The Book of Dead Philosophers, By Simon Critchley

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The Independent Culture

Philosophers have made a habit of striking exits, from Empedocles (430BC) jumping into the Etna volcano to prove his divinity to Simone Weil (1943) starving herself in solidarity with the Nazis' victims.

In other hands, this litany of leavetakings – and what they tell us about the thinker – would have been no more than a stocking-filler.

But Critchley, a philosopher not just alive but lively, turns this departure board into a suggestive digest of Western thought. "It is only in relation to the acceptance of self-loss," he argues, "that there might be a self to gain".

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