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Heidegger and Theology.
London u. a.: T & T Clark (Bloomsbury) 2014. 256 S. = Philosophy and Theology. Kart. £ 16,99. ISBN 978-0-567-03376-5.
Eric E. Hall
In this dense but easily-readable and well-researched book, Judith Wolfe successfully attempts to unfold the theological underpinnings, rejections, and conversations in which Heidegger engaged throughout his life. Her approach is grounded not only in tradi-tional Heideggerian texts, the names of which every Heidegger scholar knows, but also in the newly emergent private texts, notes, and correspondences of Heidegger. W. successfully paints a picture of a philosopher who, while certainly not in any manner an orthodox theological thinker, struggles and wrestles over and over again with theological themes and insights—who constantly »returns to the ground« of his Catholicism especially
Three points in this journey especially stick out in this book. First, many have attempted to frame Heidegger’s later philoso-phical writings with a theology of sorts. Who can ignore the well-known and titillating statement in der Spiegel, for instance, that »only the gods can save us now«? However, thus far, I’ve not read an account that seems to strike Heidegger’s own reflections well, however interesting these appropriations remain in their own right. I do believe that Wolfe grasps Heidegger as Heidegger, de-veloping and thinking through the inner-logic of his thought as opened up by, again, recent revelations. And the line that holds Heidegger together here is that »the origin always remains future« (131).
In this regard, and secondly, Christianity lay at the center of the West’s trajectory and Heidegger’s own intellectual path. Many have noted how the Christian faith has, for Heidegger, en-framed the history and trajectory of the West. Few have confronted the manner in which Christian theology lies so directly at the center of Heidegger’s thought, even in his seemingly most atheistic periods of reflection. Of note is the manner in which Wolfe depicts Heidegger as returning to the Christian later in his life, looking for not merely
for the ontological in the ontic of Christian as he did in his Phenomenology of Religious Life. Rather, as Wolfe portrays the philosopher, he sought something ontological in the Christian itself.
In either the broader historical sense or the particular Heideggerian sense, the statement that »the origin always remains future« rightly stands as the hermeneutic through which Wolfe treats Heidegger and, it seems, through which Heidegger needs to be treated. Finally, W.’s account of Heidegger’s involvement with and in - fluence on theologians of his time remains near the end but at the heart of this book. Wolfe precisely renders Heidegger’s relationships to 20th century theologians, including his inspiration over the some of the most influential theological debates of the time. Of particular note, here, is the »map« of theological appropriations near the end, which discusses the why, how, and the how far of Heidegger’s influence on later theological trends. There is one potential critique for these book, and this critique is rendered cautiously. What I believe is sorely missing within this text are Germany’s hermeneutic theologians who have historically and continue to take the thought of Heidegger with an extreme sense of importance. Alas, one cannot fit all things on 200 meager pages or please all people in the process, but theologians such as Jüngel deserve attention far more than, say, the genius but over-read Tillich in this author’s opinion. Alas, the English-speaking world is long overdue in general for engaging fully with these thinkers either way, especially given the centrality of God in Heidegger’s later thought as »god can only be constituted from out of experience« (142). That said, I suppose this critique merely leaves room for another book in this wonderful stream of scholarship being put out by W. To conclude, if there stands any reason to buy the book aside from its sheer interest, one might consider the following statement by Wolfe: »the book aims to rectify a range of prevailing misconceptions and stale half-truths that have become entrenched in English- language scholarship on Heidegger and theology« (5). Given the range of assumptions about who Heidegger is and is not and given the manner in which persons attempt to appropriate this name to their »side«, a more welcome contribution to Heidegger scholarship couldn’t be imagined.