Dissertation Abstract

The Plural and Ambiguous Self: The Theological Anthropology of David Tracy

Stephen Okey
Director: Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM

This dissertation explicates and evaluates the theological anthropology of David Tracy. Through a reading of the whole of Tracy’s published theological corpus, it argues that Tracy’s work on theological method, hermeneutics, public theology, and otherness rests on an implicit and evolving understanding of the human person. This anthropology is rooted in four key characteristics or “anthropological constants”: finitude, relationality, sin, and grace.

The methodological approach of the dissertation is genealogical and hermeneutical. Each of these four constants is taken as an interpretive lens through which the dissertation considers the development of Tracy’s thought. This approach will demonstrate first how finitude, relationality, sin, and grace are interwoven in Tracy’s work, and second how the development of his core theological loci of method, interpretation, public-ness, pluralism, and otherness are rooted in these four constants.

The text concludes with an evaluation of Tracy’s theology anthropology in light of his context as a North American, late 20th century, Catholic theologian. Tracy’s work provides insight into the interdependence of theological method and anthropology. However, while he attends to the importance of how historical, linguistic, and social context shape human persons, his conceptual approach to context tends to ignore particularity and embodiment. Nevertheless, the four “constants” of Tracy’s theological anthropology could fruitfully engage contemporary currents such as ecotheology and disability theology.

This dissertation is the most thorough and sustained foray into the question of David Tracy’s theological anthropology to date, and as such provides a significant contribution to the field of 20th/21st century North American Catholic theology.

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