Mystery and Method: The Other in Rahner and Levinas

By Michael Purcell | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

When Lady Study, the wife of Intelligence, directs the Dreamer to her cousin Learning in William Langland's story of Piers the Ploughman, she confesses that

Theology has always caused me a lot of trouble. The more I ponder and delve into it, the darker and mistier it seems to me to be. It is certainly no science for subtle invention, and without love it would be no good at all. But I love it because it values love above all else; and grace is never lacking where love comes first ( Langland 1966, 117-18).

We might say that, for Lady Study, the essential interest of theology is love. Rather than being a purely speculative of theoretical pursuit, theology, practical in intent, verges on being an ethical endeavour. Like philosophy, it might be considered as "the wisdom of love in the service of love" ( Levinas 1981, 161-62). A similar thought can be recognised in Rahner when he speaks of "Love as a reflected and explicit mode of action and as an unconceptualised transcendental horizon of action" ( Rahner 1969c, 237). "Love of neighbour," he says, "even and especially if we regard it to begin with as a moral phenomenon... is the basis and sum total of the moral as such" (ibid. 239-40). But love is not only a moral phenomenon. Rather, the love of one's neighbour is "so radical and absolute" that it "overcomes" the meaning of subjectivity as "the possession of oneself" and sees it instead as an openness "to an absolute origin which is not ourselves" (see Rahner 1972, 188). One becomes a subject in the ethical relationship with one's neighbour. "The act of personal love for another human being is therefore the all-embracing basic act of man which gives meaning, direction, and measure to everything else" ( Rahner 1969c, 241). Ultimately, spiritual knowing and willing" are reducible to this "all- embracing act" and this "unconceptualised transcendental horizon of action"; and so too is theology. Theology is primarily ethical in intent, "valuing love above all else." It is this relation between theology and ethics which we want to pursue in this book, taking as our guides Karl Rahner and Emmanuel Levinas.


0.1 RAHNER AND LEVINAS: THE POSSIBILITY AND NECESSITY OF THE CONFRONTATION.

Now, the attempt to confront such seemingly diverse "thoughts" as Rahner and Levinas presents difficulties and challenges. Any con-

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Mystery and Method: The Other in Rahner and Levinas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Introduction xii
  • Endnotes xxxiii
  • 1. Method 1
  • 1.7 Summary 56
  • Endnotes 59
  • 2 Philosophical Origins 119
  • Endnotes 121
  • 3. Questioning Presence 129
  • 3.5 Summary 166
  • Endnotes 169
  • 4. Subjectivity and Alterity 171
  • 5. Desiring the Other Or, the Prevenience of Grace 223
  • 5-5 Summary 246
  • Endnotes 248
  • 6 the Sacramentality of the Face, Or, Sacramental Signification 251
  • Endnotes 294
  • 7. Being Ethical 297
  • Endnotes 333
  • 8 the Mystery of the Other 335
  • Endnotes 357
  • Bibliography 359
  • Index 383
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