Volume 1, Issue 4, Summer 1987
Narrative Approaches to Human Personhood
Agency, Grace, and Innocent Suffering
The essay argues that narrative approaches to human personhood which conceptualize the goal of human personhood in terms of the fulfillment of a capacity for self-constitution by means of deliberate choices tend to make inordinate and inhuman claims for human agency. The narrative approaches of the psychoanalyst and psychoanalytic theorist, Roy Schafter, and of the theologian and ethicist, Stanley Hauerwas, illustrate this. Both thinkers implicitly deny the permanent vulnerability of human agency in the area of the appropriation of narratives. In the case of Hauerwas, this also implies a denial of theneed for God’s grace in the area of the appropriation of narratives. The work of the philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, serves as a contrast to Schafer and Hauerwas and demonstrates that a narrative approach to human persons does not need to make inordinate claims for an autonomous human capacity for self-constituion. The last part of the essay shows how the rejection of the need for God’s grace in the area of the appropriation of narratives is connected to a rejection of the idea of innocent suffering.