Agony and Integrity: An Erotic Psychology for Prefigurative Ethical Practice
Golden, Christian Marchal
Lance, Mark N
The goal of this dissertation is to clarify and address a problem of integrity understood as the question of how one ought to live out one's robustly motivating and normatively orienting attachments to persons, projects and ideals. My overall strategy is to consider two broad approaches to this question--one post-Kantian, one post-Nietzschean--arguing in favor of the latter as a superior account of the normative and psychological character of personal practical integrity.To do so, I develop and defend an account of power as a productive, excessive and dynamic range of effects and relations that enter into the formation of normatively responsive human subjects and so condition our capacities for living out practical commitments. I call this view of subject formation and agency Agonistic Realism (AR) and contrast it with a post-Kantian strategy, which I call Sovereign Idealism (SI). AR is distinguished by its emphasis upon the role and value of contestation in the psychic and social lives of agents. I will argue that contestation over the meaning and value of our ends of action makes possible the experience of loss and transformation through which our committed activity remains vitally dynamic. SI elides these phenomena, and so underwrites an ideal of committed activity that denigrates them, whereas AR underwrites an ideal privileging them. Since AR does so by foregrounding psychic and social dynamics of contestation, the ideal of integrity it supports prescribes living out our deep commitments agonistically.The conception of "agonistic integrity" for which I argue thus embraces three related hypotheses. First, post-Kantian ideals tend to presuppose the figure of "the horizon" as a pregiven or "background" source of normative authority, and so tend to construe personal integrity as steadfast adherence to demands already established, thereby eliding and undervaluing the role of loss and transformation in our committed activity. Second, recognizing the role and value of loss and transformation is a condition of adequacy for an ideal of how to live out our commitments. And third, an ideal of committed action grounded in an account of power's integral role in subject formation and agency better satisfies this condition.
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