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The term personalism is derived from person in the philosophical sense. It is understood to be a philosophical school of thought, particularly of the 20th century, which emerged from the Christian - humanist worldview and sees the human being as a person as the core of humanism. This direction sees itself as a critical alternative to one-sided individualistic and collectivistic ( communist and fascist ) theories. Personalistic approaches seek a “third way” alongside naturalistic and socialist theories by setting freedom of decision as the basic principle of human life. In addition, they emphasize the spiritual dimension of human life, the value- oriented will and action of the individual as well as the community as the foundation of the individual's development. Their goal is entirely practical, changing society. Their relationship to authority is usually positive if it represents higher spiritual values.


The core of the personalistic idea is the conviction that man is essentially characterized by the ability to freely decide and take responsibility for his actions, and that this structural freedom represents an inalienable, highest value and an end in itself. When people make use of their freedom , they define themselves as a person and become the “author of their life story” ( Winfried Böhm ). The person is not an immortal, unchangeable essence (in the sense of the soul ), it only reveals itself in the communal practice of human thought and action. In this sense, personality means the dynamic constitution of being of the subject, which produces itself through practice .

The difference to a pure subject theory is that the person only and exclusively through their relationship to another person, i.e. H. can constitute and realize in their social relations. The community of people and dialogue therefore have a constitutive function, and in this particular personal education .

The avowed Catholic Jacques Maritain offers a comprehensive theory of personalism. With him in particular, the question arises whether personalism can be detached from religious preconditions. Most personalists are strongly religious.

In contrast to empirical approaches, which people z. B. Define as a biological individual or as a social role player , the human being as a person withdraws from external control by nature and society , he creates himself through his actions. Human freedom and the responsibility that goes with it are inalienable, i. H. the individual cannot part with them. Personalism has this view in common with existentialism . While existentialism partially concentrates on a description of the meaninglessness of existence, personalism is concerned with producing values ​​that can establish a meaningful existence. Christian existentialists like Blondel and Gabriel Marcel stand on the border . The ethical dimensions of the person extend (according to Paul Ricœur ) on three levels: the desire for a fulfilled life - with and for the others - in just institutions .


One of the most influential sources of the personalist movement in the 20th century (which established the term personalism) is the group around Emmanuel Mounier in France, who became known as the author of the Personalist Manifesto in 1936 and as the editor of the Esprit magazine . Jacques Maritain , Gabriel Marcel , Nikolai Berdjajew , René Biot , Jean Lacroix , Paul-Ludwig Landsberg , Louis Lavelle , Alexandre Marc and Louis Meylan belong to the circle of committed thinkers around Mounier .

After 1945, personalistic concepts were particularly common in Christian education. After the " empirical turn " of the 1960s in educational science , they have become rarer. The same goes for psychology.

In the history of philosophy, personalistic positions were represented in different contexts by:

See also


  • William Stern : Basic ideas of the personalistic philosophy (= Philosophical lectures. 20, ZDB -ID 973461-2 ). Reuther & Reichard, Berlin 1918.
  • Emmanuel Mounier : Manifeste au service du personnalisme (= Collection Esprit. ) Fernand Aulier, Editions Montaigne, Paris 1936, (German: Das personalistische Manifest. Jean-Christophe Verlag, Zurich 1936).
  • Josef M. Seifert : Essere e persona. Verso una fondazione fenomenologica di una metafisica classica e personalistica (= Pubblicazioni del Centro di Ricerche di Metafisica. Sezione di metafisica e storia della metafisica. 6). Vita e pensiero, Milan 1989, ISBN 88-343-0278-8 .
  • Theo Kobusch : The discovery of the person. Metaphysics of freedom and the modern image of man. 2nd edition, revised and extended by an afterword and literature additions. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1997, ISBN 3-534-13377-3 .
  • Robert Spaemann : People. Try on the difference between "something" and "someone". Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-608-91813-2 .
  • Ulrich Diehl: Personality and Humanity. C. Winter, Heidelberg 1999, ISBN 3-8253-0876-6 (also: Würzburg, University, dissertation, 1994).
  • Peter Bieri : The craft of freedom. About discovering your own will. Carl Hanser, Munich et al. 2002, ISBN 3-446-20070-3 .
  • Waltraud Harth-Peter, Ulrich Wehner, Frithjof Grell (eds.): Principle person. About the reason for education. Winfried Böhm on March 22, 2002 (= Bibliotheca Academica. Pedagogy. Vol. 2). Ergon-Verlag, Würzburg 2002, ISBN 3-89913-236-X .
  • Max Scheler: The position of man in the cosmos. 15th, unchanged edition. Bouvier, Bonn 2002, ISBN 3-416-02592-X .
  • Karl Lugmayer : Philosophy of the Person. With an introduction by Erwin Bader and Paul R. Tarmann. Edited by Erwin Bader and Franz Lugmayer. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-58390-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Waltraud Harth-Peter: Religion and education in the light of modern personalism . In: Heitger, Wenger (ed.): Pulpit and catheter. On the relationship between religion and education since the Enlightenment . Paderborn 1994, urn : nbn: de: bvb: 20-opus-42832 ( [PDF]).
  2. Paul Ricœur: The Self as Another (1990).