Greatest German Philosophers Who Ever Lived

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher, who is famous for his theories on existentialism and phenomenology. He was associated with existentialism, despite his efforts to stay away from it. His work had a crucial influence on the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre.

Martin Heidegger Quotes

He gave the world a phenomenological critique of Kant and wrote widely on Nietzsche and Holderlin. His work did not just influence the literary world but made a substantial impact on fields such as philosophy, theology, art, architecture, artificial intelligence, cultural anthropology, design, literary theory, social theory, political theory, psychiatry, and psychotherapy. He wrote one of the most important works on philosophy of the 20th century, ‘Sein und Zeit (Being and Time)’.

He published the book under pressure to meet the criteria for Husserl’s chair at the University of Freiburg and the accomplishment of this work made his appointment to the post certain. He led a highly controversial life because of his association with the Nazi Party during World War II, an action he neither ever regretted nor apologized for in the public.

Edmund Husserl

Edmund Husserl was a celebrated German philosopher who is accredited with establishing the school of phenomenology. His early works included elaborate critiques of psychologism in logic and of historicism. He also worked towards developing ‘phenomenological reduction’, a kind of systematic foundational science. His works, philosophies, thoughts and researches have profoundly influenced the philosophical landscape of the twentieth century.

Edmund Husserl Quotes

His fundamental methodological principle was what he called “phenomenological reduction”, essentially a kind of reflection on intellectual content. He asserted that he could justifiably “bracket” the data of consciousness by suspending all preconceptions about it, including (and especially) those drawn from what he called the “naturalistic standpoint”. Thus, it really did not matter, in his philosophy, whether an object under discussion really existed or not so long as he could at least conceive of the object, and objects of pure imagination could be examined with the same seriousness as data taken from the objective world.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx was a 19th century philosopher, political economist and revolutionary, who gave socialism a scientific foundation. Marx was devoted to the study of philosophy and history from a young age and was about to become an assistant professor in philosophy before his life took a different direction and he became a revolutionary. From a very young age, he started participating in a number of political activities and addressed a wide variety of social concerns. He is known for, among other things, his analysis of history and his arguments for a logical understanding of socioeconomic amendment through radical action.

Karl Marx Quotes

While Marx was a relatively undistinguished figure in his lifetime, his philosophies, which later came to be known as ‘Marxism’, began to wield a major impact on workers’ movements shortly after his death. The revolution which he instigated reached its apex when the Marxist Bolsheviks emerged victorious during the Russian October Revolution and soon different theoretical variants of communism began branching out from ‘Marxism’ such as Stalinism, Trotskyism and Leninism. Some of his most famous works like ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and ‘Das Kapital’ had great influence on political leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Leon Trotsky.

Ludwig Feuerbach

Ludwig Feuerbach was a nineteenth century German philosopher, known for his critique of religious belief. He is commonly regarded as a bridge between the philosophies of Hegel and Marx. Along with Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche, Feuerbach was one of the philosophical outsiders who rebelled against the academic philosophy of the nineteenth century and thought of themselves as reformers and prophets of a new culture. He began his career as an enthusiastic follower of Hegel, but eventually rejected Hegelian idealism which supported Christianity, and developed instead a materialist interpretation of religion.

Ludwig Feuerbach Quotes

Feuerbach emerged in the 1840s as a leader of the Young Hegelians, after the publication of The Essence of Christianity (1841), in which he contended that all the doctrines of Christianity, including the concept of God, were a reflection of either of human characteristics or of the deepest wishes of human nature. Feuerbach maintained that the proper object of philosophical study is man himself, and nature, rather than God or a reality which transcends human experience. His later writings were concerned with developing a materialistic humanism and an ethics of human solidarity. Feuerbach is most remembered for his influence on Karl Marx and for his humanistic materialism.

Max Weber

Arguably the foremost social theorist of the twentieth century, Max Weber is known as a principal architect of modern social science along with Karl Marx and Emil Durkheim. Weber’s wide-ranging contributions gave critical impetus to the birth of new academic disciplines such as sociology as well as to the significant reorientation in law, economics, political science, and religious studies. His methodological writings were instrumental in establishing the self-identity of modern social science as a distinct field of inquiry; he is still claimed as the source of inspiration by empirical positivists and their hermeneutic detractors alike.

Max Weber Quotes

Weber’s two most celebrated contributions were the “rationalization thesis,” a grand meta-historical analysis of the dominance of the west in modern times, and the “Protestant Ethic thesis,” a non-Marxist genealogy of modern capitalism. Together, these two theses helped launch his reputation as one of the founding theorists of modernity. In addition, his avid interest and participation in politics led to a unique strand of political realism comparable to that of Machiavelli and Hobbes.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher during the Enlightenment era of the late 18th century. He synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism; set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields.

Immanuel Kant Quotes

At the foundation of Kant’s system is the doctrine of “transcendental idealism,” which emphasizes a distinction between what we can experience (the natural, observable world) and what we cannot (“supersensible” objects such as God and the soul). Kant argued that we can only have knowledge of things we can experience. Accordingly, in answer to the question, “What can I know?” Kant replies that we can know the natural, observable world, but we cannot, however, have answers to many of the deepest questions of metaphysics.

Towards the end of his most influential work, Critique of Pure Reason(1781/1787), Kant argues that all philosophy ultimately aims at answering these three questions: “What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?” The book appeared at the beginning of the most productive period of his career, and by the end of his life Kant had worked out systematic, revolutionary, and often profound answers to these questions.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was a famous 19th century German philosopher and philologist known for his critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science. He was widely known for his ideas like death of God, perspectivism, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, and the will to power. He started his career as a classical philologist and at the age of 24 years was the youngest individual to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. His writings mostly remained controversial and were often criticized for their anti-Christian faith. His work was later recognized and considered as carrying great personality development elements.

Friedrich Nietzsche Quotes

It was said that German soldiers used to get a copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra during World War I for inspiring themselves. Famous political leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Charles de Gaulle and Richard Nixon read his writings and were influenced by his ideas. His writings also influenced many profound thinkers of 20th century including Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Leo Strauss, Albert Camus, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze.

Georg Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a famous German philosopher who lived in the 18th century. He completed his theological studies from a Protestant seminary but was not inclined to become a clergy. He was deeply influenced by the French Revolution and Hellenic civilization during his younger days. He was interested in the study of Metaphysics, ‘Naturphilosophie’, Philosophy of History, Political Philosophy, Logic and Aesthetics. He carried out deep study of the works of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Kant and Fichte to seek knowledge.

Georg Hegel Quotes

He went on to take private tuitions and subsequently lectured at the universities of Jena, Heidelberg and Berlin. He wrote several books and articles, which are considered as major philosophical works of his time. He is the founder of Hegelianism Historicism, ‘Naturphilosophie’ and belonged to the school of German Idealism coupled with Absolute and Objective Idealism. His thoughts included Absolute Idealism, Hegelian Dialectic and ‘Sublation’. At the time of his death, he was one of Germany’s most prominent philosophers. His views are highly regarded even today and are interpreted differently by right wing conservatives and left wing followers, who are more inclined towards an atheistic position.

Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a noted German polymath, philosopher, meta-physicist, historian, lawyer and political advisor. Born in the same era as Isaac Newton, in his lifetime he was accused of plagiarizing Newton’s work, but since 1900, scholars have acknowledged that he developed differential and integral calculus, independently of Newton. Today, he finds an important place in the history of mathematics, being acknowledged also for inventing Leibniz’s notation, Law of Continuity and Transcendental Law of Homogeneity.

Leibniz Quotes

Moreover, his works on binary system form the basis of modern computers. He was also a prolific inventor in the field of mechanical calculator, being first to describe a pinwheel calculator, later inventing the Leibniz wheel. In the field of philosophy, he views are considered optimistic and in metaphysics, he is best-known for his theory of monads, which he described as elementary particles with blurred perceptions of one another. Unfortunately, for a man as talented as he was, he received little appreciation during his life time and died a lonely death in Hanover; his funeral being shunned by all except his private secretary.

Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, journalist, businessman and close aid of Karl Marx. He, along with Karl Marx, founded the socialist theory and co-authored ‘The Communist Manifesto’. Engels was considered to be a brilliant mind and was quick and sharp in his judgement. Despite being a businessman, he also had knowledge about branch of natural sciences, physics, botany, chemistry and biology. Engels published countless articles and more than dozen books in his lifetime. But, his most notable work till now has been ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ which he wrote in 1844. It was published in German in 1845 and in English in 1892. Along with this, he published ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’ with Karl Marx in 1848.

Friedrich Engels Quotes

Engels’ interests were poetry, fox-hunting and Sunday parties. His personal motto was ‘take it easy’, and ‘jollity’ was considered to be his most favourite virtue. Engels was a polyglot and was able to speak many languages, such as English, Russian, French, Italian, Portuguese, Irish Gaelic, Spanish, Polish and Milanese dialect. Vladimir Lenin had praised Engels in his speech where he appreciated the efforts put forward by him and Karl Marx in explaining socialism to the world.

Albert Einstein

Do you fondly call the whiz kid in your class/ organization ‘Einstein’? If yes, then you aren’t the only one who does so. People around the world honor their friends and acquaintance with the title of ‘Einstein’ for the person’s immaculate brilliance and genius mind. While there may be a lot of genius mind set at work to this date, only once in a century is Albert Einstein born. The 19th century not just witnessed the birth of Albert Einstein, but with it, the birth of modern physics. Rightly known as the Father of Modern Physics, Albert Einstein was, without a doubt, the most influential physicist of the 20th century.

Albert Einstein Quotes

With his research and finding, Einstein created a revolution in the field of science. Amongst his numerous works: (a) the general theory of relativity, which provided a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time, and (b) photoelectric effect that established the quantum theory within physics are the most important ones. During his lifetime, Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers, apart from 150 non-scientific works. He was the proud recipient of numerous awards, such as Nobel Prize in Physics, Copley Medal, Matteucci Medal and Max Planck medal. Other than these, he has also been credited by the Times magazine as the Person of the Century. Such was his contribution to mankind that his name Einstein has been made synonymous to being “genius”.

Friedrich Schiller

Voted by a Franco-German TV network as ‘the second most important playwright in Europe after William Shakespeare’, Friedrich Schiller is widely revered to as one of the most important classical playwrights of Germany. He managed to conceive new forms of expression in drama like bourgeois tragedy and melodrama. During his lifetime, Schiller formed an intimate and close friendship with the famous writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Friedrich Schiller Quotes

Schiller encouraged Goethe to finish many of his incomplete works and their discussions led to the creation of what came to be known as ‘Weimar Classicism’. They also worked on the collection of satirical poems titled, ‘Xenien’. During his lifetime, he authored many papers on philosophy, ethics and aesthetics. Many of his stage plays have been adapted by composers of the 20th century and later. During his earlier days he was trained to be a priest but later obtained a degree in medicine. He initially worked as a regimental physician but later quit the same to watch the opening of one of his plays.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a key personality in the list of German writers and polymaths. He is regarded as the supreme genius of modern German literature. His literary works include epic as well as lyric poetry which he wrote in different styles, dramas of diverse kinds as well as his autobiography. He also contributed to botany and anatomy. Though he was quite conservative, as well as a devout Christian, he firmly opposed many teachings of the Christian churches and said that there were a lot of differences between Christian theology and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Goethe was also deeply involved in politics.Von Goethe Quotes

During the French Revolution, he felt that the enthusiasm of the people was nothing more than a perversion of their energy and refused to accept that the people had the ability to govern themselves. He never wrote nationalistic poems though he was requested to do so several times. He felt that doing so would only incite hate between the German and the French, and he never hated the French. Many well-known philosophers such as Friedrich Hegel, Carl Jung and Ludwig Wittgenstein were inspired by the works of Goethe.

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