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Title page for ETD etd-11172016-132059

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Ellis, Daryl Tad
Author's Email Address daryl.t.ellis@gmail.com
URN etd-11172016-132059
Title Desire, Knowledge, and the Origins of Self-Consciousness: A Theological Account in Conversation with Augustine, Aquinas, and Freud
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Paul J. DeHart Committee Chair
Bruce L. McCormack Committee Member
Bruce Morrill Committee Member
Ellen T. Armour Committee Member
J. Patout Burns Committee Member
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Augustine of Hippo
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • knowledge
  • desire
  • self-consciousness
  • theological anthropology
Date of Defense 2016-09-23
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation proposes a novel way of reconceptualizing the nature, origins, and theological significance of egoic self-consciousness that successfully eludes the deeply-rooted impulse to ground the “self” circularly through an act of epistemic reflection (e.g. Descartes) or a priori presupposition (e.g. Kant). It does so by constructively resourcing two intellectual traditions: (1) the Augustinian/Thomist synthesis and particularly its meta-physical framework for specifying the exitus-reditus structure of creation, the human soul and the interrelated diversity of its vertically layered powers of apprehension (viz. knowledge) and appetite (viz. desire), and the varieties of intensive and extroverted unity that characterize human existence as deficient similitudes of God’s simplicity and (2) the metapsychology of Sigmund Freud and particularly his discovery of a human capacity through which we unconsciously identify with certain sense-perceptions such that they are perceived in terms of a pre-reflective wholeness that eludes the subject/object division (e.g. “I am the breast”). The resulting argument is that egoic self-consciousness emerges as an act of identification that slowly condenses around “our” bodies following the painful disruption of our archaic identification with the maternal body. For as long as this act endures it produces the pre-reflective wholeness that we later signify reflectively and epistemically: “I am this body.” Furthermore, this theorization can be synthesized with an Augustinian/Thomist anthropology as a distinct identifying “layer” of the soul—complete with an apprehensive and appetitive power—that stands “between” the sensitive and intellectual layers of the soul. The resulting anthropology yields a maximally orderly ac-count of the developmental, created, and teleological relation between self-consciousness, the powers of the soul, and the varieties of unity in human existence. When situated in this manner, self-consciousness can be understood alongside three other analogous types of intensive unity—the soul, self-knowledge, and the vertical alignment of our appetites—all of which are deficiently similar to the intelligible whence and whither of all creation: the absolute intensive simplicity of the divine essence.

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