The List of Those Past

JANE ADDAMS, Chicago, USA (1860-1935). First American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, cofounded the ACLU, NAACP, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the flagship social settlement, Hull House.  Authored a dozen books and 500 articles that significantly influenced John Dewey and William James.  

HANNAH ARENDT, Germany, France, and the United States (1906–1975). Refugee from Nazi Germany who taught and wrote that there are no foundations or everlasting truths to ground our political practices. Dared to name the way evil emerges when people just do their jobs and don’t think about whether their jobs should be done.

ARISTOTLE, Macedonia, Greece (384–322 BCE). Immigrated to Athens where he lived without citizenship and was subjected to anti-Macedonian sentiment. Dared to question central doctrines of his teacher, Plato. After the death of his student, Alexander, and critics accusing him of impiety, skipped town to avoid Athens putting another philosopher to death.

ANNETTE BAIER, New Zealand and USA (1929-2012). Always saw herself as an outsider, whether in NZ, Oxford, or the USA. An expert on Descartes and Hume, Baier challenged the orthodox readings of these great philosophers and was the first philosopher to focus on trust. 

CHARLES AUSTIN BEARD,  USA (1874-1948). Eminent historian, resigned in 1917 from Columbia University after it dismissed two professors who publicly opposed World War I. “Having observed closely the inner life of Columbia for many years,” Beard wrote in his resignation letter, “I have been driven to the conclusion that this university is really under the control of a small and active group of trustees who have no standing in the world of education, who are reactionary and visionless in politics, narrow and medieval in religion.” 

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR, France (1908-86). At age 21, came in second to Sartre on the agrégation at the École Normale, though word is she didn’t get first place because of her sex. Later wrote the The Second Sex, inaugurating second wave feminism, and with Sartre the ideal of being able to write a lot while drinking much wine on the Left Bank.

FRANZ BOAS, Germany and New York (1858-1942). Anthropologist, anti-racist, anti-fascist.

CLAUDIA CARD, Wisconsin (1940-2015). Showed how evil throws people into gray zones of complicity. Argued that marriage and motherhood underlie women’s oppression.

SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK, South Carolina and New York (1898-1987). Educator and founder of the citizen schools of the civil rights movement. According to MLK, the mother of the civil rights movement.

HENRY STEELE COMMAGER, (1902-1989). Historian, teacher, and outspoken critic of loyalty oaths and McCarthyism. In a 1947 essay for Harper’s, he asked: “What is the new· loyalty? It is, above all, conformity. It is the uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of America as it is—the political institutions, the social relationships, the economic practices. It rejects inquiry into the race question or socialized medicine, or public housing, or into the wisdom or validity of our foreign policy. It regards as particularly heinous any challenge to what is called ‘the system of private enterprise,’ identifying that system with Americanism. It abandons evolution, repudiates the once popular concept of progress, and regards America as a finished product, perfect and complete.”

ANNA JULIA COOPER, Born in slavery in North Carolina (1858–1964). Feminist philosopher, political thinker, linguist, mathematician, and literature scholar who saw colonized peoples as agents of history. A regular on right-wing watchlists and as a result lost her job.

OTTOBAH CUGOANO/aka JOHN STUART, Ghana  (c. 1757 – after 1791).  African abolitionist and natural rights philosopher.

RENE DESCARTES, France (1596-1650). Geometer and a founder of modern philosophy, dared to question everything he learned in Catholic school, even for a little while the existence of God. Decided against publishing one of his works so he wouldn’t face a fate like Galileo’s.

JOHN DEWEY, Burlington, Vermont (1859-1952). Philosopher, pragamatist, educator, and one of the founders of the American Association of University Professors, which is still fighting to this day for academic freedom.

W.E.B. DU BOIS, Atlanta, Georgia (1868–1963). True founder of American sociology, philosopher, historian, and political activist against lynching, Jim Crow, nuclear proliferation, and much more. Eventually joined the Communist Party USA (yup–definitely on the Watchlist).

ALBERT EINSTEIN, Germany and Princeton, NJ (1879-1955). Discovered that famous equation. Refugee then immigrant. Oh, and was an ardent pacifist, socialist, antiracist, and pen-pal with W.E.B. Du Bois.

FRANTZ FANON, Martinique  (1925–1961). Philosopher, psychiatrist, political theorist, sociologist, ambassador, revolutionary anti-colonialist.

ANTENOR FIRMIN, Haiti (1850 – 1911). Anthropologist, jurist, philosopher, and statesman. Fought for the dignity of blacks in history and the integrity of Haiti against onslaughts from the USA.

CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN, USA (1860-1935). Writer and lecturer who saw the responsibilities women were assigned at the time as wasteful of their talents as well as of natural resources.

HE YIN ZHEN, China  (1884–1920). Feminist political philosopher, whose ideas outline many of the themes in contemporary feminist thought from the Global South.

THOMAS HOBBES, England (1588-1679). Believed in the rule of law as the only escape from the state of nature in which life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

RICHARD HOFSTADTER, New York (1916-1970). Saw McCarthyism as a result of anti-intellectualism and a paranoid style in U.S. politics, apt lessons for today.

DAVID HUME, Scotland (1711-1776). Woke Kant from his dogmatic slumber.

IBN RUSHD/AKA AVERROES, Andalusia (1126–1198). Islamic philosopher and jurist, tried as a heretic.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Virginia (1743-1826). Founded the University of Virginia. Also helped found the United States of America. In the Federalist-Papers-exchange was a strong advocate for more radical democracy but had a fatal flaw of being a slave owner.

JESUS OF NAZARETH (4 BCE-c. AD 30). Notorious radical and troublemaker, taught the poor, executed by the state.

HERACLITUS OF EPHESUS (535-475 BC). Ancient Greek philosopher who believed in change.

HYPATIA, Alexandria, North Africa (c. 370 ACE–415 ACE). Mathematician, pagan philosopher and mathematician dragged through the streets, skinned alive, and burnt to death by Christian zealots for nearly everything she represented, namely being  a woman guilty of  thinking. 

IBN RUSHD/aka AVERROES, Andalusia (1126–1198). Islamic philosopher and jurist, tried as a heretic.

IMHOTEP, ancient KMT/Egyptian (2980 BCE).  Philosopher, poet, astronomer, physician, architect.

HERBERT MARCUSE, Germany and USA (1898-1979). Member of the Frankfurt School who fled Nazi Germany for Switzerland and then the USA; subsequently  inspired the leftist student movement in the 1960s; became known as “the father of the new left.” 

GALE MCGEE, Wyoming (1915-1992). History professor, scholar of international affairs, became a US Senator and later an ambassador to the Organization of American States.

JOHN STUART MILL, England(1806-73). Utilitarian, maintained that actions should be judged by whether they contribute to the greatest good of the greatest number and argued against both slavery and the subjection of women to men.

LEONEL MITCHELL, New York and Indiana (1930-2012) Episcopal priest, esteemed liturgist, and an early supporter of the ordination of women.

MOZI China (c. 400s-300s BCE). Consequentialist philosopher and military strategist; argued that we ought to care for everyone universally and impartially; opposed all forms of military aggression.

SCOTT NEARING Pennsylvania (1883-1983). Economist fired from Penn’s Wharton School in 1915 for connecting his teaching on economics to the social issues in Philadelphia. Fired a year later from his position as a dean at Toledo University for his opposition to American entry into WWI. In 1918, Debs called him “the greatest teacher in the United States.” 

MICHAEL OAKESHOTT, English (1901-1990).  The intelligent conservative’s conservative.

AMERICO PAREDES, Brownsville and Austin, TX (1915–1999). Folklorist and scholar of the Texas-Mexican border; celebrated the songs and stories of Mexican Americans; inspired a generation of Chicano scholars.

LINUS PAULING, California (1901-1994). Winner of two Nobel Prizes (Chemistry and Peace) and the most influential chemist of the 20th Century. In the early 1950s was denied a passport to travel abroad to scientific conferences because, the State Department said, it was not in the U.S.’s  “best interests.”

CHRISTINE DE PISAN Italy and France, (1364–c. 1430). Feminist woman philosopher in Christendom.

PTAHHOTEP, ancient KMT/Egyptian (late 25th century BCE). Philosopher arguing for humanistic values.

HILARY PUTNAM, Cambridge, MA (1926-2016). American mathematician, computer scientist and philosopher, an outspoken defender of democratic ideals, famous for changing his mind, often coming to embrace more left-leaning and emancipatory ideas.

RICK RODERICK, Austin, TX (1949-2002). Acclaimed teacher and radical philosopher to the core. His lectures can still persuade even fascists to come around.

RICHARD RORTY USA (1931-2007). In 1979 repudiated his analytic philosophy background to embrace and help revive the American pragmatist tradition, managing to shock the analytic philosophy establishment, consternate old school pragmatists, and confound postmodernists. A collection of interviews took its title from his mantra, “Take Care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself.”

BERTRAND RUSSELL, United Kingdom (1872-1970). Logician and social critic, religious skeptic, advocate for women’s suffrage, free love, sex education, contraception, easy divorce, homosexual law reform, racial equality (eventually), and inter-racial marriage. 1950 Nobel Laureate for literature. Protested  UK involvement in nuclear arms race.

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE, France (1905-80). Existentialist, emphasized freedom and the individual, arguing that human beings are what they do, that they choose and are responsible for their values as well as for their actions, and that the freedom of anyone requires the freedom of all.

SOCRATES, Athens, Greece (~470-399 BCE). Wandered around Athens questioning those in authority, accused of believing in false gods and corrupting the youth. Sentenced to death.

SRI AUROBINDO, East India (1872–1950). Anti-colonialist, radical philosopher, education innovator, poet, and yogi. His work in transcendental philosophy, philosophy of mind, social and political philosophy, philosophy of religion, and his abilities as an institution-builder brought him to the attention of British intelligence to the point of his having to spend his last years in French-controlled Pondicherry. His ideas are of great relevance to contemporary science and global ecology as well.

ALAN TURING, United Kingdom (1912-1954). Renowned logician, mathematician, computer scientist. A leading code breaker for the allied forces during WWII and a founding father of artificial intelligence. Convicted of “gross indecency” for homosexual acts in 1952 and sentenced to “hormone therapy.” Subsequently died of cyanide poisoning—perhaps by his own hand, perhaps not.

FORREST WIGGINS, Indiana, USA, (1907-1982). Outspoken scholar/activist. First African-American to be hired at a major state university philosophy department Minnesota). In 1952, fired for leftist teaching and associations.

ZERA YACOB, Ethiopia (1599–1692). Philosopher arguing for, among other things, the equality of women and radical questioning.

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