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Philosophy of the Human Person

Taught by Jules van Schaijik, Spring 2013

At the center of today’s deepest and most divisive controversies lies the question about the nature and dignity of the human person: What does it mean to be a human person? How must we treat others and ourselves to respect our personhood? What is the significance of the body and of sexuality? Is freedom compatible with obedience, or dignity with dependence? This course addresses such fundamental questions. It is the most foundational one we offer.


Where: 519 N. High St., West Chester, PA

It is designed for personal enrichment, not for academic credit. No exams and no homework. Anyone who is interested and willing to think along will benefit from it. We try to leave lots of room for questions and discussion.

As to content, the class stands in deliberate continuity with the perennial philosophy (i.e. thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas) but draws mainly from more recent Christian thinkers (such as Newman, Pieper, Wojtyla, Hildebrand, Crosby) because they are better attuned to the particular concerns and questions of contemporary man.

Participate online or in person

Classes will be held at our home in West Chester, between 8:00 and 9:30 pm on the dates listed above. Each lecture will be recorded and posted online a day or two later for those who can't come in person. Enrolled students can listen to these lectures at their convenience, and discuss them online. (I am also available via email, of course.)

Topic for each class
  • Introduction: A Developing Sense of Self
  • Dignity and Unrepeatablility
  • Interiority and Truth
  • Freedom and Goodness
  • Recovering the Heart
  • Person, Body and Sexuality
  • Autonomy and Dependence
  • Created Persons, God and Immortality
Reading material

No reading is required or necessary to follow the course, but if you like to dig deeper, I recommend you begin with one of these:

  • John F. Crosby, The Selfhood of the Human Person. The course relies very heavily on this book, and so reading it will reinforce and deepen your grasp on most of the material covered
  • C.S Lewis, The Abolition of Man. A very enjoyable read on the nature of objective values, and their importance for the flourishing of persons. 
  • Josef Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture. Especially the second part of this book, on "The Philosophical Act," is very good on the relation between inwardness and transcendence.
  • Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility. The gist of this book, harmonizes very well with Crosby's Selfhood. I suggest especially chapter 3, on chastity, shame, and continence.
  • Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Heart. In this book, von Hildebrand makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the person, by restoring "the heart" (the seat of out affective life) to its rightful place next to the intellect and will.

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