Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Thomas J Nenon

Committee Member

Kas Saghafi

Committee Member

Bill E. Lawson

Committee Member

Sarah Miller


This dissertation is a study of the concepts of onto-theology, subjectivity, and transcendence. I argue that there are three distinct, yet related manifestations of epistemic deisre that affect these concepts. First, epistemic desire is religious in nature and results in onto-theology, or, as Heidegger put it, the "god of philosophy." I critique this "god" on the basis that it is a product of the human interest in reason, and as such is amenable to oppressive ends when human interests are corrupt. Kant and Kierkegaard attempt to limit this kind of epistemic desire through thranscendental idealism and through the claim that "truth is subjectivity." For Kant and Kierkegaard, transcendence is transformed or "alchemized" from an obstruchtion to subjectivity to a guarantor of a persistent and passiionate attention to the subjective dimension of human existence. Second, epistemic desire is hyper-scientific in nature and symptomatic of a totalizing tendency of Western philosophy. Husserl will limit this sort of epistemic desire with the phenomenological reduction; a reduction that he discovered more so than he invented; a reduction that ws in full force during the institution of chattel slavery. The "proto-phenomenological reduction" (PPR) of chattel slavery is the third manifestation of epistemic desire, and I argue with Levinas that it has oppressive social and political ends. Husserl's reduction is distinct from and is an improvement upon the PPR of chattel slavery; for whereas Husserl abandons onto-theology altogether, American chattel slavery appropriates it for oppressive ends. Arguing for abolition, a conception of subjectivity emerges from Frederick Douglass that is a corrective the PPR of American chattel slavery: one that prefers a theology of liberation to overcome theoretical obstructions to existential subjectivity supported by an onto-theological justification.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.