MERVYN DUFFY, HOW LANGUAGE, RITUAL AND SACRAMENTS WORK. According to John Austin, Jürgen Habermas and Louis-Marie Chauvet
This work addresses the question of how the seven ritual sacraments work. The efficacy of the sacraments has been explained in the past using the ontological categories of instrumental causality. Developments in phenomenology and speech act theory enable this to be supplemented with a communicative model of how sacraments are effective and fruitful in the lives of the human subjects involved.
The study draws on three principle authors:
John Austin (1911-60) was a British philosopher who developed Speech Act theory, in which utterances are understood as actions rather than merely descriptions. As Austin put it: «When I say “I do” (i.e. take this woman to be my lawful wedded wife), I am not reporting on a marriage, I am indulging in it».
Jürgen Habermas (1929- ) is a German philosopher-sociologist who developed Austin’s ideas in his theory of communicative action. Habermas identifies himself as a neo-Marxist but as «the philosopher of discourse» he has engaged with thinkers across the political and religious spectrum. In 2004 he and Cardinal Ratzinger debated the topic «Towards a political and moral basis for a liberal state».
Louis-Marie Chauvet (1942- ) is a French sacramental theologian who asserts that sacraments are effective because they are symbolic exchanges between God and humanity.
MERVYN DUFFY, who entered the Society of Mary in 1977, is a lecturer in systematic theology at Good Shepherd Theological College in Auckland, New Zealand. He completed his doctorate in theology, of which this is the dissertation, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2005.
(C) PUG 2006