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Philosophie, Religionsphilosophie


Nagl, Ludwig


Das verhüllte Absolute. Essays zur zeitgenössischen Religionsphilosophie.


Frankfurt a.M./Berlin/Bern/Bruxelles/New York/Oxford/Wien: Lang 2010. 329 S. 21,8 x 14,8 cm. Kart. EUR 62,50. ISBN 978-3-631-56915-3.


Marie-Élise Zovko

The analytic and language philosophical schools which came to dominate Anglo-American philosophy departments in the 20th century denied the meaningfulness and possibility of rational discourse on transcendence and the absolute in art, religion and speculative philosophy. In their reductivist view, religion is an atavism of a pre-scientific age, set to disappear with the advance of »objective«, scientific knowledge (analytic »triumphalism«, »neo-dogmatic theoreticism« 13.37.113). Faced with the »deficit« of finite human action, however – the gap between morality and success, »virtue and the way of the world« – the need for a »logic of hope« in some future compensation, completion, and perfection of our in­-dividual and collective efforts does not fade (cf. 25 f.). As Ludwig Nagl shows, the »post-metaphysical« era heralded in by phenomenologists, existentialists, logical positivists and scientistic reductionists alike failed to eliminate interest in metaphysical and religious quest­ions. Instead, a pluralism of new approaches to transcendence emerged among representatives of Critical Theory (Ha­-bermas and Adorno), Deconstructionism (Derrida), Pragmatism and Pragmaticism (Royce, James, Peirce) and Neopragmatism (Rorty, Putnam).
N., Professor em. of the Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, is author or editor of numerous works on contemporary phi­losophy (Social theory, analytic philosophy), pragmatism (Charles Peirce), deconstructionism (Jacques Derrida, Gianni Vattimo) and contemporary philosophy of religion, as well as on aesthetics of media and film. In this volume of essays in German, he presents his reflections on contemporary approaches to religion and the Abso­-lute. N.’s main point is that a relationship to transcendence is indis-­pensable for the establishment of a »horizon of hope«. Following the collapse of theoretical and descriptive approaches to transcendence, however, this can only be achieved through non-theoretistic, post-ethical and (neo-)pragmaticist means (27). N. sees in American Pragmatism, above all »proto-pragmatist« Royce, a previously neglected option for philosophy of religion, in particular reflection on tran­-scendence and the absolute. N. explores, in light of neo-pragmatist approaches to religion in Putnam and Rorty, but also classic philosophers of religion Kant and Hegel, whose sustained influence on contemporary philosophy of religion N. examines in detail, the ongoing relevance of pragmati(ci)st approaches to religion.
The essays are divided into »three fields of discourse«: 1. renewed attention to religion in Critical/Communicative Rationality Theory, one essay: »The veiled Absolute: Religion in Habermas and Adorno« delineates Habermas’ rejection of his earlier functionalistic description of religion as legitimisation of structures of dominance and thesis of religion’s complete transformability into a universalistic ethics of responsibility, comparing it to Adorno’s aporetic investigation of religious motifs still present in post-metaphysical philosophy despite the »crisis of all theodicies«; 2. renewal of the same theme in deconstructionism and post-modernism, one essay: »How would a book look today which – like Kant’s bore the title ›Religion within the boundaries of pure reason‹? Derrida on Kant’s philosophy of religion«, an analysis of Derrida’s »non-reductive« and »quasi-transcendental« »re-reading« of Kant’s critical examination of religion »within the bounds of reason«, as based on his concept of the »messianic deep structure« of speech; and 3. seven essays on »(neo)pragmatic philosophy of religion and its pragmatistic context«. In »Antifundamentalistic Philosophy of Religion: The Neopragmatic Option« N. considers (neo-)pragmatism’s resituation of the place of religion outside cognitive claims to validity in the »postdogmatic«, neopragmatist thought of Putnam and Rorty, and in Classical American pragmatism as exemplified by Peirce’s »God hypothesis« and W. James’s individualistic concept of »religious experience« and the »right to believe«. In »Horizons for action: Dewey’s and Rorty’s humanistic-›naturalistic‹ Reading of the Deep Structure of the Concept of the Future« N. analyzes the »future-orientedness« of pragmatism in Rorty and Dewey (109), detailing Rorty’s adaptation of Dewey as embodied in his hope »for a global, cosmopolitan, democratic, egalitarian, classless, castless society« (cit. 112), and their shared rejection of the »dualistic« vocabulary of Platonism as constituting »an obstacle to our social hope« (114), in favour of a »volatile« and »dedialecticalized« reconfiguration of Hegel’s »movement of the concept«. In »›The religious‹: Dewey’s post-Feuerbachian ›Aufhebung‹ of religion« N. critiques Dewey’s instrumentalism, his naturalized, deessentialized reading of religiosity ( A Common Faith) and his version of the Feuerbachian theory of projection (128), contrasting these with Kant’s reasonable faith and Hegel’s reconstruction of the philosophical essence of historical religions; »›In the religious field pragmatism is at a great advantage over positivistic empiricism with its anti-theological bias‹: Rorty’s ›fuzzy overlap of faith, hope, and love‹ and Putnam’s philosophy of religion ›between Dewey and Buber‹« contrasts Rorty on the »future of religion« as based on Dewey with Putnam’s exploration of a »lived religious option«. »›Community‹: Considerations on ›absolute pragmatism‹ in the Late Philosophy of Josiah Royce« details Rorty’s critique of the instrumentalist, experimen­talistic and scientistic bent of Peirce’s semiotic, and his creative re-reading of Peirce’s »community of investigators« – i. e. its »sociocommunicative« expansion to include the »community of interpretors« in human sciences and daily life, as well as the (Christian and Paulinic, but in no religious institution fully embodied) »Beloved Community«, and »universal community« – leading to Rorty’s transformed concept of the Absolute and its fruitful role in a logic of hope. »Pragmatistic Philosophy of Religion: James’ Emphasis on the Individual and the Orientation of Royce’s Philosophy of Religion according to the concept of ›Community‹« compares James’ »abstract individualistic« understanding of religion with Royce’s insistence on its communal character, incorporating religion into a theory of intersubjective interpretation – the semiotic-triadic process which informs all scientific research. Finally, in »›Loyalty‹: Jo­-siah Royce’s pragmatistic Concept of Ethics and Religion ( after Kant, after Hegel, after Pragmatism« N. details Royce’s pragmaticist »resituation« of Kant’s universalist ethics of duty via his concepts of loyalty and community, a legacy of Hegel’s Kant-critique and his­toric-dialectical evolution of morality from family to state.
As this division shows, the third group forms the main emphasis of the volume. N. rejects analytic, epistemology-centred at­tempts at »domestication« (75) of classic pragmatists James, Dewey, and »protopragmatist« Royce – which neglect their complex dis­course on religion and hence importance as philosophers of religion (7), as particularly regrettable in light of gradual loss of in­-ter­est in atheism as promoted by Social Theory, renewed attention to religion and transcendence in Critical Theory, Discourse Theory, Deconstructionism, Neostructuralism (38), and related interest in »metaphysics after metaphysics« in thinkers like Benjamin, Adorno, Habermas, Wittgenstein, Putnam, Cavell, A. Davidson, J. Conant (15). »Metaphysics after metaphysics« serves N. as analogue of the contemporary situation of »religion after religion«. Royce, especially in his later philosophy ( The Problem of Christianity), is in N.’s view particularly well-positioned to play a leading role in the »re­-newal of philosophy« called for by Putnam (295). N.’s aim is to resituate Royce within the historical development of pragmatism, and thence reinvigorate the contemporary debate on the conditions of validity of religious hope. For pragmatism, thought distinctions can be resolved only by means of their practical consequences. The question remains: why should we prefer one set of practical consequences over another? In their natural state, human beings do not know what is good, but require a »revolution in the manner of thinking« (Kant); genuine community must therefore be oriented toward an ideal of humanity comparable to Kant’s categorical imperative (306). In view of the threat to society posed by misinterpretation of autonomy as instrumentalizing, individua­listic self-empowerment, N. justifiably prefers Royce and Dewey’s socio-communicative approach to religion over James’ individualism and Peirce’s scientific and instrumentalist pragmaticism (130), recog­-niz­ing nonetheless in Peirce’s semiotic the original inspiration for Royce’s concept of community.
N.’s declared opposition to philological and historiographical investigation (313) contrasts with his own careful study of Kant and Hegel and their influence on (neo-)pragmati(ci)st and contemporary thinkers. The exposition is weighted down by lengthy and overwrought titles, frequent typeo’s, and a heavily parenthetic style, symptomatic of the situation of academic philosophy today, with its stress on meticulous crediting of recent scientific research. In the age of post-everythingism, contemporary debate in philosophy of religion is no exception, requiring we sift through multiple layers of more or less contemporaneous and mutually referencing approaches before we are permitted to deal directly with the objects of reflection, the unquiet, unsettling questions themselves.