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Sunday, February 19, 2006

At the Root of Karol Wojtyla's Philosophy A "Radically Empirical Anthropology," Congress Is Told

MADRID, Spain, FEB. 19, 2006 ( An international congress in Madrid reflected on the roots of Karol Wojtyla's thought and aimed to identify the sources of his personalist philosophy.

The three-day congress, entitled "The Personalist Philosophy of Karol Wojtyla," was an initiative of the Spanish Association of Personalism to study the thought of the man who became Pope John Paul II.

Jaroslaw Merecki, one of the principal members of the Wojtyla Chair of the Lateran University of Rome, opened the congress last Thursday, observing that "experience, the first source of the philosophy of man, and the encounter with phenomenology are the sources of Karol Wojtyla's philosophy."

Merecki, who is closely related to direct disciples and friends of Wojtyla, stressed that the principal source of the Polish thinker "is not the thought of this or that philosopher, but man's own experience."

Thus, "Karol Wojtyla's philosophical anthropology is a radically empirical anthropology," he clarified in his intervention during the congress hosted by the School of Philosophy of Madrid's Complutense University.

Exterior reality

In line with Wojtyla, Merecki explained how "the experience of anything situated outside of man is always associated with the experience of himself," as "man does not experience anything exterior without experiencing himself in some way."

"In modern philosophy, this fact has often led to the denial of the autonomy of the exterior reality, that is, to philosophical idealism," Merecki said. "If Wojtyla does not fall into the trap of idealism, it is due precisely to the fact that he remains to the end faithful to the experience, in which the being's horizon always takes priority over the horizon of conscience."

The speaker then focused on another sources of Wojtyla's thought -- phenomenology -- for which "everything that is expressed corporeally is the object of experience."

"Thus, not only sensible experience exists but also aesthetic, moral and religious experience," Merecki said.

In this area Wojtyla elaborated a positive ethical project, beginning with his debate with Max Scheler, whose judgment "is not totally negative," noted Merecki.

"Wojtyla is totally in agreement with Scheler's fundamental postulate, according to which ethics must stem from experience. Scheler's essential defect consists in having exhausted all the resources of the phenomenological method when it comes to analyzing moral experience," he clarified.

Thomist thinker

In the route toward the metaphysics of the person, "for Wojtyla the problem of man constitutes the point of departure to recover classical metaphysics, seen precisely from man, that is, taking up again the claim of modern philosophy and reintegrating it in the framework of classical metaphysics," specified Merecki.

"For Wojtyla the only adequate way to address the problem of man is to pose the radical question over being which finds its ultimate explanation in the absolute character of Being," he said.

Juan Manuel Burgos, president and founder of the Spanish Association of Personalism, at the congress described Wojtyla as "an ontological personalist thinker of Thomist and phenomenological filiation."

The system Wojtyla uses is "a personalism that stems from and is integrated in a realist phenomenology," Burgos said. "All his thought -- and, in particular, that which he offers in his work 'Person and Action,' his main work, revolves around the person.

"For a philosophy to be considered personalist, it must be structured globally around the notion of person or, said another way, the latter must be the essential notion in the whole of its anthropological architecture."

Burgos continued: "His novel character is found in the following theses: the insuperable distinction between persons and things and the need to analyze persons with their own specific concepts; the radical importance of affectivity and of interpersonal relationship; the absolute primacy of moral and religious values; the importance of the corporeal nature and of the treatment of the person as man or woman; communal personalism; the conception of philosophy as means of interaction with reality and a not strictly negative conception of philosophical modernity."

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