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Philosophie, Religionsphilosophie


Splett, Jörg


Philosophie für die Theologie. M. e. Laudatio v. Bischof R. Voderholzer hrsg. v. P. Hofmann u. J. C. Pech.


Heiligenkreuz: Be & Be Verlag 2016. X–XXV, S. 27–412. Geb. EUR 27,90. ISBN 978-3-902694-88-1.


Christophe Chalamet

This book gathers twenty recent essays by Jörg Splett, selected by him and edited by two of his students, who now teach fundamental theology. They are found in six main sections, on »truth, logos, reflection« (1), »the human being as person and image« (2), »suffer-ing, happiness and gratitude« (3), »eros, marriage, ethics« (4), »art and poetry« (5), and »God, faith, argument« (6). A lecture, titled »Ancilla philosophiae: Theology in the service of philosophy,« caps the volume.
Born in 1936, S. studied with Max Müller and worked as an as-sis­tant to Karl Rahner in Munich in the 1960’s. He is a Christian philosopher, one who unabashedly wishes for his work to be of service (ancilla) to theology.
The breadth of the topics which are covered is a testimony to S.’s wide-ranging scholarship. The content is weighty and important. The style is clear and superficial. Many different thinkers, including francophone voices which are not often read (Maurice Blondel, Léon Bloy, Charles Péguy, Vladimir Jankélévitch; 131–134.146. 151.249.323.362, passim), are brought into the conversa-tion. But S.’s kinship is with Josef Pieper, C. S. Lewis and Romano Guardini. There are some repetitions: the same quote from Levinas appears here and there (57.95.145). A German sentence is found in the middle of an English quote (73). An index of names would have been helpful.
Concerning the question of »truth«, more precisely »the truth«, S. usefully begins, in several of the articles included in the book, by quoting Augustine and Aristoteles on the identification of »what is true« with »what is.« But he immediately adds, following Augustine, that truth is also, decisively, what is manifest, or the »being-there of a reality for someone« (31). This reflection on truth bears the
title »Es gibt die Wahrheit«. One wonders whether this title not too bluntly objectivistic – especially if truth is interpreted, as S. invites us to do, as what manifests itself to someone, and also as »un visage d’homme« (Camus), in relation with the Johannine Jesus’s saying
»I am the truth«. Bonhoeffer’s dictum concerning the inadequacy of saying »es gibt« in relation to God (»einen Gott, den ›es gibt‹, gibt es nicht«) comes to mind here.
The question of truth returns later in the book, where it is de-fined as »das Da(-sein) von etwas oder jemandem für (jemanden)« (55). This looks like a definition of »presence« rather than »truth« (or is it the case that whatever is present always is the truth or true?). In relation to Socrates, S. mentions the possibility that truth may be »practical«, that it may need to be lived and practiced rather than considered and discussed (58–59); but his heart lies elsewhere.
Various reflections, especially in part two, on the notion of »person«, human and divine, trod on well-known terrain: Boethius’ and Aquinas’ definitions, the question of the human in the »image« of God, the »I-Thou« relationship and the vital importance of a third, the »We« (109–
The third part is the occasion for the author to critically discuss, in the footsteps of K. Rahner and H. U. von Balthasar, recent claims emphasizing divine solidarity with suffering and divine suffering (120.122–123).
Part four begins with a meditation on »eros«, the self, and alter-ity (Anders Nygren is never mentioned; J. Pieper and others are the main conversation partners). A piece on marriage and the life of the couple explores biblical passages and considers the spouse as »di-vine gift« (202). S. then asks whether an ethic without God is possible (237.248). He appears to answer the question negatively (257). But a final clarification suggests that the point is not to argue that Christians are more humane than non-Christians: rather, »only the message of Jesus Christ fully conveys humaneness and co-human-ity« (258). S. is convinced that true happiness (Glück) is impossible without faith in God’s existence, without hope in life beyond death (366). Humanism without God comes up short and needs to be challenged (409). Later in the book, the attentive reader finds a discrete but clear condemnation of homosexuality (338, note 31), just as one reads that the full realization of maleness and femaleness is intimately related to becoming a father and a mother (315): a surprising assertion coming from a Roman-Catholic thinker … What does he make of the vow of celibacy?
Part five begins with a reflection on »transfiguration,« in conversation with Arthur C. Danto’s, and closes with some insights on language, love, beauty and other topics in relation with Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Part six tackles the question of doubt, the tradition of the »proofs« of God’s existence, also in relation to the problem of evil and the question »si deus est, unde mala?«, as well as the other, arguably more answerable, question (both are found in Boethius): »Bona vero unde, si non est?« (366). The last two texts concern »the God of Chris­tians«, with a special consideration of divine justice and mercy, and Trinitarian theology in relation to love (with an interest in Richard of St Victor).
The book closes with a lecture given in November 2014, when S. was granted an honorary degree. This last piece is actually a good entry-point to the entire volume, since it touches on some of S.’s main ideas and on his vision of the relation between philosophy and theology. Three insights are particularly interesting here: the idea that »with« (mit) may be the most basic, all-encompassing Christian word (404); the criticism of Tillich’s method of correla-tion, as it confers too much weight to our own questions: like re-velation, art does not simply answer our questions, but provokes us to questions we did not even know we had (407–408); and the suggestion that, in turn, theology, by introducing prayer and praise within its discourse (but how often does it do that?), may poten-tially render a significant service […] to philosophy (the service, as S. sees it, goes both ways!).
What is S.’s own posture, as a philosopher who thinks about religion and Christianity? He is not a Thomist, and, unlike Augustine, Anselm, and Nicholas of Cusa, he must of course distinguish philosophy from theology. S. views his own work as a reflection on Western philosophy as such – in distinction from Greek, or Indian, or Chinese philosophy – and thus as a philosophy which is satu-rated with a Christian »atmosphere« (75).
In a footnote (76, note 31), S. quotes Max Scheler, according to whom we are still waiting for a genuine »Christian philosophy«, namely one which »does not simply adorn Greek philosophical
ideas with Christian ornaments, as is usually the case, but which, through an original (selbstdenkerisch) consideration and explora-tion of the world, articulates a system of thought which springs from the roots and essence of the Christian experience«. S. offers many interesting thoughts in this book, but wouldn’t it be an even greater contribution if S., and his colleagues who work at the intersection of philosophy and theology, took Scheler’s words to heart? Is it too late, his distinguished career being slightly more behind him than in front of him, for S. to embark on such an endeavor? Certainly not, if Basil of Caesarea’s beautiful sentence, whom S. quotes, is correct: »Wer sich ausstreckt nach dem, was vor ihm liegt, der wird je jünger als er selbst« (157).