Toward a Postmodern Recovery of “Person”

Aristotle and Aquinas considered relation to have a reality in the world of being independent of awareness. Poinsot took the step of identifying relation as the only positive mode of being which retains its essential character as suprasubjective both when circumstances render it existing in the awareness-independent dimension of being (ens reale) and when circumstances reduce the relation to an awareness-dependent status (ens rationis). Poinsot further demonstrated that this singularity of relation being is what makes the action of signs possible in the world of nature. Cardinal Ratzinger in our own time pointed out that the being of person, as a matter of personal identity, depends upon this being of relation. The human person is not simply a “supposit of a rational nature” but much further an identity developed in time through relationships. Ratzinger’s work combines with the semiotic understanding of Poinsot to point us toward a postmodern understanding which at once re-trieves (in Heidegger’s sense) the medieval understanding of the “type of substance” required for human personhood and at the same time shows how the identity of persons is more than that, requiring the suprasubjective or public dimension which relation adds within the psyche as an actual “personal identity” develops over time