de Sade

Bust of the Marquis de Sade by Man Ray

For centuries, the Marquis de Sade’s blasphemous works, full of detailed and elaboration of sordid sexual perversions, were dismissed as the ravings of a rotten and corrupt mind. His life was a never-ending scandal, and now his name is immortalized as sadism – the compulsion to achieve sexual satisfaction by inflicting pain on others.

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Nothing but Sophistry and Illusion

Un diner des philosophes by Jean Huber

We often designate the 18th century as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason due to the pervasive confidence in rationality and the burgeoning optimism that distinguished the era. According to many virtuosos of rationalism, the possibility of mitigating all of our problems – social, psychological, and material – seemed not just feasible but inevitable.

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Nothing Exceeds like Excess

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Bernini

From the early Seventeenth century to the early Eighteenth, artists abandoned the moderation of Renaissance classicism for a luxurious, embellished style that better expressed the extremes of their times. During this period, ongoing brutal doctrinal wars that began with the Reformation diminished the prestige and authority of Christendom. The appalling Thirty Years war (1618-1648) that devastated central Europe and reduced Germany’s population by a third, was but one of the conflicts initiated between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

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A History of Nothing

Chapter 1: In the Beginning… There was Nothing.

Chapter 2: Ex Nihilo

Chapter 3: We Know Nothing

Chapter 4: Null and Void

Chapter 5: Nihil Perpetuum Est

Lucretius

Seneca

Chapter 6: Apropos of Nothing

Chapter 7: A Crack of Light between Two Nothings

Chapter 8: Nihil Sub Sole Novum

Machiavelli

Montaigne

Shakespeare

Chapter 9: Nothing Exceeds like Excess

Pascal

Chapter 10: Nothing but Sophistry and Illusion

Jonathan Swift

Voltaire

de Sade

Chapter 11: Sweet Nothings

Schopenhauer

Carlyle

Max Stirner

Kierkegaard

Baudelaire

Chapter 12: …and Nothing Besides!

Flaubert

Mark Twain

Nietzsche

Chapter 13: Nothing Old Fashioned

Kafka

Hemingway

Camus

Chapter 14: Nothing Original

Beckett

Baudrillard

David Foster Wallace

Banksy

Machiavelli

Machiavelli statue, Uffizi

As one of the most cynical thinkers of all-time, Machiavelli is remembered as the philosopher of realpolitik, or the politics of power. His detached, viciously candid investigation of power, The Prince (1517) was published five years after his death. His goal for the work was to “write something of use to those who understand… the real truth of the matter to its imagination.”

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