ABOUT THIS BOOK
In the most wide-ranging history of phenomenology since Herbert Spiegelberg’s The Phenomenological Movement over fifty years ago, Baring uncovers a new and unexpected force—Catholic intellectuals—behind the growth of phenomenology in the early twentieth century, and makes the case for the movement’s catalytic intellectual and social impact.
Of all modern schools of thought, phenomenology has the strongest claim to the mantle of “continental” philosophy. In the first half of the twentieth century, phenomenology expanded from a few German towns into a movement spanning Europe. Edward Baring shows that credit for this prodigious growth goes to a surprising group of early enthusiasts: Catholic intellectuals. Placing phenomenology in historical context, Baring reveals the enduring influence of Catholicism in twentieth-century intellectual thought.
Converts to the Real argues that Catholic scholars allied with phenomenology because they thought it mapped a path out of modern idealism—which they associated with Protestantism and secularization—and back to Catholic metaphysics. Seeing in this unfulfilled promise a bridge to Europe’s secular academy, Catholics set to work extending phenomenology’s reach, writing many of the first phenomenological publications in languages other than German and organizing the first international conferences on phenomenology. The Church even helped rescue Edmund Husserl’s papers from Nazi Germany in 1938. But phenomenology proved to be an unreliable ally, and in debates over its meaning and development, Catholic intellectuals contemplated the ways it might threaten the faith. As a result, Catholics showed that phenomenology could be useful for secular projects, and encouraged its adoption by the philosophical establishment in countries across Europe and beyond.
Baring traces the resonances of these Catholic debates in postwar Europe. From existentialism, through the phenomenology of Paul Ricoeur and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, to the speculative realism of the present, European thought bears the mark of Catholicism, the original continental philosophy.
Baring has achieved something very significant…Not just a story of ideas…but a story of how ideas spread across the boundaries between national communities or between secular and Catholic thought.
-- Sarah Shortall Commonweal
An important book that should appear on the shelves of every serious scholar committed to the study of either of its chosen fields.
-- Jeffrey Bloechl Theological Studies
Brilliantly conceived…By showing how Catholicism nourished the roots of modern European philosophy, Baring sheds invaluable light on ongoing discussions of the persistence of Christianity in a not-so-secular age.
-- Brandon Bloch Church History
A story of thought as an inter-personal, inter-institutional happening, where events of thinking take place between works, between thinkers…Baring tells continental philosophy’s church history.
-- Elad Lapidot Phenomenological Reviews
An impressive work that combines a broad scope and fluent, accessible style with the kind of deep detail usually confined to specialist studies.
-- Clare Carlisle Times Literary Supplement
Socrates modestly described himself as a midwife, helping others to give birth to a wisdom that was their own. The analogy springs to mind when reading this fascinating, well-researched and imaginative book by Edward Baring. His aim is to show something both striking and unexpected: that Catholicism is ‘the single most important explanation’ for the international success of phenomenology.
-- Maximilian de Gaynesford The Tablet
[A] very rich book…It is both profound and sweeping in its scope; it is almost a history of twentieth-century philosophy.
-- Jude P. Dougherty Review of Metaphysics
Baring’s history of phenomenology is itself phenomenological in its attention to hundreds of dramas of belief, the outcomes of which—contextualized but not determined by the Catholic Church—helped imprint the continental philosophy of the twentieth century with the strangeness of their unforeseen patterns…[A] rich, deeply researched book.
-- Martyn Wendell Jones Hedgehog Review
An exemplary model of the scholarship that is so needed in continental philosophy of religion: historically and philosophically learned, attuned as much to archives as to arguments. It is accessible without being simplistic, driven by narrative without sacrificing detail.
-- Vincent Lloyd Journal of the American Academy of Religion
A scholarly achievement of the highest order…a profoundly original and painstakingly detailed history of the shared conceptual spaces of phenomenology and Catholic thought…Successfully lay[s] out a genealogy of continental philosophy that spans (and indeed, calls into question) the separation of sacred and secular…As much a normative attempt to resolve a host of philosophical and theological disputes as it is a work of transnational intellectual history…Converts to the Real is a work of great erudition.
-- Piotr H. Kosicki Journal of Modern History
Well-written and direct, Converts to the Real is bold and well worth reading by all interested in philosophy or Catholicism.
-- Graham McAleer Law & Liberty
Excellent and exhaustively researched…A major contribution to the history of European philosophy in the 20th century, and of phenomenology more particularly.
Converts to the Real tells an intriguing, valuable, and timely story about the religious leanings of European phenomenology, especially with respect to its associations with Neo-Scholasticism and the Catholic Church. Baring has done impressive archival research to create a narrative with considerable detail. An excellent book.
-- Kevin Hart, University of Virginia
The virtues of Edward Baring’s superb book are many. Converts to the Real demonstrates the importance of phenomenology—typically viewed as a philosopher’s philosophy—not only for twentieth-century European intellectual life but for key social and political trends as well. Its great achievement is to merge two contemporary histories by showing how transformations in modern Catholic thought turned phenomenology into the continental philosophy.
-- Michael Gubser, author of The Far Reaches: Phenomenology, Ethics, and Social Renewal in Central Europe
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part I: Neo-Scholastic Conversions: 1900–1930
1. The Struggle for Legitimacy:
Neo-Scholasticism and Phenomenology
2. Betrayal: Husserl’s Transcendental Turn and the Idealism / Realism Debate
3. An Ecumenical Atheism: Martin Heidegger’s Existential Phenomenology
4. The Vital Faith of Max Scheler
Part II: Existential Journeys: 1930–1940
5. Christian Existentialism across Europe
6. The Cartesian Thomist
7. The Secular Kierkegaard
8. The Black Nietzsche
Part III: Catholic Legacies: 1940–1950
9. Saving the Husserl Archives
10. Postwar Phenomenology