Ferdinand Ulrich’s philosophy is remarkable for two reasons. First, it is one of the most profound meditative inquiries into the meaning of being in the twentieth century. This inquiry is what may be called a “speculative interpretation” of the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas, above all in dialogue with two of the greatest philosophers of the modern era, namely, Hegel and Heidegger. Second, Ulrich undertakes this reflection on the meaning of being explicitly in the light of Christian revelation. Nevertheless, according to Hans Urs von Balthasar, he “stands face-to-face with the innermost mysteries of Christian revelation and opens them up without ever departing from the strictly philosophical realm. He therefore overcomes the disastrous dualism between philosophy and theology perhaps better than anyone before him.” Not only does Ulrich attempt to elucidate the meaning of being on the basis of the generic “divine,” or even of “God,” simply, but in fact he draws on the revelation of the supernatural realities of the Trinity, the Church, the Eucharist, Mary, and so forth. In this respect, his work represents one of the boldest examples of “Christian philosophy” in modern history.
This course consists of a careful reading of Ulrich’s Homo Abyssus, which was one of his earliest publications (it appeared originally in 1961, and was a lightly revised version of his Habilitation) and has remained the metaphysical foundation for all of his other writings. We will begin the course with a reading of Hegel’s understanding of being and the beginning of philosophy, as he lays it out in the first section of his Science of Logic, and of Heidegger’s 1955 essay, “On the Question of Being.” These two texts are essential reference points for Ulrich’s own reflection on the meaning of being and engagement with modern philosophy. The rest of the course will be a slow working through of Ulrich’s text, based on a translation that is currently in preparation.