Sunday, January 21, 2018

"the [idolatrous] thrill of the shadow of nothingness"

Department of Theology,
University of Notre Dame
"the great attraction of Heidegger's path" isn't just the attraction of what is "irrational, absurd, and superstitious."  It is "precisely the attraction of idolatry.  Indeed, Heidegger provides us with a bold statement of the very quintessence of idolatry in its purest and most distinctively postmodern form. . . . From the vantage point of Heidegger's enthrallment with finitude, we can see that people make idols and glorify the creature instead of the Creator, not because they just made a mistake and thought that the creature or the idol is the absolute being.  Rather, people make idols and glorify the creature instead of the Creator because they have made the judgment, at a deep level that is not altogether transparent to logical reasoning, that finite being is just more thrilling than absolute being.  And what is more indicative of the mood of our times than a mesmerization with finitude as such and a distaste, even repulsion, at the very notion of a perfection of being, a repulsion that even drives theologians to disparage the preoccupation of  'classical theism' with the attributes of divine being[?]  It is this mesmerization with finitude that is the existential wonder to which our epoch spontaneously gravitates!  Heidegger reveals to us that just as philosophy itself begins with wonder, so does idolatry.  But unlike the wonder invoked by both classical philosophy and theology, Heidegger's wonder is idolatrous because it is, despite all his elaborate protestations to the contrary, an arrested wonder.  It prostrates itself before the very combination of the eruption of being and the decline from being that characterizes finite beings, refusing to move on to the recognition of a perfect being that would lack the thrill of the shadow of nothingness falling over it.  Does not this 'mood' of idolatry utterly pervade our current existence?
     "If we compare the apologetic strategies of Athanasius and David Hart, we can see that they both make significant use of the argument from creaturely contingency to a perfect being, God.  But what is distinctive to Athanasius's approach is the insight that what prevents us from accepting this logical correlation is not just stupidity, the inability to appreciate the cogency of the logic which must posit necessary being as the ground of contingent being, but the deeper and more complex problem of idolatry, our intractable attachment to the finite things around us that makes us absolutize those finite things, both because they are sources of immediate pleasure and because they provide temporary evasions from the specter of death.  Heidegger, unwillingly, gives us an even bolder presentation of the distinctly postmodern form of idolatry, which is the glorification of finitude as such and the distaste for perfect being unadumbrated by the seductive shadow of nothingness."

     Khaled Anatolios, "The witness of Athanasius at the (hoped-for) Nicene Council of 2025," Pro ecclesia 25, no. 2 (Spring 2016):  234-235 (220-236).
     Have Hart and Milbank then, the two writers upon whom Anatolios relies, succeeded in reversing the French reversal of c. 1960 on Heidegger?

From the Neothomist point of view, Neoplatonism seemed an ally of modernity, a movement that preceded it and sustained its idealisms.  But the positive character of the current interest in Neoplatonism adheres to a reversal of that judgment.  In the last third of the 20th century, it is Neoscholasticism rather than Neoplatonism that dreams of an objectivizing rationalism and an ontotheology.  Towards 1960, the French discovered, despite the judgment of Étienne Gilson, that Heidegger would not object to [(ne ferait pas une exception à)] the identification by Thomas of God with ipsum esse subsistens.  Thus, Neoplatonism, above all in its Proclean and Dionysian branches, and medieval thought in the measure in which it is Neoplatonic, becomes more interesting for every attempt to respond to the questions raised by modernity.
Wayne J. Hankey, "Le role du néoplatonisme dans les tentatives postmodernes d’échapper à  l’onto-théologie," La métaphysique:  son histoire, sa critique, ses enjeux, Actes du XXVIIe Congrès de l’Association des Sociétés de Philosophie de Langue Française (A.S.P.L.F.), Québec, 18-22 août 1998) (Paris:  Libraire Philosophique J. Vrin; Québec:  Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2000):  38-39 (36-43), citing Heidegger's 1959 "Le Retour au fondement de la métaphysique" and G. Prouvost, "La question des noms divins," Revue thomiste 98, no. 3 (1997):  485-511.

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