Some principles about the person


Today, more than ever, we speak of the importance of the person and his values, but, today, even more than ever, we ignore what he is. It is incredible the way in which the great world organizations, contemporary institutions and universities strive to speak of the dignity of the person, of his knowledge, his freedom, and his social character, but completely apart from a serious metaphysics, they therefore, end up with a barrage of opinions that can only be considered an activist and depersonalized philanthropy. This is why I have considered going into depth in the understanding and proper advocacy of the person to be so important, since, the concept of person that underlies the ideology prevailing nowadays has remained at the phenomenal and has lost its fundamental character.

In effect, the person is at the center of culture, which is why I will try to present, in this study, the concept of person that Saint Thomas Aquinas re-introduces from Boethius, surpassing the theology of Plato and substituting for the idea of good, (and, consequently, of the final cause), the being that precedes this good, and thus considering both efficient and final causes; for it is only from this perspective the human person can be related to other persons (angels), to nature and to God. It is only in his being that the human person finds the true metaphysical foundation of his eminent dignity.

It is necessary to take great pains to start from causality, which demands that the being of the effect really depend upon the principle of operations, and, from these operations, upon the principle of the human subject. Thought and free-will transcend the purely material yet the study of the human person should be done as with any material entity: starting with its actions and its operations, trying to reach the principle of these operations and, from these principles, the principle of the human subject.

One, starting from its operations the existence of the soul as a form of the body has been demonstrated, we can continue with the metaphysical in-depth analysis into the personal character of man. As I have said I wish to reclaim Saint Thomas´s position when he explains Severino Boethius´s definition: “an individual substance of rational nature” (Boethius. Liber de persona et duabus naturis contra Eutychen et Nestorium). Basing himself on the analysis of the concepts he prevents possible mistakes that could come from this definition and gives it a new meaning different from Boethius´s. Saint Thomas clarifies that, by person, we must understand a primary substance, by virtue of the fact that the word “individual” is included (Cfr. S.Th., I, q.29, a.7). The substance or the primary substance is a “rational” individual, which makes it a more perfect individual and a person, in distinction from other non-rational individual substances. Saint Thomas clarifies that, with the term “substance”, accidents (which are abstract, never individual) are excluded; and with the expression of a “rational nature”, purely material beings (vegetables and irrational animals, which are primary substances) are also excluded, since, from the moment they are not rational, they can never be persons. Finally, Saint Thomas rules out that the human soul separated from the body is a person, because it is not the whole but an incomplete substance: it is just a part of the human hylomorphic compound, and it conserves the tendency of its “nature” to join with the body (Cfr. Q.A. De Pot. Q.9, a.2).

It follows from the above that, according to the definition Saint Thomas takes from Boethius, the person is incommunicable: it does not have the communication that there can be form the universal to the singular or individual; nor it does not have the communication that incomplete substance can have with respect to other complete substances that constitute the substantial compound; it does not have the communication of the singular substance regarding the common or indistinct, nor, finally, does it have the communication of a complete individual substance that is assumed by a superior person, as which is what happens in the case Christ according to Theology. (Cfr. III Sent. d.5, q.2, a.1, ad.2.).

Having clarified these basic concepts, the definition of Boethius can be accepted as perfect. If the term “rational” is understood in a broad sense, applicable to any discursive or nor-discursive understanding –be it human, angelic or divine- the definition of person would then refer to the common reason of singularity, without referring to any particular type of person. (Ibidem).

The person is likewise a subsisting entity of a certain nature. For this reason, it is not the essence; nor is it the individual substantial essence that can be assumed by a superior person which is what happens in the case of Christ according to theology (Cfr. III sent. D. S., q.2, a.1, ad.2). That is why the term “individual substance” does not refer to the substance form a point of view that is denominative or essential, but that is real, with its own esse; that is, “person” means the substantial essence with an esse that refers to the substantial entity or the autonomous entity (S.Th., II, q.16, a.12, ob. et. ad. 2).

The person, therefore, is not the mere individual substantial essence, and as to rationality, this also is not the formal or particular constituent of the person. The created person includes the same elements as the entity –the essence and the esse, or act of being- since the created person means a certain nature and a certain way of being that is subsistence; therefore, its (of the created person) formal constituent is the particular esse, although participated, which is it is formal cause. That is why the ontological constituents of the created person are the same constituents as the entity; in this way, being is the formal constituent of the person, as well as of the entity: that is, its own esse. Therefore, what follows is that the material constituent of the created person is the individual substantial essence and the formal constituent, is the act of being: the esse, in the real plane as well as in the essential plane. (Cfr. Q.D. de Potentia, q.9, a.3). The esse is compared to the essence as the act is to the potential and that is why they are the material and formal constituents of the entity and the person, since they act as analogous to the matter and the form of the substantial essence.

It is in this way that the person is a substance that is defined with regard the act of being in itself, or with regard to subsistence: in independence, in his own existence, regarding what is inherent in any subject. The supposdness [form supposit] of the person implies being incommunicable with others. The person is so from the moment in which its own act of being, as this entity, terminates it, constitutes it into a subsisting being, as this entity. It closes it that is, “incommunicates” it ontologically, which means that it is an incommunicable substantial totality, precisely by virtue of its terminal act which is the act of being, the esse. This is how, with the expression “ontological incommunicability”, we assert that the person is not “this” or “that”, that it has its own metaphysical limits. Any kind of communication of the person must respect and start out from this ontological incommunicability, which is its foundation and the true cause of its dignity. Thus, if we must ask ourselves about the act of personal or inter-personal communication, this must stem from the foundation of the incommunicability of the subsisting ontological nucleous.

I belive it is now important to point out that, in this way, the person is a synthetic unity, which means that there is not a particular act of this unity that does not include or imply the whole, and the whole applies to each and every one of his acts. This synthetic unity, which means that there is not a particular act of this unity that does not include or imply the whole, and the whole applies to each and every one of his acts. This synthetic unity is a singular substance, conscious and free and not a being that does not know that it is, that it lives, and that it understands. (Cfr. De Potentia, q.9, a.3). Furthermore, every person is constituted by or possesses its esse or actus essendi (except God, who is Ipusm esse subsistens, a pure act, a pure esse), and his act is the actuality or all acts. As Saint Thomas states esse is neither a final act nor the final actuality that comes to the essential acts already perfectly constituted as acts, esse is the first act or the first actuality which establishes or makes possible the other acts; it is the most intimate to and the most profound act of the entity. (Cfr. Q.D. De Potentia, q.9, a.3.)

The term “subsistence” thus refers to the fact that it is proper for it to exist in itself and not in another, as in an adhering subject, this means that it exists per se and exists in se, in an independent or autonomous way. (Cfr. S.Th., I, q.29, a.2.).

Again, the name “person” is not imposed to mean the individual as part of nature (Cfr. S.Th., I, q.19, a.1. ad.4), “person” does not just designate to an individual substantial essence, but expresses one that is subsisting in this essence: the subsisting entity.

It is important to point out here that Saint Thomas Aquinas does not identify this esse with existence: to what appears or the mere presence of the reality of the entity, or the fat that the essence exists. Rather this existence is an effect of the esse or actus essendi; the esse converts the essence into an entity and makes it exist. The esse of the substance makes something exist or what makes the substance appear in reality in a special way that is to subsist: that is, to exist in se et per se.

That is why we can state that the cause of the subsistence is this particular esse. The primary substance is the essence: but existing in itself, as something essential but subsisting thanks to the esse. That is why, of all the individual substances, only the ones that subsist are persons, not only the individual essences but the individual essences that subsist, these in which existence represents subsistence, which participate in the act of being to a higher degree. Therefore, a part of a subject, (for example, an organ), even though it is a substance or what is called a substantial part when it is in the body, is not a person, because it does not subsist, it does not exist per se et in se. It is not the case of zygot, embryo o human fetus that has a subsisting esse from the moment of conception since his spiritual form or his own esse is the one that is informing the matter so that he can develop.

With regard to nature it is necessary to clarify not only that is not a person but that neither is the person the compound of nature and the esse as if it were an element resulting from the composition of two former elements; rather nature and the ese are constituents in which the esse can be considered, in the case of created persons, either as an extrinsic or intrinsic constituent. If we considered the person in his denomintative or essential sense, we would be talking about an extrinsic constituent; while if we consider the person in its formal or real sense, we could be talking about an intrinsic constituent. In the case in which the person is considered in its formal sense or meaning, (that is, entitative or real), it is obvious that his ontological constituents, -essence or nature, and esse, are intrinsic. On the other hand, if we consider nature, as it is perfected or actualized by the esse-, that is, that the esse is contracted by the essence and the esse is denominated by it, (that is, from de plane called denominative or essential, in which, the essence, defines a way of being of the esse); in this case, we can consider the esse as something extrinsic to the essence. Saint Thomas denominates this composition cum his and all creatures have it even though they also have what he calls composition ex his, which is the entitative compound of the essence and the esse. Therefore, the person is characterized as a compound ex his or of intrinsic constituents of the entitative order and is a compound cum his of essence and esse. From this, we reach the conclusion that, if we take into consideration de essential dimension, we obtain the compound cum his, because the esse is an extrinsic constituent different from the essential. If we consider it in its entitative dimension we obtain the compound ex his, in which the essence and the esse are intrinsic constituents and, thus, the entire compound, with perfect unity, is the person. In conclusion, depending on the plane we want to see the person, namely entitative or essential, we will have the different ways to consider the essence and the esse, and thus to speak about two compositions of the created person.

Finally, it is very important to distinguish the person from the predicamental relation because, when Boethius defines the person as “an individual substance of a rational nature”, all accidents, including that of relation are excluded. (Cfr. S.Th., I, q.39, a.1, ad.1). Of course, it is necessary to exclude the social relationship or alterity from the constituent of the human person. (Cfr. S.Th., I, q.29, a.1, ad.1): we are not persons because being another man or woman, rather because we are persons we can be dynamically open to social interaction. The predicamental relation can not be subsisting, because it receives being from the subsistence which belongs to the subsisting thing. (Cfr. S.Th., I, q.29, a.4, ad.1). It is a serious mistake to think of the predicamental relation as the formal constituent of the person.

The person is the most perfect being in all nature (Cfr. S.Th., I, q.29, a.3.) and although the human person, can only exist in his circumstances and relation it has a being that is more than circumstances and relation. Man is a living being, composed of a body and a soul that is its form, and which is both subsisting and spiritual.

This is why the term “person” carries whith it the connotation of dignity, nobility and excellence. The person, because of the fact that it is, is worthy because the term “dignity” is a transcendental one derived from transcendental good: everything that is, is good, and therefore, worthy and respectable. But, besides this ontological worthiness that comes from the analogical character of its being, the person is specially worthy because of his spirituality and trans-temporality. Thus, the person can be defined as the being that penetrates, possesses, and conforms to nature; the being that possesses itself in spirit, self-afirmation, and free self-determination. But there is not being and certainly no person that is completely locked up in itself. Divine persons possess each other reciprocally in a mutual order; and the human person is only itself in the incessant development of itself towards “the you”. This development consists of fulfillment through love and friendship. Personal identity is not destroyed when this happens; nevertheless, a person would be incomplete and frustrated were it to oppose its development through such love and friendship.

The singular dignity of the human person comes to it from its two constitutive elements: one entitative-dynamic, superior to the being of a rational, intellectual nature, and therefore, superior to other non-intellectual created beings; and the other entitative, or persistence in existence, participating in the being through its essence, and in its eternal duration, by its natural immortality, (taking into consideration that the soul separated from the body is diminished as a human person, because it lacks its natural consubstantial part of body, even though it subsists a s a form whit its rationality (S.Th., I, q.75, a.2, ad.1). These two aspects of the highest dignity should be point reference for the authentically giving dignity to the life of the person. The person, as a distinct, subsisting being, is an ontologically solitary and autonomous being, whose existence, is nevertheless (in the case of created persons), received from and dependent on God.

As a rational nature, the human person is open to truth and good, as well as to interpersonal solidarity. In the world of our experience, the human person carries out to the highest degree efficient, final and exemplary (formal, extrinsic) causality. In what refers to being provided with initiative and free choice, it is the point of origin and the cause of these processes that transform it. A free cause is a cause par excellence, a cause per se, and precisely through the intentional structure of the will we can see the essence of the causal being. The efficient and motor causality of the person with regard to things has its source in a more radical causality, by which the person disposes of himself and which constitutes another aspect of his unity with himself. Being inferior to itself, the human person loves himself in one way or another, and when making himself in this way or that in the accidental order, he transforms the world. The formal and motor causality of the spirit over the body is intermediate between the disposition of himself and the disposition of things. And, the end being the cause of all causes, no cause can exercise its finality if the end stops exercising its own action.

In what refers to the person, not only should he not be treated as a simple means, (although he sometimes operates as such in some ways), but it is not possible nor licit for him to treat himself completely in this way. There is nothing higher than the person, and just because society is composed of persons does not mean it is worthy of love in itself. Society is an accident of the person, it is an accidental relationship among the components of a human group. That is why the aim of society is the common good: that is, good as a distributive universal that implies the good of each and every one of these persons. Being an end in himself, the person finalizes all other beings towards himself, which in this way, appear as the vast system of his means of fulfillment and expression; because of this, no institution can be above the person, but only as a means for the fulfillment of this very person When the person puts his seal on the world transformed by him –when making it a human and personalized world that returns his image to him and allows him, in this way, to find himself and return more fully to his essence- with respect to the world, the person exercises an extrinsic formal causality. The universe is attracted to man and matter is elevated to the spirit. The full humanization of man means the full realization of his nature, and as this human nature does not realize in each one more than a small part of his virtues, full human realization has as a condition the unification of humanity: not because of the abolition of individual differences –something that would be equivalent to the death of the person- but because of the union of persons in their distinction, both affirmed and surpassed by means of individual and social relationships.

The person is the synthesis of a metaphysical order since it is the highest form of being. As I said before, in our experience, the person is always limited subjectively, but it enjoys an objective infinitude, since it is provided with a spiritual nature that is capable of capturing the being in all its totality. The person in his spiritual subsistence is not only found at the top of the categorical order, but, in his concrete totality, is a summary and a synthesis of this order. The existing spiritual being has its own way of subsisting which is more perfect, or rather of existing in itself, of exercising by itself the act of being, and, consequently, of operating by itself. This consciousness of itself and his freedom suppose, on the level of the first act and of the essence, a presence before itself, an interiority to itself of a distinct order of nor-personal beings (for example animals). Because he is more one within himself, the person is also more distinct, nor only because his openness to the universal makes him capable of receiving a different vocation, (from animals) but in addition, thanks to his freedom, he is capable of different answers. As I have shown, by virtue of his simple physical being the human person is already the most individualized of existing beings in our experience, but this fundamental individuality increases in him with an individuality that is due to his free actions.

In summary, the human person is the personal being that, in our experience, presents us as a point of convergence of al metaphysical order, as the top of all categories, that is, as the most perfect creature that there can be in all nature. Man constitutes the synthesis of all categorical order and therefore, is the most dignified in this order; all his dimensions have his personal character as a foundation, which is why it is fundamental for the study of any of the dimensions of the human person.

As I began this paper, all of this profound study brings to light that is impossible to understand the person without resorting to metaphysics, we can not save the personal human subject and with him his dignity, his rights, his origins, his ends, etc. Because of the absence of a metaphysical foundation we now experience the ambiguities that occur in references to human rights, the arts, politics, science, etc. All the dimensions of the human person depend on these principles; if they are not properly understood, these have no proper meaning, something that has now happened in contemporary society. As I have already mentioned, even for revealed theology, which is a science superior to philosophy, the metaphysical rigor that frees us from these ambiguities and these subjective affirmations is indispensable. If we want objectivity we must resort to being.

16 comentarios

Luis Alexis
É buono che infocatolica abbia bloggers in altri lingue. Europa parla molti lingue. Sarebbe un buona contribuzione per tutti.
21/01/16 8:28 PM
José María Iraburu
No parece muy conveniente publicar en InfoCatólica artículos en inglés.
Pero bueno.


He solicitado autorización y me han dicho que hagamos una prueba. Pero si no se ve conveniente sin problema lo puedo retirar.
Saludos fraternos:
Manuel Ocampo Ponce.
21/01/16 9:08 PM
Palas Atenea
No veo por qué. A mi me cuesta leerlo un poco más que si estuviera escrito en italiano-¡saludos, Luis Alexis!-pero menos que si estuviera en ruso. Si contribuye a la mayor difusión de Infocatólica sea bienvenido cualquier idioma.
21/01/16 10:43 PM
Yo pediria version bilingüe.
Entiendo que es mas fácil y barato cortar y pegar de la fuente. Pero los artículos de infocatolica exigen un muy buen nivel de inglés.
Un saludo.
21/01/16 11:41 PM
José Juan
El mundo es amplio, los idiomas también. La Palabra de Dios la encontramos en todos los idiomas. Por lo tanto, que un excelente artículo esté en inlglés, no veo ningún problema. Al contrario, éste artículo puede ser publicado en español también. Y otros de éste y otros autores que escriben excelentemente pueden ser traducidos en ingles y en italiano. Abramos las fronteras para el entendimiento y que la buena sabiduría se esparza aún más.
22/01/16 12:02 AM
Luis Fernando
Pidió permiso. Se le concedió, tras consulta a todo el consejo.
Sí en ese proceso hubiera fallado alguien, sería yo. Y sería a mí a quien habría de dirigirse cualquier crítica PÚBLICA.
22/01/16 12:45 AM
Mª Virginia
Con permiso para la intromisión, "voto" por la propuesta de Pablo, para que en estos casos esté la opción bilingüe, pues si bien creo que puede dar buen fruto incorporando lectores de otras lenguas (no sólo en inglés, creo que sería fantástico también en los demás idiomas!), creo asimismo que tratándose de un portal de hispanohablantes tendríamos que mantener nuestra lengua en todos los artículos.
Cuestión de identidad...¡somos hijos de Santiago!.
Y también por practicidad, ya que algunos tal vez conocen el idioma pero por razones de tiempo -en medio de las corridas habituales que muchos vivimos-, postergan su lectura si no está en castellano.
22/01/16 2:36 AM
Pues yo, que más por circunstancias de la vida que por méritos propios soy casi bilingüe en español e inglés, voy a hacer una crítica constructiva que espero se tome como tal: convendría que para futuras ocasiones revisara el texto alguna persona que domine bien esta lengua. Lamentándolo sinceramente, tengo que decir que el texto en su conjunto suena "poco natural", hay partes que sólo se entienden echándole voluntad para deducirlas del contexto, y frases que directamente no tienen sentido en inglés (p. ej.: ¿qué se quiere decir con "...all of this profound study brings to light turns out to be impossible..."?) Adicionalmente, hay algunas faltas de ortografía notables. El texto en general se lee "denso" y sumándole que la materia ya es "densa" de por sí, a veces cae inadvertidamente en lo "oscuro" o simplemente incomprensible. Todo ello dicho con la mejor voluntad de mejora cara al futuro.


Lamento que le haya parecido oscuro pero efectivamente se requiere cierto nivel de conocimientos de Filosofía para comprenderlo.
Para su conocimiento fue revisado por un reconocido catedrático especialista en Santo Tomás de la Universidad de San Francisco California Estados Unidos y parte de una conferencia magistral que di en la Universidad de Notre Dame en Chicago.
22/01/16 4:44 AM
Si no más, al menos le sugiero corregir las siguientes faltas de ortografia o errores tipográficos, que hacen un poco "daño a los ojos" y sinceramente no entiendo cómo se le han pasado por alto a un catedrático de SF o en algunos casos al corrector ortográfico de los procesadores de texto:

"tis" -> this
"whit" -> with
"subsitence" -> subsistence
"devine" -> Supongo que querría usted decir divine.
"whist" -> posiblemete with (whilst no parece que pegue en ese contexto.)
"an surpassed" -> and surpassed

Y no le doy más la tabarra. Con respecto a la inteligibilidad y naturalidad del texto, por supuesto, haga usted como crea conveniente. Un cordial saludo en Cristo.

Realmente son gravísimos cinco errores tipográficos en un artículo de cinco cuartillas.
Pido una disculpa pública por haberlos cometido al recapturar el texto.
22/01/16 5:45 AM
Luis Alexis
Estimado Luis Fernando, que te parece esta cita:

¿Cómo, pues, les oímos nosotros hablar cada uno en nuestra lengua en la que hemos nacido? Partos, medos, elamitas, y los que habitamos en Mesopotamia, en Judea, en Capadocia, en el Ponto y en Asia, en Frigia y Panfilia, en Egipto y en las regiones de África más allá de Cirene, y romanos aquí residentes, tanto judíos como prosélitos, cretenses y árabes, LES OÍMOS HABLAR EN NUESTRAS LENGUAS LAS MARAVILLAS DE DIOS (Hechos 2,11)

Se que no es precisamente, el don de lenguas pero voto por la propuesta de Pablo, una edición bilingüe no estaría mal.
Al final ustedes decidan (inspirados por la gracia obviamente) como escribir las maravillas de Dios.
Que todo sea para mayor gloria de nuestro Creador, Redentor y santificador.
La paz sea con ustedes.

22/01/16 7:47 AM
Horacio Castro
Está bien Luis Fernando. Mientras no cambie la doctrina... En Internet hay un tal "Google" que traduce al toque.
22/01/16 3:21 PM
¿Y por que no se publica el artículo traducido al español?

No tiene mucho sentido publicar artículos en inglés en una web hispana porque la gran mayoría no los va a entender.

Si se publica algo en inglés al menos debería publicarse conjuntamente con su traducción.
22/01/16 5:47 PM
El Indalecio
Como prueba está bien pensado y hecho. Pero voto por el bilingüismo. Además la materia del escrito es muy importante. Y es necesario que se escriba también en español para que todos lo podamos leer con facilidad.
23/01/16 5:42 PM
Me fastidiaría que estuviese escrito en una lengua que no entiendo, p. ej. el francés o el italiano.

No obstante, un texto de esta entidad está bien que se publique no ya en inglés, sino en cuantos idiomas se pueda, comenzando por el latín.
23/01/16 6:58 PM
En efecto, como dice Ismael, la frase "...all of this profound study brings to light turns out to be impossible..." no tiene sentido en inglés.

De todos modos se entiende el tenor general del párrafo: que este profundo estudio hace ver que es imposible salvar en filosofía y teología la dignidad del sujeto personal sin recurrir a la metafísica.

Saludos cordiales.

Muchas gracias Néstor.
Ya lo he revisado.
Manuel Ocampo Ponce.
25/01/16 8:00 PM
Yo entiendo perfectamente el inglés, pero soy consciente de que hay lectores de este portal que no saben idiomas, o al menos no entienden la hermosa lengua de Shakespeare. Por lo tanto, creo que sería mejor una edición bilingüe, ya que permitiría conocer el original y a la vez ser comprensible para todos.
22/02/16 10:26 PM

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