AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

The theater of agency : a comparative critical approach to Indian aesthetics of morals

by Geoffrey Robert Ashton

Institution: University of Hawaii – Manoa
Year: 2016
Keywords: Indian
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2063717
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/101588


Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011. This dissertation develops a philosophy of creative ethical agency by critically engaging and drawing insights from classical Indian and contemporary Western approaches to the aesthetics of morals. The dissertation argues that both the Indian and the Western tradition identify an incongruity between the person as a unique 'myself' and the person as a bearer of social roles. Moreover, trends within both traditions tend to distort our understanding of personal agency, ethical agency, and the interrelation between the life of feeling and that of the social-moral role, by trying to overcome this conflict between particularized feeling and the role-bound norm. However, the Indian and the Western tradition also present approaches that do not seek to overcome this tension, but instead aim to play between these poles. This dissertation argues for the importance of such a play-centered approach and advocates the need to develop a certain emotional athleticism by means of which the agent can skillfully negotiate the tensions both internal to and between personal identity and ethical identity. Furthermore, it holds that classical Indian aesthetics (or rasa theory) not only accommodates such an approach. It exceeds Western approaches by simultaneously deepening ethical agency through recovery of the metaphysical meaning of aesthetic experience and broadening our access to alternative ways of being in the world. Various conceptual tools and innovations from both the Indian and the Western tradition will be examined in anticipation of exploring the aesthetic virtues associated with the Kashmir Śaiva dictum, 'The Self is the Actor' ('Nartaka ātmā'), a tenet that harmonizes soteriological and social-moral pursuits.