Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This is an inquiry into the fundamental satisfaction of the needs of human persons. I claim that human persons need flourishing relationships based on the freely-offered gift of the virtue of merciful love. I define merciful love as the actual affective engagement or the potential affective engagement with another based upon a willingness to offer forgiveness to and/or communion with another person in need, due both to a recognition and embrace of another's personhood and to a recognition of one's own personhood. This need for merciful love derives from two metafeatures of human persons, imperfection and relationality. I also claim that this need for flourishing relationships based on merciful love is realized most fully in a relationship with a morally perfect, worship-worthy being, here named God. The desirability of such a relationship points us to the value of asking whether such a being does in fact exist. I argue that there are good reasons to posit that such a being exists, especially in light of the evidence provided by those whose lives have been transformed to radically unselfish merciful love.

Moreover, the gift-like nature of merciful love is such that it is offered without regard to what we deserve and it can only be offered intentionally. In turn, and given its role in the satisfaction of fundamental human need, merciful love reorients the way in which we envision good lives and good societies, including what is known as "the common good." Specifically, because merciful love becomes the primary moral value and freedom becomes the primary social value when we look to satisfy human need most truly and deeply, we may often weaken considerations of justice as guiding our ethical decisions. This conclusion, however challenging and controversial it may be, actually demands that we live in a way that fosters our ability to direct our attention first and foremost to the needs of human persons. Furthermore, agents who are attuned to merciful love are capable of satisfying human need more effectively in the long-run than could agents who primarily follow rules of justice or who promote outcomes based principally on justice.


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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.