Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tillich - Two Types of Philosophy of Religion

1. Religion as a Dimension of Man's Spiritual Life

The theologian's claim: religion is not a creation of the human spirit but a gift of the divine Spirit (4). The scientist's claim: religion is characteristic for a special stage of human development, but it has no place today. Both define religion as man's relation to divine beings, but this bit of common ground makes any understanding of religion impossible. Religion is an aspect of the human spirit (5). Religion is not a special function of man's spiritual life, but it is the dimension of depth in all of its functions. Some say that religion has a moral function, a cognitive function, an aesthetic function, that it is a feeling, but it is none of these: "religion suddenly realizes that it does not need such a place, that it does not need to seek for a home. It is at home everywhere, namely, in the depth of all functions of man's spiritual life" (7). Religious aspect points to that which is ultimate. Religion opens up the depth of man's spiritual life which is usually covered by the dust of our daily life and the noise of our secular work.

2. Two Types of Philosophy of Religion

Two ways of approaching God: the way of overcoming estrangement and the way of meeting a stranger. These correspond to the ontological and cosmological proofs. Tillich's three claims: 1) the ontological method is basic for every philosophy of religion, 2) the cosmological method without the ontological as its basis leads to a destructive cleavage between philosophy and religion, 3) on the basis of the ontological approach and with a dependent use of the cosmological way, philosophy of religion contributes to the reconciliation between religion and secular culture (11).

a. The World Historical Problem: Task of philosophy of religion to protect the absolutes of both, Deus and esse.

b. The Augustinian Solution: Deus and esse coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in every philosophical argument; and veritas is God (12). Cannot deny truth because you could only do so in the name of truth. God is the presupposition of the question of God: this is the ontological solution f the problem of the philosophy of religion. God can never be reached if he is the object of a question, and not its basis (13). Psychologically, doubt is possible; but logically, the Absolute is affirmed by the very act of doubt, because it is implied in every statement about the relation between subject and predicate (13). These principles are not created functions of our mind, but the presence of truth itself (and therefore of God) in our mind. The Thomistic method of knowledge through sense perception and abstraction may be useful for scientific purposes, but it never can reach the Absolute. It builds the way of scientia but not sapientia (wisdom) (14). The ontological argument is the rational description of the relation of our mind to Being as such (15). The fact that people turn away from this thought is based on individual defects but not on the essential structure of the mind. Anselm, unfortunately, on the basis of his epistemological realism, transformed the primum esse into an ens realissimum, the principle into a universal being. Gaunilo, Thomas and Kant were right in denying the logical transition from the necessity of Being itself to a highest being.

c. The Thomistic Dissolution: Thomas says the rational way to God is not immediate but mediated (16). He says there are two ways in which something is known: by itself and by us. In these words, Aquinas cuts the nerve of the ontological approach. Man is excluded from the primum esse and the prima veritas (17). This leads to an emphasis on authority, and to viewing the Bible as a collection of true propositions, instead of being a guide book to contemplation as in Bonaventura (17). Faith here does not imply an immediate contact with its object. "The human intellect cannot reach by natural virtue the divine substance, because, according to the way of the present life the cognition of our intellect starts with the senses" (18). God's existence is thus brought down to the level of that of a stone. Occam's God, a res singularissima, which cannot be approached at all except through an unnoticeable habit of grace in the unconscious which is supposed to move the will towards subjection to authority, is the final outcome of the Thomistic dissolution of the Augustinian solution (19).

d. Conflicts and Mixtures of the Two Types in the Modern Philosophy of Religion: when we go from Augustine to Descartes, we get the removal of the mystical element of Augustine's idea of ultimate evidence by Descartes' concept of rationality (20). German idealism = ontological. Empirical/Experimental philosophy of religion = cosmological (21).

e. The Ontological Awareness of the Unconditional: The Deus est esse is the basis of all philosophy of religion (22). Man is immediately aware of something unconditional which is the prius of the separation and interaction of subject and object, theoretically as well as practically. Thomas injured the understanding of religion when he dissolved the substantial unity of the psychological functions and attributed to the will in isolation what the intellect alone is not able to perform (23). Schleiermacher similarly injured religion in combatting the cosmological approach when he cut "feeling" (as the religious function) off from will and intellect, thus excluding religion from the totality of personal existence and delivering it to emotional subjectivity (24). The unconditional makes an unconditional demand upon those who are aware of something unconditional, and which cannot be interpreted as the principle of a rational deduction (24). The unconditional, as opposed to the Unconditioned (God), is an awareness of God. But the unconditional and the Unconditioned must be in relation to prevent the Unconditioned from disappearing. The ontological approach transcends the discussion between nominalism and realism, if it rejects the concept of the ens realissimum, as it must do.

f. The Cosmological Awareness of the Unconditioned: The Unconditioned of which we have an immediate awareness, without inference, can be recognized in the cultural and natural universe (26). In concepts like contingency, insecurity, transitoriness, and their psychological correlates anxiety, care, meaninglessness, a new cosmological approach has developed, a new negative way of recognizing the unconditional element in man and his world (27) -> theology of culture. The presupposition of this many-sided attempt is that in every cultural creation - a picture, a system, a law, a political movement (however secular it may appear) - an ultimate concern is expressed, and that it is possible to recognize the unconscious theological character of it (27).

g. Ontological Certainty and the Risk of Faith: The Unconditioned has not the character of faith but of self-evidence (27). The risk of faith is based on the fact that the unconditional element can become a matter of ultimate concern only if it appears in a concrete embodiment (28). The risk of faith is an existential risk, a risk in which the meaning and fulfillment of our lives is at stake, and not a theoretical judgment which may be refuted sooner or later. But it is based on a foundation which is not a risk: the awareness of the unconditional element in ourselves and our world. The ontological approach is able to overcome as far as it is possible by mere thought the fateful gap between religion and culture, thus reconciling concerns which are not strange to each other but have been estranged from each other (29).

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