Mobile Performances : A Philosophical Account of Linguistic Undecidability as Possibility and Problem in the Theology of Religion

University dissertation from Centre for Theology and Religious Studies

Abstract: How to judge religions other than one's own when the means are lacking due to linguistic mobility? In the present thesis this question is mainly analysed in a Christian setting through a reading of the theologians Paul Knitter and Harold Netland. It is, however, claimed that the same question could be asked in other religious settings, also with regard to one's own tradition, and could be treated as a general question?how to judge, evaluate, and criticise religion if the means to do that are lacking? The thesis starts by maintaining that the question of linguistic mobility/stability is an issue in theology. Furthermore, it shows how the means to make judgements are lacking in principle. An argument is formulated that no stable centre for meaning can be established. Negatively, it is argued that a perception of language which relies on ideas of stability is indefensible. Positively, it is argued that language has to be mobile in order to function. Subsequently, it is shown that linguistic mobility does not impede making descriptions of the world that function in our dealings with it. The claim is that linguistic entities have to be mobile in order to give space for newness in interpretation and understanding. The problematic aspect is that a stable meaning of the linguistic entities seems to be required when evaluative judgements are made, i.e. when right/wrong has to be affirmed. Now an idea of two levels of the discourse seems to allow for stability on a practical level and mobility on a reflective level. There is another problem regarding how to make judgements. The question is whether knowing and information automatically provide good judgements. Does true entail just? It is argued that this is not the case; judgements ultimately have to be made by human subjects, as responsible beings, not by impersonal principles. This is particularly important in ?non-trivial? judgements. A consequence is held to be that, when evaluating religions, a plurality of perspectives should be counted on, as there are different subjects, each of them with their needs and desires. That makes the author suggest an explicit problem-orientated approach in formulating theology of religion. This leads to the question of whether all judgement is arbitrary, entailing subjectivism. In this thesis it is claimed that judgements are interpretative acts made by responsible human subjects, but regulated in several respects; in particular, they are regulated by intersubjectivity, and by history and framework.

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