Hannah Arendt, Philosopher and Political Theorist was born 14 October 1906 Linden, German Empire (present-day Hanover, Germany). In 1922-23, Arendt began her studies (in classics and Christian theology) at the University of Berlin, and in 1924 entered Marburg University, where she studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger. She was Jewish and escaped Europe during the Holocaust, becoming an American citizen. Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honor. During World War II, Arendt worked for Youth Aliyah, a Zionist organization, which saved thousands of children from the Holocaust and settled them in the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1958, she published The Human Condition and Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess. In 1959, she published “Reflections on Little Rock,” her controversial consideration of the emergent Black civil rights movement. In 1961, she published Between Past and Future, and traveled to Jerusalem to cover the trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann for the New Yorker. Hannah Arendt is a most challenging figure for anyone wishing to understand the body of her work in political philosophy. She never wrote anything that would represent a systematic political philosophy, a philosophy in which a single central argument is expounded and expanded upon in a sequence of works. She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1962 and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1964.
John Nicholas Gray, Philosopher was born 17 April 1948 (age 68) South Shields, United Kingdom. He is an English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He attended grammar school in South Shields, then studied at Exeter College, Oxford, reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), completing his B.A., M.Phil. and D.Phil. He has written several influential books on politics and philosophy, including False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998), which argues that free market globalization is unstable and is in the process of collapsing, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2003), which attacks philosophical humanism, a worldview which Gray sees as originating in religious ideologies, and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007), a critique of Utopian thinking in the modern world. He has served as a visiting professor at Harvard University (1985–86) and Stranahan Fellow at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University (1990–1994), and has also held visiting professorships at Tulane University’s Murphy Institute (1991) and Yale University (1994). He was Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science until his retirement from academic life in early 2008.
Michael Joseph Oakeshott, Philosopher and Political Theorist was born December 11, 1901, Chelsfield, Kent, England. He was an educator whose work belongs to the philosophical tradition of objective idealism. He is regarded as an important and singular conservative thinker. In political theory Oakeshott is best known for his critique of modern rationalism. Michael Oakeshott attended St. George’s School, Harpenden from 1912 to 1920. During 1920, Oakeshott went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge to read History, where he obtained an MA and subsequently became a Fellow. While at Cambridge, he admired the British idealist philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart and the medieval historian Zachary Nugent Brooke. The historian Herbert Butterfield was a contemporary and fellow member of the Junior Historians society. He was dismayed by the political extremism that occurred in Europe during the 1930s, and his surviving lectures from this period reveal a dislike of National Socialism and Marxism. Oakeshott published his first book, Experience and its Modes, in 1933. He noted that the book owed much to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and F. H. Bradley; commentators also noticed resemblances between this work and the ideas of thinkers such as R. G. Collingwood and Georg Simmel. He also wrote about philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, philosophy of education, and philosophy of law.
Learned Hand, Judicial Philosopher was born Jan. 27, 1872, Albany, NewYork, U.S. He was never a justice of the Supreme Court, he is generally considered to have been a greater judge than all but a few of those who have sat on the highest U.S. court. He served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and later the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Hand is known as much for his eloquent prose as for his unusual name, and his opinions are widely taught in law schools. He was born and raised in Albany, New York, Hand majored in philosophy at Harvard College and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. After a short career as a lawyer in Albany and New York City, he was appointed at the age of 37 as a Federal District Judge in Manhattan in 1909. He was an intellectual leader in the judiciary. Between 1909 and 1914, under the influence of Herbert Croly’s social theories, Hand supported New Nationalism. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge promoted Hand to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which he went on to lead as the Senior Circuit Judge (later retitled Chief Judge) from 1939 until his semi-retirement in 1951.He was a proponent of balancing tests in the, and used them often. He was the first to apply economic concepts to legal analysis. Hand has been called one of the United States’ most significant judicial philosophers.
Bernard Williams, Moral Philosopher was born Sept. 21, 1929, Westcliff, Essex, England. Williams was educated at Chigwell School, Essex, and Balliol College, Oxford. During the 1950s he served in the Royal Air Force (1951–53) and was a fellow of All Souls College and New College, Oxford. He became known for his efforts to reorient the study of moral philosophy to psychology, history, and in particular to the Greeks. Williams was a strong supporter of women in academia; according to Nussbaum, he was “as close to being a feminist as a powerful man of his generation could be.” He was also famously sharp in conversation. He was appointed Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 1967 and Provost of King’s College, Cambridge, in 1979. His publications include Problems of the Self (1973), Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985), Shame and Necessity (1993), and Truth and Truthfulness (2002). He was knighted in 1999.
Charles Sanders Peirce, Philosopher, Logician, Mathematician, and Scientist was born Sept. 10, 1839, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. He was noted for his work on the logic of relations and on pragmatism as a method of research. An influential thinker and polymath, Peirce is among the greatest of American minds. Peirce applied scientific principles to philosophy, his understanding and admiration of Kant also colored his work. Peirce was analytic and scientific, devoted to logical and scientific rigor, and an architectonic philosopher in the mold of Kant or Aristotle. His best-known theories, pragmatism and the account of inquiry, are both scientific and experimental but form part of a broad architectonic scheme. An innovator in mathematics, statistics, philosophy, research methodology, and various sciences, Peirce considered himself, first and foremost, a logician. In 1934, the philosopher Paul Weiss called Peirce “the most original and versatile of American philosophers and America’s greatest logician”. Keith Devlin similarly referred to Peirce as one of the greatest philosophers ever.
David Hume, Philosopher, Historian, Economist, and Essayist was born 7 May NS (26 April OS) 1711 Edinburgh, Scotland, Great Britain. Hume conceived of philosophy as the inductive, experimental science of human nature. Hume tried to describe how the mind works in acquiring what is called knowledge. He concluded that no theory of reality is possible; there can be no knowledge of anything beyond experience. Hume attended the University of Edinburgh at the unusually early age of twelve at a time when fourteen was normal. He made a philosophical discovery that opened up to him “a new Scene of Thought”, which inspired him “to throw up every other Pleasure or Business to apply entirely to it” when he was 18. At 25 years of age, Hume, although of noble ancestry, had no source of income and no learned profession. He worked for four years on his first major work, A Treatise of Human Nature, subtitled “Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects”, completing it in 1738 at the age of 28. After the publication of Essays Moral and Political in 1744, which was included in the later edition called Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, Hume applied for the Chair of Pneumatics and Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. However, the position was given to William Cleghorn after Edinburgh ministers petitioned the town council not to appoint Hume because he was seen as an atheist.
Adam Smith, Moral Philosopher, pioneer of political economy, and a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment was born 16 June 1723 NS (5 June 1723 OS) Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. Smith studied social philosophy at the University of Glasgow and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was one of the first students to benefit from scholarships set up by fellow Scot, John Snell. After graduating, he delivered a successful series of public lectures at Edinburgh, leading him to collaborate with David Hume during the Scottish Enlightenment. Adam Smith remains a towering figure in the history of economic thought. Known primarily for a single work—An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), the first comprehensive system of political economy—Smith is more properly regarded as a social philosopher whose economic writings constitute only the capstone to an overarching view of political and social evolution. Smith laid the foundations of classical free market economic theory. The Wealth of Nations was a precursor to the modern academic discipline of economics. Smith began delivering public lectures in 1748 in Edinburgh, sponsored by the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh under the patronage of Lord Kames.
Michel de Montaigne French Philosopher, generally known as Michel de Montaigne, who was born on February 28, 1533, in Château de Montaigne (near Bordeaux, in France). He was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. He began to write personal and subjective reflections on topics such as religion, education, friendship, love and freedom. Montaigne called his original work essais, which means “attempts” in French. He developed a new literary genre: the essay. Both before and after his death, Montaigne’s essays were widely read. At the age of 59, Montaigne died in Château de Montaigne on September 13, 1592.
Aristotle Greek Philosopher was born circa 384 B.C. in Stagira, Greece. In Athens, Aristotle enrolled in Plato’s Academy, Greek’s premier learning institution, and proved an exemplary scholar. Aristotle maintained a relationship with Greek philosopher Plato, himself a student of Socrates, and his academy for two decades. His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government – and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Shortly after Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip of Macedon, tutored Alexander the Great starting from 343 BC. In 322 B.C., just a year after he fled to Chalcis to escape prosecution under charges of impiety, Aristotle contracted a disease of the digestive organs and died.