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A chronological list of philosophers and philosophical thought with major eras or periods of time demarcating the largely philosophical periods of history.

  • Classical antiquity era, or period (8th or7th century BC - 5th century AD) -- a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, which begins roughly with the earliest-recorded Greek poetry of Homer (8th-7th century BC), and continues through the rise of Christianity and the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th century AD), ending in the dissolution of classical culture with the close of Late Antiquity (300-600 AD), or the similar and better known periodization of history, the Early Middle Ages (500-1100 AD).
    Wikipedia contributors, ""Classical antiquity,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Homer (8th or 7th century BC) - not necessarily a philosopher, but his writings demarcate the beginning of Classical Antiquity era, or period. From a philosophical perspective of the examination of 'self', it is interesting to note that in his works, the Iliad and Odyssey, revealed little conception of self as a single entity within the body. Homer rarely refers to the internal mental state of his heroes, or to their sense of self or identity. Equally, there is an absence of ideas such as 'mind', 'soul' or 'consciousness.' The Homeric psyche seems to designate a life-force within us - a life-force not unique to humans, or even animals, but something possessed even by trees and magnets - rather than the place at which thinking and feeling occurs. (Malik, 2000, pp 43)
  • Socrates (470 - 399 BC) - widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. Plato's teacher. Perhaps his most important contribution to Western thought is his dialectic (answering a question with a question) method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method or method of elenchos, which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the Good and Justice. It was first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues. For this, Socrates is customarily regarded as the father of political philosophy and ethics or moral philosophy, and as a fountainhead of all the main themes in Western philosophy in general.
    Wikipedia contributors, ""Socrates,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Plato (428 - 348 BC) - a unified soul is a single locus of all our thinking and feeling. Thought referred to both an internal process by which humans come to understand the world AND to the external order of things which must be understood. The process of thinking was the process of coming to realize the rational order that exists in the world. There is no modern concept of self and the distinction between the inner self and outer world. (Malik, 2000, pp 43 - 44).
  • Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) - Same a Plato, thought referred to both an internal process by which humans come to understand the world AND to the external order of things which must be understood. 'Actual knowledge is identical to its object' - Aristotle. Ideas are not representations of the world confined to the mind, but are located in the world iteself. There is no modern concept of self and the distinction between the inner self and outer world. (Malik, 2000, pp 43 - 44).
  • Middle Ages (500 - 1500s AD) -- The Pax Romana, with its accompanying benefits of safe conditions for trade and manufacture, and a unified cultural and educational milieu of far-ranging connections, had already been in decline for some time as the 5th century drew to a close. Now it was largely lost, to be replaced by the rule of local potentates with a dramatic change in economic and social linkages and infrastructure.
  • Black Death (1348 -1350) - the plague kills one-third to two-thirds of the people of Europe.
  • Renaissance (1300s - 1500s) -- The principal features were the revival of learning based on classical sources, the rise of courtly and papal patronage, the development of perspective in painting, and the advancements of science.
    Wikipedia contributors, ""Renaissance,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Early Modern Period (1500s - late 1700s) -- a term used by historians to refer to the period in Western Europe and its first colonies which spans the time between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution that has created modern society. The early modern period is characterized by the rise to importance of science and increasingly rapid technological progress, secularized civic politics and the nation state. Capitalist economies began their rise, beginning in northern Italian republics such as Genoa. The early modern period also saw the rise and dominance of the economic theory of mercantilism. As such, the early modern period represents the decline and eventual disappearance, in much of the European sphere, of Christian theocracy, feudalism and serfdom.
    Wikipedia contributors, ""Early modern Europe,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Reformation (1300s - 1530 ) -- Starting with Wycliffe's proposing reform in the Roman Catholic Church, through Luther's publication of 95 Theses... in 1517, to the formation of a church separate from Rome in 1530. His original intention was not schism, but with the Reichstag of Augsburg (1530) and its rejection of the Lutheran ""Augsburg Confession,"" a separate Lutheran church finally emerged.
    Reformation's principal arguments were based on ""direct"" Biblical interpretation. The Roman Catholic Church had for several centuries been the main purveyor in Europe of non-secular humanism: the neo-Platonism of the scholastics and the neo-Aristotelianism of Thomas Aquinas and his followers had made humanism a part of Church dogma. This was of course due to the Catholic Church's use of historic, religious tradition (including the Canonization of Saints) in the forming of its liturgy. Thus, when Luther and the other reformers adopted the standard of sola scriptura, making the Bible the sole measure of theology, they made the Reformation a reaction against the humanism of that time. Previously, the Scriptures had been seen as the pinnacle of a hierarchy of sacred texts.
    The Protestants emphasized such concepts as salvation by ""faith alone"" (not faith and good works or infused righteousness), ""Scripture alone"" (the Bible as the sole rule of faith, rather than the Bible plus Tradition), ""the priesthood of all believers"" (eschewing the special authority and power of the Roman Catholic sacramental priesthood), that all people are individually responsible for their status before God such that talk of mediation through any but Christ alone is unbiblical. Because they saw these teachings as stemming from the Bible, they encouraged publication of the Bible in the common language and universal education.
    Humanism's intellectual anti-clericalism would profoundly influence Luther. The increasingly well-educated middle sectors of Northern Germany, namely the educated community and city dwellers would turn to Luther's rethinking of religion to conceptualize their discontent according to the cultural medium of the era. The great rise of the burghers, the desire to run their new businesses free of institutional barriers or outmoded cultural practices, contributed to the appeal of humanist individualism.
    Wikipedia contributors, ""Protestant Reformation,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) -- in 1543 argued for the heliocentric theory of the solar system.
  • Scientific Revolution (1543 or earlier - around 1800)-- a period of fundamental transformation in scientific ideas in physics, astronomy, biology, in institutions supporting scientific investigation, and in the more widely held view of the universe.
  • Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) -- penned inductive reasoning, proceeding from observation and experimentation. See induction.
  • Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) -- an Italian physicist, astronomer, astrologer, and philosopher who is closely associated with the scientific revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope, a variety of astronomical observations, and effective support for Copernicanism. According to Stephen Hawking, Galileo probably contributed more to the creation of the modern natural sciences than anybody else. He is often referred to as the ""father of modern astronomy,"" as the ""father of modern physics"", and as the ""father of science"". The work of Galileo is considered to be a significant break from that of Aristotle. The motion of uniformly accelerated objects, treated in nearly all high school and introductory college physics courses, was studied by Galileo as the subject of kinematics. Wikipedia contributors, ""Galileo Galilei,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) -- published the first two of his three laws of planetary motion in 1609.
  • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) -- ...ridiculed the Aristotelian notion that 'stones and metal had a desire, or could discern he place they would be at, as man does.' (Malik, 2000, pp 322)
  • Age of Reason, (1600s) -- separate from the Age of Enlightenment, refers to 17th-century philosophy, a successor of the Renaissance and a predecessor to the Age of Enlightenment.
  • René Descartes (1596 - 1650) - 'I think, therefore I am' - established 'first person privilege', drawing a distinction between the inner world of the mind and the outer world of reality. To know reality is to have a correct representation of things, a correct picture within of outer reality. Man is also imbued with innate ideas from birth. Descartes proposed a humanist view of man. (Malik, 2000, pp ) See humanism.
    Descartes, like Bacon, sought to find a way through the skepticism of Renaissance scholarship to establish a new basis on which to found objective knowledge. Descartes method is based on four precepts -
    • to accept nothing as true which I clearly did not recognize to be so
    • to divide up each of the difficulties which I examined into as many parts as possible
    • to carry on my reflections in due order, commencing with the objects that were most simple and easy to understand, in order to rise, little by little, or by degrees, to knowledge of the most complex
    • to make enumerations so complete and reviews so general that I should be certain of having omitted nothing

    In an age in which reason meant solely arguing from ancient texts, Descartes' approach was indeed revolutionary. His commitment to arguing from first principles came to be called rationalism.
    Descartes proposed the metaphysical system of dualism - there are two kinds of substance, matter and mind. Everything that is ""matter"" is deterministic (see determinism), belonging to natural philosophy, and everything that is ""mind"" is volitional and non-natural, and falls outside the philosophy of nature. Wikipedia contributors, ""Natural philosophy,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
    Descartes pioneered deductive reasoning. See deduction. The work of René Descartes, who set much of the agenda as well as much of the methodology for those who came after him. Wikipedia contributors, ""17th-century philosophy,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Robert Boyle (1627 - 1691) -- an Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, inventor, and early gentleman scientist, noted for his work in physics and chemistry. Although his research and personal philosophy clearly has its roots in the alchemical tradition, he is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry. Boyle's law, the discovery of the part taken by air in the propagation of sound. Boyle's great merit as a scientific investigator is that he carried out the principles which Francis Bacon preached in the Novum Organum. Wikipedia contributors, ""Robert Boyle,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • John Locke (1632 - 1704) - who more than any other philosopher kick-started the process of viewing the mind as an object. Locke suggested that human irrationality was the product of erroneous association of ideas, which became fixed in childhood. Human progress could be managed through managing experiences and education to produce better human beings. Locke created metaphysics, almost as Newton created physics, reducing metaphysics to the experimental physics of the soul. Locke's work allowed philosophers to replace revelation with knowledge as the basis for moral conduct. Locke rejected the Cartesian notions of innate ideas, the belief that 'Characters ... are stamped on the Mind of Man, which the Soul receives in its very first Being.' Locke pictured the mind as a white paper, void of all characters and ideas, upon which experience writes. (Malik, 2000, pp 51, 66, 64-65).
  • Sir Issac Newton (1643 - 1727) -- an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, and natural philosopher, regarded by many as the greatest figure in the history of science.[2] His treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, laying the groundwork for classical mechanics. By deriving Kepler's laws of planetary motion from this system, he was the first to show that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws. The unifying and predictive power of his laws was integral to the scientific revolution, the advancement of heliocentrism, and the broader acceptance of the notion that rational investigation can reveal the inner workings of nature.
    Enlightenment philosophers chose a short history of scientific predecessors-Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally-as the guides and guarantors of their applications of the singular concept of Nature and Natural Law to every physical and social field of the day. In this respect, the lessons of history and the social structures built upon it could be discarded.
    It was Newton's conception of the universe based upon Natural and rationally understandable laws that became the seed for Enlightenment ideology. Locke and Voltaire applied concepts of Natural Law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights; the physiocrats and Adam Smith applied Natural conceptions of psychology and self-interest to economic systems...
    Source: Wikipedia contributors, ""Isaac Newton,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • The Age of Enlightenment - 1700s - philosophers, inspired by the natural philosophy of the 1600s, especially Newton's kinematics, argued that the same kind of systematic thinking could apply to all forms of human activity. Kant defined the Enlightenment, in the essay ""Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?"", as an age shaped by the motto, ""Dare to know.""
  • Industrial Revolution (late 1700s - 1840s) -- a major shift of technological, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions in the late 18th and early 19th century that began in Britain and spread throughout the world. During that time, an economy based on manual labour was replaced by one dominated by industry and the manufacture of machinery. It began with the mechanisation of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canals, improved roads and railways. The introduction of steam power (fuelled primarily by coal) and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity.[1] The development of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries. Wikipedia contributors, ""Industrial Revolution,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • David Hartley (1705 - 1757) -- His principal work Observations on Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations was published in 1749, three years after Condillac's Essai sur l'origine des connaissances humaines, in which similar theories were expounded. It is in two parts--the first dealing with the frame of the human body and mind, and their mutual connections and influences, the second with the duty and expectations of mankind. His two main theories are the doctrine of vibrations and the doctrine of associations.
    Doctrine of vibrations -- Hartley's physical theory gave birth to the modern study of the intimate connection of physiological and psychical facts, though his physical theory in itself is inadequate. He believed that sensation is the result of a vibration of the minute particles of the medullary substance of the nerves, to account for which he postulated, with Newton, a subtle elastic ether, rare in the interstices of solid bodies and in their close neighbourhood, and denser as it recedes from them. Pleasure is the result of moderate vibrations, pain of vibrations so violent as to break the continuity of the nerves. These vibrations leave behind them in the brain a tendency to fainter vibrations or ""vibratiuncles"" of a similar kind, which correspond to ""ideas of sensation."" This accounts for memory. Bolding added to the original text.
    Doctrine of associations -- The course of reminiscence and of the thoughts generally, when not immediately dependent upon external sensation, is accounted for by the idea that there are always vibrations in the brain on account of its heat and the pulsation of its arteries. The nature of these vibrations is determined by each man's past experience (path dependence), and by the circumstances of the moment (context), which causes one or another tendency to prevail over the rest. Sensations which are often associated together become each associated with the ideas corresponding to the others; and the ideas corresponding to the associated sensations become associated together, sometimes so intimately that they form what appears to be a new simple idea, not without careful analysis resolvable into its component parts. Words in parentheses and bolding added to the original text.
    Free will -- Starting from a detailed account of the phenomena of the senses, Hartley tried to show how, by the above laws, all the emotions, which he analyses with considerable skill, may be explained. Locke's phrase ""association of ideas"" is employed throughout, ""idea"" being taken as including every mental state but sensation. He emphatically asserts the existence of pure disinterested sentiment, while declaring it to be a growth from the self-regarding feelings. Voluntary action is explained as the result of a firm connexion between a motion and a sensation or ""idea,"" and, on the physical side, between an ""ideal"" and a motory vibration. Therefore in the Freewill controversy Hartley took his place as a determinist. It was only with reluctance, and when his speculations were nearly complete, that he came to a conclusion on this subject in accordance with his theory.
    Wikipedia contributors, 'David Hartley (philosopher)', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 January 2007, 13:07 UTC, [accessed 31 January 2007]
  • David Hume (1711-1776) -- a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian.
    All human reasoning is of two types -- Hume view is that all human reasoning is of two kinds, Relation of Ideas and Matters of Fact. While the former involves abstract concepts like mathematics where deductive certitude presides, the latter involves empirical experience about which all thought is inductive. Now, since according to Hume, we can know nothing about nature prior to its experience, even a rational man with no experience ""could not have inferred from the fluidity and transparency of water that it would suffocate him, or from the light and warmth of fire that it would consume him."" (EHU, 4.1.6) Thus, all we can say, think, or predict about nature must come from prior experience, which lays the foundation for the necessity of induction.
    Free will and determinism -- Hume went beyond the free will and determinism conflict to note there is a conflict between indeterminism and free will, because with indeterminism your actions are completely random. Thus, free will seems to require determinism, because otherwise, the agent and the action wouldn't be connected in the way required of freely chosen actions.
    Is-ought problem -- Hume presented a nasty challenge regarding how exactly can you derive an 'ought' from an 'is.' See is-ought problem.
    Wikipedia contributors, ""David Hume,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 1, 2007).
  • Adam Smith (1723 - 1790) -- a Scottish political economist and moral philosopher. His Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was one of the earliest attempts to study the historical development of industry and commerce in Europe. That work helped to create the modern academic discipline of economics and provided one of the best-known intellectual rationales for free trade, capitalism, and libertarianism. One of the main points of The Wealth of Nations is that the free market, while appearing chaotic and unrestrained, is actually guided to produce the right amount and variety of goods by a so-called ""invisible hand.""
  • Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804) -- regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of modern Europe and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. Kant defined the Enlightenment, in the essay ""Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?"", as an age shaped by the motto, ""Dare to know"" (latin: Sapere aude). This involved thinking autonomously, free of the dictates of external authority. Kant's work served as a bridge between the Rationalist and Empiricist traditions of the 18th century. He had a decisive impact on the Romantic and German Idealist philosophies of the 19th century. His work has also been a starting point for many 20th century philosophers.
    Kant asserted that ""All the preparations of reason, therefore, in what may be called pure philosophy, are in reality directed to those three problems only (God, Soul, Freedom). These themselves, however, have a still further object, namely, to know what ought to be done, if the will is free, if there is a God, and if there is a future world. As this concerns our actions with reference to the highest aims of life, we see that the ultimate intention of nature in her wise provision was really, in the constitution of our reason, directed to moral interests only. ""
  • Pierre-Jean Cabanis (1757-1808) - the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile (Malik, 2000, pp 50)
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831) -- His great achievement was to introduce for the first time in philosophy the idea that History and the concrete are important in getting out of the circle of philosophia perennis,, see perennial philosophy. Also, for the first time in the history of philosophy he realised the importance of the Other in the coming to be of self-consciousness.
    The Other -- Crucially, for Hegel, self-consciousness cannot come to be without first recognising another self-consciousness. Such an issue in the history of philosophy had never been explored and the conclusion of which, marks a watershed in European philosophy.
    Innovation in logic -- In response to Immanuel Kant's challenge to the limits of Pure Reason, Hegel developed a radically new form of logic, which he called speculation, and which is today popularly called dialectics. Hegel's dialectically dynamic model of nature and of history made it, as it were, a fundamental aspect of the nature of reality (instead of regarding the contradictions into which dialectics leads as a sign of the sterility of the dialectical method, as Kant tended to do in his Critique of Pure Reason).
    Freedom -- Since 1990, new aspects of Hegel's philosophy have been published that were not typically seen in the West. One example is the idea that the essence of Hegel's philosophy is the idea of freedom. With the idea of freedom, Hegel attempts to explain world history, fine art, political science, the free thinking that is science, the attainment of spirituality, and the resolution to problems of metaphysics.
    Wikipedia contributors, ""Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 1, 2007).
  • 2nd Industrial Revolution (1850s -into the 1900s) -- when technological and economic progress gained momentum with the development of steam-powered ships, railways, and later in the nineteenth century with the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation. By 1920 innovator Henry Ford, father of the assembly line, stated, ""There is but one rule for the industrialist, and that is: Make the highest quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.""
    It has been argued that GDP per capita was much more stable and progressed at a much slower rate until the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy, and that it has since increased rapidly in capitalist countries.
    Wikipedia contributors, ""Industrial Revolution,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).
  • Charles Robert Darwin (1809 - 1882) -- Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection offered a new form of causality, change occurring from chance variation.
    Darwin's theory of evolution makes human beings an integral part of the natural world and suggests a way of resolving the Cartesian conundrum: the human mind is as much a part of the natural world as is the human body. (Malik, 2000, pp 27).