Sometimes with a great mind comes great weirdness. And the following eccentric philosophers are a testament to that. Their living arrangements, their take on life, their rituals, their language, their pets, there was something odd about all of these.
1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
An 18th-century French philosopher, he was eccentric in his own right. He was a proponent of the idea that people were naturally good but corrupted by society. He walked a fine line between advocating for simple living and indulging in extravagant habits. His Confessions, an autobiographical work, details his tumultuous personal life, including abandoning all five of his children in a hospital, which was considered quite unconventional and morally questionable.
2. Slavoj Zizek
Alas, the rockstar of philosophers! But boy, he doesn’t play by the rules! He’s not your typical suit-and-tie intellectual. Watch out for his nose-wiping and signature “and so on and so on” in interviews. Rumor has it, it’s his way of masking a lisp. He even uses these quirks to show students he’s a bit mad. Once he offered some raunchy descriptions for a series of photos in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog causing quite the scandal. Instead of fretting he famously replied “If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing ass to get a tenured post, I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!”
3. Arthur Schopenhauer
The famous 19th-century German philosopher was known for his pessimistic views on life. He was often seen as gloomy and cynical, a stark contrast to the optimistic ideals of his time. Schopenhauer’s eccentricity came from his staunch belief in asceticism and his penchant for solitude. He lived alone with his poodles, particularly his beloved dog Atman, and once wrote that dogs were more compassionate and faithful than most humans. And we agree.
4. Ludwig Wittgenstein
An Austrian-British philosopher, he was eccentric in his obsession with precision and language. He believed that many philosophical problems were due to language misuse. Wittgenstein’s odd habit was to retire to a remote cabin in Norway for long periods to work on his philosophical ideas in isolation. He was known to engage in intense arguments with friends and colleagues and occasionally shout or throw things to emphasize his points. His uncompromising nature and rigorous approach to language made him appear eccentric to many.
Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher, is known for his fascination with numbers and mathematical relationships. But get this: he forbade his followers from eating beans, as he believed they contained the souls of the dead. Yes, Pythagoras and his crew had these wacky rules. No strolling on public roads, no chowing down on beans, no baking bread, and you definitely couldn’t slip on your left shoe first. Rumor has it, his odd habits got him in trouble. Picture this: an angry mob chasing him near a bean field. Pythagoras, trying to be all bean-avoidant, just stood there. But, alas, the mob caught up and, well, let’s just say it didn’t end well for him. They gave him a good beating, and that was the end of Pythagoras and his quirky cult.
6. Simone Weil
Simone Weil, a 20th-century French philosopher, was known for her intense empathy and self-imposed austerity. She worked in a factory so she could experience the struggles of the working class firsthand. When she got sick she refused to eat more than a woman from German-occupied France would eat, leading to malnourishment.
7. B.F. Skinner
Skinner, an American psychologist and philosopher, was eccentric in his behaviorist approach to human behavior. He was often seen with his invention, the “Skinner Box,” a contraption used to study operant conditioning, and he occasionally kept his daughter in one to apply his principles.
8. Diogenes of Sinope
A classical Greek philosopher, was known for his eccentric lifestyle and philosophy of minimalism. He famously lived in a large ceramic wine jar in Athens and often wandered the streets barefoot, dressed in rags. Once he saw a boy drinking water from a puddle so he decided to forgo his one possession, a wooden bowl, apparently stating “Fool that I am, to have been carrying superfluous baggage all this time!” He believed in living in accordance with nature and rejected society’s norms and material possessions, which made him seem like a homeless vagabond to many. Diogenes was also notorious for his sharp wit and brutal honesty, often using biting sarcasm to criticize the established norms and values of his time.
9. Immanuel Kant
Born in Königsberg, Kant was a brilliant thinker who greatly influenced philosophy and science. Unlike other eccentric thinkers, he led a remarkably normal life and perhaps this is where his oddness lies. His daily routine was so predictable that neighbors set their clocks by his walks, always at the same time. His routine, down to planned parties, allowed him to accomplish a remarkable amount in his 79 years, defying his weak constitution.
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