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Dr. Nicholas Plants, Lecturer in Philosophy, Mount Saint Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Maryland
Principal Advisor: John Kavanaugh, SJ
The subjectivity of the human subject was neglected by many modern philosophers because they viewed it as an obstacle to securing objective knowledge. Contemporary philosophers have responded to this period of neglect by rejecting the representational model of knowledge which informs the disengaged picture of the human subject and exploring the lived experience of human subjectivity. Their reflections often begin with the philosophical question which motivates this dissertation: How is the human subject constituted?
The aim of my dissertation is to respond to this question in a thoughtful and novel manner. Rather than deny the possibility of objective knowledge, or distort our anthropological notions in the attempt to gain it, I will show that engaged human self-understanding helps us maintan an uncompromising, yet critical, realism. Such a realism need not be informed by the representational model of knowledge any more than it requires us to adopt the foundationalist aspirations that often distort our anthropological notions. Engaged self-understanding is as viable an option as is a picture of the human subject free from anthropological distortion. The disengaged subject is transformed into the subject as subject when these options are actualized.
I turn to Charles Taylor and Bernard Lonergan in order to effect this important transformation because they are two contemporary philosophers whose insights into human subjectivity challenge, as well as complement, each other in ways that enrich the unique position they form when taken together.
Engaged human self-understanding is made possible by authentic subjectivity, itself a function of human engagement by and in normative sources that call us beyond ourselves. Our constitution as human subjects thus has as much to do with the process whereby we participate in truth as with truth as the normative source that calls us to engaged self-transcendence.