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Title: Freedom as response-ability : agency and artistic creativity in the work of Martin Heidegger
Author: Wendland, Aaron James
ISNI:       0000 0004 4014 4594
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The origin of this thesis can be traced back to a deceptively simple question that struck me when reading Hegel for the first time: What, if anything, can be made of human freedom when we live in a world that has a profound impact on who we are and what we do? Unhappy with the way existentialist reactions to Hegel characterized freedom as our ability to step out of our world and determine our identity through our own decisions and will, but nevertheless inspired by Heidegger’s depiction of human agents as always already in the world, this thesis answers the aforementioned question by turning the existentialist conception of freedom on its head: that is, instead of characterizing freedom as detached decisionism, I argue that freedom is a function of our ability to recognize and respond to the disparate demands our world places upon us. Specifically, and unlike Heidegger’s existentialist interpreters, I read Heidegger’s account of authenticity as a case of engaged-agency in which we clarify the possibilities others make available and then act accordingly. There is, however, a certain limitation to this interpretation of human agency: namely, that treating freedom as an active response to the wants and needs of others binds the agent to possibilities present in her current situation and therefore fails to capture the kind of freedom we associate with cultural transformation or artistic creativity. Hence, this thesis addresses a second set of questions: What conditions make historical change possible? And how is it that artists are able to alter the world? In response to the first query, I turn to Heidegger’s claim that we are in truth and in untruth as well as his discussion of Gelassenheit to argue that the play between the possibilities present in a particular culture and those that are excluded by it along with a release from our present activities create the conditions for cultural transformation. In reply to the second question, I examine Heidegger’s account of the happening of truth and show how thinkers and artists are able to reveal the possibilities concealed in their culture through the creative use of language. Finally, I contend that the freedom associated with cultural transformation and artistic creativity is also a form of responsibility insofar as the success of a given transformation depends on others recognizing that transformation as valuable and thus worthy of their support.
Supervisor: Mulhall, Stephen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy ; Heidegger ; agency ; artistic creativity ; philosophy of language