Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thesis question articulation VIII: Possibility

Possibility: part one
Series begins back here.
Finally, we arrive at the beginning and find that it is the centre. The possibility of: these first words of the sub-title are critical, as they designate the sharp focus of this project, limiting its scope, directing its attention and making it, I believe, original research.

The project is not attempting to answer “what ought we (as Christians) to do now?” (i.e. under these modern conditions of perceiving a predicament of societal unsustainability), which is a much broader question of daunting scope and complexity, demanding careful and multifaceted answers. Its answers will develop and shift according to both the further development and understanding of our situation over time and according to our particular social location in the world with the opportunities and threats we find ourselves facing. It is also a question that has received much consideration from both within and without the Christian church.

This project is also not attempting to answer one subset of this broader question, namely “what ought we to think now?”. This too is critical and complex. An analysis of the cultural patterns of both behaviour and thought that have led us into this mess and suggestions for new conceptions or for the recycling of old ones are pressing needs of the hour. And once again, Christian and non-Christian thinkers are making interesting suggestions on these matters.

Instead, this project asks “under what theological conditions is moral thought even possible today?”. It will investigate the threats to reflection upon the question “what ought we to do (and think) now?”, the ways in which the process of attempting to answer it might be short-circuited or the moral landscape flattened out such that genuine moral though is attenuated. It is asking after the theological space that enables moral reflection to take its time without being hurried into an answer by the threat of contemporary or imminent crises. What is the character (rather than content) of moral thought during a predicament such as the one we presently face? How does the Christian gospel shape and provide for the moral self at this time? What is it about the good news that enables the possibility of moral attentiveness even (and perhaps especially) in today's adverse and apparently hopeless conditions?

Finally, the project is interested not only in the possibility of, but also the possibilities for Christian moral attentiveness. That is, not just about the preservation of Christian moral attentiveness against the various threats that may numb it, but also about how this predicament may even be a source of spiritual and moral renewal.
This post is part of a series in which I am outlining my current research question. My present working title, which this series seeks to explain, is "Anxious about tomorrow": The possibility of Christian moral attentiveness in the predicament of societal unsustainability.
A. Societal unsustainability: part one; part two
B. Predicament: part one; part two
C. Moral attentiveness: part one; part two
D. Christian: part one
E. Possibility: part one
F. Summary: part one


Mike W said...

I would like to commend you for avoiding the term 'towards' at the beginning of your question. (Although you could always include it when the thesis is published)

byron smith said...

Haha! At the moment, it feels more like I am moving away from pretty much everything in any case. Here's a new title suggestion:

Into the fog: Towards confusion and unclarity in all things