Figuring Flesh in Creation : Merleau-Ponty in Conversation with Philosophical Theology

Detta är en avhandling från Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University

Sammanfattning: This work stages a conversation between the French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and philosophical theology, specifically as developed along an Augustinian trajectory. As the conversation unfolds, the outline of a new ontology is progressively sketched out – one that seeks to preserve the integrity of human beings as part of the natural world, as well as the integrity of the natural world in the presence of human existence. The search for this ontology involves three closely related questions and themes: (1) Philosophical anthropology – how can we understand ourselves to be deeply rooted in nature, while also significantly transcending our material infrastructures towards the uniquely human? (2) The question of meaning – where is meaning rooted and how does it evolve? And most importantly, how do human beings participate in bringing forth the meaning of the world? (3) Ontology proper – within what kind of ontological framework can questions about human existence in relation to the rest of nature, and the ongoing development of meaning-structures, be fruitfully pursued? In Part One, these questions and themes are pursued from a broadly Merleau-Pontian perspective, and also in dialogue with contemporary developments in theoretical biology and the philosophy of mind. In Part Two, it is argued that Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, culminating in the so-called ontology of flesh, can serve as an important dialogue partner for contemporary philosophical theology. Through a discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s critique of Christian theology, and of the alternative logic of creation in Augustine and Aquinas, philosophical-theological resources are identified for attempting to understand the enigma of human being in the world. In particular, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is shown to have consequences that are directly relevant to a broader conversation about the place and role of human beings in the natural world. Through a sensitive reading of Augustine’s creational ontology alongside Merleau-Ponty’s ontology of flesh, new hermeneutical possibilities are opened up for constructive philosophical theology as it seeks to articulate an ontology which is in tune with its own most fundamental commitments, as well as with the phenomena.