When Does The Person Begin?

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"Each One of Us is an Icon of the Beginning"

Part V: How does philosophy help us to understand the moment of our beginning?


If it can be said that part four has drawn on the Scriptural soul of theology, then part five looks to philosophy for the inseparably complementary understanding of what a soul is and how, therefore, it can be understood to be one with the body from conception.

Secondly, it seems as if it is possible to consider that these two things constitute what is inseparably one: the biblical soul and the philosophical body of concepts are what together constitute theology.  For can one any more separate this discussion on the soul from its biblical roots than one can separate it from the philosophical context through which it has developed?  In other words, philosophy and Revelation seem to mutually condition each other in a way that is analogous to what is said of the relationship between the body and the soul520; and thus they do so in a way that does not destroy the logical and ontological priority of Revelation to reason521, which is also analogous to the logical and ontological priority of the unity of man to the plurality of his being522.  Therefore does the unity of a biblically philosophical or a philosophically biblical theology furnish an analogy with the unity of the person, one in soul and body?

Thirdly, while there is such a thing as truth523, which is by definition constant, it is also true that our knowledge of it develops in relation to what is contingent.  In other words, as St. Thomas Aquinas suggests, it is not necessary to decide what is still insufficiently determined by the evidence524; and, by implication, the perception of relevant evidence can both refashion one's existing understanding of something or extend it to the point of obtaining the resolution of an acknowledged difficulty - but in neither case will what is true cease to be true nor will truth contradict truth525.  In other words, the accumulation of relevant evidence can be as decisive to the development of human understanding as the possession of the requisite principles.  Therefore, it could be said, the development of understanding is in proportion as it were to the availability of the relevant evidence and the remembrance526 of what is already known.

Finally, just as a theological idea like that of the person527 can lead philosophical investigation, while yet there was an idea which was taken up528 and fashioned through the requirements of a reflection on Christ, so a definition of being from Revelation may assist what are otherwise metaphysical definitions of the problem and as such express a fruit of that profound mystery of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the culture of man529, which so prepares that culture that it not only contributes to the incarnational inculturation of the Gospel, but in some way contributes something necessary, while subordinate to it, just as the body contributes something necessary while subordinate to the soul.  In other words, all truth, whether natural and of reason, or supernatural530 and of Revelation, has its own intrinsic relationship to the Spirit of truth.

Part V of this book is a discussion of the principle: where the body lives, there the soul is, and where both are is the person; however, there is a brief philosophical introduction to this final part which consists in the question: what is being?

520 N. A. Luyten, Soul-Body Relationship, page 472 of Vol XIII, NCE.    Back
521 Cf. I. C. Brady, Soul, Human, 2. Patristic And Medieval Writers, Nemesius, pages 453-454 of Vol XIII, NCE.    Back
522 P. B. T. Bilaniuk, Soul, Human, 5. Theology, page 462 of Vol XIII, NCE.    Back
523 Cf. SuTh, Pt I, Qu 2, art 1, page 11.    Back
524 Cf. A, page 72 and ST, Pt I, Qu 32, art 1, page 71.    Back
525 Vatican I, Dei Filius, art 3017 on Faith and reason cannot contradict each other, page 46 of TCF.    Back
526 It can be noted at this point, if not discussed, how 'memory' has become a significant term in the modern discussion of a variety of things, as if to say that a modern weakness lies in precisely not remembering the past and not using the memory generally.  Cf. A. Kenny, Aquinas, which is part of the Past Masters series, Gen. ed. K. Thomas, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), pages 28-30, where he observes a general, but not altogether complete lack of the use of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas.  Abbrev. AQU.  Cf. also Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, 1979, (London: CTS [Do 513],), art 55, pages 72-73.  Abbrev. CT.    Back
527 Cf. OCP, page 481.    Back
528 Cf. BCED, page 239: Person.    Back
529 Ad Gentes Divinitus, art 9, page 823 of VCII.    Back
530 Cf. Dei Filius art 3015 of Vatican Council I, page 45 of TCF.    Back

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