Date of Award

Fall 2006

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Hughson, Thomas D.

Second Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre

Third Advisor

Hinze, Christine Firer


In We Hold These Truths, John Courtney Murray contends that each generation of Americans has inherited a "public philosophy," a public wisdom. The people grasped and affirmed this public wisdom in an act of ''public consensus." Because Murray wanted not merely to maintain the existing consensus but also to reclaim, revitalize, and apply it, be began a quest for those who, he considered, not only preserved but also developed it: those he called "the wise." Murray argues that the wise were not people at large but an elite of wise and honest citizens primarily in the academic, ecclesial and legal communities. Ability to renew and apply the public philosophy in new circumstances made them unofficial sages in a complex moral discernment. This tendency towards an elitist view of the wise also manifests itself in, what Max L terms, those two "Powers'' - religion and mass media- that have fashioned American public philosophy from the beginning of the last century to the present. However, this dissertation contends that both papal social teaching contains principles and American films portray characters and plots alternative to these exclusive views. Both laud the common person, which this dissertation identifies as "the believer-citizen-moviegoer." Such individuals, properly influenced by the egalitarian-inclusivist principles of Church and cinema, learn to sympathize with their fellow citizens. locally and globally. The powerful influence of cinema and Catholic social teaching equips these wise citizens to reclaim and revitalize public wisdom. and gather a public consensus to guide society cowards a more just future.



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