A secular Kierkegaard: Confessional readings of Heidegger before 1945

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In the early reception of Martin Heidegger in Europe, networks of religious philosophers and theologians, in particular dialectical theologians and neo-scholastics, helped carry Heidegger’s thought throughout and beyond the German-speaking world. Despite the paucity of references to the Danish philosopher in Heidegger’s Being and Time, these thinkers figured Heidegger as a “secular Kierkegaard.” Both groups read Being and Time as an ontological analysis of the human subject, but the dialectical theologians located the secularizing drive in Heidegger’s ontology, while the neo-scholastics identified it in the restriction of that ontology to the human subject. The contradictory accounts rendered secularization suspect. When Jean Wahl in 1937 accounted for the difficulty of secularizing Kierkegaard’s thought, Wahl’s argument drew attention to the fractious confessional context for the Heidegger reception. The article considers the implications of this history for the use of the concept of secularization in intellectual history by examining the Löwith-Blumenberg controversy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-98
Number of pages32
JournalNew German Critique
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Atheism
  • Dialectical theology
  • Existentialism
  • Neo-scholasticism
  • Secularization


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