Black White and Gray: More than Individuals: How Personalism Influences Social Theory and Research
... [Christian] Smith writes that persons are not individuals, if the term individual is used to mean “discrete, self-contained, autonomous, self-existent selves,” (Smith, p. 67). Furthermore, persons are not “self-contained selves who subsequently engage and exchange with other selves in order to secure some outcome or consume some benefit” (Smith, p. 67). Further, he adds that “Persons, instead, are originally, constitutively and inescapably social, interactive, and communicative in origin and being” (Smith, p. 67). ...
... According to philosopher Karol Wojytla, it is precisely when acting with others that individuals become persons. In other words, the social and communal nature of action is rooted in the nature of the person: the person is social. Actions that lead to fulfillment or flourishing are social actions, in which one’s subjectivity becomes tied to another person or a group of persons. The actions of human persons are not individualistic but inter-subjective.
Although persons can and do act as rational actors, such as by exchanging things with others to maximize their utility, this reductionistic view of the person and of agency should not be our model of the person. Such a reductionistic view overlooks moral commitments, constitutive-ends practices, and strong relationality. In my ongoing work on virtue ethics and sociology, I hope to move away from the enlightenment view of person that focuses on cognition and rationality and study persons as interacting bodies and inter-subjective actors.