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University of New Mexico

1. Barnes, William H. Liberal Cynicism, Its Dangers, and a Cure.

Degree: Philosophy, 2018, University of New Mexico

Extreme Liberal Cynicism is a product of mourning, guilt, and the experience of powerlessness stemming from the trauma of holding liberal investments in a world in which they rarely flourish, in which they are perceived to have failed, and in which they are vulnerable to ideology critique. Consequently, the cynic is torn between liberal ideals and the obstacles to their success. This can compel the Liberal Cynic to extremes, fantasizing invulnerability through disavowing the efficacy of its constitutive ideals. This is achieved via a reified hopelessness which eclipses trauma, guilt, and disempowerment. Despite serving an immediately ameliorative purpose this leaves the cynic unhappy, alienated, hostile, obstinate, delusional, and desperate. Thus, this is a failing self-defense mechanism. At these extremes, Liberal Cynicism can be rationally unjustifiable as well as intrinsically and instrumentally harmful. It is rationally unjustifiable if it reifies the inefficacy of its constitutive idealism, if it assumes itself post-idealistic, the logical conclusion of enlightenment, or of intellectual activity, and if it refuses to engage in self-critique. It is intrinsically harmful because it is self-destructive and painful. It is instrumentally harmful in virtue of enabling the problems that compel it. Nevertheless, cynical painfulness also provides the impetus and evinces the resources for Extreme Liberal Cynicism to avoid or overcome these extremes. A Critique of Extreme Cynicism coupled with the libidinal release of Neokynical cheekiness, a Butlerian reckoning with grief, and the skillful reappropriations of its complex desires and losses could compel the extreme cynic to maintain a moderate critical liberal cynicism committed to critiquing and reinvigorating its constitutive ideals. Advisors/Committee Members: Ann Murphy, Iain Thomson, Adrian Johston, Kathleen Higgins.

Subjects/Keywords: Philosophy Cynicism Continental Social Political Butler; Continental Philosophy; Ethics and Political Philosophy; History of Philosophy; Other Philosophy; Philosophy

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APA (6th Edition):

Barnes, W. H. (2018). Liberal Cynicism, Its Dangers, and a Cure. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of New Mexico. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Barnes, William H. “Liberal Cynicism, Its Dangers, and a Cure.” 2018. Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Mexico. Accessed October 16, 2019.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Barnes, William H. “Liberal Cynicism, Its Dangers, and a Cure.” 2018. Web. 16 Oct 2019.


Barnes WH. Liberal Cynicism, Its Dangers, and a Cure. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of New Mexico; 2018. [cited 2019 Oct 16]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Barnes WH. Liberal Cynicism, Its Dangers, and a Cure. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of New Mexico; 2018. Available from: