As someone who has long admired the Marty Center's dual commitment to scholarly critique and public engagement, I am honored to now be one among its community of junior fellows. Over the course of my fellowship, I hope to complete the remaining chapters and necessary revisions of my dissertation. I look forward to the diversity of interests and methodologies that each participant will bring to the conversation, and how they will challenge me to sharpen and contextualize my argument for a broader readership.
The intellectual anxiety motivating my project may be framed in the form of a question: how do we, so to speak, take history seriously while not resorting to some variety of nihilistic relativism about what it means to "get things right"? After the so-called linguistic turn in philosophy, reference and meaning became problematic just insofar as philosophers struggled to account for any extra-linguistic referent or object with which our words or thoughts correspond. This linguistic turn posed new methodological problems for constructive philosophers, theologians, and metaphysicians who, while committed historicists, wanted an account of truth and objectivity that did not merely amount to justification within a specific socio-historical community, but which could make sense of our common aim at "getting things right" in a way that also does justice to that aim.
My project begins with an assessment of the contemporary conversations in Analytic philosophy about the function and status of reference and meaning in our linguistic practices. Based on this assessment, I suggest some shortcomings of contemporary efforts to deny or resolve this problem of intentionality. I then go on to apply the conceptual resources of Alfred North Whitehead's philosophy of organism to the problem of intentionality as it currently manifests in Analytic debates, in order to render some of its tacit assumptions explicit and revisable. It is my hope that such an application will elucidate a warranted method by which to draw out a host of theological, anthropological, and ethical implications that can make sense of the multifariousness of beliefs in the world, while not rendering the constructive task unjustifiable.