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Plurally possessed : gift and participation in the theo-ontology of John Milbank


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Triffett, BP 2011 , 'Plurally possessed : gift and participation in the theo-ontology of John Milbank', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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In this thesis an attempt is made to strengthen and develop John Milbank’s account of gift and participation, by way of encounters with other thinkers on gift (Jean-Luc Marion, Dietrich von Hildebrand), participation (James K.A. Smith, Thomas Aquinas), and transcendence (Catherine Keller, Mayra Rivera Rivera). The logic of the work is given in two moves made in the course of this dialogue, moves which concern grounds of possibility. First, it is argued that making sense of gift and participation requires a thought of the communicable or “plurally possessed”. In respect to (i) gift, it is proposed that unless something remains really the same in the giver, even as it comes to abide in the recipient, such that it is actively present in both—without such communicative “doubling” of a self-identical principle (“Gift”), there can be no transcendence from one person to another, and therefore no event of gift. In respect to (ii) participation, it is shown that Milbank thinks the creature’s methexis in divine being in terms of processio—the same divine life, originally proper to God, is also given to creatures in some way. Thus it seems that the intelligibility of (Milbank’s) participation also depends on the idea of plural possession—that the latter is to be thought as the condition for both gift and methexis.
The second move complements the first; here the possibility of plural possession is itself questioned. A distinction is made between two senses of “proper”, and thus between two ways of being a subject for something—metaphysically and dynamically/expressively. It is argued that the communicable is able to have plural expressive subjects, while remaining the Same (really one in its communicability) inasmuch as it has just one metaphysical subject. So in effect, the thesis suggests that taking account of this “propriological” distinction uniquely enables one to (a) provide the appropriate ontological basis for Milbank’s “asymmetrical reciprocity” in gift-exchange, (b) uncover the specific features of his ontology of participation, and thus (c) better evaluate Milbank’s thought.
However, Milbank’s understanding of gift is still developing, and further research is needed on other aspects of his account of being and methexis. Also, more attention needs to be given to what the gratuity of gift might be, and how one might reconcile the (more Aristotelian) claim that creatures have created ontic forms, with the (more Platonic) claim that creatures have their being by bearing divine form as dynamical subjects.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Triffett, BP
Keywords: Milbank, gift, participation, ontology, reciprocity, virtuality, expression, repetition, agency
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Copyright © 2011 the author

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