Saturday, April 12, 2014

Martin Fritz on Tillich's anthropology


Apologetical effort of showing that Christian belief is plausible and sensible. With Kant the idea of the proof of existence of God was rejected; so Schleiermacher pointed toward religion as a sensible stance. Tillich turned to anthropology in the late 1920s, which caused theory structural adjustments.

Tillich always felt the apologetic aspects as very important, organized Vernunftabende to practice; after WW1 the spirit and sense religious philosophy. Cultural acts is a sense act; which presupposes meaningfulness; which points back to the sense of sense. This all is a "silent belief" (schweigende Glaube) that is religious belief or Religion. Contradictions or rejections of sense would make life impossible.

When Tillich then turns to anthropology in the 1920s, and starts small with the occasional showing up of the term "Mensch", then an investigation into the being of Man. By 1930 there is a lot of talking of humanity, human existence; "Mensch" is described as transcending the mere existence. The anthropology influences how law, economics, science and culture should be considered. In the USA, from 1934-35, Tillich worked in eight lectures about this issue.

1927/8 was the time Max Scheler's Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos & Helmut Plessner, started the new philosophical anthropology. Tillich however does not appear to have read Plessner. 1934 Tillich demanded a translation of Max Scheler's book into the English language. All empirical of Scheler is not interesting to Tillich, and he worries about their revocability. But there are other sources, for example Heidegger's Sein & Zeit, which seems to have impress Tillich heavily. Heidegger's ontology wants to find Being via the human being; but Tillich only took over some of the great lines at most. For Tillich Heidegger is part of the existence philosophy---Marx, Freud, Schelling, Kierkegaard, Dilthey, Simmel. Tillich had already included Schelling and Kirkegaard, thus often there is a relabeling, even if motives come across.

In the main, Tillich's anthropology has multiple motives. There is the idea of the krisis of the modernity, endangerment of humanity through technical processing of all living and dead, akin to the way Troeltsch worried about rescuing the soul from the mechanization. Here belongs the often-quoted Ludwig Klages, who saw an opposition between spirit and soul; Scheler had a more integrative tack here. There is a general Anti-Cartesianism, which is used to argue against the distinction of the dualism of soul and body. The In-der-Welt-Sein model couples across that dualism for Heidegger. A new human image what can fight dehumanization is worked out in terminology of the lectures in his 1930s. Tillich will write "Der Mensch ist endliche Freiheit." to avoid any labeling and dehumanization.

The attempt, to show the vital against the mechanization, causes in the end for Tillich an endangerment of spirit, because the union of the vital and the spirit is thus problematic (and Scheler and the Gestaltpsychology had offered solutions here). This will result in the combination of vitality and intentionality in the Systematic Theology. But Tillich seemed to grow unhappy with the cultural theology of his earlier years, because Religion is not restricted to sense, but also locatable in being; man is not just cultural, but also animal. Scheler and Heidegger allowed Tillich to excavate a deeper foundation, by analyzing the basal structures of the being of man, instead of just the analysis of the human spirit. The Religious is now locatable in all parts of existence, in "daily life", not just the sense-parts. 

How does Tillich put all of this together? The nucleus is "Im Menschsein erhebt sich das Sein über sich selbst." It is freedom from mere being. Which is taken from Scheler, in the term of the world-openess. The environment is transcended toward the world by the human being, by inserting it into the model of the world. This causes a separation of the self and the world, which the human can analyze. The human has an interest in the being, and is a pressing issue. But these questions can miss the world, which is the price of freedom. Humans are essentially freedom, but existentially it is alienation, subjection and force. This process allows the transformation of old terms of the Reformation into a new space of meaning. The essential term is an ideal, which we need to compare to the real. Especially noteworthy is the combination of philosophical and theological; the philosophical wants to rescue the spirit and the humane in the essence; but in the existence, all aporetic aspects of life are checked for their religious possibility. Thus, the idea of salvation becomes anthropologically understandable for all. Because the idea of the finality is essentially transcended with the idea of infinite, but existentially unavailable. This is very similar to the structure of meaningfulness and sense earlier. This stretches the worry from the non-sense, to the non-existence, in its expressiveness. All these worries express the finality of humanity.
The scheme of existential questions and Christian answers is a pattern that Tillich began working with at the beginning of the US exile. 

The widening and restructuring of the approach is clear in its apologetic structure, its Anschlussrationalität. This is generated by intuitive introspection---this is the phenomenological inheritance. By iterating through the aporetic conditions, Tillich identifies the plurality of needs for salvation, which the symbols can then be used to respond to (with the correspondence approach). Thus, Christianity can answer questions that have actually been asked, not such that no one wants to hear about. This allows inner religious evidence as well.
The problems with the correlation approach are serious, however.
  • The phenomenological inheritance is too problematic. 
  • There is a laziness of explanation of Tillich does not help; even though it is supposed to be concrete, the vocabulary remains abstract. The elder Tillich is even less interested in explication.
  • There are also traces of systematic destruction, where Tillich brings the old terms without integration; especially the question-answer scheme remains external.
Tillich's anthropology needs but deserves explication (such as the book of Martin Fritz, as the speaker notes), and can open up new vistas on the Systematic Theology. The aporetic approach is helpful, without pinning the human onto a sinful state (as Adorno argued), but rather accepting the problems that life brings. The hermeneutic circle of correlation is admitted by Tillich, but the plurality of sources from the history of philosophy lessens the Christian dependency. Clearly, if Christianity is about salvation, then the sketches of the need for salvation must be plural and multi-focal.  


  • There is a question of whether Tillich finds integration in Scheler, who might also be more dualistic; and whether Tillich is not closer to Jaspers than to Heidegger, and criticizes Heidegger from the position of Jaspers. But that would require more detailed analysis.
  • Maybe Tillich is more experimental, so that dimensions of the finality can be probed and analyzed. However, the Symbol comes from the Sense part of the phase; and there are indeed analyses of finality, as a theory of finality eventually.


Martin Fritz, Hier muss vollkommen umgelernt werden: Paul Tillichs Hinwendung zur Anthropologie.

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