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The History of Western Philosophy – Charted

By | source:Source Feb 24th, 2024

An interesting chart on the history of western philosophy and how some of the most notable figures are linked.


Socrates (469-399 BC) is often heralded as the father of Western philosophy. His Socratic method of questioning challenged Athenian norms, laying the groundwork for critical thinking. Interesting to note, Socrates wrote no books; our understanding of his ideas come from his pupils, notably Plato. But remember, Socrates’ central philosophy was about living a virtuous life, a message that still resonates today.


Fast forward to Aristotle (384-322 BC). Unlike Socrates, he wasn’t just a philosopher but a polymath. His contributions spanned across physics, poetry, zoology, logic, and more. A fun fact is that Aristotle was the tutor to Alexander the Great, who reportedly carried Aristotle’s work during his conquests. His influence undoubtedly shaped Western thought.


In between Socrates and Aristotle was Plato (428-348 BC), a student of Socrates and teacher to Aristotle. Plato’s philosophy was about finding the ideal form of things, a concept he used to critique Athenian democracy. His writings, such as “The Republic,” have had a significant influence on philosophy, political theory, and even mathematics.

Seneca the Younger

Let’s skip ahead to Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 65 AD). He was a notable stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist of the Silver Age of Latin literature. His stoicism was about finding peace in a chaotic world, a philosophy that’s seen a resurgence in the 21st century.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Next up is Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), famous for his work “The Prince,” which remains a controversial piece of political theory. Machiavellianism, as it’s known, is about the ends justifying the means. While Machiavelli might have a dubious reputation, his influence on political realism cannot be understated.

Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was the thinker who popularized the phrase, “I think, therefore I am.” His methodical approach to doubt and understanding reality has had a profound influence on modern philosophy and science.

John Locke

Then there’s John Locke (1632-1704), a pioneer of Enlightenment thinking and political liberalism. His views on knowledge coming from experience and his theories on government having a social contract with the people influenced both the American and French revolutions.

David Hume

David Hume (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher who took skepticism to a new level. He questioned everything from personal identity to causality, paving the way for a broader understanding of human perception.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is next on our list. Kant argued that our understanding of reality is shaped by our perception. His categorical imperative, a principle that demands moral laws be universal, is a cornerstone of modern philosophical ethics.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was not just a philosopher but also a revolutionary socialist. His works like “Das Kapital” and “The Communist Manifesto” have shaped world politics for over a century, with countries like Russia and China adopting his ideas.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Finally, we reach Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Nietzsche challenged traditional morality and religion, and his idea of the Übermensch, or “overman,” has had a lasting impact on Western philosophy and pop culture. Despite his controversial ideas, Nietzsche’s philosophy of life affirmation is uniquely optimistic.

Each philosopher here has left an indelible mark on Western philosophy, shaping our understanding of the world around us. Their ideas continue to challenge us, reminding us of the power of questioning and the pursuit of truth.