Philosophical Anthropology: Perception and Imagination

Philosophical Anthropology: Perception and Imagination

JPI 988c
3 Credits

The bodily senses, and the specifically human way of thinking that is deeply intertwined with them, have a significance in Christianity that has not always been duly recognized, a significance that can be properly called foundational.  In his providential wisdom, God decided to effect our redemption, not by sheer fiat, as those who embrace a so-called purely forensic notion of justification might believe, or by speaking a message directly to our intellect, bypassing the body, as the gnostics (both ancient and modern) seem to have thought.  Instead, he has brought about redemption through the incarnation, by taking on the human flesh, which the Fathers therefore called the “hinge of redemption.”  It is for this reason that our reception of God’s saving grace occurs in and through the life of the body: through the sights, sounds, smells, and acts of the liturgy, through the physical reality of the sacraments, and through the extraordinary material culture that has grown around these as realizations of the faith.  The encounter with reality, and indeed with God in and through reality, that occurs in perception and the imagination, is therefore crucial to the life of faith.  And yet, arguably, this dimension of our relationship to the real has come under attack from a variety of sources, through the development of social media and so-called artificial intelligence, which conspire to encourage a reconception of human nature only accidentally related to the body.  Because it is anti-incarnational, this reconception of our nature is anti-Christian.  The purpose of this course is to recover a sense of the centrality of perception and imagination in human existence, through a retrieval of ancient sources (Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Dionysius and Aquinas), a weighing of theological reflection (above all, von Balthasar), and an assessment of modern and contemporary work being done on perception and imagination in phenomenology, neuroscience, and psychology, which has seen a remarkable increase especially in recent decades.

Selected Texts


DC Schindler portrait

D.C. Schindler

Professor of Metaphysics and Anthropology
Ph.D. Program Advisor

Dr. Schindler’s work is concerned above all with shedding light on contemporary cultural challenges and philosophical questions by drawing on the resources of the classical Christian tradition. His principal thematic focus is metaphysics and philosophical anthropology.

Learn More