Final Examination of
For the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
4:30 p.m., Caldwell Room 125
Deciphering the Gift of Love: Reading Augustine’s De Trinitate through Jean-Luc Marion
Director: Brian V. Johnstone, C.SS.R., S.T.D.
The objective of this dissertation is to develop a new appreciation for how the gift of love traverses the distance between the intended signification of the Trinity and the impossibility—for us—of that very signification.
Part I explores the promise of recent scholarship (e.g. that of L. Gioia, M. Hanby, P. Kolbet, L. Ayres) and interprets De Trinitate not as a metaphysical modeling of the Trinity in se, but as an rational study of the limits of theological signification. When read in light of Augustine’s understanding of the relationship between hermeneutics and conversion, and emphasizing the missions of the Son and Spirit, De Trinitate offers an exposition of the soteriological transformation of the human person toward remembering, understanding, and loving God.
Part II considers the gift of love in the phenomenology of Jean-Luc Marion. Supported by his concept of the saturated phenomenon, Marion offers a rigorous description of the gift of love as advancing according to its own reason and approaching not a conceptual abstraction, but a particular beloved. This gift divests the ego of its self-groundedness, inviting instead a understanding of the subject that is responsive to givenness and love, a subject that is gifted and devoted: the adonné. This rationality of love illuminates the key tension in Marion’s work as one between the indetermination and limits of phenomenology and the particularity and excess demanded by the phenomenon of love.
Part III is the site of the convergence of Marion’s phenomneology with Augustine’s own understanding of love’s significance to trinitarian revelation. Marion’s erotic reduction offers to De Trinitate an iconic description of the love by which God’s self-revelation is mediated to us. The responsive love of the adonné sharpens Augustine’s concept of the human being as made to the image of God and marks the revelation of the Trinity in the making possible what would otherwise be impossible for us: our advance in love. In turn, De Trinitate provides for Marion the revealed name by which God might be called upon in and through the particularity of love: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.