Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
John C. Robertson
This thesis examines the ways in which two Christian, feminist theologians, Rosemary Radford Ruether and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, understand the relationship between liberation, the fulfillment of justice and the concept of an immortal self. Central to this discussion are Suchocki's and Ruether's differing views of immortality. Suchocki argues that without subjective immortality (the possibility of continuing to experience some form of "life" after death as a subjective centre of consciousness) there can be no justice. Ruether, however, contends that the concept of an immortal self is the root of injustice. While Ruether reproaches the concept of subjective immortality, this thesis shows that she nevertheless defends a form of "objective" immortality (that all that occurs within the creation is taken up within the divine). In Part One, I discuss Ruether's understanding of oppression and liberation. I conclude that while Ruether provides a good analysis of the role of freedom in the development of oppressive social conditions, she neglects to explain the nature of finitude within which human activity is carried out and the limitations which finitude places on human freedom. I also conclude that while Ruether's understanding of liberation addresses forcefully the emancipative aspect of liberation, her characteristic understanding of God's redemptive activity as a form of objective immortality does not address satisfactorily the consequences of injustice as at once individual and relational. In Part Two, I discuss Suchocki's understanding of the nature of oppression and liberation. Her appropriation of Whiteheadian metaphysics figures significantly in her account of both enabling her to account for oppression as arising from freedom and from the limitations of finitude. It, moreover, enables her account of liberation to address fruitfully not only liberation as emancipation and salvation, but also as redemption. In regard to the latter, Suchocki develops a somewhat original argument for the necessity and possibility of subjective immortality. I conclude that while both Suchocki's and Ruether's theologies are driven by a concern for justice, Suchocki provides a better understanding of the nature of oppression which results in injustice, and a better understanding of liberation as the fulfillment of justice. I, moreover, conclude that while for the most part the concept of subjective immortality has been viewed as anathema by feminist theology, Suchocki's view of subjective immortality may in fact open up the possibility of reassessing the concept of an immortal self within feminist theology as not only consistent with but as an aid to developing its own deepest concerns for liberation and justice.
Martin, Anne Marie, "Visions of justice, the question of immortality: A study of the nature of oppression and liberation in the work of Rosemary Radford Ruether and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki" (1997). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3357.