French philosophers : From Descartes, who founded modern philosophy, to Lévinas via Sartre, French philosophy is read and celebrated around the world. France has given philosophy its most important and influential contributors, with Germany and Greece where a modest and curious young stonemason became the first philosopher in history. His name is Socrates, he walks barefoot and has only one passion: to learn from others by asking them questions.

Definition of philosophy

Philosophy, from the ancient Greek φιλοσοφία (composed of φιλεῖν, philein: “to love”; and of σοφία, sophia: “wisdom” or “to know”), literally meaning “love of wisdom”, is an approach of critical reflection and of questioning about the world, knowledge and human existence.


Aristotle: “Philosophy is rightly called the science of truth” (Metaphysics)


French philosophers

  • René Descartes: Founder of the cogito – influenced by: Plato, Aristotle
  • Montaigne: Father of humanism precursor and founder of “human and historical sciences”
  • Marie de Gournay wrote The Equality of Men and Women editor and commentator of Michel de Montaigne.
  • Blaise Pascal: Creator of existentialism also French mathematician, physicist, inventor
  • Montesquieu: Thinker of the separation of powers legislative, executive and judicial
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Thinker of democracy influenced by Hobbes and Locke
  • Diderot: Founder of the Encyclopedia prominent figure during the Age of Enlightenment
  • Voltaire: Philosopher of tolerance prominent figure during the Age of Enlightenment.
  • Bergson: Thinker of vital energy influenced by Gilles Deleuze, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Durkheim: developed a vigorous methodology combining empirical research with sociological theory
  • Comte: Formulated the doctrine of positivism influenced by Saint Simon
  • Tocqueville: Observer of democracy French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher
  • Alain (Émile Chartier) : Cartesian thinker, associated with rationalism
  • Bachelard: Epistemologist French philosopher of science, poetry, education and time
  • Baudrillard: French sociologist, philosopher best known for his analyses of media, culture, and communication
  • Sartre: one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology
  • De Beauvoir: significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory
  • Monique Wittig : French philosopher and feminist theorist who wrote about overcoming socially enforced gender roles
  • Camus: French-Algerian philosopher thinker of the absurd
  • Jankélévitch: Thinker of death and moralist influenced by Henri Bergson
  • Lévi – Strauss: key in the development of the theory of structuralism
  • Bourdieu: Marxist sociologist, creator of the sociology of fields
  • Simone Weil: thinker of Christian mysticism and marxism
  • Élisabeth Badinter : best known for her philosophical treatises on feminism and women’s role in society

French philosophers in Paris

Lots of philosophers from above have studied and worked, lived, were buried in Paris : Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Montesquieu, Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau, Simone Weil…

One of my favorite French philosophers are The philosophes des Lumières. This movement began in the second half of the 17th century, originating in France with Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, and spreading throughout Europe. Over time, it became the Siècle des Lumières, in English the Age of Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, these political, social, economic thinkers made commitments against political and religious oppression, social and ethnic injustices and intellectual obscurantism. Finally, these French philosophers inspired the revolution of 1789.


“To philosophize is to give the reason for things, or at least to seek it; for as long as we limit ourselves to seeing and reporting what we see we are only a historian. When we calculate and measure the proportions things, their magnitudes, their values, one is a mathematician – but the one who stops to discover the reason which makes that things are, and that things are rather like that than in another way, it is the philosopher proper “

Diderot and D’Alembert, Encyclopédie, article” Philosophie “


A major icon of the the Age of Enlightenment is Voltaire. Voltaire’s body was transferred to the Pantheon on July 11, 1791 without his heart and his brain, dispatched in other places. In 1864, Napoleon III decided to bring the heart of the philosopher to Paris from Voltaire’s castle in Ferney and to transfer it to the National Library. His heart is placed in the plaster of a statue made by sculptor Houdon: it is still there today. The marble statue of Voltaire at the Comédie-Française in Paris hold his brain. Discover this great man !

PARIS BY EMY offers you tailor made itinerary with hotels recommendations according to your criteria,  private tour guide, restaurants recommendations and more such as our Paris Big Classics Package.

No business partners, vendors have signed a contractual agreement with PARIS BY EMY. We have a tremendous Parisian Network. Be cosseted and faithful in our recommendations. We create unique custom made tours for each client.


Contact us for a free quotation

Email [email protected] Mobile/WhatsApp Paris +33 7 67 38 96 25

By sending your email and in accordance with Article 5 of the GDPR, you expressly consent to the use of your personal data for the purpose of being contacted for a Paris trip project.