English philosophers: a list with names, biographies and major works

English philosophers: a list with names, biographies and major works
English philosophers: a list with names, biographies and major works

In the article we will get acquainted with the most outstanding English thinkers who formed and developed philosophy as a science from the Middle Ages to the present day. Their work had a fundamental influence on the direction of ideas throughout Europe.

English philosophers Alcuin, John Scot Eriugena. Early Middle Ages

philosopher alcuin

English philosophy as a separate branch of knowledge originated in the Middle Ages. The specificity of English thinking was first formed by the British-born Alcuin and John Scotus Eriugena.

Monk Alcuin - theologian, scientist and poet - received an excellent education at the York School, which he later headed. After meeting with Charlemagne in Rome in 781, he was brought closer to the court and founded the Palace Academy, which became the state center of education. Alcuin founded the best scriptorium in Europe at that time, led an active social life, was a political adviser, participated in theological discussions, and developed the English philosophical school. Among his many works, the most outstanding are "Faith in the Holy and Undivided Trinity", "OnVirtues and Vices", "On the Essence of the Soul", "On True Philosophy".

Irish John Scott Eriugena - an outstanding figure of the Carolingian Renaissance, lived and worked at the court of Charles the Bald, led the palace school. His writings mainly concerned theology and philosophy of the Neoplatonic direction. Eriugena, at the invitation of the head of the Reims Metropolis, took part in a theological discussion, as a result of which he published a treatise "On Divine Predestination", which became the mainstay of Christian doctrine. Another significant work of the philosopher, which had a significant impact on all Western European scholasticism, is the work "On the Division of Nature".

Anselm of Canterbury

Religious scholasticism on English soil was nurtured by Anselm of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the English Church in the 11th century, a Catholic theologian, thinker and founder of scholasticism. He enjoyed great influence at court and in religious circles. Being uncompromising in matters of canon law, he earned respect in the highest environment of the Catholic clergy, Pope Urban II communicated with him on an equal footing.

The Archbishop of Canterbury published many treatises that brought the philosopher fame in Europe. Historians call the main ones Proslogion, Monologion, Cur Deus homo. Anselm was the first to systematize Christian doctrine and use ontology to prove God's existence.

High Middle Ages: John Duns Scotus

John Duns Scott

Significant contribution to the development of English philosophicalThoughts were introduced by John Duns Scotus, one of the most prominent thinkers of the High Middle Ages. His life is associated with many legends. One of the legends says that Duns Scotus, naturally dumb-witted, received a revelation from above, after which he gained rich spiritual and mental abilities. In adulthood, he showed subtlety and depth of thinking. His original works "Treatise on the Origin", "Natural Knowledge", as well as the compilation "Oxford Essay", published by students after the death of Duns Scotus, marked the transition to the philosophy of the Renaissance.

13th-14th centuries: decline of scholasticism

In the Oxford school in the middle of the 13th century, the traditions of the philosophy of nominalism developed, which determined the emphasis on the theory of knowledge and anti-metaphysical orientation. The English philosophers Roger Bacon and William of Ockham were prominent representatives of this specific trend. They demarcated the worlds of incomprehensible spirituality and scientifically based knowledge of reality. Thinkers argued that everything in nature takes place only according to the laws of physics without mystical admixture. Roger Bacon first introduced the concept of "experimental science". His most famous works are Opus Majus, Opus Minus, Opus Tertium and Compendium Studii Philosophiae.

The development of English philosophical thought in the Renaissance

English Philosophy in the Renaissance

During the Renaissance, Thomas More laid the foundations of modern socialism. His views and understanding of the optimal structure of the socio-political system are set forth in the book "Utopia" (1516).Having a law degree, he built a clear logical structure of the state system, in which all sections of society would have equal rights and opportunities, severely criticized the existing order and proposed a reform program.

At the same time, the scientist and English philosopher Francis Bacon stated that only practice can be the criterion of truth, and gave rise to British empiricism and materialism, having developed the anti-scholastic method of inductive knowledge. He outlined his ideas and methods in the works "On the Dignity and Multiplication of Sciences", "Experiments, or Instructions Moral and Political", "New Atlantis", as well as in the religious treatises "New Organon", "Sacred Reflections", "Confession of Faith". His scientific research in inductive methodology was called "Bacon's method".

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes collaborated with F. Bacon, which left an imprint on the worldview of the latter. Hobbes was an adherent of mechanistic materialism, rejecting the existence of an incorporeal sensible substance. The thinker also made a significant contribution to the development of the political philosophy of the social contract. In the treatise "Leviathan", he first voiced the idea of ​​subordinating the church to the monarch and using religion as a tool to control the people.

The theory of knowledge of the material essence of being was further developed by the outstanding English philosopher of the 17th century John Locke. His ideas were inspired by David Hume, who also showed interest in the moral character of society.


Like the English philosophers of the 18th century, the thinkers of the Enlightenment developed the direction of materialism. The spread of positivism and the theory of inductive knowledge was given impetus by the industrial revolution. English philosophers Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer were engaged in these areas.

Charles Darwin

Ch. Darwin - a famous naturalist and traveler - showed no interest in learning as a child. He found his vocation at the University of Edinburgh, when in 1826 he became a student of the natural sciences. This scientific direction captured the young man, he began to make rapid progress, and already in his youth he was accepted into the ranks of the scientific elite. Few people know that in addition to the theory of evolution and a number of serious discoveries, Darwin owns works on philosophy, in which he develops the idea of ​​materialism, recognizing positivism as the only correct direction in the methodology of scientific thought.

It is interesting that the English philosopher Spencer, 7 years before the publication of Darwin's work on the evolution of species, voiced the idea of ​​"survival of the fittest" and recognized natural selection as the main factor in the development of wildlife. Just like Darwin, Herbert Spencer was a supporter of inductive knowledge of reality and trusted exclusively scientifically based facts. At the same time, Spencer developed other areas of philosophical thought: liberalism, the principles of individualism and non-intervention, the concept of social institutions. The philosopher's key work of 10 volumes is "The System of Synthetic Philosophy".

XIX century

British philosophy of the nineteenth century

J. Stuart Mill was known as an outstanding British philosopher of the 19th century. He had a brilliant mind: at the age of 12 he began to study higher mathematics, and at 14 he received the full cycle of knowledge of a university student. He was engaged in the development of liberalism, defending the idea of ​​individual freedom. Together with his wife Harriet he worked on the essays "On the Subordination of Women", "Political Economy". Peru Mill belongs to the fundamental works "System of Logic", "Utilitarianism", "On Freedom".

Hegelianism was popularized at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The English philosophers Thomas Green, Francis Bradley and Robin Collingwood gave this vector a form of absolute idealism. They occupied the conservative positions of the "old school" and were supporters of absolute idealism. They presented their ideas in the works: Prolegomena to Ethics (T. Green), "Ethical Research" and "Essay on Truth and Reality" (F. Bradley), "Idea of ​​History" (R. Collingwood).

New time

Oxford University

The next stage of knowledge was neorealism, formed by the works of George Moore and Bertrand Russell. The English scientist and philosopher J. Moore developed the method of logical analysis, criticized subjective idealism and defended the concept of autonomous ethics in his main work Principia Ethica. In turn, Bertrand Russell defended pacifism and atheism in his work, made a fundamental contribution to the theory of knowledge. He was one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.

Alfred Ayer, a British neo-positivist philosopher, is also known for his work, and he defined analytic philosophy as the dominant direction of modern philosophical thought in the English-speaking intellectual environment.

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