- The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy: Phenomenology for the Godforsaken by S. J. McGrath (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 71, Number 4, October 2007
- pp. 646-649
- View Citation
- Additional Information
646 BOOK REVIEWS The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy: Phenomenology for the Godforsaken. By S. ]. MCGRATH. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University ofAmerica Press, 2006. Pp. 268. $69.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-81321471 -8. S. ]. McGrath's insightful new study of the early Heidegger begins with the observation that Heidegger (much like Wittgenstein) "silenced any philosophy that presumed to speak of God" (ix), only to conclude with the judgment that Sein und Zeit belongs to the history of Jewish-Christian literature (albeit "unwittingly and under protest" ). In the pages that intervene, McGrath explores the young Heidegger's relationship to medieval thought, both to the Scholasticism and to the mysticism of the middle ages. The burden of McGrath's argument is to show that the early Heidegger's philosophy was anything but theologically neutral. Indeed, while dramatic shifts did occur in his thinking between 1916 and 1919, these do not mark the secularization of his thought; rather, it is during this period of time that "he became Luther's silent partner" (208). It is a Lutheran theology of "Godforsakeness" that Heidegger comes to embrace in preference to the Scholastic theology on which he had been steadily nurtured as a young man. On McGrath's account, this early shift in Heidegger's thought is not so much a matter of his forsaking God as it is of his coming to portray our human condition as "Godforsaken." This shift is from a Roman Catholic to a Lutheran theological perspective and not, despite appearances, from a religious to a nonreligious one. Having already "situated himself within a certain form of Christian faith," McGrath contends, the question for Heidegger (which only appears to have been "left open") of "Dasein's relation to God ... has been decided in advance" (12). It is no simple task to explicate Heidegger's philosophy-early, middle, or late-in terms that will render it somewhat accessible to readers while also supplying the backdrop to an argument about how that philosophy ought to be evaluated. McGrath succeeds admirably in this regard; his book is one of the most clearly written, lucid treatments of Heidegger to have been published in recent years. He begins by supplying a sketch of the "medieval theological paradigm," the worldview that Heidegger abandons as he sheds his early Catholicism. McGrath's argument, at least in part, takes the form of a defense of that worldview, even as it shows how Heidegger's rejection of it was problematic. Interestingly, that medieval paradigm is portrayed here as being essentially Thomistic, despite the fact that McGrath perceives the diversity of philosophical perspectives in the middle ages as being so great that "there is some question whether there is any sense in speaking of Scholasticism as a unity" (4). It is Duns Scotus, after all, who preoccupied Heidegger as the subject of his Habilitationsschrift, his first book-length philosophical treatise. Yet it is Thomism, organized around the doctrine of the analogia entis, that is taken by McGrath to represent the kind of Scholasticism most clearly rejected by Heidegger (see 22-23). Despite having an entire chapter (chap. 4) devoted to the BOOK REVIEWS 647 assessment of Duns Scotus's influence on the young Heidegger, this book is very much about the relationship between Heidegger and Aquinas. This is not to suggest that Scotus and Scotism are insignificant in McGrath's account; indeed he explains that Scotus actually may have helped to supply some ofthe impetus for Heidegger's rejection of certain basic Thomistic ideas. As early as 1909, for example, Heidegger encountered a modified form of Scotism in the teaching of Carl Braig, one of his instructors at the University of Freiburg. Like Scotus, Braig rejected the doctrine ofanalogia entis on essentially epistemological grounds-he was convinced that such a doctrine undermines the possibility of any real knowledge of God (31). Of course, the Scotist alternative of the univocatio entis was hardly embraced by Heidegger, as he repudiated it in the opening pages of his Sein und Zeit (35). Nevertheless, his perspective is closer to this latter doctrine than it is to Thomism. As McGrath concludes, "Heidegger wants a Scotus whose univocatio entis has no infinite mode" (117). Had Heidegger...