The Philosophers are a secret organization in the Metal Gear franchise, and more specifically, the Metal Gear Solid sub-series. The group was originally composed of twelve of the most powerful individuals from the world's three great "superpowers": China, the United States and the Soviet Union. Their existence is first revealed in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater by Aleksandr Leonovitch Granin as he describes the origin of Colonel Volgin's vast fortune, known as the "Philosophers' Legacy," to Naked Snake.
The Philosophers and their ideology heavily inspired Major Zero to reshape the group's American branch into new organization that would eventually become the Patriots.
Following the conclusion of the first Great War, a group of twelve of the world's wealthiest and most influential individuals known as the "Wisemen's Committee" formed a secret pact. The Committee members sought to unify their enormous influence over global affairs in order to steer the world away from further needless conflict. In the years that followed, this secret group of self-styled "Philosophers" presided over a period of relative world peace. However, once the last of the Philosophers' twelve founding members had died in the 1930s, the group's raison d'etre became muddled even as its newest members continued to increase their influence over international events.
As the Philosophers grew in power and ambition, their general interest in warfare grew to match, eventually sparking a second World War between the Allied Powers (those countries controlled by or allied with the Philosophers) and the Axis Powers. Faced with their first real enemy, the Philosophers agreed to pool their respective nations' considerable resources together in order to secure total victory over the Axis forces. To this end, China, the United States and the USSR diverted a total of approximately one-hundred billion US dollars into a secret military slush fund. This impressive sum of cash was used to develop new technologies that would revolutionize the very concept of warfare, such as advanced rocketry, nuclear weapons and the Cobra Unit. In truth, the enormous amount of money gathered between the Allied superpowers was enough to win the war five times over.
Granin explains how his own "OKB" experimental design bureau was personally funded by the wealthy Volgin, a colonel in the Soviet Union's GRU intelligence agency. Volgin illegally acquired his fortune through his father, a high-ranking Soviet officer named Boris who had been appointed to launder the massive funds accumulated by the Philosophers during World War II. However, he instead devised a plan to steal the entire sum on behalf of the Soviet Union; in the confusion that ensued after the war had ended, Boris split up the money and transferred the funds across several secret bank accounts scattered across the world. He recorded each monetary transaction onto a microfilm that would serve as the key to retrieving the so-called "Philosopher's Legacy" at a later date.
The Philosophers had originally intended to divide the Legacy among themselves following the end of the second World War. Once the Legacy's theft had been discovered, however, the Philosophers' original pact quickly began to disintegrate. Ideological rifts formed between the organization's surviving members and their respective nations as accusations were traded regarding the fate of their precious Legacy. Eventually the Philosophers were split between their three countries' governments, giving rise to three separate rival branches of the Philosophers and marking the beginning of the Cold War.
Following his father's death, Volgin learned of Boris' plan and obtained the microfilm granting access to the Philosophers' Legacy. In a bid to oust the Khrushchev regime that held power in Soviet Russia at that time, Volgin used the Legacy's funds in conjunction with support from Leonid Brezhnev and his political allies to build both the military fortress of Groznyj Grad and Granin's research facility in Tselinoyarsk.