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Lecture 2: History of the Notion of Personality in General

IT is a well-known fact that in its original use the word persona was the designation of the mask worn by the actor on the ancient Roman stage and came to be used of the actor himself and his part in the play; and hence of the part that a man plays in social intercourse generally, and especially those forms of social intercourse in which, as in legal transactions or in the official relations of public magistrates, a definite task is assigned, just as in a play, to a particular man, to which all that he is or does when not engaged in the performance of that task is irrelevant. In classical Latin persona did not acquire that vague use as equivalent to ‘human being’ generally in which ‘person’ is among ourselves so often employed. It is possible no doubt to quote one or two passages even in classical Latin which may seem to contradict this statement.1 But even in these I think we should be more nearly correct in translating persona by ‘party’ than in translating it by ‘person.’ The word ‘party,’ even when it was, as in old English (to use the expression of the New English Dictionary), “common and in serious use” for an individual person, had not wholly lost the meaning belonging to it in the legal or mercantile phraseology from which it was borrowed. It meant the man or woman concerned in the transaction of which mention was being made. When a reference of this sort to a part played by the person in question in a definite affair involving other parties is wholly absent, as when one speaks of ‘an old party’ or ‘a stout party,’ the expression is, except as jocular, not recognized in educated English; and it is probably due to its undignified associations, as vulgarly employed in such colloquialisms, that the use of the word for an individual person in solemn and sacred contexts, such as those in which the English divines of the seventeenth century were not afraid to avail themselves of it, has now become impossible.

If in classical Latin persona did not, on the one hand, acquire the vague colourless sense which person has among ourselves when we use it to mean no more than ‘individual human being,’ neither did it, on the other, come to be expressive of what may be supposed to distinguish the inner life of a human being from that of an animal—self-consciousness, moral purpose, æsthetic emotion, intellectual point of view. The possibility of such a use of it—the philosophical use of it, as we may call it—which we assume in such a discussion of Personality as I am undertaking in these Lectures, lay no doubt in this, that persona always implied that the being so designated had a part to play in some kind of social intercourse, such as is represented in a drama; and that of such social intercourse no mere animal but only a human being is capable. But the appropriation of the word to express the dignity of the rational human being in his consciousness of a special function and worth in relation to his fellowmen would, though assisted by the juristic associations of the term, probably not have taken root in the modern languages of Europe had persona not come to be used by the Latin-speaking theologians of the Christian Church as the equivalent of the Greek ὑπόστασις.

This word ὑπόστασις, which literally means ‘a standing under or below,’ was in classical Greek used only of that which has settled down at the bottom—dregs, that is, or sediment; or else of the position of one who lies in ambush, standing concealed under some kind of cover. But it came at a later period to signify what we may call real concrete existence as opposed to a mere appearance with nothing solid or permanent underlying it. There can be little doubt that it was among the Stoics that this usage arose; but actual examples of its use by writers of this School are lacking. The corresponding verb, however, occurs in the great Stoic moralist Chrysippus in a related sense2; and the word itself is employed in the pseudo-Aristotelian treatise de Mundo, which was most likely written in the first century of our era, and In a passage of it which probably repeats the views of the Stoic Posidonius, the master of Cicero, to express the corporeal reality which comets, for example, have, and mere effects of light, such as rainbows, have not.3 About the same time the appearance in the letters of Seneca of the Latin substantia, which must have originated as a translation of ὑπόστασις, to express real concrete existence, testifies to the acquisition by the Greek word of this signification in the preceding generation it latest; and it is interesting to note that the ecclesiastical historian Socrates has preserved for us the record of a protest made against its use in this sense as a barbarous novelty by an Alexandrian scholar who may have lived as early as the time of Augustus.4

Neither Seneca nor Quintilian, who in the next generation often uses substantia in the way to which I have referred, regards it as corresponding to the Greek οὐσία, which signifies being in the widest sense.5 But the latter employs it in connexions where οὐσία might have been used in Greek6; and it came afterwards to be the usual rendering of that word, for which both the two Roman writers just mentioned lamented the absence of a proper Latin equivalent in common use.

It is remarkable that the word essentia, which might have seemed to be the natural representative for οὐσία in Latin, although it could claim the great authority of Cicero, and although other distinguished writers, Seneca among them, attempted to introduce it in this capacity, failed to establish itself until some centuries later, and left the place in philosophical terminology which its patrons intended for it, to be filled by substantia.7 That substantia could fill this place implies a close approximation in meaning between ὑπόστασις and οὐσία, making a discrimination between them a task of some difficulty.

The first unquestionable extant example of the use of ὑπόστασις itself in a sense hardly distinguishable from that of οὑσία is in the anonymous work of an author who was probably younger than Seneca and older than Quintilian, and who belonged, not to the cultivated society of the capital, but to a people which more than any other within the Empire resolutely held itself aloof in religious isolation from the main stream of contemporary life. This work is that which we call the Epistle to the Hebrews.

At the very outset of this Epistle the Son of God is described as the χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως, the “express image of the substance” of his Father.8 Our Authorized Version of the Bible, influenced by the technicalities of the later theology, has person in this passage; but the Revised Version has replaced this word by substance. We also find the word in another work of the same age, also by a Jewish writer, the so-called Wisdom of Solomon9; the interpretation of it in this place is doubtful, but, in the judgment of the Revisers of 1894, it refers, as in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to the nature or being of God. Another Hellenistic Jew, the Alexandrian philosopher, Philo, certainly employs the cognate verb with this reference.10 We may also note that the word in the sense of subsistence or continuance—a sense which would easily pass into the sense of nature or essence—is already found in the LXX version of the Psalms,11 as well as in less closely related senses in that of the Prophets.12 There is nothing but what is natural in a term which would thus be familiar to readers of the Greek Old Testament domesticating itself in the language of the Christian Church; and it was, as has already been observed, due to its employment in Christian theology that it came to be rendered by, and so to affect the usage of, the Latin Persona.

To make this episode in the career of the word ὑπόστασις fully intelligible it will be necessary to look back for a few minutes to an earlier period in the history of Greek philosophical terminology and consider those difficulties in determining the proper use of the word οὐσία, being or reality, with which Aristotle's discussion of its ambiguities makes us acquainted.13 It is easy to see that this word might naturally enough be applied to the characteristic nature of a thing, by a description of which we should answer the question ‘What is it?’ But as, if this question were raised about several things of the same kind, we might give exactly the same answer in the case of each, the being or essence, as we may say, of a thing might seem to be something common to it with others, or, in the language of the logicians, a ‘universal.’ On the other hand, it was argued by Aristotle that nothing could be properly considered as an οὐσία, or real being, which was not something existing, so to say, upon its own account, something to which attributes might belong, but which could not belong in this way to anything else; which was, in the phrase which had come to be appropriated to such a thing, a ὑποκείμενον, a subject or substratum. Hence a mere ‘universal’ such as ‘man,’ which is no more what I am than it is what you are or what you are than what I am, could not be rightly called οὐσία, but only an individual being, this or that individual man, for example Socrates or Callias, in whom are met together the two mutually complementary conditions of full reality, namely a distinguishable nature of its own and that concrete independence which cannot be ascribed to what is only an accident or attribute of something else. But the term ὑποκείμενον, which is used to indicate this latter note of a real being, could be and was employed also as a designation of that abstraction of indeterminate, unqualified potentiality which Aristotle called ὕλη or Matter. Greek philosophy was haunted, as it were, by the thought of this Matter, lying at the root of whatever is susceptible of any kind of development; in itself without form or character of any kind, but capable of receiving any and so becoming some particular thing, qualified in some definite way. Matter, thus understood, might be called the ultimate ὑποκείμενον or substratum of everything in this lower world. Now it was, I take it, because this word ὑποκείμενον might be thus used, and so could not be restricted to the concrete individual thing, in which some form or nature, describable in general terms which are applicable to more things than one, is realized in this or that instance, this or that man, this or that horse, that there was felt in the post-Aristotelian period of Greek philosophy to be room for a word appropriated to this last signification only. Such a word was found in ὑπόστασις, a word involving practically the same metaphor as ὑποκείμενον, but without the associations of ὑποκείμενον with mere indeterminate Matter. Thus it is that ὑπὅστασις comes into use as a philosophical term, often equivalent to οὐσία, which for Aristotle is most properly used of the concrete individual of a certain kind; but of Aristotle's two notes of real being, its intelligible character and its concrete independence, emphasizing the latter, as οὐσία emphasized the former.

This difference of emphasis between the two words οὐσία and ὑπόστασις sufficiently accounts for the use made of them respectively by the Christian Church in the eventual formulation of her theology. When constrained to give systematic expression to the implications of the divine Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the use of which had been characteristic of Christianity at least from the time of its first appearance on the stage of the Græco-Roman world as a claimant to universal allegiance, she worked out a terminology in which οὐσία was appropriated to the one Divine Nature, ὑπόστασις to the distinctions within it designated by the three titles, Father, Son, and Spirit.

As is well known to students of theology, the settlement of this terminology was a long and controversial process. The discrimination of οὐσία from ὑπόστασις was not readily accepted; for, whatever difference of emphasis there may have been between the two words, they were at first, both inside and outside of the Christian Church, generally considered on the whole as synonymous. They were so both in the language of Origen, in whose writings the description of the members of the Trinity as three ὑποστάσεις first occurs, and also in that of his fellow-student at Alexandria, Plotinus. We should, indeed, expect the associations of the word to be the same for them both. The use of ὑπόστασις by Plotinus and by the Neo-Platonic philosophers generally is a subject which needs a fuller investigation than it seems yet to have received. For Plotinus, so far as I understand him—but he is a very difficult author and I make no claim to more than a superficial acquaintance with his writings—ὑπόστασις and the corresponding verb seem to signify the concrete actuality of that to which they are applied. Such a concrete actuality does Origen attribute to each member of the Christian Trinity where he speaks of them as three ὑποστάσεις14; and Plotinus to each member of his corresponding triad—the Supreme Good, Intelligence, and the World Soul; which, in the title of one of the essays by him which his disciple Porphyry collected into the fifth Ennead,15 are described as the three ἀρχικαὶ ὑποστάσεις, primary or original realities.

The word οὐσία, on the other hand, though, as we have seen, generally regarded as synonymous with ὑπόστασις—and so treated not only by Plotinus but by Origen—was obviously more readily applicable to something which was shared by several concrete actualities, but was itself not actual apart from or outside of them. Hence, as we have seen, in the final settlement of the terminology of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity the divine οὐσία was said to be one, the divine ὑποστάσεις three. This terminology was so far, however, not distinguishable from that which might be used in discriminating the one identical human nature of Peter, James, and John from the individuality in which the three men differ each from each. But, since the Christian Church had no intention of surrendering the confession that “the Lord our God is one,”16 which had been the characteristic note f the faith of the parent community of Israel, out of which she had arisen and whose Scriptures she retained as her own, it was in itself a defect in this part of her theological phraseology that it did not, as it stood, more decisively exclude the interpretation which would assimilate the unity of the Godhead to the merely specific unity in which three several men partake. Now it so happened that a deficiency in the philosophical vocabulary of the Latin-speaking as compared with that of the Greek-speaking churches proved of service in helping to remedy this defect.

We have already seen that substantia came to be regarded in philosophical Latin as the representative of the Greek οὐσία, and that, despite the high authority of no less a master of the language than Cicero, essentia, which was afterwards to be found useful in this capacity, long failed to obtain a sure footing in the language. Hence arose a difficulty in rendering into Latin the discrimination between οὐσία and ὑπόστασις necessary to the orthodox expression of the doctrine of the Trinity. For substantia, which would naturally have been used for ὑπόστασις, of which it was the direct translation, was wanted to represent οὐσία; what, then, was to stand for ὑπόστασις?

It would seem to have been to Tertullian that the currency—if not the discovery—was due of a word to serve this purpose which was ultimately to take the place of ὑπόστασις in the theological phraseology of the Western Church and to suggest a useful variant for it in that of the Eastern. This word was no other than persona,17 which, as we have seen, meant primarily a part played in some form of social intercourse, and secondarily the player of such a part. Though used in the connexion of which we are now speaking to stand for ὑπόστασις, it had already a more nearly literal representative in Greek, namely πρόσωπον; and this is not unknown to Greek theology as a synonym of ὑπόστασις when employed in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity. But there seems reason to conjecture that the introduction of this latter word into Greek theological terminology was due to the reaction of the Western usage upon the language of the East. It first appears in its theological reference in the writings of Hippolytus, who though he wrote in Greek, was himself a Western, a presbyter of the Roman Church, and to a considerable extent in theological and ecclesiastical sympathy with his African contemporary Tertullian.18 This is not the place to discuss the question of the literary relation of Tertullian to Hippolytus. If we could be certain that Hippolytus’ use of πρόσωπον was independent of Tertullian, or should even suppose—what is not likely—that it suggested Tertullian's use of persona, the evidence would still point to the Eastern Church having borrowed the use of πρόσωπον from the Western, in which Latin (already, no doubt, though Hippolytus still wrote in Greek, by his time the medium of ordinary intercourse), became with Tertullian the language of theological literature as well.

In any case persona became the principal Latin representative of the Greek ὑπόστασις in its theological sense, and we shall see that the use of its more literal rendering πρόσωπον as an alternative expression for ὑπόστασις in Greek balanced the suggestion contained in the use of ὑπόστασις of a too complete distinction of Father, Son, and Spirit within the Godhead, as complete as that of three men within the human species, by a suggestion of an exactly opposite kind. For πρόσωπον had (principally, as one may suppose, because it had not acquired the legal associations of persona) made still less progress than persona towards the modern philosophical use of person. Primarily, indeed, it meant the face, not, like persona, the actor's mask (which was properly in Greek προσωπεῖον). So far as it had come to be used at all for an individual human being it was probably rather through taking the ‘face’ to stand for the man, as we speak of counting heads, than through being used for a dramatis persona, although it is found also in this sense. This being the history of the term πρόσωπον, we are not surprised to find that even more than persona did it suggest a mere aspect or rôle. Several such aspects might be presented, several such rôles discharged by the same individual at different times. Thus πρόσωπον, used of Father, Son, and Spirit, might suggest, did one but forget that one might also say ὑπόστασις, that the distinction between them was one of as superficial, perhaps of as temporary a character as that between the different aspects the same man may wear on different occasions, or the different parts he may take in different conversations.

Thus what we may call the philosophical use of person in the modern European languages has been determined by the use in the formulation of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity of ὑπόστασις and persona as equivalent expressions; and we shall find that ambiguities derived from the very different origins of the two words thus associated together have left undeniable traces in the treatment of the word person by different thinkers in our own time. For the history of philosophical terms is very far from encouraging the writer of philosophical books in the belief that he can say with Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass that “when I use a word, it means what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”19

To Boethius at the beginning of the sixth century of our era we owe the definition of persona which became the standard definition for the writers of the Middle Ages and which is still perhaps, take it all in all, the best that we have. It occurs in his treatise—we will speak of it as his, for, though his authorship has been doubted by good scholars, the weight of the evidence is, I think, on the whole in favour of it20—against Nestorius and Eutyches, whose names were associated respectively with two opposite views of Christ's personality, reckoned by the main body of the Christian Church as alike heretical.

This celebrated definition runs as follows: Persona est naturæ rationabilis individua substantia21: the individual subsistence of a rational nature. Here what I may call the double-facedness of the term is brought out. For when we use the word person we describe that which we so designate as an individual, not as a universal which may attach to many individuals. Rational nature taken by itself as a universal is not a person. On the other hand, neither is any individual a person whose nature is not rational: and this, if we consider, means an individual which is not aware of itself as an instance of a universal. Thus an individual stone is not a person, because, though we recognize that there is a common nature which it shares with other stones, the stone itself is not aware of this; nor is an animal, such as a dog or a horse, a person; for although it may possess (for example in the form of the attraction of sex) an instinctive awareness of the presence in others of a nature common to them with itself, yet we do not suppose that it reflects upon this so as to form a general notion of this common nature. Nor do we naturally apply the term person even to a human infant which has not yet arrived at the stage of such reflection. It is only to mature human beings that within the sphere of our everyday experience we commonly apply it; for only in them do we find a full recognition of his or her self as at once distinct from other selves and as sharing along with other selves in a common nature. It is true that a corporation may be a person in law and may be treated like an individual man or woman as a subject of rights and duties. This conception of corporate personality I hope in my second course of Lectures to examine more closely. But I think we must admit that only with an apology or explanation should we in ordinary discourse speak of a corporation or a community of any kind as a person; to call it so without qualification would be felt to be unnatural and pedantic.22 It may seem strange that this should be so if, as appears to be the case, we find in the earlier stages of civilization not the individual but the community to which he belongs regarded as the primary subject of rights and duties; the crime of the individual involving the guilt of his clan or tribe, and the wrong done to the individual calling for the infliction of vengeance by any member of his tribe upon any member of the offenders. But the development of civilization has on the whole been marked by a tendency to transfer, at any rate in respect of a large part of the field of human conduct, this position as the subject of rights and duties from the community to the individual member of the community. When the remark is made, which we often hear nowadays, that Personality is a comparatively late discovery, it is due to a perception of this historical fact. For (to quote some words which I have written elsewhere)23 so long as Personality is found, not mainly in the individual, but rather in the community, so long Personality in our sense—the individual subsistence of a rational nature—is not adequately recognized. On the other hand, so long as it is only acknowledged in certain selected individuals, such as a prince who, as in Hobbes's theory, absorbs the personality of all his subjects, or a priest who is the ‘parson’ or ‘persona’ of the parish over which he presides, so long there is an inadequate recognition of the individual subsistence of a rational nature in the multitude of which these are the selected representatives; for the ordinary members of the multitude are so far regarded as mere individuals, not properly persons in their own right, but only as such in and through their representatives.

I would further call attention to the fact that the two notes in the conception of Personality which are expressed in the definition of persona given by Boethius may be said to be emphasized the one rather by that word itself, the other by what is its Greek equivalent in this sense; the rational nature rather by persona, the individual subsistence by ὑπόστασις. The word ὑπόστασις does not by itself convey any suggestion of a rational nature. There was nothing in its etymology to forbid its application even to a merely material thing. We have already seen that in one of the earliest instances of its scientific use, in the passage quoted above from the pseudo-Aristotelian de Mundo, it is even used to distinguish the solid corporeity of a comet from a mere effect of reflected light like a rainbow.24 But the later usage of the word had tended to give to it dignified associations which made it suggest a higher kind of reality than could be ascribed to a mere inanimate thing. Boethius himself—if the treatise be really his—asserts, in the context of the definition of persona which I have been quoting, that the Greeks do not use ὑπόστασις even of irrational animals but only of rational beings. This is probably not true in the unqualified form in which it is here asserted. But it must have had some ground in fact; and, if we take it to proceed from Boethius, it must be allowed very considerable weight. A man so well read in Greek literature, philosophical, scientific, and theological, as Boethius certainly was—he had translated into Latin Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, and Euclid, as well as written on the chief theological controversies of the day—would scarcely have made such a statement had it not held good in a notable majority of instances. We have already observed that not only was it the word used by the Christian theologians of the Feather, Son, and Spirit whom they worshipped as one God, but it was also employed by Plotinus to designate the three members of his Trinity—the Supreme Good, the Intelligence, and the World-Soul—a Trinity suggested by the Timæus of Plato, and despite important differences, presenting a certain correspondence with the Trinity of the Christians. The use, then, of ὑπόστασις to denote the members alike of the Neo-Platonic and of the Christian Trinity suggests that Boethius was justified in calling attention to this association of special dignity with the word as characteristic of Greek thought as a whole during the period in which it had been used as a technical term of philosophy.

But if ὑπόστασις, despite the absence of any suggestion of the kind in the etymology of the word, had come to imply the individual subsistence not of any nature, but only of a rational nature, persona was from the first obviously inappropriate to any but a rational nature. Only a rational being could be an actor in a play or a party to a suit or contract. On the other hand, as has already been pointed out, there was lacking in persona (and perhaps still more in its Greek representative πρόσωπον) any decided suggestion of a permanent, inalienable, fundamental individuality. Rather did it carry with it the associations of an occasional, temporary, voluntary activity, although no doubt also of one which distinguished him who exercised it from the mass of his fellows and made him in some particular respect an outstanding figure. An individual man is not born a player, a litigant, or an official; when he ceases to act in any of these capacities, he does not thereupon cease to be, nor while he is acting in them do they absorb the whole of his existence.

I said in my first Lecture that when Lotze ascribes to the Absolute Personality and Mr. Bosanquet Individuality; but not Personality, we have to do with something more than a merely verbal difference. But though this is true, the difference between them in this respect is a difference upon which the history of the word Person will be found to throw some light. We shall have at a later stage of our inquiry to consider the deeper significance of it; at present I desire to call attention to its verbal aspect.

Mr. Bosanquet is true to what may be said to be the Hegelian tradition, for which the legal associations of persona are what on the whole determine the use of the words Person and Persönlichkeit.25 A person, to be a person, must stand in relation to other persons, and it is where this relation is of a merely judicial or legal character that the expression is especially in place; for in the higher kinds of such relationship—in marriage or in the State—the parties to the relation tend to lose their separate personality and become factors in the inclusive personality of the family or of the State, which can then be treated as persons, just because they stand over against other families or other States with claims and counterclaims upon them, such as the several men and women who constitute them have upon one another when they are not conscious of a higher unity superseding their mutual independence.

When Personality is viewed from this angle, it is intelligible that it should seem an attribute wholly inapplicable to the Absolute, which cannot stand in an external relation to anything else. On the other hand, just because all relations must fall within it, the Absolute alone can from this point of view be called in the strictest sense an individual; beings like ourselves who are persons are for that very reason possessed only of a quasi-individuality; we are aware of ourselves as, in the phrase of Descartes,26 res incompletæ, beings whose nature cannot be fully described without bringing in the mention of beings other than ourselves, our relations to which constitute what we ourselves are. To the all-inclusive reality of the Absolute personality is inapplicable, but individuality is its prerogative; we, on the other hand, just because we are persons, can only be called individuals in a qualified sense and, as it were, by courtesy.

The way in which Lotze looks at Personality is quite different. For him,27 though each of us may only be able to think of his self as contrasted with what is not self, yet one may experience one's self “previous to and out of every such relation” and “to this is due the possibility of its subsequently becoming thinkable in that relation.” That to which Personality can properly be ascribed is an “inner core, which cannot be resolved into thoughts”28; of this “inner core” we know the meaning and significance “in the immediate experience of our mental life” and “we always misunderstand it when we seek to construe it.”

We will not at present pursue further Lotze's account of Personality, to which we must hereafter return. But what I have quoted from it is sufficient to explain why he, unlike Mr. Bosanquet, can ascribe Personality to the Absolute, and indeed in the strictest sense to nothing else. For only an Infinite Being can be supposed consciously to possess its whole nature in the manner in which we consciously possess that part of our experience which we feel to be most intimately our own. The considerations which determine Lotze in appropriating Personality to the Infinite are closely akin to those which determine Mr. Bosanquet to a like appropriation of Individuality to the Absolute. But that it is Personality which he can thus appropriate is due to the fact that with Lotze the legal associations of the word do not, as with Mr. Bosanquet, dominate his conception of its meaning, and that for him it corresponds more closely than with Mr. Bosanquet, faithful as he is to the Hegelian tradition of insistence on those legal associations, to ὑπόστασις as employed by the Greeks whose usage Boethius reports to us.

The general history of the word Person with its derivatives in philosophical terminology may be said to have moved on the whole throughout on lines determined for it by the process whose result is summed up in the Boethian definition of persona. Within these lines there has been a continual oscillation, according as the thought, emphasized by the Greek word ὑπόστασις, of independent and fundamentally unchangeable individuality, or the thought of social relationship and voluntary activity, suggested by the Latin word persona, has been uppermost. But it will be convenient, before leaving this general history of the word and the notions corresponding to it for a more particular consideration of the history of its application to God, to advert to certain aspects of Personality which, although they may be brought within the scope of the Boethian formula, were not so much emphasized in the earlier discussions which have chiefly occupied our attention hitherto as they have been in later times. I shall not attempt to discuss them exhaustively, but shall only conclude this Lecture by indicating them in a brief and summary manner.

Three such aspects of Personality may be noted. We may label them as incommunicability, self-consciousness, and will respectively. Stress was already laid upon the first of these, incommunicability, in a passage of the twelfth-century mystic Richard of St. Victor, which was often quoted by later Schoolmen; and to dwell upon this feature of Personality was congenial to the tendency which from the middle of the thirteenth century manifested itself in mediæval philosophy towards preoccupation with the problem of Individuality. It is obvious that, in emphasizing the incommunicable nature of Personality, the writers whom I have in mind were attending to that side of the conception of Personality, as defined by Boethius, which is expressed by the words individua substantia and suggests the Greek word ὑπόστασις, rather than to that expressed by the words naturæ rationabilis which remind one more of the original associations of the Latin persona. It became the custom to use in defining persona phrases which, like suppositum, or ens completum, called attention chiefly to its concrete individuality, though of course with some such epithet as intellectuale to distinguish persons from supposita (concrete individuals) of a lower rank; and this practice still persisted among the philosophical theologians of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.29

As we should expect, the new direction given to speculation by Descartes was not without its effect upon the way in which the subject of Personality was approached. It is well known that Descartes, after attempting to carry doubt as far as it would go, had found one thing which he could not doubt, namely the existence of his own thinking self; since even to doubt he must think, and to think he must exist; and that, starting from this sole ultimate bedrock of certainty, he worked back to assurance of the existence, first of God and then of the world of objects. Now in following this procedure and treating the mind of man as the one indubitable reality, he broke away from the conviction, which the philosophy of the Middle Ages had inherited from antiquity, that the existence of something real other than the mind of man was beyond question, and introduced into European thought that pyschological bias, if I may so describe it, the presence of which in so much of the speculation of the last three centuries perhaps more than anything else differentiates it from that of the preceding ages. The change of point of view due to the introduction of this bias is marked by the changes in philosophical terminology to which it has led. Thus subjective formerly meant what belonged to the existence of things as they were in themselves, independent of our perception or knowledge of them, objective what belonged to them as presented to or apprehended by consciousness. But now, since for Descartes the only thing whose existence was directly and indubitably certain was the conscious mind, this conscious mind has arrogated to itself the designation of Subject par excellence and subjective has come to mean what belongs to it, objective what is in any particular connexion contrasted with it.

There was another famous term, very similar in origin and history to Subject: I mean Substance. Subject of course originated as a rendering of ὑποκείμενον and Substantia as we have seen of ὑπόστασις, and I have already touched upon the early relationship of these two Greek terms.

Now the term Substance was for the philosophers of the age inaugurated by Descartes a fruitful source of embarrassment, just because the thought which it was apt to call up of an unperceived foundation, concealed underneath those immediate objects of our consciousness of which we are actually aware, was not easily harmonized with a philosophy which found in awareness or consciousness itself what is surest and deepest and most abiding. No wonder, then, that the notion of Personality was profoundly affected by this new set of the currents of thought, and that self-consciousness, that is consciousness of self, came to be considered the essence of Personality.

The expression ‘self-consciousness’ probably originated in England, where we find it used by Locke30 and other writers of his time and playing a considerable part in the Trinitarian controversy which agitated the learned of that country at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century. But it afterwards seems almost to have disappeared from the English language. As a philosophical term it was brought back into it in the nineteenth century by British thinkers who wrote under the influence of German idealism, as a translation of the German Selbst-bewusstsein, which itself may not improbably have been at first a rendering of the old English term.

Although Self-consciousness had no doubt been always implied in the definitions which spoke of a “naturæ rationabilis individua substantia” or of a “suppositum intellectuale,” yet the changed attitude towards the old problems led to emphasis on what in those definitions was adjectival, almost or quite to the exclusion of what in them was substantive. When Christian Wolff, the Schoolman of the Enlightenment, defines Person as Ein Ding das Sich bewusst ist,31 a thing that is conscious of itself, the words might stand as a translation of Ockham's suppositum intellectuale; yet the balance of the phrases is characteristically different. In Wolff's definition as compared with Ockham's the substantive is the vaguest, most colourless word which could be found, instead of one implying a whole metaphysical theory; while the adjectival clause describes in terms which at any rate seem unambiguous the activity which in the older formula is merely designated by a conventional epithet that might well be thought to stand itself in need of explanation.

Since the philosophical revolution which we associate with the name of Descartes, one other remains to be mentioned as having affected in an important degree our way of regarding Personality. The name which we connect with this revolution is that of Kant. Although Descartes had broken away from the tradition of ancient and mediæval thought in treating our own mental activity as the one unquestionable fact of experience, he had remained faithful to what had been the main (though not the sole) tradition of the earlier schools in recognizing the primacy of cognition among the forms of that activity. It was Kant32 whose proclamation of the primacy of the practical over the theoretical reason gave the chief impulse to the tendency, apparent in much recent speculation, to find in will rather than in cognition the most fundamental characteristic of the experienced mental activity, wherein rather than in anything underlying experience, called ‘substantial soul’ or the like, the modern world had come to seek the essence of Personality. It will not, however, escape the notice of the practised student of the history of thought that an emphasis on will rather than on cognition may easily lead to the search for the true sources of mental activity below (to use a now familiar metaphor) ‘the threshold of consciousness,’ and thereby to a reinstatement of something strangely like the mysterious underlying substance or suppositum of the older Schools, which the philosophy of experience believed itself to have exorcised.

I have in the last few paragraphs of this Lecture very briefly and summarily indicated movements of thought the accurate description of which would require a much more extended treatment. But perhaps what I have said will be sufficient to form a background to our later investigations. And for the present I pass from the general history of the notion of Personality to the history of its application to God. This history will form the topic of my third Lecture.

  • 1.

    E.g. Suet. Ner. § 1; Juv. Sat. iv. 15.

  • 2.

    Plutarch, Moralia, 1081 F: Χρύσιπποςτὸ μεν παρῳχημενον τοῦ χρόνου και τὸ μέλλον οὐχ ὑπάρχειν ἀλλ̓ ὑϕεστηκέναι ϕησί. It is noticeable, in view of the later history of the word ὑπόστασις, that is not the actual present for which ὑϕεστηκέναι is here reserved.

  • 3.

    4.395, a 30. See Zeller, Phil. der Griechen, 3rd ed. III. i p. 644 f.

  • 4.

    See Socr. Hist. Ecc. iii. 7. The scholar in question was the grammarian Irenæus, otherwise called Minucius Pacatus. His date, however, is not certain, and he has by some been placed as late as the reign of Hadrian.

  • 5.

    See Seneca, Ep. 58 § 6. Quintilian, Inst. Or. iii. 6 § 23.

  • 6.

    See Inst. Or. ii. 15 § 34, iii. 6 § 39, ix. 1 § 8. We know from Pseudo-Augustine Princ. Rhet. c. 5 that de substantia in the last of these passages, as the description of a subject of legal investigation, corresponds to περὶ τῆς οὐσίας in the terminology of the rhetorician Theodorus of Gadara, who flourished in the reign of Augustus.

  • 7.

    See Seneca, Ep. 58 § 6; Quintilian, Inst. Or. iii. 6 § 23, viii. 3 § 33; Sidonius Apollinaris prœf. ad. carm. 14; Quintilian (ii. 14 § 2, iii. 6 § 23) says that Plautus used essentia, but, if he did so, it is not likely to have been in a philosophical context. Augustine (de Moribus Manichæis ii. 2 § 2, de Trin. v. § 9) still speaks, in the fifth century, of essentia as an unfamiliar word, and describes substantia the recognized Latin rendering of οὐσία.

  • 8.

    Heb. i. 3.

  • 9.

    XVI. 21.

  • 10.

    Quod deterius potiori insidiari soleat, § 160 (ed. Cohn i. p. 294).

  • 11.

    Psa. xxxviii. (xxxix.) 6; lxxxviii. (lxxxix.) 48.

  • 12.

    Jer. x. 17 (τὴν ὑ. σοῦ=thy substance, i.e. thy property); Ezek, xxvi. 11 (τῆν ύ. τῆς ἴσχυος σοῦ = the support of thy strength).

  • 13.

    Metaph. Z. 1–3, cp. Δ 8.

  • 14.

    In Joan. ii. 6.

  • 15.

    Enn. v. 1.

  • 16.

    Deut. vi. 4; cp. Mark xii. 29.

  • 17.

    See Tert. adv. Praxean, cc. 11, 12 (Migne, Pair. Lat. II, 167, C, D).

  • 18.

    Hippolytus contra Noetum § 14 (ed. Lagarde, p. 52); Ref. Haer. x.12 (ed. Duncker, p. 458).

  • 19.

    c. 6.

  • 20.

    In my Studies in the History of Natural Theology, p. 143, I expressed a different opinion; but I now doubt whether the Council of Chalcedon is the assembly referred to in the preface; and, if it is not, the chief argument against the authenticity of the treatise disappears. On the other hand, I cannot but think it possible that in the Anecdoton Holderi, to which Usener appeals as deciding the question by the unexceptionable authority of Cassiodorus, the copyist of the extract from the latter's letter may, as Nitzsch supposes, have interpolated the names of works already ascribed in his time to Boethius. Still, as it stands, the external evidence is in favour of Boethius's authorship, while I do not feel so strongly as Nitzsch the difficulty of supposing the writer of the Consolatio Philosophiæ to have composed a Christological treatise which, while abounding in learning and in the appreciation of intellectual subtleties, gives no sign of a deep personal religious interest in the doctrines expounded.

  • 21.

    Contra Eutychen et Nestorium, c. 3. I take this opportunity of correcting the statement of the definition in my Studies, p. 143, where, through an oversight, the origin of which I cannot now explain, the false reading subsistentia was printed instead of the certainly correct substantia.

  • 22.

    Cf. my Studies in the History of Natural Theology, p. 143.

  • 23.

    Studies in the History of Natural Theology, p. 144.

  • 24.

    De Mundo 4, 395, a. 30. See above, p. 37.

  • 25.

    Hegel's use of ‘person’ is perhaps not quite consistent. Thus he sometimes says that all living beings are subjects but that only some are persons (Phil. d. Rechts § 35, Werke, viii. p. 71), sometimes that the person becomes a subject when passing from legality to morality (ibid. § 105, p. 144).

  • 26.

    Medit. iii. sub fin.

  • 27.

    See Microcosmus, ix. 4 § 4, Eng. tr. ii. p. 680.

  • 28.

    Ibid. p. 682.

  • 29.
    See Richard of St. Victor, de Trin. iv. 6, 8, 21, 22, 23, 24 (Migne, Patr. Lat. cxcvi. 934 seqq.); Durandus a Sancto Porciano in Sent. iii. 11, 2 § 10, ii. 3. 2 § 5; Duns Scotus in Sent. (Op. Oxon.) I dist. 23, qu. 1. 4; Ockham in Sent. i. dist. 23, qu. 1. Richard of St. Victor held that the Boethian definition as it stood was insufficient to distinguish the divine persons from the ‘undivided substance’ of the Trinity.

    See also Melanchthon, Loc. Theol. de tribus Personis Divinitatis; Turretinus, Inst. Theol. (1679) loc. III. qu. 23 §§ 4, 8; Bellarmine, de Christo, ii. 4; Sherlock, Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, p. 69.

  • 30.

    Essay ii. 27 § 16 (cp. ibid. §§ 23, 26); Sherlock, Vindication, p. 49; South, Animadversions upon Dr Sherlock, London, 1693, pp. 70 foll.

  • 31.

    Vernünftige Gedancken von Gott, der Welt, und der Seele (Halle, 1751) § 924, p. 570, God (ibid. § 979, p. 603) sich seiner bewusst ist; but the word Person is not applied to him.

  • 32.

    But Leibnitz already defines persona thus: “Persona est cuius aliqua voluntas est, seu cuius datur cogitatio, affectus, voluptas, dolor.” This definition (which I have not been able to find) is quoted by Wallace, Essays on Moral Philosophy VI (Lectures and Essays, p, 273), without a reference to the work from which it is taken.

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