Dissertation, Loyola University, Chicago (2008)

Alfredo Mac Laughlin
Saint Ambrose University
This work explores the philosophical implications of moral conversion: the fact that, at some point in their lives, people may change their deep-seated convictions, attitudes and patterns of action regarding moral matters in rather unexpected and surprising ways. The fact of moral conversion and the common characteristics of the process are established through the analysis of a compilation of stories of moral conversion from various sources and settings. This analysis yields the definition of conversion as an “existential change” in the person, and six classes of moral conversion are identified. Turning to the philosophical implications of moral conversion, the work examines its possible bearing, first, on the free choice/determinism debate, proposing that a study of moral conversion is of interest to this discussion because the unpredictability of moral conversion challenges determinism, and because during the process the subject often undergoes certain experiences that may be revealing of free choice. Second, the work examines the implications of moral conversion for the debate on internalism and externalism, proposing that the fact of moral conversion supports an internalist view of morality, i.e., that the intelligible content of moral norms, as understood by the moral agent, is one of the central operative factors in the agent’s adopting (and then living by) the new moral standards.
Keywords Moral Conversion  Bernard Lonergan  Internalist Ethics  Freedom and Determinism  Aristotle  Moral Transformation  Meaning of Life
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