Philosophers who endured childhood trauma

Any significant philosophers who had severely screwed up childhoods?

Epictetus was a slave.

How do you define severe?

Jean Paul Sartre’s father died when he was two, and he was bullied as an adolescent

John Stuart Mill wasn’t allowed to play with other children.

Bertrand Russell’s mother, father and sister all died before he was four years old, and Russell said only his interest in mathematics kept him from committing suicide.

Ayn Rand’s family lost their business and was forced to leave St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution when she was 12.

Martin Buber’s parents divorced when he was three, and Buber was sent to live with his grandfather.

Carl Jung’s mother was probably mentally ill, resulting in a very difficult relationship between them.

I’d guess the percentage of philosophers with screwed up childhoods isn’t much different than the non-philosopher population.

@kunilou thanks.

The hallmarks I am looking for are 1) they were systematically abused and 2) they were not loved. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

On the surface Bertrand Russel looks close. But it seems as though he was actually well loved.


Interesting but it looks as though he was a privileged slave. He may have been loved.

Might spot him a bonus point for the leg, though.

On one hand, Ludwig Wittgenstein grew up in a luxurious home with a very wealthy family. However, he had a cruel, abusive father, and three of his brothers committed suicide.

Camus, by contrast, grew up where “poverty meant that there was nothing else they could think about but what they would eat, how they would clothe themselves. There’s just no room for other things in his family. It’s difficult for others to imagine the position in which he found himself. There is no imaginary existence in their lives.”

Lost his dad early, had a bad case of tuberculosis in his teens.

Kurt Gödel had some childhood diseases that weighted heavily on his mind for the rest of his life. (But apparently not actually physically.) His death due to these mental problems is very sad.

St. Augustine, whose Christian Philosophy is an extension of Stoicism, had some weird shit going on with his mom.

That’s a stretch.

Augustine certainly was not deprived in any way. His family was well off and he never missed a meal or wanted for anything. But his mother was a devout Christian and his father was a Roman pagan, so his parents disagreed violently about his uprbringing.

Kierkergaard was mentally tortured by his father for many years