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The Devil's Whore

Reason and Philosophy in the Lutheran Tradition

edited by Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth

Publication Year: 2011

Martin Luther's disdain for philosophy is well known, and the Lutheran theological tradition has been wary of its constructs. Yet the tradition also includes philosophical giants-from Melanchthon to Schleiermacher to Kierkegaard and even Nietzsche. This volume assumes that such skepticism about reason actually opened up new ways of doing and seeing philosophy.

Philosophers, theologians, and historians assess the paradox and achievements of philosophy in the Lutheran vein. In their important exploration in the history of ideas, they not only probe the roots and branches of Luther's own ambivalence toward philosophy, they also draw illuminating connections between his revolutionary theology and the development of European continental philosophy.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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Editor's Preface

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pp. xv-xviii

Sixty years ago Jaroslav Pelikan ended his first book, a monograph on the influence of Luther on philosophy, with the hope that "twentieth century Lutheranism may produce Christian thinkers of the ability and consecration necessary for that task [of working out a Christian philosophy]."1 It is now the twenty-first century. ...

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pp. 1-10

As we move toward the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of Martin Luther‘s assault upon and ultimate destruction of the monolithic institution of the Roman Catholic Church with the posting of his Ninety-Five Theses for Debate on October 31, 1517, this collection of essays has been assembled to analyze some obvious and perhaps not-so-obvious connections ...

Part One. Philosophy and Luther

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1. Philosophical Modes of Thoughtof Luther’s Theology as an Object of Inquiry

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pp. 13-22

The fact that I am not a philosopher but "only" a theologian and yet am addressing a philosophical topic is no accident. Rather, it makes palpably clear what I consider is the greatest deficiency in this area of research in the twentieth century.1 ...

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2. Does Luther Have a "Waxen Nose"? Historical and Philosophical Contextualizations of Luther

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pp. 23-30

Luther‘s influence on the history of Western intellectual thought is, as the essays in this volume demonstrate, monumental. What would the Enlightenment be without Luther‘s radical notion of freedom (in Christ)? How might modern theories of subjectivity look without Luther‘s characterization of the self as existing simultaneously before God and others? ...

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3. "Putting on the Neighbor": The Ciceronian Impulse in Luther’s Christian Approach to Practical Reason

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pp. 31-38

What has long been noticed but little analyzed is Luther‘s relationship with his "beloved Cicero," as one interpreter has again recently remarked.3 I will explore a key feature of Cicero‘s relationship with his philosophical predecessors in order to highlight one reason for Luther‘s love affair with this "wisest man." ...

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4. Luther and Augustine—Revisited

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pp. 39-46

It was more than a century ago that the Dominican religious Heinrich Denifle irritated Protestant researchers in the aftermath of the celebrations of the four hundredth anniversary of Luther‘s birth in 1883.1 He asked them provocatively for the precise date and the content of Luther‘s Reformation breakthrough. ...

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5. Whore or Handmaid? Luther and Aquinas on the Function of Reason in Theology

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pp. 47-52

Is reason "the Devil‘s whore," as Luther said,1 or is it theology‘s "handmaid," as Aquinas (almost) said?2 The place of reason in the theologies of Martin Luther and Thomas Aquinas is an issue of enormous complexity and the subject of many excellent and penetrating studies. ...

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6. Luther’s "Atheism"

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pp. 53-60

Twentieth-century scholarship rediscovered the provocative idea of Luther‘s atheism and treated it under the theme of the "hiddenness of God"1 in the agony of existential decision.2 In echo of Luther, Paul Tillich famously spoke of doubt as part of faith, understood as ultimate concern.3 ...

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7. Luther’s Philosophy of Language

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pp. 61-68

The philosophy of language deals with the nature of linguistic meaning. While concern about linguistic meaning is relevant to all areas of philosophy, sustained, self-conscious reflection on language as philosophy‘s subject matter is primarily a twentieth-century enterprise. ...

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8. Philipp Melanchthon: The First Lutheran Philosopher

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pp. 69-76

Philipp Melanchthon was the first Lutheran philosopher.1 Two parts of this claim—that he was a philosopher and that he was Lutheran—may require some justification. After at least gesturing toward such a justification, I will present the general contours of Melanchthon‘s approach to philosophy on the belief that it can be a great help to twenty-first-century Lutherans ...

Part Two. Luther’s Impact on Continental Philosophy

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9. Reasoning Faithfully: Leibniz on Reason’s Triumph of Faith and Love

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pp. 79-86

In the preliminary remarks of the Theodicy, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646– 1716) reminds his reader that "the question of the conformity of faith with reason has always been a great problem."1 This essay will not solve that "great problem." However, in the face of heated disputes that claim one must choose reason or faith, ...

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10. The Means of Revolution: Luther and Kant on the Function of the Law

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pp. 87-94

How does one become another? People episodically do good, but can they become good? "But if a man is corrupt in the very ground of his maxims," Immanuel Kant once asked, "how can he possibly bring about this revolution by his own powers and of himself become a good man?"1 ...

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11. Faith, Freedom, Conscience: Luther, Fichte, and the Principle of Inwardness

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pp. 95-100

As is well known, the core of Luther‘s doctrine can be traced back to his sharp division between the inner and the outer human being. He writes, "Man is composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual and a bodily. Regarding the spiritual nature, which they name the soul, he is called the spiritual, inward, new man; ...

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12. Hegel and Luther on the Finite and the Infinite

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pp. 101-106

G. W. F. Hegel was an unabashedly Lutheran philosopher. He wrote that philosophy had only solidified his Lutheran identity.1 At the same time, his understanding of the relation between philosophy and theology differs greatly from that of Martin Luther. Luther was quick to criticize philosophy for the sake of the health of theology. ...

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13. "Faith Creates the Deity": Luther and Feuerbach

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pp. 107-114

Ludwig Feuerbach was a rebel with a cause—to overturn philosophical idealism (Hegel) and unmask theology as anthropology: "He who clings to Hegelian philosophy also clings to theology"; "The secret of theology is anthropology."1 ...

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14. Søren Kierkegaard; Between Skepticism and Faith’s Happy Passion

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pp. 115-122

In contrast to Augustine, for whom philosophy is a lover drawing the believer to Christ, Martin Luther‘s famous attacks upon reason as "the Devil‘s mother" or "the Devil‘s whore" often raise a suspicion that "Lutheran philosophy" is an oxymoron. ...

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15. Delicious Despair and Nihilism: Luther, Nietzsche, and the Task of Living Philosophically

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pp. 123-130

What are we to make of the relationship between Luther and Nietzsche, both historically and as concerns the question, "What does it mean to live philosophically?" My hypothesis is that, in spite of seeming incommensurable differences, they, taken together, are perhaps surprisingly helpful in understanding the vocation of philosophy. ...

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16. Heidegger’s Existential Domestication of Luther

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pp. 131-140

By the early 1920s Heidegger was already famous among German university students, though he had published virtually nothing. Hannah Arendt recalled that "in Heidegger‘s case there was nothing tangible on which his fame could have been based, nothing written. . . . There was hardly more than a name, but the name traveled all over Germany like the rumor of the hidden king."1 ...

Part Three. The Lutheran Philosopher Today

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17. The Vocation of a Philosopher

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pp. 143-148

It happens with ironic regularity: as class nears its end, a student floats the most profound question of the day—just in time for the swell of backpack zipping, paper shuffling, jacket snapping, and cell-phone texting to swamp her query. But the wave this day could not sink the question. ...

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18. Lutheran Environmental Philosophy

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pp. 149-154

The idea of Lutheran environmental philosophy may seem odd given (1) Luther‘s strident comments about reason discussed elsewhere in this volume; (2) the doubts of contemporary philosophers about (a) whether environmental philosophy is "real" philosophy given its practical bent ...

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19. Luther and Philosophy in a Scientific Age

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pp. 155-162

The question I pose is this: Can Luther provide resources for thinking through philosophical issues today? That this could be so is not obvious on the face of it; after all, Luther is a theologian, not a philosopher, and his method of writing is nearly the opposite of systematic. ...

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20. Queering Kenosis: Luther and Foucault on Power and Identity

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pp. 163-170

If Lutheran scholars are to ensure that Luther‘s teachings and insights continue to inform our work, we must do more than simply apply his historic insights to contemporary questions. We should be bold enough to bring today‘s theological and philosophical concerns to bear on his theology. ...

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21. Philosophical Kinship: Luther, Schleiermacher, and Feminists on Reason

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pp. 171-178

Human knowledge is not limited to the bounds of reason. This provocative and necessary criticism of reason‘s place in the pursuit of truth links in kinship Martin Luther, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and many postmodern feminist philosophers. This claim at first may seem unlikely. First, Schleiermacher was no Lutheran. ...

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22. Provocateur for the Common Good: Reflections on the Vocation of an Academic Philosopher

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pp. 179-186

The philosopher cannot help but wince upon hearing Luther‘s references to philosophy as the "Devil‘s whore" and his lament that she has gone beyond her proper role: reason in the service of human governance and not as the basis of theology. ...

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23. Luther and the Vocation of Public Philosophy

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pp. 187-194

American philosopher Mortimer Adler, co-inventor and promoter of the "Great Books of the Western World" program and author of many books, none of them great, aspired to be America‘s foremost public philosopher. His friend, admirer, and editor of The Great Ideas Today, John Van Doren, commented a few years after his death: ...

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Epilogue: The Quandary of Lutheran Philosophy

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pp. 195-200

One could argue that just as no scholar would study a medieval philosopher without studying Augustine, no historian of ideas should study a modern (or postmodern) philosopher without first reading Luther. This volume has presented connections between Luther and many later Lutheran philosophers. ...


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pp. 201-242


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pp. 243-247

E-ISBN-13: 9781451410952
E-ISBN-10: 1451410956
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800698508
Print-ISBN-10: 0800698509

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011