The Subject in the Modern Age

That Christianity continues to exist in the development of modern history; has in the form of Protestantism abetted that development; has asserted itself successfully in the metaphysics of German Idealism and romanticism; was in its corresponding transformations, adaptations, and compromises in every instance reconciled with the spirit of the times, and consistently availed itself of modern accomplishments for ecclesiastical ends—all of that proves more forcefully than anything else how decisively Christianity is bereft of the power it had during the Middle Ages to shape history. Its historical significance no longer lies in what it is able to fashion for itself, but in the fact that since the beginning of and throughout the modern age it has continued to be that against which the new freedom—whether expressly or not—must be distinguished. Liberation from the revealed certitude of the salvation of individual immortal souls is in itself liberation to a certitude in which man can by himself be sure of his own definition and task.

The securing of supreme and absolute self-development of all the capacities of mankind for absolute dominion over the entire earth is the secret goad that prods modern man again and again to new resurgences, a goad that forces him into commitments that secure for him the surety of his actions and the certainty of his aims. The consciously posited binding appears in many guises and disguises. The binding can be human reason and its law (Enlightenment), or the real, the factual, which is ordered and arranged by such reason (Positivism). The binding can be a humanity harmoniously joined in all its accomplishments and molded into a beautiful figure (the human ideal of Classicism). The binding can be the development of the power of self-reliant nations, or the "proletariat of all lands," or individual peoples and races. The binding can be the development of humanity in the sense of the progress of universal rationality. The binding can also be "the hidden seeds of each individual age," the development of the "individual," the organization of the masses, or both. Finally, it can be the creation of a mankind that finds the shape of its essence neither in "individuality" nor in the "mass," but in the "type." The type unites in itself in a transformed way the uniqueness that was previously claimed for individuality and the similarity and universality that the community demands. But the uniqueness of the "type" consists in an unmistakable

Martin Heidegger (GA 6 II) European Nihilism - Nietzsche 4