On selfhood

posted by Kaihsu Tai on October 4th, 2006

A few years ago, I thought that if I ever write a book in philosophy, it would have the title The Enigma of Being Self. Now I see less and less need for me to write this book.

A couple of years ago, I was giving a talk on Herman Dooyeweerd‘s philosophy of the cosmonomic idea to the John Ray Initiative. I tried to relate it to green thought, and concluded with the thesis that the Christian understanding is not to abolish the self as a drop of water in the bucket (as some understand Buddhist or Hindu idea; I think there is a controversial hymn about this), but interconnectedness without forfeiting responsibility (“very green!”, I said). (I hope to publish this as a review in a future issue of the International Journal of Green Economics.) I recall that a fellow scholar in the audience challeneged me with the verse: “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39; also see Matthew 16:25) And I was unable to respond.

Bonhoeffer’s solution, in his book Discipleship, is from Saint Paul: the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

The hand can never take the place of the eye, or the eye the place of the ear. Each preserves its separate identity and function. On the other hand, they all preserve that identity and function only as members of one body, as a fellowship united in service. It is the unity of the whole Church which makes each member whata he is and the fellowship what it is, just as it is Christ and his Body which makes the Church what it is.

Looking at the former verse cited above, I now see the phrase “for my sake”, which should be emphasized. So I still stand by my thesis two years ago (still very green!), but now deepened with the insight from Saint Dietrich.

Deo gloria.

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