Feminist Theological Analysis and the Bias of Oppression: Methodological Insights from the Work of Bernard Lonergan

Title: Feminist Theological Analysis and the Bias of Oppression: Methodological Insights from the Work of Bernard Lonergan
Authors: Gray, Susan L.
Date: 8-Mar-2018
Abstract: The goal of this study is to contribute to the methodologies of feminist theologies through the work of Bernard Lonergan, in particular through his approach to bias of the human mind. More specifically, Lonergan insisted that the cognitive nature of bias is actually polymorphous, and manifests as four distinct types of bias. I address two of these biases: the group bias and the general bias of common sense. By arguing that bias is a deformation in our understanding of the world, he also argued that it is a deformation in our constituting of ourselves in the world. In studying the work of various feminist theologians, their methodologies commonly call for solutions to gendered oppression within a justice critical theory framework. While this is necessary, I find that the Christian virtue of charity is not accorded enough weight as a viable response to oppression, but rather subsumed into the ideal of justice itself within many Christian feminist solutions to gendered oppression. It is my hypothesis that a dialectical analysis of gendered oppression, based on Lonergan's notion of the general bias, can make a valid contribution to the dialogue of certain contemporary Catholic feminist theologies. This is explained fully in the first chapter. In terms of methodology and organization, I present the state of the question through a representative overview of Catholic dialogue partners concerning the issue of the full agency of women, highlighting in particular the work of Susan Ross, Margaret Farley and Lisa Sowle Cahill. As the basis of Chapter 2, I identify how they address women's bodies, being and intersubjectivity in terms of Christian agency. Chapters 3 and 4 serve as the theoretical foundation for this study, with a detailed exposition of Lonergan's notion of bias, and how biases interoperate dialectically. Chapter 3 is primary research drawn directly from Lonergan's writings. Chapter 4 includes the work of three Lonergan scholars: Robert Doran, Matthew Lamb and Patrick Byrne. Their interpretations of Lonergan's framework of dialectic demonstrate how Lonergan's notions of the group and general biases operate and reinforce each other, and furthermore, negatively affect value appropriation. Chapter 5 focuses on the work of Catholic feminist theologian, M. Shawn Copeland, who employs many of Lonergan's dialectical tools in her own work. This chapter is especially pertinent to my overall hypothesis since Copeland's work demonstrates how Lonergan's approach to bias can be effectively applied within a gendered context of oppression. Theologically, her work aptly illustrates that any solution to gendered oppression cannot be situated outside the infusion of God's redeeming grace. This approach to bias is a matter of social justice, but includes a solution that can only be authentically realized through the gift of God's grace. Finally, Chapter 6 stands as a concise summary of my research findings in this study. By exploring Lonergan's notion of bias in sufficient depth, particularly his contention that the nature of human bias is cognitively polymorphic, I validate my suspicion that many feminist theologians methodologically treat bias as a homogeneous phenomenon of human thinking. Lonergan's unique approach to human dialectic casts human oppression in a more comprehensive light when placed within his broader theory-interiority heuristic framework, as exemplified within the work of M. Shawn Copeland. By recognizing the more problematic form of the general bias of common sense and how it exacerbates the group bias, the theologian can thereby view the scope of the problem of contextual oppression more broadly. When both biases are identified, the problem of the dialectic at hand calls for a viewpoint that appeals to justice, but justice that is based on divine-human agency.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/37301
CollectionThèses Saint-Paul // Saint Paul Theses