Graduation Year

2018

Date of Submission

12-2017

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Philosophy

Reader 1

James Kreines

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© 2017 Devon R. Fox

Abstract

The study of history and philosophy reveals that there have been as many systems of morality as there have been distinct civilizations, and that doubts about morality are inevitable. From growing apathy towards political life to increasing cultural acceptance and toleration of what might be considered immorality in every aspect of society, in today’s modern world it is difficult not to notice these doubts creeping into our way of life. This vacuum of values and tendency towards a weariness and indifference towards life is what is generally called Nihilism. Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy illustrated perhaps the clearest expression of what he calls “the great danger to mankind . . . a retrospective weariness, the will turning against life, the tender and sorrowful signs of the ultimate illness . . . nihilism” (3). The problem that Nietzsche sets up can be responded to in many ways, however one of the most common is the Hegelian solution that suggests we can imbue content into our values through our universal recognition and our social life. Despite the appeal of this approach, the problem of nihilism remains intact given the contradictions within Hegelian idealism that Nietzsche’s broader theories make apparent. The most promising resolution of the problem of nihilism in fact comes from Soren Kierkegaard, who is able to respond to Nietzsche’s challenges, as well as solve the issues inherent in the Hegelian solution. Kierkegaard’s emphasis on the paradox of faith and on existence creates the basis for his conclusion. He ultimately claims that through a passionate embrace of the paradoxical infinite (faith), which constitutes the essential nature of his conception of inwardness, our values can indeed be real, meaningful, and can give our lives purpose: thereby saving humanity from the nefarious threat of nihilism.

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