TPP founders, Katie and Jules van Schaijik
Philosophical origins and antecedents
We met as undergraduates at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1985. A talk by Alice von Hildebrand at a Christian Culture conference there in 1986 awakened in us both an unexpected interest in philosophy. At her recommendation, we signed up for a class the following semester by Michael Healy on the Nature of Love, where we encountered for the first time the writings of Dietrich von Hildebrand, Karol Wojtyla, Soren Kierkegaard, and Josef Pieper, among others. Wanting much more like it, we filled what space we had in our final-year schedules with philosophy electives. Then, after graduating in 1988, we went on to the International Academy for Philosophy in Liechtenstein, where we had the inestimable privilege of studying at the feet of the great philosophical triumvirate of Josef Seifert, John F. Crosby, and Rocco Buttiglioni.
We were married in 1989.
Several things about our experience at both FUS and the IAP were key in shaping the mission of the Personalist Project.
These things (together with others peculiar to our circumstances) rendered us unhappy in the professional academia we entered later, with all its bureaucracy and politics tending to dethrone Truth, and its way of rejecting faith as hostile to science, or else injecting it in a way that does violence to true philosophy.
Then, too, for all the great and indispensable work being done by many scholars in academia, we found the excessive professionalization of philosophy deeply depressing. We saw it as bad for the philosophers. If they are constantly driven by the practical demands of class preparations, paper grading and committee work, plus harassed by interference from officious administrators, and under constant pressure from the publish-or-perish mentality typical of universities today, how will they be able to cultivate the kind of leisure that seemed to us essential to true philosophy? It also seemed bad for the wider culture, because philosophy had, unquestionably, become too technical and esoteric to play the role it should in human life and society.
If an ordinary person wants (as he should) to give some serious attention to the fundamental questions of human life, must he either enroll in a years-long, expensive degree program toward an academic career, or try to come to terms with abstruse texts and difficult problems on his own, without the help of teachers? If he wants a more rigorous grasp of the foundations of the Church’s moral teachings, say, or deeper insight into the nature and dignity of persons, or a fuller appreciation of the issues relating to freedom and law in political philosophy, or a sharper, more probing and comprehensive intelligence generally, is it necessary for him to study foreign languages, master an intricate body of technical jargon, and devote large swaths of precious time to deciphering the works of Schopenhauer, Spinoza and Sartre? Or isn’t there some other way?
Our sense that there must be some other way, for philosophers and philosophy students alike, led us to establish The Personalist Project, in 2007 on the Feast of All Souls. We dedicate its work (not counting its shortcomings, which are ours alone), in gratitude, to our former professors, and commend it to the intercession of our three most important intellectual influences: John Henry Newman, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and Karol Wojtyla.