living through death

"The only way that you can accept life is if you can accept death.” –Leo Buscaglia

Tillich’s reason in existence

with 2 comments

The following is my graphical rendering of Paul Tillich’s analysis of actual reason within existence. We begin with a linear look at the pieces which he sees as being in both essential union, and existential conflict. Each of the three continua represent a dimension of reason. This analysis of what he calls “ontological reason” hearkens back to classical conceptions of reason. It may surprise some to see an emotional dimension within Tillich’s analysis; we are used to opposing emotion to reason, but this only serves to locate ourselves within a historic period where the formal dimension is given high priority. Is it any wonder we see popular “irrational” (emotional) reactionary movements?

The “isms” in parentheses indicate the defensive/reactionary modes each of these continua are capable of. It is the practice of isolating oneself within one pole or the other that leads to the actual destruction of reason. He argues that the struggles between these poles lead to the quest for their union, the quest for revelation.

It can be a fun exercise to locate the emphasis of your particular community, be it professional, religious or otherwise.

The following graphic is simply another way of looking at the same thing with an emphasis on making clear the ultimate unity of reason and the various relations that obtain in existence.


Written by Alex

August 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Theology

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. In the circle graph, could you explain what it is meant by “essential structure” and “in existence”.
    :). –Jeremy

    Jeremy tuholski

    August 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm

  2. Jeremy,
    You put your finger on a very important (and difficult) aspect of Tillich’s theology. Perhaps at this point it’s simply best to think in terms of union and estrangement. Reason in its essential form is the union of the static and dynamic dimensions, the emotional and formal dimensions, and the structural and depth dimensions.

    Essentially then, reason, though threatened by disruption and contradiction, is not disrupted, but in union. In existence, however, this potential disruption becomes actual; the various elements are estranged, and begin to war with each other. Tillich wants to say there is no real union in existence, although we strive for it.


    August 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

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