An Ethics of Doctrinal Emergence: Reading Newman with Augustine and Contemporary Information Theory
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Jeffrey J. CampbellLoyola University Chicago AN ETHICS OF DOCTRINAL EMERGENCE: READING NEWMAN WITH AUGUSTINE AND CONTEMPORARY INFORMATION THEORY The aim of this essay is to begin the process of a reconfiguration of the theological category of doctrinal development and to integrate an “emergent doctrinal ethics of belief” as an inextricable dimension of this category. Most scholarly writing on doctrinal development has taken place in the wake of the Enlightenment with its focus on epistemology, and doctrine is conceived of as “referencing” a quasi-metaphysical “res.” I attempt to “update” the guiding metaphors of doctrinal development with the goal of moving discussions away from an over emphasis on epistemology and “ossified” notions of doctrine. Information theory, with its unique property of “intangible transformability,” allows for this possibility. Since virtually all discussions of doctrinal development since Newman accept various tropes such as organic or biological growth, it is natural to appeal to more contemporary ideas of biological evolution. Today, new research in the areas of systems biology refer to flows of information and environmentally influenced “rule evolution” as defining features of biological sciences. I suggest that this “rule evolution” may be a helpful corrective to Lindbeck’s “rule theory” of doctrine. Conceiving doctrinal development in terms of information flow describes the way that unexpected ethical dilemmas emerge in the course of time. By appealing to Augustine’s de doctrina where the endless play of signification observed in both World and Scripture is limited only by the uncontrollable hermeneutical key of Caritas, I suggest that an expanded notion of Caritas as an emergent ethics of belief can provide a guardrail for the type of open-ended evolution observed in doctrinal development.
Campbell, Jeffrey John, "An Ethics of Doctrinal Emergence: Reading Newman with Augustine and Contemporary Information Theory" (2022). Dissertations. 3916.
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