Volume 9, Issue 2, Spring 2019
John F. Crosby
On the Difference between the Cosmological and the Personalist Understanding of the Human Being
In this essay, I try to advance the reception of Karol Wojtyła’s seminal essay “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in Man.” In particular I try to understand and to think through the distinction that he makes between the “personalist” and the “cosmological” image of man. I unpack Wojtyła’s concept of subjectivity, which underlies all that he says about the personalist image of man. I give particular attention to all that he says about the unity formed by the two images. I then proceed to apply Wojtyła’s analysis to a certain cosmological challenge to a personalist understanding of man: it is the challenge that comes from looking at the immensity of the cosmos and at the infinitesimal smallness of man in it and of thinking that man is swallowed up in this immensity and obliterated in his importance. I argue that precisely the subjectivity of the person implies that there is in each person an “infinite abyss of existence” so that each person is in reality his or her own whole and is no mere part of the cosmic whole but is incommensurable with it.