Title page for ETD etd-06122005-122824


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Steen, Kirk Michael
Author's Email Address kcstesch@att.net
URN etd-06122005-122824
Title Arthur Koestler's Hope in the Unseen: Twentieth-Century Efforts to Retrieve the Spirit of Liberalism
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David F. Lindenfeld Committee Chair
John B. Cowan Committee Member
Steven K. Ross Committee Member
Suzanne Marchand Committee Member
David Perlmutter Dean's Representative
Keywords
  • comintern
  • neo-darwinism
  • behaviorism
  • Dialogue with Death
  • Spanish Testament
  • The God That Failed
  • L'Espagne ensagnglantée
  • Menschenopfer Unerhört
  • historical determinism
  • materialism
  • marxism
  • determinism
Date of Defense 2005-04-29
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
The analysis in this dissertation connects Arthur Koestler’s nonfiction and fiction to the political circumstances that defined Europe during the early twentieth century. It draws particular attention to events in the 1930s as representing a paucity of choices that frustrated certain liberal values held by Koestler and others. It shows how after taking sides with the German Communist Party in the early 1930s, he confronted then rejected the politics of the extreme left and right, leading himself toward a dual career as social philosopher and anti-Communist.

This paper will explain how Koestler’s reporting of the Spanish Civil War, combined with his description of his own attraction to and apostasy form Communism, established him as an important writer. It will look at Koestler’s writing, particularly his imaginative use of analogy and metaphor, established during his early career as a journalist, as it discloses his dedication to the liberal notion of the common man’s ability to understand complex ideas. This narrative will focus on Koestler’s plea for an open, non-determined universe in several of his works. These include his novels, The Gladiators, Darkness at Noon, and Arrival and Departure, and his autobiographical works, Scum of the Earth, Arrow in the Blue, and The Invisible Writing. Close analysis will be given to his philosophical works, The Yogi and the Commissar, Insight and Outlook, and The Act of Creation. Some space will be given to the philosophy of science revealed in Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine. This paper will pay attention to two of Koestler’s works that portray the practice of science as a humanistic endeavor. These are The Sleepwalkers and The Case of the Mid-wife Toad. The primary goal of this investigation is to show how Arthur Koestler’s philosophical writing derived from the union of liberal political values in his musings about science and psychology.

The analysis in this paper shows the central importance of Koestler’s political experiences during the 1930s but also investigates the longer time frame of his life between the 1920s and the early 1980s. Its thesis is that Arthur Koestler persisted in his optimism for the longer term in the face of dehumanizing, pessimism-creating events that he experienced in the short term. This study concludes that it was Koestler’s ties to values and optimistic attitudes established between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries by European culture that brought him to a hopeful attitude in humankind’s future. It shows how Koestler maintained a hope in things that were not always apparent in his own lifetime. This dissertation explains that, in spite of the political events that defined the first half of the twentieth century, Arthur Koestler maintained a faith in modern European culture connected to its longer traditions of humanism.

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