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(653 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
Deism designates a defective form of thought with regard to the relationship between God and the world. It reduces God’s function as ground of the world’s existence to his giving it its first impulse. According to the classical comparison of God with a clock-maker, which is found as early as Nicolaus of Oresmes (d. 1382), God wound up the clock of the world once and for all at the start, so that it can run on and produce world history without his creative conservation and his concurrent influenc…

Absolute and Contingent - The Contingent

(1,031 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
Part of Absolute and Contingent: 1. The Absolute 2. The Contingent 1. The concept of the contingent in philosophy is that of the accidental, that which does not exist by virtue of its essence. Hence, from the purely logical point of view, its actual existing has to its essence the relation of an accident (from accidere, ad-cadere), which “falls to” the lot of the essence “from outside”. In the broader sense of the term, the contingent stands for that “which can not be”. Thus it is the contradictory of the absolute and necessary, which cannot but be, …


(634 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
The dogmatic procedure, which is the exposition of certain structures of thought ( dogmata) without investigation of their intrinsic justification, is of itself legitimate. It is only when it is used in a field where it is not applicable that it becomes dogmatism and has a derogatory sense. 1. This occurs when the procedure is used in philosophy, whose essential function is to investigate its objects with regard to the ultimate grounds of their being and can only make responsible assertions on these terms. Its terms of reference do not includ…

God-World Relationship

(2,781 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
1. The relationship between God and the world can be understood in various ways: as a relationship of knowledge or being, between God and the world or between the world and God. In each case the significance and our certainty are different. The central problem today is the relationship of being (the real relation) between God arid the world. The introductory remarks about the other relationships lead up to this. a) The relationship of knowledge. In contrast to theology, philosophy is constituted by the fact that its knowledge ascends from the world to God. Basic notes…


(1,256 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
The influence of Descartes on the history of human thought cannot be restricted to the philosophy fashionable in France in the 17th century. Cartesianism is rather one of the sources and norms for the modern mentality in general. Today as in the past its assessment can vary between two extremes, according to whether one sees the basic tendencies of modern thought one-sidedly as either promise or decay. This is a sign of the perpetual relevance of Cartesianism, since it calls for a new estimation…


(2,891 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
1. The principle of identity. The identity of each thing with itself is taken to be the most simple and obvious principle of all logic and philosophy. Without the principle of identity (A = A) there could be no unambiguous and consistent thought and language. Nonetheless, identity is not an experience reflecting external objects. It is given in the self-experience of the human subject. In the consciousness of self, the Ego knows itself as the self which persists throughout all the changes which affe…

Absolute and Contingent - The Absolute

(1,928 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
Part of Absolute and Contingent: 1. The Absolute 2. The Contingent 1. The notion of the absolute is that of the unconditioned in general. The opposite notion is that of the relative. The absolute excludes entirely any dependence in its existence from anything else. This substantive use of the word means absoluteness of being, not merely an unconditioned validity or concept, which latter is called absolute if it does not imply a relation to something else. The absolute in general, being a singulare tantum, is more than the independence which may to a certain extent be attribute…


(1,863 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
The origin of the term “dialectic” (διαλέγεσθαι, “to discuss”, i.e., the for and against, thoroughly, by means of dialogue) points to the sphere of reasoning (λόγος, Spirit), but can have many shades, of meaning. We here examine (1) the early history of the term, (2) its main usage, as seen in Hegel, (3) the correctives to be applied to Hegel, with the resulting perspective of (4) a dialectic of freedom and (5) its theological significance. 1. Early history of the term. The history of the philosophical concept begins with Heraclitus's question: “How is that which differs fr…

Necessity - Philosophical

(679 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
Part of Necessity: 1. Philosophical 2. Moral Emergency The concept of necessity — in the sense of the absolutely necessary — is to be compared with its opposite, that of contingence. For further discussion of the historical and present-day problem, the article on Absolute and Contingent should be consulted. In this sense, the necessary transcends the opposition between freedom of choice and the determinism of physical necessity (either from without or from internal instinctive compulsions). It represents the supreme degree of the essential nec…


(4,504 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern | Jörg Splett
1. The problem of theodicy. It is not necessary to recall, much less demonstrate, that the world is stamped by misery and suffering, by evil in all its forms. There is no need therefore to “show the interest” of the question. It is an importunate one, today as ever at its most tormenting in the suffering of the innocent, especially what has been called the “absolute evil” of the suffering of children who are exposed to it not only inculpably but without even the possible defence of fleeing it. And t…