Thursday 22 September 2011

How to Become a Famous Philosopher

OK, so you want to be a famous philosopher? It doesn't seem to be too difficult, as long as you take care to start off in the right way...

Ludwig Wittgenstein was born into what was probably the richest family in all Austria, his sister died in babyhood and the only one of his four brothers who didn't commit suicide was maimed in the war. Bertrand Russell was actually an Earl, born into one of the richest aristocratic families in Wales, his mother died when he was three, followed by his sister, and, two years later his father also died, from bronchitis following a long period of depression. 

Confucius's father died when he was three. Gottfried Leibniz's father died when he was six.  Ralph Waldo Emerson's father died from stomach cancer less than two weeks before Emerson's eighth birthday and three of his siblings - Phebe, John Clarke, and Mary Caroline - died in childhood. Both of Erasmus' parents died of the plague when Erasmus was only 17. Augustine of Hippo was a libertine from an aristocratic family whose mother was an alcoholic. RenĂ© Descartes was rich enough never to have to work, his mother died when he was one. Auguste Comte, after a spell in an asylum, attempted suicide by jumping off the Pont des Arts. Immanuel Kant was from a family of stern Scottish descent, five of his brothers and sisters died in childhood. David Hume's father, a leading lawyer, died when he was only two years old, leaving him to be raised by his mother, the daughter of a Lord President of the Court of Session. Soren Kierkegaard was born in 1813 to a vastly wealthy family in Copenhagen - his mother, and all but one of his six siblings, died young. Gottfried Leibniz was son of a philosophy professor who died when Gottfried was only six. Marcus Aurelius was emperor of Rome, his father died when he was three.

Hegel's mother, Maria, died of a "bilious fever" when Hegel was eleven. Hegel and his father also caught the disease but narrowly survived.  Hegel's brother, Georg Ludwig  was killed in Napoleon's Russian campaign of 1812. Thomas Hobbes was born dangerously prematurely - his father was a priest who abandoned his three children to the care of an older brother, Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with another clergyman outside his own church.  John Stuart Mill grew to suffer horrid depression over an upbringing which had forced classical literature, logic, political economy, history and mathematics down him before he was fourteen.

Friedrich Nietsche's father died when he five, and his younger brother died a year later. On September 27, 1759, Thomas Paine married Mary Lambert, his business collapsed soon after, then Mary became pregnant, they moved to Margate, she went into early labor, in which she and their child died. Blaise Pascal's mother died when he was only seven. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's mother, Suzanne Bernard Rousseau, the daughter of a Calvinist preacher, died of puerperal fever nine days after his birth. When Jean-Paul Sartre was 15 months old, his father died of a fever.

Oh, and if being a Famous Philosopher isn't good enough for you - Jesus clearly had a serious relationship problem with his parents, and he wasn't alone. Abraham's father died following his son's demand that they quit the city of Ur. Mohammed's mother died when he was six, while The Buddha's mother, according to legend, died giving birth to him.

You get the idea?


  1. BHAHAHAH. I'm in good standing!

  2. woop looks like i'm in

  3. Sounds like a deep tension helps. Like early trauma. Death of significant others creates a persistent sense of loss, questions of why, and can destabilise others, perpetuating a tense context.

    Wealth affords education (particulary historically) and buys time to think and write. It also gains attention. Who knows what great writings has history ignored.

  4. Sounds like God can bring some good out of even the greatest of sufferings!

  5. @Anonymous, I'm sure you wrote it ironically. I mean, I hope so.

    I'd much rather be a blissful nobody than a depressed philosopher!

    1. Oh Nooo. No irony here. These are the facts.

  6. Got it! What's next?

  7. I tell you, every philosopher has something to think about -most are sad stories.