Karl Rahner is one of the great theologians of the twentieth century, known for his systematic, foundationalist approach This bold and original book explores the relationship between his theology and his philosophy, and argues for the possibility of a nonfoundationalist reading of Rahner Karen Kilby calls into question both the admiration of Rahner s disciples for the overarching unity of his though, and the too easy dismissals of critics who object to his flawed philosophical staring point or to his supposedly modern and liberal appeal to experience Through a lucid and critical exposition of key texts including Spirit in the World and Hearer of the Word, and of themes such as the Vorgriff auf esse, the supernatural existential and the anonymous Christian, Karen Kilby reaffirms Rahner s significance for modern theology and offers a clear exposition of his thought


10 thoughts on “Karl Rahner: Theology and Philosophy

  1. Michelle Marvin Michelle Marvin says:

    Karen Kilby is an incredible authority on Karl Rahner Despite the complexity of her subject, she writes with great clarity, and her arguments progress in a very cogent manner That being said, I wouldn t recommend this book unless you have a serious interest in Karl Rahner, particularly in the philosophical background of his supernatural existential and vorgriff concepts For anyone studying Rahner, this book is a helpful critical lens for considering his work as a whole.


  2. Caleb Caleb says:

    Kilby aims to provide a non foundationalist reading of Rahner What she means by this is a reading of Rahner whereby his theology is not epistemologically based upon his philosophy She pursues this objective by a arguing that Rahner s transcendental argument fails as do transcendental arguments generally and b that Rahner s philosophy is, in key aspects, incompatible with his theology Does Kilby succeed In part, she does, by providing a compelling reading of Rahner s theology but by faili Kilby aims to provide a non foundationalist reading of Rahner What she means by this is a reading of Rahner whereby his theology is not epistemologically based upon his philosophy She pursues this objective by a arguing that Rahner s transcendental argument fails as do transcendental arguments generally and b that Rahner s philosophy is, in key aspects, incompatible with his theology Does Kilby succeed In part, she does, by providing a compelling reading of Rahner s theology but by failing to appreciate the role of Rahner s philosophy, she offers an equally one sided reading Kilby s critique of Rahner s philosophy centers upon the notion of the Vorgriff or pre apprehension of being Rahner argues that the use of concepts within judgments presuppose an implicit knowledge of the space of possibilities This knowledge allows the agent to appreciate the universality of concepts and their applicability to multiple objects According to Rahner, this an implicit knowledge of esse This argument fails, according to Kilby, because it either merely restates the problem or misses the point It restates the problem because it says that we understand universal concepts as applicable to multiple objects because we understand the space of possibilities in which such concepts can be applied to multiple objects It misses the point because it says we must know being in order to know that men can tall, short, fat, slim, etc I suggest that Kilby has failed to give Rahner a sufficiently charitable reading Given that Rahner s arguments could be statedclearly, what is promising in his approach Rahner offers a Thomist answer to the problems raised by Kant But it would be a mistake to suggest that Rahner is a Kantian This claim made frequently by Thomists misses the point Rahner should be read in the context of post Kantian Germany idealism Kant s problem was determining how it is that our thought is intentional, is about objects Kant framed this as a question of the condition of the possibility of experience but post Kantians, like Hegel, rejected the idea of a thing in itself, standing behind the experienced appearances, arguing that the notion of something that was causally inert and unknowable was indistinguishable from the notion of non being Thus the question within the post Kantian context is that of the relationship between subject and object Hegel argues that this is only possible insofar as as being and knowing are identical Hegel makes this argument in part by developing an early form of process theology Without rehashing these details, one can see that Rahner is essentially making a similar move, arguing that the subject is identical with or at least participates in being and only because of this are particular concepts capable of showing up at all But Rahner does this by employing a version of Thomism whereby God is not dependent upon the world and the subject s a priori is a participation in God s self knowledge of being in general In short, we are able to apply concepts because a reality is a partial self expression of God s self knowledge and b we possess the concept of esse, as a concept that implicitly contains all other concepts Thus our knowledge is a matter of making explicit the implicit distinctions in the concept of being, and our knowledge is of reality because this concept and reality share a similar source in God s self knowledge Why is a picture such as this plausible It avoids both the radical anti realism of deflationary readers of Hegel such as Pippen and Pinkard, and it avoids Hegel s heterodox theology What advantage does it have over Thomism It explains the nature of the agent intellect and its function and it responds to rather than rejects Kant s questions concerning the intentionality of our concepts While my brief sketch cannot do justice to Rahner s philosophy, an adequate reading of Rahner ought to dothan dismiss his philosophy Concerning the second point above, while Kilby has show that there is some tension within Rahner s thought, it seems very likely that Rahner s philosophy and theology can be harmonized to a much greater degree Finally what has Kilby done well She has shown that there are theological reasons for adopting Rahner s transcendental philosophy But she is mistaken to think that the plausibility of such theological arguments can be completely separated from the plausibility of Rahner s philosophy As such, we are still waiting for a compelling reconstruction of Rahner s philosophy that draws upon recent work by Sebastian R dl, John McDowell, among others


  3. David Mosley David Mosley says:

    A short and concise introduction, not so much to the thought, but to the person of Karl Rahner While not personally attracted to Rahner the theologian, this brief introduction has renewed my interest in Rahner the person If you have any interest in Karl Rahner, Kilby s 82 page introduction is an excellent place to start.


  4. Adam Shaeffer Adam Shaeffer says:

    A good, concise intro to Karl Rahner, the author and the man Kilby has done an excellent job of peaking my interest in Rahner s work and I look forward to investigatingof his thoughts and writings.