Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love [NOOK Book]


Few people have failed at love as spectacularly as the great philosophers. Although we admire their wisdom, history is littered with the romantic failures of the most sensible men and women of every age, including:

Friedrich Nietzsche: "Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent." (Rejected by everyone he proposed to, even when he kept asking and asking.)

Jean-Paul Sartre: "There are of ...

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Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love

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Few people have failed at love as spectacularly as the great philosophers. Although we admire their wisdom, history is littered with the romantic failures of the most sensible men and women of every age, including:

Friedrich Nietzsche: "Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent." (Rejected by everyone he proposed to, even when he kept asking and asking.)

Jean-Paul Sartre: "There are of course ugly women, but I prefer those who are pretty." (Adopted his mistress as his daughter.)

Louis Althusser: "The trouble is there are bodies and, worse still, sexual organs." (Accidentally strangled his wife to death.)

And dozens of other great thinkers whose words we revere—but whose romantic decisions we should avoid at all costs.

Includes an excerpt from Andrew Shaffer's new book Literary Rogues.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shaffer’s jaunty compendium of highbrow heartbreak provides proof positive that even the most brilliant of minds can fall afoul of Cupid—and offers some measure of hope to the lovelorn. He profiles 37 great Western thinkers, detailing the sometimes lurid, always disastrous ways their love lives imploded. The brisk biographies paint a picture of the pitfalls of marriage, dating, and love, but also a philosophy primer. And after learning that Louis Althusser “accidentally” murdered his wife, that Albert Camus divorced his wife after discovering she was sleeping with a doctor in exchange for morphine, that Friedrich Nietzsche engaged in sexual intercourse on several occasions “on doctor’s orders,” and that Martin Heidegger discovered his son was the product of an affair between his wife and a family friend, almost everyone will feel better about his or her love life. (Jan.) A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson Patricia Brady Palgrave Macmillan, (272p) ISBN 978-0-230-60950-1 “Their greatest happiness was being together, and they were miserable when apart.” But Andrew and Rachel Jackson’s marriage led to vicious smears during the 1828 presidential campaign, when opponents labeled Rachel an adulteress, bigamist, and whore. The Jacksons’ adoring 40-year marriage, in fact, began with an elopement while Rachel was still married to a successful but overly possessive merchant. Unable legally to seek a divorce after she fell in love with Jackson, her mother’s lodger, Rachel fled with him to Mississippi and Kentucky, and the legality of their marriage remained opaque. Following Rachel’s death soon after his election as president, Jackson “mourned every day for the rest of his life.” In a narrative more simplistic than nuanced, Brady (Martha Washington) nevertheless spins an absorbing tale of lovers in adversity and reveals the humanity of an ambitious, calculating politician. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Feb.)
Neal Pollack
“A funny and oddly moving history of philosophy as tortured erotic dysfunction.”
A.J. Jacobs
“Fascinating, thought-provoking and mildly disturbing... Also, if you are considering dating an eminent philosopher, you need to buy this right now.”
Clancy Martin
“Indispensable advice for all lovers—and especially for those who think they should learn about the art of love from philosophers. A wonderful summary of the musings on love by some of history’s greatest and most idiosyncratic minds.”
Tom Morris
“Amazing stories! Incredible quotes! Sordid details! This book shows that a genius in the realm of thought can be a dummy in the land of love. It’s a hilarious and provocative warning, full of cautionary tales for us all. Enjoy it and share it with someone you love!”
Martin Cohen
“[A]n entertaining romp through the seamy side of philosophy... highlighting the hypocrisy and downright ineptness of those who too often counted as our ‘greatest thinkers’ in this crucial, if so often overlooked, area of sexual politics...”
William Irwin
“A fun way to learn about the lives and loves of the great thinkers.”
Martha Stewart Whole Living
“If you’re in dutch with your valentine, give him Andrew Shaffer’s book, which recounts the tortured love lives of 37 thinkers. Compared to them, you’ll look as saintly as St. Thomas himself—who, Shaffer tells us, once chased a prostitute out of his room with a hot poker.”
“[An] amusing essay in highbrow schadenfreude...most of the philosophers, giant throbbing intellects and all, simply screwed up like the rest of us.”
the Cedar Rapids Gazette
“Eye-opening, funny, and frequently shocking.”
New York Times Book Review
“‘Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love’ extends the schadenfreude to the boudoir.”
Cedar Rapids Gazette
“Eye-opening, funny, and frequently shocking.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062036612
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/4/2011
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 362,871
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Andrew Shaffer is the author of Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love and, under the pen name Fanny Merkin, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. His writing has appeared in such diverse publications as Mental Floss and Maxim. An Iowa native, Shaffer lives in Lexington, Kentucky, a magical land of horses and bourbon.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1


Peter Abelard (1079-1142) 7

Louis Althusser (1918-1990) 14

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) 18

Aristotle (384-322 BC) 22

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) 26

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) 31

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) 36

John Calvin (1509-1564) 41

Albert Camus (1913-1960) 45

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) 48

Auguste Comte (1798-1857) 53

René Descartes (1596-1650) 59

John Dewey (1859-1952) 63

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) 67

Diogenes the Cynic (c. 412-323 BC) 72

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) 75

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) 80

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) 84

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) 89

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) 93

David Hume (1711-1776) 97

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) 100

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) 104

John Locke (1632-1704) 108

Titus Lucretius (c. 99-c. 55 BC) 113

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) 116

Plato (c. 427-c. 347 BC) 120

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) 124

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) 129

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) 134

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) 138

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) 143

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) 148

Socrates (469-399 BC) 152

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) 157

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) 162

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) 166

Timeline 173

Acknowledgments 177

Selected Bibliography 179

Permissions 193

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 16, 2011

    Entertaining but not deep

    This is a fun read if you might like to review some salacious and tawdry behavior of renowned great thinkers. It's not all tawdry, though. Kant just couldn't seem to kickstart any action towards the opposite sex, and thus failed. BTW, "failure" is used in the broadest terms found in our own general western culture and seems to cover everything short of a blissful monogamous relation. Nonetheless, I found it fun - but not a great book. There is no attempt to analyze why or how someone as say, Rousseau, could help lay down philosophical foundations for modern society and abandon 5 children yet keep their mother and her family around. These sorts of oddities, juxtaposed against our modern notions of obligation make for the entertaining albeit quick read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    not worht the money

    ok,but not something I would recommend

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2012

    Smart Doesn't Always Mean Sane

    Interesting proves that often super intelligent people are often so at the expense of some other area really lacking...smartest person in the room can easily be the most awkward or distasteful person in the room. If you either love history or psychiatry, this book will interest you. It will give you some great factual information to arm yourself with, for when you son or daughter brings home a philosophy major to meet.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2014

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    Posted April 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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