Famous philosophy students

Some of the world’s most famous faces have studied philosophy — some rather unexpectedly.

The literal meaning of the word ‘philosophy’ means ‘love of wisdom’, and it is certainly true that those who study philosophy embrace the quality of being wise.

Philosophy is, generally speaking, the study of knowledge, reality and reason, and it is one of our most ancient academic disciplines.

But it isn’t just Aristotle, Plato and Nietzsche who have studied philosophy. Some of the world’s most famous faces have as well, including some you’d expect, and others you may not.

Here are our nine famous faces of philosophy.

Ricky Gervais

The superstar writer, comedian and actor that is Ricky Gervais initially enrolled in a biology degree at University College London, before switching to philosophy two weeks later, where he eventually earned upper second-class honours.

Fun fact: Ricky enjoyed university life so much he stayed on as the student union’s entertainment manager.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Inspired by the non-violent campaigns of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi has spent her life protesting in favour of peaceful democracy in Myanmar (Burma).

As a result of her tireless efforts, she has received various honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Sakharov Prize and was appointed an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in 1996.

But before her imprisonment, she gained a BA in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University.

Matt Groening

One of the most credited names in TV history, the creator of The Simpsons Matt Groening, (who likes to describe the pronunciation of his surname as ‘rhyming with complaining’) studied philosophy at Evergreen State College in Washington state.

Perhaps Groening’s most famous character Homer is more enlightened than he lets on.

Bruce Lee

The Little Dragon was known for more than just his razor-sharp reflexes and superhuman strength. With a fast wit and a profound metaphysical wisdom, he remains a rare cultural icon whose ethos and appeal remain timeless.

And although he left before graduating, Bruce Lee majored in philosophy at Washington University.

Rashida Jones

Best known for her roles in Parks and Recreation, I Love You, Man and The Office (US), Rashida’s talents also extend to writing, where she is co-writing the fourth instalment of the Toy Story series.

But it was her religion/philosophy degree from Harvard University that gets her on this list, as it was at this time Rashida wanted to be a lawyer. It was here that she became involved in theatre, an experience which helped mould her into the actress she is today.

Lana Del Rey

Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, better known by her stage name Lana Del Rey, came to prominence in 2011 when her hits Video Games and Blue Jeans were uploaded to YouTube.

But several years earlier, she completed a degree in philosophy at Fordham University in New York, stating that she chose the subject because it “bridged the gap between God and science”.

George Soros

As a young man growing up in Hungary in the 1940s, George Soros was consumed by philosophy. Well versed in the classical schools of thought, he then went on to study philosophy at the London School of Economics.

Moving into investment, he became known as ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank of England’ when his short sale of pound sterling made him profits in the billions.

He remains one of the largest contributors to humanitarian projects, donating more than USD $6 billion to social initiatives throughout his career.

“Once we realise that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”

Wes Anderson

The filmmaker and hipster-favourite, best known for his distinctive and willfully quirky films such as Rushmore, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom gained a bachelor in philosophy from the University of Texas.

It was during his time there that he met future star Owen Wilson, and together they’ve worked on several films, including Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Pope John Paul II

One of the most significant popes in modern history, John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005, and became the seventh pope to be canonised in the last 1,000 years.

But well before all of this, Karol Józef Wojtyła gained a philosophy degree from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Find out more about studying philosophy at ACU.