What Lovers of Philosophy is about

They were Europe’s greatest thinkers. But what were they like at life? In particular, did their highly developed capacity for critical thinking help or hinder their ability to have relationships with other human beings? Were they superior in their ability to succeed in having mutually fulfilling intimate relationships, or did they flounder just as much as we mere mortals?

Lovers of Philosophy is an exploration of the love lives of the great European philosophers from Kant to Derrida. It introduces the philosophy of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Foucault and Derrida; and examines whether their deep pondering on the meaning of life helped them to be any better at living and loving than we non-philosophers. Their lovers tell us what these philosophers were really like. We hear from Simone de Beauvoir about Sartre; from Hannah Arendt about Heidegger. We hear about the so-called continental philosophers’ peccadillos, mistresses, fetishes and foibles. These stories are told against the background of the bigger story of the momentous changes that have occurred in Europe in the past three hundred years, and how these philosophers initiated, and responded to the scientific, social, economic and political revolutions of modern times.

By exploring of these philosophers’ lives, the reader is taken on a journey through the intriguing world of continental thought from the 1700s to the 21st century. Starting with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the book chronicles the evolution of European philosophy from German idealism through to French existentialism, structuralism and post-modernist thought.

By drawing on historical research, the relationship between each philosopher’s love life and their work is examined. As well as their individual philosophies, there is an exploration of Kant’s celibacy, Hegel’s premarital liaisons, Nietzsche’s heartbreak, Heidegger’s hypocrisy, Sartre’s experiments in promiscuous polyamory, Foucault’s exploration of gay liberation, and Derrida’s dalliance in extramarital intimacy; as well as the role of marriage and long-term relationships in the lives and works of these intellectuals.


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