Rethinking the Human
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».
Chapter 3: Key Expressions of Personalist Thought in the Twentieth Century
← 60 | 61 →CHAPTER 3
Key Expressions of Personalist Thought in the Twentieth Century
The twentieth century exhibited a flourishing interest and extensive ramification of personalist thought. There is vastly more material to cover than a single chapter permits and so my goals will be suitably modest: first, to give a sense to the reader of the broad directions taken by this intellectual current, drawing attention to links with the thinkers considered in the previous chapter, and secondly, to outline aspects of the thought of a number of personalists which will be highlighted in our discussion of von Balthasar and Ratzinger in Chapter 4. For there, we will need to ponder the questions: how did personalist thought appear to them as they were developing their own theologically inspired versions? Given that theological considerations were by no means the primary inspiration for most of the thinkers we will be examining, what were the elements which attracted these two scholars? The task here then is to prepare the groundwork for answers to these questions.
Who, in particular, will be the focus of our investigation? It is widely recognized that the twentieth century saw a flourishing of personalist and quasi-personalist thought within Western intellectual life. Beyond the iconic figure of Martin Buber stand lesser known names such as Rosenzweig and Ebner.1 Within Catholic theology one can observe ← 61 | 62 →a persistent attempt to marry personalist ideas with more traditional Thomistic philosophy, Maritain, Gilson and Wojtyła being the...
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