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What makes us human?

Written By: Krista Keil

Concepts are taken from the “Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Human Person,” by Paul Vitz, William Nordling, and Craig Steven Titus.

This Summer, YLF students are learning to answer the question, “Who Am I?” in their daily character classes. Regardless of age, this question prompts an individual to ground themselves in their identity. How exactly do you go about teaching someone how to answer this question? At YLF, we do so by teaching our students about the design of the human person, acknowledging our shared human capacities, and seeking to strengthen each person’s understanding of their God-given identity.

By acknowledging the unique design of the human person, one can come to understand that humanity is the capstone of God’s creation. In light of this, each of us is called to fulfill our human potential by harnessing and maximizing our human capacities. This process begins with acquiring self-knowledge. What is it that we should know about human nature that ultimately leads us towards personal growth and development, and ultimately, flourishing?

Our Summer curriculum encompasses eight core concepts of the human person that help students to think critically about themselves and the world around them from a Judeo-Christian perspective. The concepts are as follows:

The Human person is….

  1. A personal unity.

    1. Created in the image and likeness of God.

    2. Simultaneously a body-soul unity. The body-soul unity constitutes the gift of life that is always dependent upon God.

    3. Created with inherent dignity; we have intrinsic value and inestimable worth.

  2. Fulfilled through vocation.

    1. Every person is called to pursue goodness and holiness and has a different calling in life through work, service, and leisure.

    2. Meant to ask ourselves the questions: “what is my greater purpose?” “What is my role in society?”

  3. Fulfilled in virtue.

    1. Inclined towards flourishing and God. Every person from the first moment of existence has a capacity to grow toward physical well-being, moral goodness, and ultimate flourishing.

    2. Called to pursue habits of excellence (virtue) and recognize their vices. Virtue helps to prevent and overcome inadequacies in moral judgment or character deficiencies. We must learn to control our passions.

    3. Oriented towards that which is good.

  4. Interpersonally Relational

    1. Humans are naturally social beings. We are intrinsically receptive and oriented towards other persons.

    2. Humans have needs for family, friendships, life in society, and other interpersonal relationships.

  5. Sensory-Perceptive

    1. Receives and seeks basic knowledge of other people, the world, and oneself through instincts, primary senses, and rational thought.

    2. Knowledge springs from the wonder that is awakened by the experience of the five primary senses.

  6. Emotional

    1. Emotions are a reflection of our body-soul unity. They act as a bridge between body and soul.

    2. Emotions are significant for self-understanding, relationships, moral action, and spiritual life.

    3. Emotions are morally neutral, can lead to flourishing or languishing.

  7. Rational

    1. Created with intelligence to seek truth and freedom

    2. Created with different types of knowledge.

    3. Capable of knowing themselves, others, and God; the beauty of creation, and good and evil.

    4. We are rational beings:

  8. Volitional and Free

    1. We possess free will; we are responsible for our choices and moral action.

    2. Intellect and free will form our conscience

    3. Capable of different types of love (affection, friendship, romance, and charity).

    4. Creative in nature; we can bring things into existence that once were not.

    5. Freedom for excellence is rooted in truth: to choose good and avoid evil and love God and neighbor.

    6. All of this ultimately points towards right relationship with God: we are created by love for love.

While we simplify these points to convey them to our students, they are relevant to every person and can be used as a tool to push oneself towards personal growth, and orient the identity of the human person. As the Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza famously noted, “The highest activity a human being can attain is learning to understand because to understand is to be free.”


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