Philosophy in a nutshell



Contemporary understanding of philosophy, from everyday wisdom to academic treatise, has grown over time as understanding of culture has for instance. Understanding the underlying principles of a statement leads to diversified response and, furthermore, to contentual contestation. Thereby, all groundbreaking philosophical ideas stem from discourse and criticism of previous views. Historical development of philosophy, even when not being the most fundamental criterion, surely is interesting in order to grasp the current philosophical comprehension.

The following chronology of philosophers and their essential ideas is a worthwhile way of getting the whole scale of philosophical discourse. The pictures and depictions are taken from the well-illustrated, non-fiction “The Philosophy Book”.


1thales-tProtagoras (circa 490 – 420 BCE) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Monism „Everything is made of water     1thales-s


2laozi-tLaozi (circa 6th century BCE) Tradition: Chinese philosophy ; Approach: Daoism „The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao“     2laozi-s
2laozi-tPythagoras (circa 570 – 495 BCE) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Pythagoreanism „Number is the ruler of forms and ideas“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tSiddartha Gautama (circa 563 – 483 BCE) Tradition: Eastern philosophy ; Approach: Buddhism „Happy is he who has overcome his ego“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tConfucius (551 – 479 BCE) Tradition: Chinese philosophy ; Approach: Daoism „Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tHeraclitus (circa 535 – 475 BCE) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Monism „Everything is flux“





2laozi-tParmenides (circa 515 – 445 BCE) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Monism „All is one“





2laozi-tProtagoras (circa 490 – 420 BCE) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Relativism „Man is the measure of all things“





1thales-tMozi (circa 470 – 391 BCE) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Monism „When one throws to me a peach, I return to him a plum“



    2laozi-tDemocritus (circa 460 – 371 BCE) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Atomism „Nothing exists except atoms and empty space“




2laozi-tSocrates (469 – 399 BCE) Branch: Epistomology ; Approach: Dialectic method „The life which is unexamined is not worth living“   2laozi-s



2laozi-tPlato (circa 427 – 347 BCE) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Rationalism „Earthly knowledge is but shadow“     2laozi-s 2laozi-s



2laozi-tAristotle (384 – 322 BCE) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Rationalism „Truth resides in the world around us“     2laozi-s 2laozi-s



2laozi-tEpicurus (341 – 270 BCE) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Epicureanism „Death is nothing to us“     2laozi-s   2laozi-tDiogenes (circa 404 – 323 BCE) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Cynicism „He has the most who is most content with the least“





2laozi-tZeno of Citium (circa 332 – 265 BCE) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Stoicism „The goal of life is living in agreement with nature“




2laozi-tSt. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 CE) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Christian Platonism „God is not the parent of evils“     2laozi-s

Boethius (circa 480 – 525 CE) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Christian Platonism „God forsees our free thoughts and actions“     2laozi-s



2laozi-tAvicenna (980 – 1037) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Arabic Aristotelianism „The soul is distinct from the body“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tSt. Anselm (1033 – 1109) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Rationalism „Just by thinking about god we can know he exists“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tAverroes (1126 – 1198) Branch: Philosophy of religion ; Approach: Arabic Aristotelian „Philosophy and religion are not incompatible“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tMoses Maimonides (1135 – 1204) Branch: Philosophy of religion ; Approach: Jewish Aristotelian „God has no attributes“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tJalal Ad-din Muhammad Rumi (1207 – 1273) Branch: Islamic philosophy ; Approach: Sufism „Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tThomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Christian Aristotelian „The universe has not always existed“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tNikolaus von Kues (1401 – 1465) Branch: Philosophy of religion ; Approach: Christian Platonism „God is the not-other“




2laozi-tDesiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) Branch: Philosophy of religion ; Approach: Humanism „To know nothing is the happiest life“




2laozi-tNiccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Realism „The end justifies the means“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tMichel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Humanism „Fame and tranquillity can never be bedfellows“





2laozi-tFrancis Bacon (1561 – 1626) Branch: Philosophy of science ; Approach: Empiricism „Knowledge is power“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tThomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Physicalism „Man is a machine“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tRené Descartes (1596 – 1650) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Rationalism „I think therefore I am“




2laozi-tBlaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) Branch: Philosophy of mind ; Approach: Voluntarism „Imagination decides everything“







2laozi-tBenedictus Spinoza (1632 – 1677) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Substance monism „God is the cause of all things, which are in him“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tJohn Locke (1632 – 1704) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Empiricism „No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tGottfried Leibniz (1646 – 1716) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Rationalism „There are two kinds of truths: Truths of reasoning and truths of fact“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tGeorge Berkeley (1685 – 1753) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Idealism „To be is to be perceived“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tVoltaire (1694 – 1778) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Scepticism „Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd“




2laozi-tDavid Hume (1711 – 1776) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Empiricism „Custom is the great guide of life“     2laozi-s

2laozi-tJean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Social contract theory „Man was born free yet everywhere he is in chains“   2laozi-s



2laozi-tAdam Smith (1723 – 1790) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Classical economics „Man is an animal that makes bargains“ 2laozi-s


2laozi-tImmanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Transcendental idealism „There are two worlds: Our bodies and the external world“     2laozi-s 2laozi-s



2laozi-tEdmund Burke (1729 – 1797) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Conservatism „Society is indeed a contract“ 2laozi-s



2laozi-tJeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Utilitarianism „The greatest happiness for the greatest number“




2laozi-tMary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Feminism „Mind has no gender“




2laozi-tJohann Gottlieb Fichte (1762 – 1814) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Idealism „What sort of philosophy one chooses depends on what sort of person one is“



2laozi-tFriedrich Schlegel (1772 – 1829) Branch: Metaphilosophy ; Approach: Reflexivity „About no subject is there less philosophizing than about philosophy“




2laozi-tGeorg Hegel (1770 – 1831) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Idealism „Reality is a historical process“     2laozi-s




2laozi-tArthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Idealism „Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tLudwig Andreas Feuerbach (1804 – 1872) Branch: Philosophy of religion ; Approach: Atheism „Theology is anthropology“

    2laozi-tJohn Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Utilitarianism „Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign“ 2laozi-s


2laozi-tSoren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) Branch: Metaphysics ; Approach: Existentialism „Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tKarl Marx (1818 – 1883) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Communism „The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tHenry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Non-conformism „Must the citizen ever resign of his conscience to the legislator?“





2laozi-tCharles Sanders Peirce (1839 – 1914) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Pragmatism „Consider what effects things have“




2laozi-tWilliam James (1842 – 1910) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Pragmatism „Act as if what you do makes a difference“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tFriedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Existentialism „Man is something to be surpassed“     2laozi-s 2laozi-s


2laozi-tAhad Ha’am (1856 – 1927) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Cultural Zionism „Men with self-confidence come and see and conquer“




2laozi-tFerdinand de Saussure (1857 – 1913) Branch: Philosophy of language ; Approach: Semiotics „Every message is made of signs“   Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) Branch: Ontology ; Approach: Phenomenology „Experience by itself is not science“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tHenri Bergson (1859 – 1941) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Vitalism „Intuition goes in the very direction of life“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tJohn Dewey (1859 – 1952) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Pragmatism „We only think when we are confronted with problems“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tGeorge Santayana (1863 – 1952) Branch: Philosophy of history ; Approach: Naturalism „Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“




2laozi-tMiguel de Unamuno (1864 – 1936) Branch: Ontology ; Approach: Existentialism „It is only suffering that makes us persons“




2laozi-tWilliam du Bois (1868 – 1963) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Pragmatism „Belief in life“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tBertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Analytic philosophy „The road to happiness lies in an organized diminution of work“ 2laozi-s


2laozi-tMax Scheler (1874 – 1928) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Phenomenology „Love is a bridge from poorer to richer knowledge“




2laozi-tKarl Jaspers (1883 – 1969) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Existentialism „Only as an individual can man become a philosopher“

2laozi-tJose Ortega Y Gasset (1883 – 1955) Branch: Ontology ; Approach: Existentialism „Life is a series of collisions with the future“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tHajime Tanabe (1885 – 1962) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Phenomenology „To philosophize, first one must confess“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tLudwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) Branch: Philosophy of language ; Approach: Logic „The limits of my language are the limits of my world“     2laozi-s 2laozi-s



2laozi-tMartin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) Branch: Ontology ; Approach: Phenomenology „We are ourselves te entities to be analyzed“   2laozi-s


2laozi-tTetsuro Watsuji (1889 – 1960) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Existentialism „The individual’s only true moral choice is through self-sacrifice for the community“




2laozi-tRudolf Carnap (1891 – 1970) Branch: Philosophy of science ; Approach: Logical positivism „Logic is the last scientific ingredient of philosophy“




2laozi-tWalter Benjamin (1892 – 1940) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Frankfurt School „The only way of knowing a person is to love them without hope“


2laozi-tHerbert Marcuse (1898 – 1979) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Frankfurt School „That which cannot be true“




2laozi-tHans-Georg Gadamer (1900 – 2002) Branch: Philosophy of history ; Approach: Hermeneutics „History does not belong tu us we belong to it“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tKarl Popper (1902 – 1994) Branch: Philosophy of science ; Approach: Analytic philosophy „In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable“ 2laozi-s 2laozi-s


2laozi-tTheodor Adorno (1903 – 1969) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Frankfurt School „Intelligence is a moral category“     2laozi-s



2laozi-tJean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Existentialism „Existence precedes essence“   2laozi-s 2laozi-s



2laozi-tHannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Existentialism „The banality of evil“




2laozi-tEmmanuel Levinas (1906 – 1995) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Phenomenology „Reason lives in language“




2laozi-tMaurice Merleau-Ponty (1908 – 1961) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Phenomenology „In order to see the world, we must break with our familiar acceptance of it“ 2laozi-s


2laozi-tSimone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Feminism „Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female“     2laozi-s



2laozi-tWillard van Orman Quine (1908 – 2000) Branch: Philosophy of language ; Approach: Analytical philosophy „Language is a social art“   2laozi-s 2laozi-s


2laozi-tIsaiah Berlin (1909 – 1997) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Analytical philosophy „The fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tArne Naess (1912 – 2009) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Environmental philosophy „Think like a mountain“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tAlbert Camus (1913 – 1960) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Existentialism „Life is be lived all the better if it has no meaning“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tRoland Barthes (1915 – 1980) Branch: Philosophy of language ; Approach: Semiotics „Language is a skin“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tMary Midgley (1919 -) Branch: Philosophy of science ; Approach: Analytical philosophy „How would we manage without a culture?“




2laozi-tThomas Kuhn (1922 – 1996) Branch: Philosophy of science ; Approach: History of science „Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory“




2laozi-tJohn Rawls (1921 – 2002) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Social contract theory „The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance“ 2laozi-s 2laozi-s


2laozi-tRichard Wollheim (1923 – 2003) Branch: Aesthetics ; Approach: Analytical philosophy „Art is a form of life“




2laozi-tPaul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994) Branch: Philosophy of science ; Approach: Analytical philosophy „Anything goes“



2laozi-tJean-Francois Lyotard (1924 – 1998) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Postmodernism „Knowledge is produced to be sold“     2laozi-s 2laozi-tFrantz Fanon (1925 – 1961) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Existentialism „For the black man, there is only one destiny and it is white“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tMichel Foucault (1926 – 1984) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Discursive archaeology „Man is an invention of recent date“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tNoam Chomsky (1928 -) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Universalism „If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tJurgen Habermas (1929 -) Branch: Political philosophy ; Approach: Social theory „Society is dependent upon a criticism of its own traditions“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tJacques Derrida (1930 – 2004) Branch: Epistemology ; Approach: Deconstruction „There is nothing outside of the text“     2laozi-s


2laozi-tRichard Rorty (1931 – 2007) Branch: Ethics ; Approach: Pragmatism „There is nothing deepn down inside us except what we have put there ourselves“   2laozi-s 2laozi-s


2laozi-tSlavoj Zizek (1949 -) Branch: Political philsophy ; Approach: Marxism „All the best marxist analyses are always analyses of a failure“




2 thoughts on “Philosophy in a nutshell

  1. Yes, he should. Thank you for your remark, Avicenna came back to life correctly (at least in my post). By this amount of content, it is difficult to stay on top of things. Especially when the wordpress cms doesn’t want to display properly my images.

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