In this follow-up to Infinitely Demanding, a professor of philosophy, delving into questions of faith, love, religion and violence, discusses how the secular age has been replaced by a new era of politcal action and metaphysical conflict.
The question of how to lead a happy and meaningful life has been at the heart of philosophical debate since time immemorial. Today, however, these questions seem to be addressed not by philosophers but self–help gurus, who frantically champion the individual′s quest for self–expression and self–realization; the desire to become authentic. Against these new age sophistries, How to Stop Living and Start Worrying tackles the question of ′how to live′ by forcing us to explore our troubling relationship with death. For (...) Critchley, philosophy begins with the question of finitude and with his understanding of a key classical theme – that to philosophize is to learn how to die. Learning how to accept both our own and others′ mortality as a part of life also raises the question of how to love. Critchley argues that the act of love requires us to give up something of ourselves, to lose control so as to be open to the demands of love. We will never be equal to this demand and so we are brought face to face with our own limitations – one form of which is what Critchley calls our ′originary inauthenticity′. By scrutinizing the very nature of humour, Critchley explores what we need to laugh at ourselves and presents the need to confront the inescapable ridiculousness of life. Reflecting on the work of over 20 years, this book provides a unique, witty and erudite introduction to the thought of Simon Critchley. It includes a revealing biographical conversation with Critchley and a fascinating debate with the critically acclaimed novelist Tom McCarthy about the nature of authenticity. Taken together the conversations give an intimate portrait of one of the most lucid, provocative and engaging philosophers writing today. (shrink)
As a way of thinking through the bleakness of the political present through which we are all too precipitously moving, this essay attempts to demonstrate the interconnections between three concepts: politics, law and religion. By way of a detailed reading of Rousseau, I try to show how any conception of legitimate politics and law requires a conception of religion at its base and as its basis. In my view, this is highly problematic and in the conclusion an argument is presented (...) for a politics of the supreme fiction, which attempts to show how poetry might take the place of religion. (shrink)
Pre-Socratics, physiologists, sages and sophists -- Platonists, Cyrenaics, Aristotelians and cynics -- Sceptics, stoics and epicureans -- Classical Chinese philosophers -- Romans (serious and ridiculous) and neoplatonists -- The deaths of Christian saints -- Medieval philosophers: Christian, Islamic, and Judaic -- Philosophy in the Latin Middle Ages -- Renaissance, Reformation and scientific revolution -- Rationalists (material and immaterial), empiricists and religious dissenters -- Philosophes, materialists and sentimentalists -- Many Germans and some non-Germans -- The masters of suspicion and some unsuspicious (...) Americans -- The long twentieth century I: philosophy in wartime -- The long twentieth century II: analytics, continentals, a few moribunds and a near-death experience. (shrink)
In this paper, I address the issue of Derrida’s influence on philosophy by focusing on the nature of deconstructive reading as double reading, and tracing thisto the specific reception of Heidegger’s thesis on the history of being. After reviewing some of the dubious and mistaken polemics against Derrida, I go on to describe what I see as the ethical and political richness of Derrida’s work, focusing in particular on the theme of democracy to come.
This book is an invitation to read poetry. Simon Critchley argues that poetry enlarges life with a range of observation, power of expression and attention to language that eclipses any other medium. In a rich engagement with the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Critchley reveals that poetry also contains deep and important philosophical insight. Above all, he argues for a "poetic epistemology" that enables us to think afresh the philosophical problem of the relation between mind and world, and ultimately to cast (...) the problem away. Drawing astutely on Kant, the German and English Romantics and Heidegger, Critchley argues that through its descriptions of particular things and their stubborn plainness - whether water, guitars, trees, or cats - poetry evokes the "mereness" of things. It is this experience that provokes the mood of calm and releases the imaginative insight we need to press back against the pressure of reality. Critchley also argues that this calm defines the cinematic eye of Terrence Malick, whose work is discussed at the end of the book. (shrink)
This essay attempts to sharpen significantly the critical debate around Levinas's work by focussing on the question of politics, which is, it is argued, Levinas's Achilles'heel. Five problems in Levinas's treatment of politics are identified and discussed: fraternity, monotheism, androcentrism, the family, and Israel. It is argued that Levinas 's ethics is terribly compromised by his conception of politics. In order to save Levinasian ethics from this compromise, two possibilities are explored: first, to follow Derrida 's separation of ethical form (...) from political content in his recent reading of Levinas, which allows for a notion of political invention linked to ethical responsibility, and second, to link Levinas's conception of ethics to what is called in the essay the anarchistic disturbance of politics. In conclusion, this anarchistic experience of ethics in linked to a quite different understanding of politics as the dissensual space of democracy. (shrink)
Very Little ... Almost Nothing puts the question of the meaning of life back at the center of intellectual debate. Its central concern is how we can find a meaning to human finitude without recourse to anything that transcends that finitude. A profound but secular meditation on the theme of death, Critchley traces the idea of nihilism through Blanchot, Levinas, Jena Romanticism and Cavell, culminating in a reading of Beckett, in many ways the hero of the book. For this Second (...) Edition, Simon Critchley has added a revealing and extended new preface, and a new chapter on Wallace Stevens which reflects on the idea of poetry as philosophy. (shrink)
Over the last thirty years, the work of the political theorist Ernesto Laclau has reinvigorated radical political and social theory. Taking concepts previously ignored or unused within mainstream political theory, such as the political, hegemony, discourse, identity, and representation, he has made them fundamental to thinking about politics and social theory. Resisting the dead end of postmodern politics, his work has drawn in stimulating ways on Gramscian, poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory. Laclau: A Critical Reader is the first full-length critical appraisal (...) of Laclau's work and includes contributions from several leading philosophers and theorists. The first section examines Laclau's theory that the contest between universalism and particularism provides much of the philosophical background to political and social struggle, taking up the important place accorded to, amongst others, Hegel and Lacan in Laclau's work. The second section of the book considers what Laclau's "radical democracy" might look like and reflects on its ethical implications, particularly in relation to Laclau's post-Marxism and thinkers such as Jurgen Habermas. The final section investigates the place of hegemony in Laclau's work, the idea for which he is perhaps best-known. This stimulating collection also includes replies to his critics by Laclau and the important exchange between Laclau and Judith Butler on equality, making it an excellent companion to Laclau's work and essential reading for students of political and social theory. (shrink)
This paper aims to give an overview of the central preoccupations of the work of Dominique Janicaud. In the first part, I discuss Janicaud's basic strategy with regard to Heidegger's work, with particular reference to the question of metaphysics and its overcoming. Opposing Heidegger's alternative between the completion of metaphysics in technology (Gestell), on the one hand, and the experience of meditative thinking (Gelassenheit), on the other, Janicaud's position can be described as what I call an overcoming of all claims (...) at overcoming, whether it concerns metaphysics, rationality or humanity. This leads, in the second part of the paper, to a discussion of Janicaud's radical and compelling reconsideration of the genealogy of rationality in his major work, La puissance du rationnel. This genealogy permits Janicaud to sketch a novel conception of reason as what he calls partage, conceived as both the shared space of dialogue and the sense of the thrown contingency of our existence. In the third part of the paper, and with reference to posthumously published work, I go on to show how this conception of partage shapes Janicaud's conception of the human condition and how this conception shows a significant debt to Pascal. (shrink)
Wittgenstein asks a question, which sounds like the first line of a joke: 'How does one philosopher address another?' To which the unfunny and perplexing riposte is: 'Take your time'. Terrence Malick is evidently someone who takes his time. Since his first movie, Badlands, was premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1973, he has directed just two more: Days of Heaven , in 1979, and then nearly a 20 year gap until the long-awaited 1998 movie, The Thin Red (...) Line , which is the topic of this essay. (shrink)
Emmanuel Levinas is now widely recognised alongside Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre as one of the most important Continental philosophers of the twentieth century. His abiding concern was the primacy of the ethical relation to the other person and his central thesis was that ethics is first philosophy. His work has also had a profound impact on a number of fields outside philosophy such as theology, Jewish studies, literature and cultural theory, psychotherapy, sociology, political theory, international relations theory and critical legal (...) theory. This volume contains overviews of Levinas's contribution in a number of fields, and includes detailed discussions of his early and late work, his relation to Judaism and talmudic commentary, and his contributions to aesthetics and the philosophy of religion. (shrink)
In this enlightening new Very Short Introduction, Simon Critchley shows us that Continental philosophy encompasses a distinct set of philosophical traditions and practices, with a compelling range of problems all too often ignored by the analytic tradition. He discusses the ideas and approaches of philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Habermas, Foucault, and Derrida. He also introduces key concepts such as existentialism, nihilism, and phenomology, by explaining their place in the Continental tradition. The perfect guide for anyone (...) interested in the great philosophers, this volume explains in lucid, straightforward language the split between Continental and Anglo-American philosophy and the importance of acknowledging Continental philosophy. (shrink)
This article examines the ethical thought of the prominent French philosopher, Alain Badiou. His work is placed in the context of discussions of the sources of normativity in relation to Kant and Levinas and then the central category of the event in Badiou's work is critically discussed. The article claims that Badiou's talk of truth in relation to event is misplaced and argues that there is a residual heroism behind Badiou's political thinking.
In this essay I respond to criticisms of my position on the question of the relation between deconstruction, ethics, and politics levelled at me by Richard Rorty and Ernesto Laclau. With regard to the latter, I argue that there is a normative deficit in Laclau's discourse theory' and with regard to the former, I argue that Rorty's reading of Derrida is at the least questionable and I attempt to criticize Rorty on the issues of the status of metaphysics and politics.
This paper attempts to provide an account of what is philosophically distinctive about what has come to be known as 'Continental philosophy'. In the early parts of the paper I give a historical and cultural analysis of the emergence of Continental philosophy and consider objections to the latter and some stereotypical representations of the analytic-Continental divide. In the philosophically more substantial part of the paper, I seek to redraw the distinction between analytic and Continental philosophy by focusing on a number (...) of themes: (i) the centrality of tradition and history for Continental philosophy and the way this affects philosophical practices of argumentation and interpretation, (ii) the way in which the concept of Continental philosophy emerges out of the German idealist reception of the Kantian critique of metaphysics and the significant way this is continued in Nietzsche with his concept of nihilism, (iii) the centrality of the concepts of critique, emancipation and praxis for the Continental tradition, (iv) the importance of the theme of crisis that runs through the Continental tradition, (v) an explanation and justification of the pervasive anti-scientism of the Continental tradition. I conclude by explaining and criticizing the professionalization of philosophy that has produced the analytic-Continental divide, insofar as this divide disguises a deeper possible debate about the identity of philosophy itself outside of its professional confines. (shrink)