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The Phenomenology of Religious Life

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The Phenomenology of Religious Life presents the text of Heidegger’s important 1920–21 lectures on religion. The volume consists of the famous lecture course Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion, a course on Augustine and Neoplatonism, and notes for a course on The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism that was never delivered. Heidegger’s engagements with Aristotle, St. Paul, Augustine, and Luther give readers a sense of what phenomenology would come to mean in the mature expression of his thought. Heidegger reveals an impressive display of theological knowledge, protecting Christian life experience from Greek philosophy and defending Paul against Nietzsche.

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Translators' Foreword

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Translators' Foreword

These lecture courses present particular difficulties for the translators, given that they were compiled from Heidegger's notes and the notes of students in his lecture courses, rather than from material Heidegger prepared for publication. Details on the text sources and compilation are provided in the editors' afterwords, included at the end of this volume. When the abbreviated or truncated character of the notes, particularly in the appendices, was retained by the editors of the German edition, we, too, have retained this insofar as it was still possible to provide a sensible and readable translation into English.

We have also endeavored to maintain, whenever possible, consistency regarding our translation of terms from the several lecture courses and appendices; we have provided for the reader a glossary which will indicate the terms we have employed to render the more or less technical terms of Heidegger's German. Some German terms (such as “Zusammenhang”), however, cannot be reliably translated by a single English word, and the glossary will also help to guide the reader here. In a few cases, additional words have been inserted in brackets in order to render a grammatically acceptable English translation. (Unfortunately, these will not always be distinguishable from the editors' insertions.) Occasionally, Heidegger capitalizes important terms like “How” and “When,” in effect rendering them nouns, which in German would then be capitalized; but he does not always do so. We have capitalized the terms when it was so in the German text; otherwise, we have put them into single quotation marks or, when appropriate, italics.

 

Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion Winter Semester 1920–21

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INTRODUCTION TO THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF RELIGION

Winter Semester 1920–21

 

Part One: Methodological Introduction Philosophy, Factical Life Experience, and the Phenomenology of Religion

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PART ONE

Methodological Introduction
Philosophy, Factical Life Experience,
and the Phenomenology of Religion

Chapter One

The Formation of Philosophical Concepts
and Factical Life Experience

The Peculiarity of Philosophical Concepts

It is necessary to determine the meaning of words of the lecture's announcement preliminarily. This necessity is grounded in the peculiarity of philosophical concepts. In the specific scientific disciplines, concepts are determined through their integration into a material complex; and the more familiar this context is, the more exactly its concepts can be fixed. Philosophical concepts, on the contrary, are vacillating, vague, manifold, and fluctuating, as is shown in the alteration of philosophical standpoints. This uncertainty of philosophical concepts is not, however, exclusively founded upon this alteration of standpoints. It belongs, rather, to the sense of philosophical concepts themselves that they always remain uncertain. The possibility of access to philosophical concepts is fundamentally different from the possibility of access to scientific concepts. Philosophy does not have at its disposal an objectively and thoroughly formed material context into which concepts can be integrated in order to receive their determination. There is thus a difference in principle between science and philosophy. This provisional thesis will prove itself in the course of these observations. (It is due to the necessity of linguistic formulation alone that this is a thesis, a proposition, at all.)

 

Part Two: Phenomenological Explication of Concrete Religious Phenomena in Connection with the Letters of Paul

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PART TWO

Phenomenological Explication of Concrete Religious
Phenomena in Connection with the Letters of Paul

Chapter One

Phenomenological Interpretation of the Letters to the Galatians

§14. Introduction

In the following, we do not intend to give a dogmatic or theological-exegetical interpretation, nor a historical study or a religious meditation, but only guidance for phenomenological understanding. Characteristic of the phenomenological-religious understanding is gaining an advance understanding for an original way of access. One must work the religious-historical method into it, and indeed in such a way that one examines it critically. The theological method falls out of the framework of our study. Only with phenomenological understanding, a new way for theology is opened up. The formal indication renounces the last understanding that can only be given in genuine religious experience; it intends only to open an access to the New Testament.

 

Appendix

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Appendix

Notes and Sketches on the Lecture

Letter to the Galatians

[on § 16]

Paul in struggle—not only for his mission, but for the Galatians themselves; against the “law” not only as law, but rather as belonging to the world era [Weltzeit]. A push away into the unredeemed, not a radical seizing of the spirit.

The conflict about circumcision: question of the conditions for the entry into Christian life; external sign of inner belonging to the “alliance” [Bundeswelt] after exile. Not law, with its works and morals, distinguishes, but rather, faith in Jesus Christ. Superfluousness, harmfulness […]* In law a “way to salvation” is embodied (view of existence!) (Way to salvation in upholding the commandment!) Meaning of the entire law: to refer man to his doings; the works of his doings [?], the reward will be of the law. For Paul: God alone acts in the sending of Christ! Thus: not the works of human beings, but rather grace!

 

Augustine and Neo-Platonism Summer Semester 1921

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AUGUSTINE AND NEO-PLATONISM

Early Freiburg Lecture, Summer Semester 1921

INTRODUCTORY PART

Interpretations of Augustine

The task set before us is a limited one; to what extent it is limited will become clear, at least negatively, in its demarcation from other interpretations and evaluations of Augustine. These latter ones concur in their high esteem of Augustine's cultural-historical impact.

Medieval theology is based on Augustine. The medieval reception of Aristotle was able to assert itself—if at all—only in a sharp confrontation with Augustinian directions of thought. Medieval mysticism is a vivification of theological thought and practical-ecclesiastical religious ritual which, in essence, goes back to Augustinian motifs. In his decisive years of development, Luther was under the strong influence of Augustine. Within Protestantism, Augustine remained the most widely esteemed Father of the Church.

Augustine was subject to a renewal in the Catholic Church, in particular in seventeenth-century France (Descartes, Malebranche, Pascal, Jansenism, Bossuet, Féléon). He remained especially at home there until the modern Catholic school of apologetics in France, which at the same time appropriated Bergsonian ideas (which, in turn, were determined by Plotinus). What is at work in this is not really Augustine, but an Augustinianism which is more appropriate to the doctrine of the Church, and which slightly violates the dogmatic boundaries only in ontologism. (What Scheler is doing today is merely a secondary reception of these circles of thought dressed up in phenomenology.)

 

Main Part: Phenomenological Interpretation of Confessions; Book X

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MAIN PART

Phenomenological Interpretation
of Confessions; Book X

§ 7. Preparations for the Interpretation

a) Augustine’s Retractions of the Confessions

Toward the end of his life, around 426 or 427 (he died in 430), Augustine wrote Retractionum libri duo. “Retractationes”—that is, a taking-up again of his Opuscula (libri, epistolae, tractatus), a re-examination judiciaria severitate [“with judicious severity”]1 in which he notes, corrects, and improves what, to him, now seems problematic. In the preface (prologus), where he thus determines the task of the Retractationes, he also gives an account of the motives which provoked this reassessment.

Illud etiam quod scriptum est, Ex multiloquio non effugies peccatum (Prov. X, 19) […] sed istam sententiam Scripturae sanctae propterea timeo, quia de tam multis disputationibus meis sine dubio multa colligi possunt, quae si non falsa, at certe videantur, sive etiam convincantur non necessaria. [It is also written there: “Much talking does not avoid sin” (Prov. 10:19)…But I fear this sentence of the Holy Scripture, for with so many writings of mine, one can without a doubt gather many passages which, if not false, may certainly be seen as, or convince one of being not necessary.]2

 

Appendix I

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APPENDIX I

Notes and Sketches for the Lecture Course

Augustine, “Confessiones”—“confiteri,” “interpretari”

[on § 7 b]

“Interpretation” as a determinately characterized interpretation of oneself, in such a way that that in front of which one becomes familiar to “oneself” is not only the empty “in-front-of,” but leads the authentic interpreting, making it precisely something special. “Special”—[that means here:]

—concretely naming possible stages of the interpretations in formal indication;

—then showing how the confiteri [confessing] is motivated in its basic starting point: quaestio mihi factus sum [I have become a question to myself].

Grasping the theological-philosophical “writings”—Sermones, Epistolae [sermons, letters], polemical pieces, and so forth—from this viewpoint as what has been interpreted determinately in communal-worldly complexes of experience and in the surrounding-worldly state of knowledge.

 

Appendix II

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Appendix II

Supplements from the Notes of Oskar Becker

1. Continentia

[Supplement to § 12 a]

“Jubes continentiam” [you command continence]—the iubere [commanding] is a directio cordis [direction of the heart]. Cf. Enarrationes in Psalmos [On the Psalms] 7, V. 10: iubere is not oriented in the Church, in objective faith.

“Quomodo ergo justus dirigi potest, nisi in occulto.” [For how can the just man be directed except in secret.]1 Through events at the beginning of the Christian age, the effectivity of God could indeed once be experienced objectively as a miracle. But now, when the name of Christians has grown to such heights, the hypocrisis—the hypocrisy of those who want to please people rather than God—grows as well. How else can the just one be led out of such confusio simulationis [confusion of simulation], if not by God's testing him in the heart and gut (Cor, heart = inner consideration; ren, gut = delectatio in malam partem [delight in the bad parts]. The delectatio is something base in life; that is why it is designated by a baser, lower organ.) Augustine now elaborates, in what this scrutinium [scrutiny] is enacted.—“Finis enim curae delectatio est” [For the end of concern is delight]:2 For everyone strives in his concern and consideration for what is attainable by his own delectatio, but God himself speaks in our conscience, and he sees our concern and our goal; that which we are doing through actions and words may be known to a human being, “sed quo animo fiant” [but what we do in the soul],3 and what we thus aim at, God alone knows.

 

The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism

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THE PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MEDIEVAL MYSTICISM

[Outlines and Sketches for a Lecture, Not Held, 1918–1919]

 

The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism 1

The formulation is ambiguous. Phenomenological research into religious consciousness is the driving problem and method. This means: 1. (negatively) renunciation of constructive philosophy of religion, 2. (negatively) non-absorption in the purely historical as such, 3. tracing back to the genuinely clarified and genuinely originally seen phenomena to pure consciousness and its constitution. But herein lies the problem: gaining and understanding such phenomena in the first place out of the historical—this and its facticity in phenomenological primordial understanding.

In regard to this principal original tendency—and this is the only genuinely scientific one—the announced [project] involves a limitation in several respects, and indeed precisely when we become conscious of the ambiguities. First of all, turning to this, there arise:

 

Afterword of the Editors of the Lecture Course Winter Semester 1920–21

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Afterword of the Editors of the Lecture Course Winter Semester 1920–21

Martin Heidegger held the lecture course “Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion” as a private lecturer in the winter semester 1920–1921 at the University of Freiburg. According to the schedule of courses, it was held Tuesdays and Fridays from noon to one o'clock. It began on October 29, 1920; the last class was held on February 25, 1921. This is what it says in the dating of the postscripts.

The manuscript of the lecture course is lost. Even an announcement by the manager of the Nachlass in several wide-circulating newspapers brought no hint of its location. Yet there are five sets of notations, which allow for the approximate reconstruction of the train of thought and articulation of the lecture course. Three of these notations (Oskar Becker, Helene Weiß, Franz-Josef Brecht) are found in the German Literary Archives of Marbach; two are kept in the Husserl Archive of Leuven. From the total notations it is clear that Heidegger's lecture course falls into two distinctly differentiated parts, which are separated by a caesura at the end of the lecture on November 30, 1920. In Oskar Becker's notations, which employ a separate pagination for each of the two parts, the end of the first part is marked by the following sentence: “Owing to uncalled-for objections [Einwänden Unberufener], broken off on the 30th of November, 1920.” A query addressed to the archive of the University of Freiburg could find no explanation of the sort of objections. Presumably through these Heidegger saw himself forced to proceed abruptly from the extensive “Methodological Introduction” to the “Phenomenological Explication of Concrete Religious Phenomena”—thus the title of the second part of the lecture course according to Becker. Becker's quite legible notation probably derives from stenographical notes which were immediately transcribed after each lecture. Even if he at times significantly simplified Heidegger's sentences, and, as a rule, shortened them as well as providing his own structure, his notations can serve, in regard to the first part of the lecture course, as a foundation for the preparation of the text. Becker's notes on the first part of the lecture course are complete; in the second part are missing the lectures given on December 10th, and those from the 10th to the 20th of February.

 

Afterword of the Editor of the Lecture Course summer Semester 1921 and of the Outlines and Sketches 1918–19

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Afterword of the Editor of the Lecture Course Summer
Semester 1921 and of the Outlines and Sketches 1918–19

The bibliographical main title of volume 60 is taken from a school binder in which Heidegger had bound his 1918–19 studies of the phenomenology of religion. On the second page is found the original title: “Phenomenology of Religious Consciousness.” Later the word “consciousness” is crossed out by Heidegger and replaced with the word “life.” This earlier title is also found in his letter of May 1, 1919, to Elisabeth Blochmann: “My own work is very concentrated, basic and concrete: basic problems of the phenomenolog[ical] method, becoming free from the last shackles of acquired positions—constant new progress toward the real origins, preparations for the phenomenology of religious consciousness—firmly geared up for intensive, high-quality academic effectiveness, constant learning in the company of Husserl” (Martin Heidegger–Elisabeth Blochmann, Letters 1918–1969, edited by Joachim W. Storck, Marbach on the Neckar, 1989, p. 16). That Heidegger speaks of “preparations” in respect to his studies of the phenomenology of religion probably refers to the announcement of Heidegger's planned lecture course of Winter Semester 1919–1920, “The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism.” But beyond that it seems to indicate in general a longer-standing project, for, next to the basic problems, the phenomenology of religion is the only concrete problem that Heidegger seems to “approach” at this time.

 

Glossary of key Terms

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Glossary of Key Terms

Ansatz: starting point

Bedeutsamkeit: significance

Bedeutung: meaning

Bekümmerung, bekümmern; curare: concern, to concern oneself; to be concerned

Berufung, Beruf: calling; vocation

Betrachtung: study

Betrachtungen: studies, considerations

Bezugssinn: relational sense

cupiditas: lust, avarice

concupiscentia, Begierlichkeit: desire (lust)

Dasein: existence; Dasein

delectatio: delight

Einstellung; Einstellung-…; einstellungsmäβig: attitude, attitudinal…; attitudinal

Erfahrung; Erlebnis: experience

Erkenntnis; Erkenntnis…, erkenntnismäβig: knowledge; cognitive

Evangelium: gospel; evangelism

frui: enjoyment

Gegenstand: object; thing [if contrasted with Objekt]

Gegenständlichkeit: objecthood

gegenständlich werden: becoming an object

Gegenwärtigung: presentation (to myself)

Geschäftigkeit: bustling activity

 

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