Think about love and live accordingly

What is the mission of philosophy? Is it about understanding the world better or knowing yourself? Thomas Aquinas said, “One does not philosophize in order to know what people mean, but in order to see the truth of things.” Meaning: Philosophy refers to a particular system of being. It does not construct reality, but it enters an already existing reality and opens up to it in thought. In Christianity, this reality is called “creation.” Down to its best ramifications, it is a mirror image of its Creator, who manifests himself there and gives and transmits, above all, to the human being who hopes for his free answer. In this sense, philosophy lives mainly from listening and receiving, and from giving thanks and devotion to the truth. It is ultimately a pattern of that love, as Augustine says, “truth triumphs.”

The unity of education, life, faith and reason,
To be a Christian and to be a human being is Ulrich’s legacy of philosophy.”

Few have applied this vision consistently in their thinking and life as Ferdinand Ulrich (1931-2020), who served as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Education (later University) Regensburg and for many years as a Visiting Professor at the University of Philosophy taught at Regensburg Munich.

Ulrich quotes St. Thomas Aquinas in the preface to his first and most important work, Deep Man. The Danger of the Question of Being” (1961). Hans Urs von Balthasar immediately recognized the genius of the 25-year-old and published it, like all other books, in the Johannes Publishing House. In Germany, Ulrich has remained largely an insider’s advice to this day and has worked exceptionally well. Essential through personal encounters.In the USA, David C. Schindler has recently translated “Homo Abyssus” into English, making it accessible to a younger generation of scholars who have rediscovered this original philosophy and continued to fruitfully develop it in many different ways.

His thinking is a combination of faith and reason

Schindler calls Ulrich’s thinking “speculative Thomism.” On the other hand, he is rooted in that synthesis of faith and reason, which Thomas Aquinas presented with unparalleled mastery, and lives in constant dialogue with his teachings of Being, which were developed from the concept of Being – the participation or gift of Being. . On the other hand, in this dialogue with Thomas, Ulrich includes the great currents of modern philosophy: German idealism, whose pseudo-theological structure he clearly sees, especially in Hegel, as well as Karl Marx or Friedrich Nietzsche, where he sees prophetic figures and their criticism of religion negatively proves the truth of Christianity .

With this unique overview, Ulrich succeeded in shedding light on classical metaphysics, often accused of being too closed and abstract, and in making anthropology transparent. For him, man is the actual “subject” of the question of existence. Existence is (in the words of Thomas) not a third thing between God and man, but it is given to man unconditionally as “an parable of the goodness of God.” This freedom on the part of the giver corresponds to freedom on the part of the recipient: man can accept or reject the gift and therefore God himself. In this inevitable decision to open or close to communion with God’s love, Ulrich sees the “abyss” of human freedom, which provides the title of his main work: “Abyss: id est homo – Hades, i.e. man,” as stated in Augustine’s commentary on the Psalms.

Thoughts with consequences in life

“Abyssal” are the many false ways of reason and life in which man distances himself from God; So Ulrich read the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and devotes a great interpretation to it (“The Gift and Forgiveness”, 2006). The “immemorial” is also the being itself, which God has given to man and made him so limited and separate that he is “nothing” to himself and exists only in concrete things. “Existence is complete and simple, but has no living of its own” – Ulrich devoted all the work of his life to this insightful vision of St. Thomas. And here lies to him the “truth of things”: the greatness of the gift itself appears in the lack of possession of its gift, its richness in poverty, and its perfection in the uselessness of God’s love.

One might suspect that such a philosophy, which explains existence as love, is not without consequences for one’s way of life. For those who think in this way, it means immersion in that being who gives himself completely to the other and can also be rejected and rejected by them. The “acceptance” of this thinking is not limited to academic discourse, but continues “with its flesh and blood,” as Ulrich liked to say.

He wanted to be a living testimony to his knowledge

He realized this early on and stopped publishing new texts in the early 1980s. Since then, the center of his life has been prayer and spiritual accompaniment, in the living testimony of “being as love,” that is, “vain love (amor gratuitus),” as Augustine said – a love that gives itself to whom it meets, without expectations, without conditions.

This unity in education and life, between faith and reason, between being a Christian and being human is Ulrich’s legacy of philosophy. Ultimately, in his work he already foresaw what Pope John Paul II foresaw from future Christian thinking in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio: philosophy must contribute to showing that “man is capable of arriving at a unified and organic knowledge” in order to actually “contribute to the The inner unity of the people of today” (No. 85) against only “a fragmented approach to truth,” which leads to a “split of meaning.”


The author works at the Ferdinand Ulrich Archive in Passau.

– Works by Ferdinand Ulrich are featured on the Johannes-Verlag homepage.

“Atheism and Incarnation” are appropriate to arrive at Ulrich’s thinking.
“Man as a Beginning. In the Philosophical Anthropology of Childhood”
or “Life in the Unity of Life and Death” (all from Johannes-Verlag).

On Ulrich’s Philosophy: Stefan Oster: Being a Person Before God.
Theological Explorations with the Bishop of Passau, Freiburg 2015, 43-105
As well as Bishop Auster’s lecture “Reflection on (in) Love”.

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