When we hear the word “philosopher," we tend to think of Ancient Greeks like Socrates or Plato, or perhaps the Frenchman René Descartes, or maybe infamous Germans like Karl Marx or Friedrich Nietzsche. Influential philosophers thus seem to populate the past. But are there any important philosophers living in the world today?
We can thank philosophers, both past and present, for a number of our deeply held beliefs. These beliefs dictate how we understand and involve ourselves in the world. For millennia, philosophers have attempted to shape our beliefs, usually behind the scenes, and their influence is present in many of our existing practices, institutions, and basic assumptions about ourselves and the world we think we know.
Contemporary philosophers are enormously influential right now. Take Princeton's Peter Singer and his work on animal ethics. How society sees its responsibilities to nonhuman others owes much to Singer. Though usually not household names, contemporary philosophers have radically altered the way we think about all sorts of things --- from the nature of God to the role of race in democracy.
Philosophy, one of the oldest areas of intellectual endeavor, is as significant today as ever. With the help of AcademicInfluence.com we have created this list of the 50 most influential philosophers working, thinking, writing, and teaching in the world today. Note that this list is not a ranking --- the philosophers are presented alphabetically.
The Most Influential Living Philosophers
1Kwame Anthony Appiah
Kwame Anthony Appiah was born in London, grew up in Ghana, received his Ph.D. from Clare College, Cambridge, and currently is a Professor with the NYU Department of Philosophy and the NYU School of Law. Much of his focus is in political theory and moral philosophy, and he is a leading name in race and identity studies. His early work was in the philosophy of language, and its influence carries into his later, more significant work in political and moral theory.
Web resource: Kwame Anthony Appiah's Home Page.
Alain Badiou studied at the Lycée Louis-Le-Grand and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and is a key figure in French philosophy and Marxist and Communist thought in the last half-century. He holds the title of the René Descartes Chair and Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School, is the former Chair of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure, and a founder of the faculty of Philosophy at the Université de Paris VIII, along with such major names as Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard. Badiou, who has always been known for being politically active and outspoken, was involved in militant leftist groups as a young man, such as the Union des Communistes de France Marxiste-Léniniste, and is a founding member of the Unified
Web resource: Alain Badiou's Home Page.
Simon Blackburn earned his Ph.D. from Churchill College in 1970. He is a retired Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge, but still holds the title of Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, a member of the professoriate of the New College of the Humanities. Blackburn is the former President of the Aristotelian Society and Fellow of the British Academy. In philosophy, Blackburn's work is primarily concerned with metaethics, arguing for a quasi-realist approach, arguing that, rather than expressing propositions, ethical sentences project emotional attitudes as though they were real properties.
Web resource: Simon Blackburn's Home Page.
Robert Brandom earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1977, and is currently a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. Brandom is a philosophical pragmatist, and works in the areas of philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and logic. Drawing on the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Immanuel Kant, and Wilfrid Sellars, Brandom has spent much of his work focusing on the relationship between the socially normative use of
Web resource: Robert Brandom's Home Page.
Tyler Burge earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1971, and is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at UCLA. He is primarily known for his work in philosophy of mind, but has also done work in logic, epistemology, philosophy of language, and history of philosophy. Burge has been most influential with his article “Individualism and Self-Knowledge” (1988) in which he argued for the theory in philosophy of mind of
Web resource: Tyler Burge's Home Page.
Judith Butler earned her Ph.D. from Yale in 1984, and currently holds the title of Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School. She is primarily known as a major proponent of gender theory and criticism, and her work has been influential to many areas of critical thought, both in and out of philosophy, including ethics, political philosophy, feminist theory, queer theory, and literary theory. Butler has seen influence and sparked controversy as a globally vocal advocate of LGBTQ rights and as a critic the politics and actions of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Web resource: Judith Butler's Home Page.
Nancy Cartwright earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, and is currently a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Durham. She also holds the titles of Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics, Fellow of the British Academy, Tsing Hua Honorary Distinguished Chair Professor at the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, and Visiting Research Fellow at Ca' Foscari University in Venice. She is a co-founder of the Center
Web resource: Nancy Cartwright's Home Page.
David Chalmers earned his Ph.D. in philosophy and cognitive science as a Rhodes Scholar at Indiana University Bloomington in 1993 under Douglas Hofstadter, and was also a post-doctoral fellow in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program under Andy Clark at Washington University in St. Louis. Currently Chalmers holds the title of Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University, and is a Professor of Philosophy at New York University. Chalmers is both a philosopher and cognitive scientist who focuses his work in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and their points of overlap with cognitive science. Chalmers identifies his philosophical view as “naturalistic dualism”, and is critical of physical reductionist explanations of mental experience,
Also, for most of his career he looked like Dave Mustaine from Megadeth.
Web resource: David Chalmers's Home Page.
Noam Chomsky may be the “father of modern linguistics,” and Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT, but his interests and influence extend into philosophy, cognitive science, history, logic, social criticism, and political activism. His work is widely cited (making him one of the most cited scholars in history), and he has encountered more than his fair share of controversy, both in academia, and in his public life. As a child, Chomsky took trips to New York City, where he found (and was encouraged to read) books that introduced him to ideas of resistance and anarchism. In 1945, at just 16 years old, Chomsky began his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, from where he would study linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, and eventually earn a Ph.D., before being appointed to Harvard University's Society of Fellows.
Chomsky's work in linguistics challenged the school of thought that dominated linguistics at the time, structural linguistics, and helped establish the field as a natural science, by approaching the study of linguistics through the lens of cognitive science, such as in his book Syntactic Structures (1957).
Chomsky is also featured in our article, "The 10 Most Controversial College Professors in the U.S."
Web resource: Noam Chomsky's Home Page.
Andy Clark earned his Ph.D. from the University of Stirling, and currently holds the titles of Professor of Philosophy and Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Clark's work is primarily focused in philosophy of mind, in particular how it relates to cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Clark's views run counter to traditional models of cognition in that, rather than understanding cognition as a one-way flow of sensory phenomena, he argues that cognition takes a two-way route of sensory input, assessment, and prediction. These views have been applied in his criticism of the computational model of artificial intelligence.
Web resource: Andy Clark's Home Page.
11William Lane Craig
After earning two M.A.s at divinity school, William Lane Craig earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Birmingham, England in 1977, and a doctorate in theology from the Universität München in Germany in 1984. Craig is primarily a Christian theologian and apologist, as well as an analytic philosopher, and is recognized for his theological work and cosmological arguments. Specifically, Craig is best known for his use of the Kalam cosmological argument, which has roots in medieval Islam, as proof of the existence of God. For Craig, in this argument if everything
Web resource: William Lane Craig's Home Page.
Daniel Dennett received his Ph.D. in philosophy at Oxford in 1965, and he is currently the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Dennett is a cognitive scientist in addition to being a philosopher, and his work considers philosophy of mind and science in relation to the fields of cognitive science and evolutionary biology.
Web resource: Daniel Dennett's Home Page.
Edmund L. Gettier is Professor Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his work is focused in epistemology. Gettier stands out on this list because, unlike many of his counterparts, many of whom are best known for long, dense books, developed over the length of their careers, Gettier's fame and influence in the philosophy game comes from a three-page long essay written at the beginning of his career (which, reportedly, he only wrote on a whim in order to pad his publication list). Though short, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” (1963) has been influential far beyond its diminutive page length, lays out a problem at the center of a long-running philosophical debate, and has likely been read by every philosophy undergraduate in most of the last century.
Web resource: Edmund Gettier's Home Page.
As an undergraduate, Allan Gibbard studied mathematics and physics, before earning a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard in 1971, and holds the position of Richard B. Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Gibbard's primary focus in in metaethics, and has been influential in arguing for a contemporary form of non-cognitivism, in which ethical sentences cannot be true or false because they do not express propositions. This is opposed to the cognitivist view that claims ethical sentences are capable of being objectively true. Like Christine Korsgaard, Gibbard is concerned with normativity.
Web resource: Allan Gibbard's Home Page.
Susan Haack received her Ph.D. from Cambridge in 1972, and is currently a Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami. Haack's work can be primarily described as pragmatic philosophy, and she has written on logic, philosophy of language, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of law, philosophy of science, feminism, and literature.
While her interests and writings range in many different areas of philosophical study, Haack is probably best known for her influential book Evidence and Inquiry (1993) in which she presented her epistemological theory of “foundherentism.”
Web resource: Susan Haack's Home Page.
In the late 1950s, Jürgen Habermas studied philosophy and sociology at the Institute for Social Research Frankfurt am Main, the “Frankfurt School,” under none other than Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. After some disagreements, Habermas finished his education studying political science at the University of Marburg under notable Marxist Wolfgang Abendroth. Habermas would also teach at the Frankfurt school, retiring in 1994. Habermas works in the traditions of critical theory and pragmatism, and has been very influential to philosophy and sociology.
John Haldane studied art before pursuing philosophy, earning a B.A. in fine art in 1975 from the Wimbledon School of Art in London, before going on earn a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of London in. 1984. Haldane is currently a University Professor at the University of St. Andrews, holds the title of J. Newton Rayzor Sr. Distinguished Chair in Philosophy at Baylor University, and is the current chairman of the Royal Institute of Philosophy in the U.K. Haldane is not just a notable analytical philosopher, but is recognizable in the mainstream; he has published articles in art magazines, and contributed to numerous television programs. Haldane is a catholic, he and is a papal advisor to the Vatican.
Web resource: John Haldane's Home Page.
Graham Harman received his Ph.D. at DePaul University in Chicago in 1999, and is currently a Professor of Philosophy at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. Harman's work has primarily focused on metaphysics and ontology, and he has been influential as a key figure in speculative realism and the development of object oriented ontology. Harman's goal in philosophy has been to reject anthropocentric philosophical views in favor of a metaphysical realist approach. In his first and major work, Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (2002), and in other works since, he has used Martin Heidegger's concept of “tool-analysis” to
Web resource: Graham Harman's Home Page.
John Hawthorne earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University and from 2006 to 2015 was the Wayneflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Currently he holds the title of Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. Hawthorne's work primarily focuses on metaphysics and epistemology, and his most influential book on the subjects is Metaphysical Essays (2006).
Web resource: John Hawthorne's Home Page.
John Heil is currently a Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, and holds the title of Honorary Research Associate at Monash University. Heil's work combines metaphysics with philosophy of mind, using each realm as a way of understanding the other. In his book The Universe as we Find It (2012), Heil considers how our notions of causation and truth making contribute to our ontological understanding of the world, and pursues the application of this ontology to contemporary philosophical problems.
Web resource: John Heil's Home Page.
Ingvar Johansson earned his Ph.D. in 1973 at the University of Gothenburg and holds the title of Professor Emeritus in the Department of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Umeå University in Sweden. Johansson primarily works in the area of ontology, and is an epistemological fallibilist. In his book Ontological Investigations: An Inquiry into the Categories of Nature, Man, and Society (1989) Johansson has worked toward developing a modern realist
Web resource: Ingvar Johansson's Home Page.
Korean American philosopher Jaegwon Kim earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1962 and holds the title of Professor Emeritus from Brown University. His research is focused in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and metaphysics, and he has been influential in his work on mental causation,the mind-body problem, and supervenience. Kim is known for rejecting Cartesian metaphysics, though he does argue for a kind of dualism. Though he has argued both for and against a physicalist and non-physicalist account of mental states,
Web resource: Jaegwon Kim's Home Page.
Christine Korsgaard received her Ph.D. from Harvard and currently holds the title of Arthur Kindsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard. Korsgaard is primarily interested in moral philosophy and how it relates to metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of identity, and issues of normativity. Best known for her defense of Kantian moral philosophy in The Sources of Normativity (1992), Korsgaard sought to justify, not just explain, the notion that people have moral obligations to one another. To do this, she surveyed several major arguments about moral obligation, all of which call for the necessity of normative entities in determining moral obligation, finding that Immanuel Kant and contemporary Kantians offer the strongest approach to the justification of moral obligation.
Web resource: Christine Korsgaard's Home Page.
Saul Kripke was considered a prodigy as a child and, while still just a sophomore at Harvard, he taught a course in logic at MIT. In 1962 he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard with a B.A. in mathematics, his only non-honorary degree, and has received honorary degrees from the University of Omaha, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Haifa (Israel), and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York (CUNY) and Emeritus Professor at Princeton University.
Strongly embedded in the Analytic tradition, Kripke's major contributions in philosophy are in the areas of logic (specifically modal logic), philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, set theory, and philosophy of mind. Naming and Necessity (1972), is perhaps his most significant work, based on transcriptions of his lectures at Princeton in 1970.
Web resource: Saul Kripke's Home Page.
Alasdair Macintyre received Masters of Arts degrees from the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford, and currently holds the titles of Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics at London Metropolitan University, and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Macintyre's most work has been most influential in moral and political philosophy, but it also incorporates history of philosophy and theology. Arguing from history, Macintyre's work is largely concerned with accounting for the decline of morality and moral rationality in society since the Enlightenment, and reclaiming the philosophy of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas as a potential solution to what he sees associety's current ills. This makes him an Aritstotelian-Thomist.
Macintyre is most well known for his influential book After Virtue (1981), which explores the above-mentioned ideas.
Web resource: Alasdair Macintyre's Home Page.
26John J McDermott
John McDermott received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Fordham University, in New York City, in 1959, and, though he is getting up in his years, is still teaching, holding the position of University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Texas A&M University. McDermott's work is primarily focused on the philosophy ofculture, specifically American literature and philosophy, having written,
Web resource: John J McDermott's Home Page.
John McDowell is currently University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and though he has a lengthy bibliography covering metaphysics, epistemology, ancient philosophy, and meta-ethics, he is best known for his influential work in the areas of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. His work has been significantly influenced by Wilfrid Sellars and Ludwig Wittgenstein, evident not just in his approach to philosophy of language, but to philosophy as a whole, understanding his own work as a type of philosophical quietism. In this view, McDowell sees philosophy as therapeutic, with its goal being to sooth and dissolve philosophical error, to
Web resource: John McDowell's Home Page.
Mary Midgley studied at Oxford, though did not earn a doctorate, but has received honorary doctorates from both Durham University and Newcastle University. Midgley has taught off and on through the years, her longest stint being at Newcastle University from 1962 to 1980, and did not publish her first book Beast and Man (1978) until she was 59 years old. Midgley is a moral philosopher who has also worked in the areas of philosophy of science and animal rights.
J.P. Moreland's background is spread across multiple disciplines, having earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Missouri, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of California, Riverside, and a Th.M in Theology from the Dallas Theological Seminary prior to earning his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California in 1985. He currently holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Miranda California and is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Center on Culture and Civil Society at the Independent Institute.
Web resource: J.P Moreland's Home Page.
Timothy Morton received his doctorate in philosophy from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1993 and currently holds the title of Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University. Morton's work is primarily focused in ontology and ecotheory, as well as literary theory and criticism. Morton has been most influential in the development of the focus of ontology in contemporary philosophy, and is most famous for his book Ecology Without Nature (2007), and his major role in the object-oriented ontology (OOO) movement. In Ecology Without Nature, Morton has argued that ecological writing typically views “nature” and “civilization” as two separate things, nature being something we emerged from, and have since become removed from. In response to this problem, Morton argues that we dissolve
Web resource: Timothy Morton's Home Page.
Thomas Nagel wants to know “What is Like to be a Bat?” (1974); or, at least, that is the question he asked when advancing the study of the philosophy of mind. Nagel was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and received a B.A. in philosophy from Cornell University, where he was introduced to the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. He went on to study under J.L. Austin, the famous philosopher of language, at Oxford, before earning a PhD. at Harvard in 1963.
More recently, Nagel has stirred up controversy in his book Mind and Cosmos (2012) by continuing to argue against reductionism, this time in the form of the Neo-Darwinist account of the emergence of life. Though not arguing from religion (he is an atheist) and not arguing for a theory of intelligent design, Nagel claims that the theory of natural selection alone cannot account for the existence of consciousness. Nagel is currently a Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University.
Web resource: Thomas Nagel's Home Page.
Jean-Luc Nancy received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1973 from the Institut de Philosophie in Strasbourg, studying under Paul Ricouer. He eventually became a Professor at the University of Strasbourg, and, though he is now retired, continues to add publication credits to his already lengthy bibliography. His approach is associated with continental philosophy and deconstructionism, and his work is primarily focused in ontology and literary criticism. Much of his early work focused on commenting on and interpreting the work of
Web resource: Jean-Luc Nancy's Home Page.
Martha Nussbaum earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1975, and is currently the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. Working in the analytic school of philosophy, Nussbaum is has primarily focused on political philosophy, ethics (including animal rights), and feminism. She came from a background of East Coast high society (which she resents) and in her career has experienced no shortage of sexist discrimination, harassment, and resistance as she has entered and challenged the old boys' club of philosophical academia, an institution about which Nussbaum has criticized Noam Chomsky for helping to maintain. On top of all of that, Nussbaum has been awarded 51 honorary degrees.
Web resource: Martha Nussbaum's Home Page.
David Oderberg is an Australian philosopher based in Britain, who currently is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading. Oderberg has worked in the areas of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion, but is perhaps best known for his particularly conservative moral philosophy. In his book influential Applied Ethics (2000), Oderberg argues against
Essentially, Oderberg's moral philosophy centers on his notion of “innocence,” and from that he takes a hardline stance that intentionally ending an innocent life is always morally wrong. For Oderberg, a fetus is an innocent life, and abortion and euthanasia are equivalent to contract killing. However, Oderberg is in support of the state's right to capital punishment as retribution, and in the concept of a “just war.” Animals, in Oderberg's view, are not moral agents, and so have no
Oderberg has also been in the forefront of philosophers interested in renewing traditional (i.e., Aristotelian-Scholastic) metaphysics and bringing it into fruitful contact with contemporary analytical metaphysics, as well as with empirical science.
Web resource: David Oderberg's Home Page.
Alvin Plantinga received his PhD. in 1958 from Yale University, is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and Calvin College, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has delivered the Gifford Lectures twice, and is the 2017 recipient of the Templeton Prize. Plantinga's work blends epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion, largely focusing on the existence and nature of God, argued from a protestant viewpoint, in such books as God and Other Minds (1967), The Nature of Necessity (1974), and Warranted Christian Belief (2000).
As a student, Graham Priest studied more mathematics than philosophy, and earned a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1974 at the London School of Economics for a thesis that combined the philosophy of mathematics and logic. He holds the titles of Professor Emeritus at Melbourne University, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, and is a former President of the Australasian Association
Web resource: Graham Priest's Home Page.
John Searle received his Ph.D. from Oxford in 1959, and is currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. Searle's work primarily addresses problems in the areas of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. Earlier in his career, Searle focused specifically on philosophy of language, particularly the work of J.L. Austin. In his book Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (1969) Searle developed what came to be known as speech-act theory, taking a very systematic approach to investigating the relationship between illocutionary acts and meaning; this would later lead to a major debate with Jacques Derrida.
Web resource: John Searle's Home Page.
Peter Simons earned his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester in 1975, and holds the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, as well as begin an Honorary Professor at the University of Salzburg, a Fellow of the British Academy, President of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy, and is the current Director of the Franz Brentano Foundation. His writing primarily focuses on metaphysics and ontology, as seen in his book Parts: A Study in Ontology (1985), and he is also
Web resource: Peter Simons's Home Page.
Peter Singer received an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Melbourne in 1969, and currently holds the titles of Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. Singer specializes in applied ethics, and is best known for his contemporary utilitarianism. Being a specialist in applied ethics, Singer has been influential not just through his books and articles, but through his actions. He is on the Advisory Boards of several global humanitarian organizations, such as Academics Stand Against Poverty, and Animal Charity Evaluators. Singer is a very popular moral philosopher, both in and out of academia, and because of his fame, influence, outspokenness and moral stance, Singer has garnered controversy and protest, especially among conservative groups.
Read more about Peter Singer in "The 10 Most Controversial College Professors in the U.S." and "The 50 Top Atheists in the World Today."
Web resource: Peter Singer's Home Page.
As an undergraduate, Barry Smith studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Oxford, before earning his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in 1976. Currently, he holds the position of Julian Park Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Computer Science, and Neurology at the University of Buffalo in New York. As evidenced from his professorial titles, Smith occupies both the role of philosopher and scientist, blending the two areas of study through his dual focus
Web resource: Barry Smith's Home Page.
Born in Cárdenas, Cuba, Ernest Sosa earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964 and currently holds the title of Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. Though he has written on metaphysics and philosophy of mind, Sosa is primarily an epistemologist. Sosa has been influential through his introduction of the notion of “virtue epistemology,” developed partly in response to the Gettier problem, which he discusses in his books such as Knowledge in Perspective (1991) and A Virtue Epistemology (2007).
Web resource: Ernest Sosa's Home Page.
Helen Steward, who earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at Oxford in 1992, currently holds the title of Professor of Philosophy of Mind at the University of Leeds. In her work she is primarily concerned with free will, and combines philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophy of action, and ontology. Steward adopts what she describes as an “animalistic” approach to the study of free will, hypothesizing that if we understand
Web resource: Helen Steward's Home Page.
Charles Taylor earned his doctorate degree in philosophy from Oxford in 1961, and holds the title of Professor Emeritus at McGill University. His work is primarily focused in political philosophy, philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy, and in the later portion of his career, philosophy of religion. Taylor's philosophical style lies somewhere between analytical and continental traditions, and he adopts a somewhat hermeneutical approach. Taylor argues for communitarianism, claiming that we as individuals have obligations and responsibilities beyond ourselves to our communities.
Web resource: Charles Taylor's Home Page.
Amie Thomasson received her Ph.D. from University of California Irvine in 1995, and is currently Professor of Philosophy, Cooper Fellow, and Parodi Senior Scholar in Aesthetics at the University of Miami. Thomasson combines the areas of aesthetics, ontology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and phenomenology in her work, arguing against metaphysical skepticism. In Thomasson's view, many of
Web resource: Amie Thomasson's Home Page.
45Judith Jarvis Thomson
Judith Jarvis Thomson received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1959, and is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at MIT. Her work is primarily focused on metaphysics and moral philosophy, in which she uses metaphysics to argue and support moral philosophical claims. Thomson has contributed a great deal to the areas of meta-ethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics, with much of her work arguing for personal bodily autonomy.
Web resource: Judith Jarvis Thomson's Home Page.
Peter Unger studied under A.J. Ayer at Oxford University and earned his Ph.D. in 1966. He currently holds the title of Professor of Philosophy at New York University. Unger's work is focused in metaphysics, epistemology, applied ethics, and philosophy of mind. He is well known for his book Ignorance: A Case for Skepticism (1975) in which he defends philosophical skepticism arguing, basically, that we do not know anything, and cannot claim to know anything, a stance that he has continued to defend in his suggestively titled Empty Ideas: A Critique of Analytic Philosophy (2014). He is the only philosopher on this list defending such views.
Web resource: Peter Unger's Home Page.
47Peter van Inwagen
Peter van Inwagen earned his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester, New York in 1969, and holds the title of John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Van Inwagen is notable for his work in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, the problem of free will, and was the President of the Society of Christian Philosophers from 2010 to 2013. Van Inwagen may be best
Web resource: Peter van Inwagen's Home Page.
Cornel West earned a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1980, making him the first African-American to graduate from Princeton with a Ph.D. He was Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton until 2011, and is currently Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. West has stated that he found as much influence in Malcolm X and the Black Panther movement as he did in his studies at Harvard and Princeton, but as a Christian he did not join the party on religious grounds. In addition to being a philosopher and academic, West is a very prominent and influential social activist, member of the Democratic Socialists of America, author, and public intellectual. West's work focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and class in society. West has sparked controversy because of his outspokenness on these issues in the U.S., and his criticism of the country as continuing to be defined by white supremacist and patriarchal attitudes and institutional structures.
You may have also seen him in one of the Matrix sequels, or heard one of his hip-hop albums. No, really.
Web resource: Cornel West's Home Page.
Crispin Wright earned his Ph.D. from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1968 and is currently a Professor of Philosophy at New York University and Professor of Philosophical Research at the University of Stirling, as well as being a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work is primarily
Web resource: Crispin Wright's Home Page.
Slavoj Žižek earned his Doctor of Arts in Philosophy degree from the University of Ljubljana (the largest and oldest university in his home country of Slovenia) and currently holds the titles of Senior Researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the same university, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities of the University of London. Best known for his contributions to political and continental philosophy, his work draws on the continental tradition and blends political theory, cultural theory, psychoanalysis, film studies and aesthetics, and theology.
Sometimes identified as a “celebrity philosopher,” Žižek's name and face are recognizable beyond academic philosophy. Known for being politically radical and proposing ideas that challenge both liberal and conservative politics alike, Žižek's idiosyncratic approach to philosophy and criticism mixes high and low culture fluidly. He is as well known for his prolific academic bibliography, with books such as The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989), as he is for his appearance in films like The Perverts Guide to Cinema (2006), and even for having written ad-copy to accompany photos in an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog in 2003.
Hilary Putnam went to high school with Noam Chomsky at Central High School in Philadelphia in the 1940s, studied philosophy and mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, and did graduate work in philosophy at Harvard before earning his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1951. He went on to teach at Northwestern, Princeton, and MIT before settling at Harvard, where, most recently, he held the title of Cogan University Professor Emeritus. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and a President of the American Philosophical Association.
Putnam has been influential in analytic philosophy, working in the areas of philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of science, but has had the most significant impact through his work in philosophy of mind. In this area, Putnam is best known for his theory of multiple realizability, which he used to argue against the physicalist type-identity theory of mind. Type-identity theory argues, in brief, that mental states (pain, for example) can be reduced to physical states in the brain. Because of this, “pain” only describes a specific state that occurs in the human brain, and so, is not something that can be attributed to other creatures, as they lack the human brain structure. In response, Putnam argued that mental states cannot be reduced to physical states, and even if another creature lacks the human brain structure and the physical process we associate with pain, be it a bat or a dog or an alien or something even stranger, that creature can still experience the mental state of pain. Through this argument, Putnam has been influential in the development of the functionalist school of thought.
Putnam may also have been his greatest critic, as he would go on to reject, put forth, and reject his own views.
Though we had initially intended for Putnam to be on this list, he passed away on March 13, 2016.
Derek Parfit was Born in Chengdu, China to two medical doctors who were teaching missionaries abroad, grew up wanting to become a poet (an idea he eventually discarded), earned an M.A. in modern history at the University of Oxford in 1964, and continued to study modern history on a fellowship, before finally abandoning the study for philosophy
Web resource: Derek Parfit's Home Page.
Dr. Parfit passed away on January 2nd, 2017. Read more at dailynous.com.
Hubert Dreyfus earned all three of his degrees at Harvard University, culminating in his Ph.D. in 1964, and is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received an honorary doctorate from Erasmus University. His work is primarily focused in phenomenology, and he has been influential as an interpreter of the work of Edmund Husserl, Michel Foucault, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Dreyfus is considered a leading authority on the notoriously dense and confusing philosophy of Martin Heidegger, having written multiple books of commentary Heidegger's work, such as Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division 1 (1990). Dreyfus' work has been influential to other major contemporary philosophers, such as John Searle (also on this list) and Richard Rorty, and he has been a significant critic of Jean Paul Sartre's existentialist phenomenology.
Dreyfus is also notable for his influential critique of Artificial Intelligence, dating back to his 1965 article Alchemy and AI, which draws on his phenomenological background to argue that AI research is problematic because of its reliance on four implausible assumptions: the biological, the psychological, the epistemological, and the ontological. His criticism is, basically, that these assumptions hinge on the notion of a context-free psychology, which he argued is an inherently contradictory idea. Rather than claim AI is impossible, however, Dreyfus argued there needs to be a serious consideration of the current research programs in place. In the 1960s, this was met with criticism and hostility, but his ideas developed influence and acceptance over the next few decades of research.
Web resource: Hubert Dreyfus's Home Page.
Dr. Dreyfus passed away on April 22nd, 2017. Read more at dailynous.com.