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How to Stop Living and Start Worrying: Conversations with Carl Cederstrom [Hardcover]

Simon Critchley , Carl Cederstrom
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Sep 2010
The question of how to lead a happy and meaningful life has been at the heart of philosophical debate since time immemorial. Today, however, these questions seem to be addressed not by philosophers but self–help gurus, who frantically champion the individual′s quest for self–expression and self–realization; the desire to become authentic. Against these new age sophistries, How to Stop Living and Start Worrying tackles the question of ′how to live′ by forcing us to explore our troubling relationship with death. For Critchley, philosophy begins with the question of finitude and with his understanding of a key classical theme – that to philosophize is to learn how to die. Learning how to accept both our own and others′ mortality as a part of life also raises the question of how to love. Critchley argues that the act of love requires us to give up something of ourselves, to lose control so as to be open to the demands of love. We will never be equal to this demand and so we are brought face to face with our own limitations – one form of which is what Critchley calls our ′originary inauthenticity′. By scrutinizing the very nature of humour, Critchley explores what we need to laugh at ourselves and presents the need to confront the inescapable ridiculousness of life. Reflecting on the work of over 20 years, this book provides a unique, witty and erudite introduction to the thought of Simon Critchley. It includes a revealing biographical conversation with Critchley and a fascinating debate with the critically acclaimed novelist Tom McCarthy about the nature of authenticity. Taken together the conversations give an intimate portrait of one of the most lucid, provocative and engaging philosophers writing today.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (3 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745650384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745650388
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.5 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,094,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"An entertaining set of conversations with a bright star of philosophy." Boyd Tonkin, The Independent "The pages are stuffed with reminiscence and intriguing passing ideas as well as more arguments (of greater or lesser plausability) than most books twice the length. The intellectual register soars and plunges in a pleasing rhythm." Steven Poole, The Guardian "Apart from his charming autobiography, Critchley is remarkably adept at clearly explaining quite difficult ideas." Nina Power, Philosophers′ Magazine "Carl Cederstrom′s book of interviews with Simon Critchley, reminded me that I was not the only tinnitus–blighted Scouser to be fighting the good fight for ′Continental′ philosophy!" Mark Thwaite, Ready Steady Book "An indispensable resource to anyone interested in Critchley′s writing." A Piece of Monologue   "After reading this book, I was, I must admit, sorely tempted to answer Camus′s famous question in the affirmative." David Shields, author of Reality Hunger

From the Back Cover

The question of how to lead a happy and meaningful life has been at the heart of philosophical debate since time immemorial. Today, however, these questions seem to be addressed not by philosophers but self–help gurus, who frantically champion the individual′s quest for self–expression and self–realization; the desire to become authentic. Against these new age sophistries, How to Stop Living and Start Worrying tackles the question of ′how to live′ by forcing us to explore our troubling relationship with death. For Critchley, philosophy begins with the question of finitude and with his understanding of a key classical theme – that to philosophize is to learn how to die. Learning how to accept both our own and others′ mortality as a part of life also raises the question of how to love. Critchley argues that the act of love requires us to give up something of ourselves, to lose control so as to be open to the demands of love. We will never be equal to this demand and so we are brought face to face with our own limitations – one form of which is what Critchley calls our ′originary inauthenticity′. By scrutinizing the very nature of humour, Critchley explores what we need to laugh at ourselves and presents the need to confront the inescapable ridiculousness of life. Reflecting on the work of over 20 years, this book provides a unique, witty and erudite introduction to the thought of Simon Critchley. It includes a revealing biographical conversation with Critchley and a fascinating debate with the critically acclaimed novelist Tom McCarthy about the nature of authenticity. Taken together the conversations give an intimate portrait of one of the most lucid, provocative and engaging philosophers writing today.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A philosophical curio 3 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is an extended interview, in which the philosopher Simon Critchley presents his views on various issues, such as love, death and humour. The Q&A approach makes it quite accessible, but ultimately I found it meandering and self-referential. Critchley likes soundbites - "Death is a non-issue", "humour is a consequence of original sin" - but this is a book that bristles with interesting ideas rather than mounting a sustained argument, and in the end it feels slight even if interesting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For fans of Simon Critchley 7 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
How to Stop Living and Start Worrying is essentially a long conversation with Simon Critchley published in book form. In the conversation he discusses various topics relating to life and the human condition. I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy the book, although some interesting points were made. I think the problem is that I have not read any of Simon Critchley's work before and really needed something along the lines of the 'A Very Short Introduction' range of books. The (rather sycophantic) introduction seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with Simon Critchley's work which did not help. I am sure that someone who is familiar with his work will get something out of the conversational format of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. M. A. Reed TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
An entertaining twist on the usual, anodyne, and utterly useless YOU CAN DO IT!!! self-help fluff and twaddle, this addresses the rampaging issue of mortality, namely that We Are All Going To Die And We Can Do Nothing To Avoid It.

With such a cheery approach, this tackles the issue of humour as the survival mechanism that defines our lives in fighting the inevitable doom ofour eventual demise. Philosophy is presented relatively accessably, but without much in the way of substance. Taken in the form of transcruibed dialogue, it's similar to books with titles like "Barry White On Barry White", where a figure talks about themselves self-referentially. It reminds me of overhearing an oddly pretentious conversation about death by a flippant scientist in a pub on a Sunday afternoon - which obviously happens ALL THE TIME. An entertaining curio, but no more than that.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Friendly Little Book 29 Dec 2010
By Miss M. L. English VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a nice friendly little book.

Nothing will challenge, too strongly, any ideas you might have about Life, the Universe...and Everything. It also give a fascinating insight into Simon's early life in the UK and how he actually came to be a philosopher teaching at a USA New York Uni.

The book is divided into 6 chapters covering Life=Simon's life mostly, Philosophy, Death, Love=a new topic of thought for Mr Critchley, Humour (as opposed to comedy) and Authenticity.

Main points are we should live as if we're going to die, to help us enjoy living...which is partly the title of the book's opposite point. If we lived as if death was actually going to happen at some point, maybe we'd fret less. Simon is after all, the author of The Book of Dead Philosophers, so he's given quite a lot of thought to this subject.He quite rightly points out that the subject of death, so important to the Victorians, has been eclipsed by sex. We talk, write and think about sex more than our inevitable demise, which is a shame as it will happen, to all of us, at some point.

The last chapter is a bit strange. The interviewer Carl is talking to Simon and Tom McCarthy who have formed some weird organisation called the International Necronautical Society, who aim to explore death in all it's guises. I wondered as I was reading this, how much was tongue-in-cheek and how much was real....felt a bit like I'd flipped into a parallel universe.

All in all, a steady read. It's not an academic work, as it is written as an interview, so it flows rather quickly, but I enjoyed the points raised and was fascinated (as I'm studying A Level Philosophy at the moment) to read about how a modern day philosophers mind works...
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2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in substance or insight 5 April 2013
By Sam Woodward TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If philosophy is dead then this is the white tape marking out where the corpse lay.

This was my first encounter with Simon Critchley's work & it does not encourage me to read the rest. It's essentially a transcript of conversations between him & Carl Cederstrom, addressing the nature of humour & the usual staples of love & death. Being mere conversations, none of the subject are examined in any depth - it's a bit like chatting in a pub with an eloquent friend, but less fun. There's lots of soundbites but little explanation of how ideas were reached or even any attempts to expand & develop them. Thus faith or an existing familiarity with Critchley's work is required to gain much from it.

A somewhat lightweight read, seemingly aimed at people not looking for a lightweight read. A failed attempt to attract a mainstream audience, perhaps. I think they were trying to be humourous but the joke fell flat.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not Self-Help, Just Self-Indulgent 20 April 2012
By A. K. Sheikh VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you were to look at the title and then read the synopsis on the back, you might be forgiven for thinking this would a useful parody or alternative view of the self-help genre. Whilst there was the odd phrase that made sense, a lot of it just read like a bit of a moan about how life can be rotten and then you have to die. All executed with the po-faced self-importance of a modern day philospher. I wasn't expecting this book to be fun, but I was hoping it was going to be more interesting than a brief biography (that was the interesting part) and vague musings on authenticity in death. All in all, it read like a contractual obligation had to be met. Not a very good book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd but very likeable book
I can't work out who is going to buy this book, but I'm glad I got one. It's an interview with a modern philosopher. Read more
Published on 23 Sep 2011 by William Cohen
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit meandering.
This is a fairly lightweight and insubstantial dialogue; a wide-ranging chat which is interesting and moderately thought-provoking but never really gets anywhere. Read more
Published on 16 May 2011 by Mr. S. D. Mcginty
3.0 out of 5 stars Simon Critchley at his weakest
It would be unfair to be to critical of such a light book. It is an interview with Simon Critchley and is essentially a conversation about his life. Read more
Published on 29 April 2011 by Mr. Nadim Bakhshov
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and insubstantial
I found the story of how Simon Critchley got to be a philosopher really fascinating and sadly unlikely to happen nowadays. Read more
Published on 24 Mar 2011 by Silver Moon Sailor
3.0 out of 5 stars thought-provoking little book- but maybe not explored enough for...
The clever title reflects the preoccupations of the philosopher. The book is a collection of interviews, exploring his ideas about life and death and the importance of acceptance... Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2011 by M. W. Hatfield
3.0 out of 5 stars Pithy in places though ultimately insubstantial
The genre of the 'philosopher interview' book can often be frustrating - a combination of recapitulation and less than compelling asides from a writer one had been previously... Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2011 by Kentish Sir Byng
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull
This rather slender volume is basically the transcript of a converstaion between Simon Critchley, a philosipher and an interviewer - Carl Cederstorm. Read more
Published on 15 Feb 2011 by light
1.0 out of 5 stars Meta-philosophy or just vain drivvle?
I must be missing something here... can someone tell me why this man is apparently so revered?

Ah, I get it - he's a philosopher (self proclaimed? Read more
Published on 8 Feb 2011 by The Fat Monk
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesnt exactly do what it says on the tin
This book has a catchy title which suggests its going to be both amusing and in some way critical of the self-help genre it parodies in the title (it is an inversion of the... Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2011 by Lark
2.0 out of 5 stars oddly disappointing
Like some other reviewers here, I found this book quite off-putting, not least because it did take a rather 'celebrity philosopher' attitude to Critchley's work, inviting him to... Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2011 by emma who reads a lot
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