Reading Ancient and Medieval Texts after Hans Urs von Balthasar
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
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Preface and Acknowledgments
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In this age of interpretation it is all but impossible to make a credible claim without laying out the entire hermeneutic process of arriving at it, which often means going back to the roots. This task becomes increasingly difficult as the postmodern critique subverts the traditional modern rationalist techniques of interpretation, ...
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Introduction: The Hermeneutical Problem
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Ancient and medieval texts have been a continuous source of inspiration for contemporary philosophers and theologians who explore the area of the aesthetic, in particular the idea that aesthetic experience somehow reveals, and connects us to, the transcendent or divine: the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar, ...
Part One: The Contemporary Horizon
1. The Modern Philosophical Concept of the Aesthetic
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The approach based on engaging ancient or medieval texts using the modern notion of aesthetics as a starting point of the dialogue still faces a challenge: in order to proceed with a dialogue, one must delimit the field, which, in the case of aesthetics, has been traditionally extremely broad. ...
2. The Aesthetic in Theology: Hans Urs von Balthasar
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In view of the general importance of the discipline of aesthetics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as of its universalization by such thinkers as Nietzsche, it seems only logical for contemporary theology to take the aesthetic seriously. Yet the most obvious observation is that this is precisely what does not happen. ...
3. Hans Urs von Balthasar: The Aesthete and the Hermeneute
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Having established that von Balthasar’s understanding of the aesthetic— as something immediately sensed that has the capacity to reveal the transcendent or the “unseen” through a direct intuition or “seeing”— is typical of the German Idealist tradition and its successors, we come to the observation that is crucial for the present study. ...
4. Retreading von Balthasar’s Path
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In the previous chapters, von Balthasar’s project of interpreting ancient and medieval texts in terms of aesthetics was shown in general to be hermeneutically valid. It was also shown that his exegesis of ancient and medieval texts could be improved upon. The re-examination of von Balthasar’s extensive project by fine-tuning ...
Part Two: The Ancient & Medieval Horizons
5. The Platonic Tradition
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Our first ancient author, Plato, presents a challenge before we even start: to assess his legacy in aesthetics in one chapter is all but impossible. Therefore we will limit our study to a rather narrow task: Plato’s contribution to the idea of aesthetic experience as revealing, where ‘aesthetic’ is understood as described in the preceding chapters. ...
6. The Stoic Tradition
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A careful analysis of ancient and medieval texts shows that despite the disappearance of the Old and Middle Stoa as a continuous textual and school tradition, Stoic ideas did play an important role in ancient and medieval aesthetic thought. The surviving texts fit well within the textual tradition under consideration in this study. ...
7. The Augustinian Tradition
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Augustine is of utmost importance, not only for von Balthasar, but for the whole history of theological aesthetics. However, the enormity of Augustine’s contribution to Western culture, as well as the existence of a vast secondary literature about him, makes this author difficult to approach. ...
8. Bonaventure and the Late Medieval Tradition
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Despite Augustine’s tremendous contribution to theological aesthetics, he remains, with respect to aesthetics, an “ancient” author. Augustine uses aesthetics almost exclusively for apologetic purposes, with the simple aim of revealing the existence of the divine principle to the general observer: ...
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Our hermeneutic dialogue with ancient and medieval thought proves that von Balthasar’s analysis was essentially correct: both ancient and medieval authors do notice and explore for their theological and philosophical needs the revelatory aspect of what we now call aesthetic experience. ...
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Page Count: 349
Publication Year: 2011