Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Phenomenology of the Human Person

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Phenomenology of the Human Person

Article excerpt

PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE HUMAN PERSON by Robert Sokolowski Cambridge University Press, 360 pages, $26.99 paper

Robert Sokolowski is held in utmost respect among philosophers working in phenomenology. He is also recognized as an accomplished contributor to philosophical theology in a broad sense. This book, as one would expect is of the highest quality, full of measured thought and surprising insights and connections. It tries to go as directly as possible to the matter itself, not primarily through other philosophers but by firsthand philosophical engagement with the human person, as revealed through language, and with special attention to syntactic structure. It is not that the strong influence of other philosophers is not evident, especially that of Aristotle and Husserl. But Sokolowski tries to be a phenomenological philosopher rather than just to comment on phenomenology as a philosophy; he wants to do phenomenology rather than make it an object of academic research. The result is a rich and engaging book.

Sokolowski's primary attention is on the fact that the human person is a being of language. The many dimensions of personhood are shown to emerge by a consideration of the syntactic structure of language. He is especially concerned with the first person declarative form. A person announces himself or herself when he or she speaks. There is much at work in this annunciation that is not confined to the singular self. We speak ourselves, but very importantly, it is in conversation with others that this all makes sense. …

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