Date of this Version
Dunekacke, Amzie. “Parallels of Morality: Wilde and Nietzsche’s Challenge to Social Obligation.” University of Nebraska Digital Commons, 2018, pp. 1-32.
This thesis explores Irish author Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray in relation to a selection of texts by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. To demonstrate the similarities between Wilde and Nietzsche’s challenges to European morality, this work considers these themes, which are present in the ideologies of both Wilde and Nietzsche: the body and sensual pleasure, social construction, and the hypocrisy of altruism. Both radical thinkers castigate Platonic notions of the body as ignoble and weak, and they mock European propriety’s shyness of the body. In addition, Wilde and Nietzsche offer similar criticisms of social laws, adopting a sort of deconstruction approach to philosophy before it was developed as a school of theory. They argue that morality and propriety are arbitrary, as they are unnaturally constructed by humans. Finally, Wilde and Nietzsche both highlight the hypocrisy of European morality, explaining that self-interest hides beneath the guise of altruistic acts. In examining the connections between Wilde and Nietzsche’s challenges to morality, this thesis illuminates the widespread anxieties felt throughout Europe during the late nineteenth century, as science and technology threatened traditional social and religious beliefs.