Being-Towards-Death/Being-Towards-Life: Heidegger and Christianity on the Meaning of Human Being

Dissertation, Emory University (2002)

Richard Oxenberg
Emory University (PhD)
This work explores questions of God and faith in the context of Martin Heidegger's phenomenological ontology, as developed in Being and Time . One problem with traditional philosophical approaches to the question of God is their tendency to regard God's existence as an objective datum, which might be proven or disproven through logical argumentation. Since Kant, such arguments have largely been dismissed as predicated on a priori assumptions whose legitimacy cannot be substantiated. This dismissal has led to a widening divorce between 'faith' and 'reason,' as the rational grounds for faith have come under increasing, and radical, attack. ;Heidegger provides a new reason to question the legitimacy of traditional philosophical approaches to the question of God. His phenomenological ontology reveals that concernful relations lie at the foundation of our apprehension of Being, hence any attempt to 'prove' the existence of God as a purely 'objective' datum must miss the significance of the very phenomenon it seeks to apprehend. Dasein, as Being-in-the-world, is primordially related to and concerned with the world revealed to it. Any attempt to understand the meaning of Being, then, must take its stance from an examination of the concernfulness of Dasein. This, however, affords us a new possibility for approaching the question of God; one which pursues this question, not in terms of metaphysical categories, but in terms of its significance for the concernful human being. ;At the same time that Heidegger's thought allows us this new approach, however, his existential analyses seem to deny any legitimacy to religious faith at all. For Heidegger, the human being is 'Being-towards-death,' i.e., essentially enclosed in finitude, whereas for religion the human being has an essential relation to the infinity of God. Our work, then, has a twofold purpose. We seek, first, to explore the meaning of God and faith as these may be understood in terms provided by Heidegger's phenomenological ontology. We seek, second, to examine the way in which that ontology is itself challenged by a religious conception of human Being
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