Secularization, Genealogy, and the Legitimacy of the Modern Age:Remarks on the Löwith-Blumenberg Debate
This essay reconstructs the secularization debate between Blumenberg and Löwith. It explores what a genealogy of secular modernity can and cannot accomplish, asking how to build on Blumenberg's legacy without repeating his errors. Blumenberg absorbed the skepticism of a genealogy of secularism and responded with an unrealistic image of disconnected modernity, while also understanding that modernity might contain normative resources of its own not requiring the redemptive efforts of secularizing translation. The legitimacy of the modern age involves not only the secularizing redemption of religious norms but also a search for sources of profane hope beyond the confines of tradition.
Blumenberg, Löwith, modernity, geneology, secularization
For Jürgen Habermas
In this essay, I examine the secularization debate between Hans Blumenberg and Karl Löwith with an eye toward the method of genealogical critique. My goal is to develop further insight into what a genealogy of secular modernity can accomplish and what it cannot. My remarks are divided into four parts. First, I reconstruct Löwith's polemic against the idea of a secular philosophy of history; second, I offer some comparative remarks on the relation between Löwith's argument and the method of genealogy; third, I reconstruct the arguments that Blumenberg developed in response to Löwith; finally, I offer some critical observations on Blumenberg's response, [End Page 147] offering a balance sheet on both its achievements and its limitations, so as to understand how we might build on his legacy without repeating his errors.
I. LÖWITH'S CRITIQUE OF A SECULAR TELEOLOGY
Let us turn back to the era of political disorientation shortly after the mid-century catastrophe, when social theorists on both sides of the Atlantic did not cease to ask what had gone wrong. One of the most unusual contributions to that discussion appeared just four years after the end of the Second World War as a slender volume with a grandiose title: Meaning in History. It is not surprising that Jürgen Habermas, in a recent forum on his engagement with religion, refers to Löwith's study as "one of the most influential books for my generation."1 Exceptionally ambitious, though largely negative in its implications, the book sets out to explode the very category of a secular philosophy of history as a contradictio in adjecto. To develop this argument, Löwith starts with an implicit definition: a modern philosophy of history is one that declares itself independent of religion, even while it retains for the temporal continuum a certain kind of immanent purposiveness or directionality. The governing claim of Löwith's book is that such a nonreligious philosophy of history will lack coherence, since it depends covertly upon a "theology of history" and specifically on the "theological concept of history as a history of fulfillment and salvation."2 Modern doctrines of historical progress founder in self-contradiction: Modernity prides itself on its independence from religion, but it cannot sustain a vision of history as a realm of purpose if it does not seek an implicit grounding in a religiously-derived conception of temporality as a line that stretches toward redemption. Löwith argues that reason, in its purely mundane and non-religious form, cannot furnish the Western category of secular time with any sense of directionality. Secular reason cannot justify the idea of time as a unidirectional vector that points from the present toward future fulfillment, since this idea is "essentially a Hebrew and Christian assumption that history is directed toward an ultimate purpose and governed by the [End Page 148] providence of a supreme insight and will." Those Occidental philosophies of history that point toward the future as an ultimate completion of present hopes have their origin in "the Hebrew and Christian faith in a fulfillment," and, despite their seemingly nonreligious appearance, they presuppose "the secularization of its eschatological pattern."3 But such philosophical ideas of a Weltgeschichte are defensible only if they retain their attachment, covert or implicit, to the religious logic of Heilsgeschichte. Löwith concludes that a genuinely secular philosophy of history is therefore a contradiction in terms.
To consider why Löwith may have been drawn to such a strong verdict, we might begin by reflecting on some of the basic facts of his life. Löwith was born in 1897 into an assimilated family that was Jewish by origin; his father, however, was a convert to Protestantism, while Löwith himself harbored only the most minimal sense of religious identity. Löwith received strong training in phenomenology, working with both Edmund Husserl and then Martin Heidegger; in 1928 he composed his habilitation with the latter on the question of social being and intersubjectivity. Following the Nazi seizure of power and the introduction of anti-Semitic legislation, Löwith found his career path blocked, and he emigrated to Rome, then in 1936 to Japan, and then settled in the United States, securing a position at the Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut. After the war, Löwith was welcomed back to Germany and he held a philosophy chair at Heidelberg. He died in 1973.
Although he published a number of books and essays on the history of philosophy (such as the study Von Hegel zu Nietzsche in 1941), Löwith may be best remembered today for his muscular polemics against Carl Schmitt and especially against Martin Heidegger, the latter collected in a slender volume in 1953 as Heidegger: Denker in dürftiger Zeit (Thinker in a destitute time). Those familiar with these essays will know that Löwith nearly always wrote in a genre of disenchantment. Skeptical in temperament and drawing inspiration from the Stoics, Löwith looked upon Schmitt's political theology as a confused attempt to inject into politics an irrationalist model of decisionism borrowed from Kierkegaard but without the Dane's appeal to a transcendent God. The Schmittian sovereign decides in the moment of exception but lacks divine warrant; the decision occurs quite literally "in nothingness." For Heidegger, a similar effort to secularize the irrationalism of Kierkegaardian faith results in the ungrounded ethics of this-worldly "resolve," where Dasein can do nothing better than decide [End Page 149] authentically upon the fate into which it has already been thrown. In both cases, Löwith saw the pathological and decisionistic consequences of an inhibited secularization that wishes to retain within the world a species of absolutist normativity that requires an extra-mundane grounding. Lacking the metaphysical anchor of the monotheistic God, both Schmittian political theology and Heideggerian existentialism presented themselves as philosophical chimeras, monsters born from the impossible union between the sacred and the profane.
A similar claim serves as the organizing theme in Meaning in History, a work first published in English in 1949, and later translated into German as Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschehen (literally, "world history and the event of salvation"). The structure of the book is unusual, running backwards in time: it starts off with the most significant modern representatives of the philosophy of history (Marx, Hegel, Comte), regresses against the temporal flow to thinkers of the Enlightenment (Condorcet, Turgot, Vico), and from there plunges further back into the medieval theologians of divine providence (Joachim of Fiore, Augustine). At each step Löwith tries to show how the Christian groundwork of the philosophy of history gains in strength as one approaches its biblical origins. The reverse structure of the book has a polemical intent that bears a close resemblance to the unmasking technique of genealogy. What is apparently most "secular" and "modern" in the modern philosophy of history is revealed to be essentially unmodern and religious.
This backwards chronology has additional advantages: "The methodological regress from the modern secular interpretations of history to their ancient religious patterns," Löwith writes, "is justified by the realization that we find ourselves more or less at the end of the modern rope. It has worn too thin to give hopeful support." In a modern and secular context, the theory of progressive history has lost merit because it is ultimately a theodicy, namely, "an attempt to understand the meaning of history as the meaning of suffering." Christianity once endowed suffering with cosmic and redemptive meaning as manifest in the image of Christ's passion on the cross. But in a post-Christian context this cosmic significance has been lost. "In our time," Löwith writes, "crosses have been borne silently by millions of people." With the generalization of the passion, it can no longer sustain its pathos as a specific sacrifice with Providential meaning. "We have learned to wait without hope," Löwith writes, "'for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.'"4
[End Page 150]
With this general observation as his point of departure, Löwith opens his study by examining Jacob Burckhardt's attempts to unshackle philosophy from its providential inheritance. According to Löwith, Burckhardt was "completely free of [the] modern prejudice [associated most of all with] Hegel, who saw in history a cumulative process of progressive development, realizing more and more the idea of Christianity in the secular world of Christianity."5 Burckhardt is thus distinguished from both Hegel and Marx insofar as both of these earlier thinkers still work within the framework, only half-disavowed, of a providential philosophy of history. This is especially apparent in Marx since he expects the ultimate crisis of bourgeois capitalism as if this expectation were a prophesy; his "scientific prediction" is actually the anticipation of a "last judgment," even if this crypto-religious denouement is pronounced as "the inexorable law of historical process."6
It is a commonplace in the history of ideas that Marxism is little more than a messianic faith in secular disguise. But Löwith extends this commonplace to Hegel's philosophy of history, which appears in Löwith's book as the most zealous and tightly structured specimen of historical providentialism. At the same time, however, Löwith also sees Hegel's philosophy as exemplary in its weakness insofar as it cannot resolve "the profound ambiguity" that attends any effort to "translate theology into philosophy." If secularization is a translation, Löwith reasons, it also amounts to a kind of betrayal or distortion of the translated content. When Hegel equates the will of God with the acts of men, the consequence is mere confusion of the sacred and the profane, "a curious mixture of both." On the one hand Hegel debases sacred history to the level of secular history; on the other hand he exalts secular history to the level of the sacred.7
Löwith's analysis does not terminate with Hegel's philosophy of history; he follows the fortunes of historical providentialism backwards from the nineteenth century into the medieval world. Eventually he turns to the earliest of the Church philosophers and he argues that genuine Christianity, especially in its years of doctrinal origination, never in fact conflated secular history with divine intent. Augustine, for example, remained especially attentive to the distinction between the civitas terrena and the civitas Dei. The first remained a realm of vanitas, sinfulness, and ambition. The second, however, stood as the pristine realm of veritas; its denizens were creatures of humility who placed absolute trust in God. Augustine accepted the classical idea of nature and superimposed upon it the image of a heavenly realm. [End Page 151] But these two domains remained distinct. Grounded in the metaphysical contrast between the temporal and the eternal, the distinction between terrestrial and divine cities explains why Augustine (unlike Hegel) was able to resist any confusion between genuine providence and the actual record of human events.8
It is a remarkable feature of Löwith's argument that he permits the Augustinian distinction between temporality and eternity to serve the highest (and seemingly ahistorical) standard against which to measure all later philosophies of providential history.9 Because the gap between terrestrial and celestial events retains its metaphysical validity throughout the book, it is perhaps inevitable that Löwith's discussion must conclude with a strong verdict against all modern theories of secular progress that attempt to bridge that gap. Today, Löwith declares, our historical consciousness appears to be "as Christian by derivation as it is non-Christian by consequence."10 The translation of providential reason into profane history violates the original meaning of providence itself and misapplies its logic to the terrestrial plane. The result is a conceptual chimera, a creature born of both Christian and Hellenistic thought but disabled by this dual inheritance:
The modern mind is not single-minded. It eliminates from its progressive outlook the Christian implication of creation and consummation, while it assimilates from the ancient world the idea of an endless and continuous movement, discarding its circular structure. The modern mind has not determined whether it should be Christian or pagan. It sees with one eye of faith and one of reason. Hence its vision is necessarily dim in comparison with either Greek or biblical thinking.11
In the conclusion of his book, Löwith shifts from historical analysis to political criticism on the contemporary situation. He poses a sharp question that alludes, indirectly, to the violence of the Second World War and, more specifically, to the destructive force of the atomic bomb: "Is it perhaps Jewish Messianism and Christian eschatology, though in their secular transformations, that have developed those appalling energies of creative activity which changed the Christian Occidental into a world-civilization?" He responds in the affirmative. It was "modern science" that had the ambition [End Page 152] of "mastering the forces of nature," an attempt which found its necessary justification in an idea of progress that was the exclusive property of the West. It was only in the West, Löwith suggests, that humanity was seized by the conviction that it must "transform the world into a better world in the image of man," and that it is our responsibility "to save unregenerate nations by Westernization and re-education." But this belief is a "secular presumption" that could only have taken hold in the Western political imagination thanks to the chimerical union between Christian eschatology and profane history. Only in the West could the enormous suffering of humankind be looked upon with the serene optimism of believers who still persist in seeing catastrophe as a historical necessity even if they have ceased to believe in God.12 Löwith concludes on a skeptical and monitory note regarding the origins of modern "evil": "There are in history not only 'flowers of evil,' but also evils which are the fruit of too much good will and of a mistaken Christianity that confounds the fundamental distinction between redemptive events and profane happenings, between Heilsgeschehen and Weltgeschichte."13 This conclusion is striking not least because it resembles a theodicy: the suffering that has been visited upon the modern world appears as the fatal consequence of a philosophical confusion between two domains that should have remained distinct.
II. LÖWITH AND GENEALOGY
Let us leave aside the question as to whether Lowith's discrete chapters of interpretation are accurate. We might nonetheless pose the more general question as to just what mode of argumentation or method is realized in Löwith's book. On my reading, the method might plausibly be characterized as a genealogy. I use this term in the broadest sense, and we need to specify what kind of genealogy is at issue. A historical genealogy can take at least two forms: let us distinguish between them as consonant and dissonant.14 A consonant genealogy is one that helps to explicate background [End Page 153] assumptions that inform and even enhance our understanding of a certain concept by laying down a story about the provenance of that concept. I call this genealogy consonant because the explication of background assumptions does not conflict in any obvious way with what the philosophical concept seems to entail when taken on its own. A consonant genealogy tells us more about the concept; it simply enhances or deepens the concept's own self-announced meaning. A dissonant genealogy is quite different. As the name suggests, it exposes background assumptions that conflict with and may even seem to invalidate the stated meaning of a concept, undermining rather than enhancing the concept's manifest significance. The obvious example of the dissonant type is Nietzsche's genealogy of Christian morals, where the manifest sense of moral discourse is shown to be a mask for hidden and non-moral ends. This non-moral ambition, to enhance human power, stands in conflict with the Christian's professed ethic of powerless humility. The ultimate effect of such a dissonant genealogy is to disenchant the manifest teaching of Christianity by catching it in a moment of hypocrisy or performative self-contradiction. Once we have seen the dissonance between doctrine and effect, Nietzsche expects us to conclude that the bid for power is that doctrine's hidden truth. We should note in passing that the critical effect of Nietzschean genealogy recapitulates the Marxist strategy of ideology critique, with at least one important difference: Unlike Marx, Nietzsche aestheticizes his discovery and cannot account for the truth status of what he has exposed.15 Exempting himself from the actual work of philosophical argument, Nietzsche adopts in his historicist narration a quasi-objectivistic stance toward the ideas he examines. Historical "exposure" serves as a mere ersatz for philosophical argument.
Löwith's Meaning in History follows the similar strategy of a dissonant genealogy. Its chronologically backwards narrative is meant to reveal how the secular idea of historical progress relies illicitly on a disavowed providentialism. As an exercise in genealogy it exposes a dissonance in the self-conception of modernity and thereby repeats the disenchantment effect that characterized Nietzsche's genealogy. Yet there is an instructive difference: For Nietzsche religious doctrine was merely the explanandum, while the human reality of a will to power functioned as the underlying explanans. [End Page 154] (Further complicating this argument, Nietzsche also traced the secular norms of objectivity to Christianity's ascetic ideal, and he joyfully embraced without fear of self-contradiction the ironic consequence: the scientific prestige of his very own genealogical method was itself a late product of Christian asceticism.)16 In Löwith's work, however, these two positions are exchanged: The modern ideology of progress and self-assertion presents itself as the illusion to be explained, while religious doctrine emerges as its once-hidden truth.
III. BLUMENBERG'S CRITIQUE
Löwith's genealogy of secular modernity has a paradoxical effect: though it was not intended as a defense of religion, it at least partially undermines or "disenchants" the rational-political ideal of secular consciousness. It remained for Hans Blumenberg to subject Löwith's argument to searching philosophical and historical scrutiny. Blumenberg first presented his rejoinder to Löwith in a 1962 paper delivered at the Seventh German Philosophy Congress. This paper comprised only an initial portion what eventually became a book-length inquiry, first published in 1966 as Die Legitimität der Neuzeit (The Legitimacy of the Modern Age).17
It is surely of some significance that Blumenberg, like Löwith, was affected by Europe's mid-century political catastrophe in an immediate and highly personal way. Blumenberg was born in 1920 in Lübeck, the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. An excellent student, he attended the very same Gymnasium as Thomas Mann and graduated first in his class in the fateful year of 1939, when the school's director refused to shake the hand of the star-pupil who was officially identified as a "half-Jew." Due to the anti-Semitic policies of the Third Reich, Blumenberg was not admitted to philosophy programs, nor did he succeed in securing a permanent place in theological academies; he found temporary employment in Lubeck's industrial sector but was soon arrested and dispatched to a labor camp. [End Page 155] Following the Second World War, Blumenberg plunged into academic work with remarkable drive. The story goes that he tried to sleep only six nights weekly so as to make up for the years he had lost during the Nazi era. He secured a doctorate in German literature (with ancillary training in philosophy and philology) and taught at numerous institutions (Gießen, 1960; Bochum, 1965) before at last landing a more secure position at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, where he remained as a professor from 1970 to 1985. Blumenberg died in 1996, only days before a special ceremony that had been planned in his honor in Lübeck, where the mayor had hoped to offer a public apology to the philosopher for the discrimination he had suffered earlier in life.
These biographical details may enhance our understanding as to what may have moved Blumenberg to lay out such a sustained and elaborate case for the "legitimacy" of the modern age, especially if one interprets fascism as an instance of anti-modernist regression. For Blumenberg, it was of paramount importance to defend the ideal of modern progress against charges of illegitimacy. Löwith saw the idea of secular progress as little more than a confused amalgam between providentialism and profane history; Blumenberg insisted that the logic of modernity itself contained its very own idea of progress that could be kept intact, but only if it were cleansed of all pre-modern contaminants. Unlike Löwith, Blumenberg was therefore determined to set forth a normative ideal of modernity as a self-supporting order that obeyed only those epistemic and political norms that it could understand as wholly its own creation. Modernity, in other words, had to be conceived along Kantian lines as a phenomenon of self-authorization.18 Any logic that could justify the unfolding adventure of humanist self-assertion would have to be generated out of modern experience itself, foreswearing any appeal to a pre-modern horizon. Löwith's portrait of modern progress as a secularized eschatology threatened this normative understanding of the modern age.
As Jeffrey Andrew Barash has observed, Blumenberg's defense of modern "legitimacy" has an overtly political meaning that becomes most explicit in those passages of the book where Blumenberg addresses Carl Schmitt's political-theological dictum that "all the significant concepts of the modern doctrine of the state are secularized theological concepts."19 It [End Page 156] is worth noting that in the pages of the Legitimacy book itself, Blumenberg remains silent about Schmitt's damning record of complicity with the Third Reich. Still, the political implications of his remarks on Schmitt's political theology are hard to miss. Schmitt's political-theological critique calls into question the validity of Enlightenment liberalism by exposing the authoritarian-decisionist element that cannot be expunged without compromising liberalism's own integrity as a political doctrine. Each and every legal order must ultimately reach a moment of indeterminacy or exception (Ausnahmezustand) that can only be resolved by a sovereign's rationally undetermined decision. Indeed such an intervention is the identifying mark of the sovereign. This intervention cannot be anticipated by the mere functioning of the legal order itself. No system of laws is purely immanent and self-sustaining; every legal order must appeal in the moment of exception to a transcendent decision that exceeds but also grounds that order. To explain this point Schmitt suggests an analogy: the political system of law is analogous to a sphere of nature, while the intervention of the sovereign in the law is thus analogous to the intervention of God through a miracle. If every legal order requires such an intervention, it follows that every legal order must depend in the final instance on a persistent element of theology. This is true not only for the pre-modern absolutist state; it is true for the ostensibly "rationalist" system of liberal democracy as well.
Against Schmitt, Blumenberg subscribes to the Enlightenment's ambition to dispense with the theological model of sovereignty.20 A state of purely human artifice no longer needs to make any appeal to a moment of exception beyond human reason: "For the Enlightenment," Blumenberg writes, "the repudiation of the 'exceptional situation' was primarily related to the laws of nature, which, no longer conceived as legislation imposed upon nature but rather as the necessary issuing from the nature of things, could not allow any exception, any intervention of omnipotence, to continue to be possible." But the attempt to overcome the exception carried more than a natural-scientific meaning; it also furnished a metaphysical [End Page 157] groundwork for democracy, since the equality of all men transposes into law the scientific idea of a nature without exceptions.21
Blumenberg was not at all reluctant to acknowledge the force of Schmitt's political theology; he calls it "the strongest version of the secularization theorem."22 But he subjected Schmitt's argumentation to sharp criticism, prompting a serious exchange of letters that spanned the years 1971–78.23 All the same we should not exaggerate the significance of Blumenberg's debate with Schmitt, as the critical remarks on political theology appear only briefly in the published text of Legitimacy. Blumenberg's critical dismantling of the idea of secularization has multiple targets and many meanings, not all of which can be cashed out in political terms, and it is an intriguing fact that Legitimacy rarely addresses itself to overtly political themes. Situated at the meeting point between the philosophy of history and the philosophy of metaphor, Blumenberg devoted the greater share of his energies to philosophical concerns that resist conventional distinctions of political ideology. Indeed his chief quarry would seem to be what we might call a logical problem in the concept of secularization itself.
The pivotal claim in Blumenberg's book is that the concept of secularization as developed by Löwith (alongside Schmitt and others) presents us with a logical problem: to claim that a given idea has been "secularized" would seem to presume that the idea is a self-identical substance that remains in a certain sense precisely what it was before, despite its passing from one temporal context to another. Löwith's "suspicious" hermeneutic can expose the hidden and illicit theological inheritance of a given idea within a seemingly non-religious context only because he imagines ideas as substance-like, that is, as self-identical objects that retain their integrity across changes of place and time: "Only where the category of substance dominates the understanding of history," explains Blumenberg, "are there repetitions, superimpositions and dissociations—and also, for that matter, disguises and unmaskings."24 The allusion to an "unmasking" is directed squarely against Löwith, who performs what is clearly a genealogy of secular progress to reveal something hidden and illegitimate. But Löwith's genealogical technique can succeed only if it first identifies a continuity: this is the sense in which "secularization" implies a continuity in a substantial idea despite its shift of context. Löwith cannot make this argument without committing himself implicitly to the [End Page 158] notion that the idea in its secular form has been "alienated" from its proper and originally religious context. The idea of secularization therefore requires some commitment to the notion that a certain idea only appears to be secular, whereas it actually remains in substance precisely what it was before: a religious idea in its essence even when it may appear otherwise. Needless to say, this notion does not easily harmonize with the contextualist and historicist premise that an idea has no internal or substantive identity since it depends for its inner meaning on its external bonds.
This rather formal critique of secularization served as the preparatory step for Blumenberg's alternative conception. Against Löwith, Blumenberg reads the Christian distinction between terrestrial and celestial spheres as merely the contingent outcome of a historical contest in ancient Christianity between this-worldly and other-worldly ambitions. As a messianic religion with world-transformative hopes, ancient Christianity at first strove for the this-worldly realization of its purposes. Not only the logic of incarnation but the very idea of a messianic Kingdom itself implies a metaphysics of consummation: it suggests not a sharp distinction between heaven and earth but rather the overcoming of that distinction. According to Blumenberg such a metaphysical consummation was the original meaning of "secularization," conceived as Verweltlichung, namely, the this-worldly actualization of eschatological themes. With the defeat of these purposes, however, Christians were compelled to modify and defer their hopes for an end-time. Christianity then recoiled from the world and began to see it not as the theater for the realization of eschatology but as a fallen realm of little relevance for the drama of human redemption. This attitude of world-rejection drew upon Gnostic teachings that saw the benevolent divinity as infinitely removed: "[T]he basic eschatological attitude of the Christian epoch," Blumenberg wrote, "could no longer be one of hope for the final events but was rather one of fear of judgment and the destruction of the world. . . . The concept of history that could be constructed from this basic attitude is at most one of an interval of grace, not of an expectation directed toward a future in which it seeks fulfillment."25 According to Blumenberg this was a dramatic shift in Christian self-understanding. Its original ambition for world-transformation succumbed to Gnostic otherworldliness and simultaneously brought into being the notion of this world as a separate and non-divine sphere. Ironically, the Gnostic turn in Christianity thereby helped to spawn the proto-modern image of the secular world.26
[End Page 159]
Blumenberg's alternative is to suggest that we can appreciate continuities between the religious and the secular spheres without committing ourselves to the erroneous logic of secularization as the transfer of substance. Against any appeal to a continuity of substantive ideas or "answers," Blumenberg suggests that we should identify only a continuity in questions. "The continuity of history across the epochal threshold lies not in the permanence of ideal substances," he writes, "but rather in the inheritance of problems, which obliges the heir, in his turn, to know again what was known once before."27 Blumenberg distinguishes between the conventional understanding of secularization as "transposition" and his own alternative view of intellectual history as "reoccupation." Whereas transposition suggests the persistence of an "answer" across different temporal contexts, reoccupation suggests that only the "questions" endure. In every new epoch the old answers are shown to be obsolete even while they leave behind an empty space or answer-position that calls out for a new solution. Where Löwith sees only an illicit continuity, Blumenberg sees a dialectic of continuity across discontinuity: that is, a continuity of questions, and a discontinuity of answers.28
Regarding the genealogy of progress, Blumenberg's thesis of discontinuity offers an especially bold corrective. Against Löwith, Blumenberg argues that the modern idea of progress cannot be seen as the illicit transfer of an originally religious idea. For the substance of religious eschatology is wholly dissimilar to the modern idea of progress, invalidating the thought of any continuity in substance. The religious idea of eschatology bears two distinguishing marks. First, it implies an irruption into history from an unworldly beyond. Second, it implies the ultimate fulfillment or closure of history such that the historical continuum comes to a perfect end. But the modern idea of historical progress shares neither of these two essential features. First, it locates the dynamism of change in a space that is wholly immanent to history and dependent on nothing beyond human rationality itself. Second, it is in principle without closure, a dynamism of infinite movement rather than a striving for completion.
For Blumenberg these two differences are decisive. We must therefore regard the very idea of secularization with deepest skepticism. Christianity began with the intention of applying its principles to this world: divine providence governed history, eschatology animated hope for the transformation of human history, and incarnation promised to overcome the gap [End Page 160] between God and man. But the attempted transfer of substantive Christian ideas into the world did not succeed. The "overcoming" of Gnostic anti-worldliness ended in failure. This failure, Blumenberg argues, is evident most of all in Augustine's Confessions, where redemption suffers a dramatic displacement: it shifts away from the world and takes up an exclusive residence within the soul while the world itself is left unredeemed. Christianity's failure to overcome Gnosticism is further solidified in the nominalist revolution, which rejects realist qualities and asserts the radical transcendence of the divine over the fallen world. The overcoming of Gnosticism only succeeded much later, with the rise of an early modern philosophy that at last revalued the world and transformed curiositas from a vice into a humanist virtue. Only then were the early modern protagonists of natural science (such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Bacon) able to exercise their curiosity without restraint in the pursuit of worldly knowledge.29 With this striking transvaluation of curiosity, early modern thinkers found it possible to embrace the realm of history as a theater for human scientific and practical self-actualization: This-worldly knowledge and action were lifted free from the catalogue of human sins and gained a newly moral prestige.
Blumenberg clearly sees this argument as a decisive verdict against any religious genealogy for the secular idea of progress. After all, secular progress differs from religious hope on at least one crucial point: the secular idea of progress does not require any belief in a final fulfillment or closure to the historical continuum. On the contrary, in the early modern era the historical continuum stands before humanity as an open and potentially limitless horizon in which to realize our aims. Because this horizon has no limits, it follows that no single individual can feel any assurance of bringing these aims to completion; the idea of human self-realization is therefore necessarily collective rather than individual: progress is an ideal only for the human species as the collective subject of history.30
Blumenberg concludes this grand argument by declaring that the "trial of theoretical curiosity" that had begun with Augustine only reached a favorable denouement during the Enlightenment, more specifically in the arguments on behalf of curiosity set forth by Kant in his Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786). Kant retains of the pre-modern (religious) framework only the bare and abstracted "question" regarding the grounding of our knowledge in the "unconditioned condition" that would furnish the ultimate explanation for worldly phenomena. But within [End Page 161] his secular metaphysics this unconditioned condition is no longer a determinate metaphysical object: it is not actually God but a regulative ideal posited by the human mind. Natural science posits this ideal only so as to orient itself on an infinite quest for knowledge; this quest becomes the new and purely secular ideal of "hope," even while modern science must leave behind the metaphysical hope that the unconditioned condition could be the object of possible experience.31
To dramatize the strong distinction between the pre-modern and modern understanding of progress, the last section of Blumenberg's study presents us with contrasting portraits of two philosophers, Nicolas of Cusa (or "The Cusan," 1401–64) and Giordano Bruno (or "The Nolan," 1548– 1600). Blumenberg uses these two thinkers less intensively than as paradigms or ideal-types: the Cusan represents the medieval world, the Nolan represents the early modern world. On the one side of the epochal divide there stands the Cusan, who seems to anticipate the dissolution of the medieval epoch and hardens his philosophy against the received threat: for him God's will is magnified into an absolutist sovereign beyond all the constraints of a realist metaphysics. This nominalist solution inflates divinity into something all-powerful but also all-mysterious. Nominalism rescues theology but plunges humanity into the realm of "learned ignorance," or doctra ignoratia. But the Cusan's solution cannot long endure. The Copernican revolution introduces a new uniformity into the physical universe and suppresses the nominalist confidence that God can violate the rules of the natural cosmos by means of miracle. Both incarnation and supernatural transgression lose their plausibility. Blumenberg also notes that the Nolan interrupts the specific logic of incarnation. "The difference from the Cusan is clear; no individual can fulfill the existential sense of the species, and consequently mankind cannot experience its final union with the Divinity in any historical member of the species."32
Notice that, according to Blumenberg, the Cusan and the Nolan are separated by far more than one and a half centuries of calendrical time. They embody two radically distinctive epochs that may pose similar questions but that respond with different answers. The Nolan's answers are not variations or in any sense modifications of the Cusan's answers; they merely "reoccupy" the answer-positions that have been left vacant by the collapse of the Cusan's cosmological system. Notice, too, however, that Blumenberg's theory of reoccupation suggests a strong continuity in the question [End Page 162] that is posed to both philosophers. Both the Cusan and the Nolan are seeking to know what can be hoped, and this question persists as a quasi-anthropological constant, the continuity that spans the apparent discontinuity of epochs.
Under the new dispensation of early modern science, any appeal to the miraculous event of incarnation as a distinctive fusion between mortal and divine becomes a conceptual impossibility. Incarnation was a historically contingent "answer" that lost all credibility. In its place a new principle appears that avoids the defunct metaphysics of a divine individual; the new principle assigns hope not to a divinity incarnate but rather to the unfolding project of this-worldly humanity: "Since now the infinity of omnipotence is imitated as progress from day to day through new inventions and through exertion that continually fits itself for new undertakings, 'Godlikeness' is no longer the signature of his origin imprinted on each individual but rather the ideality, to be realized by the species, in its future."33 Blumenberg sees this shift as "reoccupation" rather than transformation. The old religious notion that the human being was created in the image of God does not survive; it is rendered meaningless because the new concept of humanist self-assertion no longer acknowledges God as a transcendent other. "God-likeness" becomes for Bruno a mere metaphor. It functions as an "ideal that gives direction to man's distance from his origin in bestiality, but a direction that promises no rest in the attainment of a goal." If transcendence was once a term that attached itself to the nominalist God as a being beyond nature, in Bruno's thinking humanity no longer achieves its perfection by striving to imitate God through supra-natural transcendence. Rather, all human aspiration is to be realized through a purely immanent but endless process of this-worldly growth: "Self-empowerment over against nature is reinterpreted as empowerment by nature."34
Blumenberg concludes his book by insisting once more on the strong distinction between epochs. The early modern era marks the emergence of a new logic that is apparently incommensurable to the old; differences in chronology also signal differences in metaphysics. In the early modern era, "problems arise that had not only been unknown to the ancient world but also would have been incomprehensible to it."35 Thus the stylized distinction between the Cusan and the Nolan serves as a refutation of the secularization thesis, and it demonstrates how ideas cannot be conceived as [End Page 163] substances that remain self-identical across time. Not answers but only questions persist. An enduring question can be posed anew, but no answer is eternal; one answer replaces another. If Löwith's genealogy of progress bears any resemblance to a Nietzschean genealogy, it is altogether fitting that Blumenberg should conclude his study with a strong rejection of Nietzsche: "History," writes Blumenberg, "knows of no repetitions of the same; 'renaissances' are its contradiction" (Die Geschichte kennt keine Wiederholungen des Gleichen:"Renaissancen" sind ihr Widerspruch)."36
IV: LIMITS OF A GENEALOGY OF THE SECULAR
The brilliance of Blumenberg's argument cannot be denied. But certain doubts must be raised as to whether its wholesale rejection of the secularization-idea is truly warranted. The argument prompts (at least) three skeptical observations. First there is the idea of an enduring "question" (or anthropological constant). If one takes seriously Blumenberg's rejoinder to Löwith, the idea of secularization would commit the historian to the notion that ideas are self-identical substances that persist over time. Blumenberg proposes instead a continuity of questions rather than answers. But it is not at all clear why the continuity of questions is any more respectable for the historian than the embarrassing continuity of answers it claims to supplant. Nor is it clear from Blumenberg's book what eternalized model of the human being would license the notion that the species is always asking the same questions. Blumenberg's alternative to secularization retains a superficial appeal only until one asks what these enduring questions are. In the debate over "meaning" in history the chief question is that which was formulated by Kant: "What may I hope?" Blumenberg would argue that the medieval mind found an answer to this question in the religious idea of providence, whereas in the modern era the answer position was emptied of all religious content, and in its stead there appeared the purely nonreligious idea of the epistemological adventure as a transgenerational phenomenon without closure. But for this to be true one already has to assume Blumenberg's model of intellectual history as the unfolding of a continuous anthropological inquiry. It is uncertain why this continuity is any more plausible than the continuity of conceptual substance it is meant to vanquish from intellectual history.
Second, there is the distinctive prestige that Blumenberg assigns to the [End Page 164] category of the "world." The term carries a distinctive charge for Blumenberg insofar as he traces its ambivalent moral and metaphysical meaning back to the Gnostic dualists, who distinguished between the higher realm under divine protection and the fallen world governed by an evil demiurge. Blumenberg's entire book is structured as an ingenious morality tale according to which modernity involves a "second" and "successful" overcoming of Gnostic dualism and a consequent redemption of the "world" as a sphere of legitimate inquiry. But if Blumenberg is correct that modernity could come into its own only once it had succeeded in performing a transvaluation in the very category of the world, this would seem to imply that his own intellectual history requires a continuity between religion and modernity. Thus Christianity (alongside Gnosticism) would seem to bear primary responsibility for spawning the non-divine space of this-worldly immanence within which the new, nonreligious answers can appear. But such a continuity would seem to violate Blumenberg's own stricture against narrating intellectual history as a reprisal of traditional concepts. If Blumenberg actually accepts this continuity, then the reader might ask why such a debt does not once again threaten the modern age with illegitimacy.
Third, and most importantly, there is the historical conceit of an "epoch" itself. This is an idea whose status is typically heuristic insofar as it permits the historian to distribute historical events across broad stretches of time. But in Blumenberg's analysis the idea of an epoch assumes a quasi-metaphysical prestige, as if the temporal continuum were in fact broken into discrete domains. Blumenberg wishes to assert the independence of the "modern" era or Neuzeit against the threats of its predecessors. But this exercise in modern apologetics remains a logical possibility only if one has already endowed the Neuzeit with the reified solidity of a separate realm. It is this premise of chronological holism that permits Blumenberg to concentrate all of his philosophical attention on only two figures—"the Cusan" and "the Nolan"—as if each of these somewhat mythological names could serve as a synecdoche for a temporal whole. A skeptical reader might charge Blumenberg with having committed an illicit transformation of time into space. But this is hardly surprising. We should recall that the idea of the saeculum once carried the spatial sense of territory released (or seized) from the Church, especially during the early modern era when the European state was expanding its claims of exclusive dominion and contesting ecclesiastical property claims. The enduring power of this territorial metaphor even in Blumenberg's defense of modernity suggests that his own efforts belong to the longer history of institutional-ideological contestation between ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical power.
[End Page 165]
In sum, Blumenberg took too seriously the self-proclaimed unmasking effect of a dissonant genealogy; he felt he could overcome the disabling work of Löwith's genealogy only by refuting the very principle of continuity that makes genealogy possible. Since Löwith claimed that the modern age relied on a hidden and disavowed principle of religious providentialism, Blumenberg responded by characterizing the modern age as a entirely distinct realm, with principles it had created wholly on its own without reference to the religious past. But Blumenberg developed this response with the extravagant and implausible idea of a "threshold" or radical break in the logical discourses of justification that could isolate the modern era from its religious past. On this point he anticipated the view once defended by Jürgen Habermas: "Modernity can and will no longer borrow the criteria by which it takes its orientation from the models supplied by another epoch; it has to create its normativity out of itself.37
But this strategy of epochal separation goes too far. As Habermas himself has observed, the dualistic alternative—either modern independence or modern illegitimacy—ignores the fact that modernity is always a work in progress that can draw upon the resources of the past even while it subjects them to rationalizing validation. Habermas reminds us that if we subscribe to Karl Jaspers's idea of an "Axial Age," we can identify in religion itself a transcendental perspective that has developed in tandem with (rather than in competition with) nonreligious consciousness. This simultaneity of religious and nonreligious resources, Habermas claims, allows for an ongoing "dialogue" through which modern consciousness might continue to translate theological concepts without finding itself forced into Blumenberg's false alternative between legitimacy or illegitimacy.38 I would amplify Habermas's critique by noting that the dualism that structures Blumenberg's defense of modernity reveals a deeper agreement with Löwith, whose practice of dissonant genealogy already posed a stark and undialectical alternative: either pagan or biblical thought. This faulty sense of a choice between epochs ignores the obvious fact of historical continuity. Moreover, it ignores the way the present defines itself through a critical reappropriation of its past. Historical continuity, in other words, is not just something factually given to a present that must accept this inheritance passively. Continuity can be conceived as an active relationship that can adopt toward the past a posture of rational reappropriation. Continuity alone does not always imply illegitimacy.
[End Page 166]
Blumenberg did not see this point, and he therefore failed to challenge the deepest presuppositions of Löwith's genealogy. Partners in historicism, neither of them saw that a genealogy of factual inheritance does not vitiate normative possibility for the future. This observation prompts one to doubt whether the historical genealogy of a concept can accomplish what it promises. Although it can shed light on the local deployment of a concept, and how that concept carries past normative meanings beyond its public license, it cannot tell us that the concept is forever shackled to its past, or to the history of its past deployments. This is because the ongoing work of philosophical argumentation develops its own immanent standards of validity that operate as a self-validating horizon for the continued generation of new meanings. The more self-consistent these standards, the less authority the merely historical inheritance can retain. There is more invention in philosophy than the method of dissonant genealogy allows.
The historicist derivation of any concept can neither exhaust nor enjoy proprietary control over what that concept might mean in the future. This is because concepts are more than vessels of reified past content (as Nietzsche with his historicist conservatism supposed). They are also vessels of semantic potential whose meanings remain interpretively open for new and unforeseen discursive application. It is one of the greatest logical fallacies of the genealogical method that it permits origin to consume validity. The fetish of origins, shared in common by a wide range of interpreters (from Nietzsche-inspired genealogists to the "originalism" celebrated by US constitutional scholars) insists on the origin as the authoritative and final arbiter of meaning. But, as Habermas has argued, normative concepts (both religious and secular) make a context-transcending appeal to validity that is not necessarily exhausted in any particular historical instance, let alone the earliest case that could qualify as the historical origin.39 Blumenberg failed to grasp this point. He saw in Löwith's practice of genealogy only an exercise in disenchantment, and he therefore failed to recognize that the genealogy of religious concepts may yet allow for their rational appropriation within secular modernity. Like Arthur Rimbaud, he adopted the extremist stance of a modernist who could not tolerate any historical bonds with the past. Blumenberg's masterpiece, we might say, is an extended commentary on the slogan "Il faut être absolument moderne."
But Löwith himself also committed a no less serious error when he assumed that any teleological norm for history necessarily bears a religious [End Page 167] stamp. Only this assumption can explain the "disenchantment effect" of Löwith's genealogy, an assumption which also seriously underestimates the extent to which modernity itself is capable of generating normative potentials that may not derive from the religious past. Although Löwith himself was hardly an apologist for traditional religion, the verdict that secular consciousness suffers from a fatal deficit of normativity derives from an ancient topos: it reflects the attitude of the religious believer, who claims that life without faith is "as nothing" and that hope derives from God alone:
Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.(Psalms 39: 4–7)
This passage reflects the self-understanding of a religious consciousness for which God is an absolute necessity and "unbelief" can only be understood as a species of idolatry: the misapplication of value from its proper (divine) object to history as its worldly and merely human substitute.40 To be sure, Löwith did not inherit the verdict of religious apologetics in its traditional form. Rather, he remained poised in skepticism, and he was content to condemn the unworkable combination of secular history and religiously derived normativity. But his polemic nevertheless borrowed its force from the ancient believer's contempt for the unbeliever as a creature without hope, without purpose or direction.
To contest Löwith on precisely this point was one of Blumenberg's greatest and most lasting achievements. Unlike Löwith, Blumenberg entertained the possibility that one might identify within modernity certain modes of experience that can justify our hope, and, specifically, can ground our world-immanent conception of progress. Scientific communities, Blumenberg argued, posit through their own practice a transgenerational postulate of progress that has nothing to do with divine providence. Today, of course, the sociology of science looks upon this model of scientific progress with great skepticism: both the Warwick School of SSK and the anthropologists of scientific practice who have drawn inspiration from Bruno Latour [End Page 168] would contest the triumphalist model of unidirectional advancement in the history of the natural sciences. One may not find their skepticism warranted, but even if they were right about the specific example of the natural sciences, we might still want to endorse Blumenberg's general (formal-methodological) readiness to identify nonreligious sources for our experience of mundane progress.
The most important insight in Blumenberg's historical analysis, then, is not confined to its characterization of the natural sciences. A scientific community, after all, is only one small strand within the broader networks of modern social practice. Implicit in Blumenberg's analysis is a more general insight into the mundane but consensus-oriented logic of argumentation that belongs to the very structure of social interaction. Blumenberg himself did not openly recognize this point. As Habermas has observed, "Blumenberg shut his mind to the fact that the legitimacy of the modern age, conceived as a result of learning, reaches beyond the achievements of modern science to include the moral justification of the principles of the constitutional state."41 Even if Blumenberg's allergic response to the genealogical method prompted him to posit an artificial break between "premodern" and "modern" norms, he nonetheless understood that modernity may bear within itself a regulative idea of progress that does not represent an illicit "repetition of the same." In this respect Blumenberg remained a deserving heir to the Kantian conception of progress, which found its validation not in religion but rather in moral and political action, and, specifically, in humankind's sympathetic responses to the French revolution.42 Unlike Blumenberg, however, Kant himself understood that the mere facts of history are not to be confused with the postulates that guide human action. This is why no genealogical exposure of historical fact can suffice to invalidate our normative aspirations. Blumenberg, unfortunately, did not ground his arguments against genealogy at the deeper level of philosophical principle; he therefore remained vulnerable to the obvious objection that historical examples cannot suffice for the work of normative justification.
I will conclude with a balance sheet. On the one hand, Blumenberg allowed himself to absorb the radical skepticism of a genealogy of secularism, and he responded with a stylized and no less radical image of a modernity disconnected from its past. He failed to recognize that the ongoing [End Page 169] work of rationalizing validation permits secular consciousness to draw instruction from religious norms without calling the secular itself into question. The secularist principle that insists on a strict separation between religious and nonreligious reasons can still survive within the dynamic of political deliberation and governance even if one rejects the implausible notion of separation as a historical divide between epochs. On the other hand, Blumenberg understood that modernity might nonetheless contain normative resources of its own that do not require the redemptive efforts of a secularizing translation. The legitimacy of the modern age involves not only the secularizing redemption of religious norms but also an ongoing search for sources of profane hope beyond the confines of religious tradition. Those of us who resist Löwith's defeatist genealogy and his anti-modernist verdict on the normative potentials of modernity will therefore continue to benefit from Blumenberg's enduring legacy.
[End Page 170]
A version of this paper was first presented to the Department of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York on March 3, 2016. For their comments and questions, I am especially grateful to Richard Bernstein, Chiara Bottici, and also to the many others who attended the presentation. For their willingness to read the revised version I am grateful to Jürgen Habermas and Martin Jay, and to the two anonymous readers of the final version of the paper submitted to the Journal of the History of Ideas.
1. Jürgen Habermas, "Reply to my Critics," in Habermas and Religion, ed. Craig Calhoun, Eduardo Mendieta, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (New York: Polity Press, 2013) 358.
2. Karl Löwith, Meaning in History: The Theological Implication of the Philosophy of History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1949) [hereafter, MH], 1.
3. MH, 2.
4. Löwith, MH, 3.
5. Löwith, MH, 31.
6. Löwith, MH, 44.
7. Löwith, MH, 59. (My emphasis.)
8. Löwith, MH, 172.
9. Löwith, MH, 193.
10. Löwith, MH, 197.
11. Löwith, MH, 203.
12. Löwith, MH, 207.
13. Löwith, MH, 203.
14. For a somewhat different and tripartite distinction of genealogical strategies (as subversion, vindication, and problematization), see Colin Koopman, Genealogy as Critique: Foucault and the Problems of Modernity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013). The key question, as I see it, is whether the "problematizing" genealogist holds open the distinction between genesis and validity. If this distinction is sustained, then problematization is considerably less radical than its proponents typically suggest, and one could still in principle uphold the normative validity of a given idea despite its problematic deployments in the past.
15. On Nietzsche and performative contradiction, see Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, trans. Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987); and also Martin Jay, "The Debate Over the Performative Contradiction: Habermas Versus the Poststructuralists," in Philosophical Interventions in the Unfinished Project of Enlightenment, ed. Axel Honneth, Thomas McCarthy, Claus Offe, and Albrecht Wellmer (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992): 261–79.
16. See, e.g., Nietzsche's claim: "Our faith in science is still based on a metaphysical faith,—even we knowers of today, we godless anti-metaphysicians, still take our fire from the blaze set alight by a faith thousands of years old, that faith of the Christians, which was also Plato's faith, that God is truth, that truth is divine." Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, trans. Carol Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 112.
17. Also see Martin Jay, "The Legitimacy of the Modern Age," History and Theory 24, no. 2 (1985): 183–96; and Elizabeth Brient, The Immanence of the Infinite: Hans Blumenberg and the Threshold to Modernity (Catholic University Press, 2002).
18. On the idea of self-authorization, see Peter E. Gordon "Self-Authorizing Modernity (Review Essay)" in History and Theory 44, no. 1 (February, 2005), 121–37.
19. Hans Blumenberg, Die Legitimität der Neuzeit (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1966; extended and revised ed., 1973, 1974, 1976). Translated into English from the 1976 edition by Robert M. Wallace as The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983). [Hereafter LMA.] See especially part 1, chap. 8, esp. pp. 92–97. For a brief comment on this section see the translator's introduction by Wallace, pp. xxiii–xxiv; and on Schmitt's political theology and the Löwith-Blumenberg debate, see Jeffrey Andrew Barash, "The Sense of History: On the Political Implications of Karl Löwith's Concept of Secularization," History and Theory 37, no. 1 (1998): 69–82.
20. For Habermas's criticism of Schmitt's legacy, see Habermas, "'The Political': The Rational Meaning of a Questionable Inheritance of Political Theology," in The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, ed. Judith Butler, Jurgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, Cornel West, Eduardo Mendieta, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011): 15–33.
21. LMA, 92.
22. LMA, 92.
23. Marcel Lepper and Alexander Schmitz, eds., Hans Blumenberg, Carl Schmitt: Briefwechsel 1971–1978 und weitere Materialien (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2007).
24. LMA, 9.
25. LMA, 44.
26. LMA, 47.
27. LMA, 48.
28. LMA, 65.
29. LMA, 369.
30. LMA, 404.
31. LMA, 434.
32. LMA, 591.
33. LMA, 591.
34. LMA, 591.
35. LMA, 595.
36. LMA, 596.
37. Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, 7. (Emphasis in original.)
38. Habermas, "Reply to my Critics," 361.
39. Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), 19.
40. Moshe Halbertal and Avishai Margalit, Idolatry, trans. Naomi Goldblum (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994).
41. As Habermas notes, "Blumenberg shut his mind to the fact that the legitimacy of the modern age, conceived as a result of learning, reaches beyond the achievements of modern science to include the moral justification of the principles of the constitutional state." Habermas, "Reply to my Critics," 361.
42. Immanuel Kant, "A Renewed Attempt to Answer the Question: Is the Human Race Constantly Improving?," in Political Writings, trans. H. S. Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970; 1991), 177–90.