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Magis CenterSeptember 9, 20232 min read

The Secular Versus Catholic View of the Human Person

In the linked video, University of Notre Dame's Professor Carter Snead explains the secular versus Catholic view of the human person. Professor Snead answers questions such as "What is a person? and "What is the fundamental disagreement between the Catholic and secular view in social ethics?" He finds that the fundamental disagreement lies in defining what a person is, what human flourishing is, what the nature of human identity is, and whether there is human nature at all. 

Modern View of the Human Person 

The modern view of the human person emerged with the Enlightenment and claims that two things make you a human person: will and desire. We desire things, and we make plans to complete them. 

Modern views of the human person prioritize individual expression as the highest good we can achieve. In essence, the modern view believes meaning starts and ends with the human person. We ought to be radically individualistic and pursue our desires without the chains of religion, tradition, government, and societal norms.  

Dangers of the Modern View of the Human Person

Professor Snead believes that the modern view of the human person creates a culture where people view humans only for their utility. Human relationships are represented as wills that come together in collaboration towards a goal, but mostly see each other as adversaries against their individualistic goals. He believes this worldview is a dark one that doesn’t recognize the meaning flourishing human relationships bring to our lives. 

When the modern view of the human person manifests in culture, it creates policies like abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, unregulated destructive research in embryos, and human cloning. Professor Snead believes the modern view creates pathologies, or cultural sicknesses, due to this flattened view of the human person. 

The Catholic View of the Human Person 

The Catholic Church has a fundamentally different view of the human person. Rather than human valuing consisting of a powerful will or material success, the Catholic Church believes a human person has value in being made in the image and likeness of God. Since we are made in this image, we have obligations to each other and God. Professor Snead says we are not isolated wills who create meaning in the world but come into the world vulnerable and with obligations towards our family and our creator. 

Professor Snead claims the Catholic view of the human person has a richer anthropological significance when compared to the modern view. He believes the Catholic view recognizes that nature is not simply a tool but rather something that has order and meaning, which we can participate in, developing a richer set of human commitments.

Interview with Carter Snead on the View of the Human Person

Watch the intriguing video below!



Magis Center

The mission of the Magis Center is to create content that helps people find higher purpose in life, an awareness of their transcendent dignity, a sense of the transcendent providential power who guides them, and a determination to live ethically responsible lives. To that end, the Magis Center produces and distributes media that provides contemporary commentary on timeless topics.