Aquinas and the Individuation of Human Persons Revisited

This paper focuses on Aquinas’s doctrine of individuation as it applies to human beings. There are three main sections. In the first, the general lines of Aquinas’s doctrine of individuation are presented in the context of discussing an article by Joseph Owens and some other recent work on individuation. I argue for form as the primary principle of individuation and specify the uniqueness of human individuality by reference to the degrees of perfection among things. The second section focuses on three ways in which a meditation on our form—the rational soul—is fruitful for understanding what makes us individuals. Here I consider, in turn, the three distinctive activities of human reason—theoretical, moral, and aesthetic. Each activity is presented as it relates to three levels of perfection in the human being. In the third section, I bring up three pertinent objections to my thesis and suggest answers to them
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0019-0365
DOI 10.5840/ipq20034321
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