THE MORAL ARGUMENT OF T. S. ELIOT'S "FOUR QUARTETS" (BRADLEY, ETHICS, NEO-HEGELIANISM, ROYCE).
AuthorEARLS, JOHN PATRICK.
AdvisorSchneidau, Herbert N.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study attempts to establish a connection between the moral philosophy of F. H. Bradley, particularly as expressed in his Ethical Studies and modified in the teaching of Josiah Royce, and the moral thought of Eliot's poetic writings, beginning with "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," culminating in Four Quartets, and finding a new mode of expression in the dramas. By tracing Eliot's moral thought to the nineteenth century anti-utilitarian moral controversies out of which Bradley's Ethical Studies grew, this study clarifies Eliot's position in the history of moral philosophy. For Bradley, the end of morality is not self-gratification; it is the realization of the universal will in the will of the individual. Hence the aim of moral action must be away from self-concern and toward the duties that society imposes on the individual. The Absolute, in which all individuals and societies culminate, invites us to true self-realization, while the egotistic self solicits us to physical and spiritual self-indulgence. Royce modifies Bradley's Absolute by making it a redemptive community in which the selfish actions of the past are given new meaning by heroic sacrifices in the present and future. The moral thought of Eliot's poetry and drama closely parallels this ethical system. In these works, Eliot dramatizes situations in which selfless motives are scarcely distinguishable from egotistic needs, merited suffering from heroic martyrdom. In Murder in the Cathedral, for instance, Thomas the Archbishop cannot will his martyrdom for the good of God's kingdom without also willing the gratification of his personal vanity. Four Quartets presents the same moral dilemma working itself out in Eliot's thoughts about his own life. He wonders if he has chosen his life as poet and critic as an unselfish response to duty--and hence as a path to God--or if he has chosen it out of personal vanity. In his considerations of time and eternity he comes to the conclusion that it is possible to redeem past mistakes by the present right intention.