Broken down linguistically, philosophy means "love of wisdom." But what was considered wise at one point in history might not necessarily be considered wise today. After-all, human knowledge and understanding has increased over time. Therefore, some of the ideas held by earlier people can be regarded as rather strange philosophy. That’s not to say that all of the ancient philosophy regarded as strange is useless or without its merit.
Philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once stated that "all philosophy is a footnote to Plato." The ancients, many of whom predated him, nonetheless had a massive influence on Plato’s thought process and ideas. Indeed, most philosophy comes about from studying the thoughts and ideas of philosophers who came before, and modifying their systems. Therefore, it’s not wise to write-off every ancient idea just because we might label it "crazy ancient philosophies." However, it’s also true that some older ideas were wrong, incoherent, or downright crazy.
This list is a collection of some weird philosophy found throughout history. Some of them are minor mistakes, or ideas that needed a bit more fine-tuning, while others would be considered barbaric or even scary by today’s standards. Regardless, the philosophies presented here should hopefully spark your curiosity and inspire you to do some philosophical investigations of your own.
The Milesian School: Everything Is Composed of Water
The Milesians were a philosophical school of thought founded in 6th Century BC. Like most early schools of philosophy, they hit a few things right on the head while getting everything else completely wrong. The Milesians were one of the first Greek thinkers to attribute a naturalistic view to phenomena as opposed to crediting the "Gods."
Unfortunately, the Milesian’s school replaced theological explanations with a few crazy ideas; for instance, they insisted everything in existence was composed of water. This is partially correct, but they ran into some trouble when they had to explain things like the existence of fire.
Bavarian Illuminati: Human Nature Is “Perfectible"
The Illuminati is infamous in conspiracy circles for running things behind the scenes. According to true believers, their nefarious hands control every aspect of society.
Whether you believe in a shadowy cabal of elites that wish to implement the New World Order, the Bavarian Illuminati was a real philosophical movement in America’s early years. Adam Weishaupt founded the Illuminati in 1776.
He initially called it Covenant of Perfectibility, but later changed it because he thought the original name sounded too damn weird. The Bavarian Illuminati believed that human nature was perfectible. Through all of the awesome rituals Weishaupt and his buddies conjured up, humanity would reach it’s peak.
And how would Weishaupt spread his message throughout the world? By hijacking the better known Freemason movement, of course.
Unfortunately many of Weishaupt’s peers didn’t take too kindly to the changes brought about by Freemasonry influence. The Order's insistence on replacing religion with rationalism also didn’t do him any favors. After internal conflict, the Order of Illuminati was banned and Weishaupt was exiled to Germany.
However, some believe a nefarious branch of the Illuminati still operates today...
The Thuggee Cult: They Robbed and Killed for Their Goddess
The modern-day word "thug" derives from the Thuggee Cult, a secretive organization that existed on the Indian subcontinent. The earliest known writing mentioning the Thuggees dates back to approximately 1356.
The Thugs worshiped the Hindu death goddess Kali. They were notorious for robbery and murder, the latter often committed through strangulation.
They were eventually suppressed during India’s British Colonial period.The estimated deaths caused by the Thuggee Cult range from 50,000 all the way 2,000,000 people over a span of 150 years.
Pythagoreanism: Numbers Are Basically God
Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher who lived approximately from 570-495 BC. As his name would suggest, he founded a school of philosophical thought called Pythagoreanism.
Pythagoras lived in a time when Philosophy and Science were basically the same thing. Therefore, Pythagoras sought to solve many scientific inquiries through Philosophy. Pythagoras’s biggest contribution to science is his discovery of the relation of numbers. As you probably remember, you had to study the Pythagorean Theorem in school - all because of this guy. Pythagoras thought that numbers were the be end all of existence.
As lexicographer Sir William Smith pointed out:
Since of all things numbers are by nature the first, in numbers they (the Pythagoreans) thought they perceived many analogies to things that exist and are produced, more than in fire, and earth, and Avater; as that a certain affection of numbers was justice; a certain other affection, soul and intellect; another, opportunity[.]
In short, Pythagoras thought numbers were God, and literally worshiped them.
Sumerian Religion: Wrath Is Delicious
The Sumerian Religion held a large influence over Mesopotamian culture. According to legend, the Mesopotamian gods once ruled over humanity, who were little more than slaves or servants to them. Eventually the gods decided that humanity was too much to handle, so they freed them and ruled from afar.
This didn’t stop the gods from wanting what they wanted, however. The Mesopotamian gods were highly anthropomorphic, they enjoyed good food and drink as much as the next guy, so inhabitants of Mesopotamia had to work hard to please them.
In other words, the Mesopotamian gods were real hard-ons.
King Hammurabi of Babylon used the god’s reputation to his advantage, by constructing the Code of Hammurabi, a ten-point long list of laws all Babylonians had to adhere to. If one failed to do so, they not only offended the king, but the gods themselves. Therefore, you made sure you were well-behaved, unless you wanted your fingers cut off.
Hegelianism: Madness Reigns
George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German Philosopher that lived in the 18th Century. He’s best known for forming a school of thought called German Idealism. He was a highly influential philosopher, creating two off-shoots of his thought (Right Hegelianism and Left Hegelianism), and influencing a young Karl Marx.
However, Hegel might be most notable for creating some of the most obscure philosophical writings of all time. Just take a gander at this quote from another Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, as he sarcastically addresses Hegel’s work:
"May Hegel’s philosophy of absolute nonsense - three-fourths cash and one-fourth crazy fancies - continue to pass for unfathomable wisdom without anyone suggesting as an appropriate motto for his writings Shakespeare’s words: 'Such stuff as madmen tongue and brain not[.]'"
Vedic Hinduism: Needs More Cow
The Vedas are a large group of texts originating on the Indian subcontinent. They are regarded as the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, and date to 500-1500 BC.
Though many of the Vedic traditions survive in modern day Hinduism, Vedism itself properly belongs to the Vedic Period. Ancient Hindus worshiped elements, practiced sacrifice, and prayed for wealth - which in those times meant more cattle.
UFO aficionados also posit that Vimanas, the mythological flying palaces mentioned in the Vedas, were Extraterrestrial aircraft.
Moloch Worship: First Born Children, Who Needs 'Em?
Moloch was a Canaanite god depicted as a giant anthropomorphic bull. The weird part however, is that Moloch is attributed to child sacrifice.
Scholars believe Moloch statues were large metal constructs with a hole in the middle. A fire was lit inside of the hall, and a family would offer their firstborn as a sacrifice to the god to ensure prosperity. Some believe Moloch’s name loosely translates to “the personified ruler of shameful sacrifice.”