The attentive reader will have noticed that body-self dualism is intimately related to expressive individualism, another key anthropological fallacy of our age. If the body is a mere costume or vehicle—an instrument of the desiring self—then that self should use the body to express its inner truth. Of course the person of the Psalms, of St. Paul’s epistles, and of St. Augustine’s Confessions was also a “self” in the sense of having an interior life. But the inward turn of the biblical tradition was at the service of the outward turn toward God. The person was a creature of God, who sought to conform himself to the truth, to objective moral standards, particularly having to do with his bodily self, in pursuit of eternal life.
Modern man, however, seeks to be “true to himself.” Rather than conform thoughts, feelings, and actions to objective reality (including the body), man’s inner life itself becomes the source of truth. The modern self finds himself in the midst of what Robert Bellah has described as a culture of “expressive individualism”—where each of us seeks to give expression to our individual inner lives, rather than seeing ourselves as embodied beings, embedded in communities and bound by natural and supernatural laws. Authenticity to inner feelings, rather than adherence to transcendent truths, becomes the norm.
Rather than seeing ourselves as what Gilbert Ryle referred to as ghosts in machines, where the real self is the mind, or the will, or the consciousness, that somehow inhabits a body and makes use of the body as a mere instrument, we should see ourselves as incarnate, bodily beings—dependent rational animals, as Alasdair MacIntyre explains. Only if my body is me, if I’m an embodied soul, or an ensouled body, a dynamic unity of mind and matter, body and soul, can we make sense of the truthful positions on these four issues. Given our bodily nature—which itself is a personal nature—certain ends are naturally good for us. Body-self dualism, and its social manifestation in expressive individualism, underlie the rejection of our given human natures with given human goods that perfect our natures.
So any effective apologetics agenda on anthropology would need to center on responding to body-self dualism and the rejection of natural law that expressive individualism entails.
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