Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

The Nature of Woman in Relation to Man: Genesis 1 and 2 through the Lens of the Metaphysical Anthropology of Aquinas

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

The Nature of Woman in Relation to Man: Genesis 1 and 2 through the Lens of the Metaphysical Anthropology of Aquinas

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Since its initial publication as The Original Unity of Man and Woman in 1981, Pope Saint John Paul II's widely studied work, A Theology of the Body, has generated interest, debate, and scholarship. (1) Much has been written already on this investigation into the sacramental meaning of the human body and its implications for our understanding of human personhood and the ontological and physical complementarity that characterizes men and women; his starting place in Genesis and his interpretation of these passages is well documented. What has gone mostly unnoticed by scholars of his thought in this area is the significance of John Paul's claim that the two creation accounts each reveal a different aspect of the nature of man, known and knowable in both its objective and subjective aspects. In the opening pages of the text, the Holy Father points to the two distinct creation accounts found in Genesis i and 2 as the place in scripture where we can derive the meaning of man, first as an objective reality created in the image of God and, secondly, as a concretely existing subject. It is this claim that is the focus of this investigation.

In the second general audience, the late Holy Father states that the "powerful metaphysical content" hidden in Genesis i has provided "an incontrovertible point of reference and a solid basis" for metaphysics, anthropology, and ethics and has been a source of reflection throughout the ages for those "who have sought to understand 'being' and 'existing.'" (2) But in Genesis 2, he goes on to say, the depth to be uncovered in this second (though historically earlier) creation account has a different character; it "is above all subjective in nature and thus in some way psychological." Here we find man in the concrete, as a subject of self-understanding and consciousness; here the account of the creation of man refers to him "especially in the aspect of his subjectivity." (3)

As is well known to those familiar with his body of work, these two categories are foundational to his thought: being and existence; and personal subjectivity. Throughout his writings, he frequently contrasts the philosophy of being and the philosophy of consciousness and attempts to reconcile and synthesize their claims. His own anthropology is an attempt at a creative completion of the Aristotelian-Thomistic account of man, which, he argues, although it provides the necessary "metaphysical terrain" in the dimension of being and paves the way for the realization of personal human subjectivity, leaves out an adequate investigation of lived human experience and thus lacks an essential component of what it means to be an actual living person. (4) The thrust of his effort is to capture the meaning of human personhood in light of both the objective nature of the person and his lived experience as the subject of his own acts. (5)

Setting aside for the moment the question of whether or not this is an accurate criticism of Aristotelian-Thomistic anthropology, my argument in this article is that, although the beginnings of a comprehensive theory regarding the nature and complementarity of man and woman can be found in his treatise, John Paul himself does not fully or adequately exploit his own claim regarding the meaning to be found in the creation accounts in Genesis on the nature of man. (6) I will show that only in looking at these texts through the lens provided by a fuller exposition of the metaphysical anthropology of Aquinas do we uncover their profound, hidden meaning. Thus, my thesis is not precisely a departure from that of the Holy Father, but is meant to represent a legitimate development of his project. I intend to show that, when considered through the anthropology of Aquinas, the two creation accounts illuminate the full truth about man, not only in the sense of man qua man, but also in terms of his personal subjectivity and the differentiation and complementarity of the sexes. …

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