Discover more from Between The Paws
A Defense of the Thomistic Definition Of Person
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?
In our current age, when the ideas of so many have been clouded by the mist of a fundamentally flawed philosophy to such a staggering degree that the question, "What is truth?" is answered by the unnerving proclamation "What I believe it to be," it becomes contingent upon the philosopher, particularly the Catholic philosopher, as lover of truth, to set right what has been distorted by philosophers gone wrong. In recent years there has, perhaps, been no concept more spoken of, and less understood, than the person. And indeed, the concept of person ought to be foremost in one’s philosophy, for, as St. Thomas says, "Person signifies what is most perfect in all nature." Taking this for granted then, one’s answer to the question of the formal constituent of personhood will be fundamental in the further development of that philosophy. For it is in this distinction, that sets persons apart from the brutes, that the answers to so many questions will be. What is the ultimate end of the human person? What is the dignity of the human person that is so oft called for these days? What is it about the person that affords him this dignity? And, of course, the question is of utmost significance to man, inasmuch as man claims himself as a person. But what does this entail? Man, by being an intellectual creature, has a desire to know himself, and if "person" is what a man is, then the question necessitates a suitable answer.
Further, the question is of profound importance for Trinitarian theology insofar as the formal constituent of personhood will elucidate what we mean when we speak of the three persons in the Trinity. It is important as well for Christology wherein we speak of two natures of Christ, but only one person. Indeed, it was in the arena of theology wherein the definition of personhood first arose, precisely to address the above questions.
Further, insofar as our present topic is so inextricably united to theological considerations, as many of our opponents’ doctrines are advanced in theological works, it will occasionally be necessary to delve into questions which are primarily theological. However, it should not be inferred that a discussion of matters relating to theology entails a topic that is solely for theology. On the contrary, we shall use philosophy to support certain revealed doctrines in theology, and not vice-versa. Further, we shall not use theology as a science to draw premises from, for philosophy draws premises only from philosophy, as is only proper. Were one in need of a premise or doctrine from theology to support a conclusion in philosophy, then this would not be a philosophical proof, but a theological proof, as it is impossible to use a conclusion in one genus to support a point in a science of another genus, as Aristotle says. Rather, our examination of theology will be employed purely theoretically, e.g., positing the Trinity to exist, such and such would follow.
Having thus stated our intention, it seems appropriate to establish the scope of our topic. As one might expect from the nature of this topic, there is a plethora of theories about the formal constituent(s), of ‘person.’ For instance, having a brain, being conscious of oneself, being able to choose, being capable of an interpersonal relationship with God, are examples of various criteria for satisfying personhood. In light of the broad range of conceptions about the persons, our subject matter will be very limited. It is not our intention to refute every philosophically untenable conception of person, for this would require several hundred more pages. We are only concerning ourselves with three notions of personhood. The first represents the position espoused by us, namely the definition first formulated by Boethius around AD 500 and subsequently defended by St. Thomas. It is this view of person which has classically been regarded as being correct. However, in more recent years, some philosophers, most from the school of philosophy known as Phenomenology, have steadily been distancing themselves from this definition, and searching for a new concept of person. These philosophers have attempted to undermine the Thomistic definition by arguing either (1) Thomas’ definition is incomplete, or, even more radically, (2) the traditional definition is completely wrong and a new definition is to be formulated. One should not jump to the conclusion however that #1 and #2 are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, many of the proponents of #2 believe that their thought is a natural progression of #1.
Of the first theory, we shall primarily be examining the philosophy of Karol Wojtyla, now Pope John Paul II. As for the second theory, the works of Jean Galot will be considered.
Our ultimate purpose, then, is to defend the Thomistic conception of person in light of these modern criticisms, and, further, and equally as important, to enumerate the philosophical and, sometimes, theological pitfalls that are inherent in conceptions of the person such as those of the Phenomenologists. These pitfalls are of special importance to Catholics, who must strive so vigorously in modernity to defend the dignity of the person. The second reason why Catholics should take note is just this, if the Thomistic concept of the person is held to be erroneous, and the Phenomenological accurate, the very foundation of Thomism will be undermined, and, with it, centuries of traditional Catholic philosophical thought.
SOUNDING AS THROUGH A MASK
Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.
The origin of the word "person" is nearly as controversial as its meaning. The word prósōpon was originally used by Grecian actors to designate a mask. The mask was eventually incorporated into the Roman stage, and it is from here the word persona arose. However, debate arises even here, that is, in the construction of the word persona. Thus, some say the word is derived from peri soma, persum, per sonare, etc. Whatever the case may be, it is nonetheless conceded that persona was indeed meant to designate the mask worn by Roman actors. In Roman plays, masks were specified according to the character one played. Thus, there was a certain mask for a king, a queen, and so forth. And this was one’s persona. Further, Thomas tells us that as the word person was used to designate famous men represented in plays, e.g., Oedipus, the word came to be applied to men of high rank in the Church.
Thus we see that the original meaning of the word person did not, at least explicitly, connote something philosophical until the word was employed by the Catholic Church; it was here the word received a more specific meaning. Hence, when Tertullian said of God that He is "una substantia-tres personae" it became necessary to formulate an adequate definition of "person," insofar as the Church was giving a new kind of meaning to the word. And so it was that Boethius sought to explain this notion of person. In so doing, he entered into both philosophical and theological history with the now famous definition of person: naturae rationalis individua substantia (an individual substance of a rational nature).
We hold this definition of person to be philosophically sound. As such, it is our present duty to explain as completely as possible the meaning of this definition.
Now, before one can understand a whole, it is first necessary that one understand the parts which make up the whole, insofar as the whole is the whole in view of its parts. Thus, when someone says that man is a rational animal, if one does not comprehend what an animal is, then one will not conceive what a man is, since it is of man’s very essence to be an animal. In the same way, if one does not understand the terms: individual, substance, rational, nature, then one will not know what it is to be a person. It is our intention then to illuminate what each of these terms mean individually and when composed together, i.e., "individual substance" and "rational nature." Let us begin then with the term "individual."
What is the factor that makes an individual an individual? That is, what is it that makes one man numerically distinct from another? How is Socrates different from Aristotle? What is the principle of individuation? It is this question which we must first address. This question, however, like most philosophical questions, has a variety of possible responses. For instance, John Duns Scotus held that the principle of individuation is neither matter nor form but an element which he called "thisness." The thisness view seems rather unlikely however. Consider: if thisness were added to the thing, then the thing would have to be already individuated, lest it be impossible to add something (thisness) to it. And, indeed, thisness, must be added to a thing, for if one were to say that thisness were of the very essence of a thing, then one would in effect be denying that there was more than one substance. For, it is equivalent to defining man in terms of my flesh and my bones; if this were the case, then all men would be me, which is clearly wrong.
The Thomistic principle of individuation, on the other hand, is that things are made numerically distinct by matter. The reason is simply this, we find that material things are composites, namely, composites of matter and form. The principle of individuation cannot be the form, for all men have the same nature, and this is their form. If form individuated, then one man would have something in his nature which another did not have, but, if this were the case, they would simply not have the same nature. Each man, then, would be his own nature. We see this is not the case. Therefore, because we have ruled out a third element, such as thisness, and we have further excluded form, and precisely because there are only two things of which man is made, it must be matter which individuates.
Now, however, we must show how matter is the principle of individuation, as well as answer several difficulties that arise by investigating this topic.
Now, for a thing to an individual, it is said to be undivided from itself and distinct from others. What does this mean? What this points to is that the individual is incommunicable. That is, the individual is not able to be communicated to other things while at the same time remain an individual. This is obvious if we remember that the individual is distinct from others. We see that it is impossible for one to be distinct from others if one is received into another, that is, communicated to another. If the individual were communicated, it would cease to be an individual. Form cannot be the principle of individuation, because the nature of man is able to be communicated, and is communicated to all men, for, all men possess the same nature. We further see that it is only possible for there to be numerical distinction between men by human nature being received into matter. For, the form is exactly the same in all men. Inasmuch as matter is pure potency, that is, it has no definite character of its own, it is able to be multiplied by a form actualizing it. And so, for the individual to be incommunicable, it must be matter which makes him so.
However, Thomas does not merely say that matter as such is the principle of individuation, rather, he qualifies the principle of individuation by telling us that what individuates material substances is actually "matter designated by quantity." It is here that a number of difficulties arise. For, we must ask the question whether the principle of individuation should be located within actual existing matter. If it is actual matter, then this would seem to indicate that the matter already had a form within it, and, hence, that it was already individuated since matter is that which is purely potential and is only made actual by having a form actualize it. Therefore, if the matter is actual then it would seem that the matter is already individuated. Clearly this will not do.
The answer, then, must be that individuation takes place not through actually existing matter but, rather, through prime matter. Prime matter as the subject of dimensive quantity taken indeterminately. First Thomas says designated matter is matter with specific dimensions that is specific quantity. Undesignated has unspecified dimensions. Then he says, matter, because it receives form, and the second factor is also necessary, he adds the second factor, quantity. Two ways of understanding dimensions, he says specific dimensions cannot be the principle, because every time dimensions change you have a new individual. There has to be another sense. We can distinguish having dimensions from having specific dimensions. It is through indeterminate dimensions that matter is able to individuate the form. Dimension is of the genus quantity. As matter receives form it individuates it. (1) Matter as the ultimate subject of any and all form, however you need (2) that by which matter is made to have part outside part and thus to be divisible and to give rise to position and place is what enables matter to individuate form, this is the accident of quantity, which belongs to matter peculiarly as a quantity, specifically, indeterminate dimensions. Prime matter is potency of one substance as such to become another. Prime matter as subject of dimensive quantity taken indeterminately is the principle of individuation of substantial form and even of accidental forms.
Now we have outlined what makes an individual an individual in the material world, but what of the immaterial world? How are angels differentiated? The answer is just this: angels, because they lack matter, are differentiated solely by their form. Now, because an angel is not a composite of matter and form, but purely form, this must mean that each angel is his own species. For if a thing has some added perfection it has a different nature. This is quite clear if we examine the natural world. Take for instance, a flower, a dog, and Socrates. A flower has the perfections of existing and nutrition. A dog has these perfections and yet a further added perfection of sensation. Thus, we say that an animal and a plant have two different natures. Likewise with Socrates, he possesses the perfection of rationality, and as such we say that Socrates as a man has a different nature than the other two subjects. Thus, because each angel is differentiated by its form, it follows that each exhausts its own species. Thus each species has only one individuum, that is, substance, within it. This is because, the angel is its species.
Perhaps here we should note the great difference between the phrases individual and individuum, for there is a difference, which if unchecked, could be seen as a problem somewhat later.
The individual is not necessarily what exists in and through itself, whereas the individuum does. Note that Socrates is an individual shade of white, but this is an accident, and it is individuated by being in Socrates; the whiteness is not Socrates, though Socrates’ whiteness is an individual example of whiteness. Thus, the individual thing, does not necessarily mean the individuum. In this case, the individuum would be Socrates, and not his color, his height, etc. These are things that are individual and make up Socrates, but were any of these to change, Socrates would still be Socrates. Thomas says the individuum is "quod est in se indistinctum, ab aliis vero distinctum." The individuum then, or the suppositum as it is called, is what primarily exists. What is meant is that the individuum is the basis for individuation of other things. Individual things which themselves are not individuum’s are individuals precisely because they adhere in an individuum, and they do not exist by and through themselves. What then is an individuum or suppositum? The individuum is rightly predicated of only one thing, the first category of Aristotle, namely, substance. This, of course, brings us to the second term in our definition.
Substance as defined by Thomas is "an essence that has a property of existing in this way--namely, of existing of itself." This is not, however, a proper definition of substance. In fact one cannot give a proper definition of substance because of its very nature. Substance is a category, and a category is one of the ten most basic genera into which a thing may be subdivided. Now, the formula for a definition is to state the genus and the specific difference of the thing being defined. Thus we define man as a rational animal, where animal is the genus and rational is the specific difference. Now, because there is no more general genus for substance, we can only speak of it in a negative way. What is most illustrative of substance is that it is neither "said of" nor "present in" a subject as Aristotle says. What is meant by "present in" is when we mean to say that an accident is present in a subject, e.g., this certain knowledge is present in Socrates. Even when we say Socrates is white, we mean to say that there is a certain shade of whiteness in the surface of Socrates’ body, for, we do not mean to predicate the definition of white Socrates.
Now the term "said of" is an entirely different sort of predicate than "present in." When we say that something is said of a subject we do not mean to indicate an individual accident but rather a universal property or differentiae belonging to that species qua that species. This predicate, as opposed to the "present in" predicate, is such that one cannot be what one is without the "said of" predicate. For example, we say that Socrates is rational because he is a man. Notice that were Socrates to become tan, whereas before he was white, we would still consider him to have the same nature, to be the same kind of thing, namely, a man. However, it is clear that Socrates could not be a man and yet be non-rational. He would become a completely different sort of substance, because, this predicate, that is, the "said of" predicate, determines the substance to be the kind of substance that it is.
Having said this, we realize that we never say that Socrates is Plato nor that Socrates is in Plato. Substance is clearly never used as a predicate, i.e., we do not say that one substance is another substance, as we might say that Socrates is rational, nor do we say that one substance is in another substance, as we might say that this whiteness is in Socrates.
However, perhaps some may see this as somewhat of a dilemma. Consider the following: Socrates = Animal. Is it not true to say that Socrates is an animal? Have we not predicated animal, which is a substance, of Socrates, which is also a substance? Indeed we have, and this point necessitates explanation as it is of the utmost importance somewhat later in the current as well as proceeding chapters.
We find that in common everyday speech we do what we just said we cannot do, i.e., predicate a substance of another substance. How is this possible? The answer is that there are two ways in which we may speak of a substance, as (1) primary and (2) secondary. A secondary substance is a substance such as horse or man taken universally, whereas a primary substance is the individual horse or Socrates. Secondary substances are so called because they are species and genera to which the primary substances are said to belong. That is, because the individual man is a primary substance and he is of the species of man, we call the species of man a secondary substance. However primary substances are most properly called substances because they are truly what exist through themselves and are the substratum through which everything else is either predicated of them as being "said of" or "present in." Thus the individual substance is properly called a suppositum for it is what individually exists in a complete way through itself and not through another. This is what we mean when we say that an individual substance is not predicable of another, because as such, the individual substance is utterly incommunicable. Thus Socrates is incommunicable to others whereas man is communicated to all men. By incommunicable we mean to assert the autonomy of a first substance. It cannot communicate itself to another first substance, because by this very act of communication it would lose the proper constituent which makes it a suppositum, that is the undivided character of itself and the distinctness from others. If an individual substance could communicate this, it would no longer be distinct from others, hence not a first substance. Communicability belongs to second substances, whereby they are predicable of a first substance. Thus as we said above, animal is communicated to individual animals.
This incommunicability, as was implicit above, derives from the very nature of substance. A primary substance is an individuum, a suppositum, and hence incommunicable. Further, a substance is individuated of itself and not through another. This is only true of primary substances. Accidents which inhere in subjects are not individuated by themselves, but through the substance in which they inhere. Substances however, by their very nature are individuated through themselves. Thus, when we remember our definition of an individual substance of a rational nature, we may be curious as to why individual was added to the definition. Why not simply say substance of a rational nature? The answer is found in the somewhat lengthy discussion of substance and individual above. The reason why this definition would be an improper one is that only primary substances are individuated of themselves; secondary substances are not individuated in this way at all. Secondary substances as universal forms are individuated by being specifically different within a genus. Hence, there are not two secondary substances that are both men, whereas there are millions of primary substances which are all men. Thus, if one were to refer to a substance of a rational nature, it would not tell us whether the substance was an individual substance, that is a suppositum, or rather a secondary substance such as a species.
Therefore the terms "individual" and "substance" must be taken so as to exclude secondary substance and refer to a suppositum. For we are not referring merely to any sort of substance, but a substance that is incommunicable, distinct from others and undivided in itself. Only individual substances fulfill these requirements, not secondary substances. Thomas seems to agree with this, though he does so in a very curious way. He says in the reply to the second objection in Q. 29.1 that "in the opinion of some, the term substance in the definition of person stands for first substance, which is the hypostasis." We can assume that this is Thomas’ opinion as well, inasmuch as he says further down in the same paragraph that "when individual is added [substance] is restricted to first substance."
There is, however, a second reason why the term "individual" is not a superfluous term in the Thomistic definition of person. The angelic doctor continues in the reply mentioned above, that by adding the term individual both "the idea of universality and of part is excluded." We have already addressed universality, but here Thomas brings up an entirely new consideration, that of the part. What does Thomas mean to imply here when he says that appending the term individual to the term of substance excludes a part? Here we see the efficacy of our earlier discussion of the distinction between the terms individual and individuum or suppositum. As we said above, an individual does not necessarily subsist (only if it is an individuum) whereas an individuum does. When one refers to a substance, this is somewhat ambiguous, not only for the reasons mentioned above, but for yet another reason. Consider, an individual man is a substance. But not only a man as a whole is a substance, but even his hand, which is only a part is a substance. Further, a man’s soul and body are substances. Now surely "an individual substance of a rational nature" does not apply to a man’s hand or even to his body, as something has to be immaterial to have intellectual functions, and insofar as a body is purely material it cannot have a rational nature. If we consider the soul however, it seems to satisfy the criteria of our definition. Is not the soul an individual substance of a rational nature? This seems to be a rather formidable problem since we know that a separated soul cannot be a complete person. If this were the case then man would actually be two persons! The body/soul composite, which a man calls himself, would be a person as well as his soul. Thus every human person would in fact be two persons, a rather bizarre concept. This cannot be the case, so how are we to answer this objection? Thomas handles this objection rather tersely as follows:
The soul is a part of the human species; and so, although it may exist in a separate state, yet since it ever retains its nature of unibility, it cannot be called an individual substance, which is the hypostasis or first substance.
This seems rather a cursory treatment of what seems a rather serious objection. However, Thomas’ answer to this objection is quite complete if we take into account the doctrine already propounded. If we hearken back to what makes an individual an individual we shall note that never was it explained how the individual soul was individuated and thus made distinct from another individual soul. The answer is that because the individual soul is the form of some specific material body, the souls differ in that one soul is the substantial form of this body, whereas another soul is the substantial form of that body. This is what Thomas means when he says that the soul maintains its unibility. That is, when the soul is separated from the body it is not a single complete thing in and of itself. For we say the soul is a form, but if a thing is a form it must be the form of something, and if it is not currently informing the body of which it is naturally the form, then it is not a complete individual. However, as we said above, if a thing is not individuated of itself then it is not an individuum, but is individuated because of the individuum. Hence, because the soul is not individuated by and through itself, but through the body which it informs, it is not properly called an individual substance, insofar as individual substance points to something which is individuated by itself, and the only thing that is individuated by itself is the individuum or suppositum of which the soul is merely a part. This is explained by Thomas when he says:
Just as the substantial form has no absolute existence per se without that to which the form comes, so too does that to which the form comes, namely matter, have no absolute per se existence. Thus, from the conjunction of both there results that existence in which the thing per se subsists, and from these two there is made one thing per se; for, from the conjunction of these there results a certain essence.
Thomas is here affirming what we said above, that the soul is a part of the whole substance (the person) which exists per se, and as such should not be called an individual substance. For there results just one complete substance when the soul is joined to the body. Hence, the soul cannot satisfy our definition as the whole body-soul composite of man does, since it is this composite, this complete nature, which is what subsists per se in the species of man. Thus the term individual is indispensable in Boethius’ definition, as it will now exclude two very important things, which would have otherwise fallen within this definition: Christ’s human nature, and the human soul. Christ’s human nature will be excluded because it does not have a human esse; without a human esse one cannot be a human person. And the soul, of course, will be excluded for the reasons explained above.
With this we have completed the first and most difficult portion of the definition. The second half, while by no means less significant, is considerably more simple to consider than was the first. What has been dealt with thus far has been the genus in the definition: individual substance. It remains then, to demonstrate that the specific difference, "rational nature," is a proper one in the definition of the term person.
Let us begin then with the term nature, since a rational nature is a specific kind of nature and one should start with a more general concept and then consider the more specific one.
Aristotle defines nature as a principle of motion and rest in a thing to which it belongs primarily and not per accidens. To elucidate this definition we can use a crude example. We say that a bed is able to be burned. However, the bed does not burn insofar as it is a bed, but insofar as it is made of wood. Thus, if a thing is able to have the characteristics of being moved and of being at rest, it is in virtue of the thing’s nature. In a plant, then, we say that it has a nature, because it has within itself, a principle of growth and nutrition. This is why we say that it is natural for a plant to grow, for it has this principle of motion within itself, which it must fulfill. A natural motion, then, or a natural appetite, follows upon one’s nature. For a nature inclines one to a certain mode of existence. We can further say that a nature limits one’s existence inasmuch as if it is not in one’s nature to perform certain actions then one will not be able to perform them, and, consequently, one’s being will be that much more limited, since action follows being. As we said above, the more actions one is capable of, the more being one will have, for one will have more perfections. Now the degree of perfections, or, the degree of existence, which a thing possesses, determined by its nature, makes a thing what it is. Thus we see that a thing’s nature is a thing’s whatness, or, in more proper terms, a thing’s essence. However, when we are speaking of a thing’s nature as opposed to its essence in the strict sense of the term, we are speaking of a principle by which a thing acts in accordance with its end. Nevertheless, by examining a thing’s powers and end, we are able to come to a knowledge of the essence or of what a thing is, and so we use the words nature and essence somewhat interchangeably in this sense. This becomes more evident if we examine things in the natural order. We speak of animals as being sentient existents, inasmuch as sensation is an animal’s most perfect power, and as such tells us the most about the whatness of animals.
And so we see, then, that a nature is really a way of being and acting in accord with one’s end that truly determines a thing to be what kind of thing it is. We must now address the question what a rational nature entails? What is it about a rational nature that is so much more radical than any other sort of nature? To answer this question we must refer back to what was said above about the order of perfection. A rock has the perfection of being, a plant the perfection of life, an animal the perfection of sensation. Finally, we arrive at man (a person), wherein we have the perfection of rationality. Now this perfection, like the other perfections in the order of nature, belongs to the very essence or nature of what it is to be an X. For instance, it belongs to the very essence of an animal to be sentient. Sensation is by no means an accident added to an animal. Far from this, if an animal did not have the power of sensation, it would not be called an animal at all, for this is what it means to be an animal; it belongs to the definition of an animal. And so we see that in the same way that sensation perfects the whole esse of an animal, rationality perfects in a higher way the entire esse of the person. However, what is true about rationality, that is not true of any other perfection, is that it is not a material perfection. Nutrition, vegetation, and sensation all belong to the perfection of matter, but rationality goes beyond matter into the realm of the immaterial, inasmuch as when man knows something, the process is immaterial. The process of thinking is not, and in fact cannot be, intrinsically body dependent. For, if the process were body dependent, one could not know all material things, which the soul does. This is evident in the case of body dependent things such as the senses. The senses always lack what it is that they sense. The eye lacks color, inasmuch as if it did not, it could not sense all colors. The tongue lacks taste so that it is a fitting instrument to taste food and drink. If the soul were somehow dependent on a bodily organ, it would presumably not be able to know itself, yet we see that the soul is able to know itself, which is impossible with anything material. Thus, the perfection of rationality, or intellect, is a perfection that affords a much greater dignity than mere perfections of matter. As was said above, the more being a thing has, the more perfect a thing is. However, since the intellect can become all things, since in knowing something the intellect becomes like that thing, it is capable of being most perfect, since it is capable of becoming all being.
Further, it is by having an intellect that a thing is said to be like God. This point is rather evident if we consider the nature of an intellect as a perfection. For, what other perfection can encompass every other perfection within itself? The intellect can know a rock, and grant it an intentional being within the knower’s mind. Yet also, the intellect can know God and make God in a sense present to it along with the rock. Now, if more being makes one more perfect, then it is evident that the more knowledge a thing has, the more being a thing would have, thus the more perfect a thing would be. We can see then that God, who is most perfect, must possess all knowledge in its fullness. Then it is by participation in God’s perfection, that is, by being perfect in a potentially unlimited way through a potentially unlimited limited knowledge, that we are said to be like God, which affords persons the highest dignity, since it is this faculty that enables persons to do what God does.
Finally, rationality, because it is a kind of nature, confers upon a person the ability to act in a rational manner. In saying this, we mean to point to a fundamental distinction found in persons, which is not present anywhere else within the natural order. A person, because of what he is, is able to determine himself. A person can know his end, and be able to choose the means of attaining that end, and to rest in the end once attained. Thus, by being rational, the person is able to choose for himself what sort of person he is. Thus the person is self-determining. Unlike irrational animals, which are moved solely by sensible appetites, rational persons are able to choose and act in a deliberate fashion, because of their intellect and will which enables them, unlike any other creature, to, as it were, make themselves. Karol Wojtyla, though he is one of our opponents in the present work, nonetheless has an excellent insight regarding the previous point of self-determinism.
In this action, [he says], the person is, owing to self-determination, an object for himself, in a peculiar way being the immanent target upon which man’s exercise of all his powers concentrates, insofar as it is he whose determination is at stake. He is, in this sense, the primary object or the nearest object of his action.
In this quotation, Wojtyla is pointing to what we said above, that in acting rationally, a person acts on himself, and thus makes himself what he is. So we see then that a person is called a person because of the special dignity which is associated with being a rational suppositum. As St. Thomas says, "Person signifies what is most perfect in all nature." This is why we give to it a special name. If we start with a substance, and add individual to this term, we have a special name for it, a suppositum; if we add rationality to this suppositum, we have yet another term, namely, person. The reason of course why Thomas calls a person most perfect is because we apply the term person to the three hypostases within the Trinity. And we apply the term because of the fact that the three Persons in the Trinity are intelligent subsistent hypostases. Thus, a person, be it human, angelic, or Divine, points to an existent that possesses of itself, that is by its very nature, a great dignity that is afforded it by the fact that it is a rational thing.
Thus we have illustrated why having a rational nature is the only proper specific difference that grants a person the dignity which he deserves. With this, we have concluded our examination of both the genus and specific difference in Boethius’ definition. And so it seems that the Boethian/Thomistic definition of person is proper. We have further illustrated why each and every term in the definition is necessary for it to be a proper definition. This does not mean, however, that we have finished with this definition altogether. On the contrary, in Chapter Four of our lucubration we shall need to defend this definition from those whom we encounter in Chapters Two and Three. These objectors believe that something is missing in Boethius’ definition which is present within their definition. What we shall examine in the following chapters is (1) the reasons they posit for the Boethian/Thomistic definition being incomplete, and (2) the alternatives which they offer. Indeed, some of the objections from our opponents encompass matters which we have not even considered as of yet. However, practically all of their objections will able to be answered by further explication of the foundations laid above.
WHO CAME UP WITH PERSON MAN?
God, being wholly reason and wholly Logos, says what He thinks and thinks what He says. For His thought is His Logos; His Logos is His reason and the reason which embraces all is the Father himself. Therefore, one who speaks of God’s reason and who attributes to this reason an emission of its own makes of God a composite. As if God were other than supreme reason. . . . If someone asks us, "How then was the Son uttered by the Father?" we will answer that this utterance, or generation, or pronunciation, or revelation, or indeed this ineffable generation, call it what you will--no one knows anything about it: not Valentinus, not Marcion, not Saturninus, not Basilides, not the angels, not the archangels, not the principalities, not the powers, but only the Father who begot and the Son who was born. Because His generation is indescribable, then, all those who pretend to explain the generations and utterances do not know what they are talking about.
As we said in the previous chapter, our objectors believe that something is lacking in the classical Boethian/Thomistic definition which is present in their definition or conception. The first school of thought we shall examine is that of Jean Galot and others that follow philosophy/theology. We say philosophy/theology inasmuch as Galot would claim to be first and foremost a theologian, nevertheless, if Galot wishes to posit a definition of person, he has ceased to be a theologian, and entered into the realm of a philosophical consideration. Now, Galot, and others of his philosophy, believe that the Thomistic definition of person relies too heavily upon Aristotelian categories, and that a true definition of person is to be drawn from elsewhere. Thus, instead of having a substance based definition of person, they base their definition of person upon relation, which by chance is a category of Aristotle. What remains to be seen, however, is the reason why they base their new definition upon relation. But before we examine the why of their definition, we shall first explain their criticisms of Boethius’ definition, and Thomas’ interpretation of this definition. For, indeed, if Galot is to support his point convincingly, the burden of proof, as it were, lies with him. Boethius understanding of person has been the classical conception for the past fourteen hundred years, thus if a completely new concept is formulated, it is incumbent upon Galot to prove the older conception wrong. Galot is aware of this. Thus, before he promotes his own definition of person, he first outlines what he considers to be the basic problem with holding fast to St. Thomas’ conception of person. It is with these various criticisms, that we shall begin our discussion of the relational concept of person.
Galot’s first criticism is a criticism of the word "substance" in the definition. Galot comments that inasmuch as "substance" often designates a thing’s nature, it is an ambiguous term. Here we should comment that Galot’s primary purpose, as we said above, is theological, and not philosophical. The branch of theology which Galot is concerned with is Christology. The Catholic Church has solemnly declared that in Christ there are two natures, one a human and the other divine, but only one person, a Divine Person. Now, because this is so, Galot realizes it is of the utmost importance that person not be identified with nature, lest we say that there are two persons in Christ, both a Divine Person and a human person. It is for this reason, then, that Galot is hesitant about using the word substance in any definition of person.
Galot further questions whether we can use the word substance insofar as he is unsure how the word should be understood. If the word is understood to mean an hypostasis, Galot says, this does not help us to understand what substance is, as we would still need to define what a hypostasis is. It seems, then, that Galot’s basic difficulty with the word substance is that it is an ambiguous term, which we do not understand well even after the ambiguities are elucidated. Now, insofar as a definition’s purpose is to explain a lesser known term via more well known terms, substance seems be inadequate in a definition of person, since person appears to be more easily understood than substance.
Galot further explains why the Boethius definition is inadequate, when he focuses on other terms in the definition. The terms individual and rational nature, he says, "characterize the person, but these can also be applied to nature." Here, once again, we see Galot’s concern for identifying person and nature, which he correctly believes must be kept distinct.
A fourth criticism of the definition has its root, not so much in the definition, but in the philosophical tradition wherein the definition is rooted. The criticism is just this: if the classical definition has its basis in a philosophy that originated before Christianity, will not this philosophy be inadequate to explicate matters of Christian theology? For, Aristotelian philosophy would be employed to explain things for which it was never intended. Hence, it will be inadequate. The reason why this philosophy will be inadequate is because of Aristotle’s conception of being. Aristotle would say that everything that exists does so as either a substance, or an accident. Now, the Catholic Church believes that the three Persons of the Trinity are one substance and three relations. Yet, what are these relations? The relations in the Trinity can be neither substantial, nor accidental. If they were substantial, there would be three gods. If they were accidental, then the three Persons would be accidents of the substance which is God; they would not truly be God, since accidents do not have to inhere necessarily. This view that everything is either a substance or an accident is incorrect, consequently, the very basis of the philosophy is wrong, therefore any definition of person shall be utterly inadequate. Cardinal Ratzinger, who has a relational view of the person, takes up this objection. His Eminence explains:
Boethius defined "person" as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind, which thinks in substantialist terms.
The argument is, then, that, from the relational point of view, pre-Christian philosophy will be unqualified and unable to explain anything about the Trinity or Christology by the mere fact that it is substance based. Why it is the case that "an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind, which thinks in substantialist terms" is not able to explain anything about these two areas of theology, we are uncertain. Neither Ratzinger nor Galot explain this point in any great detail. We may assume, however, that they believe that when Christ entered the world, and the Catholic Church was founded, traditional philosophy became unable to explain these great mysteries, and, further, it is necessary to have a philosophy enlightened by theological truth. Because Aristotle was not enlightened by revelation, his philosophy becomes inadequate.
Galot’s final objection enters more deeply into the realm of theology than does even the previous objection. The objection stems, once again, from the fact that we declare that in Christ there are two natures but one Person. Now, Galot must explain what it is that is missing in Christ that keeps Him from being a human person, yet in no way diminishes His having a complete human nature. Thomas answers this dilemma by saying that the human nature of Christ exists not through a human esse, that is, a human to be, but rather the human nature exists through the divine esse of the Son. In this way, what is missing from Christ is a human act of existing. This in no way makes His nature incomplete, rather, the nature simply has a higher mode of being. Consequently, insofar as Christ’s human nature does not exist through a human esse, we do not say that Christ’s human nature makes him a human person, since, as we said above, a person is whatever exists within a certain nature, in a human nature it is this flesh, these bones, and, we can add, it exists with the mode of existing proper to the kind of person which the person is. Because Christ does not satisfy the last requirement, he cannot truly be called a human person.
Jean Galot, however, does not consider this account plausible. In fact, not only does he deem this account implausible, but also he believes it commits one "to a certain monophysitism." What an unsightly blot upon the Thomistic escutcheon this claim could cause. Galot believes that we cannot hold there is no human esse in Christ, because this results in denying that Christ’s human nature has everything that a normal human nature possesses. That is, Christ’s human nature is incomplete if it is lacking a human esse, insofar as human natures have human esses. Thus, if there were only one esse in Christ, it seems there is only one true nature. This is why Galot believes that holding to this view of person will make traditional Thomists actually heretical monophysites.
The Word did not remove from his human nature what made it exist strictly as human nature. He made the whole human nature part of himself, including its human "to be." Nothing human was left out of the Incarnation or eliminated from it.
Galot therefore concludes that the Thomistic explanation cannot be correct, and thus he proposes a new concept for the idea of person.
The relationists believe that to start with what a person truly is, we must look to the Trinity. As we said in the previous chapter, the three Persons of the Trinity are defined by being relations. The Father is only Father because He is related to the Son as a Father, and vice-versa for the Son. Here already we can see the distinction implicitly drawn between Person and nature. The Persons in the Trinity are not defined by their nature, because all of the Persons are their nature, and the same nature no less, rather, each Person is defined by being in relation to another Person. For, Galot, this neatly solves one major difficulty, and that is his apprehension about using the word "substance" in a definition of person. In the Trinity, substance never enters into the formal constituent of personhood; indeed it cannot, because then the three Persons would be three substances, which is an impossibility. Saying, however, that the three Persons are subsistent relations in no way implies that one Person will have an absolute perfection which another Person lacks. For, being Son does not add anything to the Son that the Father does not have, it merely distinguishes Him as Son; it is not an absolute perfection, simply stated, because it is a relative perfection.
We see then, that to be Son, or to be Father, is to be nothing other than to be a relation. To be a Person in the Trinity, is to be being-to-another, it is simply to be a relation. We wish to emphasize this point at length, as it is extremely important. Relation, as Cardinal Ratzinger tells us, is "not something superadded to person, but is the person." In other words, this is not a substance that has relationality as something distinct from it. For instance, we say that man is rational, but we realize that he is not rationality. Not so with the Trinity: when we say that the Son is a relation, we mean just that, as a person, he is nothing other than a relation.
Indeed, the Persons in the Trinity are subsistent relations. It seems clear, then, that it is relationality that enables all three Persons to all be God, while at the same time remaining distinct from each other. Nevertheless, if we say that the Persons of the Trinity are relations, does this mean that all persons are relations? Galot, Ratzinger, and others believe it does mean this. We shall now, then, examine the reasons which, they believe, support this view.
The first and most convincing argument that the Phenomenologists propose is somewhat akin to the argument Aquinas propounds in his philosophy of God, and this is called the way of remotion. The way of remotion, which Thomas tells us is necessary to follow when predicating attributes of God, functions by a three-fold process. First, we predicate something of God. Second, we deny it of God. Third, we attribute the predicate of God once again. While this process seems to contradict itself, it in fact does not. When we say that we predicate an attribute of God, we mean to say something like "God is good." Now when we deny this attribute of God, we are not denying the attribute per se, but rather, we are saying that the mode in which it exists in creatures does exist in the same way in God. Thus we say that "God is not good in the way in which we as humans are good." Finally, we affirm the attribute again of God. "God is good in an infinitely higher way." The way of remotion, we see then, functions by examining a perfection found in man, or in nature, and predicating this perfection of God in a super-eminent manner. For example, we say that man is wise, thus God must be wise. However, he is not wise in the fashion that we are wise, but to a supremely greater degree. Now, one may inquire how we know with certainty that the attributes we predicate of God are truly able to be predicated of God. That is, how are we able to say with certainty that God is intelligent. The answer simply derives from the philosophical principle that a cause is always like its effect, or, in other words, a thing cannot give what it does not have. If water moves from being cold to being hot, then we can say that some hot thing caused it to be hot. In the same manner, we are able to look at God’s effects and then reason back to what He, as a cause, must be like.
We see then, by the principle of analogy, that if we are made in the image and likeness of God, and if what disposes the Persons in God to be Persons is to be nothing other than a subsistent relation, then it seems that the same must be true of human persons, that is, a human person must be nothing other than a subsistent relation. This is the fundamental claim of Galot. By the principle of cause and effect, then, all persons must be subsistent relations if they receive their personhood from the Trinity, who are subsistent relations. Were human persons something else, the principles of analogy, and of cause and effect, would seem to fail.
Now, we have used the phrase "subsistent relation" above, but, lest there be any confusion, this term must be explained. According to Thomas, the Persons in the Trinity are called subsistent relations because (a) a person is what subsists in a nature in an individual way and (b) what subsists in an individual way in God are only His relations. Thus, we can call the Son a subsistent relation, inasmuch as all He is, insofar as He is distinct from the Father and Spirit, is a relation. In a similar way, we could say that Socrates is a substance with these bones this soul, etc., now insofar as everything which Socrates is, insofar as he is distinct, are these said attributes. This is what subsists. This seems to be the understanding that Galot has of "subsistent relation" when he says "it is a relation that defines subsistence." Galot, of course, believes that this relation that defines subsistence is true of every person, and not just those within the Trinity.
After setting out his basic position, Galot undertakes to explain the differences between divine and human persons. Galot knows that the principle of analogy is precisely that, an analogy. He is not willing to say that "person" as predicated of a Divine Person and a human person is completely univocal term. He grants that there will be differences between the two, and it is these which we shall now discuss.
Galot lists three ways in which human persons differ from Divine Persons, and the first regards the origin of each. Galot rightly says that a Person in the Trinity is distinguished by having an opposing origin, e.g., being Son is opposed to being Father. The origin of each Divine Person, then, says Galot, will be completely unique to that Person (except the Father who is unoriginated). Human persons are not so original; we all have our origin from one source, God. It is significant here to note that Galot does not tell us why and how human persons are distinct. Is it by relation? We are not sure.
The second difference Galot mentions, we will only note here in passing, as it requires no explanation: A human person is not identical with his nature, whereas a Divine Person is identical with His nature.
The third difference Galot mentions is the difference of perfection between Divine and human persons. Inasmuch as God is pure actuality, Divine Persons are completely perfect. Human persons, says Galot, do not possess this fullness of actuality. Hence, human persons are able to undergo a process of personal development. By "personal development" we mean just that, a developing of the person qua person. Though, when Galot says that the person is able to be perfected, we must inquire into what he means. A Thomist would indeed say that when a person is in potency toward a perfection he is able to be perfected. When we ask what is being perfected, we would reply that the subject’s substantial being is perfected, in that the substance is receiving more being in the form of additional accidents, which are "present in" the substance. Thus, a substance is made more perfect by the addition of accidents. And so, the more accidental perfections which a substance possesses, the more perfect the substance will be in possessing those accidents. We see that accidents, then, are able to make a limited being more perfect, in that, the more being one possesses, the more perfect one is, and, since accidents are a kind of being, they are capable of giving more perfection to a substance. Now, Galot, as we have said, does not accept the constraining Aristotelian categories. Consequently, he cannot say that it is a substance’s being which is perfected through accidents. And he does not. Rather, he says that a person is perfected in and through being a relation. "It is immediately evident that the person’s development must be actuated and perfected essentially as a relation." Here we must consider what Galot has in mind. What is this relation which Galot is speaking of? When someone says "I have a relation," we are bound to ask, "to what?" Galot here does not tell us what sort of relation is important. He merely tells us that, by perfecting oneself as a relation, one’s relations will "extend, multiply and deepen." We see then, the vital importance of AA meetings, bowling clubs, clam bakes, etc. These various activities establish relations and consequently perfect what is most fundamental about a person.
Now, when we ask whether Socrates’ relation to Fred, the drunk at the AA meeting, is what truly makes him a person, Galot will answer no. Galot makes a distinction between two relations which are able to be found in a person. The first type corresponds to the relation we mentioned above, that is, the comradeship which Socrates and Fred share. The second type of relation, however, is much more important, Galot dubs this type of relation the "hypostatic relation."
According to Galot, this relation formally makes a person to be a person. "Human persons . . . [are] constituted by a relation, the hypostatic relation." This quotation is somewhat ambiguous. For, Galot wishes to use the term "hypostatic relation" to be convertible with the term "person," and yet, he says it is the "hypostatic relation" which makes a person to be a person. Thus it sounds as if Galot were actually predicating the "hypostatic relation" of a hypostatic relation, as if this there were one hypostatic relation that makes the rest of us able to be hypostatic relations. In other words, it seems as if it would be correct to say that "Socrates has the hypostatic relation, and thus he is a hypostatic relation." Now, if the hypostatic relation is predicable in this way, then we must inquire precisely what is the hypostatic relation a relation to? For, if I have a relation, it must be to something. What, then, is the relation of the hypostatic relation? Galot does not tell us, and we cannot even begin to speculate.
Next we must ask what the association is between the hypostatic relation, and the relations we previously spoke of? When faced with this question, Galot tells us that the "accidental" relations are not what make us a person, but are merely capable of "actuating the hypostatic relation." Thus, Socrates’ relation to Fred actuates his hypostatic relation; it actuates and perfects his personality. We see, then, that Galot wishes to draw a sharp line of demarcation between what he considers to be less important relations, and the all important "hypostatic relation." Again, we must ask what relation the hypostatic relation entails. However, Galot at this point does not give us any idea. For the time being, we merely know that this hypostatic relation makes one to be a person. Thus Galot tells us that the goal of the "hypostatic relation" is to seek further perfection. In the Trinity, says Galot, the relations have attained their "ultimate limits," man, however, must perfect the relations that he possesses. In this way, that is, by "sharing and communicating," he will become more of a person.
Having explained the differences between Divine and human persons as Galot understands them, we must now explicate what Galot means by the term "relational being," for it is crucial in understanding Galot’s conceptions of "person."
To explain what relational being is, we need only contrast it with the traditional notion of a substantial being. The Thomistic philosopher, when presented with the question what mode being X has, would respond either (1) that X has a substantial being, or (2) X has an accidental mode of being. Regarding the former, this sort of being would be considered absolutely, whereas the former has to be considered not as a simple or absolute mode of being, but rather as existing through another. Thus, a Thomist, when faced with what kind of being a person is, would answer that a person is a substantial being. Now, when we ask Galot what kind of being a person is, his answer is neither of the above, nor does he believe that a person is "a relation that subsists as a substance." Rather, he states that the person is a relational being. So then, where a Thomist would that that a person has his being in being a substance, Galot will say that a person has his being in being relation. And so, it seems that the penultimate reason why Galot rejects the Aristotelian categories is because they do not allow for a relation to subsist, but rather, the traditional philosophy only allows for a relation to be predicated of a substance by being "present in."
Which brings us to The ultimate reason why those of Galot’s school of thought reject Aristotle’s categories as being sufficient to define a person. The reason is that they believe other definitions of person are too individualistic, which, of course, follows from being unable to posit persons as subsistent relations within the older philosophy. And so, Boethius’ definition of "an individual substance of a rational nature" seems to them to be too solipsistic. The term "individual substance" seems to cut this individual substance off from other individual substances. The person then becomes complete isolated from other persons. Thus, they conjecture that if we are to maintain that what it truly means to be a person is found most fully in the Trinity, then we cannot maintain that a person can have such an individual existence. No, this goes against the very whatness of what it means to be a person, which is to be in relation. From this very notion of relational being, we can draw hundreds of conclusions that will necessarily follow, if the idea is taken to its logical end, and Galot and others are by no means reserved about doing just that. One conclusion is the necessity to relate in order to be a person. Now, one is a hypostatic relation by nature; So, in this way, one cannot help, as it were, not to relate in some sense. Yet the more one relates, the more a person one becomes. Thus we can draw a parallel between Thomism and Galot’s theory: Just as accidents give more being to a substance in the Thomistic understanding, accidental relations are able to more fully actuate the hypostatic relation. Whereas in classical philosophy, the locus of a person’s being is centered in substance, this philosophy of relational being, inasmuch as substance is abolished in the person, shifts the locus away from substance, and onto relation. Thus, a person cannot determine himself via his substance, but only through his relation. Further, as we said, philosophers of this school do not hesitate to admit this. In Robert Connor’s article, "The Person as Resonating Existential," we read:
I most literally achieve myself, determine, fulfill, actualize, "substantialize" myself at the precise moment that I transcend myself (relate) and give myself away to another in act. I become what I do. Then, I do what I have become.
Pope John Paul II offers these remarks.
Being a person means striving towards self-realization (the Council speaks of a self-discovery), which can be achieved only ‘through a sincere gift of self.’ The model for this interpretation is God himself as Trinity, as a communion of Persons. To say that man is created in the image and likeness of God means that man is called to exist for other, to become a gift.
We can further conclude, from these remarks, the necessity for a person to be in a community with other persons. Of course, this can be deduced simply from the definition of a person as a subsistent relation. In traditional philosophy, a relation means that X is Y of Z, where X is a subject, Y is the basis for the relation, and Z is the term of the subject. In other words, X has a bearing toward something. John is the father of Tom. Tom is the son of John. We see within this example that both Tom and John have a bearing toward each other, and, in order to be the kind of relation they are in this case, each person needs the other. For, John cannot be father without a son, likewise, Tom could not be son without a father. Thus, by the definition that Galot has formulated, it follows that a person cannot be without other persons, for, a person, if he is a subsistent relation, and a relation is a bearing toward another, will depend upon another in order to have any relation, and consequently in order to be a person.
Regarding this topic, M. Nédoncelle says "The solitude of the ‘I’, were it absolute, would destroy it." And so, those who maintain that a person is a subsistent relation tell us that community is absolutely necessary for personhood. Indeed, person and community come into being simultaneously. And so they believe that just as, in the Trinity, the Persons and the community of Persons are simultaneous, so also, when a human person comes into existence, he is at once a person and a part of the human community. He must be, for if he were not part of a community, he would not be a person. It seems that they believe a person is autonomous insofar as he is an individual "I," but to be an "I" depends upon a "you." This autonomy then, is absolutely minimal, inasmuch as the person is totally dependent on other "I’s" to actuate it, since the "I’s" form the community.
Galot tells us that "to lay too much stress on the person’s attribute of totality would encourage individualism." It seems that a person, taken as an absolute, is utterly incomplete in itself. How are we to best understand Galot’s conception of person? It seems that Galot views a person as a member of a family. Consider the possibility that it is one’s entire existence to be husband and father of a family. Yet, if this is the case, then when one’s wife and children die, one would presumably go out of existence. For, being a husband and being a father are only able to be realized via having a wife, and having children. This seems to be Galot’s conception of what the term "person" means. In the same way that "husband" necessarily implies wife, person necessarily implies another person.
If the entire being of a person is to be a relation, then we can conclude that any personal acts, that is acts of a person, will necessarily be realized only in relating to another. By acts of a person we mean those acts which are peculiar to persons, i.e., thinking and willing. One would naturally assume, as a matter of fact, that thinking would not require another person, but, in fact, Galot tells us that it does. This follows if we remember that a person is only a relation.
Now, it is obvious that when we know something outside of ourselves, there will necessarily be a relation involved. There will be a relation between the object that one is knowing, and the knower himself. This is indisputable in the case of outward knowing. However, the claim that a relation to another is required for knowing to occur is not so clear if one considers the case of knowing oneself. A person, because he has an immaterial power of knowing, is able to know himself. A person is able to make himself at the same time both subject and object of his own act of knowing. Thus, a person can know his own act of knowing himself. This does not seem to be at all other related. However, this is unacceptable to the relational view of a person. Thinking is a fundamental act of a person, and, if this is true, then it must in some way depend upon other persons.
Galot responds to this difficulty by telling us that knowledge of oneself depends first upon knowledge of another. Thus, it is only in knowing things outside of myself that I am able to then know myself. Galot compares this process to the human body bumping against another body. Not until we hit another body did we realize that our body was dense. In the same manner, when we know, we first know something else, and it is after knowing something else that we are able to return to ourselves. Thus, after we know something, we are able to reflect on ourselves as knowing. This is not possible, however, without first turning outward. Further, once we have returned inward, we realize the relation which we have with others, that we are meant to be in communion with them, that we are dependent on them to be persons. The "I" is then able to make a distinction between the "you’s" it encounters. Before the "I" transcended itself to grasp the "you," the "I" did not know itself as "I." For, without relativity to the "you," the "I" cannot be known as such. In this way, one is able to come to a knowledge of oneself as a person. Before the "I" sees the "you," it does not know itself as a person; upon returning, however, it sees the fundamental relation between the "I" and "you" which constitutes the "I" as a person. Without knowing another person, this knowledge would be unattainable. "The I is formed by facing the ‘you.’"
We see then, that even acts of the person which seem to be self oriented, are in fact other oriented by nature. For instance, consciousness operates in the same manner as knowledge: one is not able to be aware of oneself until one is aware of others. Regarding love, it seems evident that love requires an object, hence there is a relation. Since a person is called to love, and to "make a gift" of oneself, this necessitates another person to whom to give oneself. Thus, every attribute that properly belongs to a person requires an object outside of the person. This object must be another person. And so we see that a person can only be defined properly in terms of another person. Thus we see what Galot defines persons as "subsistent relations." These multifarious personal acts which we have outlined all involve relations, thus a person must consequently be a subsistent relation. The Thomistic understanding of person seems to consider the person is a vacuum, whereas he should be considered in a community. Perhaps, then, this entire chapter can be best summarized by the philosopher of jazz, Louie Armstrong, who would no doubt tell us that "‘I’s’ need ‘you’s’." Or, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tells us, "The undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality."
The soul is made for action, and cannot rest till it be employed. Idleness is its rust. Unless it will up and think and taste and see, all is in vain.
In our previous chapter, we saw quite clearly that Jean Galot, Cardinal Ratzinger, and others did not accept the Thomistic/Boethian definition of person. It is apparent that they believe that a new definition should be formulated, namely that a person is a subsistent relation. Let us now, however, examine the thought of Karol Wojtyla, currently Pope John Paul II. Does Wojtyla accept the Thomistic idea of person or does he think that the definition is incomplete? This is the fundamental question we intend to answer in this chapter. Our problem is that Wojtyla does not give a clear and unambiguous answer to this question. In many texts it seems that he does indeed accept the Boethian definition, yet in others texts it appears that he feels the classical definition is inadequate. The question may not have a definitive answer. There are some who believe Wojtyla does accept the definition, and some who hold he does not accept the definition. It is our contention that Wojtyla does not accept the Boethian definition of person, or rather, he accepts it with reservations. However, accepting the definition with reservations can only mean that he does not accept the definition as being wholly and completely adequate. It must mean that (1) something is missing in the definition which should be present, or (2) something is present in the definition that should be absent. Thus, it is our immediate task to delve into the thought of Karol Wojtyla to find, first, the answer to the above question, second, to give a general overview of his theory of person, and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, to highlight, within his theory of person, ideas that give rise to the belief that a person is a subsistent relation.
We shall begin, then, by examining Wojtyla's thoughts on the Boethian definition of person. Yet, to accomplish this, we must retreat somewhat further back, namely to his conception of man. The reason for this stems from the fact that Wojtyla is primarily concerned with man as a person. In any essay wherein Wojtyla examines the person, one can invariably assume that he is speaking of human persons. Thus, there will be an obvious connection between Wojtyla's views on the adequacy of the Aristotelian definition of man, and the Boethian definition of person. For, Boethius formulated the definition of person as a follower of the school of Aristotle. Therefore, if one believes that the definition of man is lacking somehow, there is a good chance that one will further believe that the definition of person is lacking for somewhat the same reasons. And, in fact, it seems that Wojtyla does not fully accept the definition of man which Aristotle formulates. Or, rather, perhaps we should say he accepts the definition with reservations.
Let us recall that Aristotle defined man as a "rational animal." At first glance this definition seems to be a sound one. We have a genus (animal) and a specific difference (rational). We must ask, then, which term does Wojtyla take issue with? Does he think that rationality is an improper specific difference? Or perhaps animal is an inaccurate genus? Neither term, says Wojtyla, is improper. Now, if he believes these two terms are proper, we must ask what is it that he finds lacking within this definition? Wojtyla tells us that this definition is somewhat problematic because it seems to reduce man to the level of the world. That is, this definition does not point out anything specifically spiritual within man; it is as if man were just any other animal living within the world. Wojtyla is unwilling to admit man's reducibility to the level of the world insofar as Wojtyla’s purpose is to highlight the completely unique position which man occupies in the purely physical world; the Aristotelian definition views man objectively, whereas Wojtyla is concerned that man must be viewed also subjectively. By "objectively" we mean to say that man is viewed as object, and not subjectively, that is, as subject. Understanding man as an object, then, amounts to viewing him as one would view a table: just another thing in the world. For, we can say that both a table is an object, and a man is an object. Making a statement such as this is what concerns Wojtyla, that is, treating man solely as object and downplaying him as subject. However, considering man as a subject is precisely what Wojtyla believes to be irreducible in man. "Subjectivity is, then, a kind of synonym for the irreducible in the human being."
We see then K. Wojtyla’s basic concern with the definition of man as formulated above. Now, it would seem that if Wojtyla does not believe that the traditional definition of man does complete justice to the subjectivity of man, then he would be equally critical of the Boethian definition of person. And, in fact, Wojtyla is somewhat critical. Yet, once again, when we say that he is critical, we must footnote this remark by noting that he is not as completely critical as Galot and Ratzinger are. Rather, Wojtyla tells us that Boethius merely "marked out the metaphysical terrain" of the person; Boethius failed, however, to express the unique subjectivity present within each person, because he is a person. In other words, Boethius merely set out the reducible aspect of a person, the person as an object, but he failed to sketch the irreducible aspect of the person. Now of course, Wojtyla tells us, the understanding of the person taken as reducible to the level of the world is useful insofar as it enables us to speak of a person as an object, but it does not get at the inner activity of the person, the irreducible aspect of the person, which is other-worldly. Naturally, this aspect, the irreducible aspect, will play a more important part in the person than merely the reducible, since a person, as we have said above, is what is most perfect in all nature. However, insofar as a person is spiritual, he is primarily irreducible. For, "the irreducible also refers to everything in the human being that is invisible and wholly internal and whereby each human being . . . is an ‘eyewitness’ of his or her own self."
Now, Wojtyla believes that Boethius has set out the "metaphysical terrain" upon which the phenomenological structure can be fashioned, using what he calls "lived experience" as the raw material. In several instances he will refer to a person as an individual substance of a rational nature, however, he seems to believe this is only a small aspect of what the person truly is. It is as if one were to say that a man was a "substance that had color." While the statement is true, there is so much more that can be said about what a man is. It seems that this is the way that Wojtyla feels about the Boethian definition of a person. While many commentators maintain that Wojtyla in fact does accept the classical definition as being adequate, we steadfastly deny this. One cannot say that a definition merely scratches the surface of the true essence of what a person is, and at the same time say that it is a proper definition, just as one cannot say that "a colored substance" barely scratches the surface of what a man is, but one accepts it as a proper definition inasmuch as a definition functions to tell us the whatness of a thing. Even if Wojtyla believes that the Boethian definition is something to "build upon," it still indicates the inadequacy of the definition, because it does not tell us the true whatness of the person.
Having said this, it is now mandatory to discern what Wojtyla believes to be the irreducible element, that which pinpoints the true whatness of the person, for Wojtyla tells us "we must, as it were, give the irreducible the upper hand when thinking about the human being." In order to discover the irreducible, Wojtyla tells us that the person must be examined in a phenomenological way, within the context of "lived experience." We shall now endeavor, then, to discover the phenomenological meaning of which he speaks.
Wojtyla begins his discussion of person, not with a discussion of the esse of the person, nor the essence of a person, but with the fact that a person acts. Thus we are able to contrast Wojtyla immediately to Boethius, Thomas, and Aristotle. That Wojtyla begins his discussion of the person with a person’s acts is very telling indeed. One should note that in our previous definitions, both of animal and person, the specific difference pointed to a power: man is rational, a person is rational; now rationality is a power, not an activity. Indeed, rationality enables one to act in a rational manner, however, rationality in and of itself is not an act, but rather a power of the soul; it is a potentiality, not an actuality. Now, in some sense, rationality is an act, but it is only first act. First act makes one in potency to second act. We can use an analogy to make our point clear. A mathematician is in first act when he has the knowledge of mathematics. However, when the mathematician is actually using this knowledge, then his knowledge moves from first act, to second act. We see then that a power is a potential to act; a power is in first act, and when one acts, via the power, the power is moved into second act. This is also called active potency because one is in potency to act through a power. We see, however, that K. Wojtyla has replaced act, in the sense of first act, with act in the sense of the category of acting.
Now, it makes perfect sense, to the phenomenological philosopher, that Wojtyla would do just this, inasmuch as he is interested in the revelation of the person. The reason is that a person, it seems, is unable to be directly and immediately revealed as such through his powers, for one cannot experience a power; a power is an active potency, as we said above, and one cannot truly experience a person to be revealed through something which, in the person, is only in potency. No, one can only experience the person as being actually in act. This act, then, will reveal to us what the person truly is. It is as if the person were a machine before we have turned it on. When we see the machine actually doing what it is it was meant to do, we shall feel that we understand the machine more perfectly. This is the way that K. Wojtyla seems to see the matter: a person’s potencies do not enter into our immediate lived experience, but the actions of a person most certainly do, and this is why, it seems, Wojtyla prefers to begin with action, whereas Boethius begins with a power, which is a potency to act.
Next we must ask what sort of action Wojtyla is speaking of. Does he mean that we must examine action or actions which are specific to persons qua persons? He tells us that "by action is meant acting consciously." This one sentence almost completely encompasses the whole of Wojtyla’s "personal" thought, for it contains within it the two elements which he is most concerned with: consciousness and action. We immediately notice that Wojtyla has a specific sort of action in mind, he is not merely speaking of "action" in its most basic irreducible state of being, that is as an Aristotelian category. Rather, he is using "action" in the sense of a scholastic meaning of action. The Scholastic philosophers distinguished two sorts of actions which man performs, actus humanus and actus hominis. The latter refers to an act that is non-voluntary, such as a sneeze or a reflexogenic response. The former is a voluntary act, that is, a certain type of behavior where the behavior performed involves a deliberate intention on the part of the agent. It is this type of action which his Eminence is speaking of whenever he is using the term "action." This sort of action is, obviously, a specific type of action which is peculiar to a person, inasmuch as a person is able to deliberately choose an action which he then performs, whereas an irrational animal is not able to choose what actions it performs, but only performs its actions by instinct. Wojtyla tells us that this specific type of action, which he terms "lived experience," is the basis for building upon the metaphysical terrain that Boethius established with his definition of person.
Lived experience, as Wojtyla understands it, is not merely a special sort of acting which a person does, rather, he believes that lived experience is a category, one that is "foreign to Aristotle’s metaphysics." This is a significant point to take note of insofar as Wojtyla is here stating that "lived experience" is in fact a basic category of being. Now, this seems rather odd, inasmuch as Aristotle lists acting (agere) and being acted upon (pati) among his categories. However, K. Wojtyla tells us that, while these two categories are related to lived experience, they do not encompass it. Our explanation of why Wojtyla asserts this will be deferred for the time being, for it is important to first discern in a greater detail precisely what Wojtyla means to speak of when he uses the expression lived experience, for, until now, we have only spoken of lived experience in a somewhat general and cursory fashion.
Wojtyla tells us that in order to understand the human being, or we may say the human person, "within the context of lived experience," the element of consciousness must be included as an attribute that is fundamental to human existence, not as an accident of the human person, but, on the contrary, an essential attribute that is inherent in every action, and which makes the action of the person, the sort of action which it is--a conscious action. What is emphasized as unique is not that one is performing an action but rather that one is conscious that one is performing it. The reason why consciousness is so fundamental to human action, is that consciousness, as we said above, makes this action an actus humanus rather than actus hominis. Within this action, then, the human person experiences himself by acting; consciousness allows him to experience his own actions. Wojtyla tells us that consciousness allows the person to encounter himself as a self-experiencing subject. These considerations, Wojtyla tells us, are in the realm not of the "cosmological" aspect of the person, but of a personalistic understanding. These considerations are of the irreducible character of the person which we spoke of above, as opposed to Boethius’ definition, which is the reduction of the person to the merely metaphysical level. Wojtyla tells us that when we examine these personalistic aspects, it is a "pausing at the irreducible."
What does Wojtyla mean by this? It seems that he is pointing to a distinction between person and nature, between the universal and the individual, between the subjective and the objective. When we say that a person is an individual substance of a rational nature, this is seen to be a universal statement. The person here seems to be a universal abstraction. However, when we pause at the irreducible, we experience a person as this person, as this personal subject, and not an abstract idea. The "I" experiences itself, and it does so in a singular and subjective fashion, not as a metaphysical abstraction, but as a concretion of personhood, wherein the efficacy of the "I" is realized in its action. "In this experience, man is shown as person, that is to say, a completely unique structure of self-possession and self-governance." Once again, we must notice the term "unique." As we said above, the irreducible in man, or in the person, is the individual and the unique: a person has this individual and unique aspect about him because of the fact that he is an unrepeatable entity, completely and in every way singular, whereas, "nature" is repeatable, as is quite evident, as we see all men share a common human nature.
What Wojtyla seems to be telling us is that insofar as a person is an unrepeatable and singular entity, a metaphysical abstraction will not do. When we ask him why, the reason seems to be because this is not the sort of existence which a person has: each person is completely unique. How else, then, are we to experience a person, if not through lived experience, that is, in a singular fashion? Clearly, then, in order to gain an adequate understanding of a person, one must be able to experience the person. If one must experience the person, then the "I" is the most fitting medium for doing just this. For the "I" is conscious of itself and of its own actions as a person. Being conscious of one’s actions is critical in Wojtyla’s thought, as we said above, because they are personal actions. Actions of a person are further significant because they most reveal the person, as was also said above. Again, Wojtyla believes that actions most reveal what a person is, because a person is singular, consequently, every action which the person performs will be a singular and unrepeatable action, and within this action, the person will be revealed, because we experience him acting as a person. "We experience man as a person, and we are convinced of it because he performs actions." Now, then, the "I" will be the most fitting manner of experiencing the person, because the "I" is a person, and it is further conscious of its own personal activity, and of its own acting, and this of course is what Wojtyla considers to be lived experience. Because the person is revealed in and through lived experience, it seems then, in Wojtyla’s thinking, that the person is most fully revealed, that is, the irreducible aspect of the person, in the self-conscious awareness of the "I’s" action: the "I" sees itself acting, and through this action, it comes to a knowledge of what itself as an "I" is, namely, a person.
Having said this, we must now inquire in greater detail wherein the connection lies between consciousness and lived experience. Wojtyla answers this question by telling us that lived experience is dependent upon consciousness insofar as lived experience is a category which interprets the human being as self-experiencing, as aware of his inner happenings. We see then, that, in order to experience oneself as a subject of one’s actions, consciousness must be introduced, as was said above. However, in order to delineate why this is so in greater detail, Wojtyla points to the distinction between what he terms cognitive acts and conscious acts. This distinction is fundamental in understanding Wojtyla’s conception of the person, ethics, and anthropology in general. Wojtyla explains that cognitive acts are, by their very nature, intentional. Now, what does he mean by this. By intentional Wojtyla means to indicate that actions are outward directed and therefore treat things as objects. Intentionality, in the classical conception of the term, was used to indicate the mode of being which a thing could have apart from its natural mode of being, e.g., when you see a rock, and later that evening remember what it looked like, you are giving the rock an intentional being within your intellect. The mode of being which is proper to the rock is that which the rock has; the mode of being which you give to a rock when you know it is called intentional being because existing in the mind of a knower is the not an existence proper to the rock. Thus, when Wojtyla explains that cognitive acts are by their very nature intentional, he is highlighting the fact that these acts of cognition are meant to "objectivize . . . and in this way comprehend" the object that one is knowing, that is, to make the thing one is knowing an object within one’s intellect. Intentionality, then, for Wojtyla, indicates that anything that is understood, is understood as an object. Acts of consciousness, Wojtyla tells us, are, by their very nature, not intentional, that is, they are not outward directed toward an external object. On the contrary, Wojtyla indicates that consciousness rather serves as a kind of mirror, wherein is reflected all that a man does, and all that happens within him. Thus, consciousness is a reflection of the action that man performs or the internal happenings within man; it "does not consist in the objectivization of either the action or the person." The reason for this is because consciousness does not, as such, understand objects of cognition intentionally: it does not belong to consciousness to understand that the rock I saw today was green, but rather, it belongs to consciousness to make me aware that I am understanding that the rock I saw today was green, and, indeed, at the time I was experiencing the green rock, consciousness made me aware, or reflected, that I was then experiencing it. And so, Wojtyla informs us that
the reflection intrinsically belongs to [consciousness]--but does not cognitively objectivize either the actions or the person who performs them, or even the whole ‘universe of the person.’
In other words, the reflection which is consciousness is not an intentional sort of activity, that is, it is not object directed, but rather, it is a subject directed, that is, it is an activity that remains within the subject and consciousness "understands" the subject as such. Whereas, cognition even of oneself, is object oriented.
After Wojtyla has seemingly branded the consciousness as that which merely mirrors the actions and internal phenomena of the person, he tells us that consciousness has yet another aspect about it, indeed an aspect which he tells us is, perhaps, even more crucial than the function of mirroring. This function Wojtyla terms the reflexive function, as opposed to the reflective function of which we have just spoken. What is the fundamental distinction between these two functions of consciousness? Wojtyla tells us that the reflexiveness of the consciousness does not merely mirror the actions of the person, but also points to man’s experience. By experience, Wojtyla here means to point to the experience which man has of himself, that is, the "I" experiencing itself subjectively. This function of consciousness "turns back naturally" upon the person who is experiencing himself, and it does so, not as an objectively cognized object of self-knowledge, that is, not as the "I" having knowledge of itself as object, but rather, we might say, this operation of reflexivity focuses on the subject, which is its provenience, and subjectivizes the "I," thus making the person who is the subject of actions, able to experience himself in a subjective mode. This is at the very heart of what Wojtyla considers to be a lived experience, that is, the reflexivity of the consciousness back upon its originating source, which is the subject. For, Wojtyla declares that the reflective function of consciousness and even the reflective function of the intellect, are not able to constitute an experience in and of themselves. No, in order to have a lived experience, the reflexive aspect of the consciousness must "direct everything back upon the subject" thereby making the subject grasped as such, i.e. a subject per se, and not an intentional cognitive object.
We begin to see then, the reason why Wojtyla believes that consciousness is "foreign to Aristotle’s metaphysics." Wojtyla sees the category of acting which Aristotle formulates as essentially outward directed, that is, object oriented. Even cognition, Wojtyla tells us, is essentially intentional, and consequently, object oriented. It seems that Wojtyla understands all actions then, in the Aristotelian sense, to be acting on or toward another, the other in this case seems to be an object and not a subject, such that every action of the person would be essentially object dependent. We see, then, that if this is the case, there cannot be an act which does not depend on an external object or on treating its object as if it were external. However, Wojtyla believes that he has proved that there is such an "action" or mode of awareness, namely, the reflexive function of consciousness, which focuses not on an object, but rather on a subject. Thus, if the category of action presupposes that all actions are object oriented, and the act of consciousness is not object oriented, but quite the contrary, then this category which Aristotle has postulated will be impossible to predicate of the act of consciousness, thus, a new category must be postulated, and this is lived experience.
We must here bring the chapter to a close. In the preceding, we have attempted to illustrate, albeit somewhat sketchily, the fundamental theories which underlie the whole of Karol Wojtyla’s conception of the acting person, in order to critique in the following chapter his understanding of the person, and, consequently, defend Thomas Aquinas’ definition of person against the objections which Wojtyla has formulated, and we have outlined above.
THEY HAVE A FIGHT, THOMISM WINS
Piety requires us to honor truth above our friends. –Aristotle
In the previous two chapters, we have explicated our opponents reasons for denying the validity of the Thomistic/Boethian definition of person. Having done this, it is obligatory for us to establish arguments which, we believe, make both the "relational view," as characterized by Galot, and the "consciousness view," as characterized by Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II, untenable positions to maintain. Furthermore, we shall answer certain difficulties which our opponents have raised against the classical definition of person, and in so doing, explain why the Thomistic understanding of the person is the only defensible position that one can maintain.
Our method, then, for the majority of this chapter, in order that it might lend to ease of reading and convenience, and also because of a certain prejudice on the part of the author, will follow, somewhat, the method of the Summa Theologiae. First, we shall raise what we believe to be serious arguments against the position that all persons are subsistent relations. These will simply follow the format in figure 1.
OUR ARGUMENTS AGAINST GALOT
After having raised our arguments against the theory professed by Galot, we shall then raise the objections which Galot formulates against the Thomistic position, and of which we have previously spoken in Chapter 2. These objections will follow the format shown in figure 2.
GALOT’S ARGUMENTS AGAINST US
Similarly, our replies to these objections will follow the format in figure 3.
OUR REPLIES TO GALOT’S OBJECTIONS
Rep. Obj. 1.
Rep. Obj. 2.
Rep. Obj. 3.
The exact same method shall be employed when we speak of Karol Wojtyla’s conception of the person.
Let us begin, then, to examine the fundamental difficulties which we find throughout Galot’s theory of person.
~A Critique of Jean Galot’s Theory~
Arg. 1. Any kind of relation which the Phenomenologists speak of, would have to be posterior to rationality, because rationality would be the cause of this "hypostatic relation."
If we examine the Trinity, like Galot bids that we must if we are to obtain a true and adequate understanding of what it properly means to be a person, then we shall see that the above argument follows. Let us examine the relation between the Father and the Son. We must not merely say, that the Father and the Son are subsistent relations because one is Father and one is Son, and, since this is an opposing relation, they are persons. Indeed, to say that one is Father and one is Son is to speak truly of the relations, however, this does not tell us how the Son is originated from the Father. The answer, of course, is that the Father does not generate the Son from some pre-existing material, but rather the Son is the perfect concept of the Father. Notice that the relation between Father and Son only results by the Father first being able to think of Himself; it seems that if this act of understanding were not possible, then there would not be a procession of the Word, inasmuch as the Word is begotten by the very act of the Father thinking Himself. Therefore, were this act not to take place, there could be no relation. Indeed, one result of the mind thinking of anything is a relation: the relation between the knower and the known. However, in order for this relation of mind to thing conceived to even take place, the mind must first be able to have a concept of something, for if not, the relationship will be impossible. For instance, if I could not see a cow, then there would not and could not be a relation between my act of seeing and the bovine beast. Thus it is clear that just as the power of sight allows one to have a relation with material objects that have color, so rationality must be present in order that one may be able to have a relation to things as intellectually knowable.
Therefore, just as the power of sight is the cause of my seeing the cow, and consequently the efficient cause of my relation to the cow, the intellect will likewise be the cause of this "hypostatic relation" of which Galot speaks, and, consequently, rationality would more properly be contained within any definition of person.
The reason why rationality would more properly be the specific difference in the definition of man, then, is simple: anything that is caused by another is posterior to its cause. Thus, the cause can exist without the effect, but not vice-versa. Let us briefly illustrate this point with an example. We do not say that man is a risible animal. And this is because risibility, while it is a property of man, follows upon man being rational. The reason that man is risible is precisely because man is rational. To say that risibility is a proper specific difference is to ignore a basic rule of defining something, namely, that the specific difference ought to be the first cause for the thing being the way that it is. Thus, an isosceles triangle has three sides not qua isosceles but qua triangle. When we ask why it has three sides, we say that the cause of three-sidedness is because it is a triangle, and that it possesses three sides follows upon being a triangle.
However, suppose our friend Galot believes that it is not an intellectual relation which constitutes a person as such, but some other sort of relation. But this would not seem to follow Galot’s entire theory of personhood, for he tells us "[a]ccording to the fundamental analogy, if, in God, what constitutes person is relation, then we must expect that relation likewise formally constitutes the human person." If we apply Galot’s own theory, and can say that if, in God, what constitutes a person is a relation of the intellect, then we must similarly say that what constitutes a human person is a relation of the intellect. As we have said above, if it is a relation of the intellect, then it is more proper to say that a person is first rational and then relational.
A second difficulty would arise were Galot to tell us that what makes one a "hypostatic relation" is not a relation of the intellect but some other sort of relation. Let us examine human beings. Human beings are persons. Thus, if this "hypostatic relation" is able to be predicated of human beings, then it must correspond to something within a human being’s nature. However, the only thing that separates a human being from a brute animal is rationality. Therefore, if rationality does not make one a hypostatic relation, then it seems that even the brute animals could rightly be called persons. Thus, a person is not simply a "hypostatic relation."
Arg. 2. If a person is a subsistent relation, it seems that a separated human soul would qualify as being a person.
This is the same argument that is raised against the Boethian definition of person. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia tells us concerning Boethius’ definition that "[t]he words taken literally can be applied to the rational soul of man, and also the human nature of Christ." Having cleared the Boethian definition of this charge, let us apply the same criticism to Galot’s definition: of a person as a subsistent relation.
As we said in Chapter 1, a person is an individual substance of a rational nature. We said that the term "individual substance" is used to indicate a suppositum. We further added that a suppositum is what individually exists in a complete way through itself and not through another. Thus, a corpse is not a person insofar as what subsists within human nature is a body-soul composite, e.g., this soul informing this body. Now this seems to adequately explain why, in the Boethian definition, a body or a soul taken separately does not constitute a person, but now we must query whether a separated human soul does or does not constitute a person according to the definition formulated by J. Galot. On the theological level, Galot would not want to hold this view, insofar as it would make him a Nestorian. On the philosophical level, he would not want to admit that a soul whether separated or joined to the body is a person, insofar as common human experience tells us that our body is part of us as a person. Thus, what we are questioning is whether or not Galot’s definition can account for the fact that the soul is not a person.
Galot tells us that a person is a subsistent relation. Therefore, this must mean that what subsists as a person is a relation. If Galot is willing to admit that a human person is only a subsistent relation, without regard to whatever else subsists within human nature, i.e., this body and this soul, then it seems that there is no accounting for why the human soul would not be a person, even when separated from the body. And, of course, the proponents of this definition are advocating exactly this view, that is, that a person is only a subsistent relation. For, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger tells us that relation is "not something superadded to person, but is the person."
This being the case, we must ask the upholders of this view what has changed when a human soul has been separated from its body? They must answer the question of why the human soul is not a human person? For, if the definition of a person is only a subsistent relation, and not a subsistent relation with a body and soul, the fact that the soul is separated should have no bearing on whether the soul is a person, for, the soul and body did not enter into the definition of person in the first place. If this is the case, then on what basis can Galot argue that the human soul is not a person? Has the human person lost its subsistent relation because its soul has been severed from its body? If so, then we must regain our subsistent relation once we receive our body back again. This brings up two important questions. (1) If having a body does not enter into the makeup of what it is to be a person, any person whatsoever, (and it cannot, because Galot would have to admit that a person is not only a subsistent relation, but further, whatever else subsists within the nature to which he belongs), then how can a human subsistent relation, or human person, depend upon its body being united to its soul in order to make it a person? It is clear from what we have said that, if the soul by itself is not a person, then the human person depends upon the body and the soul as constituents of personhood. However, this is completely contrary to Galot’s entire doctrine of subsistent relation. How can a person be only a subsistent relation, yet need a body and soul? (2) The second question is, how do you lose a relation? If the subsistent relation is somehow lost after one dies, how exactly does this come about? It seems that the only relation that has changed when one dies is that, at the moment, the soul is no longer the form of the body. It seems that every other relation would remain identical. That is, you would still be someone’s father, even after you were dead. This relation is not lost. Now, the relation of being someone’s father is an accidental relation, but Galot is speaking of a relation that is not accidental. How, then, is this relation able to be lost? Once again, if the subsistent relation only returns when the body and the soul are reunited, then it would seem that simply saying a person is a subsistent relation is inadequate: apparently, a human person must somehow depend on having a body and a soul which are joined together. But to say that being a subsistent relation is somehow dependent upon a body does not make sense. The person clearly cannot depend upon a body per se in order to be a person, because then God would need a body in order to be a person, and this is not the case. Thus, if Galot wants to hold that a soul is not a person, then he must agree that a human person must be a complete thing, consequently "an individual substance," and thus the point is made.
Arg. 3. If a person is only a subsistent relation, it seems that there would be four Persons in the Trinity, thus making a Quaternity.
This objection, of course, can only be formulated by accepting the Trinity, which is a revealed truth. Nevertheless, insofar as Galot’s argument depends on accepting the Trinity, it seems that Galot should be made to answer this objection. Let us formulate in greater detail, then, the above objection.
Within the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit consist in being relations of oppositions: the Father opposed to the Son and vice-versa, and the Holy Spirit opposed to the Father and the Son as from one source. Both Thomas and Galot explain the Trinity in this manner. Now, however, we ask this question, "if a person is just a subsistent relation" then why are there not four persons in the Trinity?" We ask this question because of the relations we find in the Trinity. Within the Trinity we find these relations: (1) the Father to the Son (the relation of paternity, which is the Father), (2) the Son to the Father (the relation of Filiation, which is the Son), (3) the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son (the relation of procession) (4) the Father and the Son to the Holy Spirit (the relation of Common Spiration). This seems to be rather odd. We have four relations, but only three Persons. How is this possible? The answer is that, within the Trinity, everything is one except where there is a relation of opposition, as we have said above. The relations in numbers (1), (2), and (3) are all relations of opposition. However, if we remember that there is only distinction in God where there is a relation of opposition, we will see that the relation in (4) cannot constitute as it were another person. For,
(a) Common Spiration is not opposed to fatherhood, nor is it opposed to sonship, nor is it opposed to each as generating love. (b) Thus, since it is not opposed, i.e., not a relation of opposition, Common Spiration collapses into identity with fatherhood and sonship;
(c) Procession is different from both, and opposed to Common Spiration, and, consequently, it is the Holy Spirit. Now, insofar as
(d) Common Spiration is not a relative property, because it does not belong to only one person, but is common to two, it cannot constitute another person, inasmuch as
(e) persons in the Trinity are their relation of opposition. Thus, paternity is the Father, Filiation is the Son, etc.
(f) However, both Father and Son are the Common Spirator, and consequently, it does not constitute another person, because Common Spiration is not separated from them, but belongs to both as from one principle. Thus,
(g) if we must remember that a person is an individual substance, and hence a suppositum, and a suppositum is that which is not separated from itself, and distinct from all others within the nature in which it subsists, then we see that
(h) Common Spiration cannot be a person, because it is not distinct from all others within the divine nature, but is common to the Father and the Son. See figure 4.
Now, why does this pose a problem for Galot? The reason is because Galot has stated that all persons are simply subsistent relations, and he gives an example of this as the persons within the Trinity. However, now we see that this can not be the only cause of a person; if a person were merely a subsistent relation, there seems to be no explanation for how Galot could account for the fact that the relation of Common Spiration does not originate a fourth person within the Trinity. For, if persons are only subsistent relations, then this would indicate that Common Spiration, which is a subsistent relation, would be a person. Consequently, unless Galot is willing to admit that what makes a person to be a person is being distinct from all others within a nature, then his theory would indicate that there are four persons within the Trinity. Thus, for Galot to argue that there can still be only three persons within the Trinity, one not needing to be distinct from all others within a nature in order for this to be the case, seems to be a theory that is indefensible without an abundance of philosophical legerdemain on his part. Rather, Galot must admit that individuality does not merely "characterize the person," but is a necessary constituent of personhood. Or, if Galot is willing to admit the fact that a person is that which is distinct within a nature, then he has conceded that one must be an individual substance.
Arg. 4. Either the definition that a person is a "subsistent relation" is able to be formulated without recourse to the Trinity, or, recourse to the Trinity is required. In the former case, impossibilities follow. In the latter case, the definition is philosophically inadequate.
4.1 Let us suppose first, that this definition is able to be formulated only by first examining the Trinity. That is, once we realize that the persons in the Trinity are subsistent relations, we are able to define all persons as subsistent relations. Now, Galot seems to argue, from what we said in Chapter 2, that one can know that a person is a subsistent relation just by common human experience. For, Galot tells us that every act that is proper to a person, e.g., consciousness, thinking, etc., is only able to be understood within the context of relation. For example, I am conscious of something outside of me, then I am conscious of myself being conscious of something outside of me and so on. All of this we discussed in Chapter 2 of this work.
For the time being, however, let us assume that one cannot formulate this definition without first having recourse to the Trinity. If this is the case, it follows that one requires theology in order to know what a person is. Not only does it seem quite odd that human beings would not know why they were persons until the dogma of the Trinity was handed down to us by God speaking, but this line of thinking has a philosophical error as well. The error is simply that if this definition has its basis in theology, then we cannot employ it for philosophy. Aristotle tells us in his Posterior Analytics that we cannot demonstrate something in one science by using axioms from a science of a different genus. "We cannot, for instance, prove geometrical truths by arithmetic." One can only prove something in one science by axioms of another science if the sciences are within the same genus, e.g. as optics is subordinated to geometry. Moreover, this only works in one direction, e.g. geometrical proofs will be applicable to optics, however, geometrical proofs will not be applicable to mathematics. The reason for this is that the axioms must belong to the science in which one tries to prove something, for "the extreme and the middle terms must be drawn from the same genus: otherwise, as predicated, they will not be essential." Philosophy and theology are not within the same genus. While theology is able to draw upon philosophy, since of its nature it is a combination of faith and reason the contrary is not the case. Theology may draw upon philosophy in order to humanly developed and explain truths which are known by revelation, but philosophy can not and does not use theology to develop or serve as premises within philosophical proofs, because the subject matter of philosophy is what man can know by natural reason alone. Indeed, the subject matter of every science deals only with what is knowable within that science qua that science. One cannot deduce that 2+2=4 within geometry, because this is not the subject matter of geometry. Therefore, if a truth is not deducible from shapes, then the truth is not deducible from geometry, and not proper to geometry. In a like manner, if a truth is not deducible from natural reason alone, it is not proper to philosophy. For, every science is autonomous, except those sciences which are subordinate to sciences higher within their genus, as optics is to geometry. Philosophy, however, is not subordinate to theology, for they are not within the same genus. We must conclude, then, that if the definition of person is not able to be formulated without recourse to theology, then the definition does not belong to the realm of philosophy, hence it is not a philosophical definition. Thus, either (1) there are two definitions of person, one theological and one philosophical, which is absurd, inasmuch as a definition tells us the what of a thing or (2) there is no philosophical definition of person, but this view is also absurd. And so we see that examining the Trinity in order to form a philosophical definition is impossible.
Now let us assume that one can come to the conclusion that Galot can formulate the definition "subsistent relation" without recourse to the Trinity, which he believes that he can do. If this is true, it is our contention that the mystery of the Trinity would no longer be a mystery, that is, one would be able to come to a knowledge of the Trinity through unaided human reason. This, however, is philosophically impossible. In point of fact, Galot realizes that this objection can be easily brought against him. He does not, however, come to the same conclusion which there are stated above. Galot informs us that we have three solutions to this objection that can be brought against him:
(1) To deny personality in God, on the grounds that God is absolute being; (2) to admit one person in God, but with the necessary complement of exterior being with whom he can form relationships; (3) to affirm a plurality of persons in God.
(1) and (2), of course, are impossibilities. Regarding (1), inasmuch as we are persons, God must be a person as well. A person is that which is most perfect, thus it must be attributed to God. As for (2), this implies that God would have to create by necessity, which would mean that God was somehow incomplete and needed to create in order to become perfect, which is clearly impossible. And so, Galot tells us, we must admit (3): there are a plurality of persons in God. Let us first say that Galot’s analysis is correct, the third option is a necessary consequent of positing a person to be a subsistent relation. However, whereas Galot believes that this is not problem, we believe that such a discovery by human reason alone is an impossibility.
Now, why does Galot believe that such a consequence is not an impossibility? He says that to deduce a Trinity of a persons in God is not possible. What he believes is possible, however, is the realization that there are multiple persons in God. The following is Galot’s complete explanation of the problem as he understands it.
But this need not imply that we can through our unaided reason see how this plurality of persons can be reconciled with the one and only absolute Being of God. Reason cannot demonstrate that there are three persons in God, and even less that these persons consist of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It would come up against a question to which it can provide no answer, since it could not discern a harmony between a plurality of persons and an absolute unity of nature.
In other words, even though we know that there is a plurality of persons within the Godhead, we do not know how many there are. And, secondly, we do not that the persons are "Father" or "Son" or "Spirit." To these remarks we must object. And what we object to is the idea that we can know that there is any plurality of persons within God. It seems that Galot believes that we can never be sure of the number, but we can be sure that there is a plurality. However, we deny this view and propose that it is impossible by human reason alone to arrive at a knowledge of the plurality of persons within the Godhead. Against the position which Galot propounds we offer the following objections.
4.2a If reason "could not discern a harmony between a plurality of persons and an absolute unity of nature," would it not seem that this definition would not even be postulated? For the philosopher, when endeavoring to discover the true essence of something, realizes that the predicate of a definition must be commensurately universal, true in every instance, and belong to the subject as such. And so, when formulating a definition, the philosopher must inquire whether or not the definition is applicable to all instances of whatever it is he is defining. Now, if one believed that a person was a subsistent relation, he would first examine a human being. Assuming that there are no difficulties inherent with asserting a man to be a subsistent relation, the philosopher would next inquire whether God could be considered a subsistent relation, since He too is a personal being. Inasmuch as reason "could not discern a harmony between a plurality of persons and an absolute unity of nature," does it not seem reasonable that the philosopher, as incapable of understanding how this definition could be attributed to God, would abandon the definition of subsistent relation, insofar as it would seem not to be true of every instance of a person? It seems unlikely that any philosopher would posit a definition which he could not rationally defend. And so, then, it seems that this definition truly is not able to be formulated without recourse to theology.
4.2b Secondly, we offer a dialectical argument. If it is possible to discern that there is a plurality of persons within God by natural reason alone, then why is it the case that throughout the entire history of philosophy no one was able to do so? Indeed, the closest that any school of philosophy ever came to the idea of a plurality of persons within God was that of Plotinus, who postulated "the One," the "Intellect," and the "World Spirit." Nevertheless, it is clear within Plotinus’ theory that these three persons are not all God. "The One" is clearly God; the "Intellect" corresponds somewhat to the Son, as we appropriate intellect to the son; the World Spirit, however, is generated, thus not at all like the Holy Spirit. However, while there is a similarity between the terms used, the conception is not equal to the conception of the Trinity. "The Intellect" is clearly not equal to "The One," thus, this is more of an Arian conception of the Trinity. Thus, even if these three are persons, they are clearly not all God, and our argument against Galot still holds, i.e., one cannot reason to multiple persons who are all God. Therefore it seems that, were it possible to come to a knowledge of a plurality of persons within God, some school of philosophy would have done so.
4.2c Our third and most important objection stems from the manner in which we know God. In coming to know God, as we said above, one must examine the effects of God, which, of course, are things in the world around us. By examining the effects of God, we are able to come to a knowledge of Him through the fundamental likeness which is present between a cause and its effect. We are, however, only able to know of God those things which "of necessity [belong] to Him as the principle of all things." Inasmuch as we are able to know God only through His creatures, and since His creative power belongs not to any one distinct person within the Trinity, but is common to all three as from one source (since creating is not opposed to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, the three are united as one in performing this action), we cannot know that there is any distinction of persons in God. This is because in this causal action, that is, creation, the effect as such does not contain within it any characteristic that is proper to one of the Divine Persons alone, since, as we said above, the effect is not achieved through any distinction of persons, but is accomplished through the persons acting together, and insofar as there is no relative opposition within this action, the three persons are united as one principle, and so are not distinct in this act.
Thus, concerning the act of creation, there is not merely a scarcity of evidence for there being a distinction of persons in God, but there truly is no basis for positing any distinction in God whatsoever; the act of creation belongs to the unity of the essence of God. Hence, when we reason back to God as cause, we are reasoning back to the essence of God, and to those things which belong, without distinction, to the essence of God, and not in anyway to the distinction of the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. To say, then, that one can know that there is a distinction of persons within God is an impossibility, for, when we examine creation, and thus reason from effect to cause, we are reasoning about the absolute perfections found within the essence of God, e.g., that He is good, infinite, wise, etc. We do not, and can not, reason to any distinction within God, because these perfections all belong equally and as one to the divine essence, which is completely and ineffably simple. One cannot say, therefore, that there have to be at least two persons within the Godhead. We have no basis for this statement inasmuch as we are reasoning about the divine essence, which is completely without distinction. This being so, one cannot formulate a demonstration of this distinction of persons because the premises and conclusion of a demonstration must be necessary. However, insofar as we cannot understand the necessity of the conclusion, i.e., that there is a distinction, it is therefore impossible for human reason to formulate a distinction of persons within the Godhead. Any attempts, then, at demonstrating any plurality of persons within the Godhead are fruitless.
We see then, from arguments 4.2a-c that Galot is in error. Not only is it impossible to demonstrate that there are three persons within the Godhead, but it is not even possible to demonstrate that there is more than one person. Thus, we have shown that if the Trinity is used to formulate Galot’s definition, it is an improper one. Secondly, if the definition is said to be formed without using the Trinity, it follows that one would be able to know a distinction of persons within God, but this, however, is impossible, as we have explained above.
Satisfied that we have shown the inadequacy of Galot’s definition, we shall now examine the objections with which Galot assaults the Thomistic/Boethian definition of a person.
Obj. 1. Inasmuch as "substance" often designates a thing’s nature, it is an ambiguous term and thus should not be used in a definition of a person.
Rep. Obj. 1. The term substance can indeed indicate the quiddity of a thing as well as a suppositum. Thus, the term is ambiguous. However, the term is only ambiguous if it is taken absolutely speaking. If one were to say "I am running," the word "running" is ambiguous, for, one may be running for office or running down the street. However, notice that when we add "down the street," or, "for office," the term "running" is no longer ambiguous. In the same way, there is no possibility of "substance" being confused with quiddity in the definition "individual substance of a rational nature," because (1) the term "individual" is used to indicate first substance, as we said in Chapter 1, and this indicates a suppositum and not a nature, and (2) "nature" is already within our definition, and it would be ridiculous to interpret the definition to mean "an individual nature of a rational nature." Therefore, within the context of this definition, "substance" is not ambiguous, but refers to a first substance or suppositum.
Obj. 2. The word "substance" is improper because if it is understood to mean an hypostasis, this does not help us to understand what substance is, as we would still need to define what an hypostasis is.
Rep. Obj. 2. It is permissible to understand the word substance to mean hypostasis insofar as the Greeks used the word hypostasis to indicate an individual substance. However, hypostasis, or substance, is indefinable insofar as it is one of the ten most basic categories of being, consequently, we must understand substance in a negative way. That is why we say that a substance is that to which it belongs to exist, but not in another, in order that it might distinguished from all accidents. Insofar as this is understood, there is no ambiguity in the term substance.
Obj. 3. The terms "individual" and "rational nature" characterize the person, but these can also be applied to nature.
Rep. Obj. 3. "Individual" can be applied to practically any term, but this does not mean that it should not be within the definition of person. Were this the case, we should deny Galot’s definition, because it contains the term "relation," which can be applied to a category. Moreover, the term "individual" should here be combined with the term "substance," in order to preclude second substances from falling under the definition of a person.
Regarding the term "rational," it does indeed apply to nature as well as person. However, as we said above, this is not problematic, for terms are able to be applied to more than one thing. In this case, "rational" serves to specify what kind of nature is proper to a person. Furthermore, inasmuch as the definition does not say that a person is an individual substance "that is rational" but rather "of a rational nature," the distinction between person and nature is clear: a person is not to be identified with its nature, but understood as belonging to a nature that is rational.
Obj. 4. Aristotle would say that everything that exists does so as either a substance, or an accident. But the relations in the Trinity can be neither substantial, nor accidental. This view that everything is either a substance or an accident is incorrect, consequently, the very basis of the philosophy is wrong, therefore any definition of person shall be utterly inadequate.
Rep. Obj. 4. While relation in man exists as an accident, when relation is considered as existing in God it has a substantial mode of existence. The same is true of every attribute of God. Let us consider the attribute of wisdom. A man has wisdom within him; we understand this wisdom to be an accident of the man. Yet when wisdom is considered within God, it cannot be an accident, because there are no accidents within God, but, rather, God is understood to be his wisdom. Thus, wisdom, which has only an accidental existence in man, has a substantial existence in God, inasmuch as the wisdom of God is God, hence God’s wisdom is the divine essence. In the same manner, considering the mode of being of relation "in God relation and essence do not differ from each other, but are one and the same." Inasmuch as these relations exist as the divine essence, and hence substantially, the above objection does not prove that the Aristotelian tradition became obsolete with the revelation of the Trinity.
Obj. 5. If the Divine Persons are subsistent relations, and we are made in the image and likeness of God, it would be unthinkable that we would be anything else besides subsistent relations as well.
Rep. Obj. 5. Regarding this objection, we must consider the following.
The first point we wish to make is that "person" is a broad term. Notice that when one says, "X is a person," it is ambiguous. Indeed, we know what one means to say when one says "person", but, nevertheless, we do not know to what sort of person one is referring. For, the X could be a human, angelic, or divine person. Saying X is a person is similar to saying that X is an animal. The animal may be rational or it may not be. As it is not evident what sort of animal we are talking about, so also it is not evident what sort of person we are talking about, merely by using the term "person." As Thomas says, "it is one thing to ask the meaning of the word animal, and another to ask its meaning when the animal in question is a man." Person, then, like animal, allows for something to be included in the more specific term, which is not included in the more general term. We see then that the term person will not always mean the same kind of person, just as the term animal will not always mean the same kind of animal. Thus, what we must first keep in mind is that the term "person" is a broad term, inasmuch as there are angelic, human, and divine persons.
The second point is a corollary of the first. When we say that a thing is an individual substance of a rational nature, we mean to say that what subsists, that is, whatever it is that is subsisting, is whatever it is that makes an individual an individual within the specific nature to which the person belongs. For, as was said above in Chapter 1, when we say individual substance, what is meant by this term is the individuum or complete existent thing, existing in its entirety, neither as a part nor as a universal. Thus, as Thomas says, "The individual in itself is undivided, but is distinct from others. Therefore person in any nature signifies what is distinct in that nature." Now, as regards what exists individually in a nature, we must revert back to what was said above. In man: this flesh and these bones and this soul subsist; in an angel, this form. Therefore, were we to refer to a human person, we would be referring to an individual substance of a rational nature, where the individual substance was this particular set of individuating principles, which are this flesh and these bones. If we were referring to an angelic person, we would be referring to an individual substance of a rational nature, where the individual substance was this particular set of perfections, which is the form of the angel. Now, although this body, or this form, is included only potentially in the definition of a person in general, when the term person is applied to a human or divine person, precisely because a less general term is being added to a more general term, the individuating factor then becomes included in the meaning of the particular kind of person to which we are referring actually, e.g., in a human person, the particular body and soul are now actually included in the meaning of the term person, since we have applied person to a human, just as if we predicate rationality of an animal, the term animal now actually means a man, whereas before the term animal was only man in potentiality. Now, in God, what subsists in an individual way are relations. Thus, if one were to say that X is a subsistent relation, we would know immediately that they were referring to a divine person, because this is the very definition of a divine person, just as if we were to say that X is a body/soul composite of a rational nature, we would know they were referring to a human person. Or if X were a rational animal, we would know it was a man. In all the above cases, the subject is equal to the predicate. That is, in each case the predicate is a definition of the subject, because in each case the individuating principle of a nature (whether human, divine, or angelic) is added to the idea of the broad term "person." And these individuating factors, which were present previously only potentially, are now present actually, and thusly limits its meaning to a specific sort of person. We do this sort of thing all the time. For instance, someone tells us that they bought a car, so we ask them what kind, and they respond a Ford. Thus, because "car" is a broad term, we ask what sort of car they are referring. The same is able to be said of the term "person."
And so we see then that because (1) person means whatever is distinct in a given rational nature, it must mean that (2) person is a broad term, and consequently (3) does not mean that what individuates and subsists in one nature will be what individuates and subsists in another nature, because of the very fact that (4) the suppositum within that nature is contained in the meaning of the term person only potentially and not actually. Further, (5) if the term person did actually contain within its definition the individuating principles of a certain nature, then the definition would be utterly inaccurate, since a definition is supposed to apply to any and every instance of the thing which we are defining. Yet if the individuating principles of a human person were included in the definition of person as such, when we used the term person to refer to an angelic person, it would indicate that the individuating principle of an angel was matter! Or, were the individuating principles of a divine person to be included within the definition of person, a human person would be individuated by being a relation of opposition.
And this seems to answer the above objection. For, both a person within the Trinity, and a human person, is an individual substance of a rational nature. The only difference being that, whereas the human person is distinguished by matter, the divine person is distinguished by a relation of opposition. In this way, the principle of analogy is not contradicted, but confirmed.
Obj. 6. We cannot hold there is no human esse in Christ, because this results in denying that Christ’s human nature has everything that a normal human nature possesses. That is, Christ’s human nature is incomplete if it is lacking a human esse, insofar as human natures have human esses. Thus, if there were only one esse in Christ, it seems there is only one true nature.
Reply Obj. 6 Thomas answers this problem within article two of question seventeen of the Tertia Pars. Thomas begins by telling us that, insofar as Christ has two natures, but is only one person, whatever belongs to the nature of Christ must be two, and whatever belongs to the person of Christ, must be one. He then makes a distinction between the way in which being (esse) pertains to a person and the way in which it pertains to nature. Being pertains "to the hypostasis as to that which has being--and to the nature as to that whereby [the person] has being." In other words, esse belongs primarily to a person, and the esse is given to the person through the nature. Thomas asserts this because nature is said to be a form, and forms are actualities; they are that whereby things are actually what they are, e.g., a thing is actually white because whiteness is in it.
Thomas’ next assertion is of the utmost importance. He says:
Now it must be borne in mind that if there is a form or nature which does not pertain to the personal being of the subsisting hypostasis, this being is not said to belong to the person simply, but relatively.
What Thomas has in mind here are accidental forms. That is, the being of Socrates is to be white, or to be musical, but not qua Socrates. And this is because the form whereby Socrates is white is separate from the form whereby Socrates is simply Socrates. Thus, Socrates may become black and lose the form whereby he is white. In losing this form, however, he does not lose the form whereby he is simply Socrates. Secondly, and more importantly, the form whereby Socrates is white is separate from the form whereby Socrates is musical; these two accidental forms have their own individual acts of existing. Consequently, accidental acts of being can be multiplied within a person. However, says Thomas, the act of being that is proper to a person cannot be multiplied within a person, "since it is impossible that there should not be one being for one thing." It seems that the same would apply to accidental acts of being within a person. It is absurd to say that that whereby Socrates is white is not one act of being white, but two acts of being white. For how can one and the same thing have two of acts of being itself?
Further, if Christ’s human nature were merely something accidentally joined to the Person of the Christ, as whiteness to Socrates, it would follow that Christ has two esses, just as Socrates would have two esses. However, to say that Christ’s human nature is merely united accidentally to the Divine Person, is to deny that Christ is truly a man, which eradicates the doctrine of the Incarnation. Thomas proceeds to say that if there is something which belongs to being Socrates, e.g., being corporeal, or being animated, then these attributes have no being of their own, but exist through the one being whereby Socrates is Socrates because of the very fact that they are not separated from Socrates. Thomas gives the example that if Socrates were born without a hand, but later grew a hand, it does not follow that the hand brings with it a new esse to the person of Socrates, and in this way Socrates will have a personal esse and an esse for his hand, but rather, the hand will exist through the personal esse of Socrates, because the hand pertains to the personal being of Socrates. Thus, if something is united to the person as such, it can not bring with it another esse, but exists through the esse to which it belongs.
And so, because
the human nature of Christ is united to the person of Christ, and not accidentally, it follows that
no new personal being is accrued because
humanness is a person-making constituent and as such
does not have its own act of being, because human nature is a form, and
is that whereby the person exists.
Since the person of Christ already exists, the human nature does not bring with it a new and separate act of existing, hence the nature that is added exists with the act of existing that is already there--which is the being of the divine person.
because insofar as nature has to do with being a person, it is not separable from the being of the person, and
since the nature is united to the person of Christ, as we said above, it does not have its own esse.
If it did, there would be two acts of being who Christ is.
The above is the explanation of how the human nature of Christ is able to exist through the divine esse. However, it remains for us to show why Christ’s human nature is in no way incomplete by lacking a human esse. This point is very simple. We need only to distinguish between essence (what a thing is) and existence (that a thing is). When Galot objects that a human nature includes a human act of existing, he seems to be forgetting this all-important distinction. If a human nature naturally included existence, then this would imply that human beings were not contingent, because it would imply that what it is to be human is to exist. But this is not the case. What it is to be of a given kind is whether any individuals of the kind exist or not. Thus, Christ’s human nature is complete as human nature, because human nature does not include existing within it. All the humans in the world could die, and yet there would still be such a thing as human nature, that is, what it is to be a human even if it only existed in the mind of God. There is no nature as such that of necessity involves existence, except that of God, wherein there is no distinction between what He is and that He is. All other things are contingent, and, as such, what they are is not dependent on their act of existing. If this were no the case, all things would necessarily exist.
This concludes our defense of the Thomistic definition against the objections put forward by Galot. It now remains for us to critique Karol Wojtyla’s theory so as to answer the objections which he has raised against the classical Boethian/Thomistic understanding of person.
~A Critique of Karol Wojtyla’s Theory~
Unlike the critique of Galot’s theory, we do not intend to offer any arguments, per se, against Wojtyla’s conception of "person." The reason for this is quite simple. Wojtyla believes that the "metaphysical terrain," which Boethius has established, must be built upon through lived experience; the category of lived experience, then, is what Wojtyla believes to be fundamentally missing within the Thomistic/Boethian definition of a person. Thus, we shall examine two objections that Wojtyla raises following from his view of lived experience. If we can either (1) show that his objections are not well founded, or (2) show that what he believes is not contained within the Thomistic understanding of the person, actually is contained, then we will have proven Wojtyla to be in error. For, we will have eliminated his difficulties, and he will have no basis on which to criticize the definition, and consequently, must accept it.
Obj. 1. Man is a moral agent. However when a man knows something, he knows it intentionally, as an object. But, if man is to be held morally responsible for his actions, then he knows himself as subject of his actions, and moreover, he must know his actions while performing his actions. Since in knowing things intentionally, man is objectivizing what he knows, it follows that man could only know his actions by a sort of reflection. However, if man cannot know himself in an immediate way, man cannot be held morally responsible for his actions, since the action would already have taken place, but we know that man is morally responsible for his actions. Thus, insofar as the Aristotelian category of acting is always outward directed, and hence object directed, a new category is needed, i.e., lived experience, whereby man is able to know himself as the subject of his actions.
Rep. Obj. 1. Let us examine the nature of a moral action. It seems clear that a moral action consists in the willing of a good. Now Thomas would say, and no doubt Wojtyla would agree with him, that acting morally is willing a good such that neither a higher nor a lower good is violated in the pursuit of the good that is willed. According to Thomas, an immoral act is one that is the result of an inordinate desire, which is a desire that compromises the order of perfection in human nature. Thus, when one commits an act of fornication, the animal aspect of our nature has dominion over the intellectual aspect. Consequently, reason is dethroned by the animal instincts. The perfections within one’s nature are disordered, such that the lower perfections have control over the higher. Now, we must realize that the object of fornication, namely sexual intercourse is by no means an evil per se, but it is a good. It is only called evil, in this case, because the animal desires of man were not subordinated to the intellectual aspect of man, which is higher than the animal aspect.
Now, let us assume that before the act of fornication took place, the would be fornicator was faced with two goods. On the one hand, there is the good of sex, on the other hand, there is the good of, say, virtue. We see, then, that the future fornicator is faced with a choice of these two goods. How, then, does he make this decision? The answer is that the man uses his intellect to understand the two goods, and assesses that the good of sex, at this time, is superior to the good of virtue. Having understood that one good is higher than another, albeit incorrectly, he then wills this good. Now, the man in question could have decided that fornication was in fact a lower good, and thus he could have chosen virtue. If this is the case, he would still have understood one good as higher, although in this case he would be correct in his judgement. The process, nevertheless, is identical in both cases.
The procedure of this (im)moral action is extremely important, and, it seems as though Wojtyla does not conceive moral activity to function in this manner. For, notice that within this process, the first thing a person does is not fornicate, i.e., act, but rather, he arranges the goods as he deems proper. In the virtuous man, he subordinates sex to virtue, in the man with vice, the opposite is true. However, before the would be fornicator ever acts, he first understands and orders the goods. Only after this process does he actually will a good, and consequently follow through on the action. For, man does not act unless man wills to act. Wojtyla makes use of the distinction between actus humanus and actus hominis, and yet, he does not seem to realize its full significance.
An actus humanus indicates that before man acts in a conscious fashion, he has first intended to act in this way. Intention must needs be present in order for an act to be considered moral or immoral; intention is precisely what distinguishes a specifically human action from a behavior. The latter does not include within its very definition the intention of the agent, whereas the former must include intention. Thus, driving a knife through someone’s heart is a behavior, not an action. It is a behavior precisely because we have not stated the intention of the agent, but merely his behavior, i.e., stabbing. Depending upon the intention of the agent, the action could either be moral or immoral. If, for instance, the agent were driving a knife through the man’s heart in order that he might defend home and family, then the intention of the agent is moral. However, if the intention of the agent is to kill another man because he finds his victim’s clothes unstylish, then the intention of the agent is immoral.
What we notice in the above example is that intentionality is precisely what constitutes an action as moral or immoral. The intention describes the act to be the kind of act that it is. That is why, when we evaluate the intention of the agent, we are able to make a judgement on the morality of this action, whereas, were we to know only the behavior of the agent, we could not say whether it was morally good or bad. That intention makes an act to be moral or immoral is clear from common experience. For, we say "I intend X for the sake of Y," where X is the behavior and Y is that for the sake of which. If this is true, man does not need to reflect on his actions after they have happened, (as Wojtyla may believe that he must if we do not postulate a new category) because man can and does understand his actions as such before they have happened. Man must understand his actions in this way. For, when a man is performing some behavior, we ask him, "Why are you doing X?" He answers this question by telling us his end, or his intention; it by the agent informing us of his intention that we then understand the action of the agent, whereas before we only knew his behavior. Thus, the man is jumping up and down (behavior), in order that he might become fit(action). We realize that the action of the agent is exercise.
We see, then, that the reason why man does X is precisely because of the intention or goal which he has in mind. If a man did not have an end in mind before he acted, then he would not be acting. It is preposterous to think that a man would act without knowing why it was that he was acting, or that he would be doing something for no purpose. "Q: Why are you jumping up and down." "A: I have no reason." If the man truly had no reason whatsoever, then he would be uncontrollably jumping up and down. At the very least, the man is jumping up and down just to be silly. Silliness in this case may not be much of a reason, however, it is still an end.
Now, if what we have said is true, then man must be able to know his actions before he performs them, and, further, he can know them as moral or immoral. For, man must understand the action that he is going to perform; he must know his intention. Only after he knows his intention does he perform the action. Were he not to know his intention, he could not act, for, a man acts because of his intention, because it is his end. Therefore, man is able to ask himself whether doing X for the sake of Y is moral or immoral, before he has ever acted.
Let us summarize then.
The agent is faced with two options. He can either (a) work for money, or (b) stab Joe to death and take his money.
The agent orders the goods in a hierarchy as he deems fit at the time.
Having understood one good to be higher than another, the agent chooses the good. In our case, the agent sees that money is a higher good than acting morally.
However, the agent can only choose to act when he knows his end, that is, when he knows what he is acting for. In this case, he is acting to obtain a certain good, namely monetary increase.
The agent then plans to perform a certain behavior for the intention of some good. In this case, the action is to stab Joe to get money.
The agent is able to ask himself, before he acts, whether said behavior is permissible for the intended good. The agent is able to say, "No. To do X for the sake of this end, would be morally wrong." For example, to stab Joe for the sake of getting his money, is not permissible.
However, the agent can still see getting the money as a higher good than acting morally, and thus can perform the behavior of stabbing with an evil intention in order that he might get money.
And thus, the agent acts immorally.
One possible reason for Wojtyla emphasizing lived experience is that he believes that within the Thomistic/Aristotelian understanding of acting, a man acts and is willing before he is understanding what he is willing. Thus, the only way around this problem is to formulate a new category, where man can conceive himself, not as an object, but in a more immediate way as the subject of his actions. However, this is clearly not the case when a man acts. A man can only will something after he has understood the good that he is willing, precisely because the good is what moves him to act, inasmuch as the good is the end of his action. One cannot will anything before first intellectually seeing the good in that thing. For then man would be willing something without knowing why he was willing it, but we said above that this is impossible, since man’s end is what moves him to act. Thus, when man wills something, he wills it because he sees it as a good for himself.
Since this is the case, a new category does not need to be formulated in order to explain moral activity. Moral activity is able to be explained simply by examining how man acts. Before man ever acts, he knows, intellectually, the morality or immorality of the action he is about to perform, because he himself has ordered the goods. In so ordering goods, he is intellectually aware whether or not he has correctly ordered the goods. The reason why he is able to know whether the action that he is about to perform is moral or immoral is because of the distinction between essence and existence. The agent does not need to experience the activity in order to know that it is immoral, i.e., the activity does not need to be actually existing in order for him to know that such an action is morally evil. Rather, the agent is able to examine the manner in which he has ordered goods, and ask whether the essence of this activity that he is about to perform is moral or immoral in these circumstances. This is the very essence of the action, which the agent is able to grasp outside of actually acting. It seems, then, that lived experience is not necessary to explain moral activity.
Obj. 2. The Boethian definition of "person" merely sketches out the reducible in a person. However, it does not adequately formulate the irreducible in man, which is lived experience, which is the unique way in which man is conscious of himself as subject of his acts.
Rep. Obj. 2 This objection seems to be grounded on the fact that man is both subject and object of his actions. Thus, Wojtyla demands that for an adequate understanding of man, he cannot be considered merely as an object. Wojtyla believes that insofar as self-knowledge is intentional, hence objective, it cannot provide a basis for considering man as subject, this requires a special function of consciousness, which we spoke of above, namely the reflexive aspect of consciousness. That this function of consciousness is not required for man to know himself as subject, and that a new category, appended to the ten Aristotelian categories, is not necessary, we now intend to show.
2.1) First, it must be said that since everything is an object of knowledge, we must be able to know ourselves as subject. For if we could not, then the intellect would be limited, but the intellect as such is not limited. Indeed, the object of the intellect is being. Insofar as being is infinite, the intellect is potentially infinite. To say, then, that man cannot understand himself as a subject through his intellect, requires one to say that there is something that man cannot know. Yet, if the object of the intellect is being, and being is infinite, then this cannot be so.
2.2) We can agree with Wojtyla that whatever man knows, he knows intentionally, and, consequently as an object of his knowledge. However, we need not agree that he cannot understand himself as a subject within this self-knowledge. Wojtyla seems to believe that in order for us to experience ourselves, or understand ourselves, precisely as subjects, we must have a subjective way of knowing ourselves. However, this is not the case. It appears that Wojtyla is failing to make a crucial distinction in this case between essence and existence. Let us take a simple case of what we mean by this. When I think of a rock, I consequently know what a rock is. I know that it belongs to a rock to be hard, made of this or that material, and that it falls down when dropped. What I know is the essence of the rock; I know what it is in its very nature. The reason why this is possible is because there is a distinction between the essence that the rock has, and the existence that the rock has. Were the essence and existence of the rock not separable, then I would have to be the rock in order to know it. However, seeing as how I am not a rock, we must posit that there is some other way in which we can know the rock as such.
It seems that the only way in which we could know the nature of a thing is by knowing its form. For, form gives the thing the kind of nature that it has. And, if we know the thing’s nature, it seems that we must be knowing its form. Now, if we know the thing’s form, and yet the form is present within the thing, how is knowledge possible? The answer that there is a distinction between the essence a thing has, and the mode of being a thing has. Simply because a thing exists in such and such a way does not mean that it is precluded from existing in a different way. To illustrate this point, let us examine sugar. We see that sugar is white, and we taste that it is sweet. Notice, however, that whiteness and sweetness are understood to exist separately from each other. That is, they are not intrinsically bound together, such that, if there is something that is white, then there is something that is sweet. That this is not the case is clear, because we taste and see white things that are bitter. Since this is true, then this means that white things are able to exist in two different ways, first, with something that is sweet, and also with something that is bitter. However, the fact that it is white, the very essence of whiteness, is not changed in either case, but merely its mode of existing. To return to our original point then, the form of the rock existing in one way within the rock, does not preclude the same form existing within our intellect. Further, it is the same form that exists within the intellect that exists within the rock.
Now, having said this, we can formulate our argument against Wojtyla: simply because the object has a mode of existing which is different from the subject, it does not preclude us knowing the essence of the subject as such. Thus, when man knows himself, the object of his thought contains within himself the understanding of himself as subject, even though he is known by making an object for himself. The reason for this stems from what he have said above. When the knower knows himself, he does not understand himself as an object, but as a subject, because the mode of being by which he is known is objective, yes, since what is known happens to be the object of the act of knowing, but in this case, the whatness that is the object of the act of knowing is a knowing subject. That is, the whatness of the object known is the knower as subject. Thus it is the identical form that is known by the agent, as is in that which is subject; if man is a subject, then man as subject is what is understood and not man as an object. This is precisely because, if a man is trying to understand himself as a subject, then what the man will know, in an objective way, will be himself as subject, because this is the way that we know things: man is able to know things, as they are in themselves, without giving them the existence proper to them.
If we examine how we know a rock, we shall see a parallel example of this subject-object problem. When one knows a rock, one’s head does not become a rock, rather, the form of the rock is impressed upon the passive intellect, and in this way the agent is able to understand what a rock truly is. However, one should notice that this process is completely independent of matter. The form that is abstracted from the rock contains no matter. The whatness that we know of the rock contains no matter within it, and yet we are still able to know the rock. Is this a problem? How can one know a rock, but the knowing of the rock is immaterial? Is not the rock a material thing? Does it not, then, need to be known in a material way? The answer is, no, it does not. The reason why it does not is because, even though the rock is known in an immaterial way, the intellect does not consider the rock as being immaterial, but rather, quite the opposite is true. Were the intellect to consider the rock to be immaterial, it would not truly be knowing the essence of a rock. But the intellect does not do this at all. Rather, the intellect understands the nature of the rock as including matter within its nature. The same holds true for the way in which we know ourselves as a subject. Though we may only be able to know things by taking them as objects of our acts of knowing, this in no way prevents us from understanding the object which we are knowing as a subject, just as the form existing immaterially within the intellect does not hinder us from considering the form as having the matter that belongs to the nature of the rock per se. All that is necessary to answer this objection then is to realize that in order to have knowledge, the mode of being which a form has need not be identical in the knower and the thing that is known. For, the same form is able to exist with different modes of being as we have shown above.
2.3) The words which Wojtyla writes seems to support our argument and refute his. For, if man as subject is not able to be understood by the intellect, then, how is it possible that Wojtyla is able to speak of it? If Wojtyla can coherently speaking of himself as subject of his actions, then this must mean that man can understand himself as subject, for, how else would we know what Wojtyla was speaking about?
And so we see that the metaphysical definition, which Wojtyla believes cannot adequately account for a complete understanding of a person, in fact is able to do just that. Insofar as one admits the distinction between essence and existence, man is able to be understood through an intentional act of self-knowledge. Consequently, "lived experience" does not need to be postulated in order to explain the unique way in which man knows himself as both subject and object.
With the above defense of the Thomistic understanding of person, we bring this work to a close. In our first chapter, we introduced the definition "individual substance of a rational nature." Subsequently, we illustrated why each term within this definition is absolutely necessary, by explaining why both the genus and specific difference are proper to defining the term "person."
Secondly, we examined the theories of Jean Galot and Karol Wojtyla. We considered each of their theories carefully, and, hopefully, adequately. The true meaning of what they were proposing was presented in what we believe to be a fair and impartial manner. In our fourth chapter however, we showed that the theory of Galot simply is not able to answer the many problems which we seem inherent in its definition of "person." Furthermore, the objections posed by Galot, were, for the most part, easily dispensed with upon a closer examination of the Thomistic understanding of "person." As for Wojtyla, the same statement holds true. The objections which he raises are able to be answered by exploring in greater detail the Thomistic philosophy, which is based upon the thought of Aristotle. We have shown that a new category of being is simply not needed in order to explain the functioning of man. Rather, all that is really required is a deeper investigation into the rich philosophical system of Thomas.
Aquinas, St. Thomas. Summa Theologiae. Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Chicago: Benzinger Brothers Inc., 1947
________. Summa Contra Gentiles. Translated by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. E-Text by the Jacques Maritain Center.
________. De Veritate. E-text by Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/aquinas-veritate.html
________. De Ente et Essentia. E-text by Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/aquinas-esse.html
Aristotle. The Basic Works of Aristotle. Edited by Richard McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.
Connor, Robert A. "The Persona as Resonating Existential." American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 66 (Winter 1992): 39-56.
Galot, Jean, S.J. The Person of Christ: A Theological Insight. Translated by M. Angeline Bouchard. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983.
Grabowski, John S. "Person: Substance and Relation." Communio 22 (Spring 1995): 139-163.
Hoban, James Henry. "The Thomistic Concept of Person and Some its Social Implications." Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of American, 1939.
Maritain, Jacques. The Person and the Common Good. Translated by John J. Fitzgerald. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Norte Dame Press, 1972.
Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph. "Person in Theology." Communio 17 (Fall 1990): 439-454.
Rudman, Stanley. Concepts of Person and Christian Ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Vaske, Martin O. An Introduction to Metaphsics. Omaha: Creighton University, 1963.
Wojtyla, Karol. The Acting Person. Translated by Andrzej Potocki. Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1979.
________. Person and Community. Edited by Andrew Woznicki, Translated by Theresa Sandok. New York: Peter Lang, 1993.
Wolicka, Elzbieta. "Participation in Community: Wojtyla’s Social Anthropology." Communio 8 (Summer 1981): 108-118.