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Keith Ansell-Pearson

A philosopher: that is a human being who constantly experiences, sees, hears, suspects, hopes and dreams extraordinary things; who is struck by his own thoughts as if from outside, from above and below, by his kind of events and lightning bolts; who is himself possibly a thunderhead pregnant with new lightning bolts; a fatal human being around whom there is always a rumbling and growling, gaping chasms and uncanny activity. A philosopher: oh, a being that often runs away from himself, often is afraid of himself - but is too curious not to 'come to himself' again and again...." (Nietzsche)

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 where I focused on the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and on the three great modern masters of suspicion: Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Since graduation I have published widely in modern European philosophy. My current research essentially focuses on how modern philosophy takes up the concerns and challenges of ancient practices of philosophy, such as Cynicism, Stoicism, and Epicureanism. Modern figures that especially interest me in this regard include Spinoza, Kant, the young Marx, Nietzsche, Jean-Marie Guyau, Deleuze, and Foucault. I am inspired by Nietzsche's appreciation, in which he views the ancient ethical schools as 'experimental laboratories' that practised a number of recipes for the art of living and that we moderns can lay claim to as our legitimate property.

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. My own book series, The Edinburgh Guides to Nietzsche, co-edited with Daniel W. Conway, will launch with Edinburgh University Press in 2018/19.

Recent Research

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 in a number of essays I have sought to illuminate various aspects of the text, including the critique of fanaticism, the distance from politics, the engagement with philosophy, and the ethics. I have also done extensive work in recent years on Nietzsche's reception of Epicurus and on Nietzsche and the sublime.

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 writing a new essay on Bergson and the comic.

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.

Current Research

Philosophy as a Way of Life. My current research includes 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's Dawn. Much of my current work on Nietzsche centres on an examination and exploration of the text, Dawn. I am now working on a critical introduction and guide to the text. It is no exaggeration to say that for the greater part of Nietzsche-reception Dawn has been among the most neglected texts in the corpus, little studied even today, and perhaps for understandable reasons: it deploys no master concept, it does not seek an ultimate solution to the riddles of existence (indeed, it warns against such a strategy), its presentation of themes and problems is highly non-linear, and it states his case for the future subtly and delicately. I read the text as a path breaking work and an exercise in modern emancipation—from fear, superstition, hatred of the self and the body, the short cuts of religion, and the presumptions of morality. In Dawn Nietzsche’s is a specifically ethically-motivated naturalism: how might we relearn our subjectivities so that we can fashion them in ways that are more conducive to our bodily and spiritual well-being and flourishing and that does not assume what “morality” assumes and demands? For Nietzsche the presumptions of morality are the target to be attacked because they assume knowledge that he thinks we simply do not have and only serve to prevent such knowledge from being developed. As he says at one point in the text, we are experiments and the task is to want to be such.

Nietzsche's Search for Philosophy in his Middle Writings. The aim of this book is to contribute to the teaching of, and research into, Nietzsche’s texts as they centre on his neglected middle writings (1878-82). These are the texts Human, all too Human, Dawn, and The Gay Science. My focus is on what I cam calling a 'search for philosophy'. In his early and late period writings Nietzsche restores something of the grandeur of the original philosophers, such as Heraclitus and Empedocles, whilst in his middle period writings he shows how philosophy can practice something of the calm dignity and sobriety of a way of life: his heroes are now figures such as Epictetus and Epicurus. Nietzsche often says in his writings that Schopenhauer lacked development and history – he has a single conception of life and perception of the world from first to last (see, for example, D 481). The same cannot be said of Nietzsche whose thinking undergoes an extraordinary and striking development in the course of just two decades of writing and thinking. This book traces some of the most important moments and conceptions of philosophy in his middle period development. It is my contention that an ethos of Epicurean enlightenment pervades Nietzsche’s middle writings with Epicurus celebrated for his teachings on mortality and the cultivation of modest pleasures. Although the late Nietzsche has problems with Epicurus, in his middle writings he writes in praise of him and draws upon his philosophy as a way of promoting what we can call an Epicurean care of self and world. We need to discover this Nietzsche for ourselves and in part as a way of contesting Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche that focuses on the late writings, mostly the Nachlass, and construes all the major concepts of the late period, notably the will to power and the overman, as indicating that Nietzsche is the ‘technological’ thinker of our age and whose major concept is the will to power and its desire for mastery of the earth though the will to will. My view is that we need a much more subtle and nuanced appreciation of Nietzsche than the Heideggerian reading permits, and one way to develop this is to focus on the neglected middle writings.

Media

Keith Ansell-Pearson interviewed by Joe Gelonesi, The Philosopher’s Zone, ABC 2015

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/life-as-a-matter-of-death/6655802

An Interview with the BBC on Nietzsche, July 1999

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuQzE2YYPNE

A Lecture on the Ethics of Self-Cultivation, University of Warwick, September 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oZ40bFJ_tg

An interview with Simon Critchley about his book, 'Bowie': Bowie: Everything and Nothing

Keith Ansell-Pearson and Michael Holroyd discuss Shaw’s ‘Man and Superman’ at the National Theatre, 2015.

http://national-theatre.tumblr.com/post/114604059978/shaw-and-superman-keith-ansell-pearson-professor

“Philosophy as a form of Non- Religious Grace”: Keith Ansell-Pearson interviewed by Dr Andrius Bielskis, 2015.

Read the interview here

Selected Book Publications

Selected Recent and Forthcoming Essay Publications

  • "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.
  • "'Holding on to the Sublime': On Nietzsche's Early 'Unfashionable' Project", in K. Gemes & J. Richardson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook to Nietzsche (Oxford UP, 2013), pp. 226-51.
  • "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 Routledge, 2017), pp. 121-145.
  • "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.
  • "On Nietzsche's Moral Therapy in Dawn", Continental Philosophy Review, 44: 2, 2011, pp. 179-204.
  • "True to the Earth: Nietzsche's Epicurean Care of Self and World", in Horst Hutter & Eli Friedland (eds.), Nietzsche's Therapeutic Teaching (Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 97-116.
  • "Care of Self in Dawn: On Nietzsche's Resistance to Bio-political Modernity", in Manuel Knoll & Barry Stocker (eds.), Nietzsche as a Political Thinker (Walter de Gruyter, 2014), pp. 269-86.
  • "Beyond Selfishness: Epicurean Ethics in Nietzsche and Guyau", in R. Bamford (ed.), Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Free Spirit (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2015), pp. 49-69.
  • "Nietzsche's 'Human, all too Human'", in Paul Katsafanas (ed.), The Nietzsche Handbook (Routledge, 2017, forthcoming).
  • "Naturalism as a Joyful Science: Nietzsche, Deleuze, and the Art of Life", Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 47: 1, Spring 2016, pp. 119-141.
  • "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).
 

KAP


 

Professor of Philosophy

Office Hours:

Currently by appointment

MA Modules:

Nietzsche

Bergsonism

Deleuze and Philosophy: Empiricism and Naturalism

UG Modules:

Nietzsche in Context

Philosophy and the Good Life