Devotion and Well-Being: A Platonic Personalist Perfectionist Account

Journal of Value Inquiry:1-21 (forthcoming)
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According to the traditional Christian understanding, being devoted to God is partly constitutive of human welfare. I explicate this tradition view, in three stages. First, I sketch a general theory of well-being which I call ‘Platonic Personalist Perfectionism.’ Second, I show how being devoted to God is uniquely perfective. I discuss three different components of the posture of devotion: abnegation (surrender of one’s will to God), adoration (responding to God’s goodness with attention, love and praise), and existential dependence (receiving one’s self-worth as an unmerited gift from God). All three components of devotion are perfective in a dual way: they are salvific (they remediate a great harm) and consummative (they confer a great benefit). Third, I respond to the objection that devotion involves subjugating oneself, and thus amounts to an all-things-considered harm, notwithstanding whatever benefits it confers. I argue that so long as one’s acts of abnegating, adoring, and existentially depending are acts of one’s own, then subjugation is not essential to devotion. However, devotion does diminish one if the object of one’s devotion is unsuitable. I argue that the only suitable object of devotion is the God of traditional theism.

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Phil Woodward
Niagara University


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