Philosophy can be incredibly dry at times, giving it a bad name. With all of its jargon, complex theories, and intricate history, philosophy is strictly scholarly, intimidating intellectuals, scaring away laypeople, and attracting very little attention, as most people prefer to stay away from the dense topic; what people tend to overlook, though, is that philosophy is not always boring, for philosophy is filled with humorous yet interesting anecdotes concerning famous philosophers. So, without further ado, I present part four of Philosophy Fun Facts, which will be a short series of quirky but educational fun facts about philosophers and philosophy.
Not only were the Founding Fathers inspired by the Philosophes of the Enlightenment as evidenced in the Declaration of Independence, but they were great fans of philosophy itself, many of them members of the American Philosophical Society. The American Philosophical society was founded in 1743 and was an organization in which great thinkers could congregate and discuss ideas. Benjamin Franklin, pals with French philosopher Voltaire, was one of the founders. Thomas Jefferson may have been the 3rd President of the United States, but he was also the president of the APS along with Benjamin Franklin! Other notable members include (but aren’t limited to): George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Rush, Charles Darwin, Linus Pauling, and Thomas Edison.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Esteemed Founding Father Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was, surprisingly, a self-admitted Epicurean. Alas, history has not completely spoiled Epicureanism! Jefferson’s grandiose library apparently had five copies of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura. It is quite easy, obvious actually, to spot Jefferson’s Epicurean inclinations in the memorable line of the Declaration of Independence that references “the pursuit of happiness.”
For further reading:
501 Things You Should Have Learned About Philosophy by Alison Rattle (2012)
1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think by Robert Arp (2013)
The Essentials of Philosophy by James Mannion (2006)
The Twilight of the Idols by Friedrich Nietzsche (1888)
The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb (2000)
History of Philosophy by Julian Marias (1967)