*Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher*

I very much enjoyed the new biography of Eric Hoffer, here is one excerpt:

Reminding us of Immanuel Kant, Hoffer went on solitary walks, did not marry, had a stomach that often gave him trouble, and (after he moved to San Francisco) rarely traveled.  (Kant, it seems, never did.)  Remarkably, we know more about Kant’s early life than we do about Hoffer’s.  A professor of geography, Kant early on was more interested in science than in philosophy; Hoffer was the same.  After moving to skid row in Los Angeles, he said, he taught himself chemistry and botany.

…Hoffer’s hundreds of three-by-five-inch index cards carried quotations from Aristotle, Bagehot, Clemenceau, Disraeli, Gandhi, Hobbes, Kant, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Pascal, Spinoza, and a hundred others, compiled over many years.  Was there any precedent for this in the life of the nation?  An apparently unschooled laborer who became a longshoreman and made an attempt to compile the wisdom of the ages on his own?  he was filling them out by the 1940s and he continued adding to them until near the end of his life.  the later dates are conspicuous because his handwriting becomes ever more shaky.

The author is Tom Bethell, you can buy the book here.


Comments for this post are closed