Biography  |  Bibliography  |  Articles  |  Lectures  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Quotes  |  Links  

Simon Critchley - Biography

Simon Critchley, Ph.D., is Chair and Professor of Philosophy at The New School. Simon Critchley was born on February 27, 1960 in Hertfordshire, England. He received his B.A. from the University of Essex in 1985, his Masters in Philosophy from the University of Nice in 1987, and his Ph.D from the University of Essex in 1988. Simon Critchley then went on to direct his alma mater’s Centre for Theoretical Studies. In addition Critchley has been the programme director for Paris’ Collège International de Philosophie, president of the British Society for Phenomenology and was chosen as a scholar by the prestigious Getty Research Institute. Critchley has also participated as a visiting professor in schools such as the University of Oslo, Cardozo Law School, and the University of Notre Dame and Sydney. He is a world renowned scholar of Continental Philosophy and phenomenology. Much of his work examines the crucial relationship between the ethical and political within philosophy.

Simon Critchley’s published work deals largely with disappointment and it’s relationship to philosophy; chiefly, religious or political disappointment. In Very Little… Almost Nothing (1997), Critchley explores religious disappointment, the loss of belief, and nihilism through Maurice Blanchot and Samuel Beckett. In this work he is simultaneously pointing to the symbiosis between disappointment and excitement, linking them as a necessity to one another. Instead of disappointment being an inescapable truth in the pejorative sense he explores it’s relationship to limitation as freedom. In an interview with the theoretical journal, Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization, Simon Critchley talks about disappointment as "an acceptance of limitation", in this view Critchley see's limitation in a new light, as rather a condition of possibility. Critchley cites Montaigne who says that ,"he who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave". Here Critchley is pointing towards the idea that one who accepts the limiations of being a mortal being is truly free.

Acceptance of mortality as freedom is more thoroughly explored in Critchley’s eighth book, The Book of Dead Philosophers (Granta, 2008), an account of over one hundred and ninety different philosopher’s deaths. Conversely humorous and illuminating, The Book of Dead Philosophers not only maps out the relationship between the work of the philosophers and the nature of their demise but also reminds the reader of our own existential anxiety. Within this work Critchley touches on clothing, concealment and desire.

But here’s the delicious and essential paradox: clothes conceal and cover. They hide...they also disclose, they reveal precisely by concealing. Think of the extraordinary importance of the slit, the hemline, the décolletage, of the phallic display of collar and tie. We see more in seeing less. Or at least we think we do. This, of course, in a rigorously Heideggerian sense, is the true function of clothing, its bivalent play of disclosure and concealment.

One year prior to the publication of The Book of Dead Philosophers Simon Critchley released his most comprehensive work in terms of his philosophical views, Infinitely Demanding (Verso, 2007), which discusses the contemporary state of disappointment in liberal politics. Critchley argues for anarchism as a tool for motivation in a post-Marx climate. Simon Critchley’s work covers much ground, including disappointment, deconstruction, humor, contemporary art, poetry, fashion, political theory, and authenticity. His early relationship to music and the punk scene allows for his work to be quite open and interdisciplinary.

Simon Critchley's published work includes: Re-Reading Levinas (1991) ed. with Robert Bernasconi, The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas (1992), Deconstructive Subjectivities (1996) ed. with Peter Dews, Emmanuel Levinas: Basic Philosophical Writings (1996) ed. with Adriaan T. Peperzak and Robert Bernasconi, Very Little... Almost Nothing: Death, Philosophy, Literature (1997) , A Companion to Continental Philosophy (1998), ed. with William J. Schroeder, Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity: Essays on Derrida, Levinas, and Contemporary French Thought (1999) , Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (2001), The Cambridge Companion to Levinas (2002) ed. with Robert Bernasconi, On Humour (2002), Laclau, A Critical Reader (2004) ed. with Oliver Marchart, On the Human Condition (2005) with Dominique Janicaud & Eileen Brennan, Things Merely Are: Philosophy in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens (2005), Infinitely Demanding. Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance (2007), The Book of Dead Philosophers (2008), On Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’ (2008) with Reiner Schürmann, edited by Steven Levine and Der Katechismus des Bürgers (2008).

Simon Critchley’s mobility within varying practices makes him an obvious choice as the “Chief Philosopher” of the International Necronautical Society, a some-what parody of early 20th century avant-garde organizations. The organization puts on live events, "denunciations" and proclamations. In 2009, Critchley and author, Tom McCarthy, lectured at the Tate Britain on the self-serving nature of authenticity. Keeping with that theme they chose two actors to represent them instead of actually being present. Simon Critchley is also editor of the book series Thinking The Political (Routledge), Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy (Blackwell), Thinking in Action (Routledge) and How to Read... (Granta, London and W.W. Norton, New York).

Simon Critchley is a professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducts an Intensive Summer Seminar.