Eastern Mennonite University

Emotion, Attachment, Theology: How Do They Fit in the Hierarchy of the Sciences?

Dr. Nancey Murphy

A well known model for understanding relations among the sciences is a hierarchy, stretching from physics at the bottom to the social sciences. The past years have seen exciting developments at the interface between biology and psychology. Meanwhile psychologists have always appreciated the “downward” effects of social groups on individual health and development. The purpose of this paper will be to argue for the importance of locating the bio-psycho-social phenomenon of attachment in still broader intellectual contexts of ethics and theology. While it may appear obvious to many that close emotional ties are an intrinsic good, there are also strands in Western culture that place greater emphasis on autonomy and competition. We need some account of the true purpose of human life (an ethic) to arbitrate between competing accounts of ideal psychological development, and ethics is in turn dependent upon accounts of Ultimate Reality—one of which is found in the Anabaptist tradition.