Details of Thesis

Title Karl Rahner and the Option of Grace in Freedom: A critical examination of Rahner's understanding of both fundamental option and virtue ethics and the link between them in the light of their classical antecedents and contemporary developments in moral theology, moral philosophy and fundamental theology
Author Warner, James Jonathan
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 1998
Abstract 1 Aim of this Thesis. The aim of this thesis is to critically examine the understanding of the relationship between fundamental option and virtue ethics in the work of Karl Rahner. This is done in the light of: both the classical heritage of virtue ethics and its contemporary recovery in post modernity: both the pre-history of the fundamental option and the contemporary issues of post modernity surrounding it. The work of Karl Rahner has been chosen as the subject of this thesis because, first, as the pre-eminent post-conciliar Catholic theologian, he developed the leading theory of fundamental option based on fundamental freedom, and second, as a self confessed Thomist, he also included virtue theory within his theology. These two traditions in moral theology, of virtue theory and fundamental option theory, have not only developed in relative mutual isolation (the former largely confined to the English speaking world, the latter a product of continental moral theology) but they have also been seen in some quarters as irreconcilable. This thesis uses the example of Karl Rahner to provide a bridgehead between these two distanced ethical theories. The example of the reconciliation of these two traditions in the work of Karl Rahner will be pursued in the setting of postmodernity. This provides the opportunity to assess the continuing significance of the theology of Karl Rahner. 2 The Scope of the Thesis. The thesis begins by stating the problem under examination, that is, that there has been no sustained analysis of the link between virtue ethics and fundamental option in the work of Karl Rahner (or any other contemporary moral theologian). The setting for this thesis topic is briefly considered. First, the setting of postmodernity is examined and then second, the profound impact of the Second Vatican Council on contemporary moral theology is examined, in particular with regard to the development of the perspective of moral agency. In order to establish the link between virtue ethics and fundamental option, an understanding of these two approaches per se is developed, beginning with the precursors of fundamental option (in particular, the approach of Aquinas) and then the recovery of virtue and its classical antecedents, (in particular, Aristotle and Aquinas). Both these concerns have been influenced by the shift in moral theory from moral act to moral agency, with a concern for the moral dimension of the psychology and communitarian perspective of the human person. Attention is also given to the role of passions and the hexis/habitus controversy in virtue theory insofar as they impinge on the understanding of freedom in fundamental option. This general setting of the history of Christian ethics is then given a narrower focus with the work of Karl Rahner. Various aspects of his thought are examined, in particular his intellectual heritage, his transcendental anthropology, and his perspectives on moral theology. The focus is narrowed further to particular components of his theology, viz. his understanding of fundamental option, fundamental freedom, Ignatian mysticism, supernatural existential, virtue ethics, theology of grace and metaphysics of knowledge. The Rahnerian understanding of virtue ethics and fundamental option is considered further with regard to the issues raised in the contemporary debate on these subjects. His metaphysics of knowledge is also considered in relation to the contemporary concern of virtue epistemology and the rediscovery of metaphysics. The link between fundamental option and virtue ethics in the work of Karl Rahner is examined with reference to antecedents in Aquinas et alii and contemporary minimalist approaches. 3 Conclusions. Despite the fact that there is no systematic treatment of either fundamental option or virtue ethics in the Foundations of Christian Faith (Rahner's most systematic work) and further, that Rahner seemed unaware of the recovery of virtue ethics, it has been possible to establish in Rahner's work a link between fundamental option and virtue. The link is explicitly embedded in an an obscure way in diverse works but it is more importantly and implicitly preeminently dependent on the theological virtues. For example, faith is the exercise of a fundamental option for or against God, not a process of categorical choice or habit, but a state of fundamental freedom. What stands behind the exercise of faith, and the other theological virtues of hope and love are all the components of his transcendental anthropology, viz. fundamental freedom, supernatural existential, grace and metaphysic of knowledge. They all have as their terminus the virtue of faith, that is belief with absolute assent. Rahner also gives centrality to the virtues of hope and love. The three theological virtues are the three basic perfections of Christian existence which abide and last. They are interrelated, distinguishable yet possess a unity and condition one another. The theological virtues vis-a-vis the fundamental option are pre-eminent, have unity in diversity and are linked intimately with both the supernatural existential and fundamental option in grace and freedom. They are at the centre of Rahner's anthropology even if they are heavily camouflaged. They reflect Rahner's Thomist heritage, they lend themselves, via Rahner's metaphysic of knowledge, to a virtue epistemology, to a recovery of metaphysics and they contribute to a contemporary philosophical psychology in the setting of postmodernity and engagement with the leading concerns of postmodernism.
Thesis 01front.pdf  463KB
02chapters1-2.pdf 2,255KB
03chapters3-4.pdf  4,775KB
04chapters5-6.pdf 2,889KB
05chapter7.pdf  3,203KB
06chapter8.pdf 4,132KB
07chapters9-10.pdf  3,682KB
08chapter11.pdf 1,761KB

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