Deleuze and Kierkegaard: On Ethics and Selfhood

Andrew M Jampol-Petzinger, Fordham University


In this dissertation I explore the relationship between Gilles Deleuze and Søren Kierkegaard by looking at their respective views on ethics and concepts of selfhood. I argue, on the basis of shared interests in the problem of self-knowledge, and also on the basis of shared skepticism towards the validity of rational morality, that these two philosophers have much more in common than might be supposed by their antithetical views on the existence of God. More specifically, I argue that—because philosophy after Kant had based its views of selfhood on a certain conception of morality—Deleuze and Kierkegaard’s shared skepticism towards moral categories (in particular, towards the categories of moral good and evil and the concept of freedom), leads them to develop new conceptions of selfhood different from those of traditional post-Kantian philosophers. I consequently develop a theory of ethics without moral judgment using Kierkegaard’s concept of “faith” as the crucial exemplar of ethical practice, and develop a conception of selfhood based on broadly aesthetic principles that I find through a synthesis of Kierkegaard’s and Deleuze’s work. In conclusion, I argue that by reading Deleuze and Kierkegaard’s work together—and by reading Deleuze’s interpretations of Kierkegaard—one can find the rudiments of a conception of selfhood that avoids the twin dangers of a theory of the self grounded in an outdated metaphysics of substance (such as was viable before Kant’s critique), as well as a theory of selfhood grounded on the possibility of moral judgment and blame (such as Kant himself produced).^

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Recommended Citation

Jampol-Petzinger, Andrew M, "Deleuze and Kierkegaard: On Ethics and Selfhood" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10931308.