The concept of the unity of the person in the thought of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)

Stephen John Heaney, Marquette University


Karol Wojtyla holds two things as phenomenologically given. (a) Human beings experience within themselves two opposing aspects, namely (1) that about us which is within our conscious control, and (2) that about us which takes place in us ("happening-in") and remains outside of our control. Those things which we consciously do are called "actions," while what takes place in us are called "activations." These are mutually irreducible categories. (b) Simultaneously, human beings experience themselves as a fundamental unity, as one thing. Actions and activations are forms of becoming of the same one human suppositum. The use of this terminology places Wojtyla, by his own acknowledgement, in the Aristotelian-Thomistic school, and he appeals ultimately (although without further explication) to a Thomistic hylomorphism as the explanation of this paradox. The contention of this dissertation is that Wojtyla's "phenomenological reduction" (pre-metaphysical explanation) of the opposition between action and activation may be problematic in relation to the unity of being necessary for the experience of fundamental unity. Certainly we have these experiences, and they seem prima facie to be in opposition. Unless one assumes that Wojtyla is at all times speaking about the difficulties in bringing the whole human person into an operational unity, an integration of powers within the one human subject--and it is not at all certain that this is his aim--and unless one further assumes a traditional understanding of the nature and relationship between these powers, then it is difficult to reconcile the dual aspects into the unity proper to the human person. By highlighting several major areas of his explanation, the dissertation examines the inadequacies of his vision; at the same time, by making the assumptions mentioned above, a second avenue to explanation is offered which sustains Wojtyla within the Thomistic tradition which he espouses.

Recommended Citation

Heaney, Stephen John, "The concept of the unity of the person in the thought of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)" (1988). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8904256.