Saturday, May 1, 2021

Heidegger: Greek Philosophy and Christian Theology

Why did Christian theology supplant Greek religious practices in Europe during the final years of the Roman Empire? Heidegger briefly dwells on this issue in his 1929 lecture on metaphysics. He notes that metaphysics has a twofold character—first, it represents beings as beings, or the truth of beings in their universality; second, it tries to represent the truth of the highest being (which can be regarded as God, though Heidegger has not used the word “God” in his lecture). 

The first character of metaphysics (beings in their universality) is ontological, while the second character (being of the highest being) is theological. Thus, metaphysics as a whole has no choice but to be onto-theological. The Greek philosophy which was popular in the Roman Republic and the subsequent Roman Empire was ontological—the theological element was missing from it. By supplying the crucial theological element, Christian theology fulfilled the vacuum in Greek metaphysics and supplanted Greek philosophy.

In light of what Heidegger has said, Aquinas’s work in the thirteenth century can be viewed as a continuation of the Christian theological project, which began in the Roman era, on Greek (chiefly Aristotelian, in the case of Aquinas’s work) philosophy.

1 comment:

Ajit R. Jadhav said...

Dear Anoop,

Two points.

1. The more fundamental point:

>> "...second, it tries to represent the truth of the highest being."

This idea takes for granted another idea, one which has been left unstated here, namely, that existence itself is supposed to come equipped with a metaphysically given value-hierarchy; that some objects / entities / beings (i.e., some metaphysical facts) are metaphysically "higher" than, or superior to, other objects (or facts).

Next, further also assuming the way in which such ideas are usually explained, understood, and accepted:

Precisely because the value-hierarchy (or the hierarchy of the "higher" vs. "lower" beings) is taken as a *metaphysically* given fact, therefore, this one hierarchy must exist independent of any valuer. Therefore, by implication, this One Hierarchy must remain absolutely applicable to *all* the valuers. The self, choices, and purposes of an individual valuer has no role to play in the matters concerning the value-hiearchy. Even if it is a hierachy of *values*.

(And, if not a hierarchy of *values*, then what else can be understood by this "higher" vs. "lower" distinction? Abstractness of concepts? This can't be the case because we are talking of *metaphysics* here. It can't be a hierarchy of importance either. "Importance" does have a metaphysical sense to it, but for the gradation involved in it, we use the words like: "more" or "greater" vs. "less" importance. We don't speak of a "higher" vs. "lower" importance. High vs. low refer to value or social hierarchy alone, and out of the two, the value hierarchy is more fundamental, so we take these terms in this sense.)

... Now, to my position:

Personally, I have tons and tons of trouble in both the quoted idea and the way it's accepted. I mean, can you say that the Ganga river is a *metaphysically* higher being as compared to Kavery, or vice versa? Or that Mars is a *metaphysically* lower-level being as compared to Venus, or vice versa?

2. A relatively less fundamental point:

>> "Thus, metaphysics as a whole has no choice but to be onto-theological."

Is this what Heidegger himself has said, or is it you who is saying it? ... Just asking. (I haven't read Heidegger.)...

As to my position(s), I have a trouble at this level too.

Even if you buy the above-discussed premise (viz. *that* there exists a metaphysically existing value-hierarchy), a further question still remains:

Why does the higher-vs-lower distinction have to be specifically *theological* in nature? Why can't it be something else in nature? E.g., something that is anti- / extra- / supra- / ultra- / theological?

But of course, to me, the whole thing is moronic. There are no "higher" vs. "lower" beings---not qua beings.