See the Homes and Studies of Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche & Other Philosophers


Philoso­phers are quirky crea­tures. Some become house­hold names, in cer­tain well-edu­cat­ed house­holds, with­out any­one know­ing a thing about their lives, their loves, their apart­ments. The life of the mind, after all, rarely makes for good the­ater (or TV). And pri­or to the cre­ation of whole aca­d­e­m­ic depart­ments devot­ed to con­tem­pla­tion and region­al con­fer­ences, a philosopher’s life could be a very lone­ly one. Or so it would seem to those who shun soli­tude. But for the book­ish among us, the glimpses we have here into the well-kept homes and stud­ies of sev­er­al famous dead male Euro­pean thinkers may elic­it sighs of won­der, or envy even. It was so much eas­i­er to keep a room of one’s own neat before com­put­er para­pher­na­lia and tiny sheaves of Post-it notes clut­tered every­thing up, no?


At the top of the post, we have an aus­tere space for a severe­ly aus­tere thinker, Lud­wig Wittgen­stein. His desk in Cam­bridge faces a vault­ed trip­tych of sun­lit win­dows, but the book­shelf has clear­ly been emp­tied since his stay, unless Herr Wittgen­stein pre­ferred to work free of the dis­trac­tion of oth­er people’s pub­lished work. Above, anoth­er angle reveals com­fort­able seat­ing near the fire­place, since blocked up with what appears to be an elec­tric heater, an appli­ance the ultra-min­i­mal­ist Wittgen­stein may have found super­flu­ous.


In addi­tion to his phi­los­o­phy, the Ger­man scion of a wealthy and eccen­tric fam­i­ly had an inter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy and archi­tec­ture, and he built his sis­ter Mar­garet a house (above) that became known for “for its clar­i­ty, pre­ci­sion, and austerity—and served as a foil for his writ­ten work.” Wittgenstein’s eldest sis­ter Hermione pro­nounced the house unliv­able, as it “seemed indeed to be much more a dwelling for the gods than for a small mor­tal like me.”


Anoth­er poly­math, cred­it­ed along with Goethe for a phase of Ger­man thought called Weimar Clas­si­cism, poet and philoso­pher Friedrich Schiller’s stu­dio in his Weimar house above presents us with a light, airy space, a stand­ing desk, and some sur­pris­ing­ly well-tend­ed fur­nish­ings. Whether they are orig­i­nal or not I do not know, but the space befits the man who wrote Let­ters Upon the Aes­thet­ic Edu­ca­tion of Man,  in which (Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty informs us) he “gives the philo­soph­ic basis for his doc­trine of art, and indi­cates clear­ly and per­sua­sive­ly his view of the place of beau­ty in human life.” The entire house is a study in beau­ty. A much gloomi­er char­ac­ter, whose view of humankind’s capac­i­ty for ratio­nal devel­op­ment was far less opti­mistic than Schiller’s, Arthur Schopen­hauer lived a soli­tary exis­tence, sur­round­ed by books—a life much more like the car­i­ca­ture of phi­los­o­phy. Below, see Schopenhauer’s book col­lec­tion lined up neat­ly and cat­a­logued.


The façade of Schopenhauer’s birth house in Gdan­sk, below, doesn’t stand out much from its neigh­bors, none of whom could have guessed that the strange child inside would pre­pare the way for Niet­zsche and oth­er scourges of the good Chris­t­ian bour­geoisie. No doubt lit­tle Arthur received his por­tion of ridicule as he shuf­fled in and out, an odd boy with an odd hair­cut. And if Schopen­hauer didn’t actu­al­ly write the words attrib­uted to him about the “three stages of truth”—ridicule, vio­lent oppo­si­tion, and acceptance—he may have ful­ly agreed with the sen­ti­ment.


Final­ly, speak­ing of Niet­zsche, we have below the Niet­zsche-Haus in Sils-Maria, Switzer­land, where the lover of moun­tain­ous climes and hater of the vul­gar rabble’s noise holed away to work in the sum­mers of 1881, 1883, and 1888. The house now con­tains an open library, one of the world’s largest col­lec­tions of books on Niet­zsche. Trip Advi­sor gives the site four-and-a-half stars, a crowd-sourced score, of course, of which Niet­zsche, I’m sure, would be proud.


See many more Ger­man (and some French) philoso­phers’ homes and stud­ies at The Unem­ployed Philoso­phers Guild PhLogA Piece of Mono­logue, and the excel­lent pho­tog­ra­phy site of Patrick Lakey.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Dai­ly Habits of High­ly Pro­duc­tive Philoso­phers: Niet­zsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant

Philoso­pher Por­traits: Famous Philoso­phers Paint­ed in the Style of Influ­en­tial Artists

Famous Philoso­phers Imag­ined as Action Fig­ures: Plun­der­ous Pla­to, Dan­ger­ous Descartes & More

Phi­los­o­phy: Free Cours­es

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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