Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Faith and Value: Heinrich Rickert's Theory of Religion

Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Faith and Value: Heinrich Rickert's Theory of Religion

Article excerpt

The work of Heinrich Rickert (1863-1936), standard-bearer of the "Baden" or "South-west German" school of neo -Kantianism, exercised a profound influence on generations of theorists in a host of disciplines. Martin Heidegger, in philosophy, Max Weber and Georg Simmel, in sociology, and Ernst Troeltsch, in theology, were all deeply indebted to Rickert in various ways.1 Yet, like most of the German neo-Kantians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Rickert's work has largely passed into oblivion. There are, however, signs of a growing revival of interest in these figures. Work has begun on a critical edition of Rickert's works.2 A recent issue of the journal Fichte-Studien was devoted to the question of the reception of Fichte's work by the neo-Kantians, particularly by Rickert.3 Two substantial collections of essays by leading scholars in the field have also appeared.4 It would seem that the neo-Kantians in general, and Rickert in particular, are finally getting the attention that they deserve.

The aim of this essay is to contribute to this encouraging trend by examining an aspect of Rickert's work that has been largely undiscussed up till now. The majority of the interest in Rickert has revolved around his work in the philosophy of science, leaving his philosophy of religion for the most part untouched. The only significant exceptions to this rule are two essays by Hans-Ludwig Ollig, which discuss not only Rickert's work, but that of other significant members of the neo-Kantian school.5 In both of these valuable studies, Ollig focuses on the later period of Rickert's work. However, Ollig does not examine Rickert's earlier work on religion, nor does he situate Rickert's theory of religion within his larger theory of values (Wertslehre). These latter are essential elements of his overall theory, and require their own independent treatment.

My discussion will proceed in three stages. First, I will show how Rickert's theory of value, of which his philosophy of religion forms an integral part, is ultimately motivated by the problem of world-view, i.e., the problem of a unified, theoretically grounded system that is able to provide an account of the meaning of human life. With this in mind, Rickert challenges other interpretations of religious phenomena, and intimates the significance of religion for the more general problem of world-views. Second, I will examine Rickert's conception of religion as part of his theory of values, as found in essays from the 1910s and the 1921 work, System der Philosophie. Finally, I will turn to Rickert's last published piece, from 1934. Here, Rickert argues that reason, driven by the imperative of completeness, necessarily points beyond itself to the domain of faith. That is, Rickert's project of grounding a world-view in a science of values can ultimately only be corapleted by a step beyond science and reason into the sphere of symbolism and metaphysics.

I. PHILOSOPHY AND WORLD-VIEW

In his writings before about 1910, Rickert's focus is on the theory of history and the epistemology of the cultural sciences. Religion, as well as the larger problematic of world-view, play only peripheral roles in works such as the 1902 edition of Die Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung. Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, however, one can see a change in focus in Rickert's concerns. This is particularly evident from a number of programmatic essays, such as a 1910 essay tellingly entitled "Vom Begriff der Philosophie." Rickert's new orientation is advertised by the claim that philosophy is driven by what one might term the "world-view imperative," i.e., the demand to contribute to or to ground a comprehensive orientation for human action and thought.6 A world-view is designed to provide us with a coherent understanding of the "meaning [Sinn]" or significance of our lives. Philosophy, which takes the world as a whole to be its object, must address the issue of world-view. …

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