February 26, 2016

Was St. John Paul II a Thomist or a Phenomenologist?

St. John Paul II
I recently came across the following by Dr. Douglas Flippen which was excerpted from his larger work Faith & Reason [Christendom College, Front Royal, VA, Spring 2006, see pages 65 – 106]. Doctor Flippen poses the question: Was Saint John Paul II familiar with and influenced by the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas? Flippen answers in the affirmative, after a chronological review of the evidence, focused primarily on the works of St. John Paul II himself, but also including the evaluations of others.

The article, "Was John Paul II a Thomist or a Phenomenologist?", is quite long and scholarly. It is worth reading, however, if only for its consideration of which was more influential on the thought of John Paul, Max Scheler's phenomenology or Aquinas' Thomism. Given the frequency with which some Theology of the Body scholars designate St. John Paul a phenomenologist, Dr. Flippen's conclusion that John Paul was a Thomist who utilized phenomenology is a much needed insight. Here is a brief selection in which Dr. Flippen states his method and objective:
What I intend to do in this essay is to review the evidence, contained primarily in the works of John Paul II himself, but also in the evaluations others have offered about his thought, in order to evaluate the influence of Thomism on the thought of John Paul II. The order I will follow is chronological. In this way we will be able to see the manner in which the Thomism of the pope begins, develops, and deepens. We will also be able to see the way in which he appropriated insights gained from others, especially from the phenomenology of Max Scheler, whose view of the overall nature of reality and of man John Paul II could not accept. A test of the way in which phenomenology and metaphysics are able to be combined in the thought of the pope will be what he comes to think of human consciousness. We will take an all too brief look at the place it ought to occupy in our view of man and will consider what accommodations, if any, need to be made to the traditional metaphysical view of Thomas in order to include consciousness within the being of man.
Dr. Douglas W. Flippen is a Professor of Philosophy at Christendom College. For more on the historical and philosophical developments that led to St. John Paul II 's Theology of the Body see Theology of the Body, Part 1. For still more visit the Theology of the Body page.

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