Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
The dissertation pursues the thesis that although Karol Wojtyła makes great strides in expanding the notion of subjectivity beyond consciousness and then establishing the other as acting subject as the foundation for ethical personalism, his analysis could be significantly enhanced through engagement with the classical Confucian interpersonal ethical sensibility. After all, Wojtyła reviles both individualistic and collectivistic forms of ethics. With Jean-Paul Sartre functioning as a foil for the purposes of appraisal, we can see how Wojtyła extends the notion of subjectivity into the dimension of action and how he establishes the person and, moreover, the other as subject, that is, as acting subject. Subjectivity understood on the basis of action instead of (as reducible to) consciousness is compatible with the personalistic ethical postulate “to treat the other not as an object but as a subject.” On Wojtyła’s account, ethical action is an interaction ipso facto and implies intersubjectivity insofar as one’s action is guided by the other’s subjectivity. What is more, Wojtyła contends not only that the subject is the person but also that person is act. In so doing, he has set the stage for an interpersonal ethics that is the middle way between individualistic and collectivistic forms of ethics. The trajectory of Wojtyła’s ethics bends toward the interpersonal dimension of the human condition, but, perhaps held back by his metaphysics and soteriology, he never fully or methodically develops this interpersonal ethical sensibility. It is regarding this lack that an appeal to Confucius and classical Confucianism is auspicious. Indeed, there is a somewhat surprising but striking compatibility between Wojtyłan personalist ethics and classical Confucian humanistic ethics. They are both built around the interpersonal dimension. While the interpersonal ethical sensibility of the classical Confucians lacks modern theoretical development, unlike Wojtyła they provide vivid descriptions of interpersonal ethical conduct and a clearer vision for an interpersonal ethical program. What emerges from adapting Wojtyła’s ethics to the classical Confucian interpersonal ethical sensibility is enhancement of the Wojtyłan interpersonal ethos and a comprehensive interpersonalist ethics.
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