Personalism is a term that refers to any philosophy that begins with and is centered in the human person. It is not a single philosophical school, but rather a philosophical perspective that begins with persons as the central organizing concept of philosophical investigation. Personalism can be understood, broadly, in this way. There are also philosophers who do not consider themselves personalists per se, but who employ themes and concepts related to persons and personhood in their work.  In this broader sense, there are identifiable themes common to personalist thought, including the concept of human beings as persons, and therefore a distinction between persons and nonpersons, personal life as having both subjective and objective aspects, freedom and self-determination as a central feature of personhood, and persons as relational or social beings and for many personalist, the dignity of the human person. Personalist thought has both Eastern and Western roots going back into the ancient world, as well as various contemporary expressions. In the Western philosophical tradition, most personalists would acknowledge the influence of some of the major figures in the history of philosophy including Plato and Aristotle, the Judeo-Christian tradition of reflection on persons, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant and the modern Existentialist tradition. Personalism in the East has tended to develop in the context of religious traditions including Hinduism, Confucianism and, to an extent, Buddhism.

Personalism can also be understood narrowly as a specific current, tradition or school of personalist thought. At this level personalist thought tends to be more specific and frequently, more systematized, with a clear sense of core thinkers identified with a particular school or current of thought.  In this sense one can speak of Anglo-American personalism, Communitarian personalism, Existential personalism, Idealist personalism, Thomistic personalism, Phenomenological personalism, and ontological personalism.  From a theological personalist perspective, one may also speak of Hindu, Confucian, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic personalism.  There are also personalist philosophers who do not hold to any specific belief system.  As is the case with musical traditions, personalism can also be thought of in the narrower sense as having traditions of national character: American personalism, British personalism, French personalism, German Personalism, Italian Personalism, Spanish and Latin-American Personalism, Indigenous Personalism, and others. 

See the entry on Personalism for further information, as well as entries on specific personalist currents of thought