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Title: The Being, or Non-Being, of the Self: The Two Moments of French Antihumanism
Authors: Cordova, Chad Augustine
Advisors: Trezise, Thomas
Contributors: French and Italian Department
Keywords: antihumanism
Subjects: French literature
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This thesis argues that the tensions between humanism and antihumanism that characterize the main trajectory of 20th-century French philosophy should be reconsidered in light of what I describe as the formative instance of this conflict: namely, in 17th-century French thought. I try to reveal, that is, the early modern philosophical, literary, and theological prehistory of modern French antihumanism. Combining philosophical, political, and religious history, literary analysis, and media studies, I uncover affinities in the philosophical, ethical, and political dissonances of what can be called the two moments of French antihumanism. The major protagonists in this account are Descartes, La Rochefoucauld, and Pascal – for the 17th century – Sartre and Althusser – for the 20th century. But numerous other figures are discussed along the way. Theological questions are central to the early modern moment of my story, in distinction to the 20th-century one, which involved varieties of philosophy or theory that are largely secular. But this difference, instead of discouraging a comparative approach, is rather an invitation to consider the metaphysics – even the quasi-theological or mystical frameworks – of manifestly secular, post-metaphysical antihumanist theories. The long history of the conflict between humanism and antihumanism exposes what seems like a perennial logic of opposition between: (1) philosophies of consciousness or of immanence, which hold fast to the putative certainties of consciousness and to a perspective on the this-worldly, human sphere; and (2) theories that refuse the immediacy of spontaneous consciousness and discard anthropocentrism in favor of frameworks that critique and transcend – ontologically, temporally, and epistemically – the scope and capacities of any individual consciousness, self, subject, or ego. My argument is that the 20th-century moment of the humanism-antihumanism conflict might not escape this recurrent logic. Seeing this opposition in a comparative history is one way of underlining the ultimately metaphysical status of both humanism and antihumanism. This perspective encourages us, then, to reflect on the ideologies that underpin the waves of popularity of these positions (especially in Academia) and their chronic tension, or dialectic, over time. This account demands us to ask, further, whether alternatives to or syntheses of these positions have been or are possible.
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:French and Italian

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