Crispin Gallagher Sartwell (born 1958) is an American philosopher, self-professed individualist anarchist and journalist. He received his B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park, his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia—where his dissertation supervisor was Richard Rorty—-and is currently on leave from his position as a member of the faculty of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Born in Washington, D.C., he is the son of the late Franklin Gallagher Sartwell, a reporter, editor, and photographer with the Washington Star and several magazines. His grandfather, also Franklin Gallagher Sartwell, was a columnist and editorial page editor at the Washington Times-Herald. His great-grandfather, Herman Bernstein broke the story of a secret correspondence between Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas during World War I in The New York Times. Sartwell himself worked as a copy boy at the Washington Star and later as a freelance rock critic for many publications, including Record Magazine and Melody Maker. He has taught philosophy, communication and political science at a number of schools, including Vanderbilt University, The University of Alabama, Penn State, Millersville, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Dickinson College.
His mother, Joyce Abell, and stepfather, Richard Abell, were schoolteachers in Montgomery County, Maryland and organic vegetable farmers in Rappahannock County, Virginia. Richard Abell was a conscientious objector during World War 2. Sartwell's first wife was artist Rachael K. Pats, with whom he has two children, Emma and Samuel Sartwell. His second wife was author Marion Winik. He lives in rural Pennsylvania.
A journalist since he was 20,Sartwell's syndicated column, distributed by Creators Syndicate, appeared in numerous newspapers through the 1990s and 2000s, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and Los Angeles Times. He has continued to write for the popular press, with work appearing in the New York Times as a contributing writer to the Time's philosophy section, The Stone. He has been published in The Atlantic, Harpers, The Washington Post, All Things Considered and other venues. He has appeared on C-Span's Washington Journal, discussing political philosophy and ethics. Sartwell remains actively involved in music criticism, including writing a country music column for the NY Press.
After receiving his BA from the University of Maryland in 1980, Sartwell received his MA in Philosophy from The Johns Hopkins University in 1985. He pursued his doctorate at the University of Virginia, supervised by Richard Rorty, writing his dissertation on Art and Articulation, discussing pictorial representation in Dewey, Heidegger, Goodman and Gadamer.
From 1989 through 1993, Sartwell was an Andrew W, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University. From 1995 to 1996, Sartwell was an Annenberg Scholar in the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.
Sartwell is best known as an political philosopher, with significant interests in Analytic Philosophy, Aesthetics and Theory of Knowledge. As a political philosopher, he has been an articulate advocate of Anarchism and individual rights as opposed to the rights of the State. In his 2008 work, Against the State: an Introduction to Anarchist Political Philosophy, he refuted the traditional justifications for the state from Hobbes through Nozick. This was followed by his 2010 work, Political Aesthetics, where he evaluated various systems based on the assumption that political systems are in part aesthetic systems.
Sartwell's interest in language as a system and its constraints and problems has been a constant in his career. Perhaps his clearest expression of this was in his 2000 publication, End of Story: Toward and Annihilation of Language and History, which posited an academic obsession with language qua language and narrative at the expense of a better conceptual and open dialogue.
As a Philosopher of Aesthetics as of language, Sartwell has seen the issues of beauty as being a constant in the search for meaning. His most recent work How to Escape: Magic, Madness, Beauty and Cynicism, published in 2014, looked at a wide variety of artistic expression and experience from an aesthetics perspective. This followed his previous work, 2004's Six Names of Beauty, where he used different words for beauty in a variety of languages including Greek, Sanskrit, Japanese and Navajo as a gateway to understanding the cultural diversity and similarities between ideas and manifestations of beauty.
Sartwell acquired a reputation as an epistemologist whose basic ideas on knowledge involve "three central claims: (1) knowledge is the ultimate goal--the telos--of inquiry; (2) knowledge is true belief; and (3) justification is merely a means for arriving at true belief". Particularly the claim that knowledge equates to true belief has garnered some attention.
On March 3, 2016, Sartwell was placed on leave from his faculty position at Dickinson College in response to posts on his blog in which he accused other philosophy professors of plagiarism. According to Sartwell, the action is related to a video, embedded in the blog post, of Miranda Lambert singing "Time to Get a Gun."
- The Art of Living. Albany: SUNY, 1995.
- Obscenity, Anarchy, Reality. Albany: SUNY, 1996.
- Act Like You Know: African-American Autobiography and White Identity. Chicago, University of Chicago P, 1998.
- End of Story: Toward an Annihilation of Language and History. Albany: SUNY, 2000.
- Extreme Virtue: Leadership and Truth in Five Great American Lives. Albany: SUNY, 2003.
- Six Names of Beauty. New York: Routledge, 2004.
- Exquisite Rebel: The Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre — Anarchist, Feminist, Genius (Co-edited with Sharon Presley). Albany: SUNY, 2005.
- Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory. Albany: SUNY, 2008.
- Political Aesthetics. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2010.
- How to Escape: Magic, Madness, Beauty and Cynicism. Albany: SUNY, 2014
- Editor, The Practical Anarchist; Writings of Josiah Warren. New York: Fordham, 2011
- Co-Editor, Exquisite Rebel: Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre, American Anarchist, Feminist, Genius. Albany:SUNY, 2005.
In addition to his major publications, Sartwell has published over 40 professional articles in a variety of academic journals including the British Journal of Aesthetics, Philosophy Today, American Philosophical Quarterly and others.
- Sartwell, Crispin. Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory. SUNY Press, 2008. p. 14
- The Willy-Nicky Correspondence, with a forward by Teddy Roosevelt (Toronto: S.B. Gundy, 1918)
- Hofmann, Frank (2005). "Epistemic Means and Ends: In Defense of Some Sartwellian Insights". Synthese. 146 (3): 357–69.
- Le Morvan, Pierre (2002). "Is Mere True Belief Knowledge?". Erkenntnis. 56 (2): 151–68.
- Lycan, William G. (1994). "Sartwell's Minimalist Analysis of Knowing". Philosophical Studies. 73 (1): 1–3.
- Rachel Bunn (2016-03-04). "Dickinson professor placed on leave following a series of blog posts". The Patriot-News. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
- Lizzy Hardison (2016-03-03). "Philosophy Professor Placed on Temporary Leave". The Dickinsonian. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
- Stuhr, John J. (1996). "Rev. of Sartwell, Obscenity, Anarchy, Reality". The Personalist Forum. 12 (2): 191–92.
- Jeffrey, Timm (1997). "Rev. of Sartwell, Obscenity, Anarchy, Reality". Philosophy East and West. 47 (3): 447–48.
- Lazarre, Jane (1999). "Rev. of Sartwell, Act Like You Know". American Literature. 71 (3): 598–99.
- Watkins, James H. (1999). "Rev. of Sartwell, Act Like You Know". South Atlantic Review. 64 (1): 176–79.
- Olney, James (1999). "Rev. of Sartwell, Act Like You Know". African American Review. 33 (4): 696–97.
- Voice, Paul (2011). "Rev. of Sartwell, Political Aesthetics". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 69 (4): 434=36.
- Crispinsartwell.com, column archives and other writings.
- Eye of the Storm, Crispin Startwell's blog, hosted on blogs.com.