A Comparison of the Personalist Philosophies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Karol Wojtyla




Ortego, Sidney

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Martin Luther King Jr. spent his life advocating for the dignity of all people. King’s idea of human dignity was informed by his Christian spirituality and his study of personalism—a school of philosophical thought that asserts the centrality of the person. Likewise, Polish philosopher Karol Wojtyla—also known as Saint Pope John Paul II—was a Catholic theologian and human rights activist in the 20th century who inspired many with his teachings on the dignity of the human person and the appropriateness of love to the nature of the person. Although King’s understanding of human dignity is theologically grounded and Wojtyla’s is philosophically grounded, the conclusions they reach are similar. In this thesis, I will argue that King’s idea of human dignity is supported by Wojtyla’s philosophical argument for the self-evident dignity of persons, thereby expanding the audience of King’s basic teachings on dignity to the secular world. Additionally, I will suggest that Wojtyla’s theological understanding of personhood, which focuses on the Incarnation and Passion of Jesus Christ, expands upon King’s account which is based solely on the Imago Dei; Wojtyla is thus able to convey the restoration of human dignity amidst a fallen world.



Personalism., Human Dignity., Love.