Philosophy of the Person
An in-depth reflection on the content and activities of the mental life of an individual leads to the development of the belief that a person is determined and not free. A person is determined because the universe is under the control of certain systematic principles, which initiate actions including the actions of a person. This makes it impossible for an individual to decide or think freely because he is constrained to act only as he is predicted to act. According to proponents of determinism such as Bertrand Russell, the will of an individual to make a choice is the effect of an antecedent and this does not prevent the will of a person from being the causative agent of other effects (Solomon 100). The inability of a person to be free is based on the understanding that the actions of all creatures are designed to follow certain impulses. This is because it is impossible for a person to conceive that his actions are in accordance with his own impulses without acknowledging the existence of internal and external forces that push him into making decisions. From this approach, a person cannot be said to be exercising free will in decision-making.
A person is not autonomous but is determined by social and physical forces. Autonomy is founded on the ability of a person to make choices without any form of interference. This means that if internal or external social and physical forces influence the decision that a person makes then there is no autonomy in the person. Inasmuch as it is important to respect the capacity of a person to act for reasons, the prevailing forces in the society will guide the choices that a person makes regardless of his level of awareness. Peter Strawson who argues that the claim that there is something about a person that transcends physical reality is false supported this assertion. This is because it is impossible for a person to claim that his freedom of choice defines his personhood (Solomon 44). This illusion, in the view of Strawson, exists from the thought that a person can engage in activities that can alter operations in the society free of any form of coercion or influence form the social and physical forces. The prevailing circumstances in a person’s environment play an instrumental role in the determination of the eventual decisions and choices that a person will make. An additional implication of the social and physical forces that determine a person is that it constrains free will because even when a person engages in making of independent choices, his decisions are based on certain reasons that can be used in justifying the choices made hence limiting his freedom.
The uniqueness of a person is based on the ability to affirm the dignity of a person. This is a human quality, which according to medieval philosophers constitutes the unique excellence of personhood and results in the development of specific moral requirements. Dignity is an essential component in the definition of the uniqueness of a person because it refers to the inherent value of the person with regard to that person being perceived as someone instead of something. This is an element of absoluteness that is absent in other beings. The classical rational thinkers in defense of uniqueness of a person disagree with The Hobbesian assertion that dignity is the value set on a person by the commonwealth. Instead, the proponents of this understanding of personhood align themselves with the ideas of Immanuel Kant who recognized dignity as an inherent element that is priceless (Solomon 125). The introduction of the element of dignity in personhood eliminates the possibility to engaging persons in any form of tradeoff because their worth is not a function of their utility. The uniqueness of a person means that no one is dispensable because persons are beings with an irreplaceable value.
Rational beliefs about the existence of God are necessary in becoming a complete person. This is is because by ascribing to these beliefs it will be easier for a person to acknowledge the experience of a higher and more powerful being in control of the universe. Through this approach to understanding the universe, a person will embrace the essence of God’s creating by upholding the integrity and dignity of personhood. Furthermore, rational beliefs about the existence of God are also important because they provide a person with a technique of embracing the challenges and problems that are experienced in life. This in essence is integral in the process of becoming a complete person because it also provides an understanding of the nature of the world and the existence of a powerful being that can help in overcoming the challenges presented in such a world. According to Immanuel Kant, the ability to exist in the society is determined by the level of adherence to the existing moral principles (Solomon 235). By implication, respect to authority is a God given ability that helps in molding a person as a productive and respectful member of the society. Adhering to moral principles is in agreement with rational beliefs about the existence of God because it is based on the recognition of a superior power in charge of giving laws that define life in the society.
Self-determination and self-knowledge play a critical role in achieving the project of self-flourishing. This is because they facilitate the development of critical reason, which helps a person in developing the ability to distinguish between rational thoughts and ordinary perceptual beliefs. Through self-knowledge and self-determination, a person is able to acquire the status of a critical reasoned who has the ability of operating in accordance with the norms of reason even in situations where the person cannot articulate these norms. The essence of self-determination in achieving the project of self-flourishing emanates from the understanding that it provides a person with an element of control over his reasoning. This means that a self-determined person will apply norms of reasoning based on his judgments about his attitudes.
Friendship and social responsibility are also essential in achieving the project of self-flourishing. This is because they enable a person to recognize the essence of other persons in the society in terms of their contribution to his physical and social development. Friendship enhances the ability of a person to embrace and understand the view of other people. It also teaches a person on the importance of virtues such as reverence, honesty, and authenticity when dealing with other people. Social responsibility is essential in the realization of self-flourishing because it provides details of the responsibility of an individual towards other persons. This helps in eliminating elements of egoism and cultivating cooperation in the society because it is important for the development of self and the realization of personal goals and objectives.
My belief system is based on the understanding that the mind has the ability of creating the quality of life that a person desires. This is only possible when a person is able to recognize the opportunities available in his environment and use his mind to manipulate these opportunities in ways that will enhance his life. This is an indication that every person has the power of living according to his own choices, which begins through a process of setting goals and objectives on how to realize these goals. The mind plays a critical role in the development of a person’s personality. This is because it will help in the determination of the things in his environment that he desires and those that he dislikes. Furthermore, it will also provide him with techniques of navigating between his likes and dislikes as a way of accommodating other remembers in the society. Successful development and understanding of a person’s personality is crucial in crucial in the experiencing success in career, family and marriage. In family and marriage, an understanding of an individual’s personality will help in making decisions on the best marriage partners and develop techniques on how to associate with diverse personality traits within the family. It is also important in career development because an individual will use his understanding of his personality in deciding on the best career opportunities that generate different forms of satisfaction. This will also provide a platform of realizing self-flourish in different aspects of life.
Solomon, Robert C. The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy. Fort Worth, TX:
Harcourt College Publishers, 2010.