Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Charles Guignon


Being, Future, Hermeneutics, Progress, Secularization, Teleology


The topic of eschatology is generally confined to the field of theology. However, the subject has influenced many other fields, such as politics and history. This dissertation examines the question why eschatology remained a topic of discussion within twentieth century philosophy. Concepts associated with eschatology, such as the end of time and the hope of a utopian age to come, remained largely background assumptions among intellectuals in the modern age. Martin Heidegger, Nicolai Berdyaev, and Hans Blumenberg, however, explicitly addressed the subject in their philosophies. The impetus of this study is Heidegger's statement, "Being itself is inherently eschatological," which indicates the centrality of the subject in his understanding of Being. This statement led to the question whether eschatology played a larger role in Western thought. It also raised the question concerning the relationship between eschatology and other philosophical subjects such as teleology. Because of the multitude of assumptions concerning the meaning of eschatology, Chapter One provides essential working definitions. In order to obtain a sufficient understanding of the topic and address the use of the term among the three philosophers, it was necessary to see how eschatology was understood and acted upon in Western thought. Chapter Two addresses the history of eschatology in the West and concludes that there are two general streams of eschatological thought that explains why it continued to remain a subject for contemporary philosophers. Chapters Three through Five address how eschatology was used by Heidegger, Berdyaev, and Blumenberg respectively. Each utilized the subject in different ways: for Heidegger eschatology constitutes Dasein's existence. Futurity ("forward-directedness") is a condition Dasein as a totality. Dasein is "being-toward-the-end" or "toward-death." Berdyaev combines the eschatological tradition with philosophical achievements and offers an "eschatological metaphysics." He distinguishes eschatology from teleology arguing against teleology, noting that only a "personalist" eschatology can solve the problems of dualism and objectification. Blumenberg differs from Heidegger and Berdyaev by offering a negative evaluation of eschatological belief in the West contending that the modern secular age is the result of a failed eschatology. The conclusion of this work follows Charles Taylor's contention in A Secular Age that "our sense of where we are is crucially defined in part by a story of how we got there." The conclusion is that eschatology, throughout most of Western thought, functioned largely as a background assumption for understanding time and history. The transition from the linear concept of time to a cyclical concept defines in part the modern secular age. The notion of future time is an important and often neglected dimension of hermeneutic understanding. The continued influence of eschatological thought in Western history explains why the philosophers under consideration in this work address eschatology and signals that its influence upon philosophical thought is not likely to diminish in the future.