Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


Braig had taught at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Freiburg a first time (from 1893 to 1897) as professor of philosophical-theological propedeutics and later (from 1897 to 1919) as professor of dogmatic theology. Heidegger, who from winter semester 1909/10 until summer semester 1911 had studied theology and had followed Braig's courses on introduction to dogmatics (1910/11) and theological cosmology (1911)13, remembered his teaching with praise: "After four semesters I gave up my theological studies and dedicated myself entirely to philosophy. I still attended theological lectures in the years following 1911, Carl Braig's lecture course on dogmatics. My interest in speculative theology, led me to do this, above all the penetrating kind of thinking that this teacher concretely demonstrated in every lecture hour. On the few walks when I was allowed to accompany him, I first heard of Schelling's and Hegel's significance for speculative theology as distinguished from the dogmatic system of Scholasticism. Thus the tension between ontology and speculative theology as the structure of metaphysics entered the field of my search."14

Heidegger's two references, one to the treatise Vom Sein and the other to Braig's theological teaching (with the discovery of Schelling and Hegel), shows us the extent of, and the thematic horizon within which to determine, Braig's importance to Heidegger's formation. The first reference is especially relevant to us given that what interests us are the ontological problems and the engagement with the Aristotelian tradition. Allow me then to touch briefly on the second reference, then move on to more detailed examination of the Vom Sein treatise.

As for Braig's theological teaching and his talks with him during his years studying at university, Heidegger underscores how thanks to Braig he came to discover for the first time the importance of Schelling and Hegel. In addition, Braig's revaluation that these thinkers using speculative theology as an alternative to Scholastic systems, would have stimulated him to think about the relationship between ontology and theology, that structural tension that connotes metaphysics itself. Given the importance of these reflections to Heidegger's work, it is certainly an important reference, yet, in truth, it sounds strange when one considers the character of Braig work as a theologian and philosopher as a whole15. The latter, can in fact be placed historically in the context of German neo-Scholasticism's response to the early-modernist controversy, and as a whole is presented as a systematic compendium of Catholic doctrine. Even while not inspired directly by the most rigorous orthodoxy, instead open to independent solutions and developments, Braig's works display an explicit apologetic intent, supporting their arguments not only against positivism and modernism (understood in a very peculiar way), but also against modern philosophy and especially against Kant and idealism.

13 See B. Casper, "Martin Heidegger und die Theologische Fakultät (1909-1923)", Freiburger Diözesan-Archiv, 32, 1980, pp. 534-541, which gives a detailed list of all courses taken by Heidegger at the Faculty of Theology in Freiburg.

14 Heidegger, Mein Weg in die Phänomenologie, p. 82 (trans. It., p. 184). [GA 14. "My Way to Phenomenology", 75.]

15 Carl Braig (Kanzach/Württemberg 10-2-1853-Freiburg 24-3-1923) was a keen apologist for the Catholic doctrine against positivism and modern philosophy. He wrote among other things: "Natürliche Gotteserkenntnis nach Thomas von Aquin", Theologische Quartalschrift, 63, 1881, pages 511-596; Die Zukunftsreligion des Unbewußten, Freiburg i. Br. 1882 (against E. von Hartmann); Das philosophische System von Lotze, Freiburg i. Br. 1884; Gottesbeweis oder Gottesbeweise?, Stuttgart 1888 (against K. Gutberlet); Die Freiheit der philosophischen Forschung, Freiburg i. Br. 1894 (inaugural academic lecture); Die Grundzüge der Philosophie, 3 vols., Freiburg i. Br. 1896-1897; Abriß der Christology, Freiburg i. Br. 1907; Modernstes Christentum und moderne Religionspsychologie, Freiburg i. Br. 1907; Was soll der Gebildete vom Modernismus wissen?, Freiburg i. Br. 1908; Der Modernismus und die Freiheit der Wissenschaft, Freiburg i. Br. 1911; Die Gotteslehre, Freiburg i. Br. 1912. For the location of Braig's work in the context of neo-Scholasticism see C. Fabro, "Il significato e i contenuti dell’enciclica 'Aeterni Patris'" , in proceedings of the VIII Congresso Tomistico Internazionale, Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Vatican City 1981, pp. 66-88. On Braig's work in general see F. Träger, "Das empirische Denken Carl Braigs", Perspektiven der Philosophie, 5, 1979, pp. 341-356, and the relationship with Heidegger: R. Schaeffler, Frömmigkeit des Denkens? Martin Heidegger und die katholische Theologie, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1978, pp. 1-10.

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