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Title: Towards a theology of freedom : a critical engagement with the stem cell debate in dialogue with the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
Author: Sowerbutts, Anne Marie
ISNI:       0000 0001 3473 4342
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2008
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Freedom is a key element in contemporary Western thinking and one which is central to all bioethical discussions, including the stem cell debate. However, the adequacy of the current understanding of the concept has not been subject to sufficient analysis. In order to address this deficiency, using the stem cell debate as a case study, I engage with the current understanding of freedom in a particular area of social activity. Examining the stem cell debate, I consider that freedom is defined in three ways; as the freedom of research, as the consent of gamete and embryo donors to create stem cells and as the freedom to transcend physical limitations. I argue that Isaiah Berlin’s categorization of freedom as negative and positive is useful in examining the understandings of freedom in the stem cell debate. I conclude that all of the currently accepted understandings of freedom in the stem cell debate tend to be focused on the individual and I argue that they are consequently problematic, resulting in individualism, conflict, subjectivism and inappropriate attitudes toward natural resources. In response to the problems identified, in the second part of the thesis I draw on the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar in order to offer an alternative conception of freedom. Von Balthasar argues that although freedom entails individual willing and choosing, it also is relational, involving interaction with other people and God, both in the realisation of the possession of freedom and in the fulfilment of that freedom. Thus I argue that von Balthasar’s theology provides an effective counter to the neglect of relationships in the contemporary understanding of freedom. However von Balthasar, in his analysis, focuses on interpersonal relationships and he can be criticised for underplaying the role of society. I therefore expand upon his work employing the concept of the common good. This provides a means of examining freedom in the context of wider society. The conception of freedom thus arrived at is then considered in relation to the original case study of the stem cell debate. In doing this I provide a more nuanced rendering of the issues involved; one that is better able to accommodate the social and personal aspects.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hans Urs von Balthasar Stem cells Freedom