Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy



First Advisor

Galen Johnson


The ultimate aim of this thesis is to articulate and defend the following four hypotheses, each of which logically follows from the former hypothesis and/or hypotheses. First, that the structure of human action is intentional, teleological and historicity-laden. Second, based upon the ontological structure of human action, understanding human action takes the form of a narrative description (interpretation). Third, because understanding human action takes the form of a narrative descripti6n (which is a specific literary genre), it follows that the process of understanding human action is modelled or best typified by the process of interpreting a narrative text. Fourth, because at its most basic level, the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures are a narrative of the Divine-human relationship, it is profitable to examine some of the interpretation techniques employed in biblical hermeneutics in order to insure that the ontological structure bf both human action and narrative text is not betrayed or ignored.

In the first chapter of this thesis will be developed, each in its turn, what we shall argue is a plausible conception of intentionality, teleology and temporality. By "intentionality" we shall mean the ontological relationship between persons and their world or environment. It is an ontological relation which is basic to the development of epistemology, or, more accurately, hermeneutics. The term "teleology" refers to that type of order which human agents give to actions and events to which they are intentionally bound. Put more simply, teleology shall refer to the logical relationship between ends and means which structures human action. And by "temporality" we mean the overlapping of past experience and future anticipations through the experience of presence. Each of these three structures, as we shall see, is absolutely fundamental for the development of an ontology which corresponds to the agent's description of his own experience. Due to the complexities involved, the development of each structure (our ideas about each structure) shall remain somewhat distinct in the first chapter.

Coalescence of the three structures discussed in the first chapter will take place in the second. There a comprehensive notion of "narrative understanding" will be developed. Put simply, narrative understanding is a theory for the. interpretation of human action which is sensitive or responsive to the ontology of human being and action as developed in the first chapter. Because the project of interpreting the meaning of human action as it occurs in time is primarily that of the historian, we will take occasion to apply the theory of narrative understanding to situations' similar to those with which the historian deals. In doing so, similarities between the process involved in interpreting a human action and a narrative text or chronicle will be evident.

In the third and final chapter, we will simply point specifically in light of the work of Paul Ricoeur, to the plausibility of the third and fourth theses which develop. as a consequence of the first two. We will first attempt to articulate the ontological similarities between human action and narrative texts and specifically the autonomizing capacity of both. Second, the text of Scripture as the "great narrative" will receive special attention. Decidedly less original or developmental in character, the third chapter, as a consequence of the lack of materials, will perform the important function of charting future philosophical and theological ventures.



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