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1. Cicalo, Jordan Christopher. Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine.

Degree: PhD, Sociology, 2015, York University

Theodor Adorno's writings on the interdependence of subject and object provided the impetus for this project. Following Adorno the work argues that agency comes from an awareness of the limitations of one's conception of the world and more generally of the existence of an external world beyond human determinations. In order to avoid the pitfalls of an unintelligible jargon through an abstract discussion that runs the risk of becoming esoteric, I then looks at concrete examples, instances in the past, of individuals struggling to find what they took to be an authentic subjectivity and, intertwined with this, a means of coming to terms with otherness. At the same time, I attempt to show by way of these examples—the point of origin for what I take to be ideologies that sought to eliminate the place for the subject. My intention is to examine the genesis of the Western expectation that otherness was something ephemeral, or illusory, something that could be definitively overcome. By virtue of the interdependence of subject and object, and in turn of agency as a product of the recognition of the non-identical, I argue that it is by tracing this moment and its implications that one can also find the starting point for, and thus have a better understanding of, contemporary attempts to eliminate, or constrain, the subject. As with Adorno's negative dialectics I want to clear a path to otherness through showing the failure of man's conceptions, but in this case through showing the failures of man's conceptions of himself rather than the failures of his conceptions of the external world. It is my contention that Saint Augustine’s theology, with his City of God especially as its culmination, present a kind of threshold for this kind of thinking, a point at which the wave of humility before the object and doubts about man’s place in the universe and his destiny, that perhaps prior to him had risen and fallen, finally broke and never rolled back. Every component of his thought was geared toward not simply transcending but definitively solving otherness. Augustine envisioned human beings as actually responsible for non-identity's existence and so as capable of doing away with it through orientating their action in such a way as to remedy the primordial error that was its cause. Paradoxically for Augustine it was agency itself that was the problem, man's self assertion had caused him to fall away from his divine nature, yet the error that accompanied Adam's agency could be cancelled out by obedient human action. Totality, obedience, and man as the cause of otherness were interlinked, inextricable elements of his approach. Following the discussion of Augustine's theology I proceed to examine the origins and characteristics of three other transformative ideologies or worldviews in Western history; the idealistic, the social, and the transcendental of Francesco Petrarch, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Arthur de Gobineau respectively. The crux of my argument is that the unique characteristics of Augustine's search for… Advisors/Committee Members: Walsh, Philip D. (advisor).

Subjects/Keywords: Epistemology; European history; Sociology; Epistemology; Ethics; Theodor Adorno; Walter Benjamin; Max Horkheimer; Dialectics at a Standstill; Critical Theory; Frankfurt School; Subject Object Problem; Subject Object Divide; Subject; Object; Agency; Non-Identity; Externality; Ontology; Instrumental Rationality; Instrumental Reason; Dialectic of Enlightenment; Alienation; Otherness; Philosophy of History; Dehumanization; Historiography; Saint Augustine; Petrarch; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Arthur de Gobineau; Intellectual History; Historical Consciousness; Ideology; Worldview; Original Sin; Christian Theology; Authenticity; Subjectivity; Creativity; European History; Garden of Eden; Paradise; Freedom; Deliverance; Reconciliation; Salvation; Fall of Rome; Paradigm Shift; Objectivism; Neo-Platonism; Christian History; Western History; Totality; Universalizing Theories; Human Nature; Late Antiquity; Modernity; Totalitarianism; Benedetto Croce; R. G. Collingwood; Historical Methodology; Immediacy; Human Triumphalism; Human Exceptionalism; Western Triumphalism; Western Exceptionalism; Race; Racialism; Race Theory; Aryans; Aryanism; Social Contract; Emile; State of nature; Discourse on Inequality; Discourse on the Arts and Sciences; Renaissance; Autarkei; Autarchy; Scholasticism; Judgement Day; City of God; De Civitate Dei; On the Trinity; De Trinitate; Confessions; Secretum; De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae; Remedies for Fortunes Fair and Foul; Negative Dialectics; Aesthetic Theory; Ontological Subject; Philosophers; Transcendental; Eighteenth Century France; The Social; Aporias; Problematics; Identity; Identity Thinking; Herbert Marcuse; One Dimensional Man; Discovery of Society; Discovery of Individuality; Church Dogma; Middle Ages; Dark Ages; Enlightenment; Nationalism; Nation-State; Citizen of Geneva; Humanism; Humanist; Manichaeism; Church Fathers; Fathers of the Church; Bishop of Hippo Regius; Fall of Man; The Fall; Primordial Error; Primordial Past; Augustinian Studies; Race Conflict; Humanist Movement; Francesco Petrarch; The Fall of Man; New Adam; Max Weber; Third Reich; Houston Stewart Chamberlain; Nazism; Systems of Thought; Eschatology; Chiliasm; Millennialism; German Reich; Pan-Germanism; Primeval Error; Western History; European History; Western Intellectual History; European Intellectual History; Theories of Knowledge

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APA (6th Edition):

Cicalo, J. C. (2015). Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine. (Doctoral Dissertation). York University. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Cicalo, Jordan Christopher. “Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine.” 2015. Doctoral Dissertation, York University. Accessed November 18, 2019.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Cicalo, Jordan Christopher. “Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine.” 2015. Web. 18 Nov 2019.


Cicalo JC. Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. York University; 2015. [cited 2019 Nov 18]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Cicalo JC. Solving the Unsolvable: Western Responses to Otherness From Saint Augustine. [Doctoral Dissertation]. York University; 2015. Available from: