RONALD DEAN BONJEAN, Marquette University


This writing investigates fundamental option as the initial act of moral maturity or conversion, the first act of transcendental freedom and of faith. This is a formal, unique act, symbolically expressed through innerworldly causality, a Rahnerian term related to Kohlberg's understanding of role-taking. We begin with Aquinas' position which demonstrates that Church tradition witnesses to a definitive first act, a position, however, which raises other questions, e.g., how does faith enter into a non-Christian context? Current psychological studies reveal that there are degrees of reflexive awareness and, consequently, degrees of human freedom, affecting how the state of sanctifying grace relates to growth in freedom. Psychology has also claimed that the age of a fundamental decision is later than we originally presumed. Limitations in our maturity have led some to conclude that such a decision cannot occur until death. In fact, the theory of the final option has denied both the definitive first act and with it genuine moral growth and regression. Another question is whether such a fundamental decision diminishes the importance of the "matter" of a moral act. In the second part we present a basis for fundamental option in Rahner's theology. We first distinguish natural and supernatural transcendence with symbolic activity as the means of transition. Then we investigate the individual, his unique dynamism, and his ability to freely perform self-constitutive acts. Thirdly, we relate these points to fundamental option. Fourthly, we show the dependence of fundamental option upon conscience, the logic of concrete particulars, and the love of neighbor for its discernment and growth. Love of neighbor is a mode of innerworldly causality, the concrete expression of symbolic activity. Our third part addresses Rahner's call for dialogue between psychology and theology by comparing his theory of moral growth with the limitations of Kohlberg's stage theory. We first describe Kohlberg's dependence on Piaget in the area of cognitive development. Then, cognitive development is linked to moral conversion. Thirdly, we present a positive correlation between innerworldly causality and Kohlberg's understanding of role-taking with its implications for the act of initial moral maturity.

Recommended Citation

RONALD DEAN BONJEAN, "FUNDAMENTAL OPTION IN THE THEOLOGY OF KARL RAHNER AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO MORAL DEVELOPMENT" (January 1, 1983). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI8409275.