Between God and man : personhood, Trinity, and the metaphor of text : an essay in theological deconstruction
The project of this thesis is to begin the task of re-assessing the notion of personhood, particularly in respect of its role in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, in the light of post-structuralist critical theory. Taking Jacques Derrida's critique of western thought as its starting point, the author attempts to undertake a deconstructive reading of the notion of pesonhood and its conceptual background through the texts of philosophy and theology. In Chapter 1 the author portrays, in the style of cultural criticism, the central themes of Hebrew and Greek thought, and tradition has dominated our western thought, yet our Hebraic heritage remains important. In juxtaposing these two traditions the author sets up two terrains upon which the critique will be developed. The critique begins in Chapter 2. The author explores the way in which philosophy has marginalised the polysemous features of language. The author argues that it is in these features, and not in the logical structures of analysis, that the essence of language lies. The author goes on to portray language as risk taking. The author then examines the ways in which philosophy has attempted to master the `flux' of change and temporality by privileging the present. The author establishes, through a re-reading of Husserl, that an escape from the flux is impossible. Using Kierkegaard's notion of repetition, he distinguishes two movements in which Being is possible amidst the flux, viz. recollection and repetition. The author goes on to discuss the approaches of three philosophers, Aquinas, Heidegger, and Derrida, who recognize in Being a differential structure. Three key terms are picked out for special examination: Aquinas' use of the term subsistentia in his understanding of Being per se, Heidegger's notion of the Ereignis, and Derrida's exposition of difference. Finally, the author presents his own account of Being in terms of the movements of recollection and repetition. Here the political and ethical prejudice which underpins the conceptual framework of the tradition becomes exposed. The author then develops an account of personhood drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Being is to be understood in terms of the relation of identity and alterity, a relation of responsibility. This results in a re-interpretation of the themes of Ereignis, difféance, and subsistentia. The author goes on to examine Levinas' notion of `being in responsibility', explaining it in terms of the movement of repetition. This leads to an interpretation of the meaning of pesonhood in terms of the meaning of the word persona. Finally, the author demonstrates that persons only `come to be' in the context of society, in which `being as responsibility' issues forth as a concern for justice, and it is out of the concern for justice that consciousness is born. On this basis, the author argues that all language is fundamentally theological. If, as Levinas argues, all speech bears witness to the Infinite as a concern for justice between persons in society, then in this witness the Trinity is revealed. The author goes on to discuss the attempts of Moltmann and Zizioulas to explain the Trinity in social rather than ontological terms. Developing their insights, the author goes on to sketch out an account of the Trinity as the foundation and source of the divine life and being, which in turn is to be understood in ethical terms - as infinite justice. The whole argument is presented within the framework of extracts from T.S. Eliot's `Four Quartets', to which the argument adverts, and to which the body of the thesis acts as an indirect commentary.