Monday, February 11, 2008

Causality vs. Intentionality

Thiemann rejects the causality inherent in foundationalism & turns instead to intentionality: “According to this form of philosophical analysis, a person's identity is constituted by the intentions he or she carries into action. Actions are appropriately described as enacted intentions, and intentions are rightly described as implicit actions. Identity-description is nothing more or less than the description of characteristic intention-action patterns across a chronological sequence. Such temporally ordered patterns are given natural description in narratives” (Revelation and Theology, 90). He connects this to MacIntyre’s description of a unified character across a narrative, so this links nicely to virtue epistemology. In God, Action, and Embodiment, Thomas Tracy (briefly) contrasts causality and intentionality, but his book is most helpful as an introduction to the latter.
It occurs to me that, although both are metaphors of movement, intentionality is superior because causality, in its incarnations as either reasoning back to an unmoved Mover or as the determinism inherent in the
decretum absolutum, is both mechanistic and suggestive of idolatry. (Idolatry, that is, in the sense that its practitioners assume that “the gods” cause whatever happens in the world and that they can “cause” them to act in their favour.)
I think this fits a theology of education better, too--in a sense, we can think analogically of being in a
“cognitive apprenticeship” with God, where God both shows us what he is doing and explains his purpose (as in Scriptures ascriptions to God of the phrase, “I'm doing this so that . . .”).

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