Dissertation > Philosophy, religion > World Philosophy > Modern Philosophy > The philosophy of the twentieth century

Analysis of the philosophy of Karl Rana God

Author WangXinSheng
Tutor HuangSongJie
School Fudan University
Course Foreign Philosophy
Keywords transcendental anthropology the Second Vatican Council Vorgriff Holy Mystery
CLC B151
Type PhD thesis
Year 2006
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Karl Rahner (1904-1984) is the greatest catholic theologian recognized by the west, and is honored as "the Contemporary Thomas Aquinas," "the Quiet Mover of the Church," "the Father of the 20th Century Church". As the official theologian at the Second Vatican Council, he played a great role, not only edifying generations of the coming theologians, but also influencing the development of Catholic thought since then. In order to face the challenge posed by the secularization and modernization, Rahner advocated and practiced the dialogues within and without the Christianity, with writings almost covering every area in the related field, among them being huge Theological Investigations (16 vols. in the original, 23vol. in English). His treatise is both keeping the pace with times and being loyal to the traditions of Christianity. His style of "Transcendental" was often revealed subtly through his pursue of the "Truth" and the expression of it. No matter what positions they took, his critics always showed their respects for his depth and wideness. A survey, done in 1978 on theologians in the North America, who represented 71 different confessions showed that among the greatest thinkers who influenced them most, Rahner is ranked the third, just behind Thomas Aquinas and Paul Tillich, standing before Augustine and Martin Luther. From this survey result, we can get a glimpse of Rahners’s influences on theological thoughts. Unfortunately, the detailed studies of such a crucial figure in the academics in China are very few, almost none. When the then Joseph Ratzinger(1927-) has become the nowadays pope Benedict XVI, especially when the relationship of China with the Vatican has become the hot topic, we believe that it is significant to explore Rahnerian theological-philosophical thoughts which are related to the contemporary Church and the present Pope, particularly the doctrine of "Transcendental Anthropology" which made Rahner his name. This paper will take the line of cause and effect of the doctrine as its masterstroke, and at the same time try to run an assistant line through the paper, which is the line of contrast between Rahner’s thought and the theological one before the Second Vatican Council in particular and the philosophical one in general, especially the contrast between Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger in the relevant ways (particularly in the section of "Life and Writings").A.The "Introduction—-Rahner in the 20th Century Theology" of this paper aimed to put the origin of Rahner’s thought in the context of the catholic theology in the 20th century and locates it in this context. Firstly, under the subtitle "the divinity of western philosophy", we notice that the "philosopher’s God" as the result of rational speculations is different from the personal God as "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", and their complicated relations, pointing out that God for Rahner is the personal God. Secondly, in the perspective of the turn form the "God-oriented theology" to the "Anthrop-oriented" theology, we discuss the three characteristics in common. Through "return to the subject," the "dual task of theology," and the "method problem," the paper tries to determine the coordinate of Rahner’s anthropology in the contemporary development of Christian thought. Under the subtitle "Rahner between the First and the Second World Wars," we argue that the theological anthropology of Rahner is developed based on overcoming the conservative aspects and carrying forward the creative elements.Rahner’s thought is marked by the formation of Jesuits (to which he belongs) and the Spiritual Exercises of its founder Ignatius of Loyola. As a matter of fact, Rahner’s thought is located at the point of intersection between two great traditions—the tradition of Church and the tradition of German philosophy. On the part of German philosophy, I. Kant is the first philosopher he made (especially in the Spirit in the World) a response to, and Heidegger is the greatest influence on Rahner’s early thoughts. On the part of Roman Catholic tradition, Thomas Aquinas, and the interpretation of Aquinas by Joseph Marechal represented the most influences on Rahner’s writings. In the "Resources of Rahner’s Thought", we will discuss those molding effects on Rahner’s thought.B.The problematic of Rahner derived from Kant’s the Critique of Pure Reason, and his the Spirit in the World is the response by him to the position on possibility of metaphysics and the limit of human knowledge Kant held in its Critique. For this reason, we cannot avoid Kant’s Critique in the study of the source and effect of the "transcendental anthropology" established by Rahner. But in the section of Kant of the chapter "Resources of Rahner’s Thought," we only restrict ourselves to Kant only in the dimension of the relevance of Kant to Rahner, building up a stage for Rahner’s thought. Hence this section only focuses on two themes, that is, the problematic ofmetaphysics in the Critique and the transcendental method. Regarding the first theme we sketches the occasion and nature of the "Copernican Revolution", i.e., the impossibility of metaphysics within pure speculative reason and the consequent necessity of transposing the "special metaphysical" questions to the domain of practical reason. Around the second theme, we discuss the transcendental method, its origins in classical physics, and in medieval theology, and then the place where Kant inspires the problematic of Rahner. There Rahner defenses the possibility of metaphysics within the theoretical reason or speculative reason, that is, Rahner argues for the possibility of knowing the entities, including the absolute entity, in the intelligent action which is necessarily restricted to the sensible experiences (spirit in the world). In order to do this, Rahner have no choice but to both accept and revise Kant’s understanding of transcendental method. It is the revision (or retrieval) by Rahner that is what Rahner take over from Kant or being influenced by Kant.In the sense we establish the stage for the emergence of Rahner’s thought, this part of the paper intends to discuss the delimitation of the legal usage of theoretical reason in Kant’s Critique. As far as Kant’s influence on Rahner, the importance of the Critique is the transcendental method in it. What is different between Kant and Rahner is that Rahner disagrees with the denial by Kant of the way of approving the existence of God through the human ability of knowledge, and it is to this that Rahner in his Spirit in the World to challenge, paving a way (implied in the Critique in Rahner’s view) to argue for the possibility of the indefinite God from a definite subjectivity of human beings. In doing this Rahner depends largely on "the modernized equipment" of Heidegger whom Rahner honors as his only teacher.C.In the section of Heidegger in the second chapter "Resources of Rahner’s Thought," we first of all dig up the theological implications, pointing out that the thought of Heidegger not only inspired the atheist Sartre, but also did enlighten the thought of a real theist Rahner. To us, Heidegger is not a thinker without faith, but what characterize his faith is that he changed from the faith in the Catholicism to the free Christian faith. It is this point that can explain why the criticism of Heidegger against the traditional metaphysics expressed as the criticism of the "onto-theo-logy". The criticism made by Heidegger against the "onto-theo-logy" has to parts, one is against the traditional metaphysics, the other is against the traditional theology. Rahner follows the way Heidegger opens for the development of a new theology. It isjust as the criticism of the traditional ways of proving the existence of God is to clear the way for his moral argument for the existence of God, the criticism by Heidegger against the "onto-theo-logy" prepares the way for Rahner’s anthropological argument for the existence of God.The "fundamental ontology" of Heidegger exerts an baptismal function on Rahner’s thought. First, Rahner accepts the starting-point of Heidegger, that is, the questioning man. Rahner takes the "Dasein" as the unique questioner, and takes the man who questions as the starting-point of metaphysics, and the horizon of metaphysics. In posing the starting-point in the questioning of man about Being, he can make a claim that the meaning of Being and the questioner can be revealed though the reflection on the condition of its possibility. Second, Rahner and Heidegger rejecting the "categorical thought domain of Hegel," moving to the daily experience, and its origin in the pre-reflective knowledge and experience. In following Heidegger, Rahner talks about "luminosity" and "hiddenness." And finally, the emphasis Heidegger put on temporality influenced evidently on Rahner.Rahner accepts the method of "retrieval" of Heidegger, and his insights of worldliness and historicity, but the dialogue target Rahner chooses is Thomas Aquinas. The theological training of Rahner is done in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas. It is the thought of Thomas that offer the place for Rahner’s thought to maneuvers between the thought of Thomas and the modern German thought. In this respect, Rahner follows the steps taken by Pierre Rousselot and Joseph Marechal in the interpretation of Thomas Aquinas. In addition, the influence on Rahner by Inagius of Laoyarla and his Spiritual Exercises should not be ignored in tracing the resources of Rahner’s thought.D.In the chapter three, we point out that the "transcendental anthropology" as a scarlet line can be traced back to the philosophical foundation for his theology. In doing this, Rahner makes three steps. One is the Spirit in the World, the aim of which is to establish the metaphysics of knowledge called by Rahner, through retrieving Thomas Aquinas. In the context of post-Critique, Rahner has to ways to go: one is to round the problematic of transcendental subjectivity, rising moving away form the modern track of thought, the other is to "overcome Kant through Kant". Supported by Marechal and Heidegger, Rahner takes the second way. In his Spirit in the World, accepts the Kantian method of transcendental reflection regarding the possibility of knowledge.In addition, he not only accepts the Kantian question of the possibility of metaphysics, but also takes over Kant’s such a presupposition that any true scientific theology must roots itself into the possibility of the traditional metaphysics, that is, into the knowledge of the absolute. But Rahner differentiates himself from Kant by trying to show that the way opening to "absolute" by philosophy has its rationality and critical possibility, while Kant denying such a possibility, and turning to the practical reason. Like Kant Rahner clarifies the a priori subjective forms in the understanding, and the experimental basis and the temporality-space basis of all valid knowledge. But to Rahner, knowledge is not restricted to the possible experimental experience; at the same time it transcends the sensible "world", reaching a dimly but true knowledge of the being itself.This kind of implication is deepened in his second step for his theological foundation in philosophy, that is, Hearer of the World. In his second foundational work, he applies himself to the "ontology of the obedience to the revelation", explaining the possibility of man to achieve the revelation. His aims at showing that what is revealed by the questioning of human knower is not only the openness and hidenness of being, but also the historicity and freedom of human existence. If historicity is a kind of ontological structure of human existence, history is the place where God keep silence or send out his word. The fact and content of revelation are historical, so they are free and unpredictable. Thus Rahner explore the transcendence and historicity of human beings in a theological context. The key point of this work of Rahner is to grasp such a presupposition though the transcendental question, that is, God has revealed himself through human history and word. The Hearer of the Word in a sense is the first book of religious philosophy in the history of Roma Catholic Church.In the third step, Rahner developed the notion of "transcendental existential", as the result of reflection on the first two books from a theological viewpoint. Given certain data of revelation, human existence is analyzed in the conditions of its possibility. The main reason why Rahner introduces the notion is to explain the universal presence of God’s self-communication. For Rahner, God’s self-communication offers the condition of possibility for his acceptance on the part of human being, but it doesn’t guarantee that everyone will achieve the grace. We can only say that the grace falls unfailingly on all people. For Rahner freely accepting the "supernatural existential" means salvation. Any person who accepts himself as personal, in personal included anatural orientation to God, al will be saved, whether the man has related to Christianity as the categorical themenization of the transcendental revelation. This idea is developed in the famous notion of the "synonymous Christian".E.In chapter four "the basic elements of Rahner’s transcendental anthropology", based on the above preparatory discussion of Rahner’s transcendental anthropology, we discuss the necessity and task of Rahner’s transcendental anthropology, then developing the transcendental dimentions of Rahner’s theological anthropology. Firstly, to Rahner, human is spirit, i.e., the transcendental trait of human being is a subject or person. In all the activities of human experience, human not only is knowing and willing the object of experience, but also be aware of himself as such a subject. This self-experience is different from objective experience, it is a kind of experience in which human being "co-experience" himself implicitly or explicitly with the objective experience. This "co-experience" is companied by implicitly or explicitly "co-knowing" the objects of the knowledge, and this co-knowing is non-objective. Rahner use Vorgriff to refer to such knowledge of being. According to Rahner human being has a kind of pre-apprehension, pre-apprehends the being of apprehending the objective apprehension of particular beings. This Vorgriff is a kind of transcendental experience. For Rahner, why human being as spirit is that human beings unfailingly have this transcendental experience, this making the possibility of other forms of human experience.Secondly, human is material. Although human has a Vorgriff, a pre-apprehension of being, including the appreciation of the absolute of God, it is not the perfect understanding of being. It is because human is spirit, essentially related to the world, is a kind of spirit of material. To Rahner, human return to himself, and orientation to God (the spiritual moment of human) only can be given through encountering other finite entities. Based on the Thomist understanding of material, Rahner argues that material human being is of temporality and space. This means that the self-realization, the subject returning to himself, can occur only by the mediation of sensible objects, and more important, only through the mediation of other people.Thirdly, human is interpersonal. As person of time and space, human lives in the relationship with other people in history. For Rahner, this interpersonal or relationship with others is the transcendental nature of human transcendental being. In Rahner’s view, other person is not paralleled to self as a individual, but a necessary moment inthe self-realization. It indicates that human transcendence, which is implicitlyaffirmed in all human activities, is not consisted in two parts-----the subject returningto himself and his opening to being itself or oriented to God, but consisted in three parts. Necessary orientation to other person or relatedness with other person is one of human transcendental aspect.Fourthly, God is the Worahufhin of human transcendence. According to Rahner, human being as spirit, as material, as interpersonal, has a Vorgriff of being itself, and this making all particular action of knowing and willing possible. The aim or end or Worahufhin is this Vorgriff is the absolute being of God. This experience of God is priori to reflection, is a kind of non-objective experience or pre-conceptual experience. In virtue of the difference between the transcendental experience of God and the followed the reflection on the experience we can approach the position of Rahner on the classical arguments for the existence of God. He insists that all the previous arguments are only conceptual or reflective evidence. The source of the only evidence is from the complete questioning of the particular experience of human being. Furthermore, Rahner points out that his argument is not an ontological one. Because he didn’t move from the concept of God to the assertion that God exists, but shows that human action of knowledge of finite objects already implies the transcendental knowledge of God as the Woraufhin of the act of knowledge. This is the place where Rahner’s anthropological argument differs from the previous ones.Lastly, God as the Woraufhin is the holy mystery. It is nameless, infinite, being out of our disposal. And finally, the love of this God as holy mystery is identified with the love of neighbors, with this Rahner’s transcendental anthropology has reached its conclusion.F.In the fifth Chapter, we discuss the notion of the "synonymous Christian" implied in Rahner’s transcendental anthropology, and its inner logic’s offering of a dialogue platform, on which Rahner himself set up a good example of doing dialogue with parties within and without Christianity. In short, we point out that Rahner’s transcendental anthropology and its logical implication "synonymous Christian" is a basis established by Rahner for dialogue and tolerance. And Rahner’s thought in this respect influences the Second Vatican Council and the development of Church after it. Rahner’s thought is significant for the understanding of the new pop and the future movement of the Church.

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