It is What I Have Been Saying: Tillich

April 12, 2024
Paul Tillich,  in 1944, spoke to the history of Existential Thought (attached below). Incredibly, it is exactly what I have stated in the one paragraph below. It is what I have been saying for the last two years, for those who I have sought attention from, and I have been treated like shit with their […]

Paul Tillich,  in 1944, spoke to the history of Existential Thought (attached below). Incredibly, it is exactly what I have stated in the one paragraph below. It is what I have been saying for the last two years, for those who I have sought attention from, and I have been treated like shit with their silence (I explain this below). The idiocy of political decision-makers, setting rationalism against existential thought arguments, in (attempting-but-falsely) legitimate corrupt thought patterns of politics.




After this striking emergence of Existential philosophy in the fifth decade of the nineteenth century, the impulse of the movement subsided; it was replaced by Neokantian idealism or naturalistic empiricism. Feuerbach and Marx were interpreted as dogmatic materialists, Kierkegaard remained completely unknown, Schelling’s latest period was buried with a few contemptuous sentences in the textbooks on the history of philosophy. But a new impulse to “Existential” thinking came from the “Lebensphilosophie” or “Philosophy of Life” of the eighteen-eighties. During this decade appeared Nietzsche’s most important works. In 1883 Dilthey published his Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften; Bergson’s Essai sur les Donnees Immédiates de la Conscience came out in 1889. The “Philosophy of Life” is not identical with Existential philosophy. But if we understand the latter in a larger sense — as for historical and systematic reasons we must — then the “Philosophy of Life” includes most of the distinctive motives of Existential philosophy. Accordingly, I should also assign certain features of pragmatism, especially of William James’ thought, to this philosophy of Existence as immediately experienced.



The third and contemporary form of Existential philosophy has resulted from a combination of this ” Philosophy of Life ” with Husserl’s shift of emphasis from existent objects to the mind that makes them its objects, and with the rediscovery of Kierkegaard and of the early developments of Marx. On the one hand Heidegger’ and Jaspers, on the other the Existential interpretation of history found in German “Religious Socialism,” are the main representatives of this third period of the philosophy of experienced Existence.





Tillich then goes onto to provide his own Neo-Orthodoxy Christian realist approach in the new stage (as it then was) of Existential Thought, But, the American culturally-designed political realism, as described by Tillich, does not save those rationalised stupidity of those set political rationalised arguments against existential-based solutions from being anything but intellectual stupidity.





In the third and late 20th century form of Existential philosophy, Tillich first examines the methodological foundations of the philosophy of essentia and existentia. The key thought here is “The Unconditioned cannot be conditioned by a difference between its essence and its existence.” Tillich examines Hegel’s doctrine of essence and existence. The key thought here is that (from Hegel):




“Essence necessarily appears.” It transforms itself into existence. Existence is the being of essence, and therefore existence can be called “essential being.” Essence is existence, it is not distinguished from its existence.




This does not help the political decision-makers at all in their rationalisation. Tillich then moves to the third step. The argument against the rationalisation is girted by both the post-Hegelian philosophers and the phenomenologists. It is a compatibilist set of different solutions among the inclusive set of existential philosophers. The key thought that the thinkers falsely claimed in the political rhetoric: “Nature is the fall of the Idea,” which is the underlying philosophy of politicians in thinking “a real, non-dialectical event, or [“his”; such] terminology is meaningless.” Of course, Tillich pointed out that as a fallacy, not merely via Marxism but of the whole history of continental philosophy, very much including anti-Marxist political stances (that last comment is for the “dickheads” who still want to aggressively wage culture-history warfare; have you ever had a boss who spoke in such language as the “dismissal“: meaning a comment which indicates no understanding of the precise issue at hand? Fortunately, I have not, but I am underemployed, not contract, or unemployed in the present…no opportunity in the present, and was not the case in the past…I had intelligent employers).




Tillich then (fourth step) explains the political/philosophical “philosophy of essence”. His fifth step tells why the political  “a priori empiricism” fails when troubled, and after failing at the rationalisation of “sense empiricism”. Tillich legitimatises the metaphysics but not the populist, and, stupid-thinking, the  simplistic empiricism.




To escape the stupidity, Tillich then describes the methodology of “The Existential Thinker” (sixth step): passion and ideas. The twist, which must not be so simplistically misunderstood by the political decision-makers in Feuerbach’s own projection thought:




“Do not wish to be a philosopher in contrast to being a man . . . do not think as a thinker. . . think as a living, real being . … think in Existence.” Love is passion, and only passion is the mark of Existence.” In order to unite this attitude with the demand for objectivity, he says: “Only what is as an object of passion-really is.” The passionately living man [let’s say “person”, Feuerbach-Tillich] knows the true nature of man [let’s say “person”, Feuerbach-Tillich] and life.




And then Tillich come to the real challenge for all of us (including myself):




“The Existential thinker cannot have pupils in the ordinary sense. He cannot communicate any ideas, because they are just not the truth he wants to teach. He can only create in his pupil by indirect communication that ‘Existential state’ or personal experience out of which the pupil may think and act. Kierkegaard carries out this interpretation for Socrates. But all Existential philosophers have made similar statements-naturally, for if the approach to Existence is through personal experience, the only possibility of educating is to bring the pupil by indirect methods to a personal experience of his own Existence.’ [emphasis added for those Queensland educationalist political decision-makers who are “slow” at reading, and not in the sense of David Mikics’ Slow Reading in a Hurried Age (2013); Mikics is actually saying what I am talking about as a criticism of the slow reading of Queensland educationalist political decision-makers]




Yes, the political decision-makers refuse to contract or employ me because it is not in their personal experience to do so. They are politically and mentally stuck.




Thus, Tillich comes to his final two section with another set of key thoughts on the:



  • existential immediacy and the subject-object distinction,
  • Psychological and ontological concept,
  • the principle of Finitude,
  • time as “Existential” or immediately experienced, and Time as measure,
  • History viewed in the light of the future,
  • Finitude and estrangement,
  • Finitude and loneliness.




This is too much for “amateur” politicians to read. But one point I will make here. From Heidegger, Tillich states: “Temporality is the genuine meaning of Care,”  and Care is finite Existence. This is the very point I have been making the last few years, and where I have been treated like shit in the silence of the political decision-makers:- if I have to spell it out: there is a refuse to acknowledge the truth of my “very point”; no communication, no communicative action. In their individual minds they think of something by which to dismiss me as a person, and dismiss my criticism, by failing to admit to themselves that they (each) do not understand (Verständnis).




What Tillich argued in 1944 is what I been saying 2019-2024. In his concluding remarks, Tillich says:




  • This unity can be described in both negative and positive term;
  • What all philosophers of Existence oppose is the ‘rational’ system of thought and life developed by Western industrial society and its philosophic representatives;
  • If the experience of this level of living is ‘mystical,’ Existential philosophy can be called the attempt to reconquer the meaning of life in “mystical” terms after it had been lost in ecclesiastical as well as in positivistic terms. [This is Tillich’s key theological argument, but it can be accepted as a ‘secular’ metaphysical argument];
  • Historically speaking, the Existential philosophy attempts to return to a pre-Cartesian attitude, to an attitude in which the sharp gulf between the subjective and the objective ‘realms’ had not yet been created, and the essence of objectivity could be found in the depth of subjectivity-in which God [let’s take that as a metaphor, Tillich] could be best approached through the soul [let’s take that as one of Charles Sanders Peirce‘s signs]; and
  • It is the desperate struggle to find a new meaning of life in a reality from which men [again, Tillich, persons please] have been estranged, in a cultural situation in which two great traditions, the Christian and the humanistic [let’s say all institutional systems, Tillich], have lost their comprehensive character and their convincing power.








Tillich, Paul (1944). Existential PhilosophyJournal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Jan., 1944), pp. 44-70




NOTE: If you’re unhappy about receiving the series of posts. All you have to do is 1) immediately offer me a paid contract and keep that promise, or 2) agree to have a lunch meeting with me, and carry-out the said lunch meeting to discuss any and all of these issues. The third option is up to you to propose.




Featured Image: Paul Tillich (1886-1965)






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Neville Buch (Pronounced Book) Ph.D. is a certified member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). Since 2010 he has operated a sole trade business in history consultancy. He was a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow 2014-2015 at the State Library of Queensland. Dr Buch was the PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin, the monthly state association’s electronic publication, and was a member of its Management Committee. He is the Managing Director of the Brisbane Southside History Network.
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