Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Athens or Jerusalem?*

"Materialist insights and moral motives separate Rorty and Adorno from Heidegger and all postmodern polytheists. For them, unlike for Heidegger, Christianity and the history of rationalization of the world religions is much more than a mere footnote to Plato. The protestant heritage of American pragmatism - no different from a Weberian Marxism enlightened by the sociology of religion, not to mention the Judaeo-Christian roots of Marx himself- suggests a different reading of occidental rationalism than that of the rise and fall of Greek metaphysics as understood by the history of philosophy. It is the history of the individualizing and egalitarian forces of monotheism and Judaeo-Christian morality.

Right up to Kant's non-stop polemic against passivity, the rationalism, rejected by myth, of the prophetic redemptive religions discredits the 'leave things as they are' attitude. Looking on is replaced by the henceforth constitutive portion of human contribution: work, praxis, solidarity, subjectivity. Pagan fate, Heidegger's Greco-Germanic Geschicklichkeit ('destiny') is replaced by the utopian universalism of the idea of a justice for all - a universalism denounced by Lyotard as 'meta-law'. This idea, unlike the more aristocratic philosophy of Heidegger and others, seizes the masses."

Adorno and Critical Theory pp. 99-100

Brunkhorst's critique of Heidegger here is quite similar to that of Habermas. Habermas makes similar points in his Postmetaphysical Thinking Philosophical Essays and in his piece 'Israel or Athens: Where does Anamnestic Reason Belong?' included in an edited collection entitled Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity. Habermas writes:

" . . . I do not believe that we, Europeans, can seriously understand concepts like morality and ethical life, person individuality, or freedom and emancipation, without appropriating the substance of the Judeo-Christian understanding of history in terms of salvation. And these concepts are, perhaps, nearer to our hearts than the conceptual resources of Platonic thought, centring on order and revolving around the cathartic intuition of ideas."

Postmetaphysical Thinking Philosophical Essays p. 15

I only want to suggest two points relating to this critique of Heidegger:

1) This critique ignores the protestant roots of Heidegger's own thinking not to mention the Judaeo Christian basis of much of modern Germanic civilisation.

2) This sort of critique also ignores the violence which Judaeo Christian centric modernity commits against the tradition itself by wilfully confusing the factual and normative content of the tradition and in the process inverting the very substance of the tradition.

* see related post by Gary Sauer-Thompson here

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