The Personalist Project

Comments (5)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Dec 18, 2012 9:57pm

Great thoughts, Samwise.  

I, too, have learned much from JP II on these questions.  And I've noticed (have you?) that while you're right that the wider culture downplays to the point of denying the objectivity of truth and value, many Catholics and political conservatives have a tendency to downplay subjectivity—as if it were nothing but subjectivism by another name.

We can't have a fully personal existence without both.  Nor (really) can we have one properly unless we have the other.

Sam Roeble

#2, Dec 19, 2012 8:31am

Yep, your point is well taken and present in my opening sentence from the 6th paragraph: 

"On the other hand, John Paul II warns against a strict objectivism as well--making sure to guard against instances where individual's rights are not recognized as crucial to public policy."

But, perhaps "rights" doesn't quite capture your point about subjectivity.  "Rights" is a modern term for-- what can easily be misunderstood for-- dignity/citizenship/entitlement.  The trouble with "rights" is that they can guarantee someone the wrong license (as in same sex marriage). 

In conclusion, my instinct is to err on the side of objectivism (and, as you say, so do most Catholic conservatives).  But, Personalism has freed up "subjectivity" for Catholics to not be afraid of, to develop, and to better wintess to the life of God within them.

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Dec 19, 2012 9:04am

Samwise, Dec. 19 at 9:31am

But, Personalism has freed up "subjectivity" for Catholics to not be afraid of, to develop, and to better wintess to the life of God within them.

The difficulty is that subjectivity is still profoundly mistrusted by many conservative intellectuals, who regard it as the central modern error.  I've met many Catholics who either dislike JP II for being too modernist, or else like him because they misunderstand him as a traditional Thomist.  

This article by Roger Kimball on Kierkegaard is a good instance of the kind of thing I have in mind.  It's intelligent and has its valid points to offer, but it's also got, I would say, a kind of "attitude problem."  Kimball is so sure that the basic defect lies with Kierkegaard's emphasis on subjectivity that he misses his true greatness.

The bad results of this general suspicion of subjectivity are twofold: Conservatives misunderstand where the real hope for cultural renewal lies, and, by rejecting what's true and good in modern developments, they lose the sympathy of those who are deeply in touch with it.

Sam Roeble

#4, Dec 19, 2012 10:40am

I see.  It may be the age old tension between existential and universal, pathos and logos, faith and reason. 

This even existed among the Jews and Gentiles, as Abraham Heschel's book the Prophets argues.  The Greek approach to God was logical/philosophical--Aristotle.  Whereas, the Hebrew prophets approached God on a passionate/mystical level (w/ the Law as a given).

It seems that, even today, there remains this tension between the two--one major difference being the lawlessness of our society.  Kierkegaard was certainly on the passionate/mystical side of things, while someone like Thomas Aquinas represents the logical approach.

Of course, the passionate/mystical approach is more attractive culturally, because, as with Kierkegaard/MLK Jr./Thomas Merton, it can so easily be misdirected (as w/ the former's prostitute visit, adultery,etc.).  People like that possibility, as with the popularity of drug use in the 60s, of experience and potential sabotage of greatness. 

Men like JPII and Augustine, however, prove the opposite--personalism--as capable of standing firm mystically/passionately (having effectively synthesized subjectivity and objectivity into a powerful,sober testimony of God's immanence and transcendence)

Katie van Schaijik

#5, Dec 19, 2012 11:07am

Yes.  I'd add men like Pascal and John Henry Newman.

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