Orthodox reading: religious diversity and the phenomenological structure of traditioned reason
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Broggi, Joshua David
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Broadly, this thesis examines the effect of Christian traditions on rationality. I offer an account of the specific way that Christian traditions affect processes of reasoning and supply the concepts that shape what counts as normal, good, and true. More specifically, this thesis examines the importance of world Christianity for philosophical theology. The global reception of Christianity has produced cases of biblical interpretation that pose problems for some European hermeneutical theories. This thesis considers those problems, and it asks questions about how they might reconfigure accounts of the relationship between rationality and ‘orthodoxy’. Hans-Georg Gadamer and his teacher Martin Heidegger respectively offered the ideas of ‘consciousness affected by history’ and ‘thrownness’. These both attempt to account for a single phenomenon: the effect of traditions on reasoning. These concepts acknowledge that humans are always already within traditions, and they attempt to describe the specific way that those traditions affect perceptions of the world, including how texts are understood. In this work I examine two specific cases of Christian reading, first analyzing a Bakongo community in central Africa, and then a Tamil bishop in southern India. Each case is followed by an examination of the theoretical claims made by Gadamer and Heidegger concerning the way traditions affect reason. The case studies expose problems in their description of that relationship, and I attempt to revise their concepts in order to account for the phenomena displayed in the case studies. The case studies demonstrate a powerful relationship between overarching commitments and the specific interpretive judgments or practices that become subordinated to them. The posthumous followers of Simon Kimbangu (1887 – 1951) appeared traditionally Christian in important respects, yet their recitation of the Nicene Creed, for instance, was actually directed by a commitment to the divinity of Simon Kimbangu. Conversely, the theology of A. J. Appasamy (1891 – 1975) embraced doctrines and practices that appeared Hindu, but these were used to express Christian commitments. I argue that traditions affect reason by providing an accumulation of commitments, and I analyze these commitments using the categories of ‘superordinate’ and ‘subordinate’. The dramatic interpretive habits revealed in the case studies are best indexed by accounting for the relationship between these terms. In the global reception of Christianity, the effect of superordinate commitments is not always obvious, but such directive commitments can reorient large bodies of judgments or practices. They are vital to an account of the relationship between rationality and ‘orthodoxy’.