I’ve now read two issues of Tatler, the British fashion magazine, and I do hope to read a third some day, because it’s helping me practice my ability to differentiate between English drollery and end-stage nihilism (on a list of “deal breakers” in the current issue: “You find out she isn’t married.”) I was, however, underwhelmed by an article this month, pipped on the cover as “Why philosophers are hot (we think).”

Inside they have what purports to be a list of sexy philosophers. I'm suspicious of this claim because none of the men cited are sexy (sorry) and some of them aren’t even philosophers. Here is a representative list of phrases from the article, apparently offered as data points in support of the proposition: “luxuriantly bearded,” “‘linked’ to Lady Gaga,” “wears white shirts unbuttoned almost to the navel,” “a friend (and defender) of Dominique Strauss-Kahn,” “used to have a Tribeca pad with vulva-shaped protuberances—known as the Vaginas of Doom—on the walls,” “a keen croquet player.” See what I mean about the end-stage nihilism?

So before considering the question, "Why are philosophers hot?" I think we should back up and ask, "Are philosophers hot?" And having given this some thought I would have to say not particularly. This is an analytical claim based on my understanding of the concepts of “being a philosopher” and “sexiness.” Philosophers should be intellectually curious, which is attractive, but they often place a very high premium on a) logic b) precision c) clarity and d) in some cases, securing third-party acknowledgement of their own intelligence. None of that makes them good flirts. The empirical evidence supports this. In Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Derek Parfit, for example, she describes how he wooed his now-wife by renting her a computer.

If asked to pick the sexiest philosopher of all time, I would pause for an awkwardly long time before saying Marcus Aurelius, except that he has hair like Justin Timberlake in his NSYNC days. You do get some sexy people who are interested in philosophy and occasionally some philosophers who do alright for themselves but I think the connection is typically correlation, or “despite.”
Tearin' up my heart?

10/01/2011 06:33

Alcibiades was sexy enough to have slept with most of the women of repute in Athens, and purportedly even Socrates himself. Although it may be apocryphal, it surely puts him ahead of Aurelius in the league tables....

...but then again, his mark on the discipline leaves much to be desired I suppose.

10/03/2011 18:29

Hmm...you're right that he's a stone fox but I think in this context we'd have to class him as a muse--a category with much more competition.

06/29/2013 12:07

Geez, Erica, I think of you as a philosopher of all things Texas, and you're hot: correlation or in spite of?


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