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 6: Human Nature: The Foundations
← 166 | 167 →CHAPTER 6
Human Nature: The Foundations
Our sketch of the notion of “person” according to Chalcedonian personalism has thus far been working with a more or less implicit understanding of human nature – or at least one which has been described in only the broadest terms. We now need to further develop this general concept but in view of the ways that human nature has traditionally been treated and of my intention of adopting a different approach, I will need to devote the next two chapters to its elucidation.
This chapter will begin by outlining the approach adopted and a rationale for that approach. The emphasis will be on the value and necessity of empirical research in seeking to understand ourselves as human beings. Naturally, as revelation assures us, this is not all there is to us. Nature must be understood more broadly as a theological concept.1 But that which is offered to us by scientific endeavour can only be ignored to the detriment of our theology.
There follows a description of the socio-psychological framework or boundary conditions within which humans interact with the world. What are the foundation stones of human nature, as it were? We will arrive at the conclusion that it is sociality, the fact that we are social animals, which undergirds the key elements of our human reality, that is, language, thought, and intentional goal-seeking. A corollary of this is that the rationality of the individual human...
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