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Rethinking Heidegger and St Edith Stein

Monday, 5 Aug 2013

Martin Heidegger on Staff and Scrip, Dr John Dunn First posted on Thursday, 20 September 2012 at 21:08

The more that I read, the more I have been forced to rethink.

In her critique of Heidegger’s Being and Time, Edith Stein was forced to fall back upon traditional metaphysics, principally Thomist in character. In asking the obvious questions aboutHeidegger’s radical deconstruction of traditional metaphysics, she fell into the trap that Heidegger had laid for such questioners.

Tragically, Edith Stein did not live to see Heidegger’s later publications, which might have persuaded her, as they did so many others in the Catholic church, of the validity of Heidegger’s philosophy as the basis for a new theology.

Heidegger provided concepts through which God can return. However, he was very much against the idea of conceptualising God, for example as a first mover, because he believed that once conceptualised, or objectivised, our notion of God could no longer be God. The subject-object relationship in such a conceptualisation would be dependent on the Platonic metaphysics that Heidegger believed he had overcome in Being and Time. Such an objectification of God would, in the light of his newly founded philosophical outlook, be tantamount to idolatry.

Both Edith Stein and Max Scheler sought a middle way between identifying an objectified and (in Heidegger’s words) theological God, and that of negative theology. However, for those locked in to a metaphysical mode of thinking, objectification will out, which was exactly the case of Edith Stein’s attempts to get beyond what she saw as Heidegger’s solipsism.

What is true, however, is the huge impact that Heidegger’s philosophy has had on Catholic theology especially. It is this impact that has established Catholicism as the only serious opponent of liberal modernity.

John Dunn.

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