Skip to main content Skip to navigation

20th Century Continental Philosophy

Warwick’s Philosophy Department has pioneered the critical study of 20th century continental philosophy since the1980s and continues to have major strengths in this area. Staff work on a range of topics and thinkers with special expertise in phenomenology, Bergson, the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Foucault, post-phenomenology (especially Deleuze), and aesthetics. Issues that members of staff work on include: affective intentionality; what it means to exist as a temporal agent; key concepts such as ‘life’, ‘desire’, and ‘immanence’; the nature of the contemporary exercise of power and biopolitics; post-modern aesthetics; the relation between ethical and aesthetic value.

The Department annually hosts workshops and international conferences in topics in 20th century and contemporary continental philosophy and runs a program of visiting speakers that has included in recent years talks and mini lecture courses from the likes of Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, Francois Laruelle, John Sallis, and David Wood. It has been successful in attracting funding for large-scale research projects, including a Leverhulme-funded project on Biopolitics and Biopower directed by Miguel Beistegui, and an AHRC-funded project on Aesthetics after Photography co-directed by Diarmuid Costello.

Questions that guide and inform the research of members of staff working in this field include:

  • What is the relation between aesthetic value and ethical value?
  • Is the past reducible to acts of psychological recollection or can it be given an ontological status? If it can, what does this tell us about the nature of time?
  • What resources are there in recent developments in continental philosophy for revitalizing the ancient ideal of philosophy as a way of life, including the concern with the flourishing life?
  • What are the resources of substantive aesthetic theories in the twentieth century German tradition for understanding challenging examples of modern and contemporary art?
  • To what extent do appeals to necessity perform the ideological function of generating acceptance of, and conformity with, the constraints of neo-liberal capitalism?
  • What forms does the exercise of power assume in late-modern societies and what resources does continental philosophy provide for a critique of societies of control?
  • How can philosophy productively engage with the new sciences of complexity so as to promote a new ecological philosophy?

Current grants:

  • ‘The Re-invention of Philosophy as a Way of Life’, in which Keith Ansell-Pearson and colleagues at Monash and Deakin Universities will investigate over a three-year period the modern and contemporary reinvention of the idea of philosophy as a way of life and assess its philosophical and cultural significance.

Previous grants:

  • The Project in Bioethics and Biopolitics (CIBB) was a major research project running from 2011-2014, sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust. The aim of the project was to use the historical groundwork carried out by the European Network in Contemporary French Philosophy to explore, and put to the test, the idea that “life” is a problem (the nature of which we intend to define) that defines our time, or historical moment, a problem that overlaps with, and gathers, our entire domain of experience, knowledge, and action.


Keith Ansell-Pearson
Diarmuid Costello
Miguel Beistegui
Peter Poellner
David Smith

Research centre

The Research Group in Post-Kantian European Philosophy exists to provide a focus for the research activities of graduates and members of staff working in this area. It encompasses work in core philosophical areas of inquiry and key philosophical problems informed by a conception of Kant's legacy and an appreciation of different responses to the Kantian critical project, including that of 20th century continental philosophers such as Heidegger and Deleuze. It holds a research seminar open to PhD students and staff. There is a lively annual programme of activities that includes workshops, colloquia, conferences and visiting speakers.