Contesting Modernity in the German Secularization Debate

Karl Löwith, Hans Blumenberg and Carl Schmitt in Polemical Contexts


In Contesting Modernity in the German Secularization Debate, Sjoerd Griffioen investigates the polemics between Karl Löwith, Hans Blumenberg and Carl Schmitt on the role of religion in modernity. He analyzes their contributions to the development of the broader German secularization debate between the 1950s and 1980s. As this development is traced, special attention is paid to how after 1968 this debate increasingly centered on Schmitt’s notion of political theology and its appropriation by the Left. This is evinced in the work of Jacob Taubes, who is opposed by Odo Marquard, assuming a Blumenbergian-secularist position in this new political landscape. Griffioen concludes with a methodological reflection on the value of ‘Geistesgeschichte’ and by identifying parallels with the contemporary discourse of postsecularism.

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Sjoerd Griffioen, Ph.D. (1987), is a lecturer in Philosophy at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands.
 1 ‘A Tale of Two Churches’
 2 Postsecular Critiques of Progress and Secularization
 3 A Return to the German Secularization Debate

Part 1: Karl Löwith and Hans Blumenberg

1 The Löwith-Blumenberg Debate
 From Overlapping Aversions to Fundamental Differences
 1 Introduction
 2 Blumenberg’s Account
 3 Löwith’s Account
 4 Reevaluation of Blumenberg’s Critique
 5 Agreements and Disagreements: Suggestions from Secondary Literature
 6 Underlying Differences in the Philosophies of Löwith and Blumenberg
 7 Conclusion

Part 2: The Polemics between Carl Schmitt, Karl Löwith and Hans Blumenberg

2 The Political Theology of Carl Schmitt
 Secularization, Eschatology and Enmity
 1 Introduction
 2 Differing Interpretations of Schmitt and His Philosophical Style
 3 The Concept of the Political and Decisionism
 4 Political Theology and Theory of Secularization
 5 The Theological ‘Core’ of Schmitt’s Thought?
 6 Philosophy of History and Critique of Modernity
 7 Eschatology: Schmitt and the Katechon
 8 Schmitt’s Stasiology: The Identity of the Political and Theological
 9 Conclusion

3 The Löwith-Schmitt Debate on Nihilism and Faith
 Critique, Post-War Diplomacy and Mutual Suspicion
 1 Introduction
 2 Löwith’s Critique of Schmitt
 3 Assessment of Löwith’s Critique
 4 Schmitt’s Attempted Rapprochement and Covert Critique of Löwith
 5 Löwith versus Schmitt: Antithetical Theologies
 6 Conclusion

4 The Blumenberg-Schmitt Debate and the ‘Front Against Political Theology’
 1 Introduction
 2 Exchange: ‘Legitimacy of the Modern Age’ versus ‘Political Theology’
 3 Schmitt: A United Front against Political Theology?
 4 Blumenberg: A ‘Weak Decisionism’ and Turn to Polytheism
 5 Assessment: A United Front or Different Lines of Contestation?
 6 Conclusion

Part 3: Three Perspectives on the Broader Secularization Debate

5 Historiography: The Secularization Debate as ‘Ideenpolitik’
 1 Introduction
 2 The Anti-Enlightenment Camp: Kesting and Koselleck as Followers of Schmitt and Löwith
 3 The Pro-Enlightenment Camp: Kamlah and Jaeschke as Followers of Blumenberg
 4 Investigating and Problematizing ‘Secularization’: Lübbe and Zabel
 5 Conclusion

6 Theology: The Roots of Modernity and the Metaphorics of Secularization
 1 Introduction
 2 Theological Views on Secularization
 3 Modernity and Christianity: Voegelin
 4 History and Christianity: Bultmann
 5 Overview and Evaluation
 6 Conclusion

7 Politics: Between Heresy and Paganism, the Struggle over Political Theology between Jacob Taubes and Odo Marquard
 1 Introduction
 2 Walter Benjamin and the Rediscovery of Messianism
 3 The Political Theology of Jacob Taubes
 4 Liberal Conservatism against the New Left: The Ritter School
 5 The ‘Political Poly-Theology’ of Odo Marquard
 6 Evaluation and Reflection
 7 Conclusion

Part 4: Methodological Reflection

8 Understanding the Secularization Debate
 Geistesgeschichte and Essentially Contested Concepts
 1 Introduction
 2 Parallels between the Secularization Debate and Postsecularism
 3 Geistesgeschichte and Essentially Contested Concepts
 4 The Functions of Geistesgeschichte
 5 ‘Intellectual Virtues’ and Criteria for Judgement
 6 Application of Rorty’s Model to the Secularization Debate
 7 Guidelines and Gallie’s Pluralist Ethic
 8 Conclusion

Anyone interested in continental philosophy on the topics of modernity, philosophy of history, and religion. Specifically those concerned with twentieth–century German intellectual debates in theology, historiography and philosophy of secularization. Keywords: secularity, philosophy of history, Jacob Taubes, Odo Marquard, Geistesgeschichte, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, political theology, gnosticism, theodicy, eschatology, progress, history of decline, postsecularism.
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