The quest for wholeness by Carl G. Vaught

By Carl G. Vaught

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After I had begun to assimiliate the techniques of analytical philosophy, I studied with a different kind of philosopher who gave me some very wise advice. He had come to the university for a semester on a visiting appointment, expecting to find a philosophy department full of theologians. Instead, he found a collection of philosophical positivists of the narrowest kind. I remember vividly the day he realized Page xiii where he was. It was the third week of the term, and his back was turned to the class.

But through the careful use of classical and Biblical allusions, his story comes to focus on religion as a symbolic expression of the human longing for fulfillment. In doing so, it holds the artistic, the religious, and the philosophical dimensions of experience together in a focused unity, demanding that the reader take up the task of reflection in a world saturated already by expressive and reflective discourse. If we are to respond to Melville's intentions, and to the quest for wholeness which he makes accessible, we must plunge into the novel as active participants, not only embracing it as a story of adventure, but also attempting to understand it as a mediated context in which the most fundamental aspects of the human journey are expressed and represented.

If Melville's novel opens us up to the quest for wholeness as it unfolds within the natural order, the Biblical context brings us face to face with God as the sustaining ground of human existence. In doing so, it points to the radical otherness of God, to the need to stand before him as an irreducible individual, and to the quest for wholeness as a quest for individuation. Chapter 1 traces the quest for wholeness as a natural expression of the human spirit, while Chapter 2 focuses on the emergence of particular individuals and upon their attempts to find a new kind of wholeness in response to the sustaining ground of their existence.

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