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Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine

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dc.contributor.advisor Walsh, Philip D.
dc.creator Cicalo, Jordan Christopher
dc.date.accessioned 2015-12-16T19:20:01Z
dc.date.available 2015-12-16T19:20:01Z
dc.date.copyright 2015-07-07
dc.date.issued 2015-12-16
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10315/30674
dc.description.abstract Theodor Adorno's writings on the interdependence of subject and object provided the impetus for this project. Following Adorno the work argues that agency comes from an awareness of the limitations of one's conception of the world and more generally of the existence of an external world beyond human determinations. In order to avoid the pitfalls of an unintelligible jargon through an abstract discussion that runs the risk of becoming esoteric, I then looks at concrete examples, instances in the past, of individuals struggling to find what they took to be an authentic subjectivity and, intertwined with this, a means of coming to terms with otherness. At the same time, I attempt to show by way of these examples—the point of origin for what I take to be ideologies that sought to eliminate the place for the subject. My intention is to examine the genesis of the Western expectation that otherness was something ephemeral, or illusory, something that could be definitively overcome. By virtue of the interdependence of subject and object, and in turn of agency as a product of the recognition of the non-identical, I argue that it is by tracing this moment and its implications that one can also find the starting point for, and thus have a better understanding of, contemporary attempts to eliminate, or constrain, the subject. As with Adorno's negative dialectics I want to clear a path to otherness through showing the failure of man's conceptions, but in this case through showing the failures of man's conceptions of himself rather than the failures of his conceptions of the external world. It is my contention that Saint Augustine’s theology, with his City of God especially as its culmination, present a kind of threshold for this kind of thinking, a point at which the wave of humility before the object and doubts about man’s place in the universe and his destiny, that perhaps prior to him had risen and fallen, finally broke and never rolled back. Every component of his thought was geared toward not simply transcending but definitively solving otherness. Augustine envisioned human beings as actually responsible for non-identity's existence and so as capable of doing away with it through orientating their action in such a way as to remedy the primordial error that was its cause. Paradoxically for Augustine it was agency itself that was the problem, man's self assertion had caused him to fall away from his divine nature, yet the error that accompanied Adam's agency could be cancelled out by obedient human action. Totality, obedience, and man as the cause of otherness were interlinked, inextricable elements of his approach. Following the discussion of Augustine's theology I proceed to examine the origins and characteristics of three other transformative ideologies or worldviews in Western history; the idealistic, the social, and the transcendental of Francesco Petrarch, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Arthur de Gobineau respectively. The crux of my argument is that the unique characteristics of Augustine's search for certainty created a sort of sure and stable foundation on which later ideologies which restricted the subject, so as to solve non-identity, could build and flourish. I show how each stemmed from individual attempts to come to terms with the otherness that overshadows human existence by putting forth definitive answers to the question of what man is. By contrasting the figures I then show, in the conclusion of this work, that Augustine's approach while powerful and reassuring was ultimately self-destructive. This is because Augustine's monolithic conception of human nature limited man's ability to appreciate and work with otherness and at the same time it created an expectation that human understanding should ultimately be error free. As becomes clear at the end of the project, the restriction of agency to contend with non-identity ultimately had the effect of eliminating non-identity itself. Reality came increasingly to be perceived as mundane and self-evident as the importance attributed to the subject diminished in the later figures, thereby demonstrating by way of example the interdependence of the two as Adorno argued. While the works examined constitute a niche in intellectual history it is nonetheless a highly influential one. This dissertation, at the very least, identifies an approach to non-identity and a conception of the subject that was a counterpart, perhaps even a predecessor or progenitor, to the rationality that predominates in modernity and which the critical theorists of the Frankfurt School criticized so vociferously.
dc.language.iso en
dc.rights Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
dc.subject Epistemology
dc.subject European history
dc.subject Sociology
dc.title Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine
dc.type Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
dc.degree.discipline Sociology
dc.degree.name PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
dc.degree.level Doctoral
dc.date.updated 2015-12-16T19:20:01Z
dc.subject.keywords Epistemology
dc.subject.keywords Ethics
dc.subject.keywords Theodor Adorno
dc.subject.keywords Walter Benjamin
dc.subject.keywords Max Horkheimer
dc.subject.keywords Dialectics at a Standstill
dc.subject.keywords Critical Theory
dc.subject.keywords Frankfurt School
dc.subject.keywords Subject Object Problem
dc.subject.keywords Subject Object Divide
dc.subject.keywords Subject
dc.subject.keywords Object
dc.subject.keywords Agency
dc.subject.keywords Non-Identity
dc.subject.keywords Externality
dc.subject.keywords Ontology
dc.subject.keywords Instrumental Rationality
dc.subject.keywords Instrumental Reason
dc.subject.keywords Dialectic of Enlightenment
dc.subject.keywords Alienation
dc.subject.keywords Otherness
dc.subject.keywords Philosophy of History
dc.subject.keywords Dehumanization
dc.subject.keywords Historiography
dc.subject.keywords Saint Augustine
dc.subject.keywords Petrarch
dc.subject.keywords Jean-Jacques Rousseau
dc.subject.keywords Arthur de Gobineau
dc.subject.keywords Intellectual History
dc.subject.keywords Historical Consciousness
dc.subject.keywords Ideology
dc.subject.keywords Worldview
dc.subject.keywords Original Sin
dc.subject.keywords Christian Theology
dc.subject.keywords Authenticity
dc.subject.keywords Subjectivity
dc.subject.keywords Creativity
dc.subject.keywords European History
dc.subject.keywords Garden of Eden
dc.subject.keywords Paradise
dc.subject.keywords Freedom
dc.subject.keywords Deliverance
dc.subject.keywords Reconciliation
dc.subject.keywords Salvation
dc.subject.keywords Fall of Rome
dc.subject.keywords Paradigm Shift
dc.subject.keywords Objectivism
dc.subject.keywords Neo-Platonism
dc.subject.keywords Christian History
dc.subject.keywords Western History
dc.subject.keywords Totality
dc.subject.keywords Universalizing Theories
dc.subject.keywords Human Nature
dc.subject.keywords Late Antiquity
dc.subject.keywords Modernity
dc.subject.keywords Totalitarianism
dc.subject.keywords Benedetto Croce
dc.subject.keywords R. G. Collingwood
dc.subject.keywords Historical Methodology
dc.subject.keywords Immediacy
dc.subject.keywords Human Triumphalism
dc.subject.keywords Human Exceptionalism
dc.subject.keywords Western Triumphalism
dc.subject.keywords Western Exceptionalism
dc.subject.keywords Race
dc.subject.keywords Racialism
dc.subject.keywords Race Theory
dc.subject.keywords Aryans
dc.subject.keywords Aryanism
dc.subject.keywords Social Contract
dc.subject.keywords Emile
dc.subject.keywords State of nature
dc.subject.keywords Discourse on Inequality
dc.subject.keywords Discourse on the Arts and Sciences
dc.subject.keywords Renaissance
dc.subject.keywords Autarkei
dc.subject.keywords Autarchy
dc.subject.keywords Scholasticism
dc.subject.keywords Judgement Day
dc.subject.keywords City of God
dc.subject.keywords De Civitate Dei
dc.subject.keywords On the Trinity
dc.subject.keywords De Trinitate
dc.subject.keywords Confessions
dc.subject.keywords Secretum
dc.subject.keywords De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae
dc.subject.keywords Remedies for Fortunes Fair and Foul
dc.subject.keywords Negative Dialectics
dc.subject.keywords Aesthetic Theory
dc.subject.keywords Ontological Subject
dc.subject.keywords Philosophers
dc.subject.keywords Transcendental
dc.subject.keywords Eighteenth Century France
dc.subject.keywords The Social
dc.subject.keywords Aporias
dc.subject.keywords Problematics
dc.subject.keywords Identity
dc.subject.keywords Identity Thinking
dc.subject.keywords Herbert Marcuse
dc.subject.keywords One Dimensional Man
dc.subject.keywords Discovery of Society
dc.subject.keywords Discovery of Individuality
dc.subject.keywords Church Dogma
dc.subject.keywords Middle Ages
dc.subject.keywords Dark Ages
dc.subject.keywords Enlightenment
dc.subject.keywords Nationalism
dc.subject.keywords Nation-State
dc.subject.keywords Citizen of Geneva
dc.subject.keywords Humanism
dc.subject.keywords Humanist
dc.subject.keywords Manichaeism
dc.subject.keywords Church Fathers
dc.subject.keywords Fathers of the Church
dc.subject.keywords Bishop of Hippo Regius
dc.subject.keywords Fall of Man
dc.subject.keywords The Fall
dc.subject.keywords Primordial Error
dc.subject.keywords Primordial Past
dc.subject.keywords Augustinian Studies
dc.subject.keywords Race Conflict
dc.subject.keywords Humanist Movement
dc.subject.keywords Francesco Petrarch
dc.subject.keywords The Fall of Man
dc.subject.keywords New Adam
dc.subject.keywords Max Weber
dc.subject.keywords Third Reich
dc.subject.keywords Houston Stewart Chamberlain
dc.subject.keywords Nazism
dc.subject.keywords Systems of Thought
dc.subject.keywords Eschatology
dc.subject.keywords Chiliasm
dc.subject.keywords Millennialism
dc.subject.keywords German Reich
dc.subject.keywords Pan-Germanism
dc.subject.keywords Primeval Error
dc.subject.keywords Western History
dc.subject.keywords European History
dc.subject.keywords Western Intellectual History
dc.subject.keywords European Intellectual History
dc.subject.keywords Theories of Knowledge

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