Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE The Philosophy of Personhood

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology, including Ecumenism

DESCRIPTION Our analysis is concerned primarily not with any of the details of physical functioning, but with topic of mind-body and mind-brain identity theories, whether there is a human 'essence' and whether the concept of personhood can contribute to our philosophical and legal understanding of human nature at all. Are human beings merely organic machines, the result of billions of years of chance mutations? How can biology and philosophy offer mutually enlightening claims? Is the human person a composite substance made up of soul and body? Do humans have free will? Can humans survive death? These are the questions both philosophers and theologians are properly concerned with, for they obviously cannot be conclusively answered by the physical sciences alone. In this study-unit we will we will also attend to questions concerning human diversity and will therefore also need to reflect on the contribution of Judaeo-Christian thought to the concept of personhood.

Study-Unit Aims:

Since the concept of a human person is not a straightforward one given the huge implications derived from endorsing or rejecting any given notion of person, one of the principal aims of this study-unit is to answer the question whether we need the concept of human person at all, that is, whether the concept of personhood adds anything significant and distinctive to that of human nature and if so, we need to understand why and how.

Secondly, arguments justifying the criteria for the adoption of a notion of personhood versus other arguments rejecting it will be thoroughly examined, together with an assessment of salient themes related to rationality, the mind, agency and soul.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- have acquired thematic knowledge of the development of theories of personhood;
- possess a rich historical overview of the subject;
- have developed the analytical tools needed to offer a critique of various positions put forward.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- identify clearly the intellectual framework at the basis of different academic, legal and popular usages of the term 'person';
- engage in constructive debate with such frameworks consistently and accurately.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Aquinas, St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, First Part, qq. 75-89.
- Aristotle, De Anima, transl. J. Barnes, ed.
- Van Inwagen, P. & Zimmerman, D. (ed.): Persons: Human and Divine, Oxford University Clarendon Press 2011.

Supplementary Readings:

- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, transl. ed.
- Frankfurt, H., ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person’, Journal of Philosophy 68, 1971, 5-20.
- Haldane, J., 'Intuitions and the Value of a Person', Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 14, 1997.
- Haldane, J., 'Recognising Humanity', Journal of Applied Philosophy, 2008.
- Haldane, J., 'Political Theory and the Nature of Persons: An Ineliminable Metaphysical.
- Presupposition', Philosophical Papers, Vol. 20, 1991.
- Kant, I., Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Paton.
- Kerr, F., Work on Oneself: Wittgenstein's Philosophical Psychology, Institute for the Psychological Sciences, 2008.
- Searle, J., Minds, Brains and Science, 1986.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Jonathan Farrugia

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.