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Voracious Hermeneutics: On Kierkegaard's Concept of the Interesting

Eagan, Anthony (2019) Voracious Hermeneutics: On Kierkegaard's Concept of the Interesting. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Kierkegaard understood modernity as a crisis of authority emerging in the aftermath of European secularization, and thus as an epistemic and ultimately moral crisis wherein self-consciousness is marked by an absence of universal integration. The consequent prioritization of aesthetic detachment, which he believed he witnessed as a dominant trend in the contemporary philosophy, was for him a counter-productive response to and expansion of the crisis. The first volume of his first pseudonymous work, Either/Or, written from the perspective of an aesthete, consists of seven expositions on different artistic media and character types. As each exposition reveals progressively deeper forms of individual alienation and groundlessness, the aesthete grows increasingly obsessed with ‘the interesting’—Kierkegaard’s name for the discrepancy between human concealment and disclosure. From an initial attempt to regain immediacy and integration through music, to the culminating quest for selfish pleasure through a perverted diary of seduction, these expositions highlight the aesthete’s growing belief that ‘justice is done to aesthetics’ only when individuals attempt to make life ‘interesting’. My thesis illuminates the complex of issues signified by this claim, first by showing how the ‘interesting’ came to be the quintessential modern criterion, and next by detailing the moral and psychological dangers involved in pursuing ‘the interesting’ over other considerations. In a close explication of Kierkegaard’s text, I show the insufficiency of aesthetics to make sense of the fundamental inner-outer uncertainty governing modern consciousness. As the aesthete moves through the alienated conditions of of doubt, guilt, pain, and boredom, his own crisis of subjectivity becomes ever more apparent, triggering a spiral in which his original uncertainty widens ad infinitum. Either/Or is a most acute diagnosis of the modern predicament. This thesis explores how the aesthetic attitude can lead to an ever-more voracious tendency to interpret the world in a private, self-defeating, and unscrupulous fashion.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.794197
Depositing User: Anthony Eagan
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2019 13:17
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2020 10:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25477

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