Investigation of the romantic themes and tensions in classical American Pragmatism

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Turkey

Approval Date: 2017

Student: NİL AVCI

Supervisor: AHMET İNAM


This thesis aims to elaborate on and defend the idea that Classical American Pragmatism shares the same themes, interests, concerns and tensions with German Romanticism. The basic proposal is that the paradoxical romantic theme of absence pointing beyond or implying more and the romantic notion of infinite strife closely connected with this theme express themselves in epistemological, ontological, ethical forms through the pragmatic philosophies of Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. In order to investigate these romantic conceptions, we focus on the romantic artistic project and romantic transformation of philosophy through the claims of Friedrich Schlegel and Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis). First, we show that the concept of absence in its epistemological form emerges as the tensional togetherness of the impossibility of comprehensive understanding and the necessity of it in the form of an ideal. As a consequence of this tension romantics transform knowledge into a pluralistic, dynamic, self-destructive and self-producing, infinite process of poesy which can be found in pragmatism in the form of the open-ended collective hermeneutic practice. Second, the concept of absence constitutes ethical orientation of both romantics and pragmatics in the forms of infinite struggle for self-perfection and amelioration. Finally, the notion of absence in its metaphysical aspect leads to the process metaphysics and the comprehension of the subject as constant becoming. Pragmatism romantically relies on the creative and transformative freedom of the individuals seeking their self-redemption from their alienated situation which is to be perpetually approximated but never reached.