The Metaethics of Paul Tillich: Further Reflections

Journal of Religious Ethics 10 (1):135 - 143 (1982)
The article begins from a previous attempt by Glenn Graber "(Journal of Religious Ethics 1973)" to characterize Tillich's metaethics as an ontologically based self-realization theory. After proposing a modification of Graber's thesis, the article attempts to show that some of the ambiguities noted by Graber in Tillich's position-notably the tension between a formal and a material account of ethics-have their roots in his early German writings. There the treatment of ethics as a "cultural science" led Tillich to posit a formal, philosophical moment (Kant), a cultural-historical moment, and a normative moment. He refused to identify the latter with theological ethics and instead, following his reformulation of the concept of religion, found it in theonomous forms of legal and community structures, identified with socialism. When Tillich abandoned the "cultural sciences" approach and ceased to see socialism as the concrete and normative content of ethics, he was forced to replace it with a notion of essential human nature and "new being," coexisting uneasily with Kantian formalism.
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