Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Peter G. Thielke

Reader 2

Rivka Weinberg

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This paper addresses the tension between individuality and morality with the goal of maximizing meaning in one’s own life. Drawing from Nietzschean ideas of authenticity and flourishing as they relate to the individual, the Categorical Imperative is then introduced as a way to ensure one’s own moral goodness within society. After accepting Sartre’s theory of existentialism, and, with it, the idea that existence precedes essence, one can begin an investigation into this creation of meaning in their own life. First drawing from Either/Or, Kierkegaard’s three life models are presented and, ultimately, dismissed in favor of Nietzsche’s idea that the key to a meaningful existence is the pursuit of personal passions and the cultivation of authentic values. But, because self-development can be criticized as being selfish, one’s moral duties to society are considered. By analyzing Susan Wolf’s arguments in her essay, “Moral Saints,” it is established that moral perfection is not worth striving for. Then, with Nietzsche’s ideas of individuality still in mind, the two leading moral theories, Utilitarianism and Kantian theory, are examined in order to provide a more useful moral framework than striving for moral perfection. Ultimately, Kant’s Categorical Imperative is chosen as the ideal principle through which to govern one’s actions in life because it allows for moral goodness while still allowing for flourishing through the pursuit of personal passions.