Stephen L. Gardner

Associate Professor of Philosophy Chapman Hall 222

Key Areas:

Kant, Hegel and nineteenth-century thought; twentieth-century phenomenology and existentialism; classical and modern aesthetics and the theory of popular culture.

Key critical issues:

My work focuses on the relations of philosophy to history, politics, the social sciences, and modern culture.

Current book project:

The Sublime Lie of History: The Quixotic Imperatives of Democratic Desire. This aims to show how critics and defenders of “bourgeois” society (such as Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Freud, for example) are driven by a conceit of “life as literature” (in the phrase of Alexander Nehamas, who applied it to Nietzsche) or “existence as an aesthetic phenomenon” (Nietzsche). This conceit intimates the democratic phenomenon of the modern public, in terms of which such figures implicitly cast their own “self” creation as writers or thinkers. It is both a prophylactic against and a reflection of this distinctively modern “social power,” the media-based and market-driven public, to which the modern notion of a “self” is a defensive reaction. In the process and contrary to intent, they generated constitutive myths of democratic culture, including such myths of freedom as an idea of history in terms of the “sublime” (an aesthetic notion) and an idea of the “self” modeled on authorship.

Education and Degrees Earned

  • Ph. D. in Philosophy, The Pennsylvania University, 1984
  • M. A. in Philosophy, The Pennsylvania State University, 1980
  • B. A. in Philosophy, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, 1975

Professional Affiliations

  • The Colloquium on Violence and Religion, Board Member
  • International Society for the Study of European Ideas
  • ACLA/ICLA (past)
  • American Philosophical Association (past)

Courses Taught at TU

  • Philosophy and Film (PHIL 1123)
  • Philosophy of Art (PHIL 2113)
  • Existentialism in the 20th Century (PHIL 2233)
  • The Great Conversation II: Modern and Contemporary (PHIL 2453)
  • Philosophical Anthropology (PHIL 3213)
  • Morality and Religion from Kant to Nietzsche (PHIL 3263, REL 3263)
  • Jewish Thinkers of the Twentieth Century (PHIL 3293)
  • Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche (PHIL 4453)
  • Special Topics (PHIL 4863)


  • Review-essay: “Charismas Ancient and Modern: Philip Rieff and the Self-Destruction of Democracy.”
    Philip Rieff, Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us. Foreword by Daniel Frank and Aaron Mason. Pantheon Books, 2007. (7625 words, Forthcoming in Society, Springer Publishers)
  • “The Eros and Ambitions of Psychological Man,”
    chapter-essay for the 40th Anniversary reissue of Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, ed. Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, 225-245. ISI Books, December, 2006 (7950 words)

  • “Democracy and Desire in The Great Gatsby,” in Passions in Economy, Politics, and the Media: In Discussion with Christian Theology. (Beiträge zur mimetischen Theorie 17), Palaver, Wolfgang and Petra Steinmair-Pösel, eds. 2005. (Münster: Lit-Verlag), pp. 273-293.
  • Review-Essay: “Heidegger’s Children,” Richard Wolin, Heidegger’s Children.
    Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. In Society: Social Science and Modern Society, Vol. 41, No. 4, May/June 2004, pp. 93-96.
  • Review-essay: “The Cult of Violence Revisited,” Ronald Aronson, Camus and Sartre : The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It
    (Chicago, 2004) and David A. Sprintzen and Adrian van den Hoven, Sartre and Camus: A Historic Confrontation (Humanities, 2004). In Society: Social Science and Modern Society, Vol. 44, No. 5, July/August, 2007, pp. 77-81.
  • The Ontological Obsessions of Radical Thought
    Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, Vol 10, Spring 2003, pp. 1-22.
  • Tocqueville, Girard, and the Mystique of Anti-Modernism
    Faith, Reason, and Political Life Today, edited by Peter A. Lawler and Dale McConkey (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman and Littlefield, March 2001), pp. 209-225.
  • Myths of Freedom: Equality, Modern Thought, and Philosophical Radicalism
    (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998)