Todd May

Last updated

Todd May
Todd Gifford May

1955 (age 6768)
Alma mater Penn State University
Era 21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental
Institutions Clemson University
Thesis Psychology, Knowledge, Politics: The Epistemic Grounds of Michel Foucault's Genealogy of Psychology  (1989)
Doctoral advisor Alphonso Lingis
Main interests
Political philosophy
Notable ideas
Post-structuralist anarchism

Todd Gifford May [1] (born May 13, 1955) is a political philosopher who writes on topics of anarchism, poststructuralism, and post-structuralist anarchism. More recently he has published books on existentialism and moral philosophy. He is currently Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of Philosophy at Clemson University. [2]



In 1989, May received a doctorate at Pennsylvania State University in continental philosophy. [3] For the first part of his career, he focused on French philosophy, before turning to moral and political philosophy. May has been teaching moral and political philosophy for over thirty years, beginning as a graduate instructor at Penn State before becoming a visiting assistant professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. [1] May has been teaching at Clemson since 1991, and he currently teaches as the Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of Philosophy. [2] May also teaches philosophy to incarcerated people. [4]

Art academic Allan Antliff described May's 1994 The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism as "seminal", and credited the book with introducing "post-structuralist anarchism", later abbreviated as "post-anarchism". [5] May has published works on major poststructuralist philosophers, including Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. [6] [7] He also wrote books on more general topics accessible to the general reader, including Death, [8] Our Practices, Our Selves, or, What It Means to Be Human, [9] Friendship in an Age of Economics: Resisting the Forces of Neoliberalism, [10] A Significant Life: Human Meaning in a Silent Universe, [11] A Fragile Life: Accepting Our Vulnerability. [12]

May, along with Pamela Hieronymi, was a philosophical advisor to the NBC television show The Good Place . [13] Together they appeared as cameos in the final episode. [14]

Personal life

May has three children, the youngest of whom majored in philosophy at university. [4]


Related Research Articles

Anarchism is a political philosophy and movement that is skeptical of all justifications for authority and seeks to abolish the institutions it claims maintain unnecessary coercion and hierarchy, typically including, though not necessarily limited to, governments, nation states, and capitalism. Anarchism advocates for the replacement of the state with stateless societies or other forms of free associations. As a historically left-wing movement, usually placed on the farthest left of the political spectrum, it is usually described as the libertarian wing of the socialist movement.

Political freedom is a central concept in history and political thought and one of the most important features of democratic societies. Political freedom was described as freedom from oppression or coercion, the absence of disabling conditions for an individual and the fulfillment of enabling conditions, or the absence of life conditions of compulsion, e.g. economic compulsion, in a society. Although political freedom is often interpreted negatively as the freedom from unreasonable external constraints on action, it can also refer to the positive exercise of rights, capacities and possibilities for action and the exercise of social or group rights. The concept can also include freedom from internal constraints on political action or speech. The concept of political freedom is closely connected with the concepts of civil liberties and human rights, which in democratic societies are usually afforded legal protection from the state.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gilles Deleuze</span> French philosopher (1925–1995)

Gilles Louis René Deleuze was a French philosopher who, from the early 1950s until his death in 1995, wrote on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), both co-written with psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. His metaphysical treatise Difference and Repetition (1968) is considered by many scholars to be his magnum opus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Individualism</span> Concept regarding the moral worth of the individual

Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology and social outlook that emphasizes the intrinsic worth of the individual. Individualists promote the realisation of one's goals and desires, valuing independence and self-reliance, and advocating that the interests of the individual should gain precedence over the state or a social group, while opposing external interference upon one's own interests by society or institutions such as the government. Individualism is often defined in contrast to totalitarianism, collectivism and more corporate social forms.

A subject is a being who has a unique consciousness and/or unique personal experiences, or an entity that has a relationship with another entity that exists outside itself.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nihilism</span> Philosophy antithetical to concepts of meaningfulness

Nihilism is a philosophy, or family of views within philosophy, that rejects generally accepted or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as objective truth, knowledge, morality, values, or meaning. The term was popularized by Ivan Turgenev, and more specifically by his character Bazarov in the novel Fathers and Sons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Political philosophy</span> Sub-discipline of philosophy and political science

Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.

Post-structuralism is a term for philosophical and literary forms of theory that both build upon and reject ideas established by structuralism, the intellectual project that preceded it. Although post-structuralists all present different critiques of structuralism, common themes among them include the rejection of the self-sufficiency of structuralism, as well as an interrogation of the binary oppositions that constitute its structures. Accordingly, post-structuralism discards the idea of interpreting media within pre-established, socially constructed structures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Max Stirner</span> German philosopher (1806–1856)

Johann Kaspar Schmidt, known professionally as Max Stirner, was a German post-Hegelian philosopher, dealing mainly with the Hegelian notion of social alienation and self-consciousness. Stirner is often seen as one of the forerunners of nihilism, existentialism, psychoanalytic theory, postmodernism and individualist anarchism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Continental philosophy</span> Philosophical traditions from mainland Europe

Continental philosophy is a term used to describe some philosophers and philosophical traditions that do not fall under the umbrella of analytic philosophy. However, there is no academic consensus on the definition of continental philosophy. Prior to the twentieth century, the term "continental" was used broadly to refer to philosophy from continental Europe. A different use of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School as well as branches of Freudian, Hegelian and Western Marxist views.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linguistic turn</span> Early-20th-century development in Western philosophy

The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy during the early 20th century, the most important characteristic of which is the focusing of philosophy and the other humanities primarily on the relations between language, language users, and the world.

<i>A Thousand Plateaus</i> 1980 book by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia is a 1980 book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the French psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It is the second and final volume of their collaborative work Capitalism and Schizophrenia. While the first volume, Anti-Oedipus (1972), was a critique of contemporary uses of psychoanalysis and Marxism, A Thousand Plateaus was developed as an experimental work of philosophy covering a far wider range of topics, serving as a "positive exercise" in what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as rhizomatic thought.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saul Newman</span> British political theorist

Saul Newman is a British political theorist who writes on post-anarchism. He is professor of political theory at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph Margolis</span> American philosopher (1924–2021)

Joseph Zalman Margolis was an American philosopher. A radical historicist, he authored many books critical of the central assumptions of Western philosophy, and elaborated a robust form of relativism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mark Olssen</span> New Zealand philosopher

Mark Olssen, FAcSS, a political theorist, is Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Education Policy in the Department of Politics within the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Surrey.

<i>From Bakunin to Lacan</i> Book by Saul Newman

From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power is a book on political philosophy by Saul Newman, published in 2001. It investigates the essential characteristics of anarchist theory, which holds that government and hierarchy are undesirable forms of social organisation. Newman seeks to move beyond the limitations these characteristics imposed on classical anarchism by using concepts from post-structuralist thought.

<i>Nietzsche and Philosophy</i> 1962 book by Gilles Deleuze

Nietzsche and Philosophy is a 1962 book about Friedrich Nietzsche by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in which the author treats Nietzsche as a systematically coherent philosopher, discussing concepts such as the will to power and the eternal return. Nietzsche and Philosophy is a celebrated and influential work. Its publication has been seen as a significant turning-point in French philosophy, which had previously given little consideration to Nietzsche as a serious philosopher.

Egoist anarchism or anarcho-egoism, often shortened as simply egoism, is a school of anarchist thought that originated in the philosophy of Max Stirner, a 19th-century philosopher whose "name appears with familiar regularity in historically orientated surveys of anarchist thought as one of the earliest and best known exponents of individualist anarchism".

Carl A. Raschke is an American philosopher and theologian. Raschke is a Past Chair and Professor of Religious Studies Department at the University of Denver, specializing in continental philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the theory of religion. He was given the university lecturer award for 2020-2021. He is also listed with the affiliated faculty of the Global Center for Advanced Studies.

Keith Ansell-Pearson is a British philosopher specialising in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze. He is currently Professor of Philosophy at Warwick University.


  1. 1 2 "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Clemson University.
  2. 1 2 Bieber, Matt (February 16, 2023). "Todd May". The Believer.
  3. "College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities | Faculty Bio". Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  4. 1 2 "The Philosopher Behind 'The Good Place' Explains How To Raise Good Kids". Fatherly. January 18, 2019. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  5. Antliff, Allan (2007). "Anarchy, Power, and Poststructuralism". SubStance. 36 (2, issue 113: The Future of Anarchism): 56–66. doi:10.1353/sub.2007.0026. JSTOR   25195125. S2CID   146156609.
  6. Pearson, Keith Ansell (June 2005). "Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction". Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  7. Anthony A. Defalco (August 14, 2008). "A Review of "Philosophy of Foucault (European Philosophy Series)". Educational Studies. 44: 77–82. doi:10.1080/00131940802225119. S2CID   218508263.
  8. Cave, Stephen (September 12, 2009). "Better late than never". Financial Times.
  9. Fillion, Réal (April 1, 2010). "Our Practices, Our Selves, or, What It Means to Be Human". Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review. 42 (1): 150–153. doi:10.1017/S0012217300004273. S2CID   170352140.
  10. Weiskopf, Richard. "Friendship and counter-conduct in the neoliberal regime of truth". Ephemera. 13 (3): 683–693.
  11. Metz, Thaddeus (August 19, 2015). "A Significant Life: Human Meaning in a Silent Universe". Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  12. Zaretsky, Robert (October 10, 2017). "Matters Large and Small: Reading Todd May's "A Fragile Life" in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey". Los Angeles Reviews of Books.
  13. "Philosophy on TV: "The Good Place"". Blog of the APA. June 21, 2017. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  14. VanDerWerff, Emily (January 31, 2020). "The Good Place was groundbreaking TV. Did its finale measure up?". Vox. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  15. Widmer, Kingsley (1996). "Notes on Some Recent Anarchisms". Social Anarchism (21): 88–97. ISSN   0196-4801.

Further reading