Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Meaning of Personality

This is from a book called The Humane Psychology of Education by Jaime Castiello, SJ -- I've observed before that his thinking seems to overlap somewhat with Charlotte Mason's, and this is another example:

"From a psychological standpoint, personality is man's 'self-possession'. The Roman state denied all personality to a slave because a slave was not his own master: he did not possess himself. Man's self-possession is ultimately based on his rational nature, on the fact that 'every-man' knows himself, can control himself and is a responsible being. Consequently Christianity has always defended the liberty of the human personality against all tyrannies: the tyrannies of instinct and emotion, no less than the tyranny of a totalitarian state. Personality, in this sense, is simply another word for freedom, which is the first quality of a rational nature. Further it implies firmness, richness and unity of character."
This reminds me a bit of Pope John Paul's "freedom for excellence."

With Jesus as a guide, the Christian ponders anew the promise of Christ: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32).

Contemporary dogma tells us that freedom and law are always and necessarily opposed. It tells us that to be free is to be unencumbered by discipline, rule, or order; that to be under a law is to be unfree and constrained. This is a false conceptualization of the relationship of true freedom and just law. It places freedom apart from the moral truth in just law. It turns the promise of Jesus on its head: "You will ignore the truth, and ignorance will make you free."

But there are, in fact, two distinct senses of freedom. Freedom of indifference provides the ability to do anything one likes, to feel a lack of constraint. Freedom for excellence, on the other hand, is the freedom to do good. It can develop and grow over time.

A few non-moral examples will clarify. Everyone has freedom of indifference when playing the piano. Even if you’ve never had a single lesson, you can sit down and hit any key you wish. But only the trained musician has freedom for excellence, the freedom to play beautiful, sophisticated music. Similarly, everyone has freedom of indifference to throw a basketball toward a hoop, but only an experienced player has freedom for excellence, freedom to shoot and score consistently. Freedom of indifference is a lack of constraint. Freedom for excellence is the ability to achieve the aim, goal, and purpose of human life: true happiness. (For more on this distinction, see The Sources of Christian Ethics by Servais Pinckaers, O.P.)
In the next chapter of Philosophy of Education, Charlotte Mason discusses the methods that are suited to development of this kind of freedom.

1 comment:

Marie said...

Yet another "slam dunk" post, Willa! I love this.