Nietzsche and Levinas on the ethics of subjectivity

Keki, Basak (2014) Nietzsche and Levinas on the ethics of subjectivity. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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My project is an exploration of the ethics of subjectivity as proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche and Emmanuel Levinas, and it evolved from the question of whether subjectivity is experienced essentially as an unfolding of the will to power from within one’s own being to act on the outside, or whether it is primarily a formation based on an intrinsically passive exposure to exteriority.

In the first part I descriptively laid out Nietzsche’s and Levinas’s conceptions of subjectivity. I began with portraying Nietzsche’s naturalistic account in which the human subject is basically an organism which functions based on its inherent will to power to interpret, shape and dominate its environment. Levinas’s interpretation of the human subject, on the other hand, is unapologetically anthropocentric and fundamentally inter-subjective, according to which the subject gains its identity by responding to the Other without expecting reciprocity. Levinas provocatively refers to the religiosity of the human soul by emphasizing that it is only through sociality that one truly realises one’s moral capacity.

In the second part, I critiqued the two philosophers’ accounts from each other’s view points. I posed a Levinasian criticism of Nietzsche based on the ethical validity of the latter’s notion of the subject for being too self-sufficient and hence indifferent to the suffering of others. Lastly, I presented a Nietzschean challenge to Levinas by rejecting the universalizing aspect of the latter’s philosophy from the former’s notion of perspectivism. I suggested that Levinas promotes a notion of subjectivity which has a stifling effect upon the creativity and flourishing of the free spirit who wants to cultivate her character.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General) > B0790 Modern (1450/1660-) > B0808 Special topics and schools of philosophy > B0841.6 Subjectivity
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2014 06:28
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2015 13:55

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