|Born||27 February 1960|
|Alma mater||University of Essex|
University of Nice
|Institutions||New School for Social Research|
|Political philosophy, ethics, aesthetics|
Simon Critchley (born 27 February 1960) is an English philosopher and Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He writes on a wide variety of topics including: history of philosophy, political theory, religion, ethics, aesthetics, literature, theatre, David Bowie, Hamlet, Suicide, and most recently, Football.
Critchley's PhD dissertation resulted in the monograph The Ethics of Deconstruction (Blackwell, 1992). This text was published in the wake of a debate at Cambridge concerning Jacques Derrida's honorary doctorate.
Critchley holds the position of "chief philosopher" at the International Necronautical Society (INS). A parody of twentieth century avant-garde cultural, artistic, and political organizations, the INS facilitates live events as well as denunciations and proclamations with the intention of "mapping, entering, and occupying the space of death." Archival documents from the INS produced between 1999 and 2010 have been compiled into a text edited by novelist Tom McCarthy and Critchley entitled The Mattering of Matter (Sternberg Press, 2012).
Aside from death, Critchley is also widely known for his encouragement of educating the living, in particular, the philosophical education of children at the Tilt Kids Festival at the Brooklyn Public Library. He is also a regular participant at the Brooklyn Public Library's Night of Philosophy, infamously reserving his lectures until the early hours of the morning.
Critchley has taught at the University of Cardiff (1988–89), The University of Essex (1989-2003) and was the Directeur de Programme at the College International de Philosophie in Paris (1998-2004). Critchley was also part-time professor of philosophy at Tilburg University (2009–15). He has held visiting professorships at the University of Sydney, Notre Dame, and Cardozo Law School.
Critchley argues philosophy begins not in wonder, but disappointment. The two major forms of disappointment that he deals with are religious and political. Religious disappointment raises the question of meaning and has to, as he sees it, deal with the problem of nihilism. Political disappointment provokes the question of justice and raises the need for a coherent ethics.
Life and education
Critchley believes in an "essential connection between biography and philosophy."
His father was a sheet-metal worker and his mother was a hairdresser. On at least one occasion Critchley has affectionately referred to his hometown as the "wasteland." As a child he was bullied but escaped this violence through study and football. As a young pupil Critchley was admitted into grammar school and then university despite his parents' disinclinations. During his adolescence he split his time between numerous punk bands but at the age of 18 suffered a serious industrial accident which almost severed his left hand. Unable to continue his career in music, Critchley underwent an intense period of depression. Working as a lifeguard one summer he read Beckett, Joyce, Kafka, Camus as well as works in middle English by Chaucer and Piers Plowman. At 22 he applied for college at the behest of a friend and was admitted to study philosophy and literature.
Critchley received a BA from the University of Essex in 1985. At Essex he joined the Communist Students' Society which introduced him to thinkers who would greatly shape his later thought including: Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. During this period he quit writing poetry after reading W. H. Auden.
In 1987 Critchley left Essex for the University of Nice where he met Dominique Janicaud, who would become a last influence and friend. Soon after, Critchley suffered a hospital accident that resulted in lifelong tinnitus. Despite this obstruction, Critchley completed a thesis in French concerning Heidegger and Carnap on the question of overcoming metaphysics. For this achievement he earned his M. Phil.
Returning to Essex in 1987 Critchley was at a loss as to what to write on for his forthcoming dissertation. He eventually completed a dissertation on Derrida and Levinas (which would later be expanded into his monograph, The Ethics of Deconstruction (Blackwell, 1992)). In 1988 he attained his PhD from Essex. Not long after he was appointed a lecturer of philosophy at Essex in 1989, becoming reader in philosophy in 1995, and professor in 1999.
Books – monographs
- What We Think About When We Think About Football (UK: Profile Books; USA: Penguin Random House, 2017). (Reviewed in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Rolling Stone.)
- Suicide (Fitzcarraldo, 2015). (Reviewed in Le Temps, Le Monde, and The Independent).
- Memory Theatre (Fitzcarraldo, 2014). (Reviewed in The Los Angeles Review, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Publishers Weekly, and The Guardian).
- Bowie (Or Books, 2014; Expanded Edition - Serpent's Tail, 2016). (Reviewed in The London Review of Books,Vanity Fair, New Republic, The Independent.)
- ABC Of Impossibility (Univocal, 2015). (Reviewed in the Hong Kong Review of Books).
- The Problem with Levinas (Oxford UP, 2015). (Reviewed in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews and Four by Three Magazine.)
- The Faith of the Faithless (Verso, 2012). (Reviewed in Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, and The New Yorker.)
- Impossible Objects (Polity, 2012). (Reviewed in the Oxonian Review, Monthly Review, and Pop Matters.)
- How To Stop Living and Start Worrying (Polity, 2010). (Reviewed in The Guardian, The Times Higher Education, RhysTranter.com.)
- The Book of Dead Philosophers (Granta Books, 2008; Vintage, 2009). (Reviewed in The Washington Post, The Observer, The New York Times, The Independent, The Guardian.)
- Infinitely Demanding (Verso, 2007). This monograph was the topic of a special issue of the journal Critical Horizons (August 2009).
- Things Merely Are: Philosophy in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens (Routledge, 2005). (Reviewed in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.)
- On Humour (Routledge, 2002).
- Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2001).
- Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity (Verso, 1999) is a collection of essays which brings together Critchley's debate with Richard Rorty, as well as a series of essays on Derrida, Levinas, Jacques Lacan, and Jean-Luc Nancy.
- Very Little... Almost Nothing (Routledge, 1997) focuses on the relation between philosophy and literature and the problem of nihilism.
- The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas (Blackwell, 1992; Edinburgh UP 1999; 3rd edition Edinburgh UP 2014). (Reviewed in Critical Inquiry).
- Stay Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine (Pantheon Books, 2013 (co-authored with Jamieson Webster)). (Reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Independent, London Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal.)
- On Heidegger's Being and Time (Routledge, 2008 (co-authored with Reiner Schürmann)).
Controversy with Slavoj Zizek
In Critchley's 2007 publication Infinitely Demanding (Verso) he remarks: "Anarchic political resistance should not seek to mimic and mirror the anarchic violent sovereignty it opposes" (168). In response, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek responded with a polemical review in the London Review of Books (November 15, 2007). In his review, Zizek criticizes Critchley as defending the liberal-democratic capitalist state. For Zizek, Critchley epitomizes how "the politics of resistance is nothing but the moralizing supplement to a Third Way Left."
T.J. Clark (University of California Berkeley) and David Graeber (Goldsmiths, University of London) defended Critchley by pointing out a variety of Zizek's own vacillations concerning political violence and the state-form; in particular, Clark paraphrases Zizek's own prescription as a "sit at home and watch the barbarity on television" attempt at revolution.
Zizek responded to his critics in the London Review of Books (vol.30 no.2 – 24 January 2008) by reiterating that his "opinion is that the left is not able to offer a true alternative to global capitalism." Zizek defended his criticism of Critchley in remarking that resistance to the state may indeed vindicate and corroborate it. On this point Zizek remarks in regards to protests against the Iraq War that they "fitted all too smoothly [into] the space allotted to 'democratic protests' by the hegemonic state and ideological order."
In 2009 Critchley published a response to Zizek in Naked Punch. There, Critchley links Zizek's rapid production of monographs and prescription that "sometimes, doing nothing is the most violent thing to do," in order to claim that what ultimately sustains Zizek's work is "a dream of divine violence, cruelty and force." Zizek "ridicules others' attempts at thinking about commitment, resistance and action...while doing nothing himself." Critchley concludes:
"There is a serious debate to be had about the question of violence versus non-violence, the necessity of the state form, and the nature of radical politics given the seeming permanence of capitalism. This is a debate in which I’d like to engage as my own position on these matters is shifting as I give it more thought. Perhaps when we get beyond the windy rhetorical posturing of Zizek’s critique and his description of my position as ‘post-modern leftism’ (I defy anyone to find a word in favour of postmodernism in anything I have written), we can begin to have that debate."
In the final chapter of his 2012 publication, The Faith of the Faithless (Verso), Critchley returns to his debate with Zizek in order to sum up some of his previously made points and prescribe resistance to systemic forms of oppression, discrimination and domination.
Since May 2010 Critchley has moderated an opinion blog published by The New York Times entitled The Stone. The Stone features the writing of contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless including art, war, ethics, gender and popular culture. In 2015 Critchley and co-editor Peter Catapano assembled a compilation of Stone entries into The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments (Liveright, 2015). This work was followed up in 2017 with another volume co-edited with Catapano entitled Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments (Liveright, 2017).
Guardian Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time
Over June and July 2009 Critchley wrote a serialized read-through of Martin Heidegger's magnum opus, Being and Time (1927), for the British newspaper, The Guardian.'Over two months and eight separate articles, Critchley engages with and disentangles each difficult chapter of this infamously resistant text.
Critchley and Simmons
Critchley is an active and founding collaborator in the avant-garde music group "Critchley and Simmons." The sound of this group is self-described as if "David Bowie & Jacques Derrida had love children who decided to form a band." Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a featured vocalist and collaborator on the track "So Happy." Critchley and Simmons have produced four studio albums: Humiliation (2004), The Majesty of the Absurd (2014), Ponders End (2017) and Moderate or Good, Occasionally Poor (2017).
- (1992, 1999, 2014) The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0748689323
- (1997) Very Little... Almost Nothing: Death, Philosophy, Literature, Routledge, London & New York (2nd Edition, 2004). ISBN 978-0415340496
- (1999) Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity: Essays on Derrida, Levinas, and Contemporary French Thought, Verso, London (Reissued, 2007). ISBN 978-1844673513
- (2001) Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192853592
- (2002) On Humour, Routledge, London ISBN 978-0415251211.
- (2005) On the Human Condition, with Dominique Janicaud & Eileen Brennan, Routledge, London. ISBN 978-0415327961
- (2005) Things Merely Are: Philosophy in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens, Routledge, London. ISBN 978-0415356312
- (2007) Infinitely Demanding. Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance, Verso, London & New York. ISBN 978-1781680179
- (2008) The Book of Dead Philosophers, Granta Books, London; Vintage, New York; Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. ISBN 978-0307390431
- (2008) On Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’, with Reiner Schürmann, edited by Steven Levine, Routledge, London and New York. ISBN 978-0415775960
- (2008) Der Katechismus des Bürgers, Diaphanes Verlag, Berlin. ISBN 978-3037340325
- (2008) Democracy and Disappointment: On the Politics of Resistance (DVD) – Alain Badiou and Simon Critchley in Conversation, Slought Books, Philadelphia ASIN: B001AXTZIO
- (2010) How to Stop Living and Start Worrying, Polity Press ISBN 978-0745650395.
- (2011) Impossible Objects, Polity Press ISBN 978-0745653211.
- (2011) International Necronautical Society: Offizielle Mitteilungen
- (2012) The Mattering of Matter. Documents from the Archive of the International Necronautical Society, with Tom McCarthy, Sternberg Press, Berlin. ISBN 978-3943365344
- (2012) The Faith of the Faithless, Verso. ISBN 978-1781681688
- (2013) Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine, Pantheon (North America); Verso (Europe). ISBN 978-0307950482
- (2014) Memory Theatre, Fitzcarraldo Editions (UK). ISBN 978-0992974718
- (2014) Bowie, OR Books. ISBN 978-1939293541
- (2015) Suicide, Thought Catalog/Kindle Single. ASIN: B00YB0UZDC
- (2015) Notes on Suicide, Fitzcarraldo Editions (UK). ISBN 978-1910695067
- (2015) The Problem With Levinas, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198738763
- (2015) ABC of Impossibility, Univocal. ISBN 978-1937561499
- (2017) What We Think About When We Think About Football, Profile Books. ISBN 978-1781259214
- As (co)editor
- (1991) Re-Reading Levinas, ed. with Robert Bernasconi, Indiana University Press, Bloomington. ISBN 978-0253206244
- (1996) Deconstructive Subjectivities, ed. with Peter Dews, State University of New York Press, Ithaca, NY. ISBN 978-0791427248
- (1996) Emmanuel Levinas: Basic Philosophical Writings, ed. with Adriaan T. Peperzak and Robert Bernasconi, Indiana University Press, Bloomington. ISBN 978-0253210791
- (1998) A Companion to Continental Philosophy, ed. with William J. Schroeder, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford. ISBN 978-0631190134
- (2002) The Cambridge Companion to Levinas, ed. with Robert Bernasconi, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521665650
- (2004) Laclau, A Critical Reader, ed. with Oliver Marchart, Routledge, London. ISBN 978-0415238441
- "Simon Critchley's top 10 philosophers' deaths" at guardian.co.uk (Wednesday 11 June 2008)
- "simon-critchley". simon-critchley. Retrieved 2015-09-16.
- "simon-critchley". simon-critchley. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "First Committee of The Necronautical Society". www.necronauts.org. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "International Necronautical Society:". necronauts.net. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "Sternberg Press - Tom McCarthy, Simon Critchley, et al". www.sternberg-press.com. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- Mead, Rebecca (2017-04-17). "When Kids Philosophize". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "Simon Critchley". TILT KIDS FESTIVAL. 2015-11-16. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "A Night of Philosophy and Ideas". bpl.bklynlibrary.org. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- Matthea Westerduin (3 January 2013). "Hij gelooft in wij". de Volkskrant (in Dutch). Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "Simon Critchley - Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy". www.newschool.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "Critical Horizons: Special Issue on Simon Critchley's Neo-Anarchism". Continental Philosophy. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015.
- Žižek, Slavoj (2007-11-15). "Resistance Is Surrender". London Review of Books. p. 7. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "Letters · LRB 13 December 2007". www.lrb.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- "Letters · LRB 24 January 2008". www.lrb.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- Zizek, Slavoj (2009). Violence: Six Sedeways Reflections. London, UK: Profile. p. 183. ISBN 978 1 84668 017 5.
- "Violent Thoughts About Slavoj Zizek". www.nakedpunch.com. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
- Critchley, Simon (2012). The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology. London: Verso. pp. 207–246. ISBN 978-1-84467-737-5.
- "The Stone". The New York Times
- Critchley, Simon. "What Is a Philosopher?". Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- Critchley, Simon. "Euro Blind". Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- Critchley, Simon. "Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Philosopher, Part 1". Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- Critchley, Simon. "Why I Love Mormonism". Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- Joseph Walker (20 September 2012). "Mormonism: The last acceptable prejudice?". DeseretNews.com.
- Critchley, Simon. "The Freedom of Faith: A Christmas Sermon". Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- Critchley, Simon (2013-04-13). "The Trauma of the Pink Shirt". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- Webster, Simon Critchley and Jamieson. "The Gospel According to 'Me'". Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- "Being and Time, part 1: Why Heidegger matters Simon Critchley". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-02.
- "critchleyandsimmons". critchleyandsimmons. Retrieved 2017-12-11.