Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More than Words: A Simple Exercise [Megan]

Reading a Frank Beckwith article ("The Explanatory Power of the Substance View of Persons" Christian Bioethics 10.1 (2004):  33-54. ), I came across a following helpful, clear, four-part definition that Beckwith cited:

"W. Norris Clarke offers a four-part definition of what constitutes a human substance: 

(1) it has the aptitude to exist in itself and not as a part of any other being; (2) it is the unifying center of all the various attributes and properties that belong to it at any one moment; (3) if the being persists as the same indivi- dual throughout a process of change, it is the substance which is the abiding, unifying center of the being across time; (4) it has an intrinsic dynamic orientation toward self-expressive action, toward self-communication with others, as the crown of its perfection, as its very raison d’être . . . (1991, p. 105)"

In your free time today, perhaps during a commute or while you're eating lunch or enjoying a cup of coffee (also known at my house as "a cup of deliverance"), try a simple thinking exercise. Read the definition in full. Then, think of either yourself or someone close to you (it is easy for me to think of one of my children). Read each part of the definition, and reword it so as to describe the person on your mind.

For example:  I read, "It has the aptitude to exist in itself and not as a part of any other being." Then I thought of my 6-year-old daughter, Neely, and said to myself, "Neely exists in and of herself. She is not a part of me or anybody or anything else." I did the same for each part of the definition.

Next time you're in a public place, look around and find a stranger, and recall your rewording of the definition. Apply it to someone else.

Doing this, though it may seem simplistic and elementary, will help you formulate ways to communicate these truths in the future. It will also transform your thinking about the matter from academic wording that's "out there," to someone near and dear, and to each and every person around you. Including the unborn ones.

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