Philosophy and the Art of Dying
Simon Critchley, author of The Book of Dead Philosophers, will recount anecdotes of philosophers’ deaths since antiquity that range from noble to ridiculous. Through the lens of their last moments, Critchley will reflect on the relationship between a philosopher’s work and his death. In the process, he will question the adage “to philosophize is to die well” and meditate on the role of philosophy in living a good life in a society like ours that spends so much time and space denying the reality of death.
The Observer Effects series invites thinkers to present their highly integrative work in dialogue with the fields of art and science. This lecture series takes its title from a popularized principle in physics that holds that the act of observation transforms the observed. Outside the natural sciences, the idea that the observer and the observed are linked in a web of reciprocal modification has been deeply influential in philosophy, aesthetics, psychology, and politics.
Simon Critchley is the Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, where he has taught since 2004. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas (Blackwell, 1992); Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2001), which was translated into nine languages; and On Humour (Routledge, 2002), which was translated into eight languages. The Book of Dead Philosophers (Vintage, 2009) was on the New York Times extended bestseller list and so far has been translated into 15 languages. Critchley is a series moderator and regular contributor of “The Stone,” a popular online philosophy column for the New York Times. He also writes for The Guardian. Two books of interviews with Critchley have recently been published: How to Stop Living and Start Worrying (Polity, 2010) and Impossible Objects (Polity, 2011). The Faith of the Faithless, a major new work on the relationship between politics and religion, was published by Verso in February 2012. A new book on Shakespeare’s Hamlet will be published by Pantheon Books next summer. He lives in Brooklyn.
"To be a philosopher, then, is to learn how to die; it is to begin to cultivate the appropriate attitude towards death. As Marcus Aurelius writes, it is one of 'the noblest functions of reason to know whether it is time to walk out of the world or not.' Unknowing and uncertain, the philosopher walks."
—Simon Critchtley, The Book of Dead Philosophers