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Understanding the Person

Essays on the Personalism of Karol Wojtyła


Grzegorz Hołub

The book deals with the philosophy of the human person as worked out by Karol Wojtyła. It presents a number of fundamental issues necessary to understand Karol Wojtyła’s personalism. Thus, first it undertakes Wojtyła’s move from the philosophy of the human being to the philosophy of the human person; second, it presents Wojtyła’s epistemological approach to the person against the background of other philosophies concerned with the human person; third, it describes the metaphysical structure of the person; four, it analyses the person’s selected faculties (consciousness, emotions); five, it presents some aspects of the action of the person (a person’s causation, or their role in dialogue); and finally, it tries to sketch the problem of personal dignity.

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Karol Wojtyła’s interest concerning “who the human being is” has a long story. It is deeply rooted in his curriculum and education. We can point to some important moments of his intellectual and character formation, which affected this issue. Firstly, the years when he was a student of classical gymnasium and later, just before the Second World War, when he undertook studies of Polish literature at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Secondly, the time during the War, when Wojtyła was developing his humanistic interest by a participation in an underground theatre, where he was fascinated with the power of words being able to penetrate the deepest spheres of human life. Finally, a discovery of his priestly vocation was very much about getting to know better who the human being is and how to assist him on his way to self-fulfilment.

However, a systematic and theoretical approach to the search on the human being is associated with Wojtyła’s scholarly activities. His studies at the University of Angelicum in Rome constitute an important step in his leaning on the human spiritual condition. His PhD thesis in theology, later published as a book,1 reveals the meaning and role of human interiority both in an aspect of human-divine relationship and in an underscoring of the complexity of the human being himself. Later, Wojtyła’s interest in philosophy was fully associated with inquiring about the human being both in the realm of ethics and in the philosophical anthropology. In...

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