The Problem of the Self-Ascription of Sainthood

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The main idea of this essay stems from a grammatical peculiarity of ‘being a saint’ in the Christian context, which can be described as follows: the term ‘saint’ seems to be ascribable only to others but not to oneself. This is because claiming for oneself that one is a saint is usually considered morally and spiritually inappropriate, indeed self-defeating. Does this mean that sainthood is not 'a real thing'? Not all Christians are convinced that the problem with the self-ascriptions of sainthood is a general feature of the property ‘being a saint’. But, if we focus on what I call ‘the exceptionalist sense of “saint”’, there is a solid basis for accepting the grammatical asymmetry of ‘saint’ which can be found in traditional Christian understandings of humility, sainthood and human nature, respectively. In the light of this grammatical asymmetry, I argue that the strong realist metaphysics of sainthood which is closely related to the exceptionalist sense of ‘saint’, should be either thoroughly re-conceived or abandoned. Instead of the strong realist metaphysical account, I suggest a different, Lutheran-episodic conception of sainthood which is free of the problem of self-ascription.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy and Spiritual Life
EditorsTyler McNabb, Victoria Harrison
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

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