boyle
(Founder of Modern Chemistry, Boyle's Law)
Robert Boyle
4
Birthdate: January 25, 1627
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ireland
Died: December 30, 1691

Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish chemist, natural philosopher, inventor, and physicist. Regarded as the first modern chemist, Boyle is often counted among the founders of modern chemistry. One of the pioneers of the scientific method, Robert Boyle is also remembered for his books, including The Sceptical Chymist, which is viewed as a keystone book in chemistry.

 22 
George Berkeley
(philosopher)
George Berkeley
5
Birthdate: March 12, 1685
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: January 14, 1753

George Berkeley was an Anglo-Irish philosopher who is credited with popularizing a theory called immaterialism, which claims that material substance like tables and chairs can't exist without being perceived by the mind. Berkeley influenced several philosophers like David Hume. Also remembered for his humanitarian work, George Berkeley worked towards creating homes for abandoned children in London.

 23 
William of Ockham
(Philosopher)
William of Ockham
3
Birthdate: 1287 AD
Birthplace: Ockham Civil Parish, United Kingdom
Died: April 10, 1347

William of Ockham, also known as Doctor Invincibilis, is chiefly remembered as one of the pioneers of nominalism. The 14th-cenntury Franciscan friar was also a scholar and philosopher, and laid the foundation of Occam’s razor. His written works include Summa logicae and his commentary on his own lectures, Sentences.

 24 
Alain de Botton
(Philosopher and Author Known for His Books: ‘Essays in Love’ and ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’)
Alain de Botton
9
Birthdate: December 20, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland

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. 

 25 
Joseph Priestley
(Discoverer of Oxygen)
Joseph Priestley
4
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall, England
Died: February 6, 1804

Best remembered for his contribution to the chemistry of gases, Joseph Priestley was an English scientist, clergyman, political theorist and educator, who has been credited with discovering oxygen independently, publishing his findings before Carl Wilhelm could. A prolific writer, he has authored 150 works on various subjects including electricity. He also contributed immensely to the advancement of political and religious thoughts.

 26 
Iris Murdoch
(Irish & British Novelist Best Known for Her Novels: 'Under the Net', 'The Sea, the Sea' and 'The Bell')
Iris Murdoch
3
Birthdate: July 15, 1919
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: February 8, 1999

One of the most popular Irish-born British novelists, Iris Murdoch is remembered for her psychological novels, which had a good dose of sexuality, philosophy, morality, and comic elements. While she won the Booker Prize for The Sea, the Sea, the Oxford alumnus had also worked for the HM Treasury and the UN.

 27 
Roger Scruton
( English Philosopher and Writer Who Specialised in Aesthetics and Political Philosophy)
Roger Scruton
8
Birthdate: February 27, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Buslingthorpe, Lincolnshire, England
Died: January 12, 2020

Philosopher and author Roger Scruton is best remembered for his work as an editor of The Salisbury Review and for his countless books on topics such as art, sexuality, and political philosophy. He also taught at Boston University and other institutes, and was a skilled pianist and composer, too.

 28 
Henry Cavendish
(English Scientist Who Discovered Hydrogen)
Henry Cavendish
3
Birthdate: October 10, 1731
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 24, 1810

English natural philosopher, scientist, and a prominent experimental and theoretical physicist and chemist Henry Cavendish is best-remembered for his discovery of hydrogen and his Cavendish experiment. He first recognized that hydrogen, which he termed inflammable air, is a discrete substance which produces water on combustion. He conducted the Cavendish experiment to measure and produce a value for Earth’s density.

 29 
J. L. Austin
(Philosopher of Language Best Known for Developing the 'Theory of Speech Acts')
J. L. Austin
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: February 8, 1960

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.

 30 
Isaiah Berlin
(Philosopher)
Isaiah Berlin
5
Birthdate: June 6, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Died: November 5, 1997

British historian and philosopher Isaiah Berlin is best remembered for his concepts of liberal theory and value pluralism. He is also considered a pioneer of intellectual history. Initially a philosophy lecturer, he later deviated to political science. He also penned iconic works such as The Hedgehog and the Fox.

 31 
Alasdair MacIntyre
(Philosopher, Professor)
Alasdair MacIntyre
3
Birthdate: January 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow

Scottish-American philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre is noted for his contributions to moral and political philosophy. His major writings include Whose Justice? Which Rationality? and After Virtue. The latter is considered to be a significant work of Anglophone moral and political philosophy and an important text in the contemporary revival of virtue theory.  

 32 
William Godwin
(Journalist)
William Godwin
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1756
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wisbech
Died: April 7, 1836
 33 
Terry Eagleton
(Literary Theorist Best Known for His Work 'Literary Theory: An Introduction' (1983))
Terry Eagleton
3
Birthdate: February 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Salford, England

English literary theorist and critic Terry Eagleton, presently serving as Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, is a prominent critic of postmodernism and the New Atheism. His oeuvre includes over forty books among which Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), which describes the emerging literary theory of the period, is considered to be one of his most notable works.   

 34 
Antony Flew
(Philosopher, University teacher)
Antony Flew
3
Birthdate: February 11, 1923
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London
Died: April 8, 2010
 35 
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
3
Birthdate: September 9, 1855
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Southsea, Hampshire, England
Died: January 9, 1927
 36 
Derek Parfit
(Philosopher)
Derek Parfit
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chengdu
Died: January 1, 2017

Recipient of the Rolf Schock Prize, British philosopher Derek Parfit is regarded as an important and influential moral philosopher who specialised and made significant contributions in personal identity, rationality, and ethics. He gained attention with his first paper, Personal Identity, and moving on penned notable books like Reasons and Persons (1984) and On What Matters (2011).   

 37 
A. J. Ayer
(Philosopher)
A. J. Ayer
3
Birthdate: October 29, 1910
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: St John's Wood, London, England
Died: June 27, 1989

Educated at the prestigious Eton College and the University of Oxford, A.J. Ayer grew up to popularize logical positivism. During World War II, he had been an MI6 spy. Known for his bestselling work Language, Truth, and Logic, he promoted ideas such as emotivist ethics and the verification principle.

 38 
H. L. A. Hart
(Philosopher)
H. L. A. Hart
3
Birthdate: July 18, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Harrogate, England
Died: December 19, 1992

Noted 20th-century political philosopher H. L. A. Hart was a practicing lawyer and had also worked with MI5 during World War II. Known for his iconic works such as The Concept of Law and Law, Liberty and Morality, he made significant contributions to the field of legal positivism.

 39 
G. E. Moore
(Philosopher)
G. E. Moore
3
Birthdate: November 4, 1873
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England
Died: October 24, 1958

English philosopher G. E. Moore was one of the pioneers of analytic philosophy. Best known for his iconic works such as Principia Ethica, he also taught moral science and philosophy. Moore was also a sworn agnostic and was part of the Cambridge Apostles, a secret society of British intellectuals.

 40 
Harriet Martineau
(First female sociologist)
Harriet Martineau
3
Birthdate: June 12, 1802
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Norwich, Norfolk, England
Died: June 27, 1876

Regarded by many as the first female sociologist, Harriet Martineau was a prominent 19th-century social theorist, classical economist, and intellectual who penned the iconic work The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte. She was partially deaf and had lost her sense of taste and smell in childhood.

 41 
Gregory Bateson
(Anthropologist, Philosopher, Sociologist, Psychologist)
Gregory Bateson
3
Birthdate: May 9, 1904
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Grantchester
Died: June 11, 1980

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, and visual anthropologist. Along with his colleagues, he developed the double-bind theory of schizophrenia. Also a cyberneticist, he was part of the core group of the Macy Conferences in Cybernetics. He was a member of philosopher William Irwin Thompson's esoteric nonprofit foundation Lindisfarne Association.  

 42 
Bernard Williams
(Philosopher)
Bernard Williams
3
Birthdate: September 21, 1929
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Westcliff-on-Sea, Southend-on-Sea, England
Died: June 11, 2003
 43 
Gilbert Ryle
(Philosopher)
Gilbert Ryle
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1900
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brighton
Died: October 6, 1976

British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, often considered as an ordinary language philosopher, is best-known for his critique of Cartesian dualism. He introduced the phrase ghost in the machine in his book The Concept of Mind as his description of René Descartes' mind-body dualism. He first introduced the notion of thick description, which has greatly influenced cultural anthropologists like Clifford Geertz.

 44 
Philippa Foot
(Philosopher, University teacher)
Philippa Foot
3
Birthdate: October 3, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Owston Ferry
Died: October 3, 2010

Philippa Foot is remembered as a forerunner of what is now known as virtue ethics. Granddaughter of American president Grover Cleveland, Foot laid down the Trolley problem and believed that the morality of any act is related to its rationality. She was also associated with the charitable organization Oxfam.

 45 
E. H. Carr
(Historian, Journalist, Diplomat, Writer, Political scientist, Professor)
E. H. Carr
3
Birthdate: June 28, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: November 3, 1982

Best known for his 14-volume book A History of Soviet Russia, British historian and diplomat E. H. Carr had been part of the Foreign Office for a long time, before stepping into the academic world. He had also been an assistant editor of The Times and a fellow of both Oxford and Cambridge.

 46 
Michael Oakeshott
(Former philosopher and political theorist who was known as one of the 20th century's most conservative thinkers)
Michael Oakeshott
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1901
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chelsfield, London, England, United Kingdom
Died: December 19, 1990
 47 
Colin Wilson
(Writer)
Colin Wilson
3
Birthdate: June 26, 1931
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Leicester, Leicestershire, England
Died: December 5, 2013
 48 
Frank P. Ramsey
(Mathematician, Philosopher, Economist)
Frank P. Ramsey
3
Birthdate: February 22, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge
Died: January 19, 1930

British philosopher and mathematician Frank P. Ramsey was the son of a famed mathematician and later laid down the Ramsey theory of mathematical logic. The Cambridge alumnus also translated Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus but died at age 26, probably due to a liver infection he contracted while swimming.

 49 
Karl Pearson
(Mathematician, Historian of mathematics, Statistician, Historian, Philosopher, Biographer)
Karl Pearson
3
Birthdate: March 27, 1857
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: April 27, 1936

One of the greatest statisticians of all time, Karl Pearson established the first university-level statistics department at UCL and also launched the statistics-oriented journal Biometrika. He was also well-versed in law and believed in eugenics. His The Grammar of Science later inspired Albert Einstein and other scientists.

 50 
A. C. Grayling
(Philosopher, University teacher)
A. C. Grayling
6
Birthdate: April 3, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Luanshya