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  • Moral Ontology in the Age of Science: A Philosophical Case for the Mystery of Goodness

    Kuipers, Ronald; Kirby, Joseph Morrill; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2018-07-16)
    In this dissertation, I attempt to convince an audience of modern naturalists that Socrates’ famous moral thesis—that we should prefer to suffer injustice rather than inflict it, because it is impossible for an unjust person to be happy—is true. Rather than logical proof, however, I focus on questions of rhetoric and of spiritual practice. In short, I argue that the existential truth of Socrates’ claim only begins to manifest for those who adopt a particular curriculum of spiritual training, which combines the pursuit of moral goodness with the pursuit of self-knowledge; this training, however, needs to be undertaken under the aegis of a philosophical rhetoric that first opens us to at least the possibility that Socrates might be right. In the first two chapters of this dissertation, therefore, I focus on rhetoric, as the attempt to destabilize the common naturalist confidence that their own scientific worldview is grounded on the true nature of reality, and that this unprecedented understanding shows Socrates’ moral thesis to be nonsense. Following this, from chapters three to five, I present the aforementioned spiritual curriculum: the “spirituality from above,” oriented towards moral goodness, in contradistinction to the “spirituality from below” that is oriented toward self-knowledge. After presenting the logic of this bivalent practice in chapter three, I then explicate it with reference to the philosophies of David Hume and Richard Rorty (chapter four), and then Plato and Nietzsche (chapter five). Finally, in chapter six, I consider what accepting the truth of Socrates’ moral thesis would mean for the way we live our everyday lives, under conditions of peace, in which the question of whether to suffer or inflict injustice will likely not be a pressing existential concern, and the question of what it actually means to be just will always be unclear and disputed.
  • The Allusivity of Grammar: Developing theory and pedagogy for linguistic aesthetics

    Sweetman, Robert; de Boer, Julia Rosalinda; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2018-01-11)
  • Incarnating the God Who May Be: Christology and Incarnational Humanism in Bonhoeffer and Kearney

    Kuipers, Ron; Novak, Mark Fraser; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2017)
    This thesis examines questions of humanity and divinity that are pressing in contemporary philosophy and theology as seen in the thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Richard Kearney. Both these thinkers seek to address issues around transcendence/immanence, sameness/difference, ontology/ethics, and post-metaphysical approaches to God. Chapter one explores the many convergences in their thinking with regards to these topics. Chapter two looks at the main divergence in their thinking: their respective Christologies. Chapter three, following up on the exploration of convergences and divergences in their thought, examines a possible way in which to mediate the difference in their otherwise similar patterns of thinking. The thesis aims, overall, to show that a Christologically-based incarnational humanism is a suitable and appropriate live option that is not only biblical, but also responds to issues in both contemporary philosophy and theology, providing a way to understand how the possibility of divine incarnation depends upon our ongoing human response.
  • "In the Embrace of Absolute Life": A Reading of Christology and Selfhood in Michel Henry's "Christian Trilogy"

    Ansell, Nicholas; Vanderleek, Ethan P.; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2016-04)
    Michel Henry (1922-2002) was a leading 20th century French philosopher in the school of phenomenology. The final three books of his career focus on explicitly Christian themes and texts, and these books are now known as his “Christian trilogy”. This essay focuses on this trilogy in an exposition of Henry’s Christology, his concept of the Self, and how Christology and selfhood relate to each other. The exposition of Henry’s thought on this issue is stated in the following thesis, broken into three sections: 1) God always reveals himself as Christ 2) who reveals the Truth of the Self, 3) this revelation being identical with salvation. Said again, 1) God’s Revelation is always God’s self-revelation in Christ, and is never separate from 2) the human condition of the Self as a Son of God, and this condition is never separate from 3) salvation. Revelation, selfhood, and salvation. This essay is largely expository but several constructive attempts are made to apply Henry’s philosophy of Christianity to key theological themes, namely atonement, pneumatology, and ecclesiology.
  • Unwrapping the Gift: Empty Notion or Valuable Concept?

    Sweetman, Robert; Polce, Jonathon Emil; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2016-05)
    The concept of the gift has received ample philosophical attention in recent decades. Thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Marion have been major contributors to the conversation philosophically. However, their conclusions around the gift -- while generating many fruitful notions -- leave the gift impoverished from our ordinary experience. Further, their reflections make it difficult to predicated giftedness of existence. This thesis argues for a need to rethink the gift along different lines which seeks to widen the gift in order to be able to predicate it of existence. In order to make such an argument, the ideas of Kenneth Schmitz on the gift are recovered. Schmitz argues for an understanding of giftedness that includes a notion of reciprocity and receptivity -- contra Marion and Derrida. It is this notion of receptivity that makes Schmitz' framework able to be predicated of existence. Existence, understood as gifted, opens up fruitful avenues for anthropology and ethics, as well as argues for a certain disposition towards reality that is centered in wonder and gratitude.
  • The Way of Love: Practicing an Irigarayan Ethic

    Olthuis, James H.; Merwe, W. L. van der; Halsema, J. M.; Crapo, Ruthanne SooHee Pierson; Institute for Christian Studies (Vrije Universiteit, 2016-02-17)
    This thesis defends the argument that Luce Irigaray's work on sexual difference from the Continental tradition provides a rich analysis of human subjectivity, ethical responsibility and well-being as citizens. This thesis pays specific attention to Irigaray’s work in relation to ecological feminism, animal welfare and religious pluralism in democratic societies. Her work is singular because, although it places the emphasis on sexual difference, resisting a contained definition of what it means to be a woman. Instead, the thesis highlights Irigaray’s ongoing process and ethical task to undertake an "intermediate" by which men and women can interact in reciprocity and respect the way of love. The limit, or the negative of the sexes,forms an ethical boundary, and this thesis explores this limit with humans and non-humans. The thesis contends that the limit makes it possible to establish the right relationships between specific and limited selves in an economy of love, rather than between authoritative, independent or absolute subjects in an economy of mutual exchange. Her philosophy, this thesis contends, allows us to ask more fully how to live well so we can share the resources—such as water, air, healthy food—that promote well-being and meaningful work. Such resources provide us physically and spiritually with a good life. The demand for a good life is further extended to other non-human animals and environments. The dissertation concludes with the suggestion that Irigaray's politics of difference can help democratic societies themselves to respond to questions of inclusion, hospitality and respect for different people, particularly within an increasingly multinational and global world. The thesis suggests that Irigaray's work is all the more relevant and meaningful in that it offers a discourse by which we can respect differences, going beyond token gestures, and moves toward substantial protection of all.Irigaray's ethics and politics provide both secular and fundamental principles that are universal and that can be found in the bodies of people who breathe properly and in the kind of practices that we undertake to distribute the resources of human and non-human others. Her work allows us to materially investigate in inventive and imaginative ways and calls us to share our world with love and responsibility.
  • From Cynical Reason to Spiritual Creativity: An Exercise in Religious Anthropodicy

    Sweetman, Robert; Dettloff, Dean; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2015)
    This thesis explores the cultural ideology of cynicism as identified and critiqued by Peter Sloterdijk, who describes cynicism as an "enlightened false consciousness" that is "universal and diffuse." As an ideology, cynicism perpetuates the conditions of unjust society, but it is impervious to criticism. Instead of further critique, the thesis suggests religious traditions can offer means of overcoming the enclosure of cynical consciousness. Chapter one outlines Sloterdijk's approach to cynicism, including its historical development. Chapter two considers cynicism as a problem of self-understanding and proposes religion reveals that human beings are malleable through practices and techniques. Chapter three looks at three such techniques--awareness, compassion, and creativity--and offers them as solutions to cynical consciousness. The thesis aims, overall, to offer a way of considering the continued relevance and possibility of religious traditions, practices, and techniques to a cynical society such that alternative self-understandings and alternative social configurations might be made possible.
  • Relationship Issues: Forgiveness and Promising According to Hannah Arendt and Jacques Derrida

    Hoff, Shannon; Ratzlaff, Caleb; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2015-08-31)
    In retrospect this learning experience lead me to two conclusions. First, the way we hold someone responsible must reflect the openness and vulnerability of the actor and those to whom she relates. What we do when we hold someone responsible, administering a sentence, for example, must respond to the unending process of interaction and transformation that defines the human person in intersubjective life. This essentially describes the meaning and limits of holding someone responsible. The second lesson was more directly addressed in this thesis. It concerns the idea that the uncertain and vulnerable characteristics of the self that accompany our transformability, are not simply detriments to responsibility. Rather, the uncertain nature of a self as it exists in relationship with others is a condition of meaningfulness, responsibility, and love. As a condition of responsibility, our finitude calls for the sustaining ethical practices of promises and forgiveness. Uncertainty, even in its greatest manifestations as birth and death, is something we can embrace.
  • Narrative companionship: philosophy, gender stereotypes, and young adult literature

    Zuidervaart, Lambert; Musschenga, A. W.; Van Dyk, Tricia Kay; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2016-03)
    This dissertation contends that North American culture is in the grip of a reductionism that neglects plurality while seeking after pseudo-universality and pseudoindividuality, exemplified by the apparently contradictory tendencies to take as normative what can be generalized and to deny universally applicable normativity. I pay special attention to gender stereotypes, in which the particular (individual) becomes irrelevant, ignored, or perceived as a threat unless it can be treated as part of the general (stereotype). I argue that philosophical fiction—and, in particular, young adult fiction— contributes to a principled plurality in both lived and academic philosophy. It does so through its imaginative power to enlarge perspectives, criticize from the margins, and galvanize readers to engage with injustice. I focus on young adult fiction because of its wide reach, relevance for ethical formation, and exceptional tendency to question stereotypical understandings of human existence. After explicating the distinction between lived and academic philosophy and situating my project in the larger conversation about fiction and philosophy, I argue for the ethical significance of philosophical interaction with story. In conversation with Martha C. Nussbaum and Hannah Arendt, I draw together three themes—the integrality of form and content, the ability of storytelling to act as critical thinking in context, and the key role of particularity in the context of plurality—in order to emphasize the need to approach fiction in its intrinsic plurality without losing the possibility of shared criteria. A causal model is insufficient in this regard. Drawing on Lambert Zuidervaart’s conception of imaginative disclosure, I show that art both suggests and requires interpretation and that fiction’s ethical contribution to philosophy needs to be understood as thoroughly hermeneutical. I settle on “narrative companionship,” a variation of Wayne C. Booth’s metaphor of stories as friends, as a helpful noncausal metaphor for interaction with fiction. Then I seek to demonstrate the fruitfulness of this metaphor, in contrast to academic philosophy’s traditional approaches to fiction as either a tool or an example, by commenting on several stories that have informed my own lived philosophy.
  • A Different Conversion by a Different C.S. Lewis: An Analysis of Surprised By Joy

    Sweetman, Robert; Knibbe, Stefan; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2015-05)
    C.S. Lewis is perhaps as well known for his life story as his literary accomplishments. Central to that narrative is his shocking conversion from atheism to Christianity. Despite this Surprised by Joy, Lewis's primary work on the subject, has not been the centre of a focused study. This thesis reveals that, prior to writing Surprised by Joy, Lewis developed a growing appreciation for how experiences and story factored in religious belief. Rather than focusing on arguments, Surprised by Joy tells the story of how Lewis came to terms with his fundamental experiences of the world. Tension between these experiences and his worldview drove Lewis onward until they were reconciled by his acceptance of The True Myth. Using Vollenhoven's Reformed Philosophy, I show the implications of Surprised by Joy: that the stories we feel ourselves to be living in circumscribe our experiences and knowledge, and that conversion involves coming to inhabit the biblical story.
  • Learning as Transcendence: The Solution to the Learner's Paradox in Plato and Merleau-Ponty

    Hoff, Shannon; Sheridan, Joanna; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2015-05)
    This thesis attempts to resolve the learner's paradox on the basis of Merleau-­Ponty's insights in the Phenomenology of Perception by showing that the paradox is misleading in at least two important ways: it presumes that our "knowing" relation to the world operates in the form of explicit knowledge, whereas really we mainly operate on the basis of a pre-­reflective familiarity with various things; and, it presumes that we are "in charge" of our learning, whereas really learning is part of the ongoing coupling of self and world. The first chapter offers a reading of Plato's Meno that argues that Plato implicitly offers a solution to the paradox that is compatible with Merleau-­Ponty's. The second chapter explicates Merleau-­Ponty's own version of the learner's paradox. The third chapter criticizes the learner's paradox from the Meno using Merleau-­Ponty's insights. The conclusion offers a few ideas on what shape teaching should take, given the foregoing account of learning, that are drawn from John Locke's "Some Thoughts Concerning Education."
  • The Dangerously Divine Gift: a Biblical Theology of Power

    Sweetman, Robert; McGuire, Rachel A.; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2015-05)
    This dissertation develops a large-scale biblically-shaped theo-ethical narrative of power. Propelled by a liberationist commitment, this work first stands in solidarity with earth's marginalized majorities, and then focuses its lens on the social location of "middle agents." In the global economic/power structure, middle agents (the eighteen percent) live and work in the space between the two percent who own over half the world and the eighty percent who earn less than ten dollars per day. The method is constructive. The work develops a scriptural narration of power that starts in creation, moves through the fall(the first act of commodification), and into violence, empire and the demonic. The central part of the project concentrates on the particular predicament of middle agents in complex globalizing regimes. Staying close to the gospel (particularly Luke and Mark), in the second half, an ethic of hospitality is developed – one that rearranges power structures, moving practitioners personally, communally, and societally toward a world of shared power. The story of power closes with a reading of apocalypse as the falling away of parasitic and violent structures, and the emergence of new creation on earth. The academic approach is interdisciplinary. At each stage, relevant academic conversations are engaged in biblical studies (e.g. Ellen Davis, Terence Fretheim, William Herzog, Richard Horsley, Sylvia Keesmaat, Catherine Keller, J. Richard Middleton and Ched Myers), liberation theology/praxis (e.g. James Cone, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Martin Luther King Jr., Kwok Pui-Lan and Letty Russell), and social theory (e.g. Hannah Arendt, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault).
  • Revisiting Bathsheba and David: A Recuperative Reading with Julia Kristeva

    Olthuis, James H.; Woudenberg, R. van; Derksen, L. D.; Bergsma, Dirkje Dianne; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2014-06)
    This prologue seeks to provide the author's context, premises and aims for this philosophical theological thesis which aims to provide an application of the semiotic theory of Julia Kristeva to a revisiting, that is rereading, reexamining, analyzing and reflecting on the biblical story of King David and Bathsheba, and how we may understand our own life-stories, our subjectivity, and our relation to the sacred and to the world. Although the work of Julia Kristeva is well known and the story of David is familiar to readers of the Bible, it is my assertion that a re-reading of this biblical narrative and some of its commentary in view of selected Kristevan philosophical concepts can lead to a multi-layer understanding of this narrative and give us deeper insights into our own stories. [Page 1]
  • Liberating Emergence: Human Dependence and Autonomy in Emergentism, Hermeneutics, and Pragmatism

    Kuipers, Ronald A.; Johnson, Matthew E.; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2014-08)
    This thesis traces a thread that runs through emergentism in analytical philosophy and the thought of five philosophers: Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Charles Taylor, John Dewey, and Richard Rorty. I suggest that the insight that connects all of these thinkers is precisely the insight that undergirds a theory of “strong emergence,” which acknowledges that in certain systems, properties emerge that exert causal influence on the system out of which they emerged. Strong emergence offers a helpful “third way” to describe human personhood that is neither reductionistic nor dualistic and maintains that the human person is both dependent upon and (within certain limits) autonomous from the system out of which it emerges. I will suggest that the hermeneutic philosophy of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Taylor clarifies the historical cultural conditions out of which the human person emerges as a critical and creative agent in a way that similarly maintains a balance between the dependence and autonomy of the human person. Dewey and Rorty, on the other hand, provide accounts of human situatedness but emphasize the creative freedom that emerges out of this situatedness, characterizing humans as artists or poets who can engage with their situatedness in novel ways. For both Dewey and Rorty, our ability to shape the future and to shape ourselves is built into our experience in the world. I will conclude that each of these five thinkers develop accounts of human personhood that resonate with strong emergence, describing how human persons are able to emerge out of their embeddedness in the world, upon which they remain ever dependent, as creative innovators.
  • "Two Things at the Same Time": Fordoblelse in Kierkegaard's Writings

    Sweetman, Robert; Mackie, Carolyn J.; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2014-11)
    The term fordoblelse—usually translated as “redoubling” in English—is found relatively infrequently in Kierkegaard’s corpus and has posed something of a puzzle for scholars. In this thesis, I trace Kierkegaard’s use of the term throughout his writings, seeking to determine the common ground between the rather disparate ways in which fordoblelse appears. I explore the relationship between redoubling and such major Kierkegaardian themes as indirect communication, paradox, and the constitution of the self, and I attempt to tease out the similarities and divergences between redoubling and two other Kierkegaardian terms, “repetition” and “reduplication.” Ultimately, I conclude that redoubling functions for Kierkegaard as a structural term that provides him with a vocabulary to describe the many paradoxes at work in Christian faith.
  • Ow(n)ing Existence: Human Meaning, Identity and Responsibility in Heidegger's Being and Time

    Hoff, Shannon; Richard, Bryan Samuel; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2013-09-02)
    This thesis pays attention to the nature of human being that comes to light in Martin Heidegger's Being and Time. In particular, it attempts to show that his notion of authenticity allows for a distinctive and fruitful conception of ethical responsibility, albeit one that challenges us to rethink ethics and responsibility anew. I claim that if authenticity is ‘owning’ one's existence in a way that is properly fitted to Dasein's ontological way of being (as nonself-identical, ecstatic temporality), this ownership of self will necessarily be the stance of recognizing and responding to that which always already includes a network of relations involving world and others. On such an understanding, genuine existential care for oneself is also care for others in the most originary way possible. Such an ontological picture has been criticized by some commentators as being too formal, insufficiently historical, and lacking genuine mediation – in short, for being ineffectual as a normative force in real-life situations. The main contribution of this thesis is to argue against such an interpretation by showing that Heideggerian authenticity is a properly dialectical concept, capacious enough to account for the legitimate concerns raised by such criticisms, while also being productive for new articulations of what is really normative about human relations.
  • Action, Love, and the World: An Inquiry Into the Political Relevance of Christian Charity (With Constant Reference to Hannah Arendt)

    Kuipers, Ronald A.; Tebbutt, Andrew; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2013-03-21)
    In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt identifies the central principle that has defined Christian communities since their earliest appearance as “worldlessness.” On Arendt’s analysis, Christianity has always tended to found relations between people on charity, a virtue that, due to its affiliation with the anti-political experience of passionate love, is incapable of serving as the basis of any public realm or common political world. This thesis aims to reconcile the virtue of charity to Arendt’s political vision on the basis of a reconsideration of love’s “worldlessness.” In the first two chapters, I characterize Arendt as a political thinker and provide an account of her ideas of political action and the common world. In the third chapter, I place Arendt’s understanding of the world in dialogue with Jean-Luc Marion’s phenomenological account of charity, which dissociates charity from the idea of passion and presents it as an act of will through which one resolves to see past the simple objectivity of the world and to perceive the invisible “flesh” or personhood of others. Charity is “worldless”—and thus crucial to an Arendtian understanding of politics—in the sense that it looks beyond what the world automatically makes present in order to “see” the other person and to invite her voice into the common world of speech and action.
  • The Rhetorical Roots of Radical Orthodoxy: Augustinian Oratory and Ontology in Milbank's Theopo(e/li)tics

    Sweetman, Robert; Van't Land, Andrew R.; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2013-08-21)
    This thesis engages the controversial work of political theologian John Milbank in light of the conceptual tools developed by the classical rhetorical tradition (particularly Augustine, Cicero, and Aristotle). I respond to three key criticisms of Milbank's anti-foundationalist metaphysics by re-describing his project as philosophical rhetoric. Firstly, while Milbank's polemical stance is often criticized as being primarily negative, I argue instead that it serve his larger goal of positively identifying with two traditions: orthodox Christianity and Continental post-structuralism. Secondly, while Milbank's metaphysics is critiqued as undermining his metarhetorical anti-foundationalism, I argue that both discursive modes (and their epistemological, political, and aesthetic implications) account for one another in his work. Thirdly, while the aggressive style of Milbank's scholarship is often criticized as contradicting the content of his ontology of peace, I propose instead that Milbank attempts to use the power of discourse to promote the peaceful Christian mythos.
  • Sigmund Freud's Model of Transference: a Developmental History

    Olthuis, James H.; Van Wyk, Kenneth; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 1987)
    I propose to examine the major statements by Freud on the topic of transference and counter-transference. This will not be exhaustive, rather the chosen statments will serve as foci for demonstrating major philosophical and anthropological changes which occur during Freud's development of psychoanalytic theory. [p.1]
  • The I's Relationship to the other as Transcendent, Foundational, and Ethical in Levinas' Totality and Infinity

    Hoff, Shannon; Hanna, Eric James John; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2013-07)
    An interpretation and application of the key insights about the I and the other from Emmanuel Levinas' book: Totality and Infinity. The first chapter interprets Levinas' terminology, specifically his notions of the I and the other, and shows how he describes human experience. The second chapter explores how the other is transcendent to the I as a site of ongoing possibility for the significance of experience, how the other founds the I during human development in the person of the caregiver, and how the I's basic relationship to the other has an ethical character. The third chapter applies these insights to show how they can lead to a more authentic living out of interpersonal relationships and to better ways of thinking about human living in social and political contexts.

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