Last night we attended a talk by George Weigel at Immaculata University comparing John Paul II and Edith Stein. My reaction was somewhat mixed. Weigel has a marvelous command of the timeline of their lives and some of the major points of convergence between these two giants of 20th century Catholicism and 20th century philosophy: their shared faith and intellectual vocation, their common critique of the atheism and materialism of the modern world, their profound interest in re-establishing the right relation between faith and reason, their work to bring Thomism and phenomenology into fruitful contact with each other, their contributions toward a Christian femininism, and so on.
But for someone passionately devoted to personalism, the talk was frustratingly devoid of mention, never mind explication, of that basic legacy, which is, to my mind, the great, compensatory achievement of the entire modern period. He did offer a few nuggets for deeper reflection on that score, however. One was in the form of a quote from Henri de Lubac that admirably encapsulates the communitarian implications of personalism [paraphrasing from memory]: “We may organize society without God, but only if we organize it against each other.” Another was a reminder of John Paul’s emphasis on culture and fostering a “communal subjectivity”, without which we will be pitifully prone to the domination of a soulless statism.
Here is a task I would like to set for our circle:
An essay comparing and contrasting humanism and personalism. In other words, I propose that the personalism is the new humanism called for by JP II, and that it is importantly different from and more potent for meeting the challenges of our day than the old humanism. I propose further that personalism is a fruit of (and not just a reaction against) the modern world. I would so love to see better philosophers than I am take up this theme!