The person, according to Clarke -- and we couldn't agree more --
is not some special mode of being, added on from the outside, so to speak. It is really nothing but the fullness of being itself, existence come into its own....
It is being unrestricted by by material limitation, or "to be fully."
Now, most every philosophical concept solves some problems while leaving others unsolved (or sometimes unsolving them). This idea of person-as-ultimate-category surely solves many problems, not the least of which being the mystery of ourselves, which is really the first and most important of all. But what does it do to previously solved problems? Does it unsolve them?
No, it just puts the vertical hierarchy of being bright-side up, but otherwise leaves everything unchanged. Physics is still physics and biology is still biology, except now we are in position to understand why there is no material explanation of how we get from the former (matter) to the latter (life), let alone from life to mind and person.
It reminds me of E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, wherein he says something to the effect that Life is not Matter plus X, so to speak, but rather, Matter is Life minus X. Analogous to what our progressive racists say about race, it's not enough to merely not be reductionist; rather, one must be actively anti-reductionist!
Being that we are the beneficiaries of Christian civilization, we take the category of person for granted. Clarke goes into the history of the concept, showing that it emerged partly out of the efforts of early Christian thinkers to define Christ's personhood. Later, Boethius put forth the classic definition of an individual substance of a rational nature.
"Rational animal" signifies man's place as the highest of the animals, starting from this material world of our experience as its frame of reference and moving upwards.
But if this were all we are, we would not -- and could not -- be human, because it overlooks our intersubjectively relational nature. Thus, a more adequate description of the human person is embodied spirit, which
signifies man's place in a total vision of the hierarchy of being, looking downwards from God as Infinite Spirit, through the various levels of finite pure spirits (angels), then down through man as embodied spirit, all the way to the lowest levels of purely material being (ibid.).
This vision of the Great Chain of Being is an old one, but it is extended and perfected by, on the one hand, the revelation of a trinitarian meta-theology, and on the other, an understanding of the irreducibly intersubjective dimension of human development. In short, human persons are not monads, because God himself isn't: Let Us make make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.
Okay. Now what? What do we do about it?
Here again, I would look at what human persons inevitably tend to do, which is to ceaselessly transcend ourselves, only now we're in a better position to situate this restless drive toward the Great Attractor in the open spiral of trinitarian being. The destiny of the human person
is to make its way back to God by a journey through the material world, coming to know and work with the latter through the mediation of its multi-sensed body (ibid.).
In short, man is homo viator, fulfilling his destiny "as a traveller to God through the material cosmos." It's what we do. Only now we understand how this is possible.
It is possible because we come into the world ordered to our transcendent end: "The human intellect"
is naturally ordered, as to its adequate object, to the whole of being as intelligible. Hence it can ultimately be satisfied only by knowing directly the infinite source and fullness of being, namely, God (ibid.).
Raccoons call it the Divine Attractor:
Thus we are magnetized, so to speak, by our very nature toward the Infinite Good, which draws us in our very depths....
This innate, unrestricted drive of the human spirit toward the Infinite Good is the great hidden dynamo that energizes our whole lives, driving us on to ever new levels of growth and development, and refusing to let us be ultimately contented with any merely finite, especially material, goods, whether we understand consciously what is going on within us or not, whether we can explicitly identify our goal or not (ibid.).
So, you have no excuse: the dynamO is hidden no more.