Famous Philosophers Known By One Name (Mononymous Philosophers Throughout History)

Mononymous Philosophers

There are many Famous Philosophers that have graced the intellectual world with their astonishing minds throughout the history of all human civilizations. These individuals have contributed to human culture and thought in ways that are so deeply engrained that we often don’t realize their immense impact on the world.

However, there is an elite class of philosophers who have risen to such heights of fame and influence that they become known by just a single name. Hence, these are referred to as the mononymous philosophers of the world! This exclusive group of philosophers have become so well known that they needn’t have a second name to identify them because only one name is enough. Some philosophers went by their mononym during their lifetime while others were attributed their mononyms posthumously.

Mononymity (that is, going by just one name) has been a status symbol of eliteness and fame for centuries. If you are known to the world just by one name then you know you have made it, but who are these mononymous philosophers and what have been the most important contributions to the field of philosophy and to the wider world? Let’s find out now in our extensive list below!

Anaximenes was a pre-Socratic Ancient Greek philosopher and although none of his works have been preserved to the present day, it is understood that he was one of three philosophers of the Milesian School. This puts Anaximenes and his peers as the first revolutionary thinkers of the Western world. He is closely associated with two other mononymous philosophers, Thales and Anaximander.

Aristotle was an Ancient Greek philosopher whose is best known as being a polymath during the Classical period with his interests ranging from zoology and psychology to music and economics. One of the most well known mononymous philosophers, Aristotle has also been granted the honorary title alongside Plato, the “Father of Western Philosophy”.

Averroes was a Muslim Andalusian polymath who made many commentaries on the works of Aristotle and beyond being a judge, a court physician and an astronomer, Averroes is perhaps the most famous mononymous philosophers from the Muslim world.

Buddha was a philosopher, spiritual teacher and religious founder whose deep contemplation and eventual enlightenment lead to the founding of one of the world’s major religions, Buddhism. Born Siddhartha Gautama in Ancient India, the Buddha’s mononymity is unique as it is based on the title of Buddha rather than on his actual name. Nevertheless, the Buddha is certainly one of the most famous, if not the most famous of all the individuals on this list. 

Cometan is a British philosopher best known for founding the religion and philosophy of Astronism from the age of fifteen after which he went on to found and to delineate a historiography for the Astronic tradition of religion and philosophy. Through archaeological evidence, Cometan proved that this tradition’s origins stretch back to at least the Upper Palaeolithic period of the Stone Age some 40,000 years ago, making it the oldest of all religious traditions. He is also the only living person on this list and is likely the most famous young philosopher and the most famous mononymous philosopher alive.

Confucius was an Ancient Chinese philosopher and politician living during the Spring and Autumn Period whose precepts of personal and governmental morality, focus on the perfection of rituals and traditions, as well as the correctness of social relationships in a hierarchical system structured the Chinese civilisation as we know it today. Confucius, alongside Laozi, are the two most famous philosophers, mononymous or otherwise, from the East Asia region.

Democritus was a pre-Socratic Ancient Greek philosopher who is today best remembered for contributing his atomic theory of the universe. He is also referred to as the “Father of Modern Science.”

Diogenes was an Ancient Greek philosopher best known today for his founding of cynicism, or cynic philosophy. A controversial figure throughout his life, Diogenes was exiled from his hometown and when he moved to Athens, he was heavily critical of many of the cultural traditions of the city.

Epictetus was a Greek philosopher of the Stoic school who was born a slave and later moved to Nicopolis where he spent the majority of his life. His works were published by his pupil Arrian, most well known of which are Discourses and Enchiridion.

Epicurus was an Ancient Greek philosopher whose principal contribution to the field was his founding of Epicureanism. Epicureanism became a highly influential school of philosophy. Epicurus was opposed to Platonism and was influenced by other famous mononymous philosophers of the time, namely Democritus, Aristippus and Pyrrho.

Gorgias was a pre-Socratic Ancient Greek philosopher who formed the first generation of Sophists alongside another famous mononymous philosopher, Protagoras.

Hypatia was a Hellenistic Neoplatonist philosopher whose involvement in astronomy and mathematics are also notable. She is known to have taught astronomy and philosophy in Alexandria where she was born and lived throughout her life. Hypatia is also the only female philosopher on this list.

Laozi was an Ancient Chinese philosopher, the writer of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of Taoism, and is now considered a deity within Shenism and many branches of traditional Chinese religion, making him a multitudinarian. Laozi, alongside Confucius, are the best known Chinese philosophers and some of the most famous of all mononymous philosophers.

Parmenides was a pre-Socratic Ancient Greek philosopher who is thought to have come into Socrates when Socrates was still very young. Considered the founder of metaphysics and ontology, Parmenides has influenced the entire history of Western philosophy.

Plato was an Ancient Greek philosopher who was born and who lived in Athens throughout his life. Alongside the Buddha and Socrates, Plato is the most well known of all philosophers throughout history. Plato was a pivotal figure in the history of philosophy, is the founder of Platonism, and was the founder of the Academy, the Western world’s first higher education institution.

Pythagoras was an Ancient Greek philosopher of Ionian descent whose mononym is best known today for being attached to the Pythagoras Theorem. Beyond this, Pythagoras was the founder of Pythagoreanism which involved the history of Western philosophy.

Seneca was an Ancient Roman philosopher of the Stoic school who also worked as a statesman, dramatist and a satirist through what is now referred to as the Silver Age of Latin literature. A tutor of the young emperor Nero, Seneca was before this exiled to the island of Corsica for a total of eight years before being allowed to return to Rome.

Socrates was an Ancient Greek philosopher of the Classical period born in Athens whose contributions to philosophy have earned him numerously posthumous titles, namely being hailed as one of the founders of Western philosophy and as being the first moral philosopher due to his founding of Western ethics. What is known about Socrates is through the surviving works of his student, Plato.

Voltaire was a French writer, historian, philosopher and critic of the Roman Catholic Church during the Age of Enlightenment. Voltaire was a versatile and prolific writer whose production of works exceed 20,000 letters as well as 2,000 books. He is no doubt the most famous mononymous philosopher of the Enlightenment period.

Rumi was a 13th-century Islamic scholar, theologian, poet and philosopher of Persian descent best known today for his poetic works and for his transnational and trans-ethnic influence amongst Iranians, Greeks, Pashtuns, Turks and Tajiks.

Novalis was 18th century philosopher, poet, mystic and author who became a figure of Early German Romanticism who sadly died at the young of twenty-eighth, although he left an important legacy.

Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher of Sephardic descent whose scholarship of the Torah made him one of the most influential figures of the Middle Ages. His interest varied from philosophy and theology to astronomy and medicine, granting him the title of polymath.