OWNING ONE'S FAITH AND BELIEF
Dissertation by Dr. Bill Spencer
Web Presence sponsored by Joan Spencer & Associates
© 2002 J.S.& A. Pty Ltd.
THE INDIVIDUAL AND HETERONOMY, AUTONOMY AND THEONOMY
Tillich also has been influenced by Rudolph Otto who describes the two functionsof the holy as attractive and repulsive- the fascinating and the shaking (mysterium fascinans et tremendum). He says that the human heart seeks the infinite because the infinite is where it wants to rest. In the infinite it sees its own fulfilment.
"This is the reason for the ecstatic attraction and fascination of everything in which ultimacy is manifest. On the other hand, as well as realising the holy's fascination there is also a realisation of the infinite distance of the finite from the infinite and this is experienced in a feeling of being consumed in the presence of the divine and the negative judgement over any finite attempt to reach the infinite."
Tillich sees in the mysterious character of the holy an ambiguity that is experienced in mankind's way of experiencing it. Thus the holy can appear as creative and as destructive. This ambiguity Tillich called divine-demonic,
Tillich talks of a fight being waged between the demonic-destructive element in the holy.
Faith for Tillich is not simply faith in the creative dynamics of the divine. It can also be exercised idolatrous faith, however when such faith is exercised it is demonic or ultimately destructive. He says that the holy which is demonic is still holy. Consequently our ultimate concern can destroy us or heal us-but we can never be without it.
Essentially Tillich views faith as being a finite act with all its limitations, but it is also an act in which the infinite participates. The finite being is grasped by, and turned to the infinite. It is this grasping by the infinite that gives faith its certainty, because by being grasped, the finite experiences the holy. Conversely, it is certain only in so far as it is an experience of the holy. It is uncertain in so far as the "infinite to which it is related is received by a finite being." The interweaving of various threads to make a whole once more becomes very evident when Tillich speaks of faith. He says that the element of uncertainty in faith cannot be removed, it must be accepted. However, to accept this element is courage." In the courageous standing of uncertainty, faith shows most visibly its dynamic character." The reader will be reminded that it is the threat of non-being that gives being its dynamic. Without the possibility of non-being God would not be dynamic. Unless faith takes into itself the threat of uncertainty, it cannot be dynamic. Having given consideration to Tillich's understanding of the relationship of the individual person to autonomy, heteronomy and theonomy, we return to the Enlightenment to consider Immanuel Kant's understanding of heteronomy and autonomy.
Kant presented the "categorical imperative" as the basic principle of morality. 'Autonomy' is one of the three conceptual models that Kant employed in his presentation of the categorical imperative. For Kant autonomy is the most adequate expression of the principle of morality. This is because autonomy expresses morality's unconditional character. So important for Kant is the presentation of the autonomy of the will as the supreme principle of morality that he devotes a major section of his Groundwork in the Metaphysics of Ethics to its exploration and even begins with a redefinition of the categorical imperative.:
Hence the principle of autonomy is:
The concept of autonomy has been subject to significant change since Kant, consequently it is essential that one realises that for Kant autonomy means the ready acceptance, the ability to rationally interpret and apply a universal and necessary law of reason by the ethical subject. The law of reason has an unconditional claim on the ethical subject. Consequently Kant does not avoid the use of the word obedience, but rather emphasises that, intrinsic to one's understanding of autonomy of the will is obedience to this law, of its nature as commandment, and as necessity and absolute validity.
The twentieth century concept of autonomy, after Sartre, tends to be somewhat suspicious of the word "obedience". The word itself suggests some form of heteronomy. Kant however, was very clear that heteronomy was the opposite of autonomy. Thus material inclination, goals and pursuits peculiar to the individual and motivation external to the individual, such as rewards and punishments were for Kant all heteronomous. In his classification of heteronomous principles, Kant saw them either as empirical or rational.
Consequently, Kant could not derive morality from the perfect will of God as understood from theology. Such a disposition for Kant rests on;
It is at this juncture that Tillich and Kant part company. Although Tillich was appreciative of the mysterium fascinans et tremendum, the holy as attractive and repulsive, in the sense of the awe and majesty of God, it is doubtful that he would have used those attributes in the same way as Kant. Kant appears not to be aware of a concept like theonomy, and if this assumption is correct, then it would appear that Kant adopts an either/ or position; either autonomy or heteronomy. Out of his autonomy he rejects the God of might and vengeance as a God who relates to people in a heteronomous way. The autonomy of Kant, being principled opens up the possibility that in fact it was a form of theonomy, although not named as such. Kant still considered himself a Christian, and would not have agreed that his autonomy would have denied him that claim. Kant however, is directing his attack on a theistic theology, and in this both Tillich and Kant would concur. They differ, however in the area of epistemology. Kant's theory of knowledge depends on rationalism, and as Tillich says,
"Rationalism tries to develop principles and norms in terms of self-evidence, universality, and necessity. Categories of being and thinking, principles of aesthetic expression, norms of law and communion, are open to critical analysis and to a priori knowledge"
Tillich's epistemology however, is open to the rational and the pragmatic. It also embraces a conception of knowledge that Tillich refers to as "receiving knowledge". This is a knowledge that is given to the individual from outside his or her personal being. It is through this "receiving knowledge" that revelation is given to the individual in the depth of that individual's personal life. Theology and metaphysics on the other hand, for Kant, are based on ethics, not the other way round. Ethical knowledge precedes revelation. There appears to be no room for revelation in Kant because for him revelation consists of heteronomous divine commands to be found in biblical or ecclesiastical documents. Tillich recognises that Kant's awareness that the content of the moral law is historically conditioned was the reason why he attempted to liberate the ethical norm from all concrete contents. And in this Tillich concurs. However, Tillich believes that there is a unity of morals and religion and that this is expressed in the theonomous ethics in the Spiritual Community. The principle of agape is the basis for theonomous ethics. All ethical material, says Tillich, say from the Bible or church documents is open to ethical criticism under the principle of agape because revelation is not information, and certainly not information about ethical rules or norms. Both Kant and Tillich rightly reject heteronomous ethics, however Kant expects the pure formalism of ethics to carry a burden it is doubtful it can carry.
Tillich points out,
John Macken is of the opinion that Kant did believe in revelation. He writes;
However, Kant's concept of revelation falls far short, in terms of depth, of Tillich's or John Macquarrie's understanding. Admittedly both theologians interpret revelation by using existential criteria. Tillich considers that revelation is given in the depths of the individual's personal life, and for Macquarrie, its source is to be found in the level of thinking that Heidegger refers to as "primordial thinking." Primordial thinking is an advance on existential thinking which rests upon the "thinking into" of the other subject in the sense of to think again and with the agent or author (subject to subject). Primordial thinking has an element of the "given" in it, being itself is known and we are "grasped" by being. It reveals itself not only in its otherness, but in its kinship; thus it would appear to be not strange to our being, and one might well imagine it is not far removed from Tillich's concept of being giving the self back to the self.
It should be apparent that revelation that depends on the relationship with being as does Tillich's and Macquarrie's is far removed from heteronomy.
Arbitrary self-determination was for Kant the very opposite of his concept of Autonomy. For Kant, autonomy is the idea of a self-appropriated universal rational law. He, like many of his contemporaries, had inherited from Stoic philosophy the ideal of autarchy, which was that of rational self-sufficiency and independence on the part of the free individual. Macken claims,
Before moving on from Kant it is worth quoting his understanding of the nature of the Enlightenment as it clearly enunciates his approach to heteronomy and autonomy.
Fichte, a contemporary of Kant, developed a position on autonomy that was considerably different from that of Kant. Fichte's understanding of autonomy has become more widely accepted than has Kant's. Kant's use of autonomy if often interpreted using Fichte's conception. It is therefore important to distinguish the use of the word autonomy by both philosophers.
The approach to autonomy as absolute self-determination has its origins in Fichte. Fichte's absolute self-determination is not a radical individualism. His concept of individuality is conditioned by intersubjectivity. The drive towards independence is limited by the freedom of the other. Fichte prohibits anything that would destroy the freedom of the other person.
Fichte nonetheless affected the notion of autonomy in that the emphasis on the observance of a universal moral law of reason was changed to an emphasis on the absolute self-determination of an absolute subject. This effect on subsequent philosophy has been summarised by Macken.
It is recognised that following this development of thought, Kant could be classified as being an atheist, in that it might appear that Kant did not acknowledge any point of reference superior to his own. However, Kant did acknowledge that there was a law of reason that was universal, and which he had a duty to obey. This does not equate with a theistic understanding of God, which apparently is held by Macken, and therefore Macken might well decide that Kant is an atheist. However, the question that Macken needs to address is, as has been mentioned earlier in this chapter, and implicitly posed by Tillich, is not an atheism addressed to the God of Theism justified? The ecclesiastical attitude informed by heteronomy against the autonomy of science has historically done much harm to the church. Tillich's willingness to respect the autonomy of science, albeit with an awareness that a theonomous culture would set limits is surely commendable, however while the individual scientist or other autonomous person comes from the position of autarchy, a basic problem arises. Tillich might answer that as God accepts the unacceptable, then the scientist also must be accepted even although his position is not. And his position is not acceptable because it really amounts to a demonic use of the scientific method. As such, there is no option from a Christian viewpoint but to resist to the point of denouncing the demonic elements in the autarchy. The scientist in his autonomy must be affirmed, but his autarchy denounced. In this Macken is correct in saying that autonomy as autarchy cannot be adopted by the theologian Macken has identified the major flaw in autonomy, the self sufficiency, the autarchy. The lack of any point of reference superior to humankind inevitably leads to the emptiness, lack of substance and depth that is a feature of radical autonomy. In its most radical form (modern existentialism), Tillich has characterised autonomy as an empty shell. But is it not important to experience this emptiness, this lack of depth and substance? The writer agrees with Tillich that autonomy should only be considered to be a transitionary experience, a corrective, a legitimate reaction to the tutelage of heteronomous elements in one's individual life and culture. Autonomy, when recognised as the antithesis in a Hegelian synthesis that consists of Heteronomy as the thesis, autonomy as the antithesis and theonomy as the synthesis assumes a penultimate position, and as penultimate it should not be granted the permanency that rightly accrues to theonomy. Its lack of permanency is inbuilt, as it were. It is the quintessence of built-in obsolescence. It is, in common day parlance, passed its use-by date, both culturally and personally for many individuals. And as a consequence, its inability to satisfy humankind's deepest needs, to give meaning to life, is creating a malaise in society just as surely as the use of any material product beyond its time of usefulness causes at best frustration, at worst danger to one's very existence.
Autonomy in its lack of depth is similar to the stony ground in the Gospel parable, into which the seed, with all its latent energy, is ready to send down its roots into the ground which is its right; bursting with potential fulfilment, but frustrated because it rests on a sterile foundation. The individual who is content to remain in her or his autonomy is evading his or her moral responsibility as a person. To be a person is to live in community with others, to give and to receive, and to enrich others by one's very existence. Depending on ones degree of autonomy, so one fulfils or does not fulfil one's responsibility to others. Individual autonomy as mentioned before is to opt for the pole of individualisation in total and unethical regard for the need to balance one's existence by participation. The same, only in reverse, could be said of heteronomy except that for the heteronomous person the awareness of the pole of individuality is muted. If Macken means that the theologian should not accept an identification of autonomy as "having arrived', then he is correct. If, on the other hand he means to exclude the theologian from permitting the autonomous individual from experiencing the emptiness or lack of depth of autonomy, he is wrong.
Our discussion of Macquarrie in relation to Heteronomy, autonomy and theonomy will inevitably cover some of the references to Macquarrie that have already been made, however our discussion will allow us to penetrate a little deeper.
In his Principles of Christian Theology, Macquarrie interestingly enters into a discussion on existentialism by challenging Sartre's claim that human existence is absurd. Macquarrie claims that the religious attitude,
" involves no less radical acceptance of the facticity of existence than does Sartre's view, and just as much as he, does it see the gulf between human resources (the heritage that is factically given) and the demands to which we are responsible (the potentialities that are disclosed)".
In seeking meaning it sees that the condition that there is sense in it is that the being we are given (the factical pole of existence) is a piece to the being to which we are summoned (the pole of possibility).
Reminiscent of Heidegger, Macquarrie speaks of being thrown into a world which we only see from within. To know with certitude whether we belong to some meaningful pattern, or are absurd items that have been flung into some meaningless process, we would have to be able to step outside of our world and see the whole range of being.
Macquarrie argues that humankind is predisposed to faith, but acknowledges the "large measure of truth" in the claim that contemporary people have outgrown the need for "faith in being", and has instead place their faith in technology. They then constructs their own values, meanings, social structure, economic system and so on, and no longer are concerned with the wider being within which their own being is set. However, Macquarrie does not agree with Auguste Comte that we must now turn to positivism, and must deem ourselves autonomous and "faith in being" be replaced with faith in humanity. Responding that faith was never as puerile as that, Macquarrie says;
"Faith in being, understood as commitment and acceptance, or as the submission of the human existent to the grace and judgement of being, has its own maturity, and we have claimed that some such faith is demanded by the structure of any finite human existence, ancient or modern, with its tensions, disorders, alienations, and yet with its questing for selfhood, wholeness and meaning."
Macquarrie considers that it is important to challenge the belief that humankind has "come of age" and must be considered autonomous and independent. He justifies this by contending that the insistence of one's autonomy is more typically the mark of adolescence than maturity. He asks,
Although it appears that Macquarrie is suggesting that the theologians he has just mentioned are dependent, he quickly falls from this, preferring to use the words "cooperation with being".
One is tempted to ask if this classification is any different from Kant's notion of autonomy? Nonetheless, Macqaurrie insists that humankind's role is a very subordinate one. He also reminds us that the initiative in our quest for a religious answer to the enigma of human existence comes from outside of us, the quest being not so much his/her quest as the quest meeting him or her. For Macquarrie, the Angst, anxiety or fundamental malaise that arises with regard to existence and the concerns that arise because of the tension between potentialities and life's precariousness.
The quest for sense, coherence, a meaningful pattern, thus arises from the very constitution of existence, however, this anxiety is heightened when, to the basic polarities of existence, there is added an awareness of its actual disorder and guilt. Thus, the quest for meaning becomes also a quest for grace. Macquarrie explains that this anxiety is not a mere subjective emotion but a mode of awareness, an awareness of nothingness, an awareness that our existence may at any time lapse into nothing or is already lapsing into nothingness. "We become aware of a nullity that enters into the very way we are constituted." Although acknowledging that this mood is not common, and that we use devices and illusions to tranquillise our fundamental anxiety, nevertheless, it is out of this mood that revelation arises. He correlates this mood with Rudolf Otto's "creature-feeling", which becomes awe in the presence of the holy. Otto's analysis is in terms of the mysterium tremendum fascinans, the mystery that is at once overwhelming and fascinating.
Macquarrie has based much of his existential understanding on Heidegger. Heidegger has identified what Macquarrie believes to be principle frames of reference in which we can locate the principle modes of thinking and knowing. Heidegger calls the first level of thinking "calculative " thinking. This is the commonest form of thinking. Its pattern is that of the subject-object. It stands over against us and outside of us. This type of thinking is directed toward handling, using, manipulating this object, and incorporating it within our instrumental "world." Technology is the most sophisticated development of such thinking. The knowledge that corresponds to this type of thinking is objective knowledge. We transcend what is known in such knowing.
The second level of thinking is "existential" thinking, being proper to personal being. It apparently is not the type of thinking that would be used when one was making use of utilitarian ethics as it does not aim at the use someone or some thing may be put, and neither does it exploit. It may be aimed at one's own or someone else's well being. Heidegger identifies a special case of existential thinking which is called "repetitive" thinking. This is much more than a mere mechanical going over again. As Macquarrie says;
Macquarrie goes on to say that we can think of others in objective terms, which may on some occasions be morally wrong, if for instance we are considering the other person as merely an instrument. However, in other cases there may be no moral question, as in the case of a surgeon taking an objective view of a patient. Typically, we are, however, taking an abstract and reductionist view of persons if our thinking about them falls below the existential level. Martin Buber's "I" and "thou" in relation to personal knowledge corresponds to this thinking. This thinking can be described as a "subject-subject" type of thinking.
It is interesting to hear what he has to say on this subject.
Heidegger's third mode of thinking he calls "primordial" or "essential" thinking. This type of thinking has a meditative character which contrasts sharply with the activity of calculative thinking, it waits and listens. It is an "occurrence of being" or a thinking that, "answers to the demands of being " Although termed as a philosophical thinking, it can be compared to the insights of religion and poetry. The reader will no doubt note similarities with Barth's theology in that in this type of thinking the initiative passes to that which is known, and to Tillich's in that we are seized by it and it impresses itself upon us.
What is known;
There is a gift-like character about the knowledge that belongs to primordial thinking. Macquarrie, who is aware that Heidegger would be named among the secular existentialists, says that this is precisely what the religious man points to when he talks of "revealed" knowledge. There must, of course, be a gift-like character as well at the person-to-person level of knowing, but now it is enhanced and," we have become almost passive recipients." The presumption is, however, that we have not become entirely passive as there is an element of appropriation in all knowing. As mentioned before, Macquarrie, reminiscent of Tillich says;
Macquarrie notes that presumably a genuine primordial thinking is rare, and that for most of us,
Macquarrie has led us into the realm of the holy and related that to the concept of primordial thinking. The holy is also significant for Tillich, and especially so when seen in relation to the courage to accept acceptance, which we have seen can also be identified with theonomous being. Ultimately the courage to accept acceptance, involves the appropriation of an absolute faith, and it is with faith that the significance of the holy becomes most apparent.
Kohlberg claimed that he had established six identifiable stages in the moral development of an individual. As an educationalist, Kohlberg was particularly interested in the Socratic method of learning. He believed that morality is best taught by encouraging the development of dialogue around moral issues. To encourage this dialogue he developed the research tool of the moral dilemma. This tool was valuable in that it enabled the trained researcher to identify the use of argument that best approximated the various levels and stages that Kohlberg had developed. It was further useful in that the research tool, when used with a small group, encouraged the development of each individual toward a higher stage in moral thinking. Kohlberg noticed that there was a tendency of each person in the group to move upward toward the stage level of the most morally developed person in the group. As such it became a valuable educational tool as well.
Of particular significance for this thesis, is that Kohlberg's dilemmas are capable of alerting the counsellor to the possibility of each individual using either heteronomous or autonomous ways of reasoning. The word "possibility" is used here because people will vary in their use of heteronomous and autonomous reasoning, according to the circumstances. In a similar fashion, it is appropriate to use rational or technical language (calculative thinking) when dealing with a technical problem, and appropriate to use existential or subject to subject thinking in a situation that calls for personal relationship skills. However a counsellor develops skills in making a reasonably accurate assessment if a person is coming from a heteronomous or autonomous perspective, and if that is indicative of their usual way of solving difficulties.
Kohlberg further divided his six stage into three levels. These levels, Pre-conventional, Conventional and Postconventional, Autonomous or Principled. Generally, it could be said that the Pre-conventional and Conventional levels correspond to an overall heteronomous orientation, and as its name suggests the Postconventional level represents an autonomous orientation. Kohlberg toys with the possibility of a seventh stage, which presumably would be autonomous, but have a religious character. This latter stage (is it also another level?) could approximate what we have suggested is a theonomous orientation. However, James B. Macdonald suggests that religion enters the equation at every level. He calls on Tillich for support. In stating that Tillich says that morality is religiousness in its very essence, he quotes Tillich as saying:
That religion enters morality at every stage of its development is certainlyconsistent with Tillich's approach, however, as we have seen, when Tillichevokes agape as the ultimate basis for morality he is referring to theonomousethics. However, Macdonald doesn't mention that Tillich also talks about thedemonic being sacred. Expressions of morality that might not be considered very advanced or even answers to questions that were given out of a morally perverse person would therefore be sacred, and as such be religious in their essence. Under those circumstances, each stage would have an element of religion, not just those that Kohlberg may consider the more mature or commendable.
Macdonald is on more secure ground when he criticises Kohlberg for being toonarrow and constricted in his understanding of moral development. He citesMichael Polanyi's holistic approach to the type of hierarchy postulated byKohlberg. Polanyi has suggested that at each level of organisation the new organisational level is more than a sum of previous parts, although dependent onthose parts. Leslie Hart's research has established also that the brain works in anholistic manner, and as Macdonald says,
Of course Kohlberg has many critics, some of whom invoke the natural law theory of morality against Kohlberg. Certainly Tillich would not be supportive of that approach.
It should suffice to give a summary of Kohlberg's levels without entering into each stage of his theory. This is done because the three levels adequately show the heteronomous, autonomous nature of his theory. Fowler's work is of greater significance to our heteronomous, autonomous and theonomous concerns, and it will be of greater relevance to explore his stages in greater depth than Kohlberg.
Kohlberg explains his three levels as;
Before moving on from Kohlberg, it is necessary to address some problems with the use of the dilemma as a tool for moral growth. In doing so a specific limitation of his method will be exposed, and will be seen as being relevant to our reference to an holistic approach. Bernard Rosen approaches the nature of moral dilemmas by applying the act and rule ethical theories. Simply put, the act theory claims that the ethical nature of an act depends on the circumstances; in one set of circumstances to act in a particular way is morally right, and in another it may be morally wrong. Rule ethical theories maintain that an act is moral or immoral in itself regardless of circumstances. Kant follows the rule theory in that he maintains that it is always wrong to tell a lie. Joseph Fletcher, in his Situation Ethics takes the approach of the act ethical rule theory. In one instance Fletcher supports the concentration camp prisoner who commits adultery with one of the prison guards in order to be transferred to hospital near her family. The family is disintegrating as the family members are in dire need of her stabilising presence. (A transfer to hospital offers the possibility of early release so she can be with her family). Rosen correctly claims that Rawls and Kohlberg follow a prima facie rule theory in which each of the instances of a moral kind imparts a prima facie right (or obligation). The obligation is "stronger" in a given instance. All those who hold to a prima facie theory, Rosen says, make use of something called "intuition" or "perception" finally to decide which of the applicable rights (or obligations) is stronger. Rule theories as well can be used with dilemmas, they however prove not to be as fruitful. The point that Rosen is making is that the "solution' of the dilemma will be determined, depending on the position one takes with regard to ethical theory. The logic of Kohlberg's presentation of the dilemma determines that there is a progression that orients the participant to follow a rule theory in seeking an answer to the dilemma.
Carol Gilligan has a similar objection, although in her case, she claims that Kohlberg has a specific "male" orientation, and ignores the "ethic of responsibility" which she considers is a typical "female" way of approaching a dilemma. Gilligan rightly draws on research by Norma Haan and Constance Holstein.Haan, Norma. "Hypothetical and Actual Moral Reasoning in a Situation of Civil Disobedience." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 32 (1975) : 255-270. and:
Holstein: Constance. "Development of Moral Judgement: A Longitudinal Study of Males and Females.". Child Development 47 (1976) : 51-61. The former researched college students, and the latter's research involved a three year study of adolescents and their parents. These studies indicate that the:
Gilligan draws from observations by Janet Lever of children of ten years to eleven at play. It was noticed that boys delight in the construction of rules of a game and enjoy arguing about whether or not a rule was respected during the play, or needed changing etc. as much as playing the game itself. Girls on the other hand were seen to spend less time at each game, and when a disagreement flared, they preferred to finish the game prematurely rather than enter into a situation that might be damaging to relationships. Apparently, more in touch with their feelings and concepts of intimacy than boys, the girls developed ways of circumventing conflict. This behaviour could be due both to the discreet nurturing received by girls from the significant carers in their lives as well as biologically determined attitudes. There appears to be a growing consensus that the origins of behaviour can, amongst other variables, be explained by reference to both "nurture; and "nature" theories of development.
Perhaps Gilligan is a little dated then in her reference to Nancy Chodorow's (1974) who attempted to explain the "Nearly universal differences that characterise masculine and feminine personality and roles" by attributing them not to anatomy but that it was women who, universally, are largely responsible for early child care. The sharing of early nurture of children by both sexes is certainly more common today, yet there appears to be no noticeable difference in girl's behaviour. Chodorow is probably correct however in observing that, "feminine personality comes to define itself in relation and connection to other people more than masculine personality does." I have heard the suggestion that boys are nurtured in such a way that such relations are discouraged because historically they have been seen as having the role of defending those close to them, and of engaging in military combat when the State is threatened. For men to be in touch with their feelings as keenly as women are generally reputed to be would be a disadvantage in such circumstances.
Gilligan in arguing for her ethic of responsibility challenges Lever's work. Lever has accepted Piaget's assumption that the "legal sense" that boys develop through play is essential for moral development, to which Kohlberg adds that these lessons are most effectively learned through the opportunities for role taking that arise in the course of resolving disputes, and as a model is better one and "given the realities of adult life, if a girl does not want to be left dependent on men, she will have to learn to play like a boy."
The challenge that Gilligan faces is that if girls bypass in favour of maintaining relationships the "legal sense" that Kohlberg considers so essential to moral development, what dynamic does the ethic of responsibility possess to enable a girl to progress beyond heteronomy to autonomy. The constraint to nurture relationships appears to be of a heteronomous nature as it makes a demand that is obviously endorsed by the girl's peer group. It is a demand that, at least partly if not wholly is derived from "outside" the being of the girl. If that demand is left unchallenged by a developing autonomy within the girl then she is doomed to remain in an heteronomous state of being. It however is my experience that in pre-marital counselling in both my present and previous parish, the brides to be, almost invariably appeared by Kohlberg's criteria to have reached an autonomous state of being, albeit that given the chance, they generally would have tried to circumvent the problem that lay at the heart of Kohlberg's dilemmas. They did not exhibit the "wound to their narcissism" that Freud claims leads them to develop, "like a scar, a sense of inferiority".
Erikson's theory of development is also challenged by Gilligan, who claims that Erickson's observation of sex differences does not influence his chart of life-cycle changes which is based on male development. For Gilligan it appears that Erickson views the optimal cycle of human separation and attachment for girls to be experienced as a fusing of intimacy with identity whereas for the male experience identity preceded intimacy. Adolescence for Erikson is experienced as the celebration of the autonomous, initiating and industrious self. This is accomplished through the forging of an identity based on an ideology that can support and justify adult commitments. If Gilligan is correct in interpreting Erikson's view of the girls adolescent development, and I think she is, then this would account for my observations of autonomy which was to be seen in the women who participated in the pre-marital counselling mentioned above.
However, Gilligan's concern that Erikson relegates to infancy the one acknowledgment in his life cycle chart of the importance of developing relationships needs to be addressed. In this, Gilligan is not being just toward Erikson, for surely the nature of the "intimacy" which both Gilligan and Erikson address, is vitally concerned with relationships. It is in intimacy that girls acquire an advantage over boys in adolescence, for normally this intimacy is learnt in conversation with mother, the very mother with whom girls identify and boys begin to separate from in their individuation. Yet for Erikson this intimacy is essential for full maturity, and I suspect, arising from my own counselling experience, both in ministry and my involvement with the Joan Spencer & Associates (a relationship counselling business), that for most men this remains an area of immaturity for most of their lives. My experience in using Kohlberg's "Heinz" moral dilemma, has led me to observe that there is a time when responsible adults do have to address the importance of relationships which in turn have to give way to "principles". Kohlberg does not seem to acknowledge this. The instance that defines the limit to simply following the abstract principle arises when having established that the preservation of Heinz's wife's life is more important than the chemist's right to property, one is asked to determine whether one would steal to save a stranger's life. I consider that at this juncture the maintenance of principle becomes irrational, and the mature solution is to be found in taking the responsibilities that accrue with the level of intimacy of a relationship must be acknowledged. It is in this sphere that the fusing of development that women experience in adolescence becomes an advantage, and indicates a potential area for attaining an early maturity, not often found in men. Gilligan is right in asserting that,
There is nonetheless, a confusion that can arise in women's minds as a result of the strength of women's concern with relationships. This confusion arises out of what appears to be an expectation that young girls acquire, probably as a result of the concepts of intimacy they learn from their mothers, that it is the lack of communication skills between those in contention that lead to unresolvable problems. As a result of this perception, there may well develop a conception that it is a particular responsibility of women to concentrate on the development of communication skills. This may account for why both my wife, Joan and I have found in counselling couples that when a woman's communication skills are not sufficient to penetrate the self-centredness of their partners, there is a sense of failure and a tendency to terminate the relationship. Carol Gilligan notes the difference in aproach to the Heinz dilemma between two equally bright eleven year olds, Jake and Amy. Jake quickly perceives that the dilemma has to do with principles, and in particular with the value of life as against property. Amy, however perceives the dilemma to be in the chemist's inability to appreciate Heinz's quandary. If he could place himself in Heinz's shoes, (in itself an indication of maturity on the part of the female) then he could be persuaded to make some accomodation to Heinz in order that the medicine Heinz's wife needs may be made available. The difficulty I see in Amy not readily perceiving the dilemma in terms of principles, is that for her maturity rests in her ability with communication skills, and as a consequence, although justice is done, it does not arise from cognition of principles of justice. Without these principles to inform justice, it is possible that through communication, resolutions to problems may be found, but they may not always be just. I also have difficulty in with Amy's perception of the dilemma being in the chemist's inability to fully appreciate Heinz's problem. It is not clear to me in what way this constitutes a dilemma? It is in Amy's perception of a dilemma that lies Amy's confusion.
The foregoing excursion into the insights of Carol Gilligan regarding the difference that sex plays in the development of moral reasoning is included so that a balance may be maintained between a "principled" approach to moral reasoning and the need recognise its limits. As is evident from the previous paragraph, it is not meant to detract from the importance of principle in the development of maturity. It is important to recognise that moral principles were central to Kant's understanding of autonomy and that Kant's "principled" approach to morals does have value, and certainly gives some measure of "depth" when considered in the light of Kant's preference for autonomy.
Fowler's faith stages are a cognitive developmental attempt to explain the various changes that an individual experiences as his or her values and meanings change throughout life. Fowler's use of the word "faith" is controversial, as he endeavours to ascribe this development of values and meanings as a development in faith. He uses the word "faithing" to describe this development, as he believes that faith is not so much a noun as a verb. However, this places the changes in one's faith squarely in the area of one's actions, and as such it contradicts Tillich's understanding of faith as being grasped by the divine. With this qualification, Fowler's work is useful for understanding the development from heteronomy through autonomy to theonomy.
Fowler gives to each of his stages a title that gives a clue as to the type of thinking that the person in this particular stage will be using. His first stage is actually seen as a pre-stage, and he calls this a stage of undifferentiated faith. His first stage he refers to as Intuitive-projective faith. The second has the quality of being Mythic-Literal, while his third stage is seen as comprising a Synthetic-Conventional faith. Stage four is distinctive for the development of an individuative-reflective style, whereas stage five, unusual before mid-life is a conjunctive style of being which "involves the integration into self and outlook of much that was suppressed or unrecognised in the interest of stage four's self-certainty and conscious adaptation to reality. Stage five appears to enter into Tillich's understanding of faith in that Fowler also says of it that it can, "appreciate symbols, myths and rituals (its own and others) because it has been grasped, in some measure, by the depth of reality to which they refer." It is when endeavouring to describe stage six that Fowler begins to have difficulty and exhibits the embarrassment and nervousness referred to above. In his Stages of Faith, Fowler has two attempts at explaining this stage. Overall, he sees this as a universalising stage.
Fowler does describe with some precision the types of values and the sets of meanings that people acknowledge through this movement of heteronomy-autonomy-theonomy. It is interesting to not that even before a child reaches Fowler's first stage a certain level of autonomy is acknowledged, and its is acknowledged that the quality of this autonomy (along with hope and trust etc.) can have a favourable or adverse effect on subsequent development. Fowler says that stage three has is usually experienced in adolescence. The expectations and evaluations of others can be so internalised at this stage that,
The "critical reflection on identity (self) and outlook (ideology)" and the demythologising tendencies of stage four clearly identify this stage as being autonomous. Stage five would seem to begin to describe the spirituality that I have identified as consistent with Tillich's understanding of theonomy. The nature of Conjunctive faith seems best understood by reference to Paul Ricoeur's concepts of first and second naivete. It is clear that Theonomy in its early stages in the life of the individual the life of the individual is also best explained by the same criteria. Ricoeur says;
Both of Fowler's stages five and six appear to be equivalent to theonomy. Theonomy is to be seen as a concept that continues to develop, so stage five would be equivalent to the less developed theonomy, with Stage six representing some aspects of a more advanced stage. Fowler also recognises something of H. Richard Niebuhr's concept of the Kingdom of God as he envisages the same in his conception of monotheistic faith, when he endeavours to elicit something of the quality of this last stage. It has already been mentioned that Fowler's concept of faith concerns "human" faith. However there is the transcendent dimension, a dimension that would seem relevant to a discussion on theonomy.
Throughout this chapter an attempt has been made to show that not only heteronomy but also autonomy, and theonomy also have their place as expressions of faith within Christianity, and that this raises the possibility of the church adopting new ways of being. In the exploration of what this "new way of being" might entail, the thesis, antithesis and synthesis model that Hegel identified would seem to commend itself as it is out of the conflict that arises between heteronomy and autonomy a new synthesis arises, and that synthesis is theonomy.
Ricoeur recognises that there is value in the way a myth is received in the unreflective and undifferentiated reality of childhood or immaturity. However, when these myths are subject to differentiation, or as we have been indicating the critical elements in autonomy, they demythologised lose some of their power. However, once having moved out of our first naivete it is not possible (without becoming pathological) to regress to that earlier stage of being. It is possible, however, without losing our integrity to recapture something of that earlier experience, and experience again something of that original power, which he calls the second naivete. Sometimes this is best explained from a Biblical Theology perspective. One can imagine a candidate for the ministry of the Word entering a seminary with a literalist understanding of the Bible. This literalist viewpoint enables her to preach with power and passion. Autonomy resides in the Scripture. However, inevitably her theological education requires her to take the initiative as she scientifically makes an exegesis of the Scriptures using textual and structural criticism etc. However, having subjected the Scriptures to this examination she finds that the initial power in her preaching has gone. As a way of overcoming this dilemma, she consciously allows the Scriptures once more to speak to her, however her integrity will never let her forget the value of the exegetical method she has learnt.
A heteronomous expression of faith adequately expresses the faith of the child. Some people never move beyond this level of expression and there is a resistance to any other expression of faith. Given that autonomy is an integral part of theonomy, it is most likely that a person within a faith community who, through prophetic criticism and the autonomous culture that surrounds them, questions their heteronomous faith, but does not have a discreet experience of autonomy. It could be, and would seem most likely, that such a person may move directly to a theonomous expression of faith. On the other hand such a transition may involve separating from the faith community for a while, just as a young adult claims his or her individuality and leaves home.
Before proceeding to the parish study which will be the focus of the following chapter, consideration needs to be given to the contribution Bellah et. al. have made towards our understanding of individualism as promised above. As is evident in the discussion on the four basic traditions Bellah et al have identified in modern Western democracies, much that is written in Habits of the Heart is of real value, some of which will be considered in the following paragraphs. However, the final sentence of the previous paragraph leads into a contention with Bellah et. al. In their discussion on Finding Oneself, Bellah et. al. include a section on Leaving home, followed by a section on Leaving church. They claim that,
"in a culture that emphasises the autonomy and self-reliance of the individual, the primary problems of childhood are what some psychologists call separation and individualism-indeed, childhood is chiefly preparation for the all important event of leaving home."
They see this development as not new in America but rather having its roots sometime after the middle of the eighteenth century when child-training practices began to change from an emphasis on peace and order in the family to the development of "independent self-sufficient individuals."
This they claim had something to do with the populisation of John Locke's views on child-rearing.
On the notion of Leaving Church they say,
Bellah et. al's comments regarding America could equally apply to the Australian condition. The tension between heteronomy, autonomy and theonomy is clearly evident in these circumstances. A theonomous person one would imagine, after choosing autonomy, would nonetheless be informed by the "tradition-bearing" community as one sought "to discover one's deepest beliefs." To own one's faith is, after all, a step in the process of maturity as the title of this thesis claims. Nonetheless an undifferentiated faith will unquestionably accept the beliefs of the nurturing community. Such a faith, I have claimed in the second chapter is heteronomous. It is not clear from Bellah et. al.'s account whether or not they are advocating the uncritical acceptance of the beliefs and faith the religious community. They appear to question the therapist's role. They claim that, "the work of therapy is often aimed at so distancing us from our parents that we choose, or seem to choose, freely, which aspects of them we will resemble and which not." The word therapy implies the need for healing, and as such the therapist presumably works with individuals whose emotional development, spiritual or psychological development is such that some form of intervention is necessary. Certainly, problems relating to relationships do often have their genesis in the conscious or unconscious assimilation of values and behaviours of childhood. These may arise from simply characteristics that can be identified with regard to where one comes in relation to other siblings. Other variables have their input, such as personality or peer group pressure. Nonetheless, parental influences, particularly in early childhood do play a significant part, and one would have to question the professionalism of a therapist who did not take this into account. One might well imagine that in some situations the need for healing arises largely because of conflicts arising from parental influences.
The confusion for me lies in the juxtaposition of the following sentences with their observation of the therapist. "Leaving home in a sense involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves. And if that is the case with respect to families, it is even more so with our ultimate defining beliefs." There seems to be an implicit agreement with these sentiments, however the foregoing statement is followed by,
and once more our ability to make an autonomous decision is questioned. The dynamics of the situation however is such that it gives promise of furnishing significant insights into the processes of culture with regard to the individual. The individual who does make that decision in "isolation" does choose to be an autonomous person, however there does appear to be truth in the questioning of just how isolated the individual is. Certainly, the autonomous choice, made as a result of the therapist's influence is not really in isolation, just as the choice for autonomy made under the influence of peer pressure is not absolute autonomy. The answer must lie in the virtual impossibility of absolute autonomy. Bellah et. al. would add that autonomy is never free of conformity. Bellah et. al. are correct in asserting that one does not have to leave home or church in order to make an autonomous choice, but nonetheless there needs to be a psychological distancing in order for the decision to be truly autonomous. It is significant to note Bellah et. al's response to the presence of conformism in American, and one would imagine by extension to Western Culture. They comment that:
It is evident, that the upward mobility of an autonomous middle class can only be achieved by submission to conformity. Bellah et. al. note that Alexis de Tocqueville, the French social philosopher, who in the 1830's offered, they consider, the "most comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the relationship between character and society in America that has ever been written." observed that,
The observation of Bellah et. al. on Alistair MacIntyre' s concept of "bureaucratic individualism" is most enlightening. They paraphrase MacIntyre, and I quote,
Individualism in the above quotation could be replaced without loss of meaning or intent by autonomy. In autonomy destroying its own conditions it can result in the unravelling of the fabric of society such that only the threads of heteronomy remain. On the other hand, perhaps arising from the autonomy/conformity dilemma is found the genesis of theonomy. The individual who makes his or her autonomous choice to move away from heteronomy can make a decision for the synthesis of heteronomy and autonomy that is found in theonomy.
Consequently it will be necessary to identify attitudes that lie along this continuum. I see this continuum having three broad categories, each further subdivided by two typical expressions of that category. The broad categories are Heteronomy, Autonomy and Theonomy. Heteronomy is further divided into Radical and Relational Heteronomy, Autonomy into Utilitarian and Expressive Individualism, and Theonomy into Principled Autonomy and Autonomous Theonomy, the latter two divisions acknowledging the autonomous nature of true theonomy.
At the initial or design stage of this dissertation/project I constructed six categories as an aid to determining the level of an individual's reasoning along a continuum from heteronomy, through autonomy to theonomy. Following a similar pattern to Kohlberg I proposed that Heteronomy, autonomy and theonomy be considered as three overall levels of reasoning, much the same as in the moral sphere Kohlberg refers to Pre-conventional, Conventional and Post-conventional levels of moral reasoning, which he in turn divided into six stages, two stages to each level. As mentioned above the broad categories are Heteronomy, Autonomy and Theonomy. Heteronomy is further divided into Radical and Relational Heteronomy, Autonomy into Utilitarian and Expressive Individualism, and Theonomy into Principled Autonomy and Autonomous Theonomy, the latter two divisions acknowledging the autonomous nature of true theonomy. Determining attitudes that characterise the six categories outlined above would be:
METHOD OF DETERMINING ATTITUDE OF REASONING (DEFINITION)
As a source of comparison at this juncture, I include Bellah et. al's. definitions of individualism, utilitarian individualism and expressive individualism as an endnote.
The possibility that the individual may progress sequentially through levels and stages from heteronomy through autonomy to a state of theonomy raises the other possibility that should enough individuals do so, then this condition may, particularly in a democracy, be mirrored in the religious base of, and by extension, the wider culture of a society. If such were to be the case, what would such a culture and its religious dimension look like? Tillich refers us to the High Middle Ages. But hundreds of years of history have passed since then. This history would inevitably colour such a theonomy. We are told by Tillich that such a culture's symbols would be transparent and that perhaps more than in any other state of culture his famous quotation that, "Religion is the substance of culture and culture the form of religion" would pertain. Tillich also tells us that all cultures were originally theonomous. It could be that non-western cultures that have not experienced as dramatically as Western cultures the unravelling implicit in the movement from theonomy to autonomy may exhibit a cultural experience that is closer to theonomy, and thus show in practical terms some indication of what a theonomous culture might be like. If as well, one could have the opportunity to examine a specifically religious community in such a culture, it is possible that the theonomous nature of such a community would be more apparent.
Throughout this chapter an attempt has been made to show that not only heteronomy but also autonomy, and theonomy also have their place as expressions of faith within Christianity, and that this raises the possibility of the church adopting new ways of being. In the exploration of what this "new way of being" might entail, the thesis, antithesis and synthesis model that Hegel identified would seem to commend itself, as it is out of the conflict that arises between heteronomy and autonomy a new synthesis arises, and that synthesis is theonomy.
This page was last updated on the 16th September 2009