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This article is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

Subject and Person Michael Grant

THE IDEA OF THE subject is basic to the radical thought of our time. For those persuaded by the claims of theory, its meaning and centrality are beyond question. However, it is by no means clear that the position accorded to it is so self-evidently justified. Not only is the theory of the subject of doubtful intelligibility, but it also fails to recognize what must be crucial to any account of the fullness of human experience: the human person. This failure to ascribe significance to the person is not, of course, fortuitous. Subject and person are concepts that are not compatible: the subject, understood as an effect of language, must inevitably exclude the idea of the person, the origin of which lies in the Christian experience of God. This opposition is nothing new. In repeating it, contemporary thought is merely following a pattern established generations ago. The reduction and ridicule of things divine was from its beginning one of the mainsprings of the whole enterprise of psychoanalysis, as it was of Marxism. Similarly, the attacks in our own time on presence, meaning, and the rest, have had as their end the introduction of suspicion and self-doubt into the experience of sacrament and grace. The 'primacy of the signifier' has always carried with it the inevitable, and by now well-worn, reduction of God to the status of the 'transcendental signified'. The semiotic recasting of experience in terms of linguistic structure has had a similar purpose. A crucial Lacanian ploy has ...


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