Karl Löwith. Meaning in History (1949)

Karl Löwith (1897-1973)

More intelligent than the superior vision of philosophers and theologians is the common sense of the natural man and the uncommon sense of the Christian believer. Neither pretends to discern on the canvas of human history the purpose of God or of the  historical process itself. They rather seek to set men free from the world’s oppressive history by suggesting an attitude, either of skepticism or of faith, which is rooted in an experience certainly nurtured by history but detached from and surpassing it, and thus enabling man to endure it with mature resignation or with faithful expectation. Religious faith is so little at variance with skepticism that both are rather united by their common opposition to the presumptions of a settled knowledge. One can, indeed, as Hume suggested, erect “religious faith on philosophical skepticism”; but the history of religious and irreligious skepticism has not yet been written. A man who lives by thought must have his skepticism — literally, a passion for search — which may end in upholding the question as question or in answering it by transcending his doubt through faith. The skeptic and the believer have a common cause against the easy reading of history and its meaning. Their wisdom, like all wisdom, consists not the least in disillusion and resignation, in freedom from illusions and presumptions.

Meaning in History (PDF)


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