Philosophy and Theology

Volume 29, Issue 2, 2017

Matthew Petrusek
Pages 433-460

Making the Fundamental Option Fully Free
How Human Capabilities Help Clarify Rahner’s Conception of Justice

In his Theological Investigations article, “The Dignity and Freedom of Man,” Karl Rahner writes, “The personality of [the human] . . . requires of necessity a certain space for realizing itself.” What defines this “space” and how does it relate to Rahner’s understanding of justice? This article addresses this question by placing Rahner’s under-developed conception of justice, particularly as it relates to the fundamental option, in constructive dialogue with the language of human capabilities of Martha Nussbaum. Capabilities provide a moral framework for specifying the concrete meaning of the “space” necessary for one to freely say “yes” to God and neighbor, which gives greater depth and specificity to Rahner’s conception of justice. Both Rahner and Nussbaum recognize freedom as foundational for individual flourishing. The article concludes by recognizing how Rahner’s theology can also enrich Nussbaum’s conception of justice, particularly in relation to the question of moral motivation.