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Plato, one of the great Western philosophers of antiquity.
Confucius, one of the great Eastern philosophers.
Hypatia, an ancient Western philosopher.

A philosopher is someone who studies philosophy. This person usually has extensive knowledge concerning one or more of the fields of aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, as well as social philosophy and political philosophy. Occasionally they use this knowledge to solve philosophical problems.

A generally accepted interpretation in academia is that a philosopher is one who has attained a Ph.D. in philosophy, teaches philosophy, and has published literature in a field of philosophy or is widely accepted by other philosophers as a philosopher.


Philosophers usually cover a breadth of topics within philosophy in their undergraduate education, and then proceed to specialize in topics of their own choice at the graduate level. In some universities, a qualifying exam serves to test both the breadth and depth of a student's understanding of philosophy; the students who pass are permitted to work on a doctoral dissertation.


Though it is true that philosophy finds diverse applications in many areas of research, a philosopher does not determine the value of an idea by the diversity of its applications alone. A substantial minority of philosophers focus their research exclusively upon the history of philosophical inquiry. Nonetheless, philosophers realize or invent an analysis in order to show how ideas and/or concepts can "work" productively within a set of contingent cause and effect relationships.

Just as the natural sciences are built on a persistent curiosity and healthy skepticism with regard to how we interpret what we see - never accepting any explanation as truth if that explanation cannot be supported by empirical evidence - philosophical inquiry reflects a persistent curiosity and healthy skepticism in regards to what we define as truth, empirical, evidence, and thought. The usefulness of an idea, and studying the interpretation of an idea, is situated within the historical events that gave possibility to the idea, and in the potential to study how these ideas can work to shape our lives. How we think about what counts as real, affects and conditions the way that we interact and think. Philosophers often seek to identify and analyze the consequences of ideas and concepts.

Differences with scientists

Philosophy differs from natural science in that scientists subject truth claims to tests by empirical experiments, while philosophical propositions may be tested by thought experiments and are conclusions of philosophical arguments.

Women in Philosophy

While the majority of philosophers are male, there have been some demographic changes since the 20th century. Some prominent female philosophers are Marilyn McCord Adams, Patricia Churchland, Ayn Rand, Elizabeth Anscombe, and Susan Haack.

Prizes in Philosophy

Prominent prizes in Philosophy include the Avicenna Prize, the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy and the Rolf Schock Prizes.

Quotations about Philosophers

The following are quotations about Philosophers, or by Philosophers.

  • "There is nothing so absurd that it has not been said by some philosopher." -- Cicero in De Divinatione, Book II, chapter LVIII, sec. 119.
  • "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." -- Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, thesis 11.
  • "Philosophers, for the most part, are constitutionally timid, and dislike the unexpected. Few of them would be genuinely happy as pirates or burglars." -- Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays, Chapter IV, Part iii, p. 74.
  • "It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards." --Søren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers (1843)

See also

Some notable Philosophers include:


External links

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