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How Philosophy Understands the Contemporary Human Person

Introduction and Preliminary Points:

1. Whatever account we offer of the human person affects our:

a. self-understanding

b. behavior

2. There are and have been many “classic” images of the human person and
answers to the question, “Who are we?”

a. Sophist Greek Philosophy: Protagoras (d. 411 BCE)

o We are the “measure of all things.”

b. Judeo-Christian Theology

i. Genesis 1:26-27

 This theological account describes our human uniqueness as imago

Dei: We are created in the image and likeness of God.

ii. Job 7:1-4; 6-7

 The author cries out in his misery, speaks of life and death, cites
his restlessness and life's struggle and notes that he will not see
happiness again.

c. Psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud (d. 1939)

o Civilization and its Discontents, (Section V), “Man is a wolf to man” -

Introduction and Preliminary Points [continued]

3. An important subtlety is that philosophy asks “who” rather than “what” we are.

o “Who” emphasizes that human beings do not have a fixed, objective nature,
like an oak tree or piece of granite.

o Instead we are much more than any “nature” we might have, since we:

i. understand ourselves,

ii. project an image of ourselves, and

iii. become responsible for “who” we are.

o This also captures the truth of the existential claim that came through in the
video for our first discussion, “existence precedes essence.”

o In the textbook, Viktor Frankl maintains the need to focus on “who” we are
in order to best appreciate the challenges of understanding ourselves. See
Chaffee textbook, pp. 36-38.

o The wisdom of Abraham Heschel also captures well the implications of

trying to understand “who” we are: Who Is Man?

“In asking about man we ask of man what he knows about

himself as a human being. This self-knowledge is part of his
being. Thus, knowing oneself and being a self are not to be kept

Unlike a theory of things which seeks merely to know its

subject, a theory of man shapes and affects its subject.
Statements about man magnetize the inner space of man. We
not only describe the ‘nature’ of man, we fashion it. We
become what we think of ourselves.”
Five Characteristics of the Contemporary Person

1. Changing Humanity – "being-on-the-way" or transcendence

 We are unfinished and the order of reality is unfinished.

a) Two ways that change takes place in humanity and greatly impacts each of us:

i) Inwardly (intellectual, spiritual, values and ideals) and;

ii) Outwardly (forces from outside like the devices and applications of

o It is important to understand that that these two aspects of change are

reciprocally related and mutually condition each other.

o Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist who just passed away this
year captured this interrelationship in this way:

“Our future is a race between the growing power of technology

and the wisdom with which we use it.”
 Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (8/9/2013), “The Thousand-
Dollar Genome” -

 Pay attention to this key statement from Dr. Ian Krantz:

“The problem now is it’s the thousand-dollar genome, but it’s the
million-dollar interpretation because you can get the sequence but
understanding what it does takes hundreds of hours of manpower
to interpret and understand, and we’re not even that good at it.”

Changing Humanity - "being-on-the-way" or transcendence [continued]

b) Another key point: As humans we exhibit a great ability for adaptability.

o We are not riveted to a few operations but have a “natural” capacity for an
unlimited number of activities.

o So, in a very short time it has become “natural” for us to communicate with
someone electronically rather than by a writing a letter.

c) BUT, the past understanding in Western thinking opposed or resisted this first
characteristic concerning our ability to adapt, grow, and change.

o According the classicist world view:

i) Our human nature was relatively static and unchanging.

ii) The universe was also a fixed and static cosmos.


Changing Humanity - "being-on-the-way" or transcendence [continued]

d) One criticism or suspicion of this first characteristic and its stress on “change”
is that it promotes relativism and by extension instability when striving to
understand the complexities of human existence.

o What does the concept of relativism mean to you?

Changing Humanity - "being-on-the-way" or transcendence [continued]
o Relativism is the theory that “values” and “meaning” depend on:

 the individual

 the culture
 And it is this moving target and fluidity that gives way to instability.

o However, paying attention to how we change, how the world around us

changes, and how this affects us does not have to automatically promote
relativism and lead us into disarray.

 This is because there is a constant direction in this movement and change.

 From a philosophical perspective, then, we maintain course and stability in

change by constantly asking ourselves:
“Does this ‘change’ or innovation lead to fuller humanity and the
enrichment of human life?
“Does this ‘change’ or innovation lead to the impoverishment of humanity
and the destruction of human life?”
o So, there is no virtue in change itself – “change for the sake of change” –
instead change must be monitored so that it moves us in a positive direction
that leads toward the enrichment and flourishing of life.

 So, when I had you watch the brief video about brain chips, genetic editing,
and synthetic blood, it ends by asking “should we” embrace all these bio-

 Pew Research Center (7/26/2016), “U.S. Public Wary of Biomedical

Technologies to ‘Enhance’ Human Abilities” -
Changing Humanity - "being-on-the-way" or transcendence [continued]

e) The Doctrine of Progress

o Despite asking “should we” take on a certain technology to gauge the positive
or negative direction that such change will have upon us, ideas like the doctrine
of progress have tended to paint a glowing picture of “change for the sake of

 According to the doctrine of progress, the human condition has improved

over the course of history and will continue to automatically improve with
every innovation.

 However, more in line with our position to carefully monitor all change and
innovation is this story, “Six Scientists Who Regret Their Greatest
Inventions” – Big Think, 5/29/2016 – Arthur Galston and Agent Orange

Five Characteristics of the Contemporary Person [continued]

2. Embodied Humanity – “being-in-the-world”

a) First basic assertion: There is no self without a world.

o We do not start life with an isolated self and then add on the world.

 Instead, we begin with an interconnected unity of being-in-the-world.

 And out of this prior unity, self and world emerge in a reciprocal relation.

o Since there might be a little uncertain about how philosophers approach the
notion of “self,” let’s look at p. 92 of the textbook, “Do You Know

 And for our current purposes, pay particular attention to the points about
how the body and self interface.

b) Second basic assertion: There is no self without a body.

o To say that there can be no self without a world is also to assert that there
can be no isolated self without a body.

o Only as “embodied” selves can we act on the world or be acted upon by the

 This came through well in the Science Friday interview for our
discussion last week on the mind-body problem when Katherine
Kuchenbecker, the engineer working on digitizing touch with “haptic”
technology, observed:

“I mean, life is a lot more than just what you see and what you hear. You
can’t do anything in the real world without reaching out and touching
something. And you should be able to feel it.”

Embodied Humanity [continued]

c) Summary

o Thus, in attempting a summary or synthesis:

i. The body is an essential part of who we are and can become;

ii. The body should not be seen as:

 a mere “appendage” to the self,

 an annoying “obstacle” to the self.

o Another way to see this is to appreciate that each of us is a:

“psychosomatic unity.”

o We are not just a soul or just a body forever living in separate realms.

 This, however, was the stance of René Descartes, as we saw in the video
for the mind-body problem discussion.

o Our discussion of the mind-body problem and human enhancement through

plastic surgeries, brain chips, synthetic blood, and genetic engineering also
showed how we are constantly striving for and challenged by a sense of
harmony between our selves and our bodies.
Embodied Humanity [continued]

d) Idealism

 Despite the easy route it is for most of us to appreciate a more balanced sense of
how important our bodies for our existence in the world overall and how they
are specifically well interconnected with our minds and souls, a previous
intellectual movement known as “idealistic” offered a strong counterpoint.

1. Idealism: Preliminaries and Historical Background

o Idealism emphasized and prized the spiritual, intellectual, and “soulish” side
of our existence to the disparagement of the bodily and worldly side.

o Thus, idealism maintains that:

 we are primarily isolated knowing subjects,

 the physical world around us – including the body – is unreal,

unimportant, and even evil.

o This thinking was given a great foundation and further impetus by these two

1) Plato (d. 354 BCE) – Let’s look at Raphael’s School at Athens.


2) René Descartes (d. 1650 CE) – “I think, therefore I am.” (As you know
well from our discussion last week.)

Embodied Humanity Idealism [continued]

2. Phenomenology: Contemporary Counterpoint to Idealism’s Dualism:

a) Overview and Preliminary Points

o The more contemporary philosophical appreciation of the body differs

greatly from the “idealism” of Descartes and Plato and the way they divided
our “mind” and “body” in dualistic ways.

o The essential role that our bodies play in our sense of personhood and the
conviction that they are not detached from our minds, souls, and hearts has
been advanced and emphasized by the contemporary philosophy known as

b) The “Lived Body”

o The Chaffee textbook treats this in Chapter 3 (pp. 143-146), “The Self Is
Embodied Subjectivity: Husserl and Merleau-Ponty” – The Lived Body

 Philosophers Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and Maurice Merleau-

Ponty (1908-1961) talk about the lived body.

 It is their way to express that our bodies can never be “objectified” or

known in a detached way.

 Instead, our “living body” is a natural synthesis of mind and biology, and
so any attempts to divide them or into separate entities are artificial and
Phenomenology [continued]

 Let’s look at the author’s example of waking up in the morning on p. 144 to

get a sense of phenomenology’s “lived body.”

 Not just waking up, but many other experiences like dancing, musical
performance, and playing a sport well illustrate the lived body.

 At the time we are engaged in these activities we are completely

absorbed in the moment with our mind and body functioning as one
integrated entity.

 Only afterwards for some reason that encourages detachment do we start

to separate out “minds,” “bodies,” and “souls.”

c) The “lived body” and Natural Science

o The phenomenological approach mentioned a few moments ago also varies

from an understanding of the body found in the disciplines of physiology and

 Their main concern would be how the body works.

o The contrast between phenomenology and natural sciences can be grasped by

exploring the important human experience of falling and being in love.

 On p. 146 of the textbook, the author invites us to approach falling and

being in love in a phenomenological way by first describing what our
immediate responses are to the experience at the various level of our
existence – emotional, cognitive, and physical.

 Only after fully embracing the richness of how the experience strikes us –
on all dimensions of our being – is it possible to start applying theories
and concepts.

 An example of applying a physiological and anatomical approach to

explaining the experience of being and falling in love can be appreciated
by reading an excerpt from the work of neuroscientist John Medina titled,
Brain Rules, 2014 - .

d) Summary – The Lived Body

 Phenomenologists see the body as the condition:

 for our participation in a world,

 for the attainment of greater personal being.

Embodied Humanity [continued]

The Human Experience of “Having”

 ANOTHER area of philosophical concern that surfaces when discussing our

relationship with material reality (the body and the material world around us)

o economics,

o finances,

o material possessions (“property”).

 Philosophers refer to this as the experience of “having:”

In order for us “to be” something we must first “have” something.

o Food, health, housing, education, etc. – All the many things of this world
for our bodies and material existences are important.

 But, there is a great paradox connected to our experience of having things.

o On the one hand, there is a “floor,” beneath which we do not want to fall.

o Likewise, there is a “ceiling,” above which we do not want to rise, when it

comes to our material well-being.

Embodiedness: The Paradox of “Having” [continued]

o Either extreme of “having” can be detrimental to our personhood.

 In other words, there can be a level of poverty that dehumanizes as well

as a level of affluence that dehumanizes us.

 We must have something to be something; but there is no simple

correlation between the extent of our wealth and the depth of our being.

a. Aristotle (384-322)

o He observed that glaring imbalances among those who have too

much and those who have to little will be corrupting to both.

b. Book of Proverbs

o The paradox of having is addressed by means of a prayer in the

wisdom of biblical literature

Give me neither poverty nor riches;

provide me only with the food I need;
Lest, being full, I deny you,
saying, “Who is the LORD?”
Or, being in want, I steal,
and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 8-9)

c. Scarcity Mindset

o The paradox of “having” comes through clearly in some interesting

recent social science research, “How The 'Scarcity Mindset' Can
Make Problems Worse” (Hidden Brain, NPR) -

Philosophical Anthropology – Five Characteristics [continued]

3. Social Humanity/Community - "being-with-others"

 Negotiating two extreme positions by the following contemporary philosophers:

a) Martin Buber (d. 1965) – “All real living is meeting: I and Thou.”

b) Jean-Paul Sartre (d. 1980) – “Hell is…other people.”

 There is no individual “self” without others.

 It’s not the case that, first of all, I exist, and then I take note of other people and
relate myself to them, as if this relation were something added on or extra.

 Question for discussion and reflection

How do you think this philosophical idea gets complicated today in an ironic

Social Humanity – “being-with-others” [continued]

 One aspect of our lives that has ironically made our inherent social nature
complex is “always” being virtually in contact with one another.

o On the one hand, there’s the possible downside. Let’s listen to this story
from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on “Digital Addiction” -

o But in a positive and even more lofty way, here’s a story on the person who
co-founded Wikipedia who has a broad communal mission in mind: “Jimmy
Wales – The Sum of All Human Knowledge” (cue 0:00-0:40, 8:15-10:20,

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given

access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

Social Humanity – “being-with-others” [continued]

 The basic point of this third characteristic: Community belongs to our very

Social Humanity/Community [continued]

Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

 See Chaffee textbook, p. 567.

1) We are “political creatures” by nature according to Aristotle.

o Existing in social communities is our natural state.

o He believed that anyone who can exist independently of human community

must either be a “beast or a god” but not a human being.

2) While animals are also social creatures, we can use our thinking and language
abilities to reflect on our communities and evaluate them:

o Are they just or unjust?

o Are they good or evil?

3) The fact that the state is prior to the individual, according to Aristotle, also
means that we can achieve our full potential only through our social existence.

o Since the state is prior to the individual, then the interests of the individual
are secondary to the interests of the entire community.

o Question for reflection and discussion:

What’s a related concept that receives emphasis in your liberal arts

education here at Seton Hill that conveys this truth?

Social Humanity/Community [continued]

The Common Good

 Promoting the “common good” is an important concept that complements our

work here about humanity’s inherent social nature.

o Common Good (definition) – The sum total of social conditions which allow
people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more
fully and more easily. (Pacem et Terris, # 55)

o I found a recent commentary on the common good as it relates to how we

view our work and that of others.

 Rachel Lu, “Can Catholic Social Teaching Help Solve the Labor Crisis?”
America Magazine, 8/10/2017:

“Meaningful work, often times as service, should further the common

good in some way.”

Social Humanity/Community [continued]

Social Contract Theory

 Despite this emphasis on our inherent social nature, Western understanding,

especially since the period of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries,
has upheld various expressions of the social contract theory.

o The social contract theory emphasizes individualism and individual rights

through these major tenets:

i. the individual is the basic reality;

ii. society is subsequent to the individual and is formed by adding together

individuals, who already have a degree of completeness in themselves;

iii. only “reluctantly” people come together to form a society and give up
their individual rights for the common good.

 However, new forces such as globalization push the necessity to reassess

the extent of our communal nature in profound ways.

o What images come to mind when you think of “globalization”?

Social Humanity/Community [continued]


o Here’s a basic definition of globalization that helps to underscore its

significance for our reflective analysis on the inherent social nature of our

 This is from Manfred Steger’s Globalization: A Very Short Introduction

(Oxford University Press, 2017):

“Globalization refers to the expansion and intensification of social

relations and consciousness across world-time and world-space.”

o A sobering way that globalization forces us to reevaluate our communal

nature is the ongoing migrant/refugee crisis:

 We saw this in our last discussion as we focused on the plight of the

Rohingya people. –

 Pope Francis has repeatedly turned the world’s attention to the crisis with
the interesting and ironic observation that we have grown “indifferent” to
the plights of migrants and refugees – “The Migrant Pope” in America
Magazine, 7/15 (para. 4 and 5):

 Aside from the challenges that more contemporary realities like globalization
present, philosophy has long sought to discern long-standing paradoxes that act
as barriers to our sense of being-with-others.

o For instance, racism where the “other” is not welcomed in a spirit of

hospitality but is rather avoided, discriminated against, and at worst

Social Humanity/Community [continued]

Defective Collectivisms and Toxic Cultures

 If it is a contemporary philosophical concern to turn away from crippling

individualisms of the past, this does not mean that we rashly embrace defective
collectivisms or participate in toxic cultures.

 In other words, think about how the groups or organizations to which we all

a) On the one hand, do they foster healthy environments in which most

members can survive and flourish in noble ways? And how do we
contribute to this?

b) By way of contrast, do they cultivate various types of pathologies that lead

to less than ethical ways by which people interact? And to what extent are
we complicit?

o Recall the video we discussed on the research of psychologist Dan Ariely

and his recent book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty -

o Now let’s look at the issue of “conflict minerals” to underscore the issues of
our own contribution and complicity that is hard to detect in large systems –
structures – of injustice or pathology:

 “Conflict Minerals 101: 2018 Update,” Enough Project –

Social Humanity/Community [continued]

Conclusion and Synthesis

 Today, we are faced with the more demanding task of working out a
compromise and finding a balance that allows for:

a) the fullest development of the individual

b) within an equitable social framework.


Philosophical Anthropology [continued]

4. Human Persons as Agents

 Definition: An agent is one who acts and gets things done.

 The past traditional Western emphasis, by contrast, has often stressed the
primacy of thinking over doing.

o Aristotle – “Man is a rational animal.”

o René Descartes – “I think, therefore I am” (Cogito, ergo sum).

 In focusing on this fourth characteristic, we are certainly emphasizing the

practical but not promoting a mindless activism.

o In other words, while stressing action, there still must be thinking and
reflection, otherwise we could easily do something irrational.

 Karl Marx said it best with regard to being practical and getting things done:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the
point, however, is to change it.”

Human Persons as Agents [continued]

a) Freedom and Agency

 Agency invites us to explore once again the concept of freedom.

o Since a genuine “human act,” which is free, is very different from a mere

 Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) – Human Acts versus Acts of a Human

o Before we launch into Thomas Aquinas’ thought on agency, let’s look at a

video to get a broad overview of his project.

 This will also help prepare you for the final project: The School of Life –
“Philosophy: Thomas Aquinas” -

o According to Aquinas, the primary interest in a human being is as the kind

of being who is:

“the principle of his actions, as having free-will and control of his

actions.” (Summa Theologica, I-II, prologue).

o “Human acts” are not just anything that you and I as human beings may
casually bring about.

 Rather, a “human act” is what we “do” through our free and deliberate

 All such choices in particular instances can be evaluated as being either

morally good or bad choices that typically lead to good or bad actions,
Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) – Human Acts versus Acts of a Human [continued]
o To evaluate the moral worth of a “human act,” three things must be taken into
consideration according to Aquinas: object, intention, and circumstances
1. The object

 A “larger lofty good” toward which our will deliberately directs itself.

 The object has also been recognized by reason to be in conformity with

“the true good.”

2. The intention - the more “immediate purpose” for which the act is chosen.

3. The circumstances - the good and bad “consequences” anticipated.

o Thus, Aquinas concludes,

“A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the [intention], and
of the circumstances together.”

o Aquinas was basically looking for a way that we can easily assess our level of
agency in an action, which in turn may confirm or lessen our culpability.

 A case came before the Supreme Court this week about a man convicted of
murdering a police officer, sentenced to death, and now is so mentally
incapacitated that he cannot remember what he did.

 While it is clear that he had full agency when he committed the crime, has
his dementia compromised his ability to own that act and the commensurate

“Supreme Court Grapples with Difficult Death Penalty Question,” NPR,

10/2/2018 -

Human Persons as Agents [continued]

b) The Mystery of Freedom

 When discussing agency and freedom, we also cannot overlook that freedom is
one of the most essential, difficult, and mysterious aspects of human existence.

i. The Mystery of Freedom and Determinism

o The extreme position that denies freedom is called determinism.

o There are many kinds of determinisms:

a. Biological - All human behavior is innate, determined by genes, brain

size, or other biological attributes.

b. Cultural - The culture in which we are raised determines who we are at

emotional and behavioral levels.

c. Environmental - Also known as geographical determinism, the physical

environment predisposes our social development in particular directions.

o Here’s an interesting story from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly that

showcases the complexities of biological determinism, “Predicting
ii. The Mystery of Freedom and Creativity

 According to the philosopher G. F. Hegel, freedom in human action allows the

creative inner side that we all possess to be realized.

o There is in free action an awesome creativity, whereby we release forces that

shape the world.

o Thus, if the ability to freely act is taken away, our human dignity is

iii. The Mystery of Freedom and Risk: The Principle of Double Effect

 However, there is a risk to our use of free will, since in all actions we cannot
see all the results that will follow.

 What we intend for good may turn out to have unexpected deleterious side

o This is also known as the principle of double effect.

 This concept originates from the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas in his

efforts to provide an ethical justification for “self-defense.”

 Let’s look at a recent story where the unintended “side effects” of human
actions complexify issues of complicity giving way to regret and anguish.

 “On Sept. 11, He Checked Hijackers onto Flight 77. It's Haunted Him
Ever Since,” NPR, 9/9/16 -
AGENCY [continued]

c) Being versus Doing

 One final caution, to understand ourselves as agents is quite a different notion

from that of functional humanity.

 What do you think I mean by the phrase “functional humanity”?

 This is the view that who we are is simply based on what we do and the roles
we play.

 Today, two roles that we play often overly define who we are:

a) Consumers

b) Workers

o The most searing warning from a philosophical perspective about the

possibility of exploiting people as workers came from Karl Marx

o In our first discussion on the meaning of life, you may recall the
Marketplace story, “Why Most of Our Jobs Are Meaningless” –

5. The Maturation of Humankind – “being come of age”: Responsibility

 This characteristic does not contradict the first one mentioned at the outset,
“Changing Humanity.”

o To say that we are “unfinished” or forever “changing” does not deny that
we have also reached a “summit” or decisive stage of maturity or
sophistication in the history of humankind.

 We have reached this critical point of maturation in large part because of

scientific and technological superiority.

o This means in one vein that as moderns we have discarded a

mythological mentality that characterized those in the past.

o More and more we have taken over the world and the conditions of
human life under our control.

o As a result, we are less and less dependent for our well-being on forces
outside ourselves, whether natural or supernatural.

 The important philosophical notion associated with this idea of having come
to maturity and sophistication, and in turn now having many things under
our control, is responsibility.

 “Having come of age” and technological superiority does not interpret

responsibility as meaning that we have now taken all power into our own
hands in an absolute sense.

o The Greeks referred to this as hubris – excessive pride, self-confidence,

or arrogance.


 Instead of thinking everything is under our control, we are actually dealing with
an unprecedented responsibility, which means there is:
o answerability

o accountability
 In other words, we are not completely autonomous in this period of
unprecedented scientific and technological maturity.

 Because technology has placed so much power and control at our disposal, we
should not arrogantly conclude that we are the “measure of all things,” in the
words of Protagoras.

 However, modern voices from various quarters have argued that our
contemporary sophistication brings about “a new world order” in which
humanity is in complete and unaccountable control.

 This has often found the loudest expression from atheistic perspectives.
o In other words, the old order where God or some absolute Truth/Truths like
the Natural Law, were in control has been eclipsed by a new era where
humans are in complete charge.

 Fydor Dostevsky in The Brothers Karamazov wrote:

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

 Friedrich Nietzsche became the definitive philosophical voice behind

the notion that humans have taken God’s place: “God is Dead.”

 Simon Critchley, is a contemporary philosopher who works in the

UK. Let’s look at his interpretation of Nietzsche’s ideas on the death
of God – “‘God Is Dead’: What Nietzsche Really Meant” – Big Think:

 Let’s read the primary text from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science/The
Joyful Wisdom (paragraph 125).


 Questions for reflection and discussion:

What type of world events – now or in the past – serve as warnings that
we are not in ultimate control?
What type of world events – now or in the past – serve as warnings of
what happens when humans think they are fully in control?

 Whether or not you are a person of faith, there is an important difference

between being in ultimate unchecked control and responsibly embracing
what comes with our age of sophistication.

o It can be expressed “metaphorically” by this contrast:

being God


being created in the image and likeness of God

o But this has often been blurred even in religious circles.

o Most pointedly, the interpretation of certain passages from the Bible has
given often been used to give humans a license to misuse their “God-like”

 Let’s look at Genesis 1:26-31 and the operative words – “dominion” and

 To counter and past misuses or abuses of this biblical text, let’s take a
look at portions of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter on the
environment titled On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’):

 Paragraphs 66, 67, and 116 -


Summary and Synthesis: Fivefold Dimension of 21st Century Responsibility

 There is width and breadth of human responsibility today, but to whom or to

what are we accountable or answerable?

Fivefold Dimension of 21st Century Responsibility

a) I am responsible to myself.

b) I am responsible to others right now.

c) I am responsible to people in the past and to future generations – time.

o Let’s stop and think about this one, is it reasonable to hold us accountable to
people that don’t exist?

o Some refer to this as “intergenerational” justice?

d) I am responsible for the earth, even the cosmos – space.

o “We Have a Moral Obligation to Colonize Space” – Big Think, 10/17/2015:

e) And, some would also say I am responsible to God or some other Higher Being,
Purpose, or Order.

 All this points to the bigger picture or wider setting of our responsibility.


Philosophical Anthropology – Five Characteristics of the Human Person

 In the Middle Ages, moral philosophy began by asking,

“What is our last end?”

o The answer provided then was “the vision of God.”

 In a contemporary philosophy, we cannot readily concur with this answer but

can appreciate the value of asking, “What is our ultimate goal?”

Question for reflection and discussion:

 What do you think is our “last end” or “ultimate goal” today?


CONCLUSION: [continued]

 The philosophical answer to the question about the end or goal of our existence

The attainment of fuller and richer human existence known as


o Our end or goal is to be (to exist), and we achieve that end when we “are” in
the fullest manner that is open to us.

o This has been expressed in the longstanding philosophical concept of

“happiness” – eudaemonia (human flourishing and achieving our full

 In light of the above Five Characteristics, we really “are” (that is, we really
attain our end of human flourishing) when we:

a) Venture forward in hope as “on-our-way” and not bound to an unchanged

and unchangeable order: Change

b) Accept our life “in-this-world” and lay hold of the rich possibilities that it
offers: Embodiedness

c) Acknowledge our “being-with-others” and join with them in building a

community of compassion and care: Community

d) Enlarge our freedom of action: Agency

e) Responsibly exercise our unprecedented scientific and technological powers: