The Personalist Project

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Comments (15)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Dec 20, 2011 9:10pm

I wish I understood Fred Turner (and biology!) better.  I'm interested very much the idea that even in non-personal being we can trace a measure of "self-creation".  

But would you agree that there is a radical distinction between personal and non-personal being in that respect?

I think von Hildebrand said that in metaphysics, the first distinction is between being and nothingness.  The second between Abolute being and contingent being.  And thirdly between personal being and non-personal being.

(Correct me if I'be bungled it, somebody.)

Gregory Borse

#2, Dec 20, 2011 10:12pm

I can't correct you Katie.  I think Fred's point is to point up the miraculous in all of creation (i.e. Being--which is an Ontological point, in and of itself, even if he doesn't make it as a philosophical argument).  The closer we get to Being as-it-is the farther we are away from neat categories.  I'm not sure we can make our (perhaps artificial) distinction between personal and non-personal being, "radical"  or otherwise. I'm not sure we can make the argument that there is any such thing as non-personal being.  Even at the mineral level.  Does this mean that other things than humans have a soul?  No.  I'm not saying that.  But if we looked a bit at those things created by God as having a disnction that we have normally reserved to beings-with-souls, would we not think of reality differently?  What if each thing realy is unique and does not suffer from Ockham's heresy?  What if the universal is real even as each thing is unique--but gains its uniqueness from a miraculous participation in the ground of all being?

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Dec 21, 2011 8:55am

I like the idea of "pointing up the miraculous in all of creation," and finding in it, so to speak, the stamp of the divine Creator and analogies to personal existence. But there is a danger in taking it too far.

I'm not sure we can make the argument that there is any such thing as non-personal being.  

That all Creation is either personal or created by a Person and for persons, and can be called personal in that sense, I grant.  But only persons are persons.  And persons are radically distinct from all not persons, don't you think? Only persons have reason, free will, self-possession, interiority.

John Crosby highlights the point in his post on interiority today.

"We can say that the person as a subject is distinguished from even the most advanced animals by a specific inner self, an inner life, characteristic only of persons. It is impossible to speak of the inner life of animals." As we study the interiority of persons in this installment, we will go more deeply into the aspect of personhood that we studied in the last installment, namely each person as his or her own end.

Bill Drennen

#4, Dec 21, 2011 3:39pm

Didn’t Plato believe in different types of souls appropriate to each living thing (or is it every single thing) explained similar to Gregory's explanation? I buy this if a soul is defined as the basic essence of the thing or it's animating principal.

Excuse me for this tangent but I'm interested in the way in which our biology relates to our personhood. An interesting case in the news today of a Siamese twin (http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/12/21/brazilian-baby-born-with-two-heads/?test=latestnews)

where the medical officials declared there were 2 persons. Here is a case where 2 souls incarnate 1 body with 2 heads. I conclude that the human brain must be the essential element for the embodiment of a human soul. These persons have unique souls and brains but a common body. I assume in the resurrection they will each get their own.

Gregory Borse

#5, Dec 21, 2011 6:01pm

"But only persons are persons.  And persons are radically distinct from all not persons, don't you think? Only persons have reason, free will, self-possession, interiority."  Good point, Katie and I see how my description blurred an important distinction.  There is a difference between "individuality-as-uniqueness" at any level of being and "individuality-as-uniqueness-of-personhood."  Professor Crosby is quite right.  Part of my point, however, in citing Turner is to ask us to look through the lens backwards (as it were).  That is, we are so used to making a hard distinction between "persons" and non-persons that we miss the very fractal nature of reality of which I write.  But I would not imply any interiority to non-persons, etc. and thereby raise their level of participation in Creation beyond their station, as it were.

Gregory Borse

#6, Dec 21, 2011 6:09pm

Very interesting addition to the conversation, Mr. Drennon--though I'd be reticent to "locate" the soul in any "part"--even if the fact of siamesism raises compelling questions.  You are right, I think, in recalling Plato's description.  I'm mindful, too, of Aquinas' description of the "soul-body" relationship as the reverse of our post-Enlightenment (post-Cartesian) tendency to think of a "soul" as in a body:  Aquinas had it the other way 'round--a body in a soul.  Hence, in the case of conjoined twins, it's simply not two souls sharing a body, but one body (as it were) sharing two souls.

Katie van Schaijik

#7, Dec 21, 2011 7:14pm

Gregory Borse, Dec. 21 at 6:01pm

...we are so used to making a hard distinction between "persons" and non-persons that we miss the very fractal nature of reality of which I write.  

I guess my experience is mainly of the opposite, viz. that the  difference between persons and non-persons is everywhere denied or downplayed, with disastrous effect.  

Example: Sea World was recently sued for its treatment of Orcas.  The suit alleges that Sea World violates the 14th amendment against involuntary servitude.

Then consider the wretched work of Peter Singer, Chair of Ethics and Human Values, or some such, at Princeton, who shamelessly argues that healthy higher animals are of greater objective worth than "defective" human children.  

Gregory Borse

#8, Dec 21, 2011 7:53pm

You are on the right track, here, Katie.  In fact, the very grotesque distortion of values here is abbhorant.  The logic is not merely backwards--it's non-sensical.  If one can make the argument for the value of an individual whale then one must make the argument for the inestimable value of the individual person.  But, then, Stinger's stake here is not in terms of a philsophical precision:  it's in terms of a power-grab.  Singer is more concerned with being a member of the committee that makes such hard and fast decisions--rather than being among the group about which such decisions are made by others.  Don't you think?  It's obvious, to me.

 

Katie van Schaijik

#9, Dec 21, 2011 8:51pm

Gregory Borse, Dec. 21 at 7:53pm

Stinger's stake here is not in terms of a philsophical precision:  it's in terms of a power-grab.   

Right on.  Utilitarianism, at bottom, is nothing more and nothing other than "might is right."

God save us.

Gregory Borse

#10, Dec 21, 2011 8:56pm

It is for this reason that I think the "Personalist Project" is so important.  I have come to the conclusion that all of post-Englightenment philosophy is an effort to answer Medieval (implicitly Catholic) philosophy while managing to avoid mentioning the actual project of post-Englightenment philosophy!  Even as biology and quantum-mechanics keep revealing facets of the truly miraculous nature of reality . . . .philosophy insists upon remaining within its self-manufactured echo-chamber as a defense against the light and pure oxygen of the unexpected. 

Gregory Borse

#11, Dec 23, 2011 2:28am

Which is to say that philosophy ever resists that great force we all know from our experience and from fairy-tale and myth:  surprise. 

Katie van Schaijik

#12, Dec 24, 2011 8:44am

Gregory Borse, Dec. 23 at 2:28am

Which is to say that philosophy ever resists that great force we all know from our experience and from fairy-tale and myth:  surprise. 

Wait, what?  Philosophy resists surprise?  How can that be so when it begins in wonder and aims at wisdom?

Or, I suppose you are thinking mainly of rationalism and positivism and other stands of Englightenment and post-such philosophy?

As for me, I am not among those who think that philosophy has been in steep decline since Descartes, or rather, that Catholic thought since has aimed at a recovery of the medieval synthesis.  

The modern period has involved some disastrous errors.  But it has its real achievements too.

But on that I don't think we disagree.  Or do we?

Gregory Borse

#13, Dec 24, 2011 7:41pm

I was referring, as you say, to rationalism and positivism & oher strands of Enlightenment and . . . post-such philosophy.  And I agree

"The modern period has involved some disastrous errors.  But it has its real achievements too."

I would say that it is not that Catholic thought has tried to recover a medieval synthesis--(if it has, it's a move in the wrong direction).  It is that much of modern and (especially) post-modern thought has been an attempt to answer a Medieval synthesis without mentioning it . . .

Katie van Schaijik

#14, Dec 24, 2011 11:38pm

Yes.  Agreed on all counts.  Merry Christmas to you and yours, Gregory.

Gregory Borse

#15, Dec 25, 2011 2:44am

Merry Christmas to you and Jules--your loved ones and all of those involved iwth the Personalist Project.  Rejoice!

 

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