"The Nature of the Human Person"

Project Leader:

Jean Bethke Elshtain
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics
The University of Chicago

Team Members

Beginning with the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato , and continuing with the early social contract theorists including Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, and proceeding into what is properly modernity, Marx and Mill, no political theorist or philosopher believed that he could simply bracket the human person from political thinking and theorizing. This has changed with the emergence of so-called "value-free" political science, in which political scientists purport not to detain themselves with "value-laden" and unverifiable theories of human nature. Rather, they would study political behavior empirically. At present, so-called "rational choice" theory reigns (nearly) supreme in political science.

Yet, a small but growing number of thinkers are criticizing this approach. Whether explicitly or implicitly, "the human person" is out in the open once again. The Political Science team will explore the ways in which the nature of the human person now figures and ought to figure in the study of political theory and philosophy. The team will not go over much of the same old ground as to value-free social science and the like, but will assume these debates as backdrop and move from there. Team members will work in groups of 2-3 persons to address aspects of "the human person" and the implications of fleshing out a rich, complex notion of persons and what this would do to, and for, inquiry in political science. As part of the project the team will organize a conference on "Political Theology: Should It Be Revived?" for the next meeting of the American Political Science Association.



Christians in Political Science
Friday, 10:45 AM to 12:30 PM

Co-sponsored by Society of Catholic Social Scientists, Panel 1

Chair: Kenneth L. Grasso, Southwest Texas State University

Papers: Autonomy and Authority Preserved: The State, Civil Society, and the Individual in Catholic Social Thought
Jeanne Heffernan, Pepperdine University

State and Civil Society in Christian Democracy: The Neo-Calvinist Perspective
Jonathan Chaplin, Institute for Christian Studies

The Complicated Relationship Between Religion and Civil Society in Tocqueville's America
Christopher Beem, The Johnson Foundation

Disc: Alan Wolfe, Boston College
Kenneth L. Grasso, Southwest Texas State University

For further APSP annual meeting information go to: