Date of Award

Spring 1985

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Rhodes, James

Second Advisor

Fleet, Michael

Third Advisor

Vater, Michael


A normative political theory is a complex of several related elements, each of which operates at a different level. The ontological, epistemological, and political dimensions interact in such a way as to produce an overall account. The coherency of the resultant theory is a function of these elements. The normative theories which have arisen in the contemporary period have been, to a great extent, either incoherent or ethically unacceptable. They have provided accounts of politics which either fail to rest upon sound ontological/ epistemological foundations, or endorse modes of political activity which are no more than the manipulation of existence in pursuit of purely subjective ends. This essay constitutes an attempt to discover the source of the problems that characterize contemporary political thought. Whereas an examination of the historical development of the relationship between power and knowledge may not provide concrete solutions, it may allow a greater understanding of the relationship between ontology, epistemology and politics. This, in turn, may provide a better understanding of why epistemological skepticism and meaningful political activity belong to two mutually exclusive worlds.