Jean Piaget quotes

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Jean Piaget

Birthdate: 9. August 1896
Date of death: 16. September 1980

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget's theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology".

Piaget placed great importance on the education of children. As the Director of the International Bureau of Education, he declared in 1934 that "only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual." His theory of child development is studied in pre-service education programs. Educators continue to incorporate constructivist-based strategies.

Piaget created the International Center for Genetic Epistemology in Geneva in 1955 while on the faculty of the University of Geneva and directed the Center until his death in 1980. The number of collaborations that its founding made possible, and their impact, ultimately led to the Center being referred to in the scholarly literature as "Piaget's factory".According to Ernst von Glasersfeld, Jean Piaget was "the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing." However, his ideas did not become widely popularized until the 1960s. This then led to the emergence of the study of development as a major sub-discipline in psychology. By the end of the 20th century, Piaget was second only to B. F. Skinner as the most cited psychologist of that era.

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„If children fail to understand one another, it is because they think they understand one another.“

—  Jean Piaget

The Language and Thought of the Child (1923) Tr. Marjorie and Ruth Gabain (1926)
Context: If children fail to understand one another, it is because they think they understand one another. The explainer believes from the start that the reproducer will grasp everything, will almost know beforehand all that should be known, and will interpret every subtlety. Children are perpetually surrounded by adults who not only know much more than they do, but who also do everything in their power to understand them, who even anticipate their thoughts and desires. Children, therefore... are perpetually under the impression that people can read their thoughts, and in extreme cases, can steal their thoughts away. It is obviously owing to this mentality that children do not take the trouble to express themselves clearly... This mentality does not contradict ego-centric mentality. Both arise from the belief of the child, the belief that he is the centre of the universe. These habits of thought account... for the remarkable lack of precision in the childish style.

„The relations between parents and children are certainly not only those of constraint. There is spontaneous mutual affection, which from the first prompts the child to acts of generosity and even of self-sacrifice, to very touching demonstrations which are in no way prescribed.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 2 : Adult Constraint and Moral Realism <!-- p. 186 -->
Context: The relations between parents and children are certainly not only those of constraint. There is spontaneous mutual affection, which from the first prompts the child to acts of generosity and even of self-sacrifice, to very touching demonstrations which are in no way prescribed. And here no doubt is the starting point for that morality of good which we shall see developing alongside of the morality of right or duty, and which in some persons completely replaces it.

„In order to remove all traces of moral realism, one must place oneself on the child's own level, and give him a feeling of equality by laying stress on one's own obligations and one's own deficiencies. In this way the child will find himself in the presence, not of a system of commands requiring ritualistic and external obedience, but of a system of social relations such that everyone does his best to obey the same obligations, and does so out of mutual respect.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 2 : Adult Constraint and Moral Realism <!-- p. 133 -->
Context: It is when the child is accustomed to act from the point of view of those around him, when he tries to please rather than to obey, that he will judge in terms of intentions. So that taking intentions into account presupposes cooperation and mutual respect. Only those who have children of their own know how difficult it is to put this into practice. Such is the prestige of parents in the eyes of the very young child, that even if they lay down nothing in the form of general duties, their wishes act as law and thus give rise automatically to moral realism (independently, of course, of the manner in which the child eventually carries out these desires). In order to remove all traces of moral realism, one must place oneself on the child's own level, and give him a feeling of equality by laying stress on one's own obligations and one's own deficiencies. In this way the child will find himself in the presence, not of a system of commands requiring ritualistic and external obedience, but of a system of social relations such that everyone does his best to obey the same obligations, and does so out of mutual respect. The passage from obedience to cooperation thus marks a progress analogous to that of which we saw the effects in the evolution of the game of marbles: only in the final stage does the morality of intention triumph over the morality of objective responsibility.
When parents do not trouble about such considerations as these, when they issue contradictory commands and are inconsistent in the punishments they inflict, then, obviously, it is not because of moral constraint but in spite of and as a reaction against it that the concern with intentions develops in the child. Here is a child, who, in his desire to please, happens to break something and is snubbed for his pains, or who in general sees his actions judged otherwise than he judges them himself. It is obvious that after more or less brief periods of submission, during which he accepts every verdict, even those that are wrong, he will begin to feel the injustice of it all. Such situations can lead to revolt. But if, on the contrary, the child finds in his brothers and sisters or in his playmates a form of society which develops his desire for cooperation and mutual sympathy, then a new type of morality will be created in him, a morality of reciprocity and not of obedience. This is the true morality of intention and of subjective responsibility. <!--
In short, whether parents succeed in embodying it in family life or whether it takes root in spite of and in opposition to them, it is always cooperation that gives intention precedence over literalism, just as it was unilateral respect that inevitably provoked moral realism. Actually, of course, there are innumerable intermediate stages between these two attitudes of obedience and collaboration, but it is useful for the purposes of analysis to emphasize the real opposition that exists between them.

„It is somewhat humiliating, in this connection, to see how heavily traditional education sets about the task of making spelling enter into brains that assimilate with such ease the mnemonic contents of the game of marbles. But then, memory is dependent upon activity, and a real activity presupposes interest.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 1 : The Rules of the Game
Context: Considering that the square game is only one of the five or ten varieties of the game of marbles, it is almost alarming in face of the complexity of rules and procedure in the square game, to think of what a child of twelve has to store away in his memory. These rules, with their overlapping and their exceptions, are at least as complex as the current rules of spelling. It is somewhat humiliating, in this connection, to see how heavily traditional education sets about the task of making spelling enter into brains that assimilate with such ease the mnemonic contents of the game of marbles. But then, memory is dependent upon activity, and a real activity presupposes interest.

„Between the various types of rules which we shall give there will therefore be at once continuity of function and difference of structure.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 1 : The Rules of the Game, § 8 : Conclusions : Motor Rules and the Two Kinds of Respect <!-- p. 85 -->
Context: Between the various types of rules which we shall give there will therefore be at once continuity of function and difference of structure. This renders arbitrary any attempt to cut mental reality up into stages. The matter is further complicated by the "Law of conscious realization" and the resulting time-lag. The appearance of a new type of rule on the practical plane does not necessarily mean that this rule will come into the subject's consciousness, for each mental operation has to be relearned on the different planes of action and of thought.

„There are no really solipsistic philosophers, and those who think they are deceive themselves. The true solipsist feels at one with the universe, and so very identical to it that he does not even feel the need for two terms.“

—  Jean Piaget

The First Year of Life of the Child (1927), "The Egocentrism of the Child and the Solipsism of the Baby", as translated by Howard E. Gruber and J. Jacques Vonèche
Context: There are no really solipsistic philosophers, and those who think they are deceive themselves. The true solipsist feels at one with the universe, and so very identical to it that he does not even feel the need for two terms. The true solipsist projects all his states of mind onto things. The true solipsist is entirely alone in the world, that is, he has no notion of anything exterior to himself. In other words the true solipsist has no idea of self. There is no self: there is the world. It is in this sense it is reasonable to call a baby a solipsist: the feelings and desires of a baby know no limits since they are a part of everything he sees, touches, and perceives.
Babies are, then, obviously narcissistic, but not in the way adults are, not even Spinoza's God, and I am a little afraid that Freud sometimes forgets that the narcissistic baby has no sense of self.
Given this definition of solipsism, egocentrism in children clearly appears to be a simple continuation of solipsism in infants.. Egocentrism, as we have seen, is not an intentional or even a conscious process. A child has no idea that he is egocentric. He believes everybody thinks the way he does, and this false universality is due simply to an absence of the sense of limits on his individuality. In this light, egocentrism and solipsism are quite comparable: both stem from the absence or the weakness of the sense of self.

„There are therefore three types of behavior: motor behavior, egocentric behavior (with external constraint), and cooperation.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 1 : The Rules of the Game, § 8 : Conclusions : Motor Rules and the Two Kinds of Respect <!-- p. 86 -->
Context: A second prefatory question faces us: that of society and the individual. We have sought to contrast the child and the civilized adult on the ground of their respective social attitudes. The baby (at the stage of motor intelligence) is asocial, the egocentric child is subject to external constraint but has little capacity for cooperation, the civilized adult of to-day presents the essential character of cooperation between differentiated personalities who regard each other as equals.
There are therefore three types of behavior: motor behavior, egocentric behavior (with external constraint), and cooperation. And to these three types of social behavior there correspond three types of rules: motor rules, rules due to unilateral respect, and rules due to mutual respect.
But here again, one must beware of laying down the law: for things are motor, individual and social all at once. As we shall have occasion to show, rules of cooperation are in some respects the outcome of the rules of coercion and of the motor rules. On the other hand, coercion is applied during the first days of an infant's life, and the earliest social relations contain the germs of cooperation. Here again, it is not so much a question of these successive features themselves as of the proportions in which they are present. Moreover, the way in which conscious realization and the time-lag from one level to another come into play is a further bar to our arranging these phenomena in a strict sequence, as though they made a single appearance and then disappeared from the scene once and for all.

„A strong personality can maintain itself without the help of this particular weapon.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 1 : The Rules of the Game, § 8 : Conclusions : Motor Rules and the Two Kinds of Respect
Context: Every observer has noted that the younger the child, the less sense he has of his own ego. From the intellectual point of view, he does not distinguish between external and internal, subjective and objective. From the point of view of action, he yields to every suggestion, and if he does oppose to other people's wills — a certain negativism which has been called "the spirit of contradiction" — this only points to his real defenselessness against his surroundings. A strong personality can maintain itself without the help of this particular weapon. The adult and the older child have complete power over him. They impose their opinions and their wishes, and the child accepts them without knowing that he does so. Only — and this is the other side of the picture — as the child does not dissociate his ego from the environment, whether physical or social, he mixes into all his thoughts and all his actions, ideas and practices that are due to the intervention of his ego and which, just because he fails to recognize them as subjective, exercise a check upon his complete socialization. From the intellectual point of view, he mingles his own fantasies with accepted opinions, whence arise pseudo lies (or sincere lies), syncretism, and all the features of child thought. From the point of view of action, he interprets in his own fashion the examples he has adopted, whence the egocentric form of play we were examining above. The only way of avoiding these individual refractions would lie in true cooperation, such that both child and senior would each make allowance for his own individuality and for the realities that were held in common.

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„Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality.“

—  Jean Piaget

Genetic Epistemology (1968) http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/piaget.htm – First lecture
Context: Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality. They are more or less isomorphic to transformations of reality. The transformational structures of which knowledge consists are not copies of the transformations in reality; they are simply possible isomorphic models among which experience can enable us to choose. Knowledge, then, is a system of transformations that become progressively adequate.

„From the intellectual point of view, he mingles his own fantasies with accepted opinions, whence arise pseudo lies (or sincere lies), syncretism, and all the features of child thought.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 1 : The Rules of the Game, § 8 : Conclusions : Motor Rules and the Two Kinds of Respect
Context: Every observer has noted that the younger the child, the less sense he has of his own ego. From the intellectual point of view, he does not distinguish between external and internal, subjective and objective. From the point of view of action, he yields to every suggestion, and if he does oppose to other people's wills — a certain negativism which has been called "the spirit of contradiction" — this only points to his real defenselessness against his surroundings. A strong personality can maintain itself without the help of this particular weapon. The adult and the older child have complete power over him. They impose their opinions and their wishes, and the child accepts them without knowing that he does so. Only — and this is the other side of the picture — as the child does not dissociate his ego from the environment, whether physical or social, he mixes into all his thoughts and all his actions, ideas and practices that are due to the intervention of his ego and which, just because he fails to recognize them as subjective, exercise a check upon his complete socialization. From the intellectual point of view, he mingles his own fantasies with accepted opinions, whence arise pseudo lies (or sincere lies), syncretism, and all the features of child thought. From the point of view of action, he interprets in his own fashion the examples he has adopted, whence the egocentric form of play we were examining above. The only way of avoiding these individual refractions would lie in true cooperation, such that both child and senior would each make allowance for his own individuality and for the realities that were held in common.

„It is when the child is accustomed to act from the point of view of those around him, when he tries to please rather than to obey, that he will judge in terms of intentions.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 2 : Adult Constraint and Moral Realism <!-- p. 133 -->
Context: It is when the child is accustomed to act from the point of view of those around him, when he tries to please rather than to obey, that he will judge in terms of intentions. So that taking intentions into account presupposes cooperation and mutual respect. Only those who have children of their own know how difficult it is to put this into practice. Such is the prestige of parents in the eyes of the very young child, that even if they lay down nothing in the form of general duties, their wishes act as law and thus give rise automatically to moral realism (independently, of course, of the manner in which the child eventually carries out these desires). In order to remove all traces of moral realism, one must place oneself on the child's own level, and give him a feeling of equality by laying stress on one's own obligations and one's own deficiencies. In this way the child will find himself in the presence, not of a system of commands requiring ritualistic and external obedience, but of a system of social relations such that everyone does his best to obey the same obligations, and does so out of mutual respect. The passage from obedience to cooperation thus marks a progress analogous to that of which we saw the effects in the evolution of the game of marbles: only in the final stage does the morality of intention triumph over the morality of objective responsibility.
When parents do not trouble about such considerations as these, when they issue contradictory commands and are inconsistent in the punishments they inflict, then, obviously, it is not because of moral constraint but in spite of and as a reaction against it that the concern with intentions develops in the child. Here is a child, who, in his desire to please, happens to break something and is snubbed for his pains, or who in general sees his actions judged otherwise than he judges them himself. It is obvious that after more or less brief periods of submission, during which he accepts every verdict, even those that are wrong, he will begin to feel the injustice of it all. Such situations can lead to revolt. But if, on the contrary, the child finds in his brothers and sisters or in his playmates a form of society which develops his desire for cooperation and mutual sympathy, then a new type of morality will be created in him, a morality of reciprocity and not of obedience. This is the true morality of intention and of subjective responsibility. <!--
In short, whether parents succeed in embodying it in family life or whether it takes root in spite of and in opposition to them, it is always cooperation that gives intention precedence over literalism, just as it was unilateral respect that inevitably provoked moral realism. Actually, of course, there are innumerable intermediate stages between these two attitudes of obedience and collaboration, but it is useful for the purposes of analysis to emphasize the real opposition that exists between them.

„From the point of view of the practice or application of rules four successive stages can be distinguished.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 1 : The Rules of the Game
Context: From the point of view of the practice or application of rules four successive stages can be distinguished.
A first stage of a purely motor and individual character, during which the child handles the marbles at the dictation of his desires and motor habits. This leads to the formation of more or less ritualized schemas, but since play is still purely individual, one can only talk of motor rules and not of truly collective rules.
The second may be called egocentric for the following reasons. This stage begins at the moment when the child receives from outside the example of codified rules, that is to say, some time between the ages of two and five. But though the child imitates this example, he continues to play either by himself without bothering to find play-fellows, or with others, but without trying to win, and therefore without attempting to unify the different ways of playing. In other words, children of this stage, even when they are playing together, play each one "on his own " (everyone can win at once) and without regard for any codification of rules. This dual character, combining imitation of others with a purely individual use of the examples received, we have designated by the term Egocentrism.
A third stage appears between 7 and 8, which we shall call the stage of incipient cooperation. Each player now tries to win, and all, therefore, begin to concern themselves with the question of mutual control and of unification of the rules. But while a certain agreement may be reached in the course of one game, ideas about the rules in general are still rather vague. In other words, children of 7-8, who belong to the same class at school and are therefore constantly playing with each other, give, when they are questioned separately, disparate and often entirely contradictory accounts of the rules observed in playing marbles.
Finally, between the years of 11 and 12, appears a fourth stage, which is that of the codification of rules. Not only is every detail of procedure in the game fixed, but the actual code of rules to be observed is known to the whole society. There is remarkable concordance in the information given by children of 10-12 belonging to the same class at school, when they are questioned on the rules of the game and their possible variations.

„A second prefatory question faces us: that of society and the individual.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 1 : The Rules of the Game, § 8 : Conclusions : Motor Rules and the Two Kinds of Respect <!-- p. 86 -->
Context: A second prefatory question faces us: that of society and the individual. We have sought to contrast the child and the civilized adult on the ground of their respective social attitudes. The baby (at the stage of motor intelligence) is asocial, the egocentric child is subject to external constraint but has little capacity for cooperation, the civilized adult of to-day presents the essential character of cooperation between differentiated personalities who regard each other as equals.
There are therefore three types of behavior: motor behavior, egocentric behavior (with external constraint), and cooperation. And to these three types of social behavior there correspond three types of rules: motor rules, rules due to unilateral respect, and rules due to mutual respect.
But here again, one must beware of laying down the law: for things are motor, individual and social all at once. As we shall have occasion to show, rules of cooperation are in some respects the outcome of the rules of coercion and of the motor rules. On the other hand, coercion is applied during the first days of an infant's life, and the earliest social relations contain the germs of cooperation. Here again, it is not so much a question of these successive features themselves as of the proportions in which they are present. Moreover, the way in which conscious realization and the time-lag from one level to another come into play is a further bar to our arranging these phenomena in a strict sequence, as though they made a single appearance and then disappeared from the scene once and for all.

„It is as his own mind comes into contact with others that truth will begin to acquire value in the child's eyes and will consequently become a moral demand that can be made upon him.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 2 : Adult Constraint and Moral Realism <!-- p. 165 -->
Context: !-- Every thought that enters the head of a child of 2-3 does so from the first in the form of a belief and not in the form of a hypothesis to be verified. Hence the very young child's almost systematic romancing as with others and to which one cannot yet give the name of pseudo-lie, so close is the connection between primitive romancing and assertive belief.
Hence finally, the pseudo-lie, which is a sort of romancing used for other people, and serving to pull the child out of any straight due to circumstances, from which he deems it perfectly natural to extricate himself by inventing a story. Just as, from the intellectual point of view the child will elude a difficult question by means of an improvised myth to which he will give momentary credence, so from the moral point of view, an embarrassing situation will give rise to a pseudo-lie. Nor does this involve anything more than an application of the general laws of primitive child thought, which is directed towards its own satisfaction rather than to objective truth. -->It is as his own mind comes into contact with others that truth will begin to acquire value in the child's eyes and will consequently become a moral demand that can be made upon him. As long as the child remains egocentric, truth as such will fail to interest him and he will see no harm in transposing facts in accordance with his desires.

„It is obvious that after more or less brief periods of submission, during which he accepts every verdict, even those that are wrong, he will begin to feel the injustice of it all.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 2 : Adult Constraint and Moral Realism <!-- p. 133 -->
Context: It is when the child is accustomed to act from the point of view of those around him, when he tries to please rather than to obey, that he will judge in terms of intentions. So that taking intentions into account presupposes cooperation and mutual respect. Only those who have children of their own know how difficult it is to put this into practice. Such is the prestige of parents in the eyes of the very young child, that even if they lay down nothing in the form of general duties, their wishes act as law and thus give rise automatically to moral realism (independently, of course, of the manner in which the child eventually carries out these desires). In order to remove all traces of moral realism, one must place oneself on the child's own level, and give him a feeling of equality by laying stress on one's own obligations and one's own deficiencies. In this way the child will find himself in the presence, not of a system of commands requiring ritualistic and external obedience, but of a system of social relations such that everyone does his best to obey the same obligations, and does so out of mutual respect. The passage from obedience to cooperation thus marks a progress analogous to that of which we saw the effects in the evolution of the game of marbles: only in the final stage does the morality of intention triumph over the morality of objective responsibility.
When parents do not trouble about such considerations as these, when they issue contradictory commands and are inconsistent in the punishments they inflict, then, obviously, it is not because of moral constraint but in spite of and as a reaction against it that the concern with intentions develops in the child. Here is a child, who, in his desire to please, happens to break something and is snubbed for his pains, or who in general sees his actions judged otherwise than he judges them himself. It is obvious that after more or less brief periods of submission, during which he accepts every verdict, even those that are wrong, he will begin to feel the injustice of it all. Such situations can lead to revolt. But if, on the contrary, the child finds in his brothers and sisters or in his playmates a form of society which develops his desire for cooperation and mutual sympathy, then a new type of morality will be created in him, a morality of reciprocity and not of obedience. This is the true morality of intention and of subjective responsibility. <!--
In short, whether parents succeed in embodying it in family life or whether it takes root in spite of and in opposition to them, it is always cooperation that gives intention precedence over literalism, just as it was unilateral respect that inevitably provoked moral realism. Actually, of course, there are innumerable intermediate stages between these two attitudes of obedience and collaboration, but it is useful for the purposes of analysis to emphasize the real opposition that exists between them.

„The discussion of the game of marbles seems to have led us into rather deep waters. But in the eyes of children the history of the game of marbles has quite as much importance as the history of religion or of forms of government.“

—  Jean Piaget

Source: The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), Ch. 2 : Adult Constraint and Moral Realism <!-- p. 95 -->
Context: The discussion of the game of marbles seems to have led us into rather deep waters. But in the eyes of children the history of the game of marbles has quite as much importance as the history of religion or of forms of government. It Is a history, moreover, that is magnificently spontaneous; and it was therefore perhaps not entirely useless to seek to throw light on the child's judgment of moral value by a preliminary study of the social behaviour of children amongst themselves.

„In other words the true solipsist has no idea of self. There is no self: there is the world.“

—  Jean Piaget

The First Year of Life of the Child (1927), "The Egocentrism of the Child and the Solipsism of the Baby", as translated by Howard E. Gruber and J. Jacques Vonèche
Context: There are no really solipsistic philosophers, and those who think they are deceive themselves. The true solipsist feels at one with the universe, and so very identical to it that he does not even feel the need for two terms. The true solipsist projects all his states of mind onto things. The true solipsist is entirely alone in the world, that is, he has no notion of anything exterior to himself. In other words the true solipsist has no idea of self. There is no self: there is the world. It is in this sense it is reasonable to call a baby a solipsist: the feelings and desires of a baby know no limits since they are a part of everything he sees, touches, and perceives.
Babies are, then, obviously narcissistic, but not in the way adults are, not even Spinoza's God, and I am a little afraid that Freud sometimes forgets that the narcissistic baby has no sense of self.
Given this definition of solipsism, egocentrism in children clearly appears to be a simple continuation of solipsism in infants.. Egocentrism, as we have seen, is not an intentional or even a conscious process. A child has no idea that he is egocentric. He believes everybody thinks the way he does, and this false universality is due simply to an absence of the sense of limits on his individuality. In this light, egocentrism and solipsism are quite comparable: both stem from the absence or the weakness of the sense of self.

„Knowledge, then, is a system of transformations that become progressively adequate.“

—  Jean Piaget

Genetic Epistemology (1968) http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/piaget.htm – First lecture
Context: Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality. They are more or less isomorphic to transformations of reality. The transformational structures of which knowledge consists are not copies of the transformations in reality; they are simply possible isomorphic models among which experience can enable us to choose. Knowledge, then, is a system of transformations that become progressively adequate.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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