6.08.2009

Great Moments in Intellectual-Historical Facial Hair

One definite focus for me in this summer's intellectual history class is emphasizing the role that facial hair has played in the history of European philosophy and social theory (among the men, anyway; I note that great female thinkers like Woolf and Beauvoir wore remarkable hats.) Here are some samples:

Even though he's a bit out of order here, we have to start with money-making Friedrich Nietzsche. Like a nineteenth-century Samson, his facial hair gave him the strength to call out for a Promethean revival of fearless Germanic virtue.


It's possible that Nietzsche sported a 'stache and not a big-ass philosopher's beard because he didn't want to get mixed-up with the Marx crowd. If Marx had actually been a worker, that beard would have gotten caught in a thresher and his head would have been torn clean off.


While I don't like affording him the status of a great thinker, Dostoevsky could have still represented Russia at the beard olympics. In his case, crotchety Christian mysticism would have been considered a performance-enhancing stimulant and he would have been ejected from the games.


The lesser-known young Hegelian (note: Hegel was tediously clean-shaven), Feuerbach. Marx not only took issue with his philosophy, he out-bearded him, too, at least in terms of volume.


Now, I didn't know that Ibsen sported this totally fucking rad facial hair getup until just now, when I was googling images. Pioneering feminist playwrite! Norway's proudest son! Crazy spikey beard-master! Well played, Ibsen!


Of course, facial hair on intellectuals diminished through the twentieth century. Happily, Levi-Strauss was still sporting a trim anthropology beard during his fieldwork days in Brazil in the late 1930s.


And then there's Habermas. It's hard to tell if that's his lip or an actual mustache. After considerable research, I've determined that it's both.


And then there's mister SMOOTH OPERATOR himself, Albert Camus. Camus cracked the code early: smooth cheeks, about a gallon of grease in his hair, some black-market rations in his pocket, and the starving ladies of the resistance couldn't resist.

5 comments:

ransom said...

Could all the intellectual unrest simply have been the result of itchiness? A constant quest for distraction from the inability to sit quietly and comfortably?

Just a thought, though I hesitate to use the word 'thought' so lightly under the gaze of this lot...

clumsygirl said...

Teaching philosophers, too, have enormous beards. Evidence: Paolo Freire.

kungfuramone said...

SWEET JEEBUS, that is quite a beard on Signor Freire!

Ransom: you're definitely on to something. But thanks to that unrest, we have the great ideas of the "western tradition." For better or worse.

I'll start my first class with a powerpoint that says something like "philosophy: it makes you itch in uncomfortable places."

noncoupable said...

On Camus: don't forget he has his modern-day counterpart:
http://www.artscatter.com/general/bernard-henri-levy-brings-some-french-political-philosophy-to-portland/

kungfuramone said...

Man, I hate that guy.