• 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.
    • 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.
    • Resounding Empathy: A Critical Exploration of Ricoeur's Theory of Discourse, to Clarify the Self's Reliance on Relationships with Other Persons

      Shank, Benjamin Joseph; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2020-11-09)
      The goal of this dissertation is to use Ricoeur’s understanding of metaphor as developed in The Rule of Metaphor to further our understanding of the self and its relation to other persons. While Ricoeur does eventually present a full-fledged anthropology, he develops it through narrative structure, which results in a conception of the self that is different than one derived through metaphor might have been. Namely, while a narrative self is congenial to alterity, our thesis is that a self that is conceived through metaphor would rely upon alterity at its most fundamental level: not as a detour or dialectic, but as its very condition of origin. After introducing Ricoeur’s understanding of metaphor in the first chapter, we will use each subsequent chapter to focus on several points after The Rule of Metaphor where Ricoeur might have developed his understanding of the self – and its relation to alterity – somewhat differently than he in fact did under the narrative structure.
    • 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]
    • 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.