Personalism is not a single doctrine

It was natural, then, that in a simultaneous reaction against both totalitarian and individualistic errors the concept of the human person, incorporated as such into society, be opposed to both the idea of the totalitarian state and that of the sovereignty of the individual. In consequence, minds related to widely differing schools of philosophic thought and quite uneven in intellectual exactitude and precision have sensed in the notion and term of “person” the solution sought. Whence, the “personalist” current which has developed in our time. Yet nothing can be more remote from the facts than the belief that “personalism” is one school or one doctrine. It is rather a phenomenon of reaction against two opposite errors, which inevitably contains elements of very unequal merits. Not a personalist doctrine, but personalist aspirations confront us. There are, at least, a dozen personalist doctrines, which, at times, have nothing more in common than the term “person.” Some of them incline variously to one or the other of the contrary errors between which they take their stand. Some contemporary personalisms are Nietzschean in slant, others Proudhonian; some tend toward dictatorship, while others incline toward anarchy. A principal concern of Thomistic personalism is to avoid both excesses.

(Maritain, The Person and the Common Good, pp. 12 – 13)


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