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Scott Patrick Kelly

Formal existential ethics in the thought of Bernard Lonergan and Ignatius of Loyola


University of Chicago
Degree: PhD
Date: 2000 ; 336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-542-62945-7
Advisors: John Haughey & Jon Nilson

Abstract: The underlying, operative question of my entire project concerns the formal relationship of 'spirituality' to ethics. I contend that spiritual experience is normative for ethics: one's elected worldview orders feeling-values according to an appropriated scale of preference. To analyze the normative influence of spiritual experience on feeling-values, I begin by defining the term spirituality and then use an article written by Karl Rahner as a framework for identifying a particular form of ethics. I then examine the thought of Bernard Lonergan for an adequate account of subjectivity. With a viable anthropology in place, I examine Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises to understand the normative function of spiritual experience. I conclude with a case study from Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness that illustrates how spiritual experience functions as a normative source for moral-decision making. A few important implications emerge. First, spirituality and spiritual experience are not a distinct, superfluous realm separate from the moral. To the contrary, spiritual experience is central to any discussion of values, and therefore, of ethics. Second, religious experience, like any other subjective data, must be understood, judged, and chosen if it is to be reliable. As data emerging from the realm of interiority, it should not be categorically dismissed as erratic, random, unintelligible, overly emotional, or exclusively subjective. Third, since values attach to worldviews, it is important for the ethicist to examine the way particular worldviews assemble scales of preference with regard to feeling-values. Furthermore, it is also important for the ethicist to understand how worldviews relate to each other: genetically, complementarily, or dialectically. Fourth, given transcendental method and the criteria for authentic subjectivity, there is a means to address the dialectic relationship of worldviews.

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