Krzysztof Dybciak on the Jeweler’s Shop (1980)

Polish thinkers always have been willing to express themselves in literary forms of communication. Our greatest thinkers are writers: poets, novelists, essayists, authors of political works. . . the Polish philosophical style is literary: it is non-systematic; it is oriented toward the life experience of the individual; it is willing to use metaphors, symbols, fictional examples and artistic tales. Maybe this is above all a personalistic style, i.e., it focuses on the problems of a real, unique person, and its investigations are made in an individual, personal way.

.  .  .  The poetic drama “In Front of the Jeweler’s Shop ” is the longest of the literary works which Karol Wojtyla has published to date. The ed destinies of three loving couples – the time is either the present or the immediate past – follow contrapuntal lines established by their declarations or by the declarations of others who are involved in the drama and who relate their actions. The reflections made by the characters mainly concern love. Is the subject of love a being who seems unable to grow from nature to the dimension of his calling by love? Andrzej’s monologue dramatically shows the situation and the potentialities of man.

Here is man! He is not transparent
he is not monumental,
nor is he simple;
he is rather poor.
This is one man – two
four, a hundred, a million-
Multiply all of them
(and multiply this magnitude by weakness),
you obtain a number of people,
a number of human life (FJS, 1574)

The full meaning of the drama may be understood as a polemic between the basic conceptions of love that dominate our world: hedonistic and individualistic. Love, in Jawien’s conception, is an encounter of persons, a mutual gift of oneself to the other, a perfect unification. In this perspective, it must be the gift of man as a whole, in his biological, axiological and temporal dimensions. Love most certainly reveals itself in the form of the total and ultimate unification of two human beings. This direction of Wojtyla’s thinking, while giving action its dynamics, agrees with the philosophical standpoint expressed in his “Appraisal of the Possibility of Building a Christian Ethics on the Philosophy of Max Scheler.”

In the previous twenty years Karol Wojtyla took upon himself the task of establishing a philosophical position that would synthesize phenomenology and personalism. Starting with Scheler, he went in the direction of St. Thomas’s personal-ism, while enriching his methodology with Husserl’s phenomenology and with contemporary anthropo-sciences. The foundations of his new philosophy could not be, as with Scheler, emotion and experience, but ethical action. Man is considered in his totality as a subject capable of actions that bring empirically verifiable results. This constitutes an extremely important step in helping overcome the objective-subjective division which characterizes the philosophy of the last hundred years.

[Author’s Note: In his essay “The Personalism of St. Thomas” Wojtyla writes about this process of contemporary thought: “We gradually observe in this philosophy a process which I would call the hypostasis of consciousness: consciousness becomes an independent subject of action and, indirectly, of existence; the latter emerges, so to speak, alongside the body, alongside its material structure submitted to the laws of nature. . . . This solution is radically different from that of St. Thomas. According to him, consciousness and self-consciousness are a derived product, something like the fruit of a thinking nature that would exist in man.”]

In his literary endeavors Wojtyla constructed a worldview  which we shall call active personalism, sometimes doing so even earlier than in his philosophical works.

Warsaw Translated from the Polish By Alice-Catherine Carls
Krzysztof Dybciak and Alice-Catherine Carls, “The Poetic Phenomenology of a Religious Man: About the Literary Creativity of Karol
Wojtyła,” in World Literature Today, Vol. 54, No. 2 (Spring, 1980), pp. 223-229
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