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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K065-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Personalism is the thesis that only persons (self-conscious agents) and their states and characteristics exist, and that reality consists of a society of interacting persons. Typically, a personalist will hold that finite persons depend for their existence and continuance on God, who is the Supreme Person, having intelligence and volition. Personalists are usually idealists in metaphysics and construct their theories of knowledge by inference from the data of self-awareness. They tend to be nonutilitarian in ethics and to place ultimate value in the person as a free, self-conscious, moral agent, rather than in either mental states or in apersonal states of affairs. Typically, holding that a good God will not allow what has intrinsic value to lose existence, they believe in personal survival of death.

The term ‘personalism’, even as a term for philosophical systems, has myriad uses. There is said to be, for example, atheistic personalism (as in the case of McTaggart, famous for embracing both atheism and the immortality of the soul), absolute idealistic personalism (Hegel, Royce, Calkins), and theistic personalism (Bowne, Brightman, Bertocci). Leibniz and Berkeley are seen as early personalists; both were theists and idealists. Kant, while not strictly a personalist, was influential in personalism’s history. In particular, B.P. Bowne (1847–1910) borrowed freely from Kant, while refusing to accept a Kantian transcendentalism in which our basic concepts or categories apply in a knowledge-giving way only to appearances and not to reality. R.H. Lotze made personality and value central to his worldview, and was a European precursor of American personalism.

Citing this article:
Yandell, Keith E.. Personalism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K065-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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