On tragedy and transcendence : a critical exposition of Donald MacKinnon and Rowan Williams in the context of a modern debate

Delport, Khegan M. (2019-04)

Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Theology. Dept. of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology.

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation is focused on the relation between Christian metaphysics and philosophies of the tragic. Its context is within a modern debate, a setting where this interrelation has become contested. Its research question can be phrased so: can a classical account of transcendence account for 'the tragic'? Or to put the question from the other side: are there grammars of transcendence associated with 'the tragic' (here understood as a metaphysical or philosophical trope) that hinder the reception of 'tragedy' within orthodox theology? For the purposes of this study, such a question becomes concretized within the debate around the critical reception of Donald MacKinnon, particularly amongst David Bentley Hart and John Milbank. The core argument of this dissertation proposes that the most pointed tension within this controversy is centered on the language of transcendence, and how Christian orthodoxy has traditionally conceptualized it (e.g. aseity, the analogia entis, the transcendental convertibility of goodness and oneness, etc.). It also suggests that there are refractions of 'the tragic' and 'transcendence' within the modern period that have created problems for the interrelations of a classical-orthodox metaphysics and the tragic. We specifically note three incarnations within the modern period, namely: the Kantian sublime, the suffering Absolute, and a rejection of the privatio boni. All of these concepts are related to the question of 'the tragic' in the contemporary debate, and also have application to the discussion of MacKinnon, as seen in the critical responses to his work we will be addressing. This study hopes to move the conversation forward by engaging in a critical exposition of Donald MacKinnon and Rowan Williams within the context of this contemporary discussion. The research suggests that MacKinnon's insightful commentary on the interconnections between metaphysics and the tragic is marred by a strong dependence on Kantianism, as well as some misguided attacks on the Augustinian account of evil. Thereafter, this study wagers that Rowan Williams provides a corrective supplementation to MacKinnon: he adopts Mackinnon's emphases on taking tragedy in complete seriousness, while simultaneously transcending several drawbacks associated with MacKinnon‘s approach. This can be seen in the way that Williams is able to incorporate a deep sense of historicity and the tragic within a robust metaphysics of creativity, language and analogy. Moreover, he offers a defense of aseity, analogical participation and the privatio boni in a manner that exhibits a coherency with a sense of the tragic. Overall, we desire to make a contribution to the conversation by placing MacKinnon's and Williams's reflections on the tragic within their wider theological projects, hereby developing the argument that classical orthodoxy is able to sustain, with integrity, a vision that includes tragedy within it.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie verhandeling val die klem op die verhouding tussen Christelike metafisika en filosofiese sienings van tragedie. Hierdie verhouding het in ‘n moderne konteks opnuut bestrede geword. Die navorsingsvraag sou dus soos volg geformuleer kon word: kan ‘n klassieke benadering tot transendensie rekening hou met 'die tragiese'? Die vraag sou ook andersom gestel kon word: bestaan daar grammatikas van transendensie waarin die verhouding tot 'die tragiese' (in die sin van ‘n metafisiese of filosofiese troop) weerstand bied teen die resepsie van 'tragedie' binne die ortodokse teologie? In belang van hierdie studie word die navorsingsvraag konkreet toegespits in die debat rondom die kritiese resepsie van Donald MacKinnon se werk, veral onder denkers soos David Bentley Hart en John Milbank. Die kern-argument van hierdie verhandeling is dat die bogenoemde twispunt die duidelikste na vore tree rondom die taal van transendensie; by name, hoe transendensie tradisioneel deur die Christelike ortodoksie gekonseptualiseer is (byvoorbeeld, aseïteit, die analogia entis, die transendentale verruilbaarheid van 'goedheid' en 'eenheid' ens.). Daar word ook beweer dat sekere moderne afstammelinge van 'die tragiese' en 'transendensie' probleme veroorsaak vir die verhouding tussen ‘n klassiek-ortodokse metafisika en tragedie as kunsvorm. Wat dit betref word drie voorbeelde in die moderne periode aangedui, naamlik: die Kantiaanse subliem, die lydende Absoluut, en die verwerping van die privatio boni. In die huidige debat staan al drie van hierdie konsepte in verhouding tot die vraag na 'die tragiese' so wel as die bespreking van MacKinnon – soos duidelik sal word in die kritiese reaksies op MacKinnon se werk wat ons sal bespreek. Deur ‘n kritiese eksposisie van Donald McKinnon en Rowan Williams voor te lê, beoog hierdie studie om die gesprek binne die bogenoemde konteks te bevorder. Die ondersoek stel voor dat MacKinnon se insiggewende kommentaar op die verhouding tussen metafisika en tragedie belemmer word deur ‘n sterk afhanklikheid van Kantianisme, so wel as ‘n aantal ongegronde aanvalle op die Augustiniaanse verstaan van die bose. In die lig hiervan, beweer hierdie studie dat Rowan Williams ‘n korrektief bied op MacKinnon: in ooreenstemming met MacKinnon beklemtoon Williams dat tragedie met algehele erns aanvaar behoort te word; tegelykertyd slaag hy daarin om ‘n aantal tekortkominge wat met MacKinnon se benadering verband hou die hoof te bied. Die waarde van Williams se bydrae kom veral na vore in die manier waarop hy dit regkry om ‘n diepgaande waardering vir 'historisiteit' en 'die tragiese' met ‘n sterk metafisika van kreatiwiteit, taal en analogie te versoen. Verder nog, kry Williams dit reg om ‘n verdediging van aseïteit, analogiese deelname en die privatio boni te bied wat koherent bly met ‘n waarderende sin vir die tragiese. Deur op hierdie manier MacKinnon en Williams se nadenke oor die tragiese binne die breë raamwerk van hulle teologiese projekte te plaas, hoop ons om die argument te bevorder dat ‘n klassieke ortodoksie goed geleë is om ‘n teologiese visie wat die tragiese insluit met integriteit te dra en te onderhou.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105994
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