Who was the Laughing Philosopher?

Democritus (4607-3617 B.C.), a Greek thinker in the time of Socrates, was known as the “Laughing Philosopher.” Just why he was so called is not known for certain. According to a legend, probably unfounded, Democritus put out his own eyes so that he might think more clearly and not be diverted in his meditations. Some ancient writers say that he became so perfect “in his teachings” that he went about continually smiling from which circumstance he became known as the Laughing Philosopher; but others say that the inhabitants of Abdera, the colony in Thrace where Democritus was born, were notorious for their stupidity, and that he was called the “laughing” Philosopher because of the scorn and ridicule that he heaped upon his townsmen for their ignorance. It appears that Democritus should rather be called the “Deriding Philosopher,” since he derided and laughed scornfully at the follies and vanities of mankind. Robert Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, is sometimes referred to as “Democritus Junior.”