Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Brigitte Sassen




Heidegger defines onto-theology as a calculative form of thinking that reduces everything to an object or being on the basis of an absolute grounding term. God is called upon in onto-theology to be this highest term upon whom all other beings taken as a whole are grounded in their universal "Being". Historically, Onto-theology grounds the relationship between philosophy and theology on this system ofuniversal ontology that admits only sameness under the conditions of causality and sufficient reason. Heidegger calls for a "step back" from onto-theology into a mode of philosophical thinking that allows beings to appear on their own terms and that gives theology a relative degree of autonomy to treat the believer's existential relation to the Other. Jean-Luc Marion, on the other hand, rejects Heidegger's "philosophical" solution to onto-theology in favour of a radically "theological" one. Marion contends that the ontological concept itselfis the source of onto-theology and as such, it must be overcome in a mystical relation to the Wholly Other that accomplishes a radical reversal ofphilosophical thinking. Marion bolsters his theological project with a phenomenology of "givenness" that treats the paradox ofthe arrival of transcendence as philosophy's highest possibility.

In this project I trace the contours of Heidegger's and Marion's respective steps back from onto-theology and argue that Heidegger's earliest accounts of "facticallife" offer fruitful resources to expose a residual onto-theology in Marion's thought. I identify the deepest source of onto-theology to be any commitment to the absolute autonomy of theoretical thought vis-à-vis grounding commitments or worldview. Furthermore, I argue that Marion's step back from onto-theology is not only incomplete but perpetuates the philosophical view that ontology is necessarily or structurally violent. I conclude by sketching a program for a Christian philosophy that respects the relative autonomy of philosophy and theology as theoretical disciplines mutually existentially rooted in worldview. This retrieval respects the basic hermeneutical conditions of philosophizing even while it opens a space for Christian philosophy to express its own ontological assumptions about the subject's relation to the Wholly Other.

McMaster University Library

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