“The Genealogy of the Person”: An Exploration

JPI 1006

In his 1994 Letter to Families, Pope John Paul II said that "the genealogy of the person is inscribed in the biology of generation" (section 9). This course probes the meaning of the pope's assertion, beginning with a discussion of his understanding of the body as a primordial sacrament. The notion of person will be further elaborated in view of the Christian tradition with the aid of authors including Robert Spaemann. The work of philosophers of biology Hans Jonas and Stephen Talbott will illuminate the meaning of biology, considered both as the logic of life and as the study of living beings, and will offer a path for considering the relation between living beings as such and the particular kind of living being that a human person is. In view of the foregoing, the course will conclude with an examination of several accounts of the phenomenon of generation, from classical philosophy and contemporary biology. Taken together, these considerations aim at enriching both Christian anthropology and the discernment of the meaning and ethics of biotechnological interventions at the beginning of life.

Selected Course Texts for Spring 2022:

  • Fabrizio Amerini, Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Life (Harvard UP,
  • Aristotle, Complete Works.
  • Angelo Scola, The Nuptial Mystery (Eerdmans, 2005).
  • Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life (Northwestern UP, 2001).
  • Robert Spaemann, Persons: The Difference between "Someone" and "Something"
    (Oxford UP, 2007).
  • John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them (Pauline Books and Media, 2006).

Associated Faculty

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