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Rethinking Rationality: Theological Anthropology in light of Profound Cognitive Impairment, Relationality, Embodiment and Personhood

KANIARU, ANTONY (2012) Rethinking Rationality: Theological Anthropology in light of Profound Cognitive Impairment, Relationality, Embodiment and Personhood. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The aim of this thesis is to rethink the question of rationality as the defining mark of what it is to be human in light of profoundly cognitively impaired individuals. We attempt to hold a conversation between theologians who traditionally emphasized rationality, and those who stress relationality as the sine qua non of human beings in order to demonstrate that both have traditionally marginalized individuals who are cognitively impaired. Finally following Karl Barth, we attempt to retrieve the theme of embodiment to augment relationality in theological anthropology. In Part I (chapter 2 and 3) we analyse the historical understanding of the imago Dei from a Christian West perspective. We trace the tradition from Joseph Fletcher back to Irenaeus through Aquinas and Augustine, and examine how their notions of the imago Dei have traditionally marginalized intellectually impaired persons. By equating the imago with ‘rational souls’, the tradition perpetuates the exclusion and stigmatization of cognitively impaired persons. Chapter 3 analyses the rationality-relationality turn, i.e., the effort by Christian theology to overcome the traditional overemphasis of rationality. Here we engage with Eastern Orthodox theologians John Zizioulas and Christos Yannaras who can be considered paradigmatic examples for a relational anthropology and thus are of particular importance in the popularization of the ‘relational turn’. In Part II (chapter 4, 5 and 6), we offer an alternative to the rationality-relationality turn by following Karl Barth. Here we push against a Cartesian dualistic ‘criterion of personhood’, and argue that the belief there is a polar opposition between body and soul (mind) is a category mistake. Thus we attempt to retrieve the theme of embodiment in light of profound cognitive impairment. In chapter 5, we engage with John Rawls and Martha Nussbaum to show that most theories of justice are also culpable of marginalizing intellectually impaired individuals. Here we attempt to show why secular theories of justice do not work, and so finally suggest a theistic grounding of justice. Chapter 6 examines the practical issue of care for fellow human beings who are cognitively impaired.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Rationality, Relationality, Theological Anthropology, Cognitive Impairment, Embodiment, Personhood, Justice, Human Rights
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Mar 2013 08:31

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