Personalism

AN account of Personalism might properly begin at almost any point in the history of philosophy, for it is but "a new name for old ways of thinking." It was implied in the basic principle of Heraclitus ( 536-430 B.C.) who affirmed the self to be the fundamental reality because it alone, of all creation, can differentiate itself from the objective world, and even from its own experiences, the logos being the permanent principle in a world of continuous change.1 Later great landmarks in personalistic progress were: Boethius with his famous definition of the person, St. Augustine whose personalism is set forth in The Confessions, and St. Thomas, who drew from Aristotle the personalistic interpretation, and thereby preserved the peculiar genius of western culture. Personalistic principles are to be found in Kant and Leibnitz as well as in a long line of French philosophers from Descartes through Biran, Ravaisson, Renouvier, and Bergson, and a host of others. In Germany, a similar movement would bear the names of Jacobi, Teichmueller, and Lotze.

Personalism has passed under various designations, such as Voluntarism; Philosophy of Freedom; of Effort; of Probability; of Contingency; of Change; of Force; Spiritual Realism; Critical Philosophy; Vitalism; Panentheism; and Personal Idealism. More recently it has appeared under the designation of Personalism as representing an underground movement against both Fascism and Communism in Russia, Poland, Holland, France, Italy, and is a recognized group in England.

American Personalism can, in spite of this long lineage, lay some claim to being, under this title, a distinctively American philosophy, both on account of the American doctrine of democratic equality for all men, and because it was earliest used in literary form by America's most famous poet, Walt Whitman in "Democratic Vistas," in covering his doctrine of political and so

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1
See Zeller, Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Vol. II, pp. 44. For more modern discussion, see Jaeger, Paidaea: "Heraclitus held that the human soul with all its emotions and sufferings was the center of all the energies of the cosmos." Vol. I, p. 178.

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