Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love - Andrew Shaffer

From the publisher (Harper Perennial):
"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.) "

As Blaise Pascal said, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." Interestingly enough, he is not among the 37 philosophers whose, often amusing and sometimes shocking, love lives are featured in this quick read of a book. The layout is more like a Who's Who than a thesis, with each philosopher getting a 2-4 page "entry" which includes a brief (shallow) mention of their life and work and how they "failed" at love. There is a lot of the multiple marriages, mistresses, and illegitimate children we are used to in today's society, but there are also some outrageous pairings, taboo relationships, and odd neuroses among other tales which make this book very interesting and entertaining. It is clear the author approached the subject with a sense of humor and was really not looking to judge (also illustrated by the fact that when he signed my copy he also stamped an anatomical heart and a large red "FAIL" across the title page - see picture below). For those of you who want to brush up on your philosophy, this is not the book for you.  It is however, the book for anyone who wants reassurance that even the greatest of minds are as confounded by love as the rest of us are

Ratings: Book:  4/5   Cover: 3/5

Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love

1 comment:

  1. Sounds really entertaining! I'll have to check it out.