Date of Award


First Advisor

Brian Conolly

Second Advisor

Samuel Ruhmkorff


My thesis traces the ontogenesis of a positive, transcendental evil in Kant and demonstrates its maturation in Schelling’s attempt at theodicy in the form of the ground/existence distinction in which the evil as the dark principle, having fully differentiated itself from the light in man, thereby consummates its self-annihilation and concludes the protracted war of ground against existence. The thesis is divided into three major sections. I begin with a brief overview of classical theodicy which treats evil as privation and imperfection, and as always subordinated to good, through Leibniz's apologetics. Next, I turn to Kant’s formulation of the notion of “radical evil” as in some respects an improvement to the classical account of the nature of Evil, investing the latter with an unambiguous positivity and in addition, linking evil (construed as an innate propensity in man) explicitly with the possibility of human freedom. Then I explicate the main thrust of the infamous ground/existence distinction Schelling introduces in the “Freiheit essay” as a generalisation to the very ground of being itself of what in Kant is an inscrutable ground of freedom for all human beings. Finally, I assess whether Schelling’s injection of vitalism into the notion of radical evil satisfactorily addresses the shortcomings of Kant or whether it in fact ends up exacerbating the latter’s vices into a full-blown disorder.

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