Heidegger's theft of faith : a campaign to suspend radical theology



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In this inquiry I pursue two tasks. First, I locate the roots of Heidegger's philosophical project historically within a specific theological discourse bent on redefining the relation between religion and politics. Heidegger's main, if covert, intent was to combat the egalitarian, pluralistic impulses carried by a tradition of critical Christology, which leads from F.W.J. Schelling's (1775-1854) Philosophy of Revelation to the work of the radical theologian-philosopher Paul Tillich (1886-1965). These egalitarian impulses spring from a broadened understanding of religious community as a material communication community unified through the use of shared symbols into a community of understanding, knowledge, and interests. The theoretical expansion and deepening of such a communication model, I detect in the writings of the renegade Neogrammarian, Hermann Paul, here considered in light of the "neo-Idealist" initiative of one of Paul's most prominent critics, the Romanist Karl Vossler. Prior to the advanced theological exposition of symbolically mediated communication, in works such as Tillich's book Dynamics of Faith (2001; Engl. orig.1957), the Neogrammarian movement in language studies, I argue, holds the key to accessing the cloaked Christological subtext of Heidegger's thought. Second, after thus locating Heidegger's philosophical agenda within its intellectual-historical context, I expose how Heidegger manipulates philosophical rhetoric to achieve the suspension of Schelling's theological legacy. My analysis of Heidegger's rhetorical behavior is focused on his Letter on Humanism (written 1946, published 1949), a text very overt in both its philosophical biases and its politics. The Humanismusbrief comes the closest to revealing Heidegger's own self-positioning within his generation. The work's conclusion provides a brief look ahead, or Ausblick, to indicate the main features of how these findings about the Letter can be brought to bear on Heidegger's masterpiece fragment, Being and Time. Through this approach, Heidegger's inherently political philosophy gains a much clearer profile in the context of its formative phase in the waning days of the Weimar Republic and opens a new perspective on later attempts by its author to "re-apply" his philosophical program to the cultural situation of postwar Germany, as well as to the ethical-epistemological problems remaining after twelve years of German isolationism.