The Ethics of Deconstruction, Simon Critchley's first book, was originally published to great acclaim in 1992. It was the first book to argue for the ethical turn in Derrida's work and to show as powerfully as possible how deconstruction has persuasive ethical consequences that are vital toour thinking through of questions of politics and democracy. Rather than being concerned with deconstruction in terms of the contradictions inherent in any text - an approach typical of the early Derrida and those in (...) literary criticism aiming to extract a critical method for an application toliterature - Critchley concerns himself with the philosophical context necessary for an understanding of the ethics of deconstructive reading. Far from being some sort of value-free nihilism or textual free-play, Critchley showed the ethical impetus that was driving Derrida's work. His claim was that Derrida's understanding of ethics has to be understood in relation to his engagement with the work of Levinas and the book lays out thedetails of their philosophical confrontation. (shrink)
The return to religion has perhaps become the dominant cliche of contemporary theory, which rarely offers anything more than an exaggerated echo of a political reality dominated by religious war. Somehow, the secular age seems to have been replaced by a new era, where political action flows directly from metaphysical conflict. The Faith of the Faithless asks how we might respond. Following Critchley's Infinitely Demanding, this new book builds on its philosophical and political framework, also venturing into the questions of (...) faith, love, religion and violence. Should we defend a version of secularism and quietly accept the slide into a form of theism--or is there another way? From Rousseau's politics and religion to the return to St. Paul in Taubes, Agamben and Badiou, via explorations of politics and original sin in the work of Schmitt and John Gray, Critchley examines whether there can be a faith of the faithless, a belief for unbelievers. Expanding on his debate with Slavoj Zizek, Critchley concludes with a meditation on the question of violence, and the limits of non-violence. (shrink)
In Ethics–Politics–Subjectivity, Simon Critchley takes up three questions at the centre of contemporary theoretical debate: What is ethical experience? What can be said of the subject who has this experience? What, if any, is the relation of ethical experience to politics? Through spirited confrontations with major thinkers, such as Lacan, Nancy, Rorty, and, in particular, Levinas and Derrida, Critchley finds answers in a nuanced “ethics of finitude” and defends the political possibilities of deconstruction. Democracy, economics, friendship, and technology are all (...) considered anew in Critchley’s bold excursions on the meaning and value of recent French philosophy. (shrink)
Deconstruction and pragmatism constitute two of the major intellectual influences on the contemporary theoretical scene; influences personified in the work of Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty. Both Rortian pragmatism, which draws the consequences of post-war developments in Anglo-American philosophy, and Derridian deconstruction, which extends and troubles the phonomenological and Heideggerian influence on the Continental tradition, have hitherto generally been viewed as mutually exclusive philosophical language games. The purpose of this volume is to bring deconstruction and pragmatism into critical confrontation with (...) one another through staging a debate between Derrida and Rorty, itself based on discussions that took place at the College International de Philosophie in Paris in 1993. The ground for this debate is layed out in introductory papers by Simon Critchley and Ernesto Laclau, and the remainder of the volume records Derrida's and Rorty's responses to each other's work. Chantal Mouffe gives an overview of the stakes of this debate in a helpful preface. (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)
Levinas's idea of ethics as a relation of responsibility to the other person has become a highly influential and recognizable position across a wide range of academic and non-academic fields. Simon Critchley's aim in this book is to provide a less familiar, more troubling, and truer account of Levinas's work. He proposes a new dramatic method for reading Levinas, where the fundamental problem of his work is seen as the attempt to escape from the tragedy of Heidegger's philosophy and the (...) way in which that philosophy shaped political events in the last century. (shrink)
These essays provoke new responses to the work of the eminent French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas through an analysis of how the problematics of reading, deconstruction, feminism, and psychotherapy complicate and deepen Levinas's account of ...
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, first published in 2002, 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)
Deconstruction and pragmatism constitute two of the major intellectual influences on the contemporary theoretical scene--influences personified in the work of Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty. The purpose of this volume is to bring deconstruction and pragmatism into critical confrontation with one another through staging a debate between Derrida and Rorty, itself based on discussions that took place at the College International de Philosophie in Paris in 1993.
Does humour make us human, or do the cats and dogs laugh along with us? On Humour is a fascinating, beautifully written and funny book on what humour can tell us about being human. Simon Critchley skilfully probes some of the most perennial but least understood aspects of humour, such as our tendency to laugh at animals and our bodies, why we mock death with comedy and why we think it's funny when people act like machines. He also looks at (...) the darker side of humour, as rife in sexism and racism and argues that it is important for reminding us of people we would rather not be. (shrink)
Does humour make us human, or do the cats and dogs laugh along with us? _On Humour_ is a fascinating, beautifully written and funny book on what humour can tell us about being human. Simon Critchley skilfully probes some of the most perennial but least understood aspects of humour, such as our tendency to laugh at animals and our bodies, why we mock death with comedy and why we think it's funny when people act like machines. He also looks at (...) the darker side of humour, as rife in sexism and racism and argues that it is important for reminding us of people we would rather not be. (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 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)
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)
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.
_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 Jürgen 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 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)
Emmanuel Levinas has exerted a profound influence on 20th-century continental philosophy. This anthology, including Levinas's key philosophical texts over a period of more than forty years, provides an ideal introduction to his thought and offers insights into his most innovative ideas. Five of the ten essays presented here appear in English for the first time. An introduction by Adriaan Peperzak outlines Levinas's philosophical development and the basic themes of his writings. Each essay is accompanied by a brief introduction and notes. (...) This collection is an ideal text for students of philosophy concerned with understanding and assessing the work of this major philosopher. (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, and rocentrism, 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 disturbanceof politics. In conclusion, this anarchistic experience of ethics in linked to a quite different understanding of politics as the dissensual space of democracy. (shrink)
This essay explores the philosophical significance of the history of mystical anarchism for contemporary ethics and politics. It examines the complex relationship between religion and politics, and elaborates the thesis that many of our contemporary political concepts are secularized theological concepts. After a critical discussion of Carl Schmitt's theory of sovereignty and John Gray's critique of liberal humanism, it examines the anarchist practices of medieval mystics such as Marguerite Porete and the heresy of the Movement of the Free Spirit, and (...) contrasts this mystical anarchist tradition with more recent forms of anarchism, such as Raoul Vaneigem's Situationism.Retrieving the mystical anarchist tradition might help us rethink the relationship between religion and politics and suggest ethically grounded forms of anarchism that avoid violence or abstraction. (shrink)
On Heidegger's Being and Time is an outstanding exploration of Heidegger's most important work by two major philosophers. Simon Critchley argues that we must see Being and Time as a radicalization of Husserl's phenomenology, particularly his theories of intentionality, categorial intuition, and the phenomenological concept of the a priori. This leads to a reappraisal and defense of Heidegger's conception of phenomenology. In contrast, Reiner Schürmann urges us to read Heidegger 'backward', arguing that his later work is the key to unravelling (...) Being and Time . Through a close reading of Being and Time Schürmann demonstrates that this work is ultimately aporetic because the notion of Being elaborated in his later work is already at play within it. This is the first time that Schürmann's renowned lectures on Heidegger have been published. The book concludes with Critchley's reinterpretation of the importance of authenticity in Being and Time . Arguing for what he calls an 'originary inauthenticity', Critchley proposes a relational understanding of the key concepts of the second part of Being and Time : death, conscience and temporality. (shrink)
Covering the complete development of post-Kantian Continental philosophy, this volume serves as an essential reference work for philosophers and those engaged in the many disciplines that are integrally related to Continental and European Philosophy.
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)
The purpose of this volume is to provide a high‐quality, one‐volume companion to the study of philosophy in the Continental tradition. At present, there is no volume which provides the analytically trained philosopher, the interested academic in the humanities and social sciences, the postgraduate and undergraduate student in philosophy and related areas, and the lay reader, with an introductory but authoritative account of what is distinctive and compelling about Continental philosophy and which gives an overview of its diverse historical movements, (...) main figures, and distinctive themes. (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)
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)
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.
There are two phrases in Heidegger's Sein und Zeit that provide a clue to what is going on in that book: Dasein ist geworfener Entwurf and Dasein existiert faktisch . I begin by trying to show how an interpretation of these phrases can help clarify Heidegger's philosophical claim about what it means to be human. I then try and explain why it is that, in a couple of important passages in Sein und Zeit, Heidegger describes thrown projection as an enigma (...) . After considering the meaning and etymology of the word ‘enigma’, I trace its usage in Sein und Zeit, and try and show how and why the relations between Heidegger's central conceptual pairings – state‐of‐mind and understanding , thrownness and projection, facticity and existentiality – are described by Heidegger as enigmatic. My thesis is that at the heart of Sein und Zeit, that is, at the heart of the central claim of the Dasein‐analytic as to the temporal character of thrown‐projective being‐in‐the‐world, there lies an enigmatic apriori. That is to say, there is something resiliently opaque at the basis of the constitution of Dasein's being‐in‐the‐world which both resists phenomenological description and which, I shall claim, is that in virtue of which the phenomenologist describes. In the more critical part of the paper, I try and show precisely how this notion of the enigmatic apriori changes the basic experience of understanding Sein und Zeit. I explore this in relation to three examples from Division II: death, conscience and temporality. I try and read Heidegger's analyses of each of these concepts against the grain in order to bring into view much more resilient notions of facticity and thrownness that place in doubt the move to existentiality, projection and authenticity. The perspective I develop can be described as originary inauthenticity. As should become evident, such an interpretation of Sein und Zeit is not without political consequences. (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)