10 Philosophers Who Will Help You Change The Way You Think

Top Tips January 26, 2017 By Vincent

It is only by looking at the world in different ways that we are able to truly identify how we feel as we perceive things from different angles and open ourselves up to different thought processes and ideas. Forcing us to question everything around is and how we interact with it, philosophy is a powerful subject and, if used properly, can completely change someone's life.

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Here we document a few philosophers who have ideas that could just do that.


1. Hannah Arendt

An extremely important thinker of the 20th century, Arendt was exiled from her native Germany in 1933 during the second world war and she turned her thoughts to the world around her and how the horrors that were happening had come about and could come about again.

An independent thinker, her views are not easily categorizable but she thought politics in its authentic form is the result of citizens exercising their ability to act and to deliberate on common issues. In a time when 'alternative facts' have begun to take hold, perhaps it is time we turn to someone who thought 'non-thinking is more dangerous than any thought you can have.'


2. Noam Chomsky

A virulent political commentator who often focuses on the language used by politicians and the media in how it helps (or fails) to push certain agendas forward, Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT and changed the face of linguistics in the mid-20th century with his arguments on the innateness of language. 

He looks at not just the news, events, and issues of the day but how they are framed and presented and how this affects us.


3. Alain de Botton

More of a cultural theorist, de Botton often squares up to pop-culture phenomenon and aspects of everyday life to break them down and look at them in their intricacies and minuteness.  With the belief that like in ancient Greece, philosophy should have some practical utility in society, de Botton uses his work to write and present documentaries on relatable topics.

Taking in everything from work, success and status anxiety to travel, love and happiness de Botton tries to offer a route to happiness through the use of philosophy.


4. Epicurus

An ancient Greek philosopher who founded the Epicurean school of thought, he focussed a lot of his attention on the pursuit of happiness and how to attain it ith which he thought was possible by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, as well being self-sufficient and surrounding yourself with your friends.

As such, he advocated a lifestyle of modesty and restraint towards your desires.


5. Arne Naess

A Norwegian mountaineer who spent a lot of his time interacting with nature it is, perhaps, of little surprise that Naess advocated an approach to the environment where it has value irrespective of the value that humans give to it, and Naess promoted the idea that fighting for the sake of the environment is different from trying to save the environment for the sake of the health and survival of human beings.

Because of this, he was at the forefront of the environmentalism movement offering a distinctive point of view on why humanity should not be destroying the planet but doing its very best to save it.


6. Martha Nussbaum

Expanding on the philosophies of social justice laid out by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, the American Martha Nussbaum argues that everyone, regardless of mental capacity, age or gender should be treated with respect to this dignity and have the opportunity to have capabilities such as bodily health, the development of thought and reasoning, the ability to play and the development of emotional capabilities.

Presenting a positive view of humanity, the driving ideology behind her theories are born of the concept that love triumphs over mutual advantage when it comes to basic humanity.


7. Jean-Paul Satre

Commonly associated with existentialism, Sartre's beliefs revolved around the thought that each of us is entirely free and that we are the ones who determine our own fate. Sartre argued that the thought that we have no choice or that our choices are determined by our circumstances are 'bad faith' and that we need to break out of this process and recognize our freedoms.

A playwright and novelist, Sartre produced many works that involved his philosophies.


8. Peter Singer

With thoughts on ethics, Peter Singer became a figurehead for animal rights activists when he presented a philosophy which acknowledges the rights of non-human animals to not be subjected to testing and experimentation, as well as industrial farming. He did a TED talk on ‘The Why and How of Effective Altruism‘ that explains even small sacrifices can go a long way.

 His distinguished book Animal Liberation in 1975 remains at the forefront of animal activist thinking today.


9. Baruch Spinoza

A Dutch philosopher from the 17th-century, Spinoza believed that true happiness could be found not in transitory pleasures nor in the superstitions of religion, but in reason itself arguing that even the human mind works under the principles of the physical laws of nature as opposed to the complete freedoms advocated by other philosophers.

Spinoza was not a thinker professionally but worked a labor intensive job as a lens grinder and it was thought that this contributed to his theories along with his death.


10. Slavoj Zizek

A Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic who has entered pop-culture himself by commenting on everything from social, political and economic turmoil to things occurring and happening within pop culture as he draws from philosophers such as  Hegel and Kant and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

He has, to some extent, made philosophy itself relevant again to political discussions, putting an emphasis on thinking rather than just doing.

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