The Book of Dead Philosophers
By Simon Critchley
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307390431, 304pp.)
Publication Date: February 10, 2009
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“To philosophize is to learn how to die.” —Cicero; assassinated by order of Mark Antony
“One who no longer is cannot suffer.” —Lucretius; suicide, allegedly driven mad by a love potion
“Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” —Hobbes; died in bed, age 91
In this collection of brief lives (and deaths) of nearly two hundred of the world's greatest thinkers, noted philosopher Simon Critchley creates a register of mortality that is tragic, amusing, absurd, and exemplary. From the self-mocking haikus of Zen masters on their deathbeds to the last words of Christian saints and modern-day sages, this irresistible book contains much to inspire both amusement and reflection.
Informed by Critchley's acute insight, scholarly intelligence, and sprightly wit, each entry tells its own tale, but collected together they add up to a profound and moving investigation of meaning and the possibility of happiness for us all.
Simon Critchly is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is the author of many books, most recently, On Heidegger's Being and Time and Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance. The Book of Dead Philosophers was written on a hill overlooking Los Angeles, where he was a scholar at the Getty Research Institute. He lives in Brooklyn.
“A provocative and engrossing invitation to think about the human condition and what philosophy can and can't do to illuminate it.”
—The Financial Times
“Rigorous, profound and frequently hilarious. . . . Critchley is an engaging, deadpan guide to the metaphysical necropolis. . . . At a time when much popular philosophy is either frivolous, dull or complacent, his is a bracingly serious and properly comic presence.”
—The Daily Telegraph (UK)