Simon joined the VHI in April 2015 to work on the 'Patents on Life' project, having recently completed his PhD in philosophy of religion at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge. His doctoral research was funded by the AHRC, and concerned a critical re-interpretation of the work of the radical Catholic social theorist and philosopher of history Ivan Illich (1926-2002).
Alongside his work at the VHI and various bits of writing, Simon is an active member of the Policy Fellows Network at Cambridge University's Centre of Science and Policy, meeting senior figures from Whitehall and the wider policy community to advise on social and economic policy matters from a humanities perspective; he lectures for Michigan State University’s ‘Integrated Arts and Humanities’ Study Abroad Programme and for the Sutton Trust as part of their access scheme for Cambridge, and co-leads an inter-departmental reading group in phenomenology, held at Corpus Christi College, now in its third year.
In June 2016, he was elected to a Murphy Research Fellowship by the Terrence J. Murphy Institute, University of St Thomas, Minnesota, a role for which he will continue to be based at the VHI.
Simon’s work sits at the intersection of theology, philosophy, literature, political and social theory, and economics. He is particularly concerned to investigate the origins and guiding assumptions of economic modernity (widely construed), to resist the reduction of cultural and social goods to narrowly economic and utilitarian factors, and to develop a constructive social ethics around the value of shared experience. With this in mind, Simon is exploring new research on the social and political significance of laughter, and the paradox of 'wise folly', drawing primarily on sources in theology, philosophy, and literature. Areas of interest include ‘Pauline folly’ in the New Testament, wherein divine wisdom is depicted as human foolishness; historical traditions of the Holy Fool, the court jester, and mediaeval carnival; ‘wise folly’ as a prominent theme in the Renaissance, especially in the work of Erasmus, Rabelais and Shakespeare; and contemporary renditions of the comic, folly, irony, ambivalence and their social significance, both scholarly and artistic, including by Henri Bergson, Mikhail Bakhtin, Vladimir Propp, G. K. Chesterton, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, Enid Welsford, Samuel Beckett, and Umberto Eco.
Selected academic articles, etc.
- "Irony as a Way of Life?" [review article], Reviews in Religion and Theology, 24 (2016): forthcoming.
- "Modernity and the Economics of Gift and Charity: On Ivan Illich's Critique of Abstract Philanthropy". Telos 174 (2016): 149-170.
- Extended review of Todd Hartch, The Prophet of Cuernavaca: Ivan Illich and the Crisis of the West. Reviews in Religion and Theology 23 (2016): 45-49.
- “Charité, amour et don dans l'oeuvre d'Ivan Illich”. In Ivan Illich, l'alchimiste des possibles, edited by Martin Fortier and Thierry Paquot, 165-211. Paris: Lemieux Editeur, 2016.
- "Producing Happiness: Huxley and Dostoevsky on Love and Politics". Noesis: Theology, Philosophy, Poetics 2 (2015): 47-55.
- “Usury in the Inferno: Auditing Dante’s Debt to the Scholastics”. Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 42 (2011): 89-114.
Popular articles, essays etc.
- "Levity and Theology: On Playing the Fool in Academia and Life". ABC Religion & Ethics, 7 April 2016.
- Also available in Norwegian translation at Gjentagelser.
- Also available in Noesis: Theology, Philosophy, Poetics 3 (2016): 68-78.
- "Patenting Life: Rethinking Social Justice, the Politics of Knowledge and Theologies of Property". ABC Religion & Ethics, 11 Feb. 2016.
- In Defence of the BBC. Left Foot Forward, 7 June 2015.
- "In Kierkegaard's Reflektion?: Arcade Fire in a 'Reflective Age'". .
- “Cultural Value and the Contradictions of Modern Conservatism”. The Cultural Value Initiative, 2 June 2013.
- “‘Disvalue’? An Illichian Case for a Cultural Value Discourse”. The Cultural Value Initiative, 9 Nov. 2012.
Centre of Science & Policy: csap.cam.ac.uk/network/simon-ravenscroft/
Murphy Institute: stthomas.edu/murphyinstitute/fellowship/murphyresearchfellows/