Sjoerd Griffioen

Winner Dissertation Prize 2021

Contested Modernity. Karl Löwith, Hans Blumenberg and Carl Schmitt and the German Secularization Debate.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. Lodi Nauta
Co-supervisor: Dr. Judith Vega
Nomination:  University of Groningen, Faculty of Philosophy

Report by the selection committee

This impressive dissertation offers a detailed reconstruction of the German secularization debate that took place between the fifties and eighties of the last century. In doing so, the author critically examines earlier, often narrowing interpretations of the debate, and develops an original and fruitful interpretation of his own. Due to its size and detail, the dissertation is not ‘a light read’, but the style is very clear and compelling. What contributes greatly to the quality of the thesis is that the author places his reconstruction in a broader context of historiography, theology and politics.

This interdisciplinary approach makes that the meaning of the thesis extends beyond the philosophical debate between the three protagonists. The author convincingly shows that the debate is a textbook example of the genre ‘Geistesgeschichte’ that links abstract philosophical theories with a historical representation of the past. The book is highly relevant for the interpretation of the current debate on secularization, (neo) liberalism and European Islam. The jury would eagerly look forward to this author’s future research to relate the reconstruction provided to the current manifestation of the contestation of modernity.