This is a transcript published in Analecta Cracoviensia 5/6 (1973-4) of a talk by Antoni Stępień about the then Karol Wojtyła’s Acting Person (as it’s known in its, apparently dodgy, English translation).  I didn’t note the occasion on which it was given, unfortunately.  I think some get-together about Person and Act.  Rough translation done by me as an exercise, am sticking it here as the best place not to lose it until I organize my work better :), and someone might be interested. Anyone who is and can fill me on the anglosphere phenomenolololological terminology – I will buy you several beers.


The book Person and Act  – as we read on p22 – is an attempt to combine two philosophies, the philosophy of being and that of consciousness. It is a meeting ground – a meeting neither accidental nor superficial [lit. external] – of Thomism and phenomenology.  Contrary to the opinion of professor Kalinowski quoted here, I think it is in fact a book of the philosophy of man. The kind of philosophy it presents can,  I would say, be called Thomisizing phenomenology. Why?

We are dealing with a certain description of what is immediately given, a description which in its basic shape does not  … go beyond the meaning of that which is immediately given. Nonetheless, in certain formulations this description is filled out with theory taken from elsewhere. On pp 40, 52, and 62, there are formulations that go beyond phenomenological description. This further step is taken with reference to a certain theory, the theory of Thomistic metaphysics. This is done in such a way that basically, it is phenomenology, though conducted along the lines of a certain metaphysics, and what is more, drawing, in some formulations, on certain conceptual schemes taken from Thomistic metaphysics, though this is not always indicated. For this reason I would define this book as being one of Thomisizing phenomenology.

In this book we find described the structure of the person, described in  an enlivening way that sets out clearly certain old intuitions. I think that what is shown is shown with an intention to describe. The parts that are especially somehow fruitful and especially exciting for the reader are the description of the meeting in man of subjectivity and efficiency, the drawing together into a unity of varying elements and aspects in the internal structure. On p 95 we read “Man … is above all a unity of life, and only secondarily and in a way incidentally, a unity of experience[/undergoing].” And this is partly shown, this drawing together of potentiality, consciousness and subjectivity, intentionality, cognition, will …

In connection with what was said by one of the prelegents [Rev. Kłósak] I should like to draw attention to the fact that the act of experience  is here conceived of (correctly, in my opinion) as a senso-intellectual activity, and therefore the division into sensitive and intellectual activities in this conception [Thomist? that of “old intuitions”?]  has been questioned. Every act of the type of human perception is a senso-intellectual activity and the traditional (sharp) division between sensitive and intellectual acts does not apply here. Nor does a sharp division between immediate and mediate knowing correspond to the division between sensitive and intellectual knowing (it seems to me that these divisions have been somehow connected). What is sensitive is not necessarily immediate, and what is intellectual is not necessarily mediate. I think that intellectual cognition can be both mediate and immediate. The act of perception, the human act of experience is a senso-intellectual activity and can be characterized as immediate knowing, not as mediate knowing.

Thus the matter of immediate realism, mediate realism, etc., would look very different. But this is a digression in connection with what was said by Fr Kłósak, that I would not see a problem with the concept of experience in Person and Act. For me there is another problem, a problem with the very concept of consciousness! I simply have certain questions and I cannot answer these questions reading Person and Act, and this “gets in the way” of establishing an epistemological basis for what I find. Because what I have found and have briefly characterised, is, I think, acceptable, and can be developed  – it is simply fruitful. However, independently of this, there are certain matters connected with the first chapter that,it seems to me, are not integrally connected with the remaining matters but that give rise to certain questions. I have in mind the concept of consciousness and the relation of cognition to knowledge.

Though the provenance of these views will be clear to many of you, I will state how I should like to understand this and why, therefore, I have certain questions in regard to Person and Act.

The term “consciousness” is undoubtedly equivocal, and we distinguish the stream of consciousness, particular experiences, acts and states of consciousness, and consciousness itself.

The term “consciousness” is an indefinable term, a primary term whose sense can be demonstrated through examples or comparisons. But various forms of consciousness can be distinguished. The basic phenomenological distinctions are between act consciousness and non-act consciousness, intentional and non-intentional consciousness, objectivising[-z-?] and non-objectivising consciousness.

Act experience is both intentional, that is, it is always directed to an object that transcends it,  and experienced. [“Experienced] means that it manifests itself in the stream of consciousness as taking place through the very act of experiencing. And so the consciousness of the object apprehended is accompanied by consciousness of the apprehending of the object, consciousness of the taking place of the experience as apprehension of the object. And here at once we must distinguish these two forms of consciousness (because it is only with this that we are going to be concerned just now). Objectively directed, act-organized consciousness, and consciousness consisting in experience, the manifestation of the taking place of consciousness.

In consequence of there being two kinds of consciousness, there are two kinds of self-consciousness. The simple, elementary form of self-consciousness is that of experiencing, the fact that the act of consciousness somehow, through its very taking place, somehow marks itself in the stream of consciousness. Other than this we can, in certain acts of reflection (immanent perception, internal perception and remembering), make our state or act of consciousness the object of self-consciousness and then we are dealing with reflective self-consciousness. So we distinguish act consciousness, non-act consciousness (here we are concerned only with that form of non-act consciousness which we call experience), and so experience as simple self-consciousness, and also reflective self-consciousness in the form of internal perception, immanent perception and remembering. This is a sort of model and typology of consciousness I use, of obvious provenance, and so also the connected terminology I use here.

I will only briefly indicate the relationship of cognition to knowing. Cognition and knowing can of course be understood in different ways. But I don’t think one can speak of  cognition-of-which-one-has-not-become-aware, of  knowledge -of-which-one-has-not-become-aware, that we can speak literally of unconscious cognition or knowledge. Unless we were to treat the obtaining of information (because cognition is above all the obtaining of information) about an object as a certain natural process, consisting in the appearance in the knowing subject of certain changes or characteristics whose cognitive role as the factor orienting the subject in his surroundings is necessarily connected with the subject of knowing become aware of this factor. Only in this understanding of cognition, which is I think “foreign” to the whole book of Person and Act, can one say that cognition and consciousness are things that need not be in a certain, nonaccidental, relation. In any case, if we were to accept such an understanding on, e.g., the grounds of extreme behaviouralism, it (this separation of cognition and consciousness) would from the point of view of epistemology a secondary procedure, a theoretical and not empirically given one.

With this in mind, how should consciousness be understood? It seems to be that consciousness can be understood as experiencing/undergoing [przeżywanie], or as reflection, or as self-knowledge. Now, it cannot here be understood as reflection, since the book says sometimes that consciousness is something non-intentional, something that does not objectivise. All reflection is turned to that about which it is reflection, in other words, to its object. It objectivises. So if consciousness does not objectivise, it is not intentional and cannot be reflection, but can be undergoing/experiencing.

But if here it was experiencing, then it would have to take place [?appear? występować] along with that of which it is consciousness. But if the book says that sometimes consciousness does not have to take place with that of which it is consciousness, then consciousness cannot be treated as experience/undergoing because the constitutive connection of experiencing with experiencing is not present, the consciousness of coming-to-pass through the fact itself of coming-to-pass. [:/]

Nor can it be self-knowledge. But its relation to self-knowledge is somehow specific/peculiar. It is said, it is true, that consciousness is not self-knowledge, but at the same time it is said that self-knowledge forms the boundary of conscious[itive?]… [świadomościowe] mirroring [odzwierciedlenie] [ [reflection in this sense]. How could we know that self-knowledge forms the boundary of [consciousitive reflection], if consciousness did not co-constitute self-knowledge?

Finally, one thing causes unease. It is said that consciousness is of an intellectual character. This bald observation invites the question – is the consciousness of animals rejected out of hand?

These then are the questions connected with the reading of Person and Act that cause unease in connection with the understanding of the concept of consciousness. Is consciousness treated as experiencing, as reflection, as self-knowledge? Someone might say that my questions are a result of my model of consciousness, which I presented a little earlier. Possibly the author has a different model of consciousness. In that case it has to be said that here the reader may find himself a little lost and not grasp this concept of self-consciousness. I highlight this problematic emphasizing at the same time that my reservations concerning consciousness and its relation to knowing are not intrinsically related with the remaining content of Person and Act. And perhaps a conclusion can be drawn from this. Namely that the question of consciousness is a matter separate from the evaluation of the other contents of the book, in which, as I said, certain matters, especially connected with the understanding of the conscience, obligation and responsibility, are intellectually very intriguing and, it seems to me, very fruitful.

ps During this discussion I forgot to say that in the book yet another concept of consciousness draws itself, namely [odzwierciedleniowa] – mirroring-reflective. Consciousness as mirroring, as the reflection [in sense of mirror] of being, the object of consciousness. But accepting this conception as fundamental does still not remove the ambiguities of Person and Act in this regard, and brings with it new difficulties. The concept of consciousness in the book requires revision.