Personalism is an intellectual stance that emphasizes the importance of human persons. Various conceptualizations have been explored, so personalism exists in many different versions, and this makes it somewhat difficult to define as a philosophical and theological movement. The term "personalism" has been used in print first by F. D. E. Schleiermacher in the last year of the 18th. century. The idea can be traced back to earlier thinkers in various parts of the world
Personalism exists in many different versions, and this makes it somewhat difficult to define as a philosophical and theological movement. Many philosophical schools have at their core one particular thinker or even one central work which serves as a canonical touchstone. Personalism is a more diffused and eclectic movement and has no such universal reference point. It is, in point of fact, more proper to speak of many personalisms than one personalism. In 1947 Jacques Maritain could write that there are at least 'a dozen personalist doctrines, which at times have nothing more in common than the word 'person.' Moreover, because of their emphasis on the subjectivity of the person and their ties to phenomenology and existentialism, some dominant forms of personalism have not lent themselves to systematic treatises.
It is perhaps more proper to speak of personalism as a 'current' or a broader 'worldview, since it represents more than one school or one doctrine while at the same time the most important forms of personalism do display some central and essential commonalities. Most important of the latter is the general affirmation of the centrality of the person for philosophical thought. Personalism posits ultimate reality and value in personhood — human as well as (at least for most personalists) divine. It emphasizes the significance, uniqueness and inviolability of the person, as well as the person's essentially relational or communitarian dimension. The title 'personalism' can therefore legitimately be applied to any school of thought that focuses on the reality of persons and their unique status among beings in general, and personalists normally acknowledge the indirect contributions of a wide range of thinkers throughout the history of philosophy who did not regard themselves as personalists. Personalists believe that the human person should be the ontological and epistemological starting point of philosophical reflection. They are concerned to investigate the experience, the status, and the dignity of the human being as person, and regard this as the starting-point for all subsequent philosophical analysis.
Thus, according to Williams, one ought to keep in mind that although there may be dozens of theorists and social activists in the West adhering to the rubric "personalism," their particular foci may, in fact, be asymptotic, and even diverge at material junctures.
In France, philosopher Emmanuel Mounier (1905–1950) was the leading proponent of personalism, around which he founded the review Esprit, which exists to this day. Under Jean-Marie Domenach's direction, it criticized the use of torture during the Algerian War. Personalism was seen as an alternative to both liberalism and Marxism, which respected human rights and the human personality without indulging in excessive collectivism. Mounier's personalism had an important influence in France, including in political movements, such as Marc Sangnier's Ligue de la jeune République (Young Republic League) founded in 1912.
A Jewish anti-fascist, Zeev Sternhell, has identified personalism with fascism in a very controversial manner, claiming that Mounier's personalism movement "shared ideas and political reflexes with fascism". He argued that Mounier's "revolt against individualism and materialism" would have led him to share the ideology of fascism.
Following on the writings of Dorothy Day, a distinctively Christian personalism developed in the 20th century. Its main theorist was the Polish philosopher Karol Wojtyła (later Pope John Paul II). In his work, Love and Responsibility, first published in 1960, Wojtyła proposed what he termed 'the personalistic norm':
This norm, in its negative aspect, states that the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end. In its positive form the personalistic norm confirms this: the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love
This brand of personalism has come to be known as "Thomistic" because of its efforts to square modern notions regarding the person with the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. Wojtyła was influenced by the ethical personalism of German phenomenologist Max Scheler.
A first principle of Christian personalism is that persons are not to be used, but to be respected and loved. In Gaudium et spes, the Second Vatican Council formulated what has come to be considered the key expression of this personalism: "man is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake and he cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself".
This formula for self-fulfillment offers a key for overcoming the dichotomy frequently felt between personal "realization" and the needs or demands of social life. Personalism also implies inter-personalism, as Benedict XVI stresses in Caritas in Veritate:
As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations. The more authentically he or she lives these relations, the more his or her own personal identity matures. It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God.
Personalism flourished in the early 20th century at Boston University in a movement known as Boston personalism led by theologian Borden Parker Bowne. Bowne emphasized the person as the fundamental category for explaining reality and asserted that only persons are real. He stood in opposition to certain forms of materialism which would describe persons as mere particles of matter. For example, against the argument that persons are insignificant specks of dust in the vast universe, Bowne would say that it is impossible for the entire universe to exist apart from a person to experience it. Ontologically speaking, the person is "larger" than the universe because the universe is but one small aspect of the person who experiences it. Personalism affirms the existence of the soul. Most personalists assert that God is real and that God is a person (or as in Christian trinitarianism, three 'persons', although it is important to note that the nonstandard meaning of the word 'person' in this theological context is significantly different from Bowne's usage).
Bowne also held that persons have value (see axiology, value theory, and ethics). In declaring the absolute value of personhood, he stood firmly against certain forms of philosophical naturalism (including social Darwinism) which sought to reduce the value of persons. He also stood against certain forms of positivism which sought to render ethical and theological discourse meaningless and dismiss talk of God a priori.
Georgia Harkness was a major Boston personalist theologian. Francis John McConnell was a major second-generation advocate of Boston personalism who sought to apply the philosophy to social problems of his time.
George Holmes Howison taught a metaphysical theory called personal idealism or California personalism. Howison maintained that both impersonal, monistic idealism and materialism run contrary to the moral freedom experienced by persons. To deny the freedom to pursue the ideals of truth, beauty, and "benignant love" is to undermine every profound human venture, including science, morality, and philosophy. Thus, even the personalistic idealism of Borden Parker Bowne and Edgar S. Brightman and the realistic personal theism of Thomas Aquinas are inadequate, for they make finite persons dependent for their existence upon an infinite Person and support this view by an unintelligible doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.
The Personal Idealism of Howison was explained in his book The Limits of Evolution and Other Essays Illustrating the Metaphysical Theory of Personal Idealism. Howison created a radically democratic notion of personal idealism that extended all the way to God, who was no more the ultimate monarch, no longer the only ruler and creator of the universe, but the ultimate democrat in eternal relation to other eternal persons. Howison found few disciples among the religious, for whom his thought was heretical; the non-religious, on the other hand, considered his proposals too religious; only J. M. E. McTaggart's idealist atheism or Thomas Davidson's apeirotheism seem to resemble Howison's personal idealism.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant, though not formally considered a personalist, made an important contribution to the personalist cause by declaring that a person is not to be valued merely as a means to the ends of other people, but that he possesses dignity (an absolute inner worth) and is to be valued as an end in himself.
Catholic philosopher and theologian John Henry Newman, has been posited as a main proponent of personalism by John Crosby of Franciscan University in his book Personalist Papers. Crosby notes Newman's personal approach to faith, as outlined in Grammar of Assent as a main source of Newman's personalism.
Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly influenced by personalism in his studies at Boston University. King came to agree with the position that only personality is real. It solidified his understanding of God as a personal god. It also gave him a metaphysical basis for his belief that all human personality has dignity and worth.
Paul Ricœur explicitly sought to support personalist movement by developing its theoretical foundation and expanding it with a new personalist social ethic.:3 However, he later had significant disagreements with Mournier and criticized other personalist writers for insufficient conceptual clarity. Ricœur also disagreed with the other personalists in asserting the signfiicance of justice as a value in its own right and gave this primary in the public sphere, whereas Mournier characterized all relationships including public and political ones in terms of love and friendship.:7
Pope John Paul II was also influenced by the personalism advocated by Christian existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Before his election to the Roman papacy, he wrote Person and Act (sometimes mistranslated as The Acting Person), a philosophical work suffused with personalism. Though he remained well within the traditional stream of Catholic social and individual morality, his explanation of the origins of moral norms, as expressed in his encyclicals on economics and on sexual morality, for instance, was largely drawn from a personalist perspective. His writings as Roman pontiff, of course, influenced a generation of Catholic theologians since who have taken up personalist perspectives on the theology of the family and social order.
Albert Cornelius Knudson (January 23, 1873 – August 28, 1953) was a Christian theologian in the Methodist tradition, associated with Boston University and the school of liberal theology known as Boston personalism.Borden Parker Bowne
Borden Parker Bowne (; January 14, 1847 – April 1, 1910) was an American Christian philosopher, preacher, and theologian in the Methodist tradition.
He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature nine times.Catholic Church and Islam
Relations between the Catholic Church and Islam deals with the current attitude of the Catholic Church towards Islam and Muslims, as well as the attitude of Islam towards the Catholic Church and Catholics, and notable changes in the relationship since 20th century.Catholic Worker Movement
The Catholic Worker Movement is a collection of autonomous communities of Catholics and their associates founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the United States in 1933. Its aim is to "live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ". One of its guiding principles is hospitality towards those on the margin of society, based on the principles of communitarianism and personalism. To this end, the movement claims over 240 local Catholic Worker communities providing social services. Each house has a different mission, going about the work of social justice in its own way, suited to its local region.
Catholic Worker houses are not official organs of the Catholic Church, and their activities, inspired by Day's example, may be more or less overtly religious in tone and inspiration depending on the particular institution. The movement campaigns for nonviolence and is active in opposing both war and the unequal global distribution of wealth. Dorothy Day also founded The Catholic Worker newspaper, still published by the two Catholic Worker houses in New York City, and sold for a penny a copy.Catholic moral theology
Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".Edgar S. Brightman
Edgar Sheffield Brightman (September 20, 1884 – February 25, 1953) was an American philosopher and Christian theologian in the Methodist tradition, associated with Boston University and liberal theology, and promulgated the philosophy known as Boston personalism.
He was president of the American Academy of Religion in 1942–1943.Emmanuel Mounier
Emmanuel Mounier (; French: [munje]; 1 April 1905 – 22 March 1950) was a French philosopher, theologian, teacher and essayist.Esprit (magazine)
Esprit is a French literary magazine. The magazine also deals with current events.George Holmes Howison
George Holmes Howison (29 November 1834 – 31 December 1916) was an American philosopher who established the philosophy department at the University of California, Berkeley and held the position there of Mills Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy and Civil Polity. He also founded the Philosophical Union, one of the oldest philosophical organizations in the United States.
Howison's philosophy is set forth almost entirely in his volume entitled The Limits of Evolution, and other essays, illustrating the metaphysical theory of personal idealism (1901, 2nd ed.: 1905). Scrutinizing the idea of evolution that had come to the fore, he proved not only that no Person can be wholly "the product of 'continuous creation'", evolution, but went on also to show that, rooted in the very same (a priori) reason, fulfilled philosophy necessarily ends in the "Vision Beatific", "that universal circle of spirits which, since the time of the stoics, has so pertinently been called the City of God".
Friends and former students of Howison established the Howison Lectures in Philosophy in 1919. Over the years, the lecture series has included talks by distinguished philosophers such as Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky.Idealistic Studies
Idealistic Studies is a peer-reviewed academic journal for the publication of studies of idealistic themes. Both historical and contemporary statements of idealistic argumentation are published, as are also historico-philosophical studies of idealism. The journal was established in 1972 by Robert N. Beck with the assistance of the Clark University philosophy department. While it initially focused on American personalism and post-Kantian idealism, the journal's mission has broadened to include other topics, including historically earlier expressions as well as developments of the late 19th to mid-20th century. The journal has become a venue for a number of philosophical movements that share Idealism in their genealogies, including phenomenology, neo-Kantianism, historicism, hermeneutics, life philosophy, existentialism, and pragmatism. The journal is published by the Philosophy Documentation Center and the current editor-in-chief is Jennifer Bates, Professor of Philosophy, Duquesne University.Juan Manuel Burgos
Juan Manuel Burgos Velasco (born 1961, Valladolid, Spain) is a Spanish Personalist philosopher. He has a PhD. in Physics, (Barcelona, 1988) and a PhD. in Philosophy (Rome, 1992). He is Professor at the University San Pablo CEU (Madrid), and at the John Paul II Institute  (Madrid), member of the Jaques Maritain International Institute, and distinguished guest Professor at Galileo University (2007, Guatemala). In 2007, he became an honorary Professor at the Institute of Family Sciences (Guatemala) for his contribution to family sciences through his anthropology studies.
From his active dedication to the investigation and diffusion of Personalist philosophy, Burgos has been a guest professor at Universities in Rome, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala and Colombia. He is founder and actual President of the Spanish Association of Personalism (Asociación Española de Personalismo , AEP), an institution dedicated to develop and promote personalism through publications , seminaries  and international congresses on personalist thinkers such as Karol Wojtyła(2006 ) and Julian Marias (2008 ). The editor of two philosophy collections  (Palabra Editorials, Madrid Spain) has also published numerous books and articles on specialized magazines on diverse topics on Personalism, Philosophical Anthropology, Bioethics and sociology of the family.Ngô Đình Nhu
Ngô Đình Nhu (listen; 7 October 1910 – 2 November 1963) was a Vietnamese archivist and politician. He was the younger brother and chief political advisor of South Vietnam's first president, Ngô Đình Diệm. Although he held no formal executive position, he wielded immense unofficial power, exercising personal command of both the ARVN Special Forces (a paramilitary unit which served as the Ngô family's de facto private army) and the Cần Lao political apparatus (also known as the Personalist Labor Party) which served as the regime's de facto secret police.In his early age, Nhu was a quiet and bookish individual who showed little inclination towards the political path taken by his elder brothers. While training as an archivist in France, Nhu adopted the Roman Catholic ideology of personalism, although critics claimed that he misused that philosophy. Upon returning to Vietnam, he helped his brother in his quest for political power, and Nhu proved an astute and ruthless tactician and strategist, helping Diệm to gain more leverage and outwit rivals. During this time, he formed and handpicked the members of the secret Cần Lao Party, which swore its personal allegiance to the Ngô family, provided their power base and eventually became their secret police force. Nhu remained as its head until his own assassination.In 1955, Nhu's supporters helped intimidate the public and rig the 1955 State of Vietnam referendum that ensconced his elder brother, Diệm, in power. Nhu used the Cần Lao, which he organised into cells, to infiltrate every part of society to root out opposition to the Ngô family. In 1959, he organized a failed assassination attempt via mail bomb on Prince Sihanouk, the prime minister of neighbouring Cambodia, with whom relations had become strained. Nhu publicly extolled his own intellectual abilities. He was known for making such public statements as promising to demolish the Xá Lợi Pagoda and vowing to kill his estranged father-in-law, Trần Văn Chương, who was the regime's ambassador to the United States, after the elder man condemned the Ngô family's behavior and disowned his daughter, Nhu's wife, Madame Nhu.In 1963, the Ngô family's grip on power became unstuck during the Buddhist crisis, during which the nation's Buddhist majority rose up against the pro-Catholic regime. Nhu tried to break the Buddhists' opposition by using the Special Forces in raids on prominent Buddhist temples that left hundreds dead, and framing the regular army for it. However, Nhu's plan was uncovered, which intensified plots by military officers, encouraged by the Americans, who turned against the Ngô family after the pagoda attacks. Nhu was aware of the plots, but remained confident he could outmaneuver them, and began to plot a counter-coup, as well as the assassinations of US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and other American and opposition figures. Nhu was fooled by the loyalist General Tôn Thất Đính, who had turned against the Ngô family. On 1 November 1963, the coup proceeded, and the Ngô brothers (Nhu and Diệm) were detained and assassinated the next day.Nikolay Lossky
Nikolay Onufriyevich Lossky (; 6 December [O.S. 24 November] 1870 – 24 January 1965), also known as N. O. Lossky, was a Russian philosopher, representative of Russian idealism, intuitionist epistemology, personalism, libertarianism, ethics and axiology (value theory). He gave his philosophical system the name intuitive-personalism. Born in Latvia, he spent his working life in St. Petersburg, New York, and Paris. He was the father of the influential Christian theologian Vladimir Lossky.Non-conformists of the 1930s
The non-conformists of the 1930s were groups and individuals during the inter-war period in Interwar France that were seeking new solutions to face the political, economical and social crisis. The name was coined in 1969 by the historian Jean-Louis Loubet del Bayle to describe a movement which revolved around Emmanuel Mounier's personalism. They attempted to find a "third (communitarian) alternative" between socialism and capitalism, and opposed both liberalism/parliamentarism/democracy and fascism.Personalist Labor Revolutionary Party
The Personalist Labor Revolutionary Party (Vietnamese: Cần lao Nhân vị Cách Mạng Ðảng or Đảng Cần lao Nhân vị), often simply called the Can Lao Party, was a Vietnamese political party, formed in early 1950s by the president of Republic of Vietnam Ngô Đình Diệm and his brother as well as the adviser of the regime, Ngô Đình Nhu.
Based on mass-organizations and secret networks as effective instruments, the Can Lao party played a considerable role in creating a political groundwork for Diệm's power and helped him to control all political activities in South Vietnam. The doctrine of the party was ostensibly based on Ngô Đình Nhu's Person Dignity Theory or Personalism (Vietnamese: Thuyết Nhân Vị) and Emmanuel Mounier's Personalism.Teachings of Pope John Paul II
The teachings of Pope John Paul II are contained in a number of documents. It has been said that these teachings will have a long-lasting influence on the Church.Pope John Paul II's philosophical and theological teachings and writings were characterised by explorations in phenomenology and personalism. He was influenced by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Karl Rahner, his predecessors as Archbishop of Kraków Eugeniusz Baziak and Adam Stefan Sapieha, and his predecessors as Pope - John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul I. His closest theological adviser was Cardinal Ratzinger, who succeeded him as Pope. Stanislaw Dziwisz was his personal secretary for forty years and one of his closest friends and advisers, and became Archbishop of Kraków, John Paul's former post, and Cardinal. John Paul met regularly with the Cardinal prefects and presidents of Curial congregations and councils, and outlived many of them.Theistic Personalism
According to Dagobert D. Runes, Dictionary of Philosophy, 1942, theistic personalism is "the theory most generally held by Personalists that God is the ground of all being, immanent in and transcendent over the whole world of reality. It is pan-psychic but avoids pantheism by asserting the complementary nature of immanence and transcendence which come together in and are in some degree essential to all personality. The term is used for the modern form of theism. Immanence and transcendence are the contrapletes of personality."Young Republic League
The Young Republic League (French: Ligue de la jeune république, LJR) was a French political party created in 1912 by Marc Sangnier, in continuation of Le Sillon, Sangnier's Christian social movement which was disavowed by the Pope Pius X (1835–1914). The LJR supported "personalist" Socialism, on the model of Emmanuel Mounier's theory of personalism.
The Abbé Pierre was member of the party for a short time after leaving the MRP.
Members of the LJR later joined the Union of the Socialist Left, the first movement including both Marxists and Social Christians.