The work of Bl. John Paul II on the human person was heavily influenced by a philosophical approach known as Personalism, which sought to re-situate the origin of philosophical enquiry, not in abstract ideals but in human experience, without losing any of the objectivity of philosophical enquiry (unlike the similar contemporary approach of Existentialism).
To understand this, you could begin by reading Heidegger’s “Being and Time” - which is regarded as the first work of phenomenology.
Looking at the personalist school, the work of Jacques Maritain (who wrote extensively on Thomism) and Emmanuel Mounier had a clear influence on Wojtyla’s thought. The work of Hannah Arendt and the later works of Edith Stein/St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross may also be of interest. The work of Borden Parker Brown and Bogumil Gacka are also worth looking up - the latter still teaches at a Catholic University in Warsaw.
Here at Glasgow, there are a few people, mostly in Education (part of the legacy of the old St Andrew’s Catholic Teaching College) rather than Theology, who have an interest in this area. James Conroy has studied the work of Heidegger and Arendt in some detail, and might be able to suggest some others.
If you are looking for an MA in Philosophy, I would suggest you need to be aware of 3 things
- a European MA in Philosophy will probably bring you closer to the ‘Continental’ philosophical tradition to which Heidegger, Maritain and Wojtyla belong, although this is also likely to take in a broader range of Marxist and Postmodern approaches, and be less orthodox.
- a Catholic MA which focuses on St Thomas will likely not get into the work of Bl. John Paul II in too much depth, unless you specifically look for a professor with that interest.
- an American MA in Philosophy will likely spend more time on formal logic and analytic approaches to philosophy, which are more logical, more related to jurisprudence (many American Philosophy majors go on to Law School), and probably won’t touch on the ‘continental’ school in too much detail. British Universities sometimes follow the American/analytic tradition and sometimes the European.
If you are interested in how these issues relate to contemporary social problems, a Philosophy faculty with a pure analytic focus may not be the place to go, as you will find most of the focus is arguments over the meaning and grammar of language. If you can cope with fighting the heady climate of postmodernism, and can make your own path, you might find a Cultural Studies programme more to your tastes.
On the other hand, if you are looking for pure Catholic tradition, Maryvale Institute offers a part time PhB (a pontifical Bachelor in Philosophy - which is the philosophy degree taken by seminarians in preparation for their Theology degree).
I’m pretty sure we know eachother, so feel free to chat to me about any of this,