by Denis Larrivee
Karol Wojtyla approached ethics through an enduring interest in man’s fundamentally personalist nature. Following this path, his ethical study had two objectives: to characterize the personalist subject as an agent of ethical activity and as an end for the pursuit of the good, that is, as a value contingent locus. His interest in validating ethical praxis thus fell outside the pragmatic question of the manner of its practice; meaning that it fell within a sphere more properly characterized as metaethical.
Although Wojtyla distinguished both objectives conceptually, he recognized that this distinction did not imply their mutual independence. Linking these two, he argued, was the experience of morality that manifested itself in action. Understood as the ground for value contingency in the person, the capacity for the performance of the ‘good’ thereby established the personal agent as a value locus.
[T]he reality of the person inheres in morality, that morality is a thoroughly specific and connatural reality with respect to the person – with respect precisely to the person and only to the person… man as a man, becomes good or evil through the act.
As a metaethical object for the evolution of ethical praxis, thus, the capacity for morality validated the wholly referential status of the person.
It was in view of this referential status, that is, as a meta domain that defined and determined ethical praxis in inquiry and practice, that the objective reality of the person could be normatively qualified. Holub points out that in Wojtyla’s specific exploration this reality was constituted in the phenomenal subject, that is, in the specific sphere of reality that defined the unique interiority and operativity of the individual. Wojtyla’s emphasis on the phenomenal subject, accordingly, is reminiscent of distinctively modern elements such as consciousness and self-awareness and a performative dimension that originates from within a personal ‘someone’, hence belonging to no other. However, by invoking a Thomistic metaphysical deduction, he goes beyond this exterior and phenomenal expression to forge a link to an inner and integral unity, a ‘humanum suppositum,’ for which the expressed dimension is only one manifestation. By this integral unity he meant a metaphysical subjectivity that grounded the objective, epistemological reality of the personalist subject. Karol Wojtyla’s personalism thus drew, as he claimed, from a philosophy of ‘genuinely metaphysical range’ where the person ‘constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical inquiry’.
For ethical praxis this conception is significant in linking the subject’s dynamical operativity not solely, or merely, to a collection of phenomenal events, but to an integral and unique subject. Hence, it is fundamentally constitutive for ethics. What Wojtyla offers, therefore, is a metaphysical justification for ethical praxis, and an exploration of those modalities that would be normatively qualified through this metaphysical link. Burgos has specifically identified the object of Wojtyla’s exploration with personal subjectivity:
...what Wojtyla is searching for is a reelaboration of Thomistic gnoseology that considers the advances of modernity and mostly the possibility offered by the phenomenology of directly accessing the subjectivity of the person.
Such a characterization, indeed, reflects the phenomenal emphasis of Wojtyla’s personalist exploration; however, it nonetheless fails to consider other manifestations that are metaphysically anchored, since his metaphysical subject is neither purely phenomenological nor wholly structured by the phenomenal dimension. In fact, the humanum suppositum both extends and confirms the possibility for exploring a multiplicity of other modalities that may constitute its predicates, and that do not rely on such a unimodal manifestation. This extension allows Wojtyla to move beyond the purely phenomenological to other dimensions of the subject.
Crucially, as Holub points out, the humanum suppositum bridges and integrates alternative, manifestations that are constitutively present, thereby subordinating these also within the ethical sphere.
[T]he subject is not a sequence or stream of psycho-physical events taking place in the human individual. Rather it must be characterized by a metaphysical structure, which precedes all acts and happenings.
The metaphysical structure therefore also anchors physical attributes of the person, especially of the nervous system, which is widely invoked as the physical substrate for the phenomenal subject, and where questions of praxis have been classed in the domain of neuroethics. By identifying the subject as a metaethical principle, that is, as a value contingent object, he thus extends, by virtue of the metaphysical unity of the person, value to all those attributes that constitute the subject. Indeed, this metaphysical inference enables Wojtyla to caution in Veritatis Splendor ‘against a manipulation of corporeity which would alter its human meaning...’ on grounds that the ‘...nature of the human person is in the unity of body and soul ...that stand and fall together...’ a clear indication that he regarded the corporal manifestation to be subsumed within the metaphysical concept of the suppositum, which thus acts to validate an ethical praxis within the corporal sphere. Indeed, Wojtyla’s recognition of the fundamental participation of the corpus in the integral unity of the human is also evident in his opus Man and Woman: He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, a position expressed in more nascent form in Montini’s Humanae Vitae that is probative for technological interventions circumventing the generation of biological life. In the logic of the metaphysical argument the suppositum can be expected, therefore, to anchor neuroethical praxis concerned with the impact of neural intervention on the specifically human meaning of life.
The utility of the metaphysical dimension to neuroethics thus emerges from its link to the specifically corporal contribution made to the unity of the person, that is, as a physical structure that is enabling to a human ontological, subjective and integrative order. As such its utility to neuroethical praxis devolves from the fundamental participation of the corporal manifestation in structuring the ontological unity of the individual. By extension, this corporal contribution may be used to assess the validity of metaphysical presuppositions of other, modern neuroethical variants.
 Ibid., p. 17.
 Cf. G. Holub, The Human Subject and its Interiority: Karol Wojtyla and the Crisis in Philosophical Anthropology, “Quien”, vol. 4 (2016) p. 47-66.
 Cf. G. Holub, The Human Subject and its Interiority: Karol Wojtyla and the Crisis in Philosophical Anthropology, “Quien”, vol. 4 (2016), p. 47-66.
 Cf. J.M. Burgos, The Method of Karol Wojtyla: A Way Between Phenomenology, Personalism and Metaphysics, in "Analecta Husserliana", vol. 104(2009), p. 110.
 Cf. P. Reiner, The Rise in Neuroessentialism in (eds) J. Iles, B. Sahakian, "The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics", Oxford 2011; Cf. N. Levy, Neuroethics and the Extended Mind, in (eds) J. Iles, B. Sahakian, "The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics", Oxford 2011; Cf. A. Roskies http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2016/08/mental-alchemy_23.html.
 Cf. John Paul II, Pope. The Splendor of Truth = Veritatis Splendor: Encyclical Letter. Boston, Mass 1993.
 Cf. John Paul II, Pope. Man and Woman: He Created Them. A Theology of the Body, (trans. M. Waldstein) Boston 2006.
 Cf. Paul VI, Pope. Humanae Vitae.Encyclical Letter. Vatican City 1968.