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Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers

Costica Bradatan



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22 March 2018
Philosophy; History of Western philosophy; Sociology: death & dying
What do Socrates, Hypatia, Giordano Bruno, Thomas More, and Jan Patocka have in common? First, they were all faced one day with the most difficult of choices: stay faithful to your ideas and die or renounce them and stay alive. Second, they all chose to die. Their spectacular deaths have become not only an integral part of their biographies, but are also inseparable from their work. A "death for ideas" is a piece of philosophical work in its own right; Socrates may have never written a line, but his death is one of the greatest philosophical best-sellers of all time.

Dying for Ideas explores the limit-situation in which philosophers find themselves when the only means of persuasion they can use is their own dying bodies and the public spectacle of their death. The book tells the story of the philosopher's encounter with death as seen from several angles: the tradition of philosophy as an art of living; the body as the site of self-transcending; death as a classical philosophical topic; taming death and self-fashioning; finally, the philosophers' scapegoating and their live performance of a martyr's death, followed by apotheosis and disappearance into myth.

While rooted in the history of philosophy, Dying for Ideas is an exercise in breaking disciplinary boundaries. This is a book about Socrates and Heidegger, but also about Gandhi's "fasting unto death" and self-immolation; about Girard and Passolini, and self-fashioning and the art of the essay.
By:   Costica Bradatan
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 138mm, 
Weight:   326g
ISBN:   9781472529718
ISBN 10:   1472529715
Pages:   272
Publication Date:   22 March 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Philosophy as Self-fashioning 2. The First Layer 3. Philosophy in the Flesh 4. The Second Layer 5. The Making of a Martyr-Philosopher Postscript: To Die Laughing Bibliography Index

Costica Bradatan is Associate Professor of Humanities in the Honors College at Texas Tech University, USA and Honorary Research Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is the author and editor of eight books, and has written for The New York Times, The New Statesman, Times Literary Supplement, Dissent, Boston Review, Christian Science Monitor, The Globe & Mail amongst others. Bradatan serves as the Religion/Comparative Studies Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Reviews for Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers

An intriguing 'dramatic narrative' of philosophers' clash with death ... a book that is accessible to all philosophers, academic and non-academic alike. In this intelligent and artful account, [Bradatan] ranges from the ancient world to our own times, drawing on the stories of individual philosophers who defended and died for their beliefs ... Bradatan's rich examination of the philosopher's act of dying for ideas brings into focus the riskiness of living for them as well. Times Higher Education [Bradatan] argues persuasively that death is not simply the opposite of life, but that it enters life and lends it urgency - that it can even 'breathe new life into life'. Times Literary Supplement Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers [is] a stimulating spiritual journey through an essential topic of human existence, and a reading of the history of human vision about it... Bradatan's highly intelligent and challenging book is an exemplary scrutiny of the life of the human mind, the human soul and body. -- Norman Manea The Los Angeles Review of Books [Bradatan's] style is nimble. A register of directness works throughout the book, moving from argument to quip, to narrative as appropriate. The book is well designed, with each chapter building on the previous ... Dying for Ideas is a lucid discussion of mortality and an unsparing portrait of philosophy's ends - in both senses of the word. -- Damon Young The Australian Accessible, penetrating and erudite, [Dying For Ideas is] a beautifully written book which reveals that philosophy is not about academics grinding out dry papers but about mortals confronting the truths of the human condition in order to develop an art of living ... Bradatan has achieved something special in writing this book. As a comprehensive philosophy of death, it amounts to a profound philosophy of the true nature of philosophy itself -- Gary Cox Morning Star Online The choice of philosophers to sacrifice their lives for their ideas is lofty and grim. In Costica Bradatan's book, it is also fun and funny. Dying for Ideas is full of joie de mourir, which as Plato's Socrates would have put it, is just the other side of joie de vivre. The book is at once heroic and ironic ... Too often when young people announce their intention to study philosophy, well-wishers ask them what they are going to do with it, assuming it is a commodity that is bought from professionals and should lead to monetary returns. The correct answer is: live right, be prepared to die. Dying for Ideas reminds us of this ancient truth. Aspen Review [This is] a pithy book that is hard to put down as each section promises a new surprise. Trouw (Bloomsbury translation) One of the greatest merits of Costica Bradatan's book is that it explores a cluster of topics that represent the untold, the unuttered, almost the unutterable in contemporary philosophy: death, dying, sacrifice and self-sacrifice. Ours is a culture of 'happy endings' and, in this respect, most philosophers of today are the spokespersons of their time. Bradatan is a dissenter. His book approaches death head-on. Indeed, what makes this project fascinating is the fact that, while the book purports to be about 'dying for an idea,' it in fact sings praise to life. Death, in Bradatan's view, is something that brings new meaning to life, a renewed intensity to the act of living. Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research, New York, USA. A thoroughly stimulating exploration of philosophers and their courageous deaths, pushing us to reflect on the fascinating question: what is philosophy for? Sarah Bakewell, author of 'How to Live: A Life of Montaigne' Written with verve and humor, at once deeply learned and wickedly ironic, this book explores how philosophy is not only an art of living but also an art of dying - and dying well! Original and irreverent! Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor for Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University, USA Books on philosophy are rarely page-turners, but Bradatan takes us through a fascinating exploration of the existential limit-situation in which philosophers find themselves when their only means of communicating the truth is their own dying bodies and the public spectacle of their death. -- Anders Draeby Sorenson

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