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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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A good part of modern as well as contemporary philosophy is deeply involved in inquiry concerning human being. This path of philosophical investigation is very complex and has its dynamics, which are tellingly featured by the title of Robert Solomon’s book concerning a history of western philosophy, namely Continental Philosophy since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self.1 The concept of experience plays an important role in these anthropological discussions. A dividing line, roughly speaking, goes between the inner, subjective experience and the outer, objective one. Some thinkers concentrate on and develop the former, claiming that what we really need in order to understand the world and acquire a proper approach to it, is the experience of oneself from within. Others in turn highlight the latter, pointing to the validity and a fundamental role of the experience given from without. Both sides seem to have good reasons supporting their positions, which results in a situation that there is a tension and even a conflict between them.

This tension, of course, is not an invention of philosophers but has its deep roots in human existence itself. On the one hand, inner experience constitutes our personal world, and our self-identity depends on it to a considerable extent. Thus, it seems, we cannot play it down or reduce it to something else. On the other hand, outer experience leads us to many inventions and discoveries; in a sense, it guarantees our control over the world. Hence, we cannot easily get...

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