I wrote in my introductory post about the importance of the human person. Today I would like to present our method of examining the human person and our desired encounter with the material. I am presently a student at Divine Mercy University, so the approach that we will take to the human person will reflect closely their Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person and the Catholic Church’s perennial philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. After establishing a working definition of the person in this post, each subsequent post will explore one or more of the theological, philosophical and psychological dimensions that are assumed in the definition. The posts will be focused on individual aspects of a complex reality, so our goal will be to keep them short and accessible.
My initial post each month will lay out a truth about the person from perennial philosophy or the Church’s teaching. The following week a catechetical post will be made by a contributor that presents the Church’s practical or catechetical teachings related to the initial post. The week after, another contributor will seek to engage, from the perspective of someone experiencing same-sex attraction, potential emotional responses when the truth is encountered, and questions that might pop-up from that initial encounter. Our goal is to have a final post each month from someone knowledgeable about one of the subjects covered. However, the point of this blog is to encounter the truth and then to engage compassionately the phenomenological reality, or lived experience of a person. It could also be spoken of as applying universal moral principles to particular situations. If we miss something or have not addressed a particular experience, feel free to reach out. Without further ado, here is the first post of our series on the human person.
How can we know the nature of man? How can someone define the human person?
“One way to determine the nature of something is to observe it. The way something acts is a result of the way it is. By observing the actions (or properties) of things, it is possible to come to an idea about the nature of a thing. With enough observational evidence conclusions can then be drawn about the nature of a thing (scientific method).” (Santucci, 2019) You could also formulate it thus, “Action follows upon nature.”
That phrase could serve as a four-word summary of much of the knowledge that man has amassed since his creation, but it refers specifically to a method of inductive reasoning favored by perennial philosophy. Perennial philosophy may be defined as those threads of thought found throughout creation, that man has discovered by reason across time and culture, which reveal the truth about God, His creation, and man’s purpose in relation to both. Perennial philosophy was first explicitly reasoned through by Aristotle. He established, among other things: the composite rational nature of man, the existence of God as the first cause, man’s natural orientation to seek happiness, and that man’s happiness is found in imitation of the divine. St Thomas Aquinas integrated the rational truths of Aristotle with divine revelation, demonstrating that man’s happiness is not merely an imitation of God, but that man’s happiness lies in union with God. Although many had spoken of these things before, few had integrated the basic philosophical, theological, or psychological truths of the person in a systematic manner.
What have the actions of man told us about his nature, according to the perennial tradition?
Man is an individual substance of a rational composite (body-soul) nature, created in the image of God by and for love, both human and divine. His call to love moves him to seek perfection in his capacities to better live out his call to love both God and neighbor, for the attainment of beatitude.
Because of his composite nature, he experiences reality directly and can come to abstract or universal knowledge about reality through the composite faculties of his nature. Due to the same composite nature, bodily realities can have spiritual effects and spiritual realities can have bodily effects. A person is fulfilled by perfecting his composite capacities for the purpose of living his vocation for the love of God.
Next month we will start to break open these two paragraphs to really address the psychological, philosophical, and theological vision of the person present within. Each subsequent month we will dive a little deeper into the definition and its lived implications, sometimes spending more than a month on part of the definition. The definition appears complex and technical, but as we break down its parts and their sub-parts, its simplicity will be revealed. We will make sure that the definition is easily accessible as we go forward for easy reference and that the part we are focusing on is within the beginning of the post.
Check back next Tuesday for a member’s catechetical reflection on the nature of man. Ciao
Santucci, R., Jr. (2019, November). A classical framework for assessing beauty in the fields of science and engineering [Conference session]. Conference: Jefferson Journal Conference, Charlottesville Virginia. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337261741_A_Classical_Framework_for_Assessing_Beauty_in_the_Fields_of_Science_and_Engineering
P. C. Vitz, W. J. Nordling, and C. S. Titus (Eds.) A Catholic Christian meta-model of the person: Integration with psychology & mental health practice. Sterling, VA: Divine Mercy University.