Welcome to JP2Studies.com!
Hello, my name is Amanda Achtman and I am a graduate student in the John Paul II Philosophical Studies program at the Catholic University of Lublin. This is the first year that the University is offering an English-language MA program in philosophy at this university where Karol Wojtyła taught for 25 years before becoming Pope John Paul II.
I completed my undergraduate studies under the supervision of Professor Barry Cooper at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada where I studied political science with an emphasis on political theory. Why? Because, as Aristotle discusses, political science is concerned with the supreme good of man. And, as political scientist Eric Voegelin put it, “[Political science] lies not far from the questions of the day and is concerned with the truth of things that everyone talks about. What is happiness? How should a man live in order to be happy? What is virtue?”
Throughout my undergraduate education I attended seminars and conferences hosted by organizations such as: the Institute for Humane Studies, the Foundation for Economic Education, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Mises Institute. I am grateful for these experiences. They were excellent and cultivated in me an enthusiasm for studying the principles of free and virtuous society.
However, there had been some foundational understanding I lacked. A turning point in my education and, indeed, in my life occurred when, at the four-day Acton University conference in 2012, Michael Matheson Miller said, “John Paul II said that ‘the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature’. What he meant is that it gets the human person wrong.”
Since I had been attending many free market and liberty-oriented conferences, I had become well-acquainted with arguments against socialism. And yet, none had been so compelling as this one, and I was transformed by the realization that every ideology – every ism – gets the person wrong, willfully rejecting some aspects from the totality of reality.
I naturally became interested then in learning from those who actually do understand the human person. Studying Eric Voegelin I became persuaded that the nature of the person is openness toward transcendence and reading the works of Hans Jonas, I became persuaded about the importance of the coherence between biography and philosophy.
So what does someone who is open to reality and living with the integrity of unity of life do every day? With these questions, I encountered two of my best historical friends – Etty Hillesum and Simone Weil. Through their diaries and letters, they are ever-helping me on the way to becoming human.
In my last month of university, I received an exciting and unexpected job offer from a Canadian journalist who invited me to move to Toronto after l created a political parody video. He appreciated that I hired someone to sing the lyrics using Elance.com, hired a friend to graphically design the video, and then crowdfunded to recover the costs of production.
My work involved similar resourcefulness and creativity and I enjoyed working on projects promoting freedom and responsibility in Canada through a mix of journalism, politics, advocacy, crowdfunding, and events.
It was during this time that I was living and working in Toronto that I had the opportunity to attend a Cardus-hosted lecture by George Weigel. I was deeply impressed and inspired by his lecture on Saint John Paul II. The most resounding moment of all was when he said, “The noble life is still the most compelling witness for the fundamental truths that are the basis of our common world.”
A month later, I learned about the new English-language philosophy program at the Catholic University of Lublin from a friend whom I’d met at an annual meeting of the Philadelphia Society. I knew it was time for me to become a student of noble lives. As Edmund Burke says, “We are creatures designed for action and contemplation.” And, like Hannah Arendt, “I want no part in the enmity between philosophy and politics.”
There is an exciting effort at this University to continue the tradition of a personalist approach, while responding to contemporary issues. I recall JPII’s address to the University students of Krakow:
You must carry into the future the whole of the experience of history that is called ‘Poland’. It is a difficult experience, perhaps one of the most difficult in the world, in Europe, and in the Church. Do not be afraid of the toil; be afraid only of thoughtlessness and pusillanimity. From the difficult experience that we call ‘Poland’ a better future can be drawn, but only on condition that you are honourable, temperate, believing, free in spirit and strong in your convictions.
Feel free to contact me at: Amanda [dot] Achtman [at] gmail [dot] com