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John Paul II and Phenomenology

November 15, 2006

A reader once asked me whether or not I truly thought John Paul II was a phenomenologist or a Thomist. I do not think it is an either/or. That John Paul II’s philosophy (and theology!) was marked with a phenomenological style is indisputable. That John Paul II was also largely a Thomist is likewise hard to refute.

Here is the text of an article from Zenit that I found while digging through their archives:

Phenomenology Represents an “Intellectual Charity,” Says John Paul II
Receives Delegation from U.S.-based Institute

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2003 ( John Paul II relived one of the passions of his intellectual life when he received a delegation from the U.S.-based World Phenomenology Institute.

The philosophers were meeting in Rome on the occasion of the presentation of the volume “Phenomenology Worldwide. Foundations — Expanding — Dynamics — Life Engagements. A Guide for Research and Study.”

In 1953, Karol Wojtyla presented his doctoral thesis “Evaluation of the Possibilities to Construct Christian Ethics Based on the System of Max Scheler.” Scheler is regarded as one of the most eminent disciples of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), father of phenomenology.

During his meeting Saturday with the philosophers, the Pope stressed the decisive importance of Scheler’s contribution, as Husserl “hoped, in fact, that a community of research would be formed to face with diverse yet complementary approaches the great worlds of man and life.”

Edith Stein, the future St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942), was a personal assistant of Husserl, and took courses from Scheler.

“I thank God for having allowed me to participate in this fascinating undertaking, starting with my years of study and teaching and even afterward, in the successive stages of my life and pastoral ministry,” John Paul II said.

The Holy Father described phenomenology as “first of all a style of thought, an intellectual relation with reality, whose essential and constitutive traits one hopes to gather, avoiding prejudices and schematisms.”

“I would like to say it is almost an attitude of intellectual charity toward man and the world and, for the believer, toward God, the principle and the end of all things,” he concluded.


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