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, Heidegger, Montaigne, Gandhi, Jan Palach and Simone Weil, and about everything that made them immortal.

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Human beings must have been dying ‛for a cause’ for as long as they have been around. They have died for God or for their fellow humans, for ideas or ideals, for things real or imaginary, reasonable or utopian. Of all the possible varieties of voluntary death, the book you’ve started to read is about philosophers who die for the sake of their philosophy. Dying such a death certainly does not lack irony: you pay with the most precious thing you’ve got (your own life) for what commonly passes as the least consequential activity. Dying for Ideas is not about making arguments. Indeed, at the core of it there lies a conviction that philosophy proper is not even about writing books. No doubt philosophy needs writing, and good writing can do it a great service. Yet, in relation to what philosophy ultimately is, writing is bound to remain something preliminary. For no matter how good philosophers are as writers, their philosophy does not lie in their writing, but elsewhere. In a certain sense, philosophy begins where writing ends. Writing is rehearsal, dress rehearsal at best, but not yet performance. Philosophy is performance.
Costica Bradatan


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Costica Bradatan is a professor of humanities at Honors College, Texas Tech University in the US and an honorary professor of philosophy at the University of Queensland in Australia. He has written and edited several books and writes regularly for the New York TimesTimes Literary SupplementAeonDissent and The New Statesman.
His book Dying for Ideas has been translated into about twenty languages.


  • ISBN: 978-953-8075-86-5
  • Dimensions: 136x210 mm
  • Number of pages: 308
  • Cover: paperback
  • Year of the edition: 2020
  • Original title: Dying for Ideas. The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers
  • Original language: English
  • Translation: Dijana Bahtijari i Hrvoje Gračanin