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Human Person:



Logic, Ancient Philosophy






This course is substantively the same as courses that in the past were titled "philosophical anthropology" or "rational psychology." It is rooted in considerations found in Plato's Phaedo and Aristotle's De Anima, as these were taken up and synthesized by Aquinas in his Treatise on Man in the Summa Theologiae (Part I). Its aim is to present and defend the nature of human being as taught therein, namely that we are a union of mortal body and immortal soul, of sense and intellect, of necessity and freedom. These views are to be contrasted with the alternate vision common today of human beings as "higher" animals, reducible to material causes and different only in degree from the rest of mortal nature.


Possible sequence of topics:

1. A Brief History of the Subject
  • typical ideas of human being in "wisdom traditions" (Asian and other cultures, as well as Western)
  • Plato's key ideas: sense/intellect; body/soul; arguments for immortality
  • Aristotle's appropriation of Plato: soul as the body's form; immateriality of intellectual abstraction; problem of immortality
  • post-Aristotelian, classical, rejection of the immaterial (e.g. Epicurus)
  • Aristotle in the high medieval period: the soul as the body's form, yet subsistent: Thomas vs. "Averroism"
  • Cartesian mind-body dualism (substantive exaggeration of Plato's position)
  • modern materialistic naturalism (return to Epicurus, e.g. Hobbes and thereafter)
  • contemporary issues of debate (including efforts to reduce mind to brain)

2. "Thomistic" Texts on Key Ideas
  • crucial arguments from Aristotle: e.g. Physics (nature, matter/form) and De Anima (definition of soul, intellection)
  • crucial arguments from Aquinas: texts from his Treatise on Man in the Summa Theologiae, Part I

3. Thomism in Contemporary Philosophy
  • a Thomistic modern classic or two (e.g. Adler's The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes)
  • various key issues (e.g. Gilson on Darwin, Maritain on Freud, Simon on human freedom)
  • debated issues (e.g. complementarity of women and men)
Texts: Mortimer Adler, The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes
Aquinas, On Human Nature (Hackett)
Etienne Gilson, From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Jacques Maritain, The Range of Reason
Joseph Pieper, Death and Immortality
Yves Simon, Freedom of Choice
Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man and Woman