The philosophical study of human nature is as old as philosophy itself; nevertheless, a distinct field known as “philosophical anthropology” was explicitly delineated in the early 20th Century, above all in the work of Max Scheler. One of the hallmarks of the thought of John Paul II, himself influenced by Scheler, was the central significance he gave to anthropology in his approach to problems in both philosophy and theology. The first half of this course will be a careful study of the classical interpretation of human nature through a reading of Plato, Aristotle, and the “Treatise on Man” in Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae. The second half will be a reading of programmatic texts by Max Scheler and an exploration of Karol Wojtyla’s/Pope John Paul II’s integration of the modern philosophical anthropology with the classical interpretation of man inside of a theological vision of the nature and destiny of the human being. Some of the main themes explored are the nature of the human soul, the relationship between the soul and body, the relationship between self and other as expressed in the structure of the acts of intellect and will, the relationship between human nature and nature more generally, man’s place in the cosmos, and man’s fundamental relationship to God in all of this.
Course Texts for Spring 2021
• Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992).
• Josef Pieper, Tradition: Concept and Claim (South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine’s Press, 2010).
• We will spend the first half of the semester on Aquinas’s philosophical anthropology, drawn from relevant questions from the Summa theologiae. These texts will all be available online, but students may consider obtaining the first two volumes of the Dominican Friars English translation. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, prima pars (complete) and prima secundae (complete), in the Dominican Fathers translation.
• Wendell Berry, Recollected Essays (1965-1980) (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981). OR Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2015).
• Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008).