History and Theory 37 (1):69–82 (1998)

Written during the period of his emigration to the United States, during and just after World War II, the originality of Karl Löwith's book Meaning in History lies in its resolute critique of all forms of philosophy of history. This critique is based on the now famous idea that modern philosophies of history have only extended and deepened an illusion fabricated by a long tradition of Christian historical reflection: the illusion that history itself has an intrinsic goal. This modern extension and deepening of the chimera propagated by Christian historical reflection is what Löwith terms "secularization." Drawing on the arguments in Meaning in History as well as those proposed in other contemporaneous and earlier writings, including Löwith's heretofore unpublished correspondence with Leo Strauss, this article attempts to set in relief the frequently neglected, yet eminently political implications of Löwith's idea of secularization. Among the problems implicitly considered in relation to the theory of secularization in Meaning in History is a theme frequently addressed in earlier writings: the motives that led German intellectuals like Friedrich Gogarten, Martin Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt to adhere to the Nazi movement
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DOI 10.1111/1468-2303.00038
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