Thursday, July 20, 2017

Romanticism: "a Half Way House Between Nihilism and Catholicism"

H.G. Schenk, The Mind of the European Romantics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979, xviii, quoted in Tracey Rowland's Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed, New York: T&T Clark, 2010, 9.

Here is the full quote, a good definition of romanticism.

"...[The] 'Romantic movement' synonymous with rural beauty and pastoral contentment and sometimes aching sexual passions, mostly unrequited. The collective common factor is an aversion to the ugliness of the industrialized world and its highly rationalistic and materialistic culture, and a reverence for the natural order and its beauty. The movement had strong appeal for artists and intellectuals, that is, for those who wanted their lives to be something more than a contribution to the cold god of industry and capital. it emphasized such concepts as individuality or the personal uniqueness of each and every human being, the importance of memory and the motions of the human heart, the significance of cultures and traditions and the transcendental of beauty, especially as the latter is revealed in nature. H.G. Schenk described it as 'a half way house between nihilism and Catholicism'...Thus, Nietzsche and...Heidegger can be found at one end of the spectrum and Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar at the other. While the publication of Aeterni Patris in 1879 fostered a hyper-rationalist neo-scholasticism to out-reason the rationalists, in Baden-Wüttenberg and Lucerne and among English convert intellectuals and Anglo-Catholics, other currents of thought had been engaged with the concern of the Romantics. While they did not eschew the importance of truth or the work of the intellect, their starting point was the whole human person and the quest for self transcendence. They chose to enter the controversy about the relationship between faith and reason only after deepening their understanding of the relationship between faith and history. History in turn opens onto the terrain of memory and tradition and ultimately hermeneutics.

"In Germany the centre of this Catholic engagement with Romantic thought was to be found at the University of Tübingen. Its leading theologians were Johann Sebastian Drew (1777-1853); Johann Adam Möhler (1796-1838) and Johannes Evangelist von Kuhn (1806-1887). As Grant Kaplan has noted, they followed the lead of Schelling in rejecting Kant's project of stripping the positive and historical from Christianity, of proclaiming Christianity as a pure religion of reason. They also eschewed the post-Kantian tendency to reduce Christianity to the level of an ehtical framework. Drey emphasixze that the Catholci faith is a religion of 'sentiment' (Gemüth) as well as of reason (Verstand), and that revelation is itself an historical event. This in turn highlighted the importance of the individual in the reception of revelation. Following the logic of Lessing's Education of the Human Race, Drey concluded that what education is for the individual, revelation is for all of humanity. Similiarly, von Kuhn described the philosophy of Christian revelation as 'the presence of Christ revealed historically, not dialectically'. Meanwhile Möhler added to this accent on history by positing an organic unity between the Christian community and Christ. As Kaplan explained, for Möhler 'the chain of history from nineteenth-century Swabia to first-century Palestine is unbroken. In order to be salvific, the saving truth of Christianity must have been present, even in a truncated form, for ever generation of believers'. This is because access to the truth occurs by living the truth. In a work published in 1988, Joseph Ratzinger was to describe Möhler as 'the great reviver of Catholic theology after the ravages of the Enlightenment'." 9-10

Cf. Dawson on Romanticism
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