Thinker and Philosopher Simon Critchley is never dull. Never. At EMPAC Feb. 12

I think Simon Critchley is a genius, and an honest man to boot. Somehow the thoughts of a great philosopher are so much more interesting when you learn that he tried to be a punk musician and political activist before he became a thinker. He didn’t have much success at that, but failure can be an amazingly sturdy foundation and today Simon Critchley is one of the world’s great thinkers, a living, sopping sponge of information, dryly stating the most outrageous truths in subdued, scholarly style. Find one or two videos of his talks and you will soon be in search of more. The one embedded above gives you a brief taste of his style. It is wonderfully understated, making it all the more illuminating.

BOSBookofDeadSo it was double good news when the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced the return of the Observer Effects series. It begins again with Philosophy and the Art of Dying, a free talk by Simon Critchley that will recount stories of philosophers’ deaths and reflect on the role of philosophy in living a good life. The event will take place in EMPAC’s theater on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 6 PM.

Simon Critchley, author of The Book of Dead Philosophers, after extensive research and thought, he wrote a book, and now appears infrequently to relate his anecdotes of philosophers’ deaths since antiquity. They are totally fascinating since they range from the noble to the ridiculous.

Through the lens of their last moments, Critchley reflects on the relationship between a philosopher’s work and his death. In the process, he questions the adage “to philosophize is to die well” and meditates 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.

Simon Critchley. Photo: Todd Kesselmann

Simon Critchley. Photo: Todd Kesselmann

Who is SImon Critchley?

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.

The Observer Effects talk 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.

Other Observer Effects talks this spring include:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 6 PM

Greg Moynahan: Experience and Experiment in Early Modern Europe

This lecture by Greg Moynahan, professor of history, science, technology, and society at Bard College, will examine the rise of the scientific experiment in the early modern period and its relation to artistic experience.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 6 PM

Alva Noë: See Me if You Can! Art and the Limits of Neuroscience

Alva Noë, professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, will question if our experience of the world stems from the firing of neurons in our brains or from our interactions with our surroundings.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 6 PM
N. Katherine Hayles: Performing Technogenesis: The Affective Power of Digital Media

In this lecture, N. Katherine Hayles will explore the co-evolution of technical objects and contemporary humans.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 6 PM
David Link: Software Archaeology. On the Resurrection of Programs for the Mark 1, 1948–58

Media archaeologist and artist David Link will discuss software archaeology through historic examples, such as the early computer, Ferranti Mark 1.

All talks are free and open to the public.

Evelyn’s Café will open at 5 PM with a full menu of meals, snacks, and beverages as well as a selection of wines. Service continues after the talks. Parking is available in the Rensselaer parking lot on College Avenue.

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