I compiled this list of philosophers based on various readings and biographies. For even more philosophers who failed at love, I highly recommend Andrew Shaffer’s book “Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love”.
1. Plato (427-347 BC) The Greek philosopher died a lifelong bachelor at the age of 81. In “The Republic,” Plato describes utopia as a city run by the State. The children of “inferior” couples would be “put away in come mysterious unknown place, as they ought to be.” Other children would also be taken away and raised by the community and call every elder their “mother” or “father.” Women would not belong to their husbands, but all men. He also believed that pregnant women older than forty should be required to have abortions or commit infanticide.
2. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) The famous author, known for works like “War and Peace,” had his first sexual experience was with a prostitute at the age of 14. In his 20s he had a child with a serf, whom he never publicly acknowledged. At age 34 he married and had thirteen children—eight of which survived. His wife attempted suicide several times. Tolstoy abruptly left his family and died in train station 10 days after.
3. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) The German philosopher was a lifelong bachelor. He proposed to two women—both of which rejected the offer. Nietzsche eventually became insane due to a syphilitic infection.
4. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) French enlightenment philosopher Rousseau had five children with an illiterate seamstress. He abandoned every child to a hospital. Neither were faithful to each other but decided to marry. Rousseau preferred to call her his “housekeeper,” rather than his wife.
5. Albert Camus (1913-1960) Camus’ first marriage ended when he discovered his wife was having sex with a doctor in exchange for morphine. Three months after the divorce, he remarried. He pursued several women while married and she had an affair with an actress. Nevertheless, the two remained until he was killed in a car crash at the age of 46.
6. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) The Russian author, famous for books like “Crime and Punishment,” began a romantic affair while his first wife was ill with tuberculosis. After a couple years, he ended the affair and tended to his sick wife. She later died and his brother passed away shortly after. He then proposed to his previous mistress, who declined. A few years later he married and had a child with his transcriber. They struggled with financial difficulties due to his gambling addiction.
7. Ayn Rand (1905-1982) At the age of 55, Rand began an affair with a 25-year-old fan, despite the fact that both were married. Her lover eventually separated from his wife and later revealed he was having another affair with a model. Rand was furious and removed him from the dedication page of “Atlas Shrugged” and banned him from the Objectivist movement they started. Yet, despite all of this, her husband stood by her.
8. John Locke (1632-1704) The English philosopher never married or had children. He had many female pen pals, but was too indifferent or oblivious to recognize that some were looking for something more than letters.
9. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) The German philosopher believed premarital sex and any sexual act that was not a means of procreation was immoral. He believed married couples acquire “lifelong possession of each other’s sexual attributes.” He never found a woman who agreed with his view of marriage.
10. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) Thoreau and his brother fell in love with the same girl, but she rejected both of their marriage proposals. He never married or fell in love again because he believed she was “the one.”