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Memory and Identity: Personal Reflections Hardcover – 25 Feb 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; First edition (25 Feb. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029785075X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297850755
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 263,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


I like my Popes intellectual. I like them citing Aristotle, Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Sartre and Dostoevsky.... It is gratifying, in this volume of conversations with Pope John Paul II to be treated to philosophical cogitation... John Paul II has long reflected upon such big ideas as freedom and responsibility, love and redemption, totalitarianism, capitalism and the nature of evil.... His account of surviving the assassin's bullet is both touching and human. (MARY KENNY NEW STATESMAN)

The 11 pages in Memory and Identity which deal with the assassination attempt are the most compelling in the book... Every detail is welcome. (CHRISTOPHER HOWSE DAILY TELEGRAPH)

this could very well be his last will and testament. (PETER STANFORD SUNDAY TIMES)

what this short memoir will do is establish a dialogue with scholars long after he is dead. (THE OBSERVER)

Whether this book is the Holy Father's valedictory is in surer hands than ours; his mind and his passion for truth are demonstrably undimmed. This book, in fact, may well serve as much as an introduction to his thought and teaching as a coda to it. For his spiritual vision, as well as all his other startling qualities, he is by anyone's standards the outstanding figure of our age. (CATHOLIC HERALD)

Philosophical and theological ideas feature but the style is more that of a reflective sermon. (THE SCOTSMAN)

this topical book will appeal to many as millions pay their last respects... this book manages to engage the reader with its informal style. (THE SUN)

Takes us further into the recesses of the late Pope's mind than any previous book. (DAMIAN THOMPSON (Editor in chief, Catholic Herald) IRISH INDEPENDENT)

a philosopher by inclination... a creative man, both poet and playwright and his philosophical musings are thus the product of an energetic mind and an assured pen. (THE HERALD)

How clever of veteran publisher, George Weidenfeld to persuade his friend Pope John Paul II to write his "final testament". The late Holy Father's deeply felt reflection on culture and national identity calls to each nation of Europe: preserve your heritage and bind it to Christ, as it has always been in the past. (WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL MAGAZINE)

Book Description

Remarkable autobiographical meditation by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, addressing particularly the effect of 20th-century totalitarianism on His beliefs.

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By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 4 April 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the most recent compilations of writings and conversations with Pope John Paul II, the Polish-born pope who served as the third-longest pope in history. It is entirely appropriate that the title of this book is 'Memory and Identity', for each of these words both typify man who was Pope John Paul II, and exemplify what we will carry forward from him as his legacy.
As a young man, the Pope endured many hardships, losing both his parents, and enduring both Nazi and Soviet occupations of his beloved homeland. He talks about all of these events with vivid memory, and they are very important pieces of his identity. He is not free with terms such as 'evil' and 'destiny', but he does have strong convictions about what these things are, and shows how one must work to endure against the odds toward the greater identity and peace that God calls us to share.
Perhaps the most moving portion of this book for me is the record of the conversation Pope John Paul II had with his would-be assassin; it is an example of the character of the Pope that he should seek out this man and have not a confrontation, but a conversation, and ultimately an absolution offered.
The pope was a many of strong theological conviction - whether one agrees with him or not, it is hard to dispute that there is some integrity to his structure. Philosophically trained and pastorally guided, his theology strives to connect the ancient and the modern, the past and the future. If it doesn't always succeed to everyone's satisfaction, it isn't for want of effort. Some of that effort is seen in the sections of this book on how the Enlightenment philosophies that have so guided the modern world (the Declaration of Independence in America, for example, is a classic Enlightenment document) and the Gospel message can work together.
A remarkable book by a remarkable man, whose identity helped shape the world, and whose memory will live on.
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Format: Hardcover
This book, like many other works by John Paul II, packs a lot of information into a fairly short space. As usual, the concepts that the Holy Father intends to convey come through in a very clear and easy to understand manner that is accessible to most anyone. There is indeed quite a bit of philosophical material in this book but like the good Father that he was, he takes the time to explain his lessons to his children. This entire book is in fact a question and answer session and very much reminded me of an elderly Father gathering his children around him to impart great wisdom during his final days.
I can't imagine how Pope John Paul II could have left a better gift for Pope Benedict XVI than the one he left in this book. The first part of this book deals in great detail with one of the greatest problems facing the new Holy Father, that being challenges to Church teaching in light of the relativism so in vogue in Western Europe and the United States. The Holy Father in this section of the book takes on the ideas of good and evil which grew out of the Enlightenment. These ideas tend to give man some discretion in deciding what is good and what is evil. With mankind given this kind of power it becomes easy to ignore God's rules and to make up whatever rules are convenient at the time. In other words, the same philosophy that allows me to justify the occasional little white lie also allowed the murder of millions of people in the Third Reich and Soviet Union. This is tough talk from our former Pontiff but it sure has the ring of truth.
The rest of the book is a discussion of freedom, national identity and culture. Most of the time the Pope uses the example of his native Poland to make his points and it is clear that this is a man who loves his homeland very much.
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By A Customer on 13 April 2005
Format: Hardcover
A very deep, thoughtful book. What an inspiration this man is (was)! As a traditional Anglican I have the utmost respect for His Holiness and everything he says makes sense (unlike the current Archbishop of the C of E who is undoubtedly just as learned but is incomprehensible to the layman!).
The only flaw is that the book could do with a Latin phraseology as there are several terms used without a following definition. My Latin is non-existent so I'm using an on-line dictionary at times to make sense of some texts.
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Format: Paperback
John Paul near the end of his pontificate considers the crisis of culture and considers inter alia the philosophical reasons why European civilisation has fallen into subjectivism and has rejected objective truth - why freedom and truth have become, for western man, almost unreconcilable polarities. I cite some passages below to give a flavour of the Pope's thinking:

"Over the years I have become more and more convinced that the ideologies of evil are profoundly rooted in the history of European philosophical thought...The cogito ero sum (I think, therefore, I am) radically changed the way of doing philosophy. In the pre-Cartersian period, philosophy, that is to say the cogito, or rather the cognosco, was subordinate to esse which was considered prior. To Descartes, however the esse seemed secondary, and he judged the cogito to be prior...Philosophy now concerned itself with beings qua content of consciousness, and not qua existing independently of it...God was reduced to an element within human consciousness; no longer could he be considered the ultimate explanation of the human sum...In this way, the foundation of the "philosophy of evil" also collapsed. Evil, in a realistic sense, can only exist in relation to good and, in particular, in relation to God, the supreme Good". "Freedom is properly so called to the extent that it implements the truth regarding the good. Only then does it become a good in itself."

Whilst the Pope's observations on his own identity, as a Pole, are less interesting, he made the following interesting observation on memory, which was particularly "memorable":

"Memory is the faculty which models the identity of beings at both personal and collective leve.
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