Interrogating Modernity: Debates with Hans Blumenberg
Interrogating Modernity returns to Hans Blumenberg's epochal The Legitimacy of the Modern Age as a springboard to interrogate questions of modernity, secularisation, technology and political legitimacy in the fields of political theology, history of ideas, political theory, art theory, history of philosophy, theology and sociology. That is, the twelve essays in this volume return to Blumenberg's work to think once more about how and why we should value the modern. Written by a group of leading international and interdisciplinary researchers, this series of responses to the question of the modern put Blumenberg into dialogue with other twentieth, and twenty-first century theorists, such as Arendt, Bloch, Derrida, Husserl, Jonas, Latour, Voegelin, Weber and many more. The result is a repositioning of his work at the heart of contemporary attempts to make sense of who we are and how we’ve got here.
Reading with and against Blumenberg’s The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, and following his own account of the epochal shift from the Middle Ages to modernity, this chapter takes up the genealogy and the political theology of Blumenbergian modernity so as to reanimate its relevance for contemporary theory. Beginning with the shared opposition to Gnosticism found in both Christianity and modernity, we trace the emergence of modernity as creating a “counterworld” of possibility in the face of the alienation engendered by medieval nominalist ideas of God’s absolute transcendence and hiddenness. In modernity, the world becomes sovereign: the modern world positions—and reproduces—itself as a sovereign and transcendent totality of possibility that its subjects must endlessly work to actualize, thus creating new operations and legitimations of domination. We conclude by outlining a programme of thinking what is constitutively foreclosed by Blumenberg’s modernity: an immanence alien to this Christian-modern apparatus of transcendence and possibility, a life for disorder and against the world.