Political affections: a theological enquiry
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The thesis is a theological enquiry into the nature of human affections (or ‘emotions’), their role in morality and their significance for political relations. The argument builds critically on the work of cognitivist theorists of emotion, such as Martha Nussbaum, who oppose both rationalist disavowals of the reasonableness of emotion and empiricist fascination with physical sensation. Nussbaum holds that emotions’ intentional (object-directed), evaluative quality indicates a cognitive aptitude. Using the language of ‘affection’, the argument shows how this aptitude shapes individuals’ and communities’ interrelation with their diverse systems of valuation, the created, vindicated moral order and creation’s God. Drawing on phenomenological and spiritual approaches, the endurance of affection is accounted for through the connection of memory and affection while virtue is assigned a secondary place as a fragmentary and less reliable contributor to such endurance. Affections emerge as the beginnings of attracted understanding concerning the world as it appears, the world as it is and the world as it will be, recognitions of value which are open to intersubjective discussion and initiate moral reflection and deliberation. Jonathan Edwards’ account of affections is found epistemologically and ethically implausible but his doctrine of excellency is adopted to interpret the nature of affections’ endurance and eschatological participation in the moral order. With particular attention to joy, shame, anger and awe, the intersubjective, affective dimension of political life is then explored through consideration of certain institutions, practices and traditions of modern political societies, ancient Israel and the early church as represented in Luke and Acts. Affective wisdom within institutions of political representation and law are considered in light of secular and Christian political eschatologies. Findings from this discussion then guide a conversation between European ‘constitutional patriotism’ and British conservatism which explores the connection between affections and locality. An account of national identity is given which takes localised affective understanding seriously yet relativises it in light of the transnational affective understandings which stem both from the international political system and from Christian faith. Finally, the role of churches’ affections within modern political society are discussed. Resources from the Lutheran tradition are utilised to examine the political significance of churches’ joyful praise of the crucified, risen Jesus Christ.