Karol Wojtyla´s Philosophic Method Is a "Return to the Person"

Interview with Author of Doctoral Thesis on Subject

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MEXICO CITY, JAN. 7, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Rodrigo Guerra López received a doctorate from the International Academy for Philosophy in Liechtenstein last month after defending his thesis, “Return to the Person: The Philosophic Method of Karol Wojtyla.”

Guerra López´s objective was to describe the method, influence and novelties that the Pope´s philosophy contributes to contemporary thought.

In researching Wojtyla´s philosophical and theological work, Guerra López demonstrates how, from the beginning, the man who would become Pope has advocated respect for the person as an end in himself, never as a means or an object to be used.

A native of Mexico City, Guerra López spoke with ZENIT.

–Q: What is Karol Wojtyla´s current philosophic thought, especially in this world context of violence and war?

–Guerra López: In my opinion, the Pope´s thought contributes a novel ingredient to the re-establishment of world peace, and lasting peace. That is, peace must be based on a proper conception of the human person and his fundamental rights, so that it will really be lasting, and just conditions will exist.

–Q: What happens when peace is not built on this foundation?

–Guerra López: When peace is sustained by purely political contents, it is not lasting, because it does not respond to the needs of the human heart.

–Q: How can Wojtyla´s philosophic thought be summarized in a few lines?

–Guerra López: In two ways. On one hand, even as a philosopher the Pope is a believer, a Christian, who recognizes that Christ is the one who reveals to man who man is. For him, the matter of faith is not only a fact for religious motivation but for an integral anthropology. On the other hand, from the purely rational perspective, the Pope regards the person as the beginning and end of the organization of life in society.

–Q: What dimension does this acquire, for example, in the formulation of laws or social policies?

–Guerra López: The Pope is conscious of the fact that modern theories of law criticize the ancient concept of natural law; this is why he has elaborated a way of thought that he calls “ius personalism,” which consists primarily of the need to reformulate laws by keeping in mind the dimension of the human person.

This is a fact that can be understood and accepted even by a nonbeliever; and by someone without special philosophical studies: Any law is just to the degree that it responds to human dignity and fundamental rights. The state should recognize that there is a parameter beyond power to manage the common good and be legitimate in the eyes of the people.

–Q: In connection with political practices, in what way could Wojtyla´s thought modify or perhaps improve them in a specific regime?

–Guerra López: Even when it is generally said that the great majority of political regimes respect human rights, the Pope´s great response is that human rights must really be the parameter of conduct to exercise power.

When a ruler does not profoundly respect human rights, which are the minimum assumptions for social coexistence, he gradually becomes illegitimate in his exercise of power. Human rights are the ethical and juridical justification for a ruler to maintain himself and be respected by the people who have elected him democratically.

–Q: I see in the Pope and philosopher Karol Wojtyla a kind of positive obsession to demonstrate the truth — not to impose it but to demonstrate it through its splendor. Am I right?

–Guerra López: So it is, but there is also a very great novelty in the way with which he affirms, demonstrates, argues in regard to truth: [that is,] that action is a special moment to demonstrate the truth.

This means that it is not enough to demonstrate on a blackboard or before an academic forum what is regarded as true; it is necessary to demonstrate through action that it is possible to live according to the truth. The Pope, and of course the Church in her doctrine, consider that the Christian insertion in history is absolutely feasible, realizable. It is there, in our work, in our profession, in daily life, where each one shows the splendor of truth.

–Q: From the Pope´s point of view, what is the truth longed for by the human heart?

–Guerra López: Not only [the truth] which moves the intelligence but especially that which redeems and frees the person from oppressions and problems, which summarize the situation of the contemporary world.

–Q: When many hoped for a Pope who would be closed to dialogue, John Paul II opened it, acknowledging the faults of the Church, asking for forgiveness, and challenging all currents of thought to prove their truth. More than a few were bothered by his “even Communism has seeds of truth …”

–Guerra López: It is interesting to see how the idea does not exist, in the Pope´s perspective, that the truth is manifested only in those who are in perfect communion with the Church and the deposit of faith, but [rather] in all men who in conscience sincerely seek the truth, even if they begin from premises that are very different from the Christian. If they have the truth, that truth, as St. Thomas Aquinas said, “proceeds from the Holy Spirit,” even when they do not recognize it as having this origin.

This is why the social thought of the Pope has assimilated many of the ingredients of contemporary philosophy, including thinkers who are not specifically Christian; and he has integrated them in a Christian matrix, which allows them to be appreciated in their correct dimension.

Today, the social thought of the Church is really in the vanguard of contemporary thought on society and justice. Faithful to her origin, the Church is open to truth, wherever it manifests itself — because this truth will always be part of that truth which God wills to give man for his liberation.

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