Imperfect circle : aesthetics, ethics, and politics in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche

Metcalfe, William Deweese, Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
Ceaser, James, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

This work is a comparative and critical study of the thought of Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. In a deconstructive age, Kierkegaard remains greatly overlooked as a political philosopher. At the same time, Nietzsche's political philosophy continues to be all too often misread and, in many cases, "overread." Despite the antipathy one encounters given a merely casual reading of these two nineteenth century thinkers, I take as my point in this thesis that they develop nearly similar theories in the categories of aesthetics, ethics and politics.

In chapter one I review the key points in the aesthetic theories of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and develop a comparison of Nietzsche's principle of "Will to Power" with Kierkegaard's articulation of the aesthetic personality. I take their aesthetic principles to be the foundation and the core of their critique against modernity, and the basis of post-modern political thought to follow.

Chapter two continues the comparative study, this time focusing on Kierkegaard's "knight of faith," and his concept of "repetition," contrasted with Nietzsche's development of his theory of the Eternal Return. Here I explore what sorts of limits are placed on the possibilities for ethical activity in post-modernity.

In chapter three I argue that what Kierkegaard and Nietzsche develop through their aesthetic and ethical theories is a political account of post-modernity. That is, through their account of and prescription for theories of aesthetics and ethics, they have articulated what it means to be post-modern, which is to politicize all our art and all our activities, our sense of both aesthetics and ethics.    

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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