Prof. John Betz: The analogia entis as a Catholic panacea? Erich Przywara’s interventions in the philosophy and theology of the 1920s

As his works from this period show — from his monograph on Scheler and Newman, Religionsbegründung (1922), to his reading of Husserl and Heidegger (Drei Richtungen der Phänomenologie,” 1928), to his readings of Kierkegaard (Das Geheimnis Kierkegaards, 1929) and Kant (Kant Heute, 1930) — Przywara was heavily invested in the intellectual and cultural debates of the 1920s.  What unites all of his interventions, however, is his attempt to expose and overcome the philosophical and religious dialectics of modernity with an Augustinian-Thomistic understanding of analogy, which he summarized and deployed in terms of analogia entis.  On Przywara’s view, the Reformation sets the stage for these dialectics with Luther’s “theopanism,” which, in the absence of a Thomistic doctrine of secondary causes, mutates into its opposite in Spinoza’s pantheism: “God is all” becomes “All is God.”  Though the consequences are less explosive, such dialectics can also be seen in the debates between neo-Kantian transcendentalism and Husserlian phenomenology, and indeed within the school of phenomenology itself, as Przywara observes in his reading of Husserl, Scheler, and Heidegger.  On Przywara’s view, the underlying problem with all these dialectics is a failure to appreciate the structure and rhythm of creaturely being, the analogia entis.  In this respect, Przywara’s method is not dissimilar to Heidegger’s own:  the basic question, which has been covered over, is not just the question of being, but the analogy of being, which Przywara proposes not only as a way of refereeing between competing positions, but ultimately in order to help his contemporaries see in the restless back-and-forth of philosophical and religious positions a sign of creaturely mutability and divine transcendence.  In short, Przywara wanted to show that Augustine is still with us.  Indeed, his ultimate aim is to show that modern dialectics not only trace back to Augustine as the real father of modernity, but are also overcome by him.  In this paper I will document Przywara’s approach in three parts:  first, I will discuss his view of phenomenology vis-a-vis Kantianism; secondly, I will discuss his reading of dialectical theology, especially of the early Barth; thirdly, I will elaborate his understanding of Augustine as the source and solution of modern dialectics.