The eschatological turn in German philosophy

Journal article

Wolfe, Judith. (2019). The eschatological turn in German philosophy. Modern Theology. 35(1), pp. 55-70.
AuthorsWolfe, Judith

This article argues that modern European philosophy was significantly shaped by the transposition of eschatology from a theological into a philosophical register. By ‘eschatology’, I here mean thought about the ‘last things’ as they relate to present systems of life and action; and about those systems as determined, at least in part, by their end. I take as my starting point the claim that the scepticism regarding revelation that was such a central characteristic of the Enlightenment did not eradicate the importance of eschatology as a structuring frame of historical and moral thought, but merely changed it. Modern theologians and philosophers tended to shift the ground of eschatology from revelation to the inner logic of a system; eschatology was seen as legitimated by, and in turn legitimating, the shape of a given philosophical account of history. The questions and challenges arising from this shift were important drivers of early twentieth-century European philosophy. This article works out this claim through indicative accounts of several large debates of early twentieth-century philosophies of history and of politics as contestations about the meaning of eschatology: the crisis of historicism, the rise of existentialism, and the surge of political religions. It concludes with a discussion of Martin Heidegger’s eschatological thought of the 1930s, illuminated by the recent publication of his Black Notebooks.

JournalModern Theology
Journal citation35 (1), pp. 55-70
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Ltd
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85057179401
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range55-70
Publisher's version
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online23 Nov 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited25 Nov 2021
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