Volume 14, Issue 2, Spring 2010
David J. Kangas
Luther and Modernity
Reiner Schürmann’s Topology of the Modern in Broken Hegemonies
Prevailing philosophical genealogies of modernity trace its origin to Descartes’s metaphysics of representation. This is true of both Hegel and Heidegger. By contrast, Reiner Schürmann’s Broken Hegemonies links modernity to the theological thinking of Martin
Luther. I ask what is at stake philosophically in this difference. What Schürmann’s reading shows is that, under the figure of a passive transcendentalism, Luther inaugurates the epoch in which self-consciousness reigns as an ultimate principle. The broader importance
of Schürmann’s reading is to identify a “recessed” and “obedient” side of modernity—a side tragically and covertly linked to its more familiar self-assertive side. Schürmann’s resituating of modernity allows a crucial corrective to many contemporary efforts at a critique
of the modern. In particular, it suggests that to restrict one’s critique of modernity to the critique of representational or egological consciousness (as happens for example in Heidegger, Levinas and Marion) is to run the risk of a repetition of its obedient, recessed side.