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PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

CHAPTER 1: INTRAPERSONAL DIMENSION


Lecture 2: Human Being/ Person According to Different Philosophers
The ancient Greek philosophers were cosmologists. Cosmology is defined as
the branch of philosophy which studies the nature of the world and of the universe.
They were busy looking for the basic stuff that makes up the world; thus, they
focused their attention upon nature. This basic stuff is considered the basic
principle, ultimate reality that consist the world. It is in their cosmological ideas
that we can extract some of their thoughts and insights on human nature. The
ancient Greek philosophers engaged in philosophical inquiry asking the origin of all
things and that includes man. The Greek philosophers ground mans nature and
existence in the world. They validly argue that what the world constitutes, man
also possesses. In other words, the stuff that constitutes the world is also the
same stuff that constitutes man. However, what this is basic stuff, remains to be the
perpetual debate among the ancient philosophers themselves. The idea of the
Greek philosophers about human nature is anchored on their views of the world.
The Beginnings of Philosophy: The Pre-Socratics
The birthplace of philosophy was the seaport town of Miletus, on the western
shores of Ionia in Asia Minor. The first philosophers were called Ionians or
Milesians. The first philosophers were primitive scientists whose theory focused on
taking nature and the world around them as the basic stuff. It is a fact of history of
thought that science and philosophy was the same thing in the beginning and only
later did various specific disciplines separate themselves from philosophy, medicine
being the first to do so.

Thales (624-546 BCE)


Thales is known to be the first philosopher. By birth Thales is a
Phoenician but he went to Miletus, Ionia to practice philosophy. It is with this
that he was considered a Greek philosopher. Thales considered water, the
basic stuff. His philosophy was centred on the doctrine that water is the
origin of all things. Thales was aware that water is just one of the many
candidates for the basic stuff of the universe, he knew there were other
substances such as solid, air fire, gases and others. The principle of all things
is water; all comes from water, and to water all returns. This finding of Thales
was later validated by modern science, even today grade schoolers are
taught that the human brain contains 75% water and the human blood is
83% water.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

Thales was perhaps the first philosopher to ask questions about


the structure and nature of the cosmos as a whole. He maintained that
the earth rests on water, like a log floating in a stream. (Aristotle asked, later:
what does the water rest on?) But earth and its inhabitants did not just rest
on water: in some sense, so Thales believed, they were all made out of water.
Even in antiquity, people conjecture the grounds for this belief: was it
because all animals and plants need water, or because the seeds of
everything are moist? Because of his theory about the cosmos Thales was
called by later writers a physicist or philosopher of nature (phusis is the
Greek word for nature).

Anaximenes (550-526 BCE)


If Thales considered water as the basic stuff of the universe,
Anaximenes preferred air to water. His philosophy is centred on the doctrine
that air is the source of all things. He believes that water, earth and
fire are all products of air. Air according to Anaximenes air undergoes two
processes namely, condensation and rarefaction. When air is condensed
it becomes wind, then cloud, when still more condensed it becomes water,
then earth then stone. Condensation is the source of cold. By rarefaction air
becomes thin, it becomes fire.
Given Anaximenes argument on air we can say that man is air. Taken
from the paradigm of man as a body and soul it can be argued that the body
is condensed air and the soul is rarefied air. So, based on the traditional belief
when death comes and soul separates from the body, cadaver (corpse) is
necessarily cold, since the heat principle (the soul) that animates it is gone.
Anaximenes contend that air is the principle of life. In fact, he says that
the soul is composed of air. Anaximenes provide a crude example of
appealing to a simple experiment: if one blows on ones hand with the mouth
relaxed, the air is hot; if one blows with pursed lips, the air is cold.

Xenophanes (570-478 BC)


Xenophaness philosophy was centred on the doctrine that earth is the
fundamental element of the universe. All things come from earth and in
earth all things end. The soil in the ground is a manifestation of earth.
Everything we eat comes from earth; the food that we will digest and convert
into muscle, bone, blood and other body parts is grown in and draws
nutrients from the soil. The earth and mans body are one.

Anaximander

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

Anaximander was said to have been the first person to construct a


map of the world. He believed that there was one material stuff out of
which everything in the cosmos came and into which everything
returned in the end. Probably thinking that every ordinary material
element could be destroyed by its opposite, he took the single cosmic stuff
to be something boundless or indeterminate (apeiron in Greek). The
apeiron is eternal and encompasses all the opposites.
Anaximander was an early proponent of evolution. Coming to the
origin of human life, Anaximander said that all life comes from the sea and
that in the course of time; living things came out of the sea to dry land. He
suggested that humanity evolved from the creatures of different kind,
using as his argument the fact that other creatures are quickly selfsupporting, whereas humans alone need prolonged nursing and that,
therefore, humanity would not have survived if this had been its original form.
Commenting on Anaximanders account of the origin of humanity, Plutarch
writes that the Syrians actually revere fish as being of similar race and
nurturing. In this they philosophize more suitably than Anaximander; for
declares not that fishes and men came into being in the same parents, but
that originally men came into being inside fishes, and that having been
nurtured there-like sharks and having become adequate to look after
themselves, they then came forth and took the land. The human beings we
know cannot always have existed, he argued. Other animals are able to look
after themselves, soon after birth, while humans require a long period of
nursing; if humans had originally been as they are now they could not have
survived. Because of this thesis, though he was not otherwise a vegetarian,
he preached against the eating of fish.

Heraclitus (540-480 BCE)


Some Greek Philosophers also believe that the world is changing. This
idea is well defended by Heraclitus. The logos is the blanket principle of
change. With this idea, he maintains that all things or that everything is in
constant change. His popular dictum was: You cant step twice in the
same river. Change for him is a permanent reality. Everything will be
changed and it is only change that cannot be changed. This explains that
nothing is the same now as it was before, and nothing today will be the same
tomorrow.
In Heraclitus cosmology fire has the role which water had in Thales
and air had in Anaximenes. The world is an ever-burning fire: all things come
from fire and go into fire; all things are exchangeable for fire, as goods

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

are for gold and gold for goods. There is a downward path, whereby fire
turns to water and an upward path, whereby earth turns to water, water to
air, and air to fire. Heraclitus believed that fire makes the basic stuff. The
process of becoming or change finds its origin in fire. It is the origin of all
matter. So, what has fire to do with man? Evidently, the 37 degrees Celsius
temperature of the human body provides us with the clue that man is
grounded in the world. Thus, if the world is fire, man, too, has fire in him in
the form of heat.

Pythagoras
The Pythagoreans the name of the followers of Pythagoras were
convinced that man is a dipartite of body and soul. They are the first to
approach man in this perspective. The Pythagoreans are the true pioneers of
the paradigm of man as body and soul. According to the Pythagoreans the
human soul is immortal and divine, they believe that the soul has fallen,
and that is to say, imprisoned in the body. The imprisonment is not to
last forever since there is a sure possibility for the souls release from its
entrapment in the body.
He taught the doctrine of the transmigration of souls: human beings
had souls which were separable from their bodies, and at death a persons
soul might migrate into another kind of animal. For this reason, he taught his
disciples to abstain from meat; once, it is said, he stopped a man whipping a
puppy, claiming philosophy in its infancy to have recognized in its whimper
the voice of a dear dead friend. He believed that the soul, having migrated
into different kinds of animal in succession, was eventually reincarnated as a
human being. He himself claimed to remember having been, some centuries
earlier, a hero at the siege of Troy. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls
was called in Greek metempsychosis.

The Greek Triumvirate

Socrates
Socrates was acclaimed as the greatest philosopher in Western
civilization. The definition of Socrates of man seems to put more emphasis on
the attitudinal level of human nature since he gives more value to the
human soul rather than the body. Socrates created the conception of the
soul, the psyche. For him the soul is not any particular faculty, nor was it
any special kind of substance; but was rather the capacity for intelligence
and character; it was a persons personality. Socrates identified the soul
with the normal powers of intelligence and character instead of as some
ghostly substance. The soul was the structure of personality. The activity of

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

the soul is to know. He argues that the human soul should be nurtured
properly through its acquisition of knowledge, wisdom and virtue.
For Socrates man should discover the truth, the truth about good
life, for it is in knowing the good life that man can act correctly. According to
Socrates, knowledge and virtue are not distinct from each other. For one to
do good one must have first and foremost known the good. Knowing what
is right means doing what is right. For according to Socrates moral
knowledge and virtue was one and the same thing. Hence, if one fails to do
that which one knows about, it follows that the claimant of this knowledge
does not actually know that which he claims he knows at all. So if one knows
cheating, telling lies, stealing, killing, adultery, and the like are bad acts but
one performs them anyway, it clearly shows that one is deeply ignorant.
Someone who really knew what it was right to do could not do wrong; if
anyone did what was wrong; it must be because he did not know what was
right. No one goes wrong on purpose, since everyone wants to lead a good
life and thus be happy. Those who do wrong unintentionally are in need
of instruction, not punishment. For Socrates, the main source of evil is
ignorance.
Some philosophers comment that the ignorance which Socrates refers
to is not the act itself but its ability to produce happiness. Wrongdoing is
the inaccurate estimate modes of behaviour. It is the inaccurate
expectation that certain kinds of things or pleasures will produce happiness.
Wrongdoing, then, is the product of ignorance simply because it is done with
the hope that it will do what it cannot do. Ignorance consists in not
knowing that certain behaviour cannot produce happiness. And it
requires knowledge to be able to distinguish what appears to give happiness
and what really does. Socrates denied that people deliberately did evil acts
because they knew them to be evil. When people commit evil acts, said
Socrates, they always do them thinking that they are good in some way. Even
when one chooses pain, one does so with the expectation that this pain will
lead to virtue.

Plato
Plato was a student of Socrates. There were yet no established schools
that existed before in ancient Greece. Socrates favourite schoolhouse was the
marketplace despite the fact that he was no vendor of any commodities,
except ideas. Plato founded a school in Athens which he called Academy.
Notably, Plato called this school in honour of the Greek hero Academus. This
school however, was ordered closed by the Catholic Church in 529 A.D.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

Plato fashioned his philosophy in a metaphysical foundation by


weaving his thoughts on the kinds of world. This two world theory of
Plato points out the division of the world. According to him there are two
kinds of world, namely, the Ideal World (Intelligible world) and the Sensible
World (World of Matter). The Ideal world is the world of idea. For Plato, the
ideal world is the ultimate reality since ideas and forms are eternal and
immutable He uses form (eidos) synonymously with idea (which is also
derived from the verb idein). Hence, Platos Theory of Ideas is also called the
Theory of Forms. Plato concludes that the ideal world is the real world,
the true world of reality. On the other hand, the sensible world is a world
of becoming; it is a world of constant change.
Example: the "Form" or "Idea" of a horse is intelligible, abstract, and
applies to all horses; this Form never changes, even though horses vary
wildly among themselves. An individual horse is a physical, changing object
that can easily cease to be a horse; the Form of a horse, or "horseness,"
never changes. The sensible world, therefore, is just a poor reflection, copy,
duplicate or shadow of the ideal world.
It is in this two world view or two world theory of Plato where we can
glean his insights on human nature. The nature of man lies in the
dichotomy of body and soul. In other words, body and soul are two
different aspects in man. The human soul belongs to the ideal world. The
human body on the other hand belongs to the sensible world. For Plato,
the body is material; it cannot live and move apart from the soul; it is
mutable and destructible. The soul on the other hand can exist apart
from the body it is immutable and indestructible. Plato views the
superiority of the human soul over the human body. Hence, the real man for
Plato is his soul and not his body.
The human body is considered by Plato as a prison cell. The soul
is temporarily incarcerated in the body. Plato believed that the soul existed
prior to the body. The body is the temporary residence of the human soul.
Plato concludes that man is a soul using a body. At the time of death the
human body as material will decompose while the human soul will survive.
This affirms Platos doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
In Platos view, the soul has three parts, namely the rational, appetitive
and spiritual parts. Because man is a soul using a body, the three parts of the
soul each has its place in the body.
Appetitive Part part of the soul that drives man to experience
thirst, hunger, and other physical wants. It is the seat of physical
pleasures. It seeks power, wealth, and even sexual satisfaction. It is
located in the stomach.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

Spiritual Part part of the soul that makes man assert abomination
and anger. It is the seat of emotions (i.e. anger, fear, hatred,
jealousy). It is located in the chest.
Rational Part it is the seat of reasoning. It is the rational part of
the soul that enables man to think, to reflect, to draw conclusions,
and to analyse. This part of the soul is located in the head. For Plato
this part of the soul is the most important and the highest. It
naturally desire to acquire knowledge and wisdom. It is this part that
rules over the other parts and not to be overruled. It is this part that
specifically distinguishes man from the brutes. Man can control his
appetite and self- assertion of spirit through reason.
For example, when the person is very hungry and yet, he does not eat
the available food because he knows or doubts that it has poison. Plato
contends that there is something in the mind of the person that leads him to
crave for food and another thing that prohibits him from eating the poisoned
food. The principle that drives the person to eat the food is what he calls the
appetite while that principle which forbids the person to eat the available
food because it is poisoned, is reason.
Another example is man who is so angry with another person who
insulted him. Out of anger, he surely would be driven to kill his enemy but
does not actually do so because he knows that if he does so, he will be
imprisoned. With the same reasoning, he argues that it is the spirit in man
that makes the person angry with his enemy, yet his anger is curbed by
reason.
A self-controlled person is a person who knows how to balance
things and is therefore dominated by the rational part. Reason for Plato
controls both spirit and appetite. When this happens man will have a wellbalanced personality. An aggressive person is a person who asserts himself
in all situations in life and is therefore dominated by the spirited part. A
greedy person is person who seeks to acquire possessions is therefore
dominated by the appetitive part.
Plato declares that the spiritual and appetitive parts are subjected to
death; they are mortals. Only the rational part of the soul is immortal. This
literally gives birth to the concept that an idea is immortal since it is rooted in
reason. This means further that when man dies, his soul will not go hungry or

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

angry, because passion and appetite die with the body, yet, whatever the
soul knows, it continues to know what it knows since an idea or knowledge is
intrinsically incapable of death. The universal concept of the human soul or
reason is eternal and will continue to exist. It will not die with the death of the
person.

Aristotle
If Plato has his academy, Aristotle has his Lyceum. It is in this school
where Aristotle gathered his disciples who sat at his feet. The most acclaimed
statement of Aristotle on man says: Man is a rational animal.
Unlike Plato, Aristotle maintains that there is no dichotomy between
mans body and soul. Body and soul are in a state of unity. For Aristotle
mans body and soul are substantially united. This means that in Aristotelian
thought, there is no soulless body and bodiless soul. Simply put, where
there is body there is soul, and vice versa. The soul acts as the perfect or full
realization of the body while the body is a material entity which has a
potentiality for life. The body per se, has no life. The body can only possess
life when it is united with the soul. Soul is the principle of life; it causes the
body to live. The body is matter to the soul and the soul form to the body.
Body and soul therefore, are inseparable. They constitute man as a whole.
For Aristotle it is not only human beings which have a soul, or psyche;
all living beings have one, from daisies and molluscs upwards. A soul is
simply a principle of life: it is the source of the characteristic activities of
living beings. Different living beings have different abilities: plants can grow
and reproduce, but cannot move or feel; animals perceive, and feel pleasure
and pain; some but not all animals can move around; some very special
animals, namely human beings, can also think and understand. Different
kinds of soul are diversified by these different activities in which they find
expression. The most general definition which Aristotle gives of a soul is that
it is the form of an organic body. Aristotles concept of the kinds of soul:
Vegetative Soul is the lowest type of soul which is found in all
living things. Plants specifically possess this type of soul. It is
capable of the following functions: It feeds (nutrition) itself, it grows
(growth), and it reproduces (reproduction). Man is a vegetant soul, a
vegetant organism. As a vegetant organism human beings are like
plants simply because they have life and they feed, grow and
reproduce themselves.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

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Sensitive Soul exists in animals. The functions of the sensitive


soul are: It feeds itself, it grows, it reproduces, and it has feelings
(particularly of pain and pleasure). It refers to the function or the
power of sensation in addition to the power of vegetation. Sensitive
soul develops a nervous system that allows the senses in the body
to function. What makes a sensitive soul higher than a vegetant soul
is that the latter is incapable of sensation, because it does not have
a nervous system, while the former has a nervous system. Through
nervous system it allows its beholder to experience pain or pleasure
because it has feelings. Man is also a sentient organism like animals.
The only difference is that whereas brutes are only capable of
feelings (of pain and pleasure) man is capable not only of feelings,
but also of emotion.
Rational Soul exists only in man. The rational soul ranks the
highest of all kinds of souls because it assumes the functions of the
vegetative and sensitive souls. Besides, it is capable of thinking,
reasoning and willing. Man therefore, who is in possession of the
rational soul is higher than the brutes, animals and plants. Aside
from thinking and judging, man is capable of sensing and growing.
Only man can reason, think and encompasses two other souls and
that which makes him the highest. Because man is rational he has
intellect and will.
In sum, Aristotles view of the human nature is seen in his argument on
the matter and form in man. Man is essentially body and soul.

Ancient Chinese Sages: On Human Nature


The central attention of the Chinese in philosophizing man is on ethics and
politics. They have not concerned themselves, unlike the Greek on the physical
composition of man, but on his humanity and role in the society. Their brand of
philosophy is more practical and realistic. This was the fruit of their situation which
was the Period of the Warring States. The main aim of their philosophy is to address
the role of man in himself, in his home and in the society. In the discussion, two of
Chinas prominent philosopher will be tackled and their understanding of human
nature.

Mencius (372-289 BCE)

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

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Better known in China as Master Meng (Chinese: Meng Zi), Mencius


was a fourth-century BCE Chinese thinker whose importance in the Confucian
tradition is second only to that of Confucius himself. Mencius lost his father at
an early age. Thus, he became close to his mother. There was this story
about his mother: when they lived in the cemetery, Mencius enacted the
various scene of burial rite. When they transferred near the market place, he
pretended he was a market vendor selling wares and bargaining to
customers. His mother was displeased once again. They transferred near a
public school. There the young boy, Mencius, imitated various exercises of
politeness, propriety, and moral rectitude, virtues proper to the scholar. The
mother was satisfied and said, This is the proper place for my son!
This story made Mencius mother a paragon of an ideal mother for the
Chinese. Mencius studied about Confucius through Confucius great grandson,
Zi Si. Mencius was also a private teacher accompanied by several hundred
disciples. Mencius influence did not rank equal with Confucius, Mo Tzu and
Lao Tzu. It was only until the Period of the Five Dynasties (900 AD to 1400
AD) that he gained great acceptance. Tired of the materialism of the kings
and failing to win royal support, he went home and devoted the last years of
his life to teaching and writing.
Human Nature
For Kao Zi, Mans nature is neither good nor bad. Some say mans
nature may be made to practice good, and it may be made to practice evil;
and accordingly, under Wen and Wu the people loved what was good, while
under Yu and Li, they loved what was cruel Furthermore, Kao Zi said,
Mans nature is like flowing water. If a breach in the pool is made to the east
it will flow to the east. If a breach is made to the west it will flow to the west.
Mans nature is indifferent to good and evil, just as water is indifferent to the
east and west! Mencius, retorted, Water, indeed, is indifferent to the east
and west, but is it indifferent to high and low? Mans nature is naturally good
as water naturally flows downward. There is no man without this good nature;
neither is there water that does not flow downward. Now can you strike water
and cause it to splash upward over your forehead, and by damning and
leading it, you can force it uphill. Is this the nature of water?
The Four Innate Seeds of Goodness:
The sense of pity is inherent in each person, the sense of right and
wrong, sense of good and evil, sense of truth and falsity are all found in
man at birth. Seeing a child teetering at the edge of a well and in danger of

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falling in and drowning would instinctively be moved by pity and would


instinctively try to rescue the child without hesitating even a moment to
calculate issues of advantage. The sense of right and wrong is revealed by
the fact that one responds positively to right and negatively to wrong. One
prefers the good over the evil and prefers being told the truth than the falsity.
When one develops the sense of pity, he acquires the virtue of Ren: the sense
of right and wrong, he acquires the virtue of Yi; the sense of good and evil, he
acquires the virtue of Li; the sense of truth and falsity, he acquires wisdom or
Zhi. Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge are not infused
into us from without. We are certainly furnished with them. Man is formed for
virtue. Should it be that his conduct is very far from conforming to virtue that
simply fastens in him the feeling of shame?
Human nature is intrinsically good and that this is morally perfectible
because man has already within him the seeds of innate goodness.
The Reality of Evil
We are equally men; yet some become great (meaning moral) and
others become small (evil or immoral). Those who follow the great part of
themselves become great men, and those who follow the small part of
themselves become small men. Great part faculty of heart/ reason: small
part senses. By thinking, one obtains what is good, without thinking, one
fails to do so.

Xunzi (Hsn Tzu: 310-220 BCE)


As Mencius is known for the slogan human nature is good, Xunzi is
known for its opposite, human nature is bad. Xunzi believes that our natural
tendencies lead to conflict and disorder, and what we need to do is radically
reform them, not develop them. Mencius and Xunzi shared optimism about
human perfectability, but they viewed the process quite differently. Without
the study of the Way, peoples desires will run rampant, and they will
inevitably find themselves in conflict in trying to satisfy their desires. Left to
themselves, people will fall into disorder, poverty and conflict.
Xunzi offers several arguments against Menciuss position. He defines
human nature as what is inborn and does not need to be learned. He argues
that if people were good by nature, there would be no need for ritual and
social norms. The sages would not have had to create them, and they would
not need to have been handed down through the generations. They were
created precisely because people do not act in accordance with them

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naturally. He also notes that people desire the good, and on the principle that
one desires what one doesnt already have, this shows that people are not
good. He gives several illustrations of what life is like in the state of nature,
without any education on ritual and morality. Xunzi does not believe that
people are evil, that they deliberately violate the rules of morality, taking a
perverse pleasure in doing so. They have no natural conception of morality at
all: they are morally blind by nature. Their desires bring them into conflict
because they dont know any better, not because they enjoy conflict. In fact,
Xunzi believes people do not enjoy it at all, which is why they desire the kind
of life that results from good order brought about through the rituals of the
sages.
Human nature is bad, but it is not incorrigible, and in fact Xunzi
was rather optimistic about the possibility of overcoming the demands of
desires that result in the state of nature. Though Xunzi believes that it is
always possible to reform oneself, he recognizes that in reality this will not
always happen. In most cases, the individual himself has to make the first
step in attempting to reform, and Xunzi is rather pessimistic about people
actually doing this. They cannot be forced to do so, and they may in practice
be unable to make the choice to improve, but for Xunzi, this does not mean
that in principle it is impossible for them to change.
Education
Because human nature is bad, Xunzi emphasizes the importance of
study in order to learn the Way. He compares the process of reforming ones
nature to making a pot out of clay or straightening wood with a press-frame.
Without the potter, the clay would never become a pot on its own. Similarly,
people will not be able to reform their nature without a teacher showing them
what to do. Xunzis concern is primarily moral education; he wants
people to develop into good people, not people who know a lot of
facts. He emphasizes the transformative aspect of education, where it
changes ones basic nature. Xunzi laid out a program of study based on
the works of the sages of the past that would teach proper ritual behaviour
and develop moral principles. He was the first to offer an organized Confucian
curriculum, and his curriculum became the blueprint for traditional education
in China until the modern period.
Practice was an important aspect of Xunzis course of education. A
student did not simply study ritual, he performed it. Xunzi recognized that
this performative aspect was crucial to the goal of transforming
ones nature. It was only through practice that one could realize the beauty

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of ritual, ideally coming to appreciate it for itself. Though this was the end of
education, Xunzi appealed to more utilitarian motives to start the student on
the program of study. As noted above, he discussed how desires would
inevitably be frustrated in the state of nature. Organizing society through
ritual was the only way people could ever satisfy even some of their desires,
and study of ritual was the best way to achieve satisfaction on a personal
level. Through study and practice, one could learn to appreciate ritual for its
own sake, not just as a means to satisfy desires. Ritual has this power to
transform someones motives and character. The beginning student of ritual
is like a child learning to play the piano. Maybe she doesnt enjoy playing the
piano at first, but her parents take her out for ice cream after each lesson, so
she goes along with it because she gets what she wants. After years of study
and practice, she might learn to appreciate playing the piano for its own sake,
and will practice even without any reward. This is what Xunzi imagines will
happen to the dedicated student of ritual: he starts out studying ritual as a
means, but it becomes an end in itself as part of the Way.
The teacher plays an extremely important role in the course of
study. A good teacher does not simply know the rituals; he embodies them
and practices them in his own life. Just as one would not learn piano from
someone who had just read a book on piano pedagogy but never touched an
actual instrument, one should not study from someone who has only learned
texts. A teacher is not just a source of information; he is a model for
the student to look up to and a source of inspiration of what to
become. A teacher who does not live up to the Way of the sages in his own
life is no teacher at all. Xunzi believes there is no better method of study than
learning from such a teacher. In this way, the student has a model before of
him of how to live ritual principles, so his learning does not become simple
accumulation of facts. In the event that such a teacher is unavailable, the
next best method is to honour ritual principles sincerely, trying to embody
them in oneself. Without either of these methods, Xunzi believes learning
degenerates into memorizing a jumble of facts with no impact on ones
conduct.

Christian Thinkers
The Christian understanding of the human person is one of the most profound
reflections about human persons. The teaching of Christianity regarding man comes
from the Hebrew-Christian Scripture and Greek philosophy. It sees man in relation to

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

God and considers it as supreme among all other creation and yet morally
responsible for it. Two of the most influential philosopher-theologian will be
discussed here.

Augustine of Hippo

Medieval philosophy starts with St. Augustine. He is considered the first


great Christian philosopher and the main authority in the medieval period. St.
Augustine exposes his philosophical ideas and his dogma of God. According to
St. Augustine, God is Absolute Spirit, Absolute Freedom, Absolute Will, Absolute
Intelligence, Absolute Good, Absolute Power, Absolute Holiness, cannot will evil,
no beginning and no end (eternal) and transcendent. Augustine also asserts that
God is creator. God created the world out of nothing (creation ex nihilo). God
created the world out of love and man is part of this creation. For
Augustine, God created man in a mortal body and in immortal soul and gave
man freewill. To have freewill is, for Augustine, mans assumption of his nature
where the reality of evil is possible. Evil comes into the world not because it is
part of Gods creation, but because of mans freewill. In Augustinian thought it is
very clear that the source of evil is mans freewill. Evil for Augustine is the mere
absence of good. Therefore, man does evil because of freewill.
Man is responsible for the existence of evil, not God, for God cannot will it;
he is Absolute Goodness, says Augustine. It is therefore mans nature, his freewill
that makes man imperfect. But Augustine contends that man is capable of
reaching perfection only if man keeps himself good. Through evil man is lost
from God. But man can only be saved by God, not by man himself. It is God
alone who can redeem man. Man cannot will to be saved; his salvation depends
on the grace and mercy of God.

Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas asserts that man is substantially united body and soul. Man is
the point of convergence between the corporeal and spiritual substances. In
other words, man is one substance body and soul. Man is a substantial
unity of body and soul. Man is an embodied soul, not a soul using a
body. The body must be united with something else which we call soul.
Animation according to Aquinas happens when the two become one. As
animation occurs, life instantly comes to the fore. Human life is understood
by Aquinas in his doctrine called participation. Through participation, God
allows human life to partake in the celebration of existence. Hence, in as
much as God is the author of life, He too has the sole power and authority to
shut the power of life. This is a doctrine Aquinas calls annihilation. It is God

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

alone for Aquinas, who has the sole authority to annihilate life. The human
body is animated by the soul specifically during conception. It is through
animation that the two become one.
The soul, the animator of human body, is a substance. It is incorporeal
(therefore immaterial) and spiritual. The soul possesses will and intellect (souls
faculty). The soul is unified with the body for its lower activity, i.e. sensation. A
soul cannot have perception in the absence of the body because perception
means sensation. Sensation can only be realized and possible in the context of a
body. The soul is limited because it needs the correlative function of a material
element called body. The soul is the principle of life of the body, the
principle of nourishment, and the principle of movement. Thus, the body
and soul are substantially united.
Although the body and the soul are substantially united, each retains its
own substantial identity because the soul is not the body and the body is not
the soul. The soul is united in the body not only because of perception, but also,
because it is the form of the body. A body can act only through the soul
because the soul is the principle of life of the body.
As long as there is human body, there is a soul (except in death, which is
only a temporary separation of body and soul which will be united again in the
last judgment.) Matter is subject to corruption, so a human body is subject to
corruption by necessity of its matter. On the other hand, because the soul is
immaterial it is free from corruption. This logically makes the soul immortal.
Because the soul is immortal its power or faculty such as intellect and will
remain in the soul after the destruction of the body. At death, the substantial
unity of body and soul ceases.
In sum, in Thomistic philosophy, man is substantially body and soul. The
soul is united with the human body because it is the substantial form of the
human body. It is the principle of action in the human body and it is the principle
of life of the body. The soul needs the body as the material medium for its
operation particularly perception. The function or faculties of the soul are:
intellect and will.
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