Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ancient Personhood

“...the ancient notion of personhood was primarily relational—that one defined oneself through the functions and roles one was given in relation to others rather than by asserting one’s individuality.

“Furthermore, people in the ancient world did not distinguish the person from the body. Contrary to the Platonic and Cartesian tradition, which contrasts the body as anatomical, material, spatial, temporal, and fallible, and the mind as mental, spiritual, eternal, universal, and infallible—a distinction made also by modern cognitivists and evolutionary psychologists—this sort of dualistic view is not expressed in the Sumerian and Babylonian sources. The person was, rather, conceived as a multifaceted assemblage of parts: the organic body, name, roles, and image, even his or her seal, which in specific contexts could operate as an independent center for activities that were normally performed by the individual him/herself. The body was considered a component of rationality and understanding.”—Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism, page 139

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