American Transcendentalism Contra Contemporary Political Philosophy: Applications of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Liberal Democratic Capitalism, Platonism, Islamism, Technology, and the "end of History"
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Thompson, Margaret S.
American Transcendentalism, Contemporary Political Philosophy, John Rawls, Platonism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Carlyle
Arts and Humanities | History | Philosophy | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences
I construct Thomas Carlyle's political philosophy in the contexts of twentieth-century and contemporary political philosophy by dialoging and contrasting Carlyle with the work of John Rawls, Alasdair MacIntyre, Jacques Ellul, and Sayyid Qutb, among others. I also focus my attention on Carlyle as a philosopher who is an intermediary between ancient Platonism and nineteenth-century American Transcendentalism. Carlyle's Sartor Resartus is a Platonic text that provided a foundational inspiration for Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and American Transcendentalism writ-large. Despite Carlyle being a chief source of inspiration for American Transcendentalism, his political theory did not inspire the development of a widely adopted political ideology to compete alongside other prominent twentieth-century ideologies such as liberalism, Marxism, fascism, and Islamism. It is in this context that Carlyle is also relevant in the philosophical inquiry of the "end of history," or the ascertaining of the last stage of human political development. I argue that this is because Carlyle's philosophical account of transcendentalism in Sartor Resartus can be constructed as "post-liberalism," an ideology that reforms liberalism by seeking to stem its facilitation of increasing levels of economic inequality and increasing levels of political conflict on the bases of race, class, religion, etc. I apply Carlyle's philosophy to build on literature that theorizes about post-liberalism by authors such as Patrick Deneen, John Milbank, and Adrian Pabst, who argue that liberalism is on a hazardous trajectory and there is a need to conceive of post-liberalism as an alternative to the trend of increasing authoritarianism.
Wolfel, Brian, "American Transcendentalism Contra Contemporary Political Philosophy: Applications of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Liberal Democratic Capitalism, Platonism, Islamism, Technology, and the "end of History"" (2022). Dissertations - ALL. 1523.