THE OBJECTIVE LIMITATIONS OF TRANSCENDENTAL SUBJECTIVITY IN THE MORAL THEOLOGY OF KARL RAHNER (CONSCIENCE)

EDWARD FRANCIS ZUKOWSKI, Fordham University

Abstract

Karl Rahner's moral theology is noted for its emphasis upon the freedom and uniqueness of spirit. This has been viewed by certain critics as symptomatic of a dangerous subjectivism. This dissertation argues that Rahner's moral theology presupposes certain basic ontological and epistemological principles which serve as objective counterbalances to the vicissitudes of subjectivity, thus precluding the possibility of the subjectivism feared by critics.^ The study first isolates, analyzes and interprets these basic principles as they are disclosed in Rahner's metaphysical and theological anthropologies. This entails a detailed analysis of relevant portions of the seminal works Spirit in the World and Hearers of the Word. Examination is then made of how these principles operate within the explicitly moral aspects of Rahner's thought, especially in his treatment of conscience. Other areas of Rahner's thought are also analyzed to strengthen the argument of the paper. Due consideration is given to development in Rahner's thought especially as manifested in sensitivity to the precise dating of the sources cited. Secondary literature is extensively employed both to support the author's argument and to present contrasting views. The delimiting principles thus derived are outlined as follows.^ The fundamental moral posture of the Christian is to accept total and ultimate dependency upon the free will of the Trinitarian God. This is not simply some vague, purely formal, intentionality; it is materially specified in the acceptance of certain objective limitations upon subjectivity's freedom.^ Ontologically, spirit, albeit transcendental, finds itself essentially finite and always referred to the objective structures of its existence for self-actualization. These structures possess their own inner meanings, provide outer limits, and manifest a power to be accepted in faith. Epistemologically, subjectivity is ambiguous to itself, i.e., it can never be absolutely certain of its status before God, and this precludes the possibility of spirit making an analysis of its own subjective state the ultimate norm of morality.^ The author concludes with personal observations on a perceived failure of contemporary Roman Catholic moral theology to take sufficiently into account some of these limitations which so concerned Rahner. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

ZUKOWSKI, EDWARD FRANCIS, "THE OBJECTIVE LIMITATIONS OF TRANSCENDENTAL SUBJECTIVITY IN THE MORAL THEOLOGY OF KARL RAHNER (CONSCIENCE)" (1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8506369.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506369

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