The Philosopher

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Why did the universe come to be in a state suitable for human habitation? A minor change in the gravitational constant would mean a completely different universe from the one we're in. Other sets of rules such as Planck's Constant or the mass ratio of atomic molecules seem to be designed specifically so that humans can live in this universe. Don't you find this incredible?"

A character who likes to go on and on about philosophical issues and whatnot. If there's a pretentious speech to be made, this is the one to do it. Look out for Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.

While usually highly intelligent, The Philosopher differs from The Smart Guy and The Strategist in one vital area: while the philosopher is clever, his great thoughts rarely amount to any direct, effective action. It's up to the more practical heroes to make sense of what he's saying and implement a plan.

The characterisation of The Philosopher is dependent on the nature of the show/book/comic they're appearing in. A straight fantasy tale will usually make the Philosopher sage-like, a valuable source of information for the characters. If it's a video game, this is probably the guy to talk to if you want a hint as to what to do next - though he'll probably tell you in a roundabout way. Instead of saying "Go to the harbour," he's likely to muse out loud that all life comes from the sea. Usually male, he's generally a mage, a sage, or a bookkeeper of some sort. In action series, though, the Philosopher might be surprising - in superhero teams anyone can fall into this category, even the most vicious and seemingly cynical member of the team can suddenly start quoting Socrates.

In a comedy series, particularly Sadist Shows and dark comedies, however, The Philosopher is extremely rare and if they do exist, may vary from the Only Sane Man to the Butt Monkey. Perhaps due to the assumed anti-intellectualism of television culture, or simply the perception that people who like to ponder the nature of life never get around to doing anything useful, the fact that this character "thinks too much" is likely to get him punched or killed off, mostly if the philosopher is a Wide-Eyed Idealist (cynics are often portrayed as Deadpan Snarkers). An alternative tactic is to have said idealist ponder something at great length while coming to no useful conclusion, whereupon The Ditz (or other appropriate character type) will pipe up with a mind-numbingly simple and effective solution.

Another version is the tragic philosopher, someone who understands life at a deeper level because life has made them suffer for that knowledge. Can go one of three ways; he is either motivated to change the world around him, using his personal angst as proof that the world is basically unfair and needs to be remodelled, becoming a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Or, he is totally paralysed by "knowing too much," and virtually useless, unless the hero can snap him out of it. Still another, and more extreme one, is of course, the Nietzsche Wannabe. A tragic philosopher is difficult to write without descending to Wangst however, as he's not only angsty but pretty verbose about it.

Compare The Fatalist. The Warrior Poet may have aspects of this... Indeed, if The Philosopher holds his own in combat, they'll often overlap. May also be an Erudite Stoner.

Examples of The Philosopher include:

Anime and Manga

  • Itsuki of Suzumiya Haruhi. Not only effective as The Philosopher but nearly as difficult to follow as his ancient Greek forerunners. Just trying to make sense of what he's saying is a mental workout, for the audience as well as Kyon.
    • Kyon himself is a more down-to-Earth version of The Philosopher (especially in the books), but unlike Itsuki, usually keeps it to himself.
    • Shamisen deserves an honorable mention. Although he only has one speech, he's a good enough philosopher that upon being introduced he manages to sidetrack the brigade members into a debate over the nature of conversation and away from the fact that, you know, he's a talking cat.
    • Sasaki exemplifies this trope, so much that even the aforementioned Itsuki is impressed. You have to admire someone who can come up with a clever and confusing speech about light and quantum mechanics on the drop of the hat while talking about schoolwork.
  • And speaking of characters named Itsuki... the Yu Yu version is somewhat of a subversion, as he is arguably unhinged. His personality is arguably like an answer to the Koan, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"
  • Surprisingly, Team Rocket's Meowth is one of these in the Pokémon anime. It always involves him looking at a full moon, maybe with a Pokemon from Ash's team (and his advice is quite helpful—Chimchar got used to being with the more friendly atmosphere after one of these moments). This makes the kitty not be as bad as he seems sometimes.
  • Almost all of the cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion are Philosophers to some degree, most notably Rei, Gendo, Fuyuski, Ritsuko and the SEELE members. Most of them also fall into the second category of "tragic philosopher" or "Nietzsche Wannabe", except for the fact that everyone else is too psychologically messed up to save them.
    • Asuka lampshades this after Rei delivers her oft-quoted "mankind has always feared the darkness" line.
  • Aion, the villain of Chrono Crusade has a tendency to go into long speeches about how demons need to "break free from the system". Chrono is presented as Aion's much more emotional (and less rational) counterpart, but when the plot calls for one of the heroes to be philosophical it's normally him. By the end of the manga they're trading speeches back and forth.
  • In Princess Tutu, Edel leads the heroine (and occasionally other main characters) through the plot with a series of riddles musing on emotions and fairytale tropes. Drosselmeyer, himself, can get rather philosophical when he wishes.
  • Herakles aka Greece from Axis Powers Hetalia looks like a relaxed slacker, but if you read his lines carefully, you'll see that he can have quite the trains of thoughts under the Cloudcuckoolander facade.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has Yue doing this on occasion. She usually engages in Walls of Text only to find that everyone else is ignoring her.
  • Amon Garam of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX often quotes René Descartes and other famous philosophers...while playing card games. He later puts some of his thoughts into action.
  • These characters are staples of the films of Mamoru Oshii, at times taking up the majority of the cast.
  • Graham Specter of Baccano!. He never stops talking, and while he's talking, he philosophizes. However, he will change his philosophies and contradict himself in the same few sentences(or sentence) sometimes.
  • Naruto plays with philosophy from time to time. Characters like Neji, Gaara, Rock Lee, Pain, Madara, Kakashi and Naruto himself amongst others will now and then exposit musings on war and peace, destiny and free will, hard work, bonds and other such topics.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has many characters muse on the meaning of life and what it means to be human. The most notable example, however, is probably Mad Bomber Solf J. Kimblee, who combines Rousseau Was Right with a dose of Social Darwinism for a truly unusual outlook on life.
  • Gundam Seed has Rau Le Creuset, a deranged Nietzsche Wannabe who isn't afraid to share his views on the meaninglessness of life with the rest of the cast. Gilbert Durandal of Gundam Seed Destiny might count as well.


  • Wobbly Headed Bob in the works of Jhonen Vasquez is an example of the tragic philosopher, an incredibly intelligent and enlightened individual trapped in a land of happy-go-lucky morons.


  • A surprising number of these moments can be can be found in the film Conan the Barbarian, first with Conan's father (whose speech becomes a Chekhov's Sword, and later in various conversations with Subotai.

Conan: Ha! My God is Crom! He sits high on his mountain ... Crom laughs at your puny air God.
Subotai: Heh, my God is the sky. Your God, he is beneath him!
Conan pauses and ponders this.


  • Discworld's Lord Vetinari gets disturbingly philosophical at times, especially towards the later books. He does generally have some kind of point, though...ish.

Vetinari: (concluding long speech)...If there is any kind of supreme being, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.
Me: This is a book about football.
The Unseen Academicals blurb: But the important thing about football - the really important thing about football - is that it is not just about football.

    • Ephebe seems to be inhabited almost entirely by Philosophers, particularly in Pyramids and Small Gods.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Ruler of the Universe is a crazy old guy in a hut somewhere who doesn't believe in anything. Zaphod and Trillian think that the universe is in good hands.
  • Classic literary example: Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide. His insistence that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds" leads his faithful student Candide to wonder how horrible the other worlds could be.
  • Most of the characters in The Brothers Karamazov do their fair bit of philosophizing when any topics subject to an Author Tract come up in polite conversation, but Ivan Karamazov and Father Zosima come across most strongly as The Philosopher in their discussions with the protagonist.
  • Pierre Bezukhov falls into this characterization often in War and Peace, and is made more tragic in that he attempts to enact his ideals on the real world only to be deceived into thinking he's making a difference.
  • Woland in The Master and Margarita finds time between his impish pranks on Muscovites to wax philosophically about ignorance and totalitarianism.

Woland: "Would you remove all trees and living things from the world to realise your fantasy of basking in naked light?"

  • Sostratos in Over the Wine Dark Sea is this. He is an amateur of course and his job was as an Intrepid Merchant. Though when you think about it a number of famous philosophers were "dabblers" held jobs that had little relation to philosophy. Socrates was a farmer and Marcus Aurlerius was an Emperor and CS Lewis was a Literature professor and so on.
    • Not surprising, since, except for philosophy professors and the now-obsolete job of court philosopher, no one is going to pay you to sit around and philosophize. Viewed economically, even full-time sages have the "job" of beggar or monastery factotum.
      • At the time there was the job of Sophist, which was kind of like a street singer or tavern storyteller that entertained with public debate rather then tales or music.
  • Marco Polo and Kublai Khan in Invisible Cities, who spend most of their time sitting around and talking about cities rather than trading and ruling, respectively.
  • Most of Raymond Smullyan's dialogues (for instance in This Book Needs No Title or 5000 BC) feature surprisingly understandable and humorous philosophers.
  • The Neverending Story is full of them. However, special mentions goes to the Three Deep Thinkers, leaders of the Star Cloister of Ghigam, who head an entire order to monks who are dedicated to knowledge and the discovery of the secrets of Fantastica.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Tower of the Elephant" Conan the Barbarian remembers listening to their disputes. He was unimpressed.
  • In CS Lewis's Till We Have Faces, Oruals' Greek tutor, the Fox, serves this role. He is the king's most valued adviser, as well was Orual's, when she becomes queen.
  • Ham in the Mistborn books is prone to annoying his friends by constantly musing about philosophical questions at them. His favorite victims are Breeze and Lord Cett, because they always argue with him.

Live Action TV

  • Jubal Early from the Firefly episode "Objects In Space" was a bounty hunter prone to quasi-philosophical ramblings while engaged in a mission. He often followed such comments with the rhetorical question, "Does that seem right to you?"
  • Mohinder, in Heroes.
  • Lister, in Red Dwarf, was surprisingly effective as The Philosopher, but his more intelligent insights and musings were often undermined by the plot - Red Dwarf is, after all, a comedy.
    • One particularly memorable example of Lister's more thoughtful attributes can be found in "Justice"; after escaping a world where law-abiding behaviour is cleverly enforced by turning the effects of any misdeed back on the perpetrator (for example, hitting someone means you get hurt), Lister reflects on how the nature of reality has to be unfair in order to allow for free will...then promptly falls down a manhole mid-rant, much to his comrades' relief.
  • Wilson from Home Improvement tended to deliver the show's aesop with stories and quotes, much to the confusion of Tim Allen's character. However, even though the show was a comedy, he was almost never the Butt Monkey.
  • Chris Stevens spun many philosophical musings between records on Northern Exposure.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer kind of averts this with Oz, who apparently has an elaborately philosophical internal monologue, but one that only becomes apparent when Buffy gains the ability to read his thoughts.
  • Delenn from Babylon 5 is more a mystic then a philosopher: those two words carry different connotations. However there is no separate trope for mystic that I am aware of, she can be philosophical as well, and in any case there is overlap between the two.


  • Shakespeare's Hamlet is a classic example of a ponderous protagonist who spends a lot of time with philosophical soliloquies and reflections.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • Out There: The whole cast occasionally takes turns playing this role.

Western Animation

  • In Transformers: Beast Wars, Dinobot spent the second season see-sawing between The Philosopher and the Warrior Poet, pondering heavy questions of honor, loyalty, and free will that have started hitting a little too close to home.
    • Silverbolt, the Knight in Shining Armor to Dinobot's Samurai, does the same thing from time to time, albeit in a more lighthearted fashion. While he does muse on honour—specifically, chivalry—he likes to mix romance in as well, particularly regarding Blackarachnia. Unfortunately, come Beast Machines, Silverbolt returns with a radically altered personality...and starts stealing Dinobot's lines.