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Document Details :
Title: The Historical Roots of Personalism
Subtitle: From Renouvier's Le Personnalisme, Mounier's Manifeste au service du personnalisme and Maritain's Humanisme intégral to Janssens' Personne et Société
Author(s): DE TAVERNIER, Johan
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 16 Issue: 3 Date: September 2009
The present article focuses on American and European personalism during the early part of the twentieth century (up to 1939). The immediate predecessor of the personalist movement as such was the philosopher Rudolf Hermann Lotze who inspired two of his students, Methodist Borden Parker Bowne and Rudolf Eucken. In France, in the meantime, Charles Renouvier published his Le personnalisme in 1903, while Emmanuel Mounier later presented personalism as a new political philosophy under the influence Alexandre Marc’s comments on Nicolai Hartmann’s Ethik. Mounier’s Manifeste au service du personnalisme (1936) develops a dialectical critique on both liberal bourgeois individualism and all forms of collectivism, all, in his opinion, ‘inverted theocracies’ with shared dehumanizing tendencies. As alternative, it was necessary for personalism to become the leading spiritual and philosophical guide in order to Refaire la Renaissance (Esprit 1  5-51). As a matter of fact, Jacques Maritain’s Humanisme intégral (1936) might justly be considered a first attempt to describe the nature of a new civilization in any detail. Maritain is more explicit on the Christian face of this new humanism, while refuting any kind of mancentred humanism. Mounier’s and Maritain’s personalist ideas together with Max Scheler’s non-formal ethics of value and his Aktlehre had a considerable influence on Louis Janssens. In Personne et société (1939) he not only criticizes several contemporary European ideologies in line with Mounier, but he also accepts that persons can only be really known by co-operation, in line with Scheler’s idea of inter-subjectivity and Aquinas’ idea of the social nature of the human being. Following Maritain, Janssens distinguishes between the human being as individual and the human person. Individuality contains a material component, characterized by its concrete position in space and time, while the person and his/her spiritual component (‘le moi spirituel’) facilitate a movement away from the self towards others in freedom and love. The person is not only understood as the highest value, he/she is able to control the hierarchy of values by his/her ordo amoris, a flexible undertaking influenced by the love of others in which love opens each person for growth towards higher values.