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Individualism and the Christian Call: Catholic Theology of Vocation in an Emersonian Key

MYERS, BRADLEY,REMINGTON (2024) Individualism and the Christian Call: Catholic Theology of Vocation in an Emersonian Key. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Bradley Myers Doctoral Dissertation) - Accepted Version


Might we hope for a form of individualism that is at once vocational and Catholic? This dissertation answers in the affirmative. In the course of doing so, it enlists the services of one of individualism’s great champions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, for Catholics an unlikely ally, to be sure, but one whom Catholics, by the end of this rapprochement, will come to appreciate as a kindred spirit. The species of individualism associated with the name of Emerson resonates with themes sounded by the Church through the Second Vatican Council and in magisterial documents since. These themes invite us to consider the conditions of possibility for a ‘culture of vocation.’ Both the contemporary Catholic vision of a culture of vocation and the Emersonian vision of ‘self-reliance’ share a set of metaphysical presumptions that are best described as a sort of ‘Platonism.’ It is against the background of their shared Platonic imaginations—a background often obscured and misunderstood—that a theology of vocation not only begins to make the most sense but also to come across as compelling. The Platonic metaphysics of vocation organize phenomena associated with the subject-side of salvation such that vocation itself might be appreciated as a mode of divine self-communication—the form that revelation takes when it is addressed personally to the individual. In the absence of a well-formed Platonic imagination, one tends to understand vocation within the boundaries of the Epicurean imagination – the ‘default’ position in much of contemporary society – in which the very idea of being called personally by God can only seem like ‘hearing voices,’ something either miraculous or pathological, perhaps even bordering on madness. In conclusion, we establish that Emersonian individualism might even have something constructive to offer those engaged in efforts to reconcile People of God and commuio approaches to contemporary Catholic ecclesiology.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Catholic Vocation Platonism Individualism Ralph Waldo Emerson
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Jan 2024 11:44

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