In a special way, since the publication of “Amoris Laetitia,” the brouhaha that is ongoing in the Church seems to center on the question as to whether Pope Francis is playing fast and loose with the orthodoxy of the Church or not; case in point being: whether to admit the divorced/remarried to Communion. And then take it to apply to any number of questions, not least of which would be a married clergy. He clearly has not make any attempt to change doctrine directly or explicitly.
I perceive the pope to be in the direct doctrinal and theological lineage of Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and the four of them to be men of Vatican II. Hence, I take it to be a problem of the perception and reception of Vatican II. And to sharpen that, I would go to Karol Wojtyla’s rendering of Vatican II to his pre-papal diocese of Krakow entitled “Sources of Renewal.” And I would hone in the following observation of his chapter 1:
“f we study the Conciliar Magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the Church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?’. ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?” and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’ … “The question ‘What does it mean to be a believing member of the Church?’ is indeed difficult and complex, because it not only presuppose the truth of faith and pure doctrine, but also call for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and calls for definition of the attitude, or rather the many attitudes, that to make the individual a believing member of the Church. This would seem to be the main respect in which the Conciliar Magisterium has a pastoral character, corresponding to the pastoral purpose for which it was called. A ‘purely’ doctrine Council would have concentrated on defining the precise meaning of the truths of faith, whereas a pastoral Council proclaims, recalls or clarifies truths for the primary purpose of giving Christians a life-style, a way of thinking and acting. In our efforts to put the Council into practice, this is the style we must keep before our minds. In the present study, designed to help towards the realization of Vatican II, we shall concentrate on the consciousness of Christians and the attitudes they should acquire. These attitudes, springing from a well-formed Christian conscience, can in a sense be regarded as true proof of the realization of the Council. This is the direction which should be followed by all pastoral action, the lay apostolate and the whole of the Church’s activity”.
The above could not be done and understood unless Wojtyla himself had not forged a metaphysical anthropology of the subject, the “I.” And he did this by using “experience” as the epistemological method. If one speaks of the unique self – the “I” – experientially, one speaks of the “I” as an objective reality, a metaphysical being. The subject – the “I” –person – is experienced objectively. That done, a new metaphysic of the person appears. One is able to speak of a subjective dynamic in objective metaphysical terms.
The was the achievement of Gaudium et Spes of which Wojtyla was the principal architect. Gaudium et spes #24 speaks of the dynamic of the human person make in the image of the divine Persons: “Man (as revealed in the divine “I” of Jesus Christ”), t he only earthly being God had made for himself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” Behold the new metaphysic of the subject and its dynamic which follows the dynamic of the Trinitarian Persons. And behold with this, the entire social doctrine of the Church, the meaning work and the meaning human sexuality all come into view. The transition from Greek nature to Christian person has taken place and in metaphysical terms.
Now, pope Francis has applied the fruit of this transition courageously to the hard peripheral pastoral conundra in the Church: widespread divorce-remarriage, shortage of priests/need of sacraments- celibacy, ecumenism…. The wheelhouse of discernment is no longer Greek “nature,” but the experience and consciousness of being an “I,” – a person with Trinitarian relationality as criterion of truth. Where the transition is not only not understood but not even glimpsed. It is unavoidable that Francis be hung for doctrinal imprecision, vagueness if not for heresy.
Let me offer Wojtyla’s own account for the development from Greek Substance Metaphysic to phenomenological personalism which givies a more adequate and realist philosophical account of the Christian revelation.
PERSON AND COMMUNITY
Translated by Theresa Sandok, OSM
Subjectivity and the Irreducible in
the Human Being
THE STATE OF THE QUESTION
The problem of the subjectivity of the human being seems
today to be the focal point of a variety of concerns. It would be difficult to explain in
just a few words exactly why and how this situation has arisen. No doubt it owes its emergence to numerous causes, not all
of which should be sought in the realm of philosophy or science. Nevertheless, philosophy—especially philosophical anthropology and ethics—is a privileged place when it comes to clarifying and
objectifying this problem. And this is precisely where the heart of the issue lies. Today more than ever before we feel the need—and also see a greater possibility—of objectifying the problem of the subjectivity of the human being.
this regard, contemporary thought seems to have more or less set aside the old antinomies that arose primarily in the area
of the theory of knowledge
(epistemology) and that formed an as though inviolable line of demarcation between the basic orientations in
philosophy. The antinomy of subjectivism vs.
objectivism, along with the underlying antinomy of idealism vs. realism, created conditions that discouraged
dealing with human subjectivity—for fear
that this would lead inevitably to subjectivism.
These fears, which existed among thinkers who subscribed to realism and epistemological objectivism, were in some
sense warranted by the subjectivistic and idealistic
character—or at least overtones—of analyses
conducted within the realm of “pure consciousness.” This only served to strengthen the line of demarcation in
philosophy and the opposition between the “objective” view of the
human being, which was also an ontological view (the human being as a being), and the “subjective” view, which seemed inevitably to sever the human being from this reality.
Today we are seeing a breakdown of that line of demarcation—and for some of the same reasons that gave rise to it in the first place. By “some of the same reasons” I mean that this is also happening as a result of phenomenological analyses conducted in the realm of “pure consciousness” using Husserl’s epoché: bracketing the existence, or reality, of the conscious subject. I am convinced that the line of demarcation between the subjectivistic (idealistic) and objectivistic (realistic) views in anthropology and ethics must break down and is in fact breaking down on the basis of the experience of the human being. This experience automatically frees us from pure consciousness as the subject conceived and assumed a priori and leads us to the full concrete existence of the human being, to the reality of the conscious subject. With all the phenomenological analyses in the realm of that assumed subject (pure consciousness) now at our disposal, we can no longer go on treating the human being exclusively as an objective being, but we must also somehow treat the human being as a subject in the dimension in which the specifically human subjectivity of the human being is determined by consciousness.
And that dimension would seem to be none other than personal subjectivity.
2. THE HISTORY OF THE QUESTION
This matter requires a fuller examination, in the
course of which we must consider the
question of the irreducible in the human being—the question of that which is original and essentially
human, that which accounts for the human being’s complete uniqueness in
Traditional Aristotelian anthropology was based, as we know, on the definition o anthropos zoon noetikon, homo est animal rationale. This definition fulfills Aristotle’s requirements for defining the species (human being) through its proximate genus (living being) and the feature that distinguishes the given species in that genus (endowed with reason). At the same time, however, the definition is constructed in such a way that it excludes—when taken simply and directly—the possibility of accentuating the irreducible in the human being. It implies—at least at first glance—a belief in the reducibility of the human being to the world. The reason for maintaining such reducibility has always been the need to understand the human being. This type of understanding could be defined as cosmological.
The usefulness of
the Aristotelian definition is unquestionable. It became the dominant view in
metaphysical anthropology and spawned a variety of particular sciences, which likewise understood
the human being as an animal with the distinguishing feature of reason. The whole
scientific tradition concerning the
composition of human nature, the spiritual-material compositum humanum—a tradition that came down from
the Greeks through
the Scholastics to Descartes—moved within the framework of this definition and,
consequently, within the context of the belief that the essentially human is
basically reducible to the world. It cannot be denied that vast regions of experience and scientific
knowledge based on that experience
reflect this belief and work to confirm it.
On the other hand, a belief in the primordial uniqueness of the human being, and thus in the basic irreducibility of the human
being to the natural world, seems just as old as the need
for reduction expressed in Aristotle’s definition. This belief stands at the basis of understanding
the human being as
a person, which has an equally long tenure in the history of philosophy; it also accounts
today for the growing emphasis on the person as a subject and for the numerous efforts aimed at
subjectivity of the human being.1
In the philosophical
and scientific tradition that grew out of the definition homo est animal rationale, the human being was mainly an object, one of the objects in the world to which the human being
visibly and physically
belongs. Objectivity in this sense was connected with the general assumption of the
reducibility of the human being. Subjectivity, on the other hand, is, as it were, a term proclaiming that
the human being’s proper essence cannot be totally reduced to and explained by
the proximate genus
and specific difference. Subjectivity is, then, a kind of
synonym for the irreducible in the human being. If there is an opposition here,
it is not
between objectivism and subjectivism, but only between two philosophical (as well as
everyday and practical) methods of treating the human being: as an object and as a subject. At the same
time, we must not
forget that the subjectivity of the human person is also something objective.2
I should also emphasize that the method of treating the
human being as an object does not
result directly from the Aristotelian definition itself, nor does it belong to the metaphysical conception of the
human being in the Aristotelian tradition. As we know, the objectivity of the
conception of the human being as a being
itself required the postulate that the human being is 1) a separate suppositum (a subject of existence and
action) and 2) a person (persona). Still,
the traditional view of the human being as a
person, which understood the person in terms of the Boethian definition as rationalis
naturae individua substantia, expressed the individuality of the human being as a substantial being with a rational
(spiritual) nature, rather than the
uniqueness of the subjectivity essential to the human being as a person. Thus the Boethian definition mainly marked
out the “metaphysical terrain”—the dimension of being—in
which personal human subjectivity
is realized, creating, in a sense, a condition for “building
upon” this terrain on the basis of experience.
LIVED EXPERIENCE AS AN ELEMENT IN
The category to which we must go
in order to do this “building” seems to be that of lived experience. This is a category foreign
to Aristotle’s metaphysics.
The Aristotelian categories that may appear relatively closest to lived experience—those of agere
and pate—cannot be identified with it. These categories serve to
describe the dynamism of a being, and they also do a good job of
differentiating what merely happens in the human being from what the human being does.3
But when the dynamic reality of the human being is interpreted in Aristotelian
categories, there is in each case
(including in the case of agere and pate) an aspect not directly apprehended by such a metaphysical interpretation
or reduction, namely, the aspect of
lived experience as the irreducible, as the element that defies reduction. From the point of view of the
meta-physical structure of being and
acting, and thus also from the point of view of the dynamism of the human being understood meta-physically, the
apprehension of this element may seem
unnecessary. Even without it, we obtain an adequate understanding of the human being and of the fact that
the human being acts and that
things happen in the human being. Such an understanding formed the basis of the entire edifice of anthropology and
ethics for many centuries.
But as the need
increases to understand the human being as a unique and unrepeatable person,
especially in terms of the whole dynamism of action
and inner happenings proper to the human being—in other words, as
the need increases to understand the personal subjectivity of the human being—the category of lived experience takes on
greater significance, and, in fact,
key significance. For then the issue is not just the metaphysical objectification of the human being as an acting
subject, as the agent of acts, but the revelation of the person as a subject experiencing
its acts and inner happenings, and
with them its own subjectivity. From the moment the need to interpret the acting human being (I’home agissant) is
expressed, the category of lived
experience must have a place in anthropology and ethics—and even somehow be at the center of their respective interpretations.4
One might immediately ask whether, by giving lived
experience such a key function in
the interpretation of the human being as a personal subject, we are not inevitably condemned to subjectivism.
Without going into a detailed
response, I would simply say that, so long as in this interpretation we maintain a firm enough connection with
the integral experience of the
human being, not only are we not doomed to subjectivism, but we will also safeguard the authentic personal
subjectivity of the human being in the realistic
interpretation of human existence.
4. THE NECESSITY OF PAUSING AT
THE IRREDUCIBLE [the “I” cann be “reduced” to a mere object or “thing”]
In order to interpret the human
being in the context of lived experience, the aspect of consciousness must
be introduced into the analysis of human existence.
The human being is then given to us not merely as a being defined according to species, but as a concrete self, a self-experiencing subject. Our own subjective being and the existence proper to it (that of a suppositum) appear to us in experience precisely as a self-experiencing subject. If we pause here, this being discloses the structures that determine it as a concrete self. The disclosure of these structures constituting the human self need in no way signify a break with reduction and
the species definition of the human being—rather,
it signifies the kind of methodological operation that may be described as pausing at the irreducible. We should pause in the process of reduction, which leads us in the direction of understanding the human being in the world (a cosmological type of understanding), in order to understand the human being inwardly. This latter type of understanding may be called personalistic.
The personalistic type of understanding the human being is not antinomy of the cosmological type but its complement. As I mentioned earlier, the definition of the person formulated by Boethius only marks out the “metaphysical terrain” for interpreting the personal subjectivity of the human being.
The experience of the human being cannot be derived by way of cosmological reduction; we must pause at the irreducible, at that which is unique and unrepeatable in each human being, by virtue of which he or she is not just a particular human being—an individual of a certain species—but a personal subject. Only then do we get a true and complete picture of the human being. We cannot complete this picture through reduction alone; we also cannot
remain within the framework of the irreducible alone (for then we would be unable to get beyond
the pure self).
The one must be cognitively supplemented with the other. Nevertheless, given the variety of
circumstances of the real existence of human beings, we must always leave the greater space in this
cognitive effort for the irreducible; we must, as it were, give the irreducible
the upper hand
when thinking about the human being, both in theory and in practice. For the irreducible also refers
to everything in the human being that is invisible and wholly internal and whereby each human
being, myself included,
is an “eyewitness” of his or her own self—of his or her own humanity and person.
My lived experience discloses
not only my actions but also my inner happenings in their
profoundest dependence on my own self. It also discloses my whole personal
structure of self-determination, in which I discover my self as that through
which I possess myself and govern myself—or, at any rate, should possess myself and
govern myself. The dynamic structure of self-determination reveals to me that I am given to
myself and assigned to myself. This is precisely how I appear to myself in my acts and in my inner
decisions of conscience: as permanently assigned to myself, as having continually to affirm and
monitor myself, and thus, in a sense, as having continually to
“achieve” this dynamic structure of my self, a structure that is given to me as
self-possession and self-governance. At the same time, this is a completely internal and totally immanent structure. It is a real
endowment of the personal subject; in a sense, it is this subject. In my lived
experience of self-possession and self-governance,
I experience that I am a person and that I am a subject.
These structures of
self-possession and self-governance, which are essential to every personal self
and shape the personal subjectivity of every human being, are experienced by each of us in the lived
experience of moral value—good and evil. And perhaps this reality is often revealed to us more intensely when it is
threatened by evil than when—at least for the moment—nothing threatens it. In
any case, experience teaches that the morale is very deeply rooted in the humanum,
or, more precisely, in what should be
defined as the personals. Morality defines the personalistic dimension of the human being in a fundamental way; it is subjectified in this dimension and can also be properly understood only in it. At the same time, however, the morale is a basic
expression of the transcendence proper to the personal self. Our decisions of conscience at each step reveal us as persons who fulfill ourselves by going
beyond ourselves toward values accepted in truth and realized, therefore, with a deep sense of responsibility.
5. A CHALLENGING PERSPECTIVE
This topic has been the subject
of many penetrating analyses, some already completed and others ongoing. While not continuing those analyses here, I wish only to state that, when it comes to understanding the human being, the whole rich and complex reality of lived experience is not so much an element or aspect as
a dimension in its own right. And this
is the dimension at which we must necessarily pause if the subjective structure—including the subjective personal structure—of the human being is to be fully delineated.
What does it mean to pause
cognitively at lived experience? This “pausing” should be understood in
relation to the irreducible. The traditions of philosophical anthropology
would have us believe that we can, so to speak, pass right over this dimension, that we can
cognitively omit it by means of an abstraction that provides us with a species definition of the
human being as a being, or, in other words, with a cosmological type of
reduction (homo = animal rationale). One might ask, however, whether in so defining the essence of
the human being we do not in a sense leave out what is most human, since the humanum
expresses and realizes itself as the personals. If so, then the irreducible would
suggest that we cannot come to know and understand the human being in a reductive way alone. This is also what the
contemporary philosophy of the subject seems to be
telling the traditional philosophy of the object.
But that is not all. The irreducible signifies that which is essentially incapable of reduction, that which cannot be reduced but can only be disclosed
or revealed. Lived experience essentially defies reduction. This does not mean, however,
that it eludes our knowledge; it only means that we must arrive at the knowledge of it differently, namely, by a method or means of analysis that merely reveals and discloses
its essence. The method of phenomenological analysis allows us to pause at lived experience as the irreducible. This method is not just a descriptive cataloging of individual
phenomena (in the Kantian sense, i.e., phenomena as sense-perceptible contents). When we pause at the lived experience of the irreducible, we attempt to permeate cognitively the whole essence of this experience. We thus apprehend both the essentially subjective structure of lived experience and its structural relation to the subjectivity of the human being.
Phenomenological analysis thus contributes to trans-phenomenal understanding; it also contributes to a disclosure of the richness proper to human existence in the whole complex compositum humanum.
Such a disclosure—the deepest possible disclosure—would
seem to be an indispensable means for coming to know the human being as a personal subject. At the same time, this personal human subjectivity is a determinate reality: it is a reality when we strive to
understand it within the objective totality that goes by the name human being. The same applies to the whole character of this method of understanding. After all, lived experience is also—and above all—a reality. A legitimate method of disclosing this reality can only enrich and deepen the whole realism of the conception of the human being.
The personal profile of the human being then enters the sphere of cognitive vision, and the
composition of human nature, far from being blurred, is even more distinctly accentuated. The thinker seeking the ultimate philosophical truth about the human being no longer moves in a “purely
metaphysical terrain,” but finds elements in abundance testifying to both the materiality and the
spirituality of the human being, elements that bring both of these aspects into sharper
relief. These elements then form the building blocks for further philosophical construction.
But certain questions always remain: Are these two types of understanding the
human being—the cosmological and the personalitic—ultimately mutually exclusive? Where, if at all, do reduction and the disclosure of the irreducible in the
human being converge? How is the philosophy of the subject to disclose the objectivity of the human being in the personal subjectivity of this being? These seem to be the
questions that today determine the perspective for thinking
about the human being, the perspective for contemporary anthropology and ethics. They are essential and burning questions. Anthropology and ethics must be pursued
today within this challenging but promising perspective.
One such effort is my book Osoba i czyn [Person and
Action] (Krakow: Polskie Tow. Teologiczne, 1969; rev. ed. 1985). [English
edition: The Acting Person, trans. Andrzej Potocki, ed.
Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (Boston: Reidel, 1979).] Another even more relevant work in this regard is my essay “The
Person: Subject and Community” 219-261 below.
See the section entitled “Subjectivity and
Subjectivism” in The Acting Person 56-59.
My work The Acting Person is in large measure constructed upon this basis.
One can observe this by comparing my book The Acting
Person with Mieczyslaw A. Krapiec’s book I—Man: An Outline of Philosophical Anthropology, trans. Marie Lescoe, Andrew Woznicki, Theresa Sandok et al. (New Britain:
Karol WoJtyla, “Podmiotowosci I ‘to, co
nieredukowalne’ w eflowieku,” Ethos 1.2-3 (1988): 21-28. A paper sent to an international conference in Paris (13-14 June 1975).