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Heidegger’s Eschatology. Theological Horizons in Martin Heidegger’s Early Work.
Oxford u. a.: Oxford University Press 2013. 208 S. = Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs. Geb. £ 55,00. ISBN 978-0-19-968051-1.
Eric E. Hall
In this book, Judith Wolfe carefully, consistently, and with loads of clear evidence traces out the work that Heidegger had done in, and prior to, his Phenomenology of Religious Life as it conceptually translates into the core program of Being and Time. Heidegger’s conceptual analysis in Being and Time rests on a proper interpretation of the phenomenon of being-toward-death, being-toward-death and its surrounding phenomena are the generalized and secularized conceptualizations of early Christian understandings of eschatology and the anticipation of the parousia. And while this claim is not exactly new per se and has certainly been suspected by many others – Emil Brunner, Erich Przywara, and Judith Stein – as W. argues the point it comes to be seemingly irrefutable.
Accordingly, W. offers a very nuanced – even if sympathetic – critique that rests not on the mere assertion that Heidegger is »guilty« of this form of secularized thieving, nor does the critique lie solely on conceptual comparison and historical happenstance. Rather, this critique is implicitly grounded in Heidegger’s own thought. How so?
Being-toward-death – Heidegger’s restatement of the primal, Christian, eschatological vision – plays an eschatological role in Heideggerian thought. The expression is, quite shortly, an eschatological expression of Dasein’s groundlessness – an inability to find ultimate identity for itself within an ultimate beyond its own possibility for non-existence. If Dasein is to become authentic, it must, in fact, embrace this aspect of its being – its non-being. The tension emerges, as W. explains it, in the sentiment that the very desire for a ground that would generate the desire to seek a ground – as Heidegger is at least implicitly doing in Being and Time – results in a concrete contradiction. One is denying the desire for being and identity through a project that emerges and continues to emerge from such.
What creatively separates W.’s book from other similar argument comes from W.’s relationship to Heidegger on these grounds: that simply because Heidegger exists within some internal tension doesn’t mean that we can throw out Heidegger’s reconceptualiza-tion of Christian eschatology. Indeed, W. believes that Heidegger’s reappropriation has led to numerous important theological reflec-tions. That, for instance, in accordance with Przywara’s thought »Phenomenology here transcends itself toward the essential doc-trine of Scholasticism: the existential openness of the creature towards God lodged in the inner difference between ›being thus‹ and ›being there,‹ i. e. between essence and existence.« (152) W., that is, sees the properly significant implications of Heidegger’s mistake.
If there is one critique to be made of the book it is simple: W. does not spend enough time on the internal tension that emerges from Heidegger’s thought, and yet the creative implications of this tension ground W.’s book. A full chapter seems fitting, here. That said, the critique is insubstantial with regard to the carefully developed argument that we do receive, and this author would recommend the book to any Heidegger scholar, aficionado, or enthusiast without hesitation.