For me, Schopenhauer, Bentham, Hume and Singer, hands down, all because of their clear consistent views on ethics, and their rational and / or empiricism.
There are of course others I like very much (Nitchsze stands out) , but the ones above are my favorites.
I really don't like Descartes. He's clearly more intelligent than I am, this is obvious from his pensées, but I can't see how he could justify some of his claims at all (some of them which were very cruel IMO)
Now that is a good point to which I don't have much to defend myself with. Even I have to admit to using philosophy to argue ethics. Although in my circle of friends I can think of only one other who is stimulated enough by the arts to argue about it and he and I have very similar tastes so I have never had to use nor would I know how to use philosophy for aesthetics.
I might add that the kind of "science" being done by the cosmologists blurs the line between science and philosophy. When scientists are talking about branes, a multiverse, multiple (or even infinite) parallel dimensions...how is that NOT philosophy?
I call that imagination. In the same way philosophy gave birth to science, science fiction will give birth to future science. People can use their minds to come up with new ideas and stop wasting them on logic word games that only prove or disprove old ideas.
It's sad that you people represent atheism. Some posts make it obvious you're just as deluded as most religious people, if not more. Especially that last post was just disgraceful.
I have never been known for my grace but rather for my vulgarity. If you have a problem with anything I have posted be more specific so that I may properly defend myself.
Hegel swiftly followed by Merleau-Ponty http://profron.net/fun/Merleau-Ponty_Quotes.html for me its like reading poetry
I am a fan Quine in particular in regards to logic. I recommend everyone read Methods of Logic at least once. However, you might want someone who understands logic to help you comprehend it if you haven't had any logic background.
For ethics, I tend to be an ethical egoist, so I side with Nietzsche and Rand the most. I am currently reading Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ, which is very interesting. The Virtue of Selfishness is by far my favorite, as it basically serves as a handbook for Objectivists.
I too, dislike Descartes, pretty much for the same reason as you.
For me Russell, Voltaire, and Socrates.
During a Feminist Theory class, about 12 years ago, I ran into what I though was a funny problem. The prof. rejected a paper concerning the statistical change over time of the income differences, women and men, given education, age, etc.
I was a philosophy major/math minor at the time.
The paper showed that income disparity seemed to be dropping and that the difference seemed to be dependent upon mostly age and education. With present population groups having the least disparity. The disparity seemed to grand-fathered in to the older populations.
The prof. rejected the paper on the basis that mathematics can not prove or be insightful on a philosophical question. I quess I came from more of a natural philosophy background, thinking that all our tools should be used to extract some measure of truth. Locking up 'philosophy' into a class separate from the sciences, which I thought was the promising child of philosophy, could denign it a tool, and condemn it to a state similar to theism.
She also, suggested that I read Kant! I thought I had, not my favorite!
Does this whole thing remind you of a turf war? Maybe I am just more fluid in my approach..;p)
In a sense I suppose it is a turf war, if philosophers are attempting to do the same thing that scientists do (understand reality) but with different means (speculation as opposed to evidence). So, wouldn't religion be part of the same turf war? When I grade history papers, I write "evidence?" next to things students write that I don't think they can support with facts; perhaps I should write "interesting philosophy" instead.