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Author Topic: On Souls and Personality - Patristically Speaking  (Read 860 times) Average Rating: 0
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Ioannis Climacus
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« on: December 22, 2012, 02:29:21 AM »

My inquiry is two-pronged, but both are related :

Are there any writings of patristic variety that relate to an immortal soul and its relationship to one's personality? That is, do any or all of the fathers view the persona as eternal? To define personality, I mean that bundle of social, personal, emotional, and behavioral traits by which we assess and relate to others.

Secondly, are there any writings in the fathers that pertain to the subject of brain damage and its effect on personality? While this may be a seemingly strange request when dealing with patristics, it is intimately connected to the first.
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2012, 03:59:26 AM »

Sorry this isn't exactly the direct reply you're looking for, but I think if anyone can answer your questions, Fr. Alexis Trader can.

His blog: http://ancientchristianwisdom.wordpress.com/

Good luck!
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Ioannis Climacus
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2012, 09:57:55 PM »

Sorry this isn't exactly the direct reply you're looking for, but I think if anyone can answer your questions, Fr. Alexis Trader can.

His blog: http://ancientchristianwisdom.wordpress.com/

Good luck!
Thank you for the link. Would you happen to have Fr. Trader's email (I have, as of yet, been unable to locate it)?

Of course, I would like to extend the topic to anyone who has something to contribute, with or without patristics. I am very much interested in hearing views that may or may not differ from my own understanding. Ultimately, this is a very important question because it is one of self-identity. We oft describe ourselves with nonessential characteristics, ranging from physical appearance, to demeanor, to occupation, etc. While arguably important, none of them actually define us. What exactly do you believe a deceased human to be? What, per the dogma of the resurrection of the body, constitutes a glorified human? Does he possess memories, emotions, inclinations, etc. of his previous life? At the most basic level, what is a human?
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NicholasMyra
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2012, 10:45:57 PM »

I believe we are "hypostasized" (made real persons) if/when God chooses to relate to us personally, which he always does. His faithfulness to humanity is why we can declare each other "persons" and why we are called to relate to all human beings as persons.

I think it would be the patristic understanding that our entire human being is hypostasized, totally re-constituted, in Christ. Everything about us. We can be said to be the same individual person we were before, not because of something we hold on to from our old selves, but because God in Christ chooses to relate to each one of us in a unique way, to hypostasize us anew as unrepeatable and unique persons. In the Book of Revelation, the Lord says: "To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it."

Here's St. Irenaeus talking about the salvation of the entirety of the human person:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vii.vii.html
« Last Edit: December 26, 2012, 10:48:26 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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Ioannis Climacus
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2012, 05:32:13 AM »

Thank you for the link. I would ask you more about hypostatic reconstitution. Is Christ's unique relation to man the sole basis for post-apocalyptic individuality? That is, does the reconstitution change a human in such a way that he would be unrecognizable from his current state? What I am ultimately asking is, do the fathers and scripture, in your understanding, teach the annihilation of the persona?
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2012, 11:08:48 AM »

My inquiry is two-pronged, but both are related :

Are there any writings of patristic variety that relate to an immortal soul and its relationship to one's personality? That is, do any or all of the fathers view the persona as eternal? To define personality, I mean that bundle of social, personal, emotional, and behavioral traits by which we assess and relate to others.

Secondly, are there any writings in the fathers that pertain to the subject of brain damage and its effect on personality? While this may be a seemingly strange request when dealing with patristics, it is intimately connected to the first.
The personality survives death. Otherwise, there would be no particular saints.

As in the resurrected body there is no illness, brain damage would not rule in the world to come.

The persona, unlike what the Platonists taught, is not annihilated. The testimony of the Church is unanimous that the person is recognized in the world to come.
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2012, 03:41:08 PM »

Thank you for the link. I would ask you more about hypostatic reconstitution. Is Christ's unique relation to man the sole basis for post-apocalyptic individuality? That is, does the reconstitution change a human in such a way that he would be unrecognizable from his current state? What I am ultimately asking is, do the fathers and scripture, in your understanding, teach the annihilation of the persona?

When we identify Person with the subsistence of an entity, we are saying that Persons are not personae or prosopa, in the pagan sense meaning a mere mask or accident to being.

If you mean "Persona" in the modern sense of a set of personality traits, then see Isa's post above.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2012, 03:41:58 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2012, 08:12:21 PM »

I am using persona and personality in an accidental manner. I bring up brain damage, because it suggests that accidental personality is temporal. Take someone who was either born with a mental deficiency or acquired a significant head injury later in life. In both cases, that handicap has played an enormous role in the formation/change of the personality. In what manner would a glorified human's post-apocalyptic personality resemble its previous earthly state? Does the personality of the recently deceased (that is, recently disembodied) have every similarity to the personality of the living? Where is personality predicated from (body, soul, a combination, etc.)? Can an accidental property by eternal? I apologize if my questions are overly specific and/or technical, but this topic, from an Orthodox and specifically patristic perspective, is of great interest to me.
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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2012, 12:34:33 AM »

I bring up brain damage, because it suggests that accidental personality is temporal. Take someone who was either born with a mental deficiency or acquired a significant head injury later in life. In both cases, that handicap has played an enormous role in the formation/change of the personality. In what manner would a glorified human's post-apocalyptic personality resemble its previous earthly state?

I don't think we know, but I would assume that the way in which that mentally damaged person existed in their state of mental damage will be redeemed somehow.
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2012, 12:35:01 AM »

Can an accidental property by eternal?

Why is it accidental?
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
Ioannis Climacus
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2012, 12:42:04 AM »

Can an accidental property by eternal?

Why is it accidental?
Because it does not define being. That is, a brain damaged human is still the same being essentially.
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2012, 12:43:54 AM »

Can an accidental property by eternal?

Why is it accidental?
Because it does not define being. That is, a brain damaged human is still the same being essentially.
The same being as what?
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2012, 12:45:15 AM »

Can an accidental property by eternal?

Why is it accidental?
Because it does not define being. That is, a brain damaged human is still the same being essentially.
The same being as what?
The being prior to the personality-changing brain damage.
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NicholasMyra
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2012, 12:46:25 AM »

Can an accidental property by eternal?

Why is it accidental?
Because it does not define being. That is, a brain damaged human is still the same being essentially.
The same being as what?
The being prior to the personality-changing brain damage.

Someone who is brain damaged is often a different person afterwards. They only remain somewhat continuous insofar as they are related to as the person they were and are.

In virtue of what else do they possess the same essential being?
« Last Edit: December 28, 2012, 12:47:37 AM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
Ioannis Climacus
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2012, 12:56:16 AM »

Can an accidental property by eternal?

Why is it accidental?
Because it does not define being. That is, a brain damaged human is still the same being essentially.
The same being as what?
The being prior to the personality-changing brain damage.

Someone who is brain damaged is often a different person afterwards. They only remain continuous insofar as they are related to as the person they were and are.

In virtue of what else do they possess the same essential being?
They may be a different person, but I would understand them to be the same being.

The hypothetical individual is essentially the same because he still possesses that unique relation to God that defines individuality.
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2012, 03:35:41 AM »

They may be a different person, but I would understand them to be the same being.
See my post here regarding Personhood and Being:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,48630.msg850375.html#msg850375
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
Ioannis Climacus
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« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2012, 02:24:51 PM »

They may be a different person, but I would understand them to be the same being.
See my post here regarding Personhood and Being:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,48630.msg850375.html#msg850375
Very interesting, but from there arises other questions. If the person is the constitutive element of being (that is, being itself), one would logically be a different being following a significant personality-changing accident. In the hypothetical scenario involving head trauma, what becomes of the previous being, or person? Is it annihilated or does God continue to relate with it?

Nicholas, does the book you quoted from discuss some of these issues in details?
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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2012, 02:30:23 PM »

Is it annihilated or does God continue to relate with it?
God continues to relate to them as a unique person, IMO.

Nicholas, does the book you quoted from discuss some of these issues in details?
It doesn't go into detail about brain damage, but it does discuss the person and how the person dies/survives death and change.
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
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« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2012, 02:44:47 PM »

Is it annihilated or does God continue to relate with it?
God continues to relate to them as a unique person, IMO.

Nicholas, does the book you quoted from discuss some of these issues in details?
It doesn't go into detail about brain damage, but it does discuss the person and how the person dies/survives death and change.
Just so I understand you correctly, God continues to relate to both persons/beings (the one before the hypothetical accident and the one afterwards). Does each person/being have a soul, or is the soul unique to the being possessing the body?

Thank you for answers. I may look into the book you quoted from.
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« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2012, 03:32:16 PM »

Does each person/being have a soul, or is the soul unique to the being possessing the body?
In the Greek sense, each person has a soul.

In the Hebrew sense, each person is a soul.
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
Ioannis Climacus
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« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2012, 10:39:48 PM »

Does each person/being have a soul, or is the soul unique to the being possessing the body?
In the Greek sense, each person has a soul.

In the Hebrew sense, each person is a soul.
Would that person/being who was present before the hypothetical brain damage be given a body in the general resurrection, existing alongside the person/being after the injury?

That is an interesting distinction between Greek and Hebrew thought though. On a side note, do any of the fathers use the term soul in the Hebrew method you mentioned?
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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2012, 12:58:15 AM »

Would that person/being who was present before the hypothetical brain damage be given a body in the general resurrection, existing alongside the person/being after the injury?[/quote]
They're the same person by virtue of God relating to them that way. Persons are dynamic, constantly becoming; that is a characteristic of human Personhood. If persons couldn't fundamentally change, then we would not be capable of being saved.

That is an interesting distinction between Greek and Hebrew thought though. On a side note, do any of the fathers use the term soul in the Hebrew method you mentioned?
Well St. Paul uses a bit of both. He refers to our current bodies as "soulish bodies", and quotes Genesis, where Adam is made a living soul (nephesh). See 1 Corinthians 15 for more on this. At other times, he refers to "spirit, soul and body".

I think that many Fathers followed St. Paul's use of a bit of both Hebrew and Greek notions of the soul. Some used "soul" like "nous" or "mind", and some used "soul" to mean the characteristic of being alive, the "breath of life". You can see St. Irenaeus blends both ideas by insisting upon the necessity of both body and soul (whether mind or animating faculty) for human personhood.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 01:00:35 AM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple."
Ioannis Climacus
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« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2012, 07:13:15 PM »

They're the same person by virtue of God relating to them that way. Persons are dynamic, constantly becoming; that is a characteristic of human Personhood. If persons couldn't fundamentally change, then we would not be capable of being saved.
If persons can change, wouldn't that imply that personhood is accidental to being human?*

Well St. Paul uses a bit of both. He refers to our current bodies as "soulish bodies", and quotes Genesis, where Adam is made a living soul (nephesh). See 1 Corinthians 15 for more on this. At other times, he refers to "spirit, soul and body".

I think that many Fathers followed St. Paul's use of a bit of both Hebrew and Greek notions of the soul. Some used "soul" like "nous" or "mind", and some used "soul" to mean the characteristic of being alive, the "breath of life". You can see St. Irenaeus blends both ideas by insisting upon the necessity of both body and soul (whether mind or animating faculty) for human personhood.
Thank you, this is very interesting. Would you have any reading recommendations on this topic (Hebrew vs. Greek understanding of the soul)?

* EDIT : I apologize if I am coming off as argumentative (which is not my goal), I am just trying to grasp the concepts in a philosophically consistant manner.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 07:25:50 PM by Ioannis Climacus » Logged

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