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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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Chapter 7: Human Nature: Its Motivational Structure


← 194 | 195 →CHAPTER 7

Human Nature: Its Motivational Structure

The kind of theology pursued here is one which seeks to take fuller account of human nature. However, unlike moral and pastoral theology, which require greater specification because they deal with particular life circumstances, our approach here must be of a more general nature. We are interested in human nature in the round, as it were, human nature as it is typically encountered in its mature form. We might point to Aquinas’ listing of levels of inclinatio naturalis found in humans as an example. There we find mention of inclinationes such as those to survive, to reproduce and nurture young, to pursue the good according to reason (to know God, to live in society, etc.)1 Similarly the focus of this chapter is on the fundamental processes that guide everyday human thoughts and actions. Excluded from consideration, therefore, are more properly biological drives such as nutrition and hydration, respiration, movement, elimination, together with the range of smaller-scale goal-seeking mechanisms that support the bodily systems and organs. Discussed here are motivations which are satiated primarily by psychological events.2

← 195 | 196 →This still leaves us with more than we can reasonably cover for the purposes of the work’s argument as a whole. Working primarily from evolutionary considerations, David Aunger and Valerie Curtis, for example, have listed 15 key human motives: hunger, comfort, fear, disgust, attract, love, nurture, create, hoard, affiliate, status, justice, curiosity, and play.3 Among these,...

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