The 30 Harshest Philosopher-on-Philosopher Insults in History

We’ve amused ourselves for a while now at Flavorwire with our ongoing survey of internecine mud-slinging in various areas of the arts: musicians, actors, authors, and filmmakers have all provided rich entertainment in the manifold ways they’ve fought amongst themselves. But for truly epic bitchiness and egotism, you need look no further than that most storied and venerable of academic disciplines: philosophy! The history of Western thought is peppered with thinkers taking aim at their peers — sometimes in a genteelly intellectual manner, and sometimes… um, less so (yes, Friedrich Nietzsche, this means you). Here are 30 of the best, from Aristotle to Žižek.


30. Voltaire on Jean-Jacques Rousseau
“I have read, monsieur, your new book against the human race. I thank you for it. No one has ever used so much intellect to prove us beasts. A desire seizes us to walk on four paws when we read your work. Nevertheless, as it is more than sixty years since I lost the habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it.” [via]

29. Rene Descartes on Blaise Pascal
“Monsieur Pascal has too much vacuum in his brain.” [via]

28. Ralph Waldo Emerson on Henry Thoreau
“Henry Thoreau is like the woodgod who solicits the wandering poet & draws him into antres [sic] vast & desarts [sic] idle, & bereaves him of his memory. & leaves him naked, plaiting vines & with twigs in his hand. Very seductive are the first steps from the town to the woods, but the End is want and madness.” [via]

27. Ludwig Wittgenstein on Bertrand Russell
“Russell’s books should be bound in two colors, those dealing with mathematical logic in red – and all students of philosophy should read them; those dealing with ethics and politics in blue – and no one should be allowed to read them.”

26. Bertrand Russell on Aristotle
“I do not agree with Plato, but if anything could make me do so, it would be Aristotle’s arguments against him.” [via]