A Litany of Dead Philosophers

Pythagoras allowed himself to be slaughtered rather than cross a field of beans;
Heraclitus suffocated in cow dung;
Plato allegedly died of a lice infestation;
Aristotle is reported to have killed himself with aconite;
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; So did the great radical Zeno of Citium;
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;
John Scottus Eriugena, the great Irish philosopher, was allegedly stabbed to death by his English students;
Avicenna died of an opium overdose after engaging much too vigorously in sexual activity;
Aquinas died twenty-five miles from his birthplace;
Pico della Mirandola was poisoned by his secretary;
Siger of Brabant was stabbed by his;
William of Ockham died of the Black Death;
Thomas More was beheaded and his head was stuck on pike on London Bridge;
Giordano Bruno was gagged and burnt alive at the stake by the Inquisition;
Galileo narrowly escaped the same fate, but got away with life imprisonment;
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
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;
The handsome and brilliant John Toland died in such dire poverty in London that no marker was placed at his burial spot;
Berkeley, a fervent critic of Toland and other so-called “freethinkers,” died one Sunday evening on a visit to Oxford while his wife read him a sermon;
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 päte;
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 UniversityCollege 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;
Kierkegaard’s gravestone rests against that of his father; 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 ( I love her) starved herself to death for the sake of solidarity with occupied France in the Second World War;
Edith Stein died in Auschwitz;
Giovanni Gentile was executed by anti-Fascist Italian partisans;
Sartre said, “Death? I don’t think about it. It has no place in my life”; 50,000 people attended his funeral;
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;
Dominique Janicaud died alone on a beach in August 2002 close to the foot of le chemin Nietzsche outside Nice in France after suffering a heart attack while swimming.
(Courtesy to Simon Critchley)


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