Disunity and Paradox Open Access

Elia, Gino (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pv63g0987?locale=en


In certain religious interpretations, there are those who believe that the will of God functions as a moral monism and the belief in community as moral otherness, and that behind the distinction exists a tension or incompatibility between these two moral locations (moral loci). This incompatibility gives rise to a disunity in the mind, and while the vast majority of moral actions in public sphere are unaffected, the contradistinction presents itself in experience with the resonance of an either/or. The purpose of this thesis was to address the incompatibility and attempt to unify conflicting moral loci within the methodological framework given by William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience. Along the way, I recast the incompatibility in Søren Kierkegaard's work Fear and Trembling as a 'conflict' (teleological suspension) between the religious and the ethical spheres. I extrapolate from the Abraham-Isaac story that a kind of private religious modality forms for the individual. A unification of being or of conscience emerges through partitioning religious and ethical commitments to different parts in one's life, and this partitioning restricts the possibility for unconditional community of otherness, in particular dialogue. Under the insights of Emmanuel Levinas in Totality and Infinity, the incompatibility of moral loci is dissolved in the pre-reflective face-to-face interaction, and thus the distinction of moral loci in practice and its consequents, tension and dissonance, are precluded by the divinity found in the otherness immersed in lived experience. This gives rise to the restoration of unity I term 'unconditional unification'. With the addition of the second type of unification, I compare the two models and cast the incompatibility as an 'either/or' between the interiority and exteriority of the individual in relation to God. Kierkegaardean individualism corresponds to interiority, and exteriority corresponds to the infinity found in Levinas. As a seminal implication, the responsibility for the incompatibility is then weighed in the nature of the individual, rather than their interpretation of the divine will.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction 1

II. Unification and Methods 12

III. The Religious and the Ethical 32

IV. Unification of Being in the Religious and the Ethical 54

V. Unification and God as the Absolute Other 76

VI. Conclusions and the 'Either/Or' of the Individual in the Divine Relation 98

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