Famous Philosophy Majors

Here is a list of famous individuals who were Philosophy Majors!


William Bennett– former Secretary of Education and Head of the Drug Enforcement Agency

Patrick Buchanan– former Presidential Candidate and Political Columnist

Angela Davis–Social Activist and Political Philosopher

Jules Debray–Writer and Government Official, France

Rahm Emanuel–Clinton White House Political Advisor

Thomas Jefferson–U.S. President

Vaclav Havel–former President of Czeckoslovakia

Aung San Suu Kyi–Human Rights Activist, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Robert MacNamara–Secretary of Defense and Head of the World Bank

John Silber–former Candidate for Governor of Massachusetts and President of Boston University

David Souter–Supreme Court Justice




Wes Anderson–Filmmaker and Writer (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic) Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

Mary Higgins Clark–Mystery Writer

Joseph Chaikin–Theatre Director

Ethan Coen–Filmmaker and Writer (Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Romance and Cigarettes) Philosophy, Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Umberto Eco–Novelist and Semiologist

Ken Follett–British Writer

Michael Frayn–Novelist

Northrup Frye–Literary Critic

Martin Gardner–Essayist

Philip Glass–Composer

Rebecca Goldstein–Novelist

Claude Lanzsmann–Film Maker

Michael Lerner–Editor/Publisher Tikkun Magazine

Ira Levin–Writer

James Michener–Writer

Iris Murdoch–Novelist

Steve Reich–Composer

Meyer Schapiro–Art Critic

Alexander Solzhenitsin–Writer

Wallace Shawn–Playwright and Actor, BA in History from Harvard, studied Philosophy at Oxford

Susan Sontag–Writer

David Foster Wallace–Novelist

Elie Wiesel–Writer



Joseph Bernardin–Cardinal, Chicago

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf–Muslim leader, Arabic scholar

Mircea Eliade–Religious Studies

Martin Luther King, Jr–Minister & Civil Rights Leader

Madelyn Murray O’Hair–Famous Atheist

Pope John Paul II—Pope and Vicar of Christ

Willard Scott—Meterologist, NBC, American University, Religious Studies

Michael Lerner–Editor/Publisher Tikkun Magazine

George Pires — Nobel Peace Prize (1958)

George Stephanopoulos — Political Commentator, Masters degree in theology at Balliol College, Oxford University, England, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and graduated summa cum laude in political science.

Shane Battier — Professional Basketball Player, Duke University, Religious Studies




Gertrude Himmelfarb–Historian

Herbert Simon–Economist, and Nobel Laureate

C. Vann Woodward–Historian




Phil Jackson–Coach, Chicago Bulls

Michael McKaskey–Owner, Chicago Bears

Aaron Taylor–Offensive Tackle, Green Bay PackersJohn Elway, Quarterback, National Football League

Mick Schmidt–former Philadelphia Philly



Woody Allen–Director and Comedian

John Chancellor–News Broadcaster

Harrison Ford–Actor

Chris Hardwick–MTV Host

Bruce Lee–martial arts & actor

Jay Leno, Comedian and Host of The Tonight Show

Amy Madigan–Actress

Steve Martin–Comedian, Actor (See this page from his alma mater! http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/alumni_alumnae.html formerly located at http://www.csulb.edu/depts/philosophy/WhatDoMajorsDo.pdf )

Dennis Miller–Comedian

Stone Phillips–News Broadcaster

Brad Roberts–Crash Test Dummies

Susan Sarandon–Actress

Gene Siskel–Movie Critic

Steve Thomas–Host for TV Show, This Old House

Alex Trebek–Host for TV Show, Jeopardy




Mark Hulbert–financial columnist FORBES magazine

Carl Icahn–CEO, TWA Airlines

Gerald Levin–CEO, Time-Warner, Inc.

George Soros–Financier & Money Manager

Moses Znaimer–Owner of CITY-TV and MUCH-MUSIC, Toronto


CANADIAN and other recent additions to the list

Beverly McLachlin (Canadian Chief Justice)

Ed Broadbent (leader of Canada’s federal NDP 1970’s and 1980’s, Ph.D

in Philosophy

Pierre Trudeau (Former Canadian Prime Minister)

Paul Martin (Canadian Prime-minister in waiting?)

Max Yalden (former Language Commissioner of Canada)

John Roberts (former Canadian liberal cabinet minister)

Dave Thomas (one of the “Mackenzie Brothers” on SCTV).

Don Harron (Canadian comedian, author of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES libretto)

Robert Weaver (doyen of Canadian literature, head of CBC’s ANTHOLOGY)

Rick Salutin (columnist for THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

John Mighton, (Canadian playwright, winner of Governor General’s

award for drama)

Adam Zimmerman (retired CEO of Noranda Inc; one of Canada’s largest

Mining companies)

Moses Znaimer, (Owner of CITY-TV and MUCH-MUSIC, Toronto)

Brad Roberts, (Singer Songwriter for CRASH TEST DUMMIES)

Mike Brierley (Captain of the England Cricket Team in the 1980s was

previously a university philosophy lecturer).

Steve Allen (writer & comedian)

David Duchovny (actor on X-FILES)

Peter Hoeg (author of SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOW)

Kate Millett (author of SEXUAL POLITICS)

Bob Moses (civil rights activist)

Robert Motherwell (painter)

Patricia Rozema (film-maker, I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING)

Neil Peart (drummer for rock group, RUSH)



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  • “More things are wrought through prayer than are dreamt of in your philosophy”
    –William Shakespeare

  • The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin did make it from “in waiting” to PM. More dubiously, he is forever tied to Kim Campbell and Joe Clarke as the three shortest serving PMs in Canadian history.

  • I clicked on this just to make sure they didn’t forget Bruce Lee. 🙂

  • metanoia

    The list of philosophy majors working at McDonald’s is a lot longer. 🙂

  • Josh T.

    I was a Philosophy major (religious studies concentration), but I did not finish for a variety of reasons. It’s something I would like to complete eventually, but job stuff and the economy are the driving factors preventing that now, as well as unhelpful changes to school policy regarding Gen Ed requirements (sets me way back).

    I have a lot of fond memories from that time in my life, especially an independent study I took with a prof who had taught three of my classes. The subject was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I had a blast sitting and chatting with him for over an hour each week about the books I was reading and about other things. His main job was Dean of the school of liberal arts at the time, so he had a pretty neat office away from the Philosophy department.

  • @metanoia
    may be true but of course the goal is not a job; it’s much deeper. No philosopher worthy of the degree would stoop to such pragmatism.

  • Jon Altman

    I thought Woody Allen flunked metaphysics for cheating (he looked deeply into the soul of his neighbor).

  • Re my comment #1: Oops. I seem to have mixed some Alfred, Lord Tennyson in with William Shakespeare and managed to say something neither one of them said.

  • Jeff Culver

    As someone working on my Ph.D in philosophy, I can tell this joke:
    How do you get a philosophy major off your porch?
    Pay for the pizza!

  • As one who was a philosophy major, I can add another category: life-long graduate student . . .

    A few interesting aspects of this list:
    – Rahm Emanuel has had a couple other jobs since the one listed above.
    – Iris Murdoch was not only a novelist but also a . . . professional philosopher (see, e.g., her Sovereignty of the Good).
    – Is it just me, or are George Stephanopoulos and Shane Battier listed in the wrong categories?

  • Amos Paul


    I don’t understand the need of people to diss on studying philosophy… out of the arts and humanities category, it’s certainly one of the more useful and applicable disciplines. Do you dislike it when people learn to think well?

  • Rahm Emanuel also was Obama’s first chief of staff. He’s now mayor of Chicago.