Maple forest in Ontario, Canada. (Credit: PavelS/Bigstock)
Maple forest in Ontario, Canada. (Credit: PavelS/Bigstock) (via:

“Humanizing humanity”—a strange expression.  It seems like a pleonasm, like saying the same thing twice.  It appears like a doubling or heaping up of images without semantic gain—as when someone is said to “carry coals to Newcastle” or “owls to Athens.”  Clearly, in these cases, the doubling of terms is pointless:  since one knows quite well the meaning of one term, the second is redundant.  However, in the expression “humanizing humanity,” the situation may be different.  For, do we really know the meaning of the terms?  Who has definitively settled or pinpointed this meaning?  Is it traditional philosophy—say, by speaking of the “animal with reason”?  Or it is modern empirical science—say, one of the social sciences like anthropology, or all of the sciences together?  Actually, it appears that we are quite ignorant in this field—which is curious.  While modern science has analyzed and provided knowledge of distant galaxies as well as the inner workings of atomic and sub-atomic particles, the meaning of humanity or the “human” seems to elude us.  Some might say that the meaning has an “apophatic” quality, in the sense that the terms are not compact signifiers but pointers or cues.

As indicated, the ignorance in this field is frustrating in view of the obvious advances of modern science.  In order to advance, science has found it advisable to become more and more specialized—which, in the case of “humanity,” seems to require a specialized focus on the “human” abstracting from all “non-human” elements, especially from such fields as external nature and the divine.  However, it may be precisely this penchant for specialization which leads inquiry astray.  Maybe the notions of humanity and “human being” have an inescapably holistic or relational quality, with the result that they cannot be defined in narrowly “anthropocentric” terms.  The issue how narrowly anthropocentric or how broadly holistic the notions should be construed has been a battlefield in philosophy and theology for a long time and especially during the last one hundred years.

In the following I want to convey a flavor of this ongoing battle (which has by no means come to an end).  Since it seems most instructive, I shall start with a discussion of Christian, more specifically evangelical or Protestant, theology.  Referring to the leading Protestant theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Barth, I shall review how Reformed Christian thought has struggled with the problem of the boundary or else relationship between God and humanity.  In a second step, I turn to a similar struggle within late-modern European philosophy, where an initial anthropocentric humanism and “existentialism” were challenged by the “postmodern” turn toward radical transcendence and “absolute otherness,” only in order to give way more recently to a differentiated balance or symbiosis.  By way of conclusion I shall reflect again on the “apophatic” quality of humanity or the “human.”


  1. Karl Barth and Humanism

Despite its potentially global outreach, Christianity has always been mainly a “Western” religion.  In different ways, it has accompanied and influenced the successive stages of Western civilization—from the Middle Ages to Renaissance and Reformation to the modern (increasingly secularizing) “age of science.”  Given their close civilizational ties, it was inevitable that Christianity and Christian theology would also—in varying degrees—be influenced by these historical developments.  In modernity, following the Enlightenment, it was particularly Protestantism—more than other denominations—that would undergo worldly or “secular” influences.  Thus, in opposition to certain reactionary or dogmatic tendencies in Catholicism, Protestant theologians displayed a remarkable openness or receptivity toward the modern “winds of change”—especially the winds of science, liberalism, and democratic self-government.  This openness was the hallmark of what came to be known as “liberal Protestantism”—whose arc reaches from the great philosopher-preacher Friedrich Schleiermacher to such leading theologians as Ernst Troetsch and Adolf von Harnack in the late 19th and early 20th century (certainly an impressive tradition).

No doubt, in distancing itself from dogmatism and autocracy, liberal Protestantism made valuable contributions to modern life; its drawback was its potential subservience to questionable idola fori, including a self-centered liberal humanism.  No one has discussed the strengths and weaknesses of this theology more aptly than Karl Barth (1886-1968), the Reformed theologian from Basel.  In a well-known article, Barth lucidly pinpointed the pluses and minuses of “Evangelical Theology in the 19th Century.”  In their religious orientation, he wrote, theologians of that time proceeded largely along the lines of Enlightenment teachings; however, in contrast to strict Enlightenment rationalism, 19th century theologians shifted their focus in a more narrowly anthropocentric direction:  namely, to “man’s supposedly innate and essential capacity to ‘sense and taste the infinite’ as Schleiermacher put it, or the ‘religious apriori’ as later affirmed by Troeltsch.”  As a result, theological discussion centered not so much on God, but on “the existence of the believing man [or human being].”  For Barth, theology’s “secularism” or world-openness signaled definitely a break with dogmatic authority, but the break exacted a steep theological cost.  With all its energies “captivated by the world,” he wrote, “19th-century theology achieved surprisingly little in terms of a new and positive understanding of Christian truth.”  The secular winds of the time were “enthusiastically welcomed and allowed to enter the Church freely through the outside doors.”  However, this same openness was “bound to threaten, indeed to undermine, both theology and the Church with impoverishment and triviality.”  The outside winds “brought not merely fresh air, but also notoriously foul air” (Barth as cited in Thomas & Weiser, 1960, pp. 19, 21, 24).

Liberal Protestantism in the sense just described came to an abrupt and dramatic end with World War I.  The war terminated not only the traditional European system of monarchies and dynasties, but also—and more importantly—the naïve humanistic progressivism of the 19th century, especially the trust in humanity’s capacity to build (or engineer) “God’s kingdom” on earth by human means.  The ensuing inter-bellum period was a time of intense philosophical and theological soul-searching.  In the context of Christian churches, it was primarily Reformed theology under the leadership of Barth which pleaded for a radical break with the past, that is, for a resolute shift of the theological focus from humanity to the transcendence and “otherness” of God. As Barth wrote later—in a partly self-critical vein—what happened in those years was a dramatic “change of direction” (Wendung), in fact “a precipitous break with the ruling theology of the time,” a theology “more or less liberal representing the climax of a development which had successfully asserted itself for two or three centuries” and which had cultivated an “anthropocentric, and in this sense humanistic outlook.”  For theologians caught up in this development, to think about God meant “to think in a scarcely veiled fashion about man [or humanity].”  As a result, Barth continued, the theological ship was “threatening to run aground”; hence, the moment was at hand “to turn the rudder an angle of exactly 180 degrees.”  This turning gave rise to a new language:  especially to appeals to the “‘wholly other’ breaking in upon us ‘perpendicularly from above’,” to the “infinite qualitative distinction between God and man,” or the “vacuum, the mathematical point and tangent where alone they can meet”[1] (Barth as cited in Thomas & Weiser, 1960, pp. 38-39, 41-42).

The radical theological term-about in the inter-bellum years was surely extreme.  No matter how desirable and perhaps even necessary it was as a corrective to liberal progressivism, its non- or anti-human slant was hardly judicious.  Curiously, it was again Barth who—in a lecture of 1956 appropriately titled “The Humanity of God”—gave the signal for a new and more balanced approach.   As he pointed out, it was not a matter of simply discarding the earlier critique (of progressivism) but of restating it in a mere adequate and judicious way.  Quite simply, the earlier “Wendung” had overshot its goal.  What concerned us and what “forcibly impressed” us forty years ago, Barth commented, was “not so much the humanity of God as His deity,” that is, His being “absolutely unique in His relation to man and the world, overpoweringly lofty and distant, strange, yes even wholly other.”  As a result, the “humanity of God” had moved “from the center to the periphery.”  But this decentering could not finally be maintained; in a way, he added, “we were wrong exactly where we were right.”  For it could not ultimately escape us “that the deity of the living God—and we certainly wanted to deal with Him—found its meaning and its power only in the context of His history and of His dialogue with man [humanity] and thus in His togetherness with human beings.”  Thus, what we had to rediscover and reaffirm was “God’s sovereign togetherness with man [human beings], a togetherness grounded in Him,” His status as “the partner of man [humanity], though of course as the absolutely superior partner” (Barth as cited in Thomas & Weiser, 1960, pp. 37-38, 44-45).

For a Christian theologian, of course, the humanity of God is disclosed and attested to above all in the person of Jesus Christ in whom God and human being are fully reconciled.  In Barth’s words: “In Jesus Christ there is no isolation of man from God or of God from man.  Rather, in Him we encounter the history, the dialogue, in which God and man [humanity] meet together and are together, the reality of the covenant mutually contracted, preserved, and fulfilled by them.”  Thus, Jesus Christ is the emblem of the togetherness and partnership of God and humanity, of the divine and the human—a togetherness which eludes the options of fusion and separation, of identity and radical difference.  As Barth writes: “Jesus Christ is in His one person, as true God, man’s loyal partner, and as true man, God’s partner.”  Differently stated: “He is the Word spoken from the loftiest, most luminous transcendence and likewise the Word heard in the deepest, darkest immanence.  He is both, without their being confused but also without their being divided; He is wholly the one and wholly the other.”  Seen in this way, Jesus is also a sheet anchor standing against any radical divisiveness, opposition or enmity.  For the same reason, Jesus is the incarnation of the meaning of the “kingdom of God” and also of the promised “peace on earth.”  “He is,” Barth concludes, “in His person the covenant in its fullness, the kingdom of heaven which is at hand, in which God speaks and man hears, God gives and man receives . . . [and thus also the warrant of] peace on earth that comes to pass among human beings in whom He is well pleased.”  In the words of Paul’s letter to Titus (3:4), God’s truth from this angle is “His loving-kindness and nothing else” (Barth as cited in Thomas & Weiser, 1960, pp. 46-47, 52).


  1. From Existentialism to Postmodernism and Beyond

From this review of Reformed theology in the last century I turn now to parallel and roughly contemporary developments in Continental or European philosophy.  Using a broad generalization, one can say that modern Western philosophy was always human-centered—although this focus was initially quite porous and recessed and only slowly acquired the character of a “buffered” anthropocentrism (to use Charles Taylor’s term).  Thus, Renaissance thinking favored a remarkably rich humanistic outlook (exemplified by Marsillo Ficino, Petrarca and others); but the outlook was still tempered by classical standards.  The real breakthrough to a human-centered focus came with René Descartes who anchored all knowledge and experience in the human mind (or cogito).  From that point on, the development of Western philosophy led through the Baroque age to the era of Enlightenment with its celebration of human rationality (and a transcendent “deity” patterned on human reason).  During the 19th century, the rapid advances of natural science and the rise of “positive” social sciences led to a certain retreat of humanism in favor of an accent on social or economic processes.  The dramatic upheavals of the next century, however, fostered a renewal and re-affirmation of the humanist legacy now seen as a bulwark against social and political decay.  In the present context, I want to lift up briefly two exemplars of this re-affirmation:  Ernst Cassirer and Jean-Paul Sartre.  While the former, in a neo-Kantian vein, championed humanity as the embodiment of the rational cogito, the latter perceived it as the dynamic engine of active self-assertion and self-production.

A broadly trained philosopher, Cassirer was intimately familiar with the entire trajectory and deeper impulses of European humanism.  In the midst of the Second World War Cassirer (then teaching at Yale University) penned a text—titled An Essay on Man—which aptly pinpointed the most salient aspects of this humanist trajectory.  For Cassirer, the central and most admirable feature was the accent on reason, rational self-reflection, and the steady deepening of human self-awareness.  As he stated in the opening lines: “That self-knowledge is the highest aim of philosophy appears to be generally acknowledged.”  Despite differences among philosophical schools, this aim has remained firm and invariable through the centuries: “It proved to be the Archimedean point, the fixed and immovable center, of all [Western] thought.”  The notion that the essence of humanity or the “human” can be detected through self-reflection and rigorous “introspection” seemed to Cassirer an uncontested premise.  This means that humanity reflecting or focusing on itself was seen as the proper and only reliable path for human self-discovery and self-knowledge.  This insight, to be sure, was not instantaneous and evolved over many centuries.  “The farther we trace the development of humanity from its beginnings,” the Essay states, “the more the introvert [or introspective] view seems to come to the fore.”  In due course, such introspection invaded and overwhelmed traditional cosmology, giving it a more human-centered or anthropological cast.  Eventually, this same process also came to permeate religious faith:  “In all higher forms of religious life, the maxim ‘know thyself’ is regarded as a categorical imperative, as an ultimate moral and religious law” (Cassirer, 1944, pp. 1-3).

In modern Western thought, introspection was given a powerful boost by Descartes’ stress on the “cogito” or “ego cogitans.”  With Descartes, Cassirer comments, “the question ‘What is Man?’ is transformed and, so to speak, raised to a higher level.”  For, “now for the first time the scientific spirit, in the modern sense of the word, enters the lists.”  What happened was that, in modern thought, inner self-knowledge was linked with refined forms of logical analysis and new methods of empirical inquiry and experimentation.  As a result of this linkage, the cogito achieved a new kind of freedom:  it was able not only to know itself and the world but to intervene actively in the world and transform it according to its own agendas or designs.  In Cassirer’s words:  In modernity, “man no longer lives in the world as a prisoner enclosed within the narrow walls of a finite physical universe”; rather, especially with the help of technical or technological inventions, human beings are able to “traverse the air and break through all the imaginary boundaries” established by earlier cosmologies and theological doctrines.  As a result, the human mind becomes not only an infinite knower, but an infinite doer, designer, and engineer: “The human intellect becomes aware of its own infinity through measuring its powers against the infinite universe” (Cassirer, 1944, pp. 8-9, 13-16).

The dynamic activism or progressivism hinted at in Cassirer’s Essay was matched and outdone by a new intellectual movement spreading at the time on the European Continent: “existentialism.”  Despite different—even conflicting—versions of the movement, existentialism in the public mind tended to be identified preponderantly with the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre. In Sartre’s philosophy, the activist dimension achieved primacy—to the degree that the meaning of humanity or “being human” was identified with an act of human self-construction or self-constitution.  As Sartre wrote in a famous text published shortly after the great war—Existentialism is a Humanism (1946)—epistemic insight is necessarily preceded by action.  In his words:  What so-called “existentialists” have in common is simply the fact that “they believe that existence comes before essence or, if you will, that we must begin from human subjectivity” (that is, the practical cogito).  This means that there is no pre-given “human nature” which determines or shapes human beings; rather, it is bare human “existence” which constructs or designs whatever meaning humanity or human life may have.  This, in turn, is predicated on the assumption of a radical, even “transcendental” freedom and non-determinacy.  Underscoring this point, the text adds: “Man is nothing else but what he makes himself.  That is, the first principle of existentialism; and this is what we mean by ‘subjectivity’.”  Differently phrased:  With no banisters to rely on, “we are left alone, without excuse.  That is:  man is condemned to be free” (Sartre, 1946, pp. 26-28, 34, 55-56).[2]

The vogue of existentialism in Europe lasted barely two decades.  In large measure, the year 1968—with its massive anti-Vietnam demonstrations and its attack on the government in Paris—triggered a radical intellectual reorientation or change of direction, a change which for a number of reasons took the form of an anti-existentialist, and to that extent anti-humanist, character.  Since the center of existentialism had been located in France, the revolt not surprisingly was spearheaded by a number of French philosophers or intellectuals, chiefly by Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault.  Although himself rooted in classical (quasi-Cartesian) phenomenology, Derrida broke with the rationalist strand and proceeded to debunk or “deconstruct” the preponderance of the “cogito” and “subjectivity” in modern philosophy.  In an essay titled “The Ends of Man” (Les fins de l’homme) penned in 1968, Derrida sharply distinguished between two meanings of “end” or ‘telos’:  one which (with Cassirer) sees the goal of thinking in ever greater self-knowledge and rational self-transparency; and another kind which draws attention precisely to the terminal limits, the finality or finitude of human thought.   As he said, the time had come to “switch” to the second telos.  Thus, in opposition to the “high tide” of humanism and anthropocentrism of earlier years, he joined forces resolutely with the “anti-humanist and anti-anthropological ebb that followed—and in which we are now.”  A primary guidepost for this radical change was found in Nietzsche’s notion of the “over-man” (Übermensch), a revolutionary figure who “ruptures the bonds of the human” without “turning back to what he leaves behind” (Derrida, 1972, pp. 115-117, 135-136).

Despite his more cognitive or epistemic leanings Nietzsche also served as the herald, at the time for Michel Foucault.  For the latter, humanism epitomized by the cogito had for too long served as the linchpin or bedrock of Western philosophy.  As he noted in his book The Order of Things—at the end of a grand overview of successive stages of epistemology—a major sea-change was happening at the present time:  a change that affected above all the “figure of man” that had dominated modern Western thought.  “Strangely enough,” he stated, man (or human being) “is probably no more than a kind of rift in the order of things,” a rift exposing as illusory “all the chimeras of the new humanisms.”  A relatively recent invention and a mere “wrinkle” in the fabric of knowledge, it was possible to predict that “man” will “disappear again as soon as that knowledge (episteme) had discovered a new form.”  At this point, Nietzsche’s work was prominently invoked, especially his condemnation of the “last man” (seen as a synonym for bourgeois complacency).  “In our day,” Foucault stated, “and once again Nietzsche indicated the turning point from a long way off, it is not so much the absence or the death of God that is affirmed as the end of man (that narrow, imperceptible displacement, that recession in the form of identity, which are the reason why man’s finitude has become his end)” (Foucault, 1970, pp. xxii-xxiv).

Surely, a provocative phrase: “the end of man.”  But what did the phrase entail?  With the erasure or deconstruction of the “figure of man,” what was the proposed alternative focus or orientation?  In this respect, the “change of direction” proved to be quite elusive.  To some extent, the change signified simply the denial or negation of the earlier humanism; but in favor of what?  At a closer look, the postmodern literature at the time offered only a broad formula:  a formula captured variously in such terms as “otherness,” “the other,” even the “absolute other.”  But did “otherness” really point to something radically alien or external to humanity?  A participant in the change, the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas adopted a mid-way position:  while critical of the older humanism and himself attracted to otherness, he simply shifted human-ness or the quality of the “human face” away from the self to the other, thus arriving at the formula (serving also as book title) “Humanism of the Other” (Humanisme de l’autre homme) (Levinas, 1972).  But this move still left completely open the meaning of both humanism and otherness.

Sooner or later, the postmodern enthusiasm was bound to ebb and give way to more sober assessments.  Levinas himself was one of the first to complain about the linguistic excesses of postmodern writers, implicitly taking to task his compatriots Derrida and Foucault.  Pointing to such catch phrases as “the end of humanism,” “the death of man” and the “death of God,” he castigated them as “apocalyptic ideas or else intellectual high-society slogans” (Levinas, 1972, pp. 62-64).  Curiously, some of the (implicitly) critiqued authors soon followed suit.  In 1980, Derrida delivered a lecture titled “Of an Apocalyptic Tone Newly Adopted in Philosophy.”  Barely four years later, the same author published a paper with the stark title “No Apocalypse, Not Now” (which contained the startling phrase that “the stakes of the nuclear question are those of humanity, of the humanities”).[3]  Under the impact of these and similar texts, the discussion of humanism began to take slowly another turn, making room for calmer, non-apocalyptic appraisals, appraisals staying clear of both anthropocentrism and radical transcendentalism.  For the sake of brevity, I want to lift up here briefly the relevant texts of two authors:  Martin Heidegger and Theodor Adorno.  As it seems to me, both thinkers can serve as guideposts toward an “other” humanism where humanity is seen not as the proprietor but as the guardian or care-taker of the world.


  1. Humanity as Guardian

What the notion of an “other” humanism involves is not a simple rehabilitation of traditional conceptions but a transgression which seeks to avoid the mentioned pitfalls.  Basically, what is at stake is not so much an erasure or “end of man” but a deflation of anthropocentrism in favor of a released human openness to others, nature, and the recessed ground or un-ground of beings (often designated as “God”).  While rejecting the predatory appropriation of others, this kind of openness is receptive to follow beings, but not in the sense of an utter passivity or “heteronomy” Theodor Adorno, co-architect of the early Frankfurt School, has coined a formula for this “other” kind of humanism in his Negative Dialectics where he recommended the deflation or “reductio hominis” in opposition to the traditional anthropocentrism (seen as a “reductio ad hominem”).  Over long stretches, Adorno’s book takes aim at the long-standing Western fascination with self-centered humanism together with its corollaries of rugged individualism and acquisitive “subjectivity.”  Although widely propagated as part of a process of liberation and emancipation, this fascination for Adorno has carried a steep price.  As a “penalty for it self-gratification,” he wrote, human subjectivity has increasingly become “incarcerated in its own selfhood,” condemned to gaze at fellow-beings and the world “like a knight through the casemate of a fortress” (Adorno, 1966, pp. 141,179,185).[4]

Adorno’s study arrived in the postmodern scene with some delay (having to do in large part with the difficulties of translation).  An even longer hiatus delayed the public reception of another major text:  Martin Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” of 1947 (in this case, however, delay had largely to do with general political considerations).  In his “Letter,” Heidegger articulated his own “reductio hominis,” namely, a view of humanity as not self-contained but “ek-static” and open-ended.  This view had already been anticipated in Being and Time (1927) where human existence (Dasein) was presented not as a fixed substance nor as the result of inner self-constitution but as a being moved by “care” (Sorge) in an ongoing search for meaning and truth.  This image was strongly reinforced—but also cleansed of lingering anthropocentric features—in the “Letter” which carefully steered a course between traditional humanism and a deconstructive anti-humanism.  Quite explicitly, the text debunked the self-centered and self-constituting type of “existentialism” familiar from Sartre’s writings.  In Heidegger’s view, this type merely re-stated traditional humanism in a more constructive or dynamic language—but without overcoming it (Heidegger, 1947 as cited in Krell, 1977, pp. 208-209).

While distancing himself from self-making, Heidegger was by no means willing to endorse such hyperbolic conceptions as the “end of man” or “death of the subject.”  As he pointed out, critique of traditional anthropocentrism has no truck with an anti-human impulse, and especially not with any desire to “vindicate inhumanity or debase human dignity.”  What is required is not the abolition of “man” nor a blind leap into “otherness,” but rather the formulation of a new, more receptive and relational vision of human existence—a vision bringing into view a new or “other” kind of humanism.  “If we decide to keep the label,” the “Letter” stated, “the term ‘humanism’ signifies that human nature is indeed crucial for the truth of Being [the latter seen as the ground or un-ground of beings]—but crucial precisely in a way where everything does not depend on human existence alone or as such.”  It is at this point that Heidegger introduces his famous notion of human being as the care-taker, guardian or “shepherd” of Being—a notion radically at odds with any conception human mastery or control.  As such a care-taker, human existence shoulders an enormous responsibility and is called into caring service—but without ascribing to itself any particular preeminence or privilege.  “Seen as the ‘ek-static’ project of Being,” we read, “human being is more than animal rationale precisely by being less in comparison with humanity’s construal in terms of subjectivity.  Humankind is not the master of reality, but rather the shepherd of Being” (Heidegger, 1947 as cited in Krell, 1977, pp. 221-225, 231).[5]

As can be seen, Adorno’s and Heidegger’s “reductio hominis” implies that humanity or human being cannot be defined in isolation or in abstraction from all the relations in which it is embedded, that is, from the wholeness of Being.  Another implication is that human being cannot be compressed into a factually given condition; seen as open-ended, human-ness always points beyond itself, that is, from actuality to potentiality or possibility (including a promised possibility).  This constitutive openness brings into view humanity’s transformative quality:  that is, its possible transformation into a more genuine or deeper humanity (Menschwerdung) or a being at the boundary of the divine (sometimes called “theosis”).  This boundary-condition can be called—and has sometimes been called—an “apophatic humanism,” that is, a humanism always “ek-static” or in excess of itself.  As Denys Turner has pointed out, apophatic language “puts into question” every possibility of definitive “knowing,” making room instead for a sense of desolation or bewilderment—or, in the words of Meister Eckhart, for the kind of “un-knowing” needed for a new finding.[6]




Adorno, T. W. (1966). Negative dialektik. Frankfurt-Main: Suhrkamp.


Barth, K. (1960). Evangelical Theology in the 19th Century. In J. N. Thomas & T. Weiser

(Eds.), The Humanity of God. Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press.


Cassirer, E. (1946). An Essay on Man:  An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture.

New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


Derrida, J. (1972). The Ends of man. In Margins of philosophy (A. Bass, Trans.). Chicago,

IL:  University of Chicago Press.


Foucault, M. (1970). The order of things:  An archaeology of the human sciences. New York,

NY:  Random House.


Heidegger, M. (1977). Letter on humanism. In D. F. Krell, (Ed.), Martin Heidegger: Basic

      Writings (pp. 208-209). New York, NY:  Harper & Row. (Original work published 1947)


Levinas, E. (2003). Humanism of the other. (N. Poller, Trans.). Urbana, IL:  University of

Illinois Press. (Original work published 1972)


Sartre, J. P. (1948). Existential and Humanism. (P. Mairet, Trans.). Haskell House

Publishers Ltd. (Original work published 1946)




[1] The paper was a lecture delivered in 1956 at a meeting of the Swiss Reformed Ministers’ Association.

[2] As one should note, Sartre—in a quasi-Kantian vein—connected absolute human freedom also with absolute responsibility for one’s actions.

[3] See Derrida, J. (1984) in Coward & Foshay, eds. and Derrida, J, (1984), translated by Porter and Lewis, especially pp. 20-31.

[4] For an English translation (not followed here) see Negative Dialectics (1973), translated by Ashton, E. B.

[5] In a way, Heidegger’s later thought, especially his notion of the “fourfold” (Geviert), embracing earth, heaven, mortals and immortals, can be seen as a further deepening of the relational character of human being.  The same can be said of his notion of “Ereignis” where all beings are accorded their proper due.  For a fuller discussion of the above see Dallmayr (2010) pp. 135-154.

[6] See Turner (2007), p. 246 and Dallmayr (2014), pp.123-126.

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the original author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views and opinions of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, its co-founders, or its staff members.
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Fred Dallmayr

Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, US

Fred Dallmayr is a well-known political theorist specialising in modern and contemporary European thought with an additional interest in comparative or cross-cultural philosophy. He has published over 40 books and more than 200 professional papers; his publications include: The Other Heidegger, Beyond Orientalism: Essays On Cross-Cultural Encounters, Achieving Our World: Toward a Global and Plural Democracy, Dialogue Among Civilizations: Some Exemplary Voices, Hegel: Modernity And Politics. Fred Dallmayr holds a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Munich and a Ph.D. in political science from Duke University. He has served as president of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (SACP). He is co-chairman of WPF Dialogue of Civilizations, Packey J. Dee Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, member of the International Coordinating Committee of World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations, and of the Scientific Committee of RESET – Dialogues on Civilizations.