'Witcraft' with Jonathan Rée

Jonathan Ree

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A radical new form of philosophical storytelling

Philosopher and historian Jonathan Rée presents an original approach to the history of philosophy by overthrowing the standard narrative of canonical texts and thinkers and by concentrating on philosophy in one language – English.

Join him for a colourful, diverse, inventive and cosmopolitan view of the history of philosophy, in conversation with Jonathan Egid.

This event draws on Jonathan Rée's new book, Witcraft: The Invention of Philosophy in English, which contains compelling portraits of celebrated British and American philosophers, including Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Mill and James, but also broadens our understanding of philosophical activity by including the work of those usually thought of as literary authors such as Hazlitt, Coleridge, Emerson and George Eliot, and many men and women who thought philosophically, or whose lives were changed by philosophy, but are now forgotten.

Jonathan Rée poses a radical challenge to what he calls the ‘condescending smugness’ of the canonical history of philosophy – viewed in hindsight, and written largely by philosophers for other philosophers.

Some of those Rée uncovers include pioneers such as Mary Astell (the 'female virtuoso' who advocated a philosophical college for women), Thomas Wirgman (the London goldsmith who offered tuition in Kantian philosophy), Harriet Martineau (the 'lady economist'), Ragar Redbeard (who modelled himself on Nietzsche and proclaimed that 'nothing is true') and Thomas Davidson ('perfective socialist' and founder of the Fellowship of the New Life). 

This is not just an examination of great thinkers, but of ordinary men and women thinking for themselves, and reaching their own conclusions about religion, politics, art and everything else.

Jonathan Rée is a philosopher and historian. His previous books include Philosophical Tales, Proletarian Philosophers and I See a Voice.

Jonathan Egid teaches history, philosophy and literature in north-east London, and is an editor at Asymptote. He is working on a project exploring translation, relativism and 'the anxiety of alternatives' – the question of whether the existence of alternative conceptions of reality should undermine faith in our own.

'This book is a game-changer. It fills a giant hole that we did not know was there. We will never be able to think of English philosophy in quite the same way again'

Professor David Wood, Vanderbilt University

Image: Jonathan Rée by Anthony Wilks


Name: 'Witcraft' with Jonathan Rée
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £12.00
Member: £12.00
Senior 60+: £10.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Disabled: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546