114 / The Doctrine of Personal Subsistence: Historical and Systematic Synthesis

Stephen A. Hipp

2012 286 pages, paperback

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An introduction to and technical study of the notion of “subsistence”, this book provides a comprehensive historical survey and systematic evaluation of theories of personality from the early Christian period to modern day.  The book focuses exclusively on formal accounts of personality, thereby allowing for a clear approach to the philosophical and theological issues directly relevant to defining the person.  Hipp evaluates competing theories and distills from them the principles on which a coherent doctrine of subsistence is based.  Useful summaries, tables of classification and flow charts help to set forth the overall parameters of the problem.

The book also offers a protracted investigation of the historically most important accounts of personality: those of Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus.  The subsistence theories of each of these men are closely examined and compared, in such a way as to illustrate their points of convergence or of fundamental opposition.  Hipp’s analysis is especially original for its attempt to reduce the (commonly perceived) chasm between Scotus and Thomas, and he invites Thomists and Scotists to think more “open-mindedly” about strong lines of convergence between Scotus and Thomas.

The final part of the book presents a comprehensive “model” for organizing the metaphysical concepts and perspectives from which to build any theory of subsistence.  The author provides a unique set of tools able to lend themselves to philosophical discussion or to serve as visual aids for philosophical or theological instruction.


Stephen A. Hipp (S.T.D., University of Fribourg, Switzerland) is Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA.  He is specialized in Thomistic metaphysics and is the author of “Person” in Christian Tradition and in the Conception of Saint Albert the Great.