see it clearly
Learn more

Executed Philosophers

Philosophers in early civilizations often had revolutionary viewpoints that could incite mutiny against the government. To protect themselves, authoritative figures throughout history have ordered "free-thinking radicals" to be put to death before these shifts in power could take place. In many cases, the deaths of the philosophers would solidify the public opinion that the philosophers were right, making them martyrs in the name of knowledge or education. This would often cause the philosophers ideas to spread even farther than they would have had the philosopher remained alive, ultimately defeating the purpose of the execution.

Executed Philosophers

The First of All Executed Philosophers

Socrates theories were some of the most profound in the world during his life, which lasted from his birth in 469 BC to his execution in 399 BC. Socrates was a widely known philosopher and believed strongly in justice and fairness. He often criticized governments that fell short of either. This criticism would end up causing the order for his execution after he refused to serve on the Athenian Senate that ordered the execution of six men accused of a war crime without allowing the men a trial.

Socrates allowed his execution to be carried out and remained imprisoned until his execution, even though he had been presented with an opportunity for escape that could have saved his life. He felt escaping his own judgment would render him a hypocrite.

Sir Thomas More

Another one of the most famous executed philosophers in history also gained sainthood status after his execution for treason in 1535. Sir Thomas More, an English lawyer and philosopher, was executed because he denounced the title given to King Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of England's Church by the English Parliament. More openly criticized the title given to the king because of the King's separation between himself and the Catholic Church, stating the title wasn't given to him through the Papacy.

More made this criticism public even though he had served under the king as an important counselor and, for three years, in the position of Lord Chancellor. His philosophies were considered radical by many, as he was the first to cite the term utopia in a written publication. The term was used to describe an imaginary island habitat where an ideal political state had been introduced. After his public denouncement of the king's separation, he was found guilty of treason and beheaded.

Lucillo Vanini

Lucillo Vanini is another famous executed philosopher. He died at the hand of the church state because of a publication in which he took a strong Atheist stance and denounced the very thought of a divine entity or an organized form of religion.

Vanini was an Italian philosopher who studied in Rome and Naples before travelling to France, Switzerland, and London. In London, he was imprisoned for forty-nine days for an undocumented reason. He supported his travels by giving lessons on a number of topics to anyone who would pay, but mainly focused on teaching his stance of anti-Christianity. After his return to Italy, he was forced to flee again to France for teaching atheism and he wrote a book against the very subject as a means of avoiding a death sentence. He later published another book stating his first was a farce and, upon teaching his views in Toulouse, he was arrested. He was subsequently strangled on a stake after having his tongue cut out in February 1619.

Philosophy at a Cost

Many of the greatest philosophers taught and expressed their philosophies at a great cost to themselves because most of them were openly speaking against the current government or Papal institution. A great number of these philosophers went willingly to their own deaths, mostly in order to show the extent to which they believed in their own philosophies.