Dead white philosophers

These are taken from The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley:

Pythagoras allowed himself to be slaughtered rather than cross a field of beans.

Heracleitus suffocated in cow dung.

Plato allegedly died of a lice infestation.

Empedocles plunged into Mount Etna in the hope of becoming a god, but one of his bronze slippers was spat out by the flames in confirmation of his mortality.

Diogenes died by holding his breath.

Zeno of Elea died heroically by biting a tyrant’s ear until he was stabbed to death.

Lucretius is alleged to have killed himself after being driven mad by taking a love potion.

Hypatia was killed by a mob of angry Christians and her skin was peeled off with oyster shells;

Boethius was cruelly tortured before being bludgeoned to death on the orders of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric.

Avicenna died of an opium overdose after engaging much too vigorously in sexual activity.

Aquinas died twenty-five miles from his birthplace after banging his head against the bough of a tree.

Pico della Mirandola was poisoned by his secretary.

William of Ockham died of the Black Death.

Thomas More was beheaded and his head was stuck on a pike on London Bridge.

Giordano Bruno was gagged and burnt alive at the stake by the Inquisition;

Bacon died after stuffing a chicken with snow in the streets of London to assess the effects of refrigeration.

Descartes died of pneumonia as a consequence of giving early-morning tutorials in the Stockholm winter to the prodigious and cross-dressing Queen Christina of Sweden.

Spinoza died in his rented rooms at The Hague while everyone else was at church.

Leibniz, discredited as an atheist and forgotten as a public figure, died alone and was buried at night with only one friend in attendance.

Montesquieu died in the arms of his lover, leaving unfinished an essay on taste.

The atheist, materialist La Mettrie died of indigestion caused by eating a huge amount of truffle pate.

Rousseau died of massive cerebral bleeding which was possibly caused by a violent collision with a Great Dane on the streets of Paris two years earlier.

Diderot choked to death on an apricot, presumably to show that pleasure could be had until the very last breath.

Condorcet was murdered by the Jacobins during the bloodiest years of the French Revolution.

Hume died peacefully in his bed after fending off the inquiries of Boswell as to the atheist’s attitude to death.

Kant’s last word was “Sufficit,” “it is enough.

Hegel died in a cholera epidemic and his last words were “Only one man ever understood me …and he didn’t understand me” (presumably he was referring to himself).

Bentham had himself stuffed and sits on public view in a glass box at University College London in order to maximize the utility of his person.

Max Stirner was stung on the neck by a flying insect and died of the resulting fever.

Nietzsche made a long, soft-brained and dribbling descent into oblivion after kissing a horse in Turin.

Moritz Schlick was murdered by a disturbed student who went on to join the Nazi Party.

Wittgenstein died the day after his birthday, for which his friend Mrs. Bevan gave him an electric blanket saying “Many happy returns;” Wittgenstein replied, staring at her, “There will be no returns.”

Simone Weil starved herself to death for the sake of solidarity with occupied France in the Second World War.

Edith Stein died in Auschwitz.

Merleau-Ponty was allegedly discovered dead in his office with his face in a book by Descartes.

Roland Barthes was hit by a dry cleaning van after a meeting with the future French minister for culture.

Freddie Ayer had a near-death experience where he reportedly met the masters of the universe after choking on a piece of salmon.

Gilles Deleuze defenestrated himself from his Paris apartment in order to escape the sufferings of emphysema.

Derrida died of pancreatic cancer at the same age as his father, who died of the same disease.


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