Useful for 'No One': A Theological Response to 'No Self' Views of Human Personality Open Access

Yarbrough, Brandon Wayne (2012)

Permanent URL:


Useful for 'No One':
A Theological Response to 'No Self' Views of Human Personality
Most theological anthropologies formed within Christian traditions
simply take for granted that human persons are animated by singular,
centralized "selves." This is unfortunate (1) because many contemporary
philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists have crafted compelling cases for
adopting 'no self' theories of human subjectivity and (2) because essentialist
commitments to "selves" and their "self-interests" - both prominent conceptual
components within most contemporary Christian theologies - tempt persons to
abandon aspirations toward saintliness and to neglect important duties of
charity. In this paper, I argue that Christian theologians as theologians stand to
benefit from respecting the phenomena-referencing conceptual expertise of
cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind and from risking the use of 'no self'
concepts for understanding human personality. Furthermore, I argue that by
changing our understanding of "who we are" in this way, we effectively alter
what passes for a valid and credible analogical representation of God-in-relation-
to-our-world. If 'no self' animates human persons, then Christian theologians
have reason to prefer (a) analogical representations of God's love for humanity
that represent God's love as some set of divine processes whereby certain
essential potentials among human lives are nurtured to (b) analogical
representations of God's love that present God's love as some divine self's career
of gifting human lives with futures of autonomy. If 'no self' animates human
persons, love-realization cannot be viewed as a vehicle for self-realization. The
person who becomes 'no one' is primed for acknowledging that love-realization
is the unrivaled goal of Christian living.

Table of Contents

No Table of Contents Provided.

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files