Guide Contemporary Ethical Issues: A Personalist Perspective (Third Edition)

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In this regard, personalism stands as a foil to totalitarianisms that value persons only for their worth to the community, and insists instead on their inherent dignity. Thus R. These theories too, directly or indirectly, contributed to twentieth-century totalitarianism.

The philosophical positivism of Auguste Comte — affirmed as a historical law that every science and the human race itself passes through three successive stages, the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive, each superior to the last. Comte insisted so much on the reality and predominance of society that this became for him the true subject, while the individual was regarded as an abstraction.

Darwinism, in particular, uprooted the classical understanding of human beings as essentially superior to the rest of creation by offering a theory whereby man would be simply the most advanced life form along an unbroken continuum, and the difference between man and irrational animals would merely be one of degree, not of kind.

The emerging personalist philosophy, however, rejected impersonalism not only in the form of idealistic or materialistic determinism and collectivism, but also in the form of the radical individualism that was equally a product of modern rationalism and romanticism, and which, through, for instance, certain forms of liberalism and anarchism, was also characteristic of the nineteenth century. From the beginning, personalism proclaimed in its own way the communitarian values of solidarity and inter-relation.

This is the error of individualism, which gave rise to liberalism in modern history and to capitalism in economics. On the other hand, society, in aiming at the alleged good of the whole, may attempt to subordinate persons to itself in such a way that the true good of persons is excluded and they themselves fall prey to the collectivity.

This is the error of totalitarianism, which in modern times has borne the worst possible fruit. He accused idealism of emptying life of meaning by neglecting the reality of human existence. Whereas Kierkegaard and some later existentialists Marcel, Sartre, Camus, Blondel focused on issues central to the meaning of human existence love, marriage, death, faith, morality, etc. The philosophy of Friedrich W. Nietzsche — gave its own, distinct expression to these themes, showing, as many of the romantic poets and philosophers had done before him, and despite his criticism of romanticism, that the new individualism was in reality closely interrelated with the general impersonalism of the dominant strain of romanticism: from the exaltation of the individualist ego, the step was never far to its extinction in a larger impersonal whole of any of the many available varieties.

Modern individualism represented no real challenge to the intellectual environment in which man tended to be seen as a mere phenomenal being, easily assimilated into nature, the impersonal principle of idealism, the unconscious, the cosmic will, or the collectivities of the family, the state, the nation, the social class. Man was a product of external forces, an insignificant piece in a cosmic puzzle, without dignity, freedom, responsibility, or fundamental existential significance.

It was this overall, many-faceted intellectual climate and development that produced the personalist counter-movement throughout the nineteenth century, a movement which, by drawing on other, alternative resources in the thought of the Enlightenment and Romanticism as well as on the classical, medieval Christian, and early modern legacy, sought to rescue the unique position and status of the singular human person.

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In the twentieth century personalists gathered especially around three European centers of higher learning: Paris, Munich, and Lublin. Until recently, the best known and most prolific of these three schools was the Parisian group. Between the First and Second World Wars the French personalist movement revolved around a monthly journal, Esprit , founded by Emmanuel Mounier — and a group of friends in In the face of economic collapse and political and moral disorientation, these French personalists proposed the human person as the criterion according to which a solution to the crisis was to be fashioned.

The new, irreducible key to thought, especially regarding social organization, was to be the human person. In his programmatic essay Refaire la Renaissance , which appeared in the first issue of Esprit , Mounier proposed the need to disassociate the spiritual world from the debased, materialistic bourgeoisie.

In substance much in line with the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century origins of personalism, Mounier, before the Second World War, turned sharply against the impersonalistic development of individualistic, parliamentary democracy and the mass culture that had come to shape the countries of Western Europe. Political and traditionalist religious reaction was not an alternative for Mounier. The spiritual revolution envisioned by Mounier was to be above all the work of committed witnesses to the truth, who through their own interior renewal and living faith would galvanize the masses into a new communal structure.

Such a revolution entailed a triple commitment: denunciation, meditation, and technical planning. His assertion that there is no true progress without the dimension of transcendence countered the Marxist search for an earthly paradise through class struggle.

Maritain, who worked with Mounier for a number of years, was responsible for bringing French personalism to the United States. After the war, European personalism, led by Mounier himself, adapted to and took a more uncritical view of liberal democracy, and Maritain played a role in drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Like other Thomistic personalists, Maritain criticized the frailty of certain widespread strains of Scholasticism, and appealed to the important role of intuitive experience in philosophy.

The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur — , whose philosophy was profoundly influenced by Husserlian phenomenology, while never identifying himself as a personalist, shared many of the concerns and interests dear to personalists, and both benefited from and contributed to the development of personalistic thought in France. He contributed essays to Esprit as well as the journal Le Christianisme social.

Personalism in Germany was closely wedded to another philosophical school, phenomenology, developed by Austrian-born Edmund Husserl Like existentialism and French personalism, phenomenological realism was partly a response to German idealism, though it bore a distinctive focus on epistemological questions. The distinguishing characteristic of phenomenology is not doctrinal, but methodological. This direct observation and consultation of reality eschews the problems of deductive reasoning by focusing on the intellectual act of intuition, or direct apprehension of reality.

Phenomenologists identified the object of intuition as the essences of things, ideal objects, and structures of intentionality and consciousness. Though in his later life Husserl leaned toward philosophical idealism, in his earlier life and in Logische Untersuchungen he embraced philosophical realism. By going back to the thing itself, phenomenology aimed at eluding the errors of both empiricism reducing reality to the measurable and idealism rarefying reality into abstraction and subjectivism.

Stein, for instance, looked to phenomenological method as a complement to Thomism, and von Hildebrand introduced phenomenology into ethics in a personalistic synthesis. The third and youngest of the three centers of European personalistic thought grew up around the Catholic University of Lublin.

His later election as pope contributed strongly to the spread of personalist thought, especially among Catholic thinkers. As Pope he continued to employ personalist arguments in his magisterial teaching, and spurred new interest in personalist theories. Howison — , and Edgar Sheffield Brightman — , took a different tack from continental European personalism in that instead of a reaction to idealism, it is often actually a form of idealism, wherein being is defined as personal consciousness.

Boston University was long considered the hub of American personalism, under the auspices of philosophy professor Borden Parker Bowne. Adding elements also from recent trends in psychology, Bowne developed a distinct and explicitly personalist position, which assumed the character of a philosophical school.

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Copy URL. A History of Personalism. Abstract Philosophers have used the term personalism since at least the late nineteenth century. Register to save articles to your library Register. Paper statistics. Feedback to SSRN. Eastern, Monday - Friday. For example, the Seminole, living in the wetlands of Florida establish an important relationship the alligator, while the Cherokee, living in the mountains of North Carolina do not. Power, place, and habitude suggest that the interrelated universe is alive and personal and must be approached with respect.

Living and its quality depend on it. All relationships have a moral content. Contemplating an action, a person must consider whether the proposed action is appropriate. Harvesting plants involves respecting the plants, their power and place in relationship to other individuals. The universe is built upon constructive and cooperative relationships that must be maintained. They followed the principle that whatever is above must be reflected below.

In their villages most tribes constructed their dwellings after some model of the universe. They reproduced the cosmos in miniature and believed that spiritual change would be followed by physical change. In this way, they participated in cosmic rhythms.

Contemporary Ethical Issues: A Personalist Perspective (Fourth Edition)

Through these relationships humans understand what they are, what they are to be, and what they are to do. The universe is a moral universe. The contemporary period late 20 th into 21 st centuries continued idealistic and personalistic discussions of axiology and social philosophy, manifested a shyness regarding metaphysics, emphasized existentialist themes, and witnessed the rise of dialectical materialism.

The discussion of Personalism chiefly took place in three centers of philosophical activity, Argentina, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. In Argentina, two philosophers distinguished themselves. Franscisco Romero , a younger contemporary of Korn, arriving at his philosophy by way of psychology, was a sworn foe of mechanistic and behaviorist view of persons.

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Persons are whole, a structure not determined by its parts. They are both of the psyche, the lower, subjective, egotistic aspect of the self; and spirit, the objective and altruistic tendencies of the self. He thought that person is the key to reality. Persons have the ability to transcend subjectivity and grasp a superindividual order, and order that transcends him.

Mexico is the second outstanding center of philosophical activity. Though critical of idealism and leaning decidedly toward Thomistic realism, he is deeply theistic and personalistic.

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Holding to a theistic monism, the universe is a living whole that finds its unity in God. His chief themes are individuality, freedom, purposeful creativity, cosmic reality in process, personality, and God. Vasconcelos, unlike most philosophers in North America, was a man of action, standing for the president of Mexico, though never elected.

The third center is Puerto Rico, whose most distinguished thinker was Eugenio Maria de Hostos An ethical and social idealist, Hostos stressed the supreme worth personality, the dignity of persons. That is the foundation stone of civilization itself. In addition to those centers of philosophical activity and their signal figures, other philosophers who discussed personalist themes were Antonio Caso in Mexico , Alejandro Deustua and Victor Andres Belaunde in Peru, Enrique Molina in Chile, and Carlos Vas Ferreira in Uruguay. Common themes among them include dynamic stress on action, the philosophy of persons, freedom of persons, and the law.

Regarding direct of influence of North American Personalism on Latin American philosophers, when Latin American philosophers became aware of North American philosophy, it was Personalism, especially that of Edgar Sheffield Brightman that attracted them most among then-living philosophers. Josiah Royce also attracted them, especially The World and the Individual , as we have seen. The interest was reciprocal. Brightman established the first graduate course in Latin American philosophy in the United States.

Cornelius Kruse, Personalists in North America carry on a vibrant philosophical discussion. They are developing, modifying, and challenging concepts and themes central to 20 th century Personalism. They include Richard C. Bayer at Fordham University, drawing on Catholic social thought and affirming the dignity of persons, focuses on personal development and a modified market economy. Patrick Grant at University of Victoria, British Columbia, outlines a Personalism approach appropriate for a post-modern and post-Marxist cultural phase.

Thomas R. Rourke at Clarion University and Rosita A. Erazim Kohak , drawing on the early work of Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler , developed a personalistic view of nature. John Howie developed an environmental ethics along personalist lines. Doug Anderson writes on Pierce and American philosophy. Currently, the center of studies in Personalism is in the department of philosophy of South Illinois University, where it is taught in the American philosophy program.