Simon May’s interests lie in ethics, philosophy of the emotions, questions of identity and belonging, and German 19th and 20th Century thought, especially the work of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Heidegger. He is also a devotee of the aphoristic form.
His monographs include Nietzsche's Ethics and his War on “Morality” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Love: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011); Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), and The Power of Cute (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).
He is editor of Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality”: A Critical Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2011), to which he contributed a paper entitled “Why Nietzsche is still in the morality game”; and co-editor, with Ken Gemes, of Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford University Press, 2009), for which he wrote a paper entitled “Nihilism and the Free Self”.
Outside academic philosophy he has written op-ed articles for newspapers such as The Washington Post and the Financial Times, as well as a book of his own aphorisms, Thinking Aloud: A Collection of Aphorisms (Alma Books, 2009), which was named a Financial Times Book of the Year. A selection of his aphorisms is included in Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists, published by Bloomsbury.
His work has been translated into ten languages and has been reviewed in major publications all over the world.
Of Love: A History the Financial Times wrote:
“May could just have achieved the seemingly impossible and produced a truly original philosophy of love … May is able to draw out what is true in each age’s perception of love, discard what is misleading, and synthesize the result into the most persuasive account of love’s nature I have ever read.”
Of Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion, the Los Angeles Review of Books wrote:
“May’s book represents a major contribution to our understanding of love … The sense that May is striving single-handedly to dismantle some of society’s most sacrosanct beliefs, together with the wonderful clarity of the writing, which is rigorous without ever feeling technical, and the strength of the original premise, make Love: A New Understanding compellingly readable. [H]is willingness to expound a thesis that … really does break with so much received wisdom allows him to provide genuinely new insights into what is, as he notes, an ancient topic … Excitingly new, yet immediately recognizable — that’s the paradox at the very heart of love, and it is what Simon May has achieved.”
Research interests and PhD supervision
- Philosophy of Love
- German 19th and 20th century thought, especially Nietzsche
Expertise and public engagement
Simon May has appeared on BBC radio and television, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and many other networks around the world. His work has been featured in op-eds and interviews in major newspapers including El Pais, El Mundo, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, Corriere della Sera, and The Globe and Mail. He has contributed to magazines such as Prospect and The Literary Review, spoken at literary festivals such as How the Light Gets In at Hay-on-Wye, and contributed to podcasts such as Philosophy Bites and The American Scholar.
- Nietzsche's Ethics and his War on “Morality” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)
- Thinking Aloud: A Collection of Aphorisms (London: Alma Books, 2009)
- Love: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011)
- Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019)
- The Power of Cute (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019)