Openness as gift: Subject and Other in postmodern context. A study of Lonergan and Levinas

Michele Saracino, Marquette University

Abstract

In this dissertation, I claim that the history of human suffering, compounded with the complexity of the current culturally diverse, global context, requires Christian theologians to explore more profound articulations of the human person. In order to meet this challenge, I have invited postmodern, Jewish thinker Emmanuel Levinas into a posthumous dialectical and dialogical conversation with Roman Catholic, Jesuit theologian Bernard J. F. Lonergan. This conversation leads to the articulation of an incarnational ethics that is neither relativistic nor totalitarian. Among the several implications of this dissertation are multicultural and global relations. Lonergan was dissatisfied with the failure of theological anthropology to address cultural and social complexity; accordingly, he developed a dynamic and protean notion of the human subject. Levinas was provoked by the Shoah to reconsider the subject from the ground of Western ontology given its complicity in violence against the Other. As I map the thought of Lonergan and Levinas, I show that both their theories encourage us to understand the subject as open for the Other. Significantly, the notion of 'openness as gift' drives this dissertation. In the first half of my dissertation, I concentrate on contextualizing Lonergan's and Levinas's interpretations of subjectivity within the modern and postmodern worldviews. Lonergan's understanding of the subject emerges from inadequate renditions of the human person in Enlightenment thought, while Levinas's reading of subjectivity offers a critique of modern notions of freedom and being, and at the same time blends the rich traditions of continental thought and Talmudic commentary. In the fifth chapter, I demonstrate how both Lonergan's and Levinas's theoretical positions presuppose alterity without undermining the reality of it. In the final two chapters, I attempt to synthesize my analysis of Lonergan's and Levinas's thought. Realizing that the relation between subject and Other is corporeal, I attempt to construct ways of thinking about being open for others in bodily terms, such as shouldering the Other. Moreover, I extended bodily metaphor to the human person, and named the human subject as a protean subject who is malleable and resilient in relation to the world and others in his/her midst.

Recommended Citation

Michele Saracino, "Openness as gift: Subject and Other in postmodern context. A study of Lonergan and Levinas" (January 1, 2000). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9977742.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9977742

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