Famous Philosophers and How They Were First Discovered

Originally appeared on McSweeney's, May 3 2010

Anselm of Canterbury

Full-page promotional ad in local paper paid for by his parents. Text written by his aunt, a professional writer of sorts; she once penned an unpublished romance novel.

Bernard of Clairvaux

Fucks like the wind. Loves like a dream.


Knew someone, who knew someone else, who knew the secrets of the universe. They got in touch. Still has his hair done by this man. The man’s name? Mr. Weatherford.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Summer replacement for previous town philosopher. Stays for good.


Edgy theories pertaining to life’s great mysteries quickly adopted by fringe contingent. Slowly, carefully, moves into the mainstream. Not long thereafter deemed a “sell out.” Q ratings drop. Rise. Remain steady. Now philosophizing part-time at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater, Lancaster, PA.


Legally adopted at seventeen by sleazy manager type. Changes hairstyle, wardrobe. Grows dynamite handlebar mustache. Favorite hobby: “Spilling seed on rocks.” Original name: Jacob Cohen.


Large, but proud nose distinguishes Abelard from the rest of the philosopher pack. Also: Sleepy-eyed and perpetually tanned. This kid is yummy.

Thomas Aquinas

Hung like a champ.

Francis Bacon

Colossal head of hair. Pecs to die for. Recently received calf implants.

René Descartes

Myth: Lover extraordinaire. Reality: Disaster in bed. At moment of climax, screams: “Little Pony!” Rumors spread. Those in the know are intrigued. Decide to find out for themselves. Within weeks, screams of “Little Pony!” can be heard across the canyon. And beyond.

John Locke

Child-philosopher prodigy, before forming the infamous philosophizing duo of Locke & Load. Goes solo. Now rich as hell and can’t give a hoot about all those jerkoff philospher-impersonators gigging on the Vegas nightclub scene.

William of Ockham

This is an interesting story, I read about it in a magazine. I think it goes something like: William meets Hippocrates at a public bath. He shows him a scar shaped like a rose. Hippocrates is impressed enough to ask: “What do you want to do with your life?” “I want to philosophize.” “Why?” is the response. “I want to help humanity.” “You’re an idiot.” “Please, just give me this.” “I’ll see what I can pull.” I’m forgetting the ending.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Discovered while eating a turkey hoagie and contemplating the meaning of life at a roadside stand. Also, admit it: he’s cute as a goddamn bug!

Benedict Spinoza

Auditioned. Simple as that.

Albert Camus

Cleft chin makes all the ladies swoon. And the men? Forget it, he’s a brother, a friend, a drinking buddy. That guy you want to hang around with during your off-time, not the brightest fella in the world, but non-threatening and quite partial to laughing at your jokes that involve geisha girls with ample, dimpled bottoms.

John Duns Scotus


Immanuel Kant

How was he discovered? Does it really matter? He is ultra-smooth and the public has little say in the matter. He is here for good. Get used to it.

Who is your favorite philosopher? What were they famous for? Do you like them a lot? What would you like to do with your life? There are so many questions, but so few answers.