Knowing The Known Unknown: Comparing The Religious Epistemologies of Edward Schillebeeckx and Gendun Chopel In Response To Modernity
VonWachenfeldt, Jason M.
What can one ever know for certain? On what basis or "authority" can one ever assert any knowledge of objective "truth"? Such questions are not only quite common within much of contemporary society but are indeed becoming more and more common within religious communities and among the individual practitioners that comprise them. This study investigates how a comparison between the Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx's controversial reading of Thomist philosophy and the Tibetan Buddhist Gendun Chopel's challenge to the standard Geluk teaching of Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka philosophy might assist in rethinking conceptions of religious knowledge, particularly regarding questions of the authority of religious experiences, founders, and communities, within contemporary society. By employing an adapted and expanded version of Aaron Stalnaker's "Bridge Concepts" methodology from his work of comparative religious ethics, Overcoming Our Evil, this study seeks to show how Gendun Chopel's Buddhist Madhyamaka approach to the questions of knowledge in light of cultural conventionality and historical contingency can possibly better inform a Christian theological response to similar questions of modern society. Utilizing a wide variety of methodical approaches to establish an imaginary dialogue between these two thinkers, this comparison seeks to remain embodied in the thought and praxis of actual individuals, rather than simply in abstract religious ideas, and yet still firmly embedded within the conversations and trajectories of their broader religious traditions. Moreover, in order to ensure a focus on cultural relevancy and theological expediency, the comparison maintains a consciously constructive orientation--both in the creation of the dialogue itself as well as in its conclusions. Thus the final chapter constructively combines and contrasts the insights of both thinkers regarding the knowability of ultimate truth in order to develop new possible approaches to epistemology that will seek to assist the contemporary believer in avoiding the problematic nihilism of a purely subjectivist epistemology--which is so rampant in the contemporary "postmodern" milieu-- while still always maintaining and sharpening the practitioner's humility towards discourses on metaphysics through the critical eye of a deconstructive apophaticism.
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