A Few Curious Facts About Some of the Greatest Philosophers

There are several great philosophers who've been involved in curious situations. For example, there's the story of Chrysippus, who gave wine to a donkey. He found it so funny that he died from laughing. We're going to explore some more curious facts about some of the greatest philosophers.
A Few Curious Facts About Some of the Greatest Philosophers
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 13 May, 2023

Many of the greatest philosophers had curious lives. This is hardly surprising since they saw the world from new, deeper, and, generally more challenging perspectives.

One philosopher about whom there are a large number of anecdotes was the famous Diogenes of Sinope. He lived inside a wine barrel, enjoyed defecating in public, even in crowded theaters, and if he didn’t like someone, he urinated on them.

Diogenes the Cynic is also remembered for his witty outings. The most famous occurred when Alexander the Great came to visit him and told him that he could ask for whatever he wanted. Diogenes asked him to move out of the light.

One day, while traveling by boat, a dangerous storm broke out that caused the philosopher to experience real terror. His attitude aroused the ridicule of the sailors and the rest of the passengers. One asked him ‘How is it that you, a wise man, are afraid of losing your life, while an ignoramus like me is not afraid?’ And Aristippus replied: ‘The explanation is, as you yourself recognize, that we have very different lives to save and I wouldn’t mind losing my life if it were like yours .”

-Jaime Fernández-Blanco Inclán-

The statue of Socrates with the statue of Athena behind.

Some curious facts about the great philosophers 

Socrates is one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity about whom there are many anecdotes. It’s said that he had the nickname the gadfly of Athens. This is because, apparently, he was so challenging and disruptive that he managed to make almost everyone in power in Athens uncomfortable.

It’s also said that Socrates once received an offer from a rich Athenian. He wanted him to educate his son. The philosopher replied that this would cost him 500 drachmas, which was a considerable figure at the time. The man said this was too expensive and that he could buy a donkey for that price. Socrates told him to buy the donkey  “Then you’ll have two donkeys in the house” he told him.

Another great philosopher was Thales of Miletus. He was one of the first to address the issue of the mortality of the soul and to describe the meaning of an eclipse. One anecdote tells how, one day, he was studying the stars and gazing into the sky, and fell into a well. A servant girl made fun of him. She said that he was crazy wanting to know about what was up in the heavens when he couldn’t even see what was beneath his feet.

Other anecdotes from the great philosophers

Descartes was another great philosopher. It’s said that he hated getting up early and that he slept for up to 12 hours a night. In fact, he believed that sleep was the best food for the brain, which was why he never got up before noon. He used to work from his bed.

Jeremy Bentham was one of the most eccentric philosophers. He founded utilitarianism and was a true genius. However, he had a teapot called Dickey that no one was allowed to touch and he named his walking stick, Dapple.

In his will, he left an unusual instruction: one of his friends was to dissect his corpse in public. This wish was fulfilled. His remains were mummified and placed in a display case. They can be seen today at University College, London.

As a demonstration that not even the great philosophers escaped human suffering, there can be no better example than Immanuel Kant. All his life he suffered from severe intestinal problems. He went through torturous times when he couldn’t burp. Yet it was only this action that relieved him of the sensation of heaviness and fullness. During the last years of his life, after eating, a protuberance could be seen in his abdomen, probably a tumor.

kant statue

Other curious facts

Finally, let’s talk about Bodhidharma, one of the great Eastern philosophers and founder of the Zen branch of Mahayana Buddhism. Apparently, he came to China from Central or South Asia and was immediately noted for his wisdom, but also his eccentricities.

Once, he was invited to give a lecture on Buddhism. He accepted the invitation and, upon arrival, he sat down in the lotus position and proceeded to meditate for several hours. During this time, he didn’t utter a single word. After a while, he got up and left.

This philosopher wanted to join the Shaolin Monastery but, for some unknown reason, he was denied entry. Afterward, he moved to a nearby cave and again began to meditate. He spent nine years meditating until the monks finally admitted him. Once in the monastery, he criticized the apprentices for their poor physical health. To remedy this, he introduced martial arts into the teaching plan. This is how Shaolin Kung Fu was born.

As you can see, these great philosophers were both brilliant and amazing.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Coenen, E. (2018). Diógenes y Alejandro Magno en las tablas barrocas. In Ecos y resplandores helenos en la literatura hispana: siglos XVI-XXI (pp. 261-276). Sociedad Española de Estudios Clásicos.
  • Crimmins, J. E. (2015). Jeremy Bentham.
  • Strosetzki, C. (2007). El sabio entre el asombro y la curiosidad. Universitäts-und Landesbibliothek Münster.

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