Blog post

Simon Critchley on the Gnosticism of Philip K. Dick

Ryan Healey21 May 2012

In the New York Times, Simon Critchley has written a series of essays on the revelatory experiences and Gnosticism of Philip K. Dick, the sci-fi writer and "garage philosopher" who claimed to write and read "in the mind of God." Critchley writes,

Crazy as it doubtless must sound, I think that Dick's gnosticism responds to a deep and essential anxiety of our late modern times. The irrepressible rise of a deterministic scientific worldview threatens to invade and overtake all those areas of human activity that we associate with literature, culture, history, religion and the rest.

After using Dick's Gnostical worldview to explain the paranoid style of contemporary American politics, Critchley proposes an alternative to a pervasive determinism:

Ask yourself: what does one do in the face of a monistic all-consuming naturalism? We can embrace it, hoping to wrest whatever shards of wonder and meaning we can from inquiries into the brain or the cosmos sold as brightly colored trade hardbacks, written by reputable, often prize-winning, scientists. Or we can reject scientific determinism by falling back into some version of dualism. That could mean embracing a spiritual or religious metaphysics of whatever confection, or - if one is still nostalgic for the disappointed modernism of, say, Kafka or Beckett - by falling back upon a lonely, alienated self in a heartless world of anomie.

But perhaps another way is open, one that is neither entirely naturalistic nor religious nor some redux of modernist miserabilism.

Read the full essays at the New York Times. Critchley's new book on political theology, The Faith of the Faithless, is available from Verso.