THE ONTOLOGICAL STATUS OF THE HUMAN PERSON: AN IDEALIST ACCOUNT
Sweet, William - St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, B2G 2W5 Canada)
In Fides et ratio, John Paul II points out (sect. 76) that there is no officially or distinctively Christian metaphysics (since faith as such is not a philosophy), but states that there are three requirements of any philosophy that would be consistent with Christianity (sects. 81-83). Thus, John Paul II identifies a number of philosophical views that would be defective--i.e., inconsistent with Christianity--(sects. 86-89), but also notes a number of philosophical perspectives that, to a greater or lesser degree, are compatible with it (sects. 74 ff).
In this paper, I want to ask whether an idealist account of the human person is compatible with a 'Christian metaphysics.'
In the first part, I consider the views of one of the best known British idealist philosophers, Bernard Bosanquet (1848-1923), and briefly explain his account of the human person, starting with finite consciousness and showing how his 'constructive' approach leads to a concept of 'general mind' and, eventually, to the Absolute. I then turn to a number of themes in idealism--its teleological character (as the nisus or movement to completion), its analysis of the individual and individuation, its concept of the Absolute as 'concrete universal,' how it sees finite consciousness as a 'copula' between nature and the Absolute, its monism, and its claim that there cannot be an adequate account of reality that does not acknowledge the centrality of mind.
In the second part of my paper, I want to identify what, exactly, are the advantages and difficulties in adopting such an idealism as a possible 'Christian metaphysics'--that is, to determine to what extent a non-Thomistic metaphysics might provide a viable means of understanding the human person that is consistent with the requirements for a 'Christian philosophy' identified in Fides et ratio.