Thomas D. Williams and Jan Olof Bengtsson describe the origin of personalism in the following way:

Personalism in the sense of a distinct philosophy or worldview focusing on the full, accumulated import of the concept of the person, however, emerged only in the context of the broad critical reaction against what can be called the various impersonalistic philosophies which came to dominate the Enlightenment and Romanticism in the form of rationalistic and romantic forms of pantheism and idealism, from Spinoza to Hegel.

They mention the following:

Yet while most personalists are theists, belief in God is not necessary to all personalist philosophies, and some profess an atheist personalism.

I may have missed it in this article, but which modern philosophers could be described as professing an atheist personalism?

Williams, Thomas D. and Bengtsson, Jan Olof, "Personalism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/personalism/.

From the comments:

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Apr 11, 2019 at 8:34
  • 3
    Look at Brightman's survey in Ferm's volume (freely available) written soon after personalism was in its prime. He says "McTaggart and Sartre are unique among personalists in denying a personal God", but many others (Schiller, Berdyaev, Whitehead, Bergson, etc.) revised "the traditional idea of God in the direction of a denial of absolute divine omnipotence and the assertion of some sort of limitation of the divine will".
    – Conifold
    Apr 11, 2019 at 16:31
  • @Conifold I added the reference. Perhaps Sartre should be included as well. Thanks. Apr 11, 2019 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


If I have this correct, Personalism can be defined thusly:

An intellectual stance that emphasizes the importance of personhood.

I would suggest you look into the published works of Matt Dillahunty. Matt would probably define himself as an atheist activist, not a philospher and his eduucational background is in computer programming, not philosphy. However, his current occupation is participation in academic debates on either the existence of a deity or the superiority of religious or secular morality and the production of a series of educational videos on moral philosophy and counter apolgetics.

Matt's moral arguments are based on the principle that society is better served by human well-being than human suffering and posits that all moral systems humans have developed throughout history are ultimately based on promoting the greatest well-being in the greatest number of individuals.

  • When he say greatest well-being which person's definition is he using?
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 28, 2022 at 21:03
  • Atheist choosing what is the greatest well-being makes me uneasy. They don't have the best track record in this regard. There is a reason why the Catholic church returned to France after the French revolution.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 28, 2022 at 21:07
  • 2
    @NeilMeyer - Neither do Christians: The Crusades, The Inquisitions, The Witch trials? More recently, the Rwandan Genocide, Gay conversion Therapy, Hell-Houses, Prescriptions against condoms in AIDS-ridden Africa? All enthusiastically cheer-led from the pulpit's of Christian churches.
    – JonS
    Mar 2, 2022 at 10:48

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