Alice Crary

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Alice Crary
Alice Crary.png
Alice Crary, Reykjavik 2010
Born 1967
Seattle, WA
Alma mater AB, Philosophy, Harvard University, 1990; PhD, Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, 1999[1]
Era 20th Century Philosophy, 21st Century Philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic
Main interests
Moral Philosophy, Philosophy and Literature, Philosophy and Animals, Wittgenstein and Austin, Feminism and Philosophy
Notable ideas
Moral thought beyond moral judgment; Wider view of objectivity; Faulty logic of the math wars

Alice Crary (/ˈkrɛəri/; born 1967) is an American philosopher, Chair of the Department of Philosophy in the Graduate Faculty, and Co-Chair of the Gender and Sexuality Studies program of The New School for Social Research (NSSR) in New York City. She is well known for her numerous scholarly works on the moral dimension of language, as well as edited collections on Wittgenstein, Cora Diamond, and Stanley Cavell. Crary is the author of two monographs on ethics, Beyond Moral Judgment (Harvard, 2007) and Inside Ethics: On the Demands of Moral Thought (Harvard, 2016).

While finishing her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1990's, she co-edited and wrote the introduction to the The New Wittgenstein, which continues to influence debates over Wittgenstein's philosophy.[2][3][4][5] Currently Associate Professor of Philosophy at The New School for Social Research, she has been a Humboldt Foundation Scholar in 2009–10 at Goethe University in Frankfurt, a Rockefeller Fellow in 2003–4 at Princeton University, and has been an invited speaker at such venues as the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University, the Center for Philosophy, Art, and Literature at Duke University, Colgate College, and Brooklyn Public Philosophers in NYC.

Crary's writings address moral philosophy, Wittgenstein, philosophy and literature, feminism and philosophy, the writings of J.M. Coetzee, W.G. Sebald, and Leo Tolstoy, and issues surrounding philosophy and animals and cognitive disability.


Crary's second book, Inside Ethics: On the Demands of Moral Thought (January 2016, Harvard University Press), discusses the nature and difficulty of moral thought about human beings and animals, addressing topics ranging from moral development to cognitive disability. As noted in a contemporary review,

Most contemporary ethicists assume that any objective representation of human and animal life must be developed outside of ethics, using the normatively neutral methods of, for example, the natural sciences. Crary, in contrast, argues that humans and animals have empirically observable moral characteristics, recognition of which is crucial to moral thought, but which are inaccessible to us when we limit ourselves to neutral methods. Good, "world-guided" moral thought, according to Crary, requires the use of capacities such as moral imagination, the exercise of which is elicited by methods (including various narrative techniques) that are characteristic of the arts and humanities. Works employing such methods contribute directly to moral understanding by drawing us into the imaginative exploration of other moral perspectives....Crary embarks on a radical re-visioning of objective reality as including, rather than excluding, moral values. The idea that reality includes objective moral values combines objectivism (the idea that moral judgments are essentially concerned with how things are) with internalism (the idea that moral judgments have direct bearing on our reasons for acting). The dominant stance in philosophical ethics, she points out, is to embrace a hard metaphysic that rejects one or both of these ideas. Crary identifies, as the unquestioned starting point for such a metaphysic, the "familiar and allegedly scientific worldview" (31) according to which the natural sciences have exclusive authority to tell us what reality is objectively like. A central part of [the book] is devoted to showing how both Peter Singer and Christine Korsgaard accept this starting point and embrace, in different ways, the hard metaphysic to which it leads.

— A.C. Westlund, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2016.07.13

Another review summarizes the main claims of Inside Ethics as follows:

Among the theses that Crary propounds in service of her ultimate goal are: there are observable and essentially practical moral properties, objectively describing humans and animals requires an ethical sensitivity to those moral properties, being a human and being an animal are by themselves morally significant properties, and literature is an irreplaceable vehicle of moral reflection for grasping the moral significance of humans and other animals....She proposes what I would call a post-Romantic perspective that takes our possibilities for moral response to be equally affective and rational. Crary encourages us to take more seriously the moral thought of those engaged with the most vulnerable humans and animals. This seems to me of the highest importance and part of an expansive program for moral thought that demands further philosophical exploration.

— John Hacker-Wright, Hypatia Online Reviews 292

Crary is a member of a number of international research groups devoted to subjects such as feminist philosophy and ordinary language philosophy.

Graduate students and teaching[edit]

Crary currently directs eleven PhD theses in the Department of Philosophy at The New School for Social Research. In July 2016, she served on the faculty of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies at the 25th anniversary NSSR Europe Democracy and Diversity Institute in Wroclow, Poland.

Popular writing[edit]

Her commentary, with W. Stephen Wilson, on the faulty logic behind the K-12 education "Math Wars" appeared in The New York Times philosophy blog, The Stone.[6]

Selected publications[edit]

Books – monographs
Books – edited volumes
Selected articles
  • "Feminist thought and rational authority: Getting things in perspective," New Literary History, Vol. 46, no.2 (Spring 2015), pp. 287-308.
  • "A Radical Perfectionist: Revisiting Cavell in the Light of Kant," Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 48, no.3 (2014), pp. 87-98.
  • “Dogs and Concepts,” Philosophy, vol.87, no.2 (April 2012), pp. 215–237.
  • “W.G. Sebald and the Ethics of Narrative,” Constellations, Vol. 19, no. 3, (Spring 2012), pp. 494-508.
  • “A Brilliant Perspective: Diamondian Ethics,” Philosophical Investigations, vol.34, no.4 (October 2011), pp. 331–352.
  • “Minding What Already Matters: A Critique of Moral Individualism,” Philosophical Topics, vol.38, no.1 (Spring 2011), pp. 17–49.
  • “J.M. Coetzee, Moral Thinker,” in Anton Leist and Peter Singer, eds., Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature New York, Columbia University Press, 2010), pp. 249–268.
  • “Ethics and the Logic of Life,” in SATS: The Nordic Journal of Philosophy, vol.10, no.2 (2009), pp. 5–34.
  • “Wittgenstein’s Commonsense Realism about the Mind” in Ilva Gustafsson, Camilla Kronqvist and Michael McEachrane, eds., Emotions and Understanding: Wittgensteinian Perspectives (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 12–26.
  • “Humans, Animals, Right and Wrong,” in Alice Crary, ed., Wittgenstein and the Moral Life, pp. 381–404.
  • “Wittgenstein and Ethics: a discussion in reference to On Certainty” in Daniele Moyal-Sharrock and William Brenner, eds., Readings of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty (London, Palgrave-MacMillan, 2005), pp. 275–301.
  • “What Do Feminists Want in an Epistemology?” in Peg O’Connor and Naomi Scheman, eds., Re-Reading the Canon: Feminist Interpretations of Wittgenstein (University Park, PA, Penn State Press, 2002), pp. 97–118.
  • “The Happy Truth: J.L. Austin’s How to Do Things With Words,” Inquiry, vol.45, no.1 (Spring 2002), pp. 1–22.
  • “A Question of Silence: Feminist Theory and Women’s Voices,” Philosophy, vol.76, no.96 (July 2001), pp. 371–395.
  • “Wittgenstein's Philosophy in Relation to Political Thought” in Alice Crary and Rupert Read, eds. The New Wittgenstein, pp. 118–145.
  • “Does the Study of Literature Belong in Moral Philosophy? Some Reflections in the Light of Ryle's Thought,” Philosophical Investigations, vol.23, no.4 (October 2000), pp. 315–350.

Invited lectures and awards[edit]

  • The Graham Kennedy Memorial Lecture ("Seeing Animal Suffering"), Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, 2016
  • Elias J. and Rosa Lee Nemir Audi Lecture, Colgate College, Hamilton, New York, 2016
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, 2009–2010.
  • University Distinguished Teaching Award, The New School, New York, 2005
  • Faculty Fellow, Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, 2004-2005.
  • Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, 2003-2004.
  • Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (study of ethical and religious values), University of Pittsburgh, 1997-1998.
  • Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching (Bok Center), Fall 1993-Spring 1994.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]