Famous German Philosophers

Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reason, mind, language and traditions. While the world has had some of the most knowledgeable philosophers and thinkers from various parts of the world, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Germany holds the bulk of them all. And if you don’t believe us, then check this list. Starting from Immanuel Kant to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibiz, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, Gunther Anders, Hans Georg Gadamer to the very recent Gottlob Frege and Ludwig Wittgenstein, the list goes far and wide. Each of them and many others made significant contribution to the aesthetics of philosophy and gave a world a new aspect to look from. Through their work in their chosen field of philosophy, German philosophers made revolutionary contribution to the world society. Till date, their beliefs play a central role on contemporary philosophy and are highly influential in setting up their fundamental concepts. Browse through this section to find a list of famous German philosophers, their life, their philosophies and their thinking. Their impressionable work is sure to leave a lasting imprint on your mind as well!

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 Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche
35
Famous As: German Philosopher, Cultural Critic and Philologist
Birthdate: October 15, 1844
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Röcken, Lützen, Germany
Died: August 25, 1900

German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, and poet Friedrich Nietzsche has had a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He held the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. His work spanned philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism, and fiction. He suffered from numerous health problems from a young age and died at the age of 55.

 2 Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant
15
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 22, 1724
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Königsberg, Germany
Died: February 12, 1804

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher whose works in fields like aesthetics and metaphysics have made him an important and influential personality in Western philosophy. His views continue to influence contemporary philosophy. Kant has had a major influence on prominent philosophers like Hegel, Schelling, Reinhold, and Fichte. Kant's work on mathematics is cited by Albert Einstein as an early influence.

 3 Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer
8
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 22, 1788
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Gdańsk, Poland
Died: September 21, 1860

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He was among the first Western philosophers to affirm important tenets of Indian philosophy, such as denial of the self and asceticism. Schopenhauer's work has had a tremendous posthumous impact on disciplines like science, literature, and philosophy. His work influenced personalities like Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, and Leo Tolstoy. 

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 4 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
11
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 27, 1770
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
Died: November 14, 1831
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel worked on ideas such as absolute idealism; the philosophy of spirit, or Geist; and the master–slave dialectic. His views influenced later thinkers and intellectuals, such as Karl Popper and Karl Marx, with the latter using Hegel’s views on the civil society.

 5 Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt
10
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 14, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Linden - Mitte, Hanover, Germany
Died: December 4, 1975

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.

 6 Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger
11
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 26, 1889
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Messkirch, Germany
Died: May 26, 1976
German philosopher Martin Heidegger was one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century and is remembered for his work on phenomenology, existentialism, and hermeneutics. He explained his ideas in his book Being and Time. He also introduced the concept of Dasein, or “being,” characteristic of human beings.

 7 Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer
7
Famous As: Theologian, Polymath
Birthdate: January 14, 1875
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France
Died: September 4, 1965

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.

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 8 Gottfried W. Leibniz

Gottfried W. Leibniz
4
Famous As: Polymath, Mathematician
Birthdate: July 1, 1646
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany
Died: November 14, 1716
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a significant logician, mathematician, and philosopher of the Enlightenment era. He laid down his own concepts of differential and integral calculus. He was behind the invention of the mass-produced mechanical calculator and modified the binary number system. He also laid down a separate library cataloging system.

 9 Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas
8
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 18, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

German philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas is counted among the most influential philosophers across the world and is identified with the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He influenced many disciplines through his work which addresses communicative rationality and the public sphere, and includes topics starting from social-political theory to aesthetics, language to philosophy of religion, and epistemology.

 10 Theodor W. Adorno

Theodor W. Adorno
7
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 11, 1903
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Died: August 6, 1969

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.

 11 Edmund Husserl

Edmund Husserl
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 8, 1859
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Prostějov, Czechia
Died: April 27, 1938

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.  

 12 Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: March 23, 1900
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Died: March 18, 1980

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.

 13 Max Stirner

Max Stirner
4
Famous As: Post-Hegelian philosopher
Birthdate: October 25, 1806
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bayreuth, Germany
Died: June 26, 1856
German philosopher Max Stirner had humble beginnings as a girls’ preparatory school teacher and translator. Remembered for his most ground-breaking work, The Ego and His Own, he explored the ego and Hegel’s concepts of social alienation. Unfortunately, he died of a poisonous insect bite at 49.

 14 Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller
4
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: November 10, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Died: May 9, 1805

Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.

 15 Karl Marx

Karl Marx
86
Famous As: Philosopher & Economist Famous for His Theory of 'Marxism' and Book 'Das Kapital'
Birthdate: May 5, 1818
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Trier, Germany
Died: March 14, 1883

Karl Marx, the philosopher, economist, political theorist and socialist revolutionary, is best-known for the 1848 pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto and the three-volume Das Kapital. His theories, called Marxism, maintained that class conflict leads to the development of human societies and that internal tension were inherent in capitalism, which would ultimately be replaced by the socialist mode of production.

 16 Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels
18
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 28, 1820
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Barmen, Germany
Died: August 4, 1895

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, political scientist, and revolutionary socialist. Along with Karl Marx, Engels helped develop Marxism, which has had a profound impact on fields like philosophy and anthropology. Engels is credited with helping Marx publish Das Kapital, a foundational theoretical work in politics, economics, and materialist philosophy. He also co-authored influential political documents like The Communist Manifesto.

 17 Wilhelm Wundt

Wilhelm Wundt
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 16, 1832
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Mannheim, Germany
Died: August 31, 1920

Wilhelm Wundt was a German physiologist, professor, and philosopher. He is often counted among the founders of modern psychology and is widely considered the father of experimental psychology. He is also credited with founding the first laboratory for psychological research, which he founded at the University of Leipzig in 1879.

 18 Ernst Haeckel

Ernst Haeckel
4
Famous As: Zoologist
Birthdate: February 6, 1834
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Potsdam, Germany
Died: July 31, 1919

Ernst Haeckel had initially practiced medicine before he gained an interest in Charles Darwin’s theory and began exploring zoology and related fields. He not only coined terms such as ecology, but also named numerous species and created a genealogical tree. He drew numerous figures of animals and sea creatures, too.

 19 Adam Weishaupt

Adam Weishaupt
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 6, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ingolstadt, Germany
Died: November 18, 1830
On a night in 1776, deep within a forest near Ingolstadt, German law professor Adam Weishaupt and four others formed a secret society known as the Illuminati, which was supposed to be a parallel to religion. Since then, many conspiracy theories have held the society responsible for unexplained global events. 

 20 Johann Gottfried Herder

Johann Gottfried Herder
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 25, 1744
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morąg, Poland
Died: December 18, 1803

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is best remembered as a significant figure of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. Born into poverty and largely self-educated till 17, he later became a disciple of Immanuel Kant and was associated with Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism. He was eventually ennobled.

 21 Herbert Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse
8
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 19, 1898
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: July 29, 1979

The proponent of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, Herbert Marcuse largely influenced the leftist student revolts of the 1960s. Equipped with a PhD in German literature, he wrote Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity, with Martin Heidegger. His Eros and Civilization spoke at length about capitalism.

 22 Edith Stein

Edith Stein
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 12, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: August 9, 1942

Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who studied at the University of Freiburg and completed her dissertation on empathy. Always interested in Catholicism, she read the autobiography of the mystic Teresa of Ávila and converted to Christianity, and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp and is canonized as a martyr.

 23 Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart
3
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: 1260 AD
Birthplace: Gotha, Germany
Died: 1328 AD

German philosopher Meister Eckhart is remembered for his Latin and German transcripts that stress on the relationship between God and man. His treatises include Talks of Instruction and the Book of Divine Consolation. His innovative vocabulary also contributed to the German language. However, he was accused of heresy later.

 24 Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Johann Gottlieb Fichte
3
Famous As: Former Philosopher who became a founding figure of the philosophical movement known as German idealism
Birthdate: May 19, 1762
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rammenau, Germany
Died: January 29, 1814

 25 Leo Strauss

Leo Strauss
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 20, 1899
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kirchhain, Germany
Died: October 18, 1973
Though he never received enough fame during his lifetime, political philosopher Leo Strauss made significant contributions to classical political theory. Apart from penning scholarly works such as On Tyranny and Natural Right and History, he had also served in World War I and taught political science. 

 26 Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 15, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 26, 1940

Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish essayist, philosopher, and cultural critic. An eclectic thinker, Benjamin made significant contributions to literary criticism, aesthetic theory, and historical materialism. Although Benjamin's work did not earn much recognition during his lifetime, it continues to be revered by academics several years after his death.

 27 Paul Tillich

Paul Tillich
3
Famous As: Christian existentialist philosopher
Birthdate: August 20, 1886
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Starosiedle, Poland
Died: October 22, 1965

German-American theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich is remembered for his work in the field of Christian existentialism and for concepts such as the method of correlation. His notable works, such as The Courage to Be and the three-volume Systematic Theology, has inspired intellectual thinkers and commoners alike.

 28 Oswald Spengler

Oswald Spengler
4
Famous As: Historian, Philosopher
Birthdate: May 29, 1880
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Blankenburg, Germany
Died: May 8, 1936

German historian Oswald Spengler is best remembered for his iconic The Decline of the West, which had a huge influence on social theory. He believed that culture cannot be transferred and that it can only decline and decay like an organism. He lived his final years in isolation in Munich.

 29 Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 27, 1775
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Leonberg, Germany
Died: August 20, 1854

 30 Hans-Georg Gadamer

Hans-Georg Gadamer
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 11, 1900
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Marburg, Germany
Died: March 13, 2002

 31 Gottlob Frege

Gottlob Frege
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 8, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wismar, Germany
Died: July 26, 1925

 32 Emanuel Lasker

Emanuel Lasker
3
Famous As: Chess player
Birthdate: December 24, 1868
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Barlinek, Poland
Died: January 11, 1941

 33 Houston Stewart Chamberlain

Houston Stewart Chamberlain
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 9, 1855
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Southsea, Portsmouth,, England
Died: January 9, 1927

 34 Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen
2
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: November 30, 1098
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bermersheim vor der Höhe, Germany
Died: September 17, 1179

Hildegard of Bingen was a German writer, composer, Christian mystic, visionary, philosopher, polymath, and Benedictine abbess of the High Middle Ages. Apart from being the most-recorded composers of sacred monophony in modern history, Hildegard of Bingen is also widely regarded as the founder of scientific natural history.

 35 Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel
3
Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: March 1, 1858
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 26, 1918

Georg Simmel was a German sociologist, philosopher, and critic considered a forerunner to structuralist styles of reasoning in the social sciences. He was neo-Kantian in his approach and laid the foundations for sociological antipositivism. He broadly rejected academic standards and wrote extensively on the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. He was married to philosopher Gertrud Kinel and had one son. 

 36 Rudolf Carnap

Rudolf Carnap
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 18, 1891
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ronsdorf, Wuppertal, Germany
Died: September 14, 1970

 37 Ludwig Feuerbach

Ludwig Feuerbach
4
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: July 28, 1804
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Landshut, Germany
Died: September 13, 1872

 38 Hans Morgenthau

Hans Morgenthau
3
Famous As: Judge, Political scientist, Writer, Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: February 17, 1904
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Coburg
Died: July 19, 1980

German-born American political scientist and historian Hans Morgenthau, a leading twentieth-century figure in the study of international relations, is noted for his contributions in international relations theory and the study of international law. His book Politics Among Nations introduced the concept of political realism that played an instrumental role in the foreign policy of the US.

 39 Novalis

Novalis
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 2, 1772
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wiederstedt, Germany
Died: March 25, 1801

Poet and philosopher Friedrich Leopold, better known as Novalis, was a significant figure of German Romanticism. He narrated the loss of his 15-year-old fiancé to tuberculosis in his Hymns to the Night. He himself died of the disease a few years later. He was also well-versed in natural sciences.

 40 Franz Brentano

Franz Brentano
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 16, 1838
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rhine Province
Died: March 17, 1917

 41 Wilhelm Dilthey

Wilhelm Dilthey
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: November 19, 1833
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Biebrich, Wiesbaden, Germany
Died: October 1, 1911

Wilhelm Dilthey was a German psychologist, sociologist, historian, and hermeneutic philosopher. An ardent admirer of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Dilthey helped revive the former's works on hermeneutics. Wilhelm Dilthey is also credited with teaching future philosophers like Hans Lipps, Eduard Spranger, and Theodor Litt.

 42 Moses Mendelssohn

Moses Mendelssohn
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 6, 1729
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dessau, Dessau-Roßlau, Germany
Died: January 4, 1786

 43 Ernst Jünger

Ernst Jünger
3
Famous As: Soldier, Author, Entomologist, Philosopher
Birthdate: March 29, 1895
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Heidelberg, Germany
Died: February 17, 1998

Though Ernst Jünger was part of the German Army in both the World Wars, he was against the Nazi dictatorship and was accused of being involved in a plot to kill Hitler. He authored the diary-novel The Storm of Steel and also made a mark as an entomologist.

 44 Matthias Jakob Schleiden

Matthias Jakob Schleiden
3
Famous As: Biologist, Botanist, Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: April 5, 1804
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamburg
Died: June 23, 1881

 45 Max Horkheimer

Max Horkheimer
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 14, 1895
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart, Germany
Died: July 7, 1973

Max Horkheimer was a German philosopher and sociologist. He is best known for his work in critical theory as a member of the Frankfurt School of social research. He addressed authoritarianism, economic disruption, militarism, and environmental crisis in his works. He had a successful academic career and remained an influential figure until his death. He was married to Rose Riekher.  

 46 Wilhelm von Humboldt

Wilhelm von Humboldt
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Diplomat
Birthdate: June 22, 1767
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Potsdam, Germany
Died: April 8, 1835

 47 Friedrich Hölderlin

Friedrich Hölderlin
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 20, 1770
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lauffen am Neckar, Germany
Died: June 7, 1843

German lyric poet and dramatist Friedrich Hölderlin was a significant figure of German Romanticism. Initially pushed to join a Christian ministry by his mother, he later ditched the idea and was inspired by Greek mythology. He later suffered from schizophrenia and spent 36 years in a tower, later named the Hölderlinturm.

 48 Eduard Bernstein

Eduard Bernstein
4
Famous As: Former social democratic Marxist theorist
Birthdate: January 6, 1850
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: December 18, 1932

Though a staunch socialist and Marxist, Eduard Bernstein was also one of the biggest critics of Marxist theory and thus gained the nickname The Father of Revisionism. He spotted many loopholes in Karl Marx’s tenets, such as the eventual collapse of the capitalist economy. He also represented Brandenburg in the Reichstag.

 49 Peter Sloterdijk

Peter Sloterdijk
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 26, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Karlsruhe, Germany

 50 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
3
Famous As: Was a German Writer, Philosopher
Birthdate: January 22, 1729
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamenz, Germany
Died: February 15, 1781

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a noted German dramatist, critic, and author, remembered especially for his contribution towards liberating German theatre from the influence of its classical and French counterpart. Known for such literary masterpieces like Miss Sara Sampson; Emilia Galotti; Minna von Barnhelm; Nathan the Wise; Laocoön; Hamburg Dramaturgy, he is now considered an outstanding representative of the Enlightenment era.