Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Defending Human Dignity: John Paul II and Political Realism

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Defending Human Dignity: John Paul II and Political Realism

Article excerpt

BRIEFLY NOTED DEFENDING HUMAN DIGNITY: JOHN PAUL II AND POLITICAL REALISM by DEREK JEFFREYS Brazos, 235 pages, $19.99

Derek Jeffreys, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, undertakes a study of the contributions of John Paul II to a Christian approach to political life and to international relations. Jeffreys pays particular attention to the influence on Karol Wojtyla of the phenomenology of Max Scheler. And so in Jeffreys' first chapter we hear little about war and peace and justice, but much about lived experience, the perception of values, the hierarchy of values, and love between persons. Though Wojtyla accepts the fundamental categories of Thomism and philosophizes within them, he also brings into his philosophizing a keen interest in the subjectivity and interiority of persons. Perhaps the most important single thought that Jeffreys gathers from Wojtylean personalism is the priority of spiritual over material values. Of course, this priority is as old as Plato. The originality of Wojtyla lies in the way he rethinks the priority in personalist terms, affirming that properly personal values rank above non- and sub-personal values. It must be said that this personalist originality of Wojtyla remains underdeveloped by Jeffreys. But he wants to engage what he calls "political realism" as a normative theory. Jeffreys finds this realism in thinkers who scorn as selfindulgent those statesmen concerned with right intentions and moral integrity. …

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