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Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy




Person, Personality

Person, Personality. The word person has an interesting history. Originally it signified a mask, and was given to that worn by actors, appropriate to the character which they represented, answering to the Greek πρόσωπον, a face, which was applied in the same way. From this it passed to the character sustained, as in the phrase dramatis personœ


Hence a man was said to sustain such and such a person according to the part which he had to play in such and such circumstances. A further development of meaning took place in Roman law, wherein it was applied to the parties in a lawsuit, and in criminal cases to the agent as compared with the act. All this would of itself, I think, tend to bring it to its ultimate and prevailing sense, that of a single intelligent subsistence, even had it not come to that very early, as may, I think, be easily shown.

There are passages in Polybius, in the New Testament, and in the Apostolical Fathers, to say nothing of Cicero, where it can hardly be understood in any other. Hence the parson—the persona exemplaris of his parish. It also had at times the meaning of a distinguished or dignified character. This last, however, is but collateral and accidental to its main history, which undoubtedly brought it to the meaning already stated, and which it habitually bears with us. In this its ultimate force it has thus been denned: "An intelligent agent, having the distinctive character of I, Thou, He; and not divided nor distinguished into intelligent agents capable of the same characters."(1)

The theological must also have had a considerable bearing on the general history of the word. The Latin formula for the Trinity was and is "three Persons and one God," and the discussions both of the truth, itself against its gainsayers, and of the terms by which it was to be expressed, which were the sources of misunderstanding between East and West most naturally led to inquiries into what is meant by the words person and personality.

As applied to us they involve, no doubt, the notion of separate substance in each individual. But though this be so in our case, we must regard the fact as but an accident of created being. In God the accidents which make distinct personality-involve division of substance do not exist, but the distinction of personality is none the less, real. Nay, we cannot doubt that the distinction is clearer and the personalities fuller than with us. To discuss this, however, would be beyond the limits of the present occasion.

Personality is a most important element of morals. To distinguish between persons and things is a primary condition of all ethical inquiry. And so too, the distinction lies at the basis of good law. Hence the wrong of slavery, and the evil of arbitrary power.


(1) WATERLAND, "Second Defence of Some Queries," Works, vol. III p. 339.



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