Alice Crary

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Alice Crary
ACrary Kreutzberg 2017-2.jpg
Alice Crary, Berlin, 2017
Alma materAB, Philosophy, Harvard University, 1990; PhD, Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, 1999[1]
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Moral philosophy, philosophy and literature, epistemology, feminist philosophy, disability studies
Notable ideas
All human beings and animals are inside ethics

Alice Crary (/ˈkrɛəri/; born 1967) is an American philosopher who is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and also at the Graduate Faculty, The New School for Social Research in New York City, where she was the Philosophy Department Chair 2014-17 and founding Co-Chair of the Gender and Sexuality Studies program. For the academic year 2017-18, she was a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In the summer 2018 she was LFUI-Wittgenstein Guest Professor at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

Crary has influenced a generation of philosophy students at both graduate and undergraduate levels, and was named one of the three "most inspirational" professors at The New School, above all for "path-breaking Chair to bring about greater inclusiveness among populations traditionally under-represented in philosophy."[2]

Philosophical Work[edit]

Crary’s contributions to philosophy center on moral philosophy, feminism, and Wittgenstein scholarship. However, she has specifically written about such topics as cognitive disability,[3] critical theory,[4] propaganda,[5] nonhuman animal cognition,[6] and the philosophy of literature and narrative.[7] Her thought is especially influenced by Cora Diamond,[8] John McDowell, Stanley Cavell,[9] Hilary Putnam, bell hooks,[10] Kimberlé Crenshaw,[11] Charles Mills, and Peter Winch.

Ethics and Moral Philosophy[edit]

Crary’s most recent book, Inside Ethics,[12] argues for an ethically non-neutral conception of reality that embraces the resources of literature and art to reorient our experiences of other human beings and animals. In her view, our ability to think through ethical problems in disability studies and animal studies in particular is stunted by a lack of moral imagination that is partly caused by a narrow understanding of rationality and partly by the poverty of philosophy severed from the affective responses derived from other areas in the humanities.[13] She offers a picture of objectivity that is within rather than outside of ethical thought and a Wittgensteinian account of how seeing aspects of the world supplements our moral objectivism.[14]

Her first monograph, Beyond Moral Judgment,[15] discusses why and lays out this program of how to broaden discussions of moral concepts and objectivity, illustrating in particular how literature and feminism help us to reframe our moral presuppositions.

Crary has with increasing frequency written about ethics in regard to cognitive disability and animal life.[16]


Crary’s work on feminism exemplifies her engagement with continental philosophy as a critique of standard views of objectivity in analytic philosophy that shy away from the radical, non-neutral methodology and political standpoint that distinguishes her objective moralism.[17] In her view, language in all of its forms invites us to both cognitively and ethically appreciate the lives of women in new ways that count as objective knowledge.[18] As is the case with her moral philosophy, her view of a feminist conception of objectivity is informed by her interpretation of Wittgenstein, who she understands as proposing a “wide” view of objectivity in which affective responses are not merely non-cognitive persuasive manipulations but also reveal real forms of suffering that give us a more objective understanding of the world.[19]


Crary is a leading figure of what is often called the “therapeutic”[20] or “resolute”[21] reading of Wittgenstein. In her influential, co-edited collection of essays of such readings, The New Wittgenstein, her own contribution argues against the standard use-theory readings of Wittgenstein that often render his thought as politically conservative and implausible.[22] Since then, she has cultivated a distinctive reading of Wittgenstein and contributed to numerous collections of Wittgenstein scholarship, including Emotions and Understanding[23] and interpretations of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty.[24] Recently, she has argued that critical theory and Wittgensteinian ethical analysis can fruitfully work together toward the aim of liberating social thought.[25]

Public Philosophy[edit]

Crary frequently participates in and organizes events for public discussion.[26] She also writes for and participates in discussions and debates for the public at large, such as a commemorative article about her former mentor Stanley Cavell in the New York Times (with Nancy Bauer and Sandra Laugier),[27] a BBC radio interview about the life and philosophy of Stanley Cavell (with Stephen Mulhall),[28] public debates on the treatment of animals and the cognitively disabled,[29] and an essay for The Stone in the New York Times on the “math wars” in American education (with Stephen Wilson).[30]

Graduate students and teaching[edit]

Crary currently directs eleven PhD theses in the Department of Philosophy at The New School for Social Research, where she inaugurated and has led both the Wittgenstein Workshop and a graduate student-oriented Works in Progress series. She received The New School's University Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005.

Crary's international educational activities have focused on the intersection of philosophy with critical theory and political philosophy. In the summer of 2014 she co-organized and taught the summer philosophy workshop at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. In July 2016, she served on the faculty of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies at the 25th anniversary New School for Social Research Europe Democracy and Diversity Institute in Wroclaw, Poland. In 2017 and 2018 she co-organized (with Rahel Jaeggi) the Kritische Theorie in Berlin Critical Theory Summer School (Progress, Regression, and Social Change) in Berlin, Germany.

She will be the Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Regent's Park College, University of Oxford as of Fall, 2018.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Crary was a 1983-4 exchange student with Youth for Understanding in the southern German town of Achern. She was also a national champion rower at the Lakeside School (Seattle) in Seattle, Washington and placed 6th in the Junior Women's Eight at the 1985 World Rowing Junior Championships in Brandenburg, Germany.

In the 1980s, after studying liberation theology with Harvey Cox at Harvard Divinity School, Crary researched Christian base communities in southern Mexico and Guatemala. In the early 1990s, she was a teacher at the Collegio Americano in Quito, Ecuador.


Books – monographs
Books – edited volumes
  • Wittgenstein and the Moral Life: Essays in Honor of Cora Diamond (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2007).
  • Reading Cavell (New York, Routledge, 2006 (co-edited with Sanford Shieh)).
  • The New Wittgenstein (New York, Routledge, 2000 (co-edited with Rupert Read)).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Alice Crary - Professor of Philosophy". Retrieved 2017-09-01.
  2. ^ Ryan Gustafson, quoted in McCall M. 10 of The Most Inspirational Professors at The New School. College Magazine, December 5, 2016. URL:
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  19. ^ See “What Do Feminists Want in an Epistemology?,” in Feminist Interpretations of Ludwig Wittgenstein, ed. Naomi Scheman and Peg O’Connor (University Park, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 2002), pp. 112–113.
  20. ^ Alice Crary, introduction to The New Wittgenstein, ed. Alice Crary and Rupert Read (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 1.
  21. ^ Silver Bronzo, “The Resolute Reading and Its Critics: An Introduction to the Literature,” Wittgenstein-Studien 3 (2012), p. 46.
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  31. ^ "Appointment of Fellow in Philosophy and Christian Ethics - Regent's Park College". 6 October 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2018.

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