What Does It Mean to be a Person?

Bishop Kallistos Ware of Diokleia (Timothy Ware)

We know and understand only a small part of ourselves. The human person constitutes a mystery… The bounds of each person range over space and time, and reach out of space into infinity, out of time into eternity.

The human person is that in which new beginnings are continually being made… To be a person is a sign of hope… To be human, to be personal, is to be unpredictable, creative, self-transcending; that, I think, is where we must start.

Descartes took as his starting point cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am,” and he thought of the human person as essentially a thinking being, but would it not have been better for him to have said amo ergo sum, “I love, therefore I am”? Thinking is not necessarily our highest or greatest faculty.

We are not to think of ourselves as a ghost in a machine… we are not see a contrast of the real person as the soul, and the body as just a sort of external framework. No. We are to see our personhood as a single unity, body and soul together. The body is not to be seen as something external to personhood. I do not have a body: I am my body, and my body is me. The body is not a part of the person but the whole person, from one point of view.

Part 1: Who am I? What am I?

Right-click here to download – 43:53 (42MB)

Part 2: On the Meaning of Being “in the Image of God”

Right-click here to download – 55:55 (43MB)

Original videos on YouTube, Part I and Part II.


Lecture delivered in Cambridge, 28 February 2015, at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. Republished here with thanks.