Aesthesis and ascesis : the relationship between the arts and spiritual formation
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The general claim of the thesis is that the exercise and development of skills and capacities related to sensory perception can contribute positively to the process commonly referred to as spiritual formation. The dynamics of aesthesis and ascesis can be perceived as existing in a symbiotic relationship, encouraging and reinforcing the potentials of the other toward the development of a vibrant, discerning Christian spirituality. The arts can help mediate this relationship, and in doing so can be said to catalyze these dynamics. In order to maximize the catalytic potentials of the arts for lay formation, a definition of art is employed that identifies art as the result of a combination of craft, content and context. Accent is placed on the communicability and cognitive cogency of art in this analysis. In order to argue for the moral and spiritual efficacy of the arts, resources from aesthetics, ethics and human development theory as appropriated within practical theology are explored. A variant on virtue ethics that emphasizes the morally-formative potential of narrative is highlighted as the correlative to the claim that works of art can be seen as conveyers through which an ‘inhabitable’ sense of worldview, the truth-claims of which are insinuated effectively or ineffectively according to the relative strength of the artistic utterance. It is through the inhabitation or indwelling of the story so conveyed that art exerts its spiritually formative influence.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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