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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Selfhood of the Human Person by John F. Crosby (Catholic University of America Press) (Paperback) While drawing on an extensive body of scholarship, Crosby's textured analysis of selfhood hews closely to lived experience. It is this experiential orientation that makes Crosby's work accessible to a non-philosophical audience. Crosby also provides an antidote to certain strains of personalist thinking that reduce the person to a "system of relationships." While giving transcendence and relatedness their due (especially in light of such moral phenomena as value response and obligation), Crosby takes pains to anchor relationality in a prior understanding of the person as a unique individual, characterized by self-possession and incommunicability.

We often hear it said that "each person is unique and unrepeatable" or that "each person is his own end and not a mere instrumental means." But what exactly do these familiar sayings mean? What are they based on? How do we know they are true? In this book, John F. Crosby answers these questions by unfolding the mystery of personal individuality or uniqueness, or as he calls it personal "selfhood." He stands in the great tradition of Western philosophy and draws on Aquinas wherever possible, but he is also deeply indebted to more recent personalist philosophy, especially to the Christian personalism of Kierkegaard and Newman and to the phenomonology of Scheler and von Hildebrand. As a result, Crosby, in a manner deeply akin to the philosophical work of Karol Wojtyla, enriches the old with the new as he explores the structure of personal selfhood, offering many original contributions of his own. Crosby sheds new light on the "incommunicability" and unrepeatability of each human person. He explores the subjectivity, or interiority, of persons as well as the much-discussed theme of their "transcendence," giving particular attention to the transcendence achieved by persons in their moral existence. Finally he shows how we are led through the person to God, and he concludes with an original and properly philosophical approach to the "image" of God in each person. Throughout his study, Crosby is careful not to take selfhood in an individualistic way. He shows how the "selfhood and solitude" of each person opens each to others, and how, far from interfering with interpersonal relations, it in fact renders them possible. "Crosby makes an invaluable contribution to the future of Catholic. This book will become must reading for anyone interested in the relation of John Paul's personalism to the perennial philosophy and neo-Thomism. For those interested in mediating personalism and Thomism, Crosby is their best guide."--Deal W. Hudson, Editor, Crisis magazine

John F. Crosby is professor and chair of philosophy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. He has taught at the University of Dallas, the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Rome, and at the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein. Professor Crosby earned his doctorate in philosophy from the Universitaet Salzburg, Austria, studying with Josef Seifert and having Dietrich von Hildebrand as his master.

This book by a Catholic phenomenologist marks a milestone in philosophical anthropology. It is probably the most significant original contribution to the field in recent years, from the perspective of phenomenological personalism, to appear in the English language. No less important, it is clearly and accessibly written. Any reader who has languished through the iniquitous translation of Karol Wojtyla's THE ACTING PERSON, or who finds phenomenological approaches frequently impenetrable and mystifying, will be pleasantly surprised by the remarkable clarity and accessibility of Crosby's crisply-written and well-organized presentation. Crosby draws from phenomenology (Scheler, Wojtyla, Edith Stein, and his own mentor, von Hildebrand), personalist sources (Kierkegaard, Newman, Wojtyla again, and Josef Seifert), neo-Thomism (Maritain) and the philosophia perennis, combining many of the same sorts of perspectives one finds in Wojtyla. Readers of Crosby's painstaking phenomenological analysis of human "selfhood" may find portions of his discussion sufficiently penetrating and compelling to induce an eerie sense of having been conducted into the precincts of that profound, mysterious interiority called the "self" as if for the first time.

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