We’ve all encountered that dinner guest who starts spouting about long-dead and obscure artists/philosophers/anthropologists’ theories & works. Instead of having to endure the boring conversation sure to follow, fight fire with fire. Herein lies a collection of great minds that will be sure to impress your friends, dates, or interviewers.
The basics: Unfortunately a member of the 27 club, Basquiat’s art remains unparalleled. He used social commentary in his paintings to critique the dichotomies present in society & politics.
Famous works: Untitled (Boxer), Untitled (1981)
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The basics: He was an American sculptor known for creating large outdoor works, one of the first to do so. His works can be found across the US & the world over.
Famous works: LA Grande Vitesse, Flamingo
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The basics: He’s the guy that signed a urinal, put it in a museum, and called it art. He desired to have art serve the mind, not the eye.
Famous works: Fountain, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2
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The basics: Best known for his colorful ‘modern’ art works which helped set the course for much for the 20th century.
Famous works: Le bonheur de vivre, Woman with a Hat
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The basics: He’s best known for his famous phrase “I think, therefore I am”. He’s generally considered the father of modern philosophy.
Famous works: Meditations on First Philosophy
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The basics: He focused on what it means ‘to be’ with an emphasis on the authenticity of human existence.
Famous works: Being and Time
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The basics: His main area of interest was on power relationships in society as expressed through language and various social practices. In addition, he used history as a lense through which to view current society.
Famous works: Discipline and Punish, Madness and Civilization
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The basics: “There is no out-of-context”, Derrida desired to deconstruct structuralist positions on texts and the Western world. Much like the previous sentence, his works are known for being difficult to get through.
Famous works: Speech and Phenomena, Of Grammatology
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The basics: The father of existentialism (idol of millenials everywhere), he asserted that existence is so devoid of meaning that the only solution is to laugh at it.
Famous works: Either/Or, Fear and Trembling
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The basics: Durkheim studied the structure of societies and how modern societies evolve & function. His theories were founded on the concept of social facts, defined as the norms, values, and structures of society.
Famous works: The Division of Labor in Society, On Morality and Society
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The basics: Arguably the most famous economist, Keynes founded modern macroeconomic theory. His economics posit that in the short run, economic output is strongly influenced by aggregate demand.
Famous works: The General Theory of Employment, Money, and Interest
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The basics: “The ends justify the means”, “It is better to be feared than loved”. He prioritized the employment of cunning & duplicity in statecraft.
Famous works: The Prince
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The basics: When he wasn’t partying in Paris with Fitzgerald, Picasso, and Dali, he was writing some of America’s greatest novels. The man’s life reads like a novel, actually.
Famous works: The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms
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The basics: “Big Brother” was coined by Orwell in his novel 1984. He focused on surveillance and privacy in society with an eye towards big government.
Famous works: 1984, Animal Farm
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David Foster Wallace
The basics: Heralded by some as the next great American writer before he passed away, Foster is known for his incredible essays and a handful of novels. His commence speech (attached here) is a must read.
Famous works: Infinite Jest, Consider the Lobster, This is Water
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