Chapter

Historical Consciousness and Theological Foundations

John Finnis

in Religion and Public Reasons

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580095
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729416 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580095.003.0010
Historical Consciousness and Theological Foundations

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The 1992 Gilson Lecture to the Mediaeval Studies Institute in Toronto, this chapter undertakes a substantial and wide-ranging critique of the theory of ‘historical’ (as opposed to ‘classical’) consciousness elaborated in the later works of Bernard Lonergan and adopted by many theologians since the 1970s. The origins of the phrase, and its self-refuting deployment by Lonergan's predecessor in use of it are traced, and the ambiguities and inconsistencies in Lonergan's employment of it are shown in detail. Weaknesses in the Thomist tradition in relation to history are pointed out, and its neglect (and Lonergan's) of rationality norms is explored in relation to Hume's argument against miracles. The relevance of these problems to moral theology is the chapter's last major theme. Karl Rahner's theory of ‘changing human nature’ is challenged, and the form of coherent moral development traced with reference to marriage, usury, and religious freedom. The fall of Jerusalem and the dating of the Gospels is discussed.

Keywords: historical consciousness; classical consciousness; Lonergan; self-refutation; Thomism and history; rationality norms; Hume; miracles; Karl Rahner; changing human nature

Chapter.  12032 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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