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Chalcedonian Personalism

Rethinking the Human

Colin Patterson

We all have a sense of what it means to be a person, but how do we conceptualize that intuition? What is the connection between a person and their human nature? Where does mind fit in to the picture? This book draws upon the work of Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, both of whom developed a perspective on these questions that is grounded in the early Church’s teaching on Christ and the Trinity. The possibilities of that teaching for understanding human personhood were generally lost for about fifteen centuries, but Ratzinger, in a bold assertion, believes that its retrieval has the power to challenge and reshape the whole of human thought.

The first part of the book offers an account of how von Balthasar and Ratzinger arrived at their theological understanding of personhood, paying particular attention to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century personalist thought. The second part draws out a number of the implications of this work and, in doing so, makes use of recent psychological theory. Finally, as a means of bringing into the picture the related philosophical notions of self, freedom and the soul, the book introduces and explores the concept of a «semblant».

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This work is the result of many years of reflection on questions of personhood, and has necessarily drawn upon the writings and thinking of a large number of scholars past and present. In this regard, I have been greatly blessed in being associated with the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. To its faculty and support staff I owe a great debt.

Parts of the book have benefitted from faculty discussions and I am thankful to Tracey Rowland, Nicholas Tonti-Filippini (deceased), Gerard O’Shea, Adam Cooper and Conor Sweeney for what they contributed by way of challenges and reassurance. To the latter two scholars I offer special thanks for providing specific feedback on particular chapters, and engaging in helpful conversations on key themes of the book.

My brother, Don Patterson, read the whole manuscript and found many points where it needed correction. Its final form owes much to his comments, and his encouragement has been invaluable.

My contact with Christabel Scaife, Liam Morris and Jasmin Allousch at Peter Lang has been unfailingly positive. Their timely and helpful communications have been much appreciated.

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