Oddball Facts about Famous Philosophers [under construction]

  • Lao-Tzu (570-490 BC) - There is some doubt whether this person really existed as such. The name means 'Old One'. The story goes that after retiring from the civil service he retired to a resort in the mountains. Trouble is, the mountains named are mythical.
  • Confucius (551-479 BC) - His name is associated with the Five Classics of Ancient Chinese literature, but it is not known whether he was the author, editor, or merely the compiler of those works.
  • Sun Tzu (~500 BC) - In contrast with Lao-Tzu and Confucius, about whom there are doubts that there was even one such person, Sun Tzu is believed by textual scholars to have been several people. The text they authored is the famous Art of War , found useful in both the military and commercial spheres - which tells us a lot about commerce.
  • Socrates (470-399 BC) - Socrates was noted for his ugliness. These days he would be in danger of being diagnosed as a schizophrenic because he claimed that a 'divine voice' spoke to him and gave him moral instructions.
  • Plato (427-347 BC) - Allegedly, Plato was so named because of his flat (plate-like) facial features. According to another interpretation his name meant 'broad shouldered'. His family name was Ariston. The prefix 'aris' meant 'best', and is a root of the word 'aristocrat'. In the latter part of his life, Plato travelled to the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily where he undertook the task of making the king a philosopher. He failed.
  • Diogenes of Sinope (412-323 BC) - Diogenes' beliefs made him live much like an animal. He used an old washtub for shelter and behaved in public as if he were in private. He was famous (or notorious), so much so that Alexander (the Great) of Macedon made a point of visiting him. When Alexander asked if there was any favor he could do, Diogenes requested that he stop throwing his shadow on him.
  • Aristotle (383-321 BC) - Aristotle taught philosophy to the youth who was to become Alexander the Great. He was a peripatetic, which means he did his best thinking while walking - as did Kant. Curiously, both are noted philosophical categorizers.
  • Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero, a.k.a. Tully, 106-43 BC) - A talented orator and staunch republican, he supported the enemies of Julius Caesar. After the Civil War he was forgiven by Caesar but hailed the assassination of the great general. When Marc Antony and Caesar's adopted son Octavian established the Roman Empire, Cicero's name was high on their death-list.
  • Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) - Aurelius was a major Stoic philosopher. He was also Emperor of Rome (in the movie Gladiator he is played by Richard Harris). Tragically, his reign saw the collapse of the Pax Romanum, the political and military power that had kept the known world relatively peaceful for more than 300 years.
  • Plotinus (203-270 AD)
  • St. Augustine (354-430 AD) - This saint wrote a book of self-confessions that is one of the most revealing ever published. In it he reminds himself of how he struggled with (and was often defeated by) inclinations to many sorts of sinful behaviour, how he tried at least two other religions on for size before finally being converted to Christianity with the help of his mother. One of his philosophical accomplishments was to anticipate Rene Descartes' famous idea, "I think, therefore I am". Augustine died with the Western Roman Empire: he was Bishop of Hippo in North Africa when it was destroyed by an invading barbarian army.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD)
  • John Duns Scotus (1266-1308 AD) - The word 'dunce' is derived from John Duns' name. Not because he was reckoned stupid but because his writings were so impenetrable they made scholars who tried to interpret them appear stupid.
  • Nicollo Machiavelli (1469-1527 AD)
  • John Calvin (1509-1564 AD)
  • Rene Descartes (1596-1650 AD) - Descartes loved to sleep late in a room warmed by a fire. Then he was hired by Queen Christina of Sweden to teach her philosophy. She insisted on early morning lessons in an unheated room. Descartes soon caught pneumonia and died.
  • Francis Bacon (1562-1626 AD) - The cold also killed Bacon. He went outdoors in winter to stuff a chicken with snow as part of an experiment in food preservation. He caught a chill and died. He had been forced to resign from a high government position after being accused of taking bribes. He was the first important philosopher in the Britsh Empiricist tradition.
  • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679 AD)
  • Blaise Pascal (1623-1662 AD) - Pascal was a mathematician who did foundational work in the math of probability (he was fond of playing cards). In philosophy he invented an argument in favour of belief in God that concluded that such belief was a better bet than unbelief.
  • John Locke (1632-1704 AD)
  • Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677 AD) - Spinoza made his living grinding lenses for spectacles. He was a Jew and was eventually shunned by the Jewish community because he believed that the world and God are one and the same thing.
  • Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716 AD)
  • Voltaire (1694-1708 AD)
  • Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790 AD)
  • David Hume (1711-1776 AD) - Hume, a Scot, wrote a best-selling book on English history. Although his contributions to philosophy are undoubtedly the most important of his works, he is described in the catalogue of the British Library as "the historian".
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778 AD)
  • Denis Diderot (1713-1784 AD)
  • Adam Smith (1723-1790 AD)
  • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804 AD) - Kant never travelled more than about 30 miles from the town he lived in all his life. He went for a daily walk that was timed so precisely that the townfolk said they could set their clocks by it. When he died his funeral was estimated to have temporarily more than tripled the population of the town.
  • Mendelsohn (1729-86 AD)
  • Jeremy Bentham (1748-1831) - This English founder of Utilitarianism once designed a prison that was to be constructed so that each cell could be seen into directly by centrally placed guards. He called it a Panopticon. When Bentham died his body was taxidermised, mounted in a glass case, and put on permanent display at Universtiy College, London, where it remains to the present day.
  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814 AD)
  • George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831 AD)
  • Washington Irving (1783-1859 AD)
  • Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860 AD)
  • Charles de Secondat baron de Montesquieu (1789-1755 AD)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882 AD)
  • John Stuart Mill (1806-1873 AD)
  • Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862 AD)
  • Karl Marx (1818-1883 AD)
  • Samuel Butler (1835-1902 AD)
  • William James (1842-1910 AD)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900 AD) - Nietzsche suffered from an incestuous love for his sister. He died insane, in an asylum, from the effects of tertiary-stage syphilis.
  • Sigmund Freud (1856-1939 AD)
  • John Dewey (1859-1952 AD)
  • James Allen (1864-1912 AD)
  • Bertrand Russell (1872-1970 AD) - Russell, a member of the English aristocracy, lived 98 tempestuous years. He was an atheist and political activist. His opinions on 'free love' and criticism of marriage earned him enemies almost everywhere he went. In private he was given to boasting about his sexual prowess. He once gave a speech in favour of a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. In 1964 he published an essay titled "16 Questions on the Assassination" which lucidly pointed out the inconsistencies in the official story of John F. Kennedy's murder.
  • Karl Jaspers (1883-1969 AD)
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951 AD)
  • Martin Heidegger (1889-1976 AD)
  • Ayn Rand (1905-1982 AD)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (1905- AD)
  • Stephen Ambrose (1936-2002 AD)

It's probably a typo, but Satre died in 1980, he's not alive.
Some suggestions

Wittgenstein: He went to school with Hitler. Three of his four brothers committed suicide and his other surviving one was a one-armed pianist. He was (albeit briefly) a member of the Cambridge apostles. He went to Norway in 1913 in isolation, in order to concentrate on his work.

Thomas Aquinas: His family held him captive for a year and offered him women in order to dissuade him from studying under the Dominicans.

Voltaire: He spent 11 months in the Bastille in his early twenties for writing mocking verses about the aristocracy, and was also exiled from Paris. His last words were, "For God's sake, let me die in peace".

Adam Smith: Was kidnapped at Age 4 by a band of Gypsies.

One which you may want to add;
Anselm: He had a secret lover named Héloise, whom he also had a child with and got married to. Her brothers, seeking revenge, ambushed him one night and castrated him. He then became a monk and her a nun.