Simon Crichtley Raises the Dead

On Tuesday, February 12, Simon Crichtley will be giving a free lecture in Troy, NY at the EMPAC at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Crichtley is widely regarded for his work in continental philosophy, ranging from religion to politics. His philosophy tends towards existential ethics, a topic covered in Episode 4 and Episode 63, also a possible topic in the upcoming Buber episode. Crichtley's discussion on Tuesday is centered around death, entitled "Philosophy and the Art of Dying." A recent interview in Chronogram provides an interesting idea of what people can expect on Tuesday.

In the interview Crichtley states, "Philosophy's an odd subject, because it begins with a death—the death of Socrates. Socrates is often considered to be the first philosopher, and was condemned by the city of Athens, given the choice of exile or death. He chose to die. Plato devoted four texts to the trial and execution of Socrates, and in the last one of those, which is called the Phaedo, he talks about the philosopher as the one who prepares for death, who is not scared of death—of philosophy as an art of dying. It allows us to go to our death with a certain equanimity and tranquility." This leads one to conclude that all philosophy is a way to transcend the social stigma of fear of death. Revealing an historical argument, the interview offers new light on an ancient topic, one which will further be discussed on Tuesday. Does the philosopher have a better grasp on life itself? Maybe philosophers are really just trying to transcend death, becoming immortal through infamy.

It is no secret that mankind has always been intrigued and petrified by mortality. We have always tried to find a way to transcend and transgress into a state of immortality. Have the philosophies of the past, namely existentialism, prepared us for a peaceful death? Is all philosophy only another way to understand death? Hopefully Crichtley will further debate these issues on Tuesday. Read the interview here.

Rian Mitch


  1. Ethan Gach says

    Good post and thanks for the heads up!

    And of course, death would always be a great thing to devote an episode to, perhaps with excerpts from several philosophers : )

    Being someone who often finds himself kept up late at night be the unthinkable thought of non-existence, I’m looking forward to Crichtley’s talk.

  2. JohnBissell says

    what arrogance, Mr. Critchley could no more convince me that I have not had an encounter with God than I could convince him those aren’t his hands at the end of his arms. That’s not philosophy, that’s propaganda. Religion is not running away, it’s running towards…

    • Ryan says

      I’m not sure what you think he wants you to believe but he’s more of a speculative critical theorist, any particular thing he says is going to be more of a method at getting you to think at all rather than provoking you into believing some specific thing with certainty. Are you afraid to find out what he has to say about life and death would be too much for you to be able to handle in your normal daily life and you would rather not have to deal with it?

  3. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    Why not commit suicide? This was Albert Camus beginning point of philosophy. Rather than wait to worry about death, lets get on with it now.

    No one believes he is advocating suicide (except some unfortunate depressed people who didn’t wait for the point and woke up dead). So we can be lazy and look at death taking us up at the end of our life (like there would possibly be another time) or focused and deal with it now, or keep it in the background and hide from, not death, but the meaning of life as reflected in the inevitability of death.

    I like this bringing to the forefront, each persons current meaning of life. It’s like we all have a superbowl to play in and the game is today. We would develop some anticipatory performance anxiety, go out on the field, and the winners are the ones who answer genuinely to the project of their own life.

    (Cormack McCarthy’s SUTTREE, the great American existential novel, is all about this, as well as Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (Suttree explained).

    One of my favorite existential psychoanalysts used to be Irving Yalom, I think at Stanford now, who has taken up with his wife the hobby of visiting graveyards, and writing (wrote?) a book about it. Now that just seems to miss the point for me. To make an obsession of death is a tell to me. I think he has passed over onto the dark side, and is missing the Zorba the Greek (by Nikos Katzanzakis) passion of life (“Life is trouble, take down your pants and look for it”, or Dylan Thomas’ passion:

    “Do not go gently into that good night,
    but rage and rage into the dying of the light.”

  4. says

    I’m curious to read his book now. Insterested to see how thorough his treatment of death is, and not just the context surrounding it and how people approach and/or react to it.

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