Personal being: Polanyi, ontology, and Christian theology

Andrew Thomas Grosso, Marquette University


The primary purpose of this study is to examine the value of personhood as a means of engaging questions of divine and human existence, knowledge, and action within a unified conceptual horizon. The intent is to demonstrate that the notion of "personal being" is ideally suited to serve as a guiding heuristic for thinking about God, humanity, the world, and the relations between them. The project is necessarily limited to, first, the explication of an appropriate methodology and, second, the application of this method to fundamental theological questions. The former involves an examination of the post-critical philosophy of Michael Polanyi and an assessment of its usefulness as a foundation for personalistic theological inquiry. The latter involves the deployment of insights gained from the analysis of Polanyi's thought in an examination of trinitarian theology, Christology, and pneumatology. The dissertation begins with a review of the details of Polanyi's theory of knowledge (chapter one). This opens the way for a consideration of the wider philosophical ramifications engendered by Polanyi's thought, which in turn makes possible the development of a Polanyian understanding of personal being (chapter two). The reception of Polanyi's work within contemporary theological studies is then reviewed and the contributions of those who have made significant use of his thought are noted (chapter three). Following these more descriptive efforts, the study then shifts to a more constructive attempt at elucidating a theological vision grounded in a Polanyian understanding of personal being. This first involves an examination of several of the more methodological issues involved in theological inquiry, including questions of truth, language, and the relationship between theology and philosophy (chapter four). Drawing on the consequences of previous chapters (and in particular on the Polanyian understanding of personal being refined throughout the project), the study then moves to an examination of the elaboration of the personalistic, Polanyian perspective engendered therein relative to the doctrine of both the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity. A brief conclusion outlines several avenues for further study, and three appendices provide supplemental information about Polanyi's life and philosophical work.

Recommended Citation

Grosso, Andrew Thomas, "Personal being: Polanyi, ontology, and Christian theology" (2004). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3141101.