The use of philosophy is to maintain an active novelty of fundamental ideas. It reverses the slow descent of accepted thought towards the inactive commonplace" (Alfred North Whitehead).
I joined the Philosophy Department at Warwick in 1993 and have held a Personal Chair since 1998. I previously taught at the University of Malawi in southern Africa and Queen Mary College of the University of London. I did my graduate work at the University of Sussex. Since graduation I have published widely in modern European philosophy and my work has been translated into various languages, including Chinese, Italian, Korean, Spanish, and Turkish. I have presented lectures around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the USA. In 2013/14 I was a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities Research Center at Rice University.
I serve on the editorial boards of, amongst others, Cosmos and History, Deleuze Studies, Journal of Nietzsche Studies, and Nietzsche-Studien. I am an editorial board member of the new book series 'Nietzsche Now', edited by Stefan Sorgner and Yunus Tuncel, and to be published by Cambridge Scholars Press, and on the scientific committee of 'Nietzscheana' edited by Giuliano Campioni and Maria Cristina Fornari (ETS, Pisa). With Christian Emden I have recently guest edited a special issue of the Journal of Nietzsche Studies on Nietzsche and the ethics of naturalism (volume 47: 1, Spring 2016). I am now guest editing a special issue of The Agonist on Nietzsche and Epicureanism for publication in spring 2017. A new book series, The Edinburgh Guides to Nietzsche, co-edited with Daniel W. Conway, will launch with Edinburgh University Press in 2018.
I draw my inspiration for philosophizing from various sources, including Bergson's idea that philosophy exists to extend human perception; Merleau-Ponty's idea that philosophy does not encounter a pre-existing truth but allows truth to come into being; and from Whitehead that the task of metaphysics is to reconcile the unity of the universe (as conceived in Spinoza) and the multitude of individuals (as conceived in Leibniz).
Areas of Specialization
The History of Philosophy; Modern European Philosophy; Bergsonism; The Philosophy of Time; Philosophies of Life and Nature; Environmental Philosophy.
In the autumn term of 2016 I shall be teaching courses on Philosophy as a Way of Life ("Philosophy and the Good Life: the Hellenistics and the Moderns") and on Nietzsche (focused on the middle period writings). I shall be on study leave for the whole of 2017. On return in 2018 I shall teach courses on Philosophy as a Way of Life and on Modern Philosophies of Nature.
My current research centres on the philosophies of nature and life and the philosophy of time. I am especially interested in modes of thought within twentieth century philosophies of life and nature that challenge the bifurcation of mind and nature, and in this regard I draw inspiration from the work of thinkers such as Bergson, Whitehead, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze.
If we are not to present nature as bare activity we need to fuse together nature and life in our composition of reality. This fusion needs to take place if we are to expand and enrich our appreciation of nature and give ourselves the right to place questions of value within nature: ‘a dead Nature can give no reasons...It is the essence of life that it exists for its own sake, as the intrinsic reaping of value’ (Whitehead). Failure to do this leaves us with a reduction in which we engage, as Whitehead memorably put it, in ‘a sort of mystic chant over an unintelligible universe’.
In addition, I am keen to draw out the significance of Bergson's attempt to 'think beyond the human condition' (that is, beyond our established and prevailing habits of representation that are predominantly spatial). Bergson’s effort at thinking beyond the human condition is highly relevant to our so-called 'posthuman' situation: it has ecological resonances and it contains the prospect of extending human perception beyond its normal frame of reference. Dynamic theories of biology and evolution can only operate through the recognition of the temporal character of living systems, ecological theories can only operate through the recognition of sympathy between organisms, and Bergson developed both these approaches at a time when biological science on the whole operated by treating organisms as raw material. Our thinking of life today is moving away from control and towards participation, away from exploitation and towards sustainability, and only now is scientific thought embarking on the path that Bergson pointed out a century ago, a path that he had seen indicated in the evolutionary biology of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Current Research Projects
I am engaged in various research projects at present:
(a) My recent work on Nietzsche has focused on his neglected middle period writings, especially Dawn (1881). I have written the Afterword to the new edition and translation of Dawn published by Stanford University Press, and I have sought to illuminate various aspects of the text, including the concern with the fate of the sublime, the critique of fanaticism, the distance from politics, the engagement with philosophy (including the sublimities of philosophy), Nietzsche's Epicureanism and search for the heroic-idyllic, and his ethics.
(b) I am writing new essays on Bergson on freedom and on the comic. I have essays forthcoming on Bergson, education, and the art of life and on his attempt to reform philosophy in Creative Evolution. I am the author of the entry on Bergson in the International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell), the Encyclopedia of Political Thought (Wiley-Blackwell), and of the new entry on him that will soon be published in the Routledge on-line Enyclopedia of Philosophy. I am currently researching a book that carries the working title, "Life and the Philosophy of Nature: Bergson, Whitehead, and Merleau-Ponty". In this study I seek to bring these thinkers into rapport with one another on a range of topics, including the use of philosophy, the question of Being, questions of freedom and creativity, and why the status of life in nature is to be regarded as the problem of modern thought.
(c) I have written new essays on Deleuze that centre on the reception of Epicureanism in his work, on his appreciation of Bergson's effort to think beyond the human condition, and on his new materialism. In particular I am interested in how Deleuze's Spinozism attempts to restore the philosophy of nature through what he calls a new naturalism or new materialism. I am also interested in the ethics that Deleuze seeks to develop from this naturalism, which has its anchor in Epicureanism as well as Spinozism.
(d) I am working with colleagues in Australia (Michael Ure at Monash and Matthew Sharpe at Deakin) on a three-year long 'Discovery Project' on the Re-invention of Philosophy as a Way of Life and funded by the Australian Research Council. Many ancient philosophical schools thought the goal of philosophy was to enable individuals to achieve happiness or flourishing. This research examines modern reinventions of this ancient philosophical ideal. It asks whether these reinventions give us sound reasons for believing that contemporary philosophy can and ought to facilitate well-being, and it acknowledges the need to undertake a fresh inquiry into what well-being means for us today. The research has resulted in a book series with Bloomsbury Press that will feature a number of publications, including translations of neglected texts in post-Kantian European philosophy, scholarly monographs, and a Companion volume.
Nietzsche contra Rousseau (Cambridge University Press, 1991/1994).
(ed.) Nietzsche and Modern German Thought (Routledge 1991).
Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze (Routledge, 1999).
Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life (Routledge, 2002). Read Review
(ed. with John Mullarkey), Bergson: Key Writings (Bloomsbury Press, 2002, second edition 2014).
(ed.) The New Century: Bergsonism, Phenomenology, and Responses to Modern Science (Acumen/University of Chicago Press, 2010). Read review
Henri Bergson Centennial Series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
Nietzsche's Dawn (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming 2017).
- "Bergson's Encounter with Biology: Thinking Life", Angelaki, 10: 2, 2005, pp. 59-72.
- "Beyond the Human Condition: An Introduction to Deleuze's Lecture Course", Substance, 36: 3, 2007, pp. 1-15.
- "Bergson on Memory"& "Deleuze on the Overcoming of Memory", both in S. Radstone & B. Schwarz (eds.), Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, Fordham University Press (2010), pp. 61-77 & pp. 161-79.
- "Bergson", in Dean Moyar (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy (Routledge, 2010), pp. 403-33.
- "Responses to Evolution: Spencer's Evolutionism, Bergsonism, and Contemporary Biology" (with Paul-Antoine Miquel & Michael Vaughan), The History of Continental Philosophy, volume three (Acumen/University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 347-79.
- "Morality and the Philosophy of Life in Guyau and Bergson", Continental Philosophy Review, 47: 1, 2014, pp. 59-85.
- "Bergson and Ethics", in Hugh LaFollette, The International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 513-520.
- "Bergson and Politics", The Encyclopedia of Political Thought (Wiley-Blackwell 2014).
- "A Melancholy Science? On Bergson's Appreciation of Lucretius", Pli, 27 (2015), pp. 83-101.
- "Bergson, Education, and the Art of Life", in A. J. Bartlett, Justin Clemens, Jessica Whyte (eds.), What is Education?, (forthcoming 2017)
- "Bergson's Reformation of Philosophy in Creative Evolution, forthcoming in Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy, (2016).
- "Contra Kant and Beyond Nietzsche: Naturalizing Ethics in the Work of Jean-Marie Guyau", The Hegel Bulletin (Cambridge University Press), 35:2, 2014, pp. 185-203.
- "Jean-Marie Guyau", in Hugh LaFollette, The International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014, forthcoming).
- "Beyond Obligation? Jean-Marie Guyau on Life and Ethics", in Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, Volume 77, October 2015, pp 207-225.
- "Naturalism in the Continental Tradition" (with John Protevi), forthcoming in Kelly James Clark (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming).
- "Beyond the Human Condition: Bergson and Deleuze", in Jon Roffe (ed.), Deleuze and the Non/Human (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming, 2015), pp. 81-102.
- "Affirmative Naturalism: Deleuze and Epicureanism", Cosmos and History,10: 2, 2014, pp. 121-137.
- "Deleuze and New Materialism: Naturalism, Normativity, and Ethics", in Sarah Ellenzweig and John Zammito (eds.), Engaging with New Materialism (Routledge, forthcoming 2017).
- "Deleuze's Posthuman Bergsonism", in Christine Daigle (ed.), Posthumanism through Deleuze (Indian University Press, forthcoming 2017).
- "Heroic-Idyllic Philosophizing: Nietzsche and the Epicurean Tradition", in A. O' Hear (ed.), Philosophical Traditions (Cambridge University Press, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 74, 2014), pp. 237-263.
- 'Afterword', Friedrich Nietzsche, Dawn: On the Presumptions of Morality, trans. Brittain Smith (Stanford University Press, 'Collected Works', volume 5, 2011), pp. 363-409.
- "Nietzsche, the Sublime, and the Sublimities of Philosophy", Nietzsche-Studien, Band 39, 2010, pp. 201-32.
- "The Need for Small Doses: Nietzsche, Fanaticism, and Epicureanism", in Celine Denat and Patrick Wotling (eds.), Aurore : un tournant dans l'oeuvre de Nietzsche(Éditions et presses de l'université de Reims, 2015), pp. 193-225.
- "Nietzsche and Epicurus: In Search of the Heroic-Idyllic", in Mark Conard (ed.), Nietzsche and the Philosophers (forthcoming 2017).
- "When Wisdom Assumes Bodily Form", in Manuel Dries (ed.), Nietzsche on Consciousness and the Embodied Mind (Walter de Gruyter, forthcoming).
- "Questions of the Subject in Nietzsche and Foucault: A Reading of 'Dawn'", in J. Constancio (ed.), Nietzsche and Subjectivity (Walter de Gruyter, 2015), pp. 411-435.
- "Naturalism as a Joyful Science: Nietzsche, Deleuze, and the Art of Life", Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 47: 1, Spring 2016, pp. 119-141.