A blog dedicated to understanding Hans Blumenberg's Höhlenausgänge.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Secularization: A Dimension of Hidden Meaning?

Chapter 2 of "Secularization: Critique of a Category of Historical Wrong" is given over to expanding the meaning of secularization from a general complaint or (depending on the attitude of the speaker) triumphant observation about the increasing worldliness of the modern age, to a broad philosophical paradigm in which this or that characteristic of the modern world is described as a secular version of some corresponding characteristic of the church in the pre-modern world. I understand from Wallace's introduction that this paradigm is quite prominent in German philosophy of the mid-20th Century, and is seen most clearly in the writing of Karl Löwith, to which The Legitimacy of the Modern Age can be understood as a response.

I have certainly encountered this paradigm (or a lay version of it) in my days, and it frequently sounds quite reasonable to me, though some of the examples Blumenberg cites in this essay seem a bit over the top. In light of the passage from Arendt which was quoted in the previous essay, it is easy to see this understanding of secularization as a counterpart to the search for a "historical symmetry according to which this worldliness would be, as it were, a disposition for the return of the Greeks' cosmos" -- its proponent is trying to establish a historical symmetry between the modern age and the mediæval, churchly cosmos.

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