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Title: Justifying Democracy beyond Nietzsche's Critique
Authors: Wolfe, Kevin A
Advisors: Glaude, Eddie S
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: justification of democracy
overcoming metaphysics
Subjects: Philosophy of Religion
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation pursues two main concerns. I begin by engaging the plenitude of scholarship on Friedrich Nietzsche, expounding on his interlocking critiques of democracy, Enlightenment thought, and Christian morality. Doing so, I explicate the commitments that undergird his criticisms, placing in context his views on metaphysics. I demonstrate that his rejection of democracy does not stem from a de facto anti-egalitarianism, as is often assumed, but rather from a worry that how we--moderns--justify democracy relies on problematic Christian moral categories. Nietzsche is concerned that Christianity's prescriptive dimension demands slavish acquiescence, which, in turn, threatens our ability to adapt to changing circumstances and the general flux of existence. Although he worries that egalitarian theories either mis-describe human beings empirically, or make problematic ontological claims, his main concerns are that the worldview underwriting many modern egalitarian theories enervates the instincts most likely necessary for our species to thrive in the future, and that egalitarian theories obfuscate ideological maneuverings for power. However, in rejecting this worldview, Nietzsche hopes for an era of self-creation in which particular types of individuals can emerge and overcome the hegemonic stranglehold of the modern (Christian/democratic) ethos. This leads to the second main concern of the dissertation. While I spend the bulk of the dissertation engaging Nietzsche's questioning of how we ground our democratic commitments, I conclude by proposing a justification for democracy that does not rely on Christian moral notions--particularly that of compassion. Arguing against the directive to place compassion as a central discourse in the justification of democracy, I engage Hilary Putnam's reading of John Dewey and argue for an "epistemological justification of democracy." This justification evades Nietzsche's criticisms while resolving a problem in his constructive project, namely his inability to account for how the conditions for the emergence of his desired autonomous individuals can be generated. I conclude that not only does an epistemological justification of democracy still allow us to account for robust ethical commitments that are themselves understood as fallible, but that democratic openness to marginal voices can generate the conditions for the emergence of the type of individuals Nietzsche seeks.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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