Gert-Jan van der HeidenCorresponding authorORCID id

The Christian Experience of Life and the Task of Phenomenology
Heidegger on Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, and Descartes

26/2 – Fall 2021, pages 207-226
Date of online publication: 30 December 2021
Date of publication: 30 December 2021


It is well-known that the early Heidegger offers important reflec- tions on the Christian experience of life in his accounts of Saint Paul and Saint Augustine. Yet, what is the systematic meaning of Heidegger’s phenomenology of religion? This essay aims to discuss this question by connecting themes from Die Phänomenologie des religiösen Lebens to Heidegger’s attempt to provide his own version of phenomenology in Einführung in die phänomenologische Forschung. Heidegger’s position with respect to Husserl’s phenomenology becomes clearer, I argue, when his problematization of the onto-theological structures he discerns at the heart of the philosophers he discusses, such as Descartes and Augustine, is taken into account and when it is shown how the phenomenology of religion exceeds the boundaries of a phenomenology that studies consciousness alone. In fact, the explication of the (purified) Christian experience of life and the concep- tion of God at stake in this experience allows Heidegger to articulate a form of phenomenology purified from onto-theological tendencies.


Cite this article

van der Heiden, Gert-Jan. “The Christian Experience of Life and the Task of Phenomenology: Heidegger on Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, and Descartes.” Forum Philosophicum 26, no. 2 (2021): 207–26. doi:10.35765/forphil.2021.2602.03.


Arendt, Hannah. 1978. The Life of the Mind. 2 vols. London: Harcourt.
Augustine. 2014. Confessions. Translated by Carolyn J.-B. Hammond. Vol. I. Books 1–8. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
—. 2016. Confessions. Translated by Carolyn J.-B. Hammond. Vol. II. Books 9–13. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Campbell, Scott M. 2012. The Early Heidegger’s Philosophy of Life: Facticity, Being, and Language. New York: Fordham University Press.
Coyne, Ryan. 2011. “A Difficult Proximity: The Figure of Augustine in Heidegger’s Path.” The Journal of Religion 91 (3): 365–96.
—. 2015. Heidegger’s confessions. The remains of Saint Augustine in Being and Time and beyond. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Dahlstrom, Daniel. 2009. “Temptation, Self-Possession, and Resoluteness: Heidegger’s Reading of Confessions X and What Is the Good of Being and Time.” Research in Phenomenology 39 (2): 246–65.
Grondin, Jean. 2012. Introduction to Metaphysics: From Parmenides to Levinas. Translated by Lukas Soderstrom. New York: Columbia University Press.
Heidegger, Martin. 1971. On the Way to Language. Translated by Peter D. Hertz. New York: Harper and Row.
—. 1977. Sein und Zeit. Vol. GA 2. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann.
—. 1985. Unterwegs zur Sprache. Vol. GA 12. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann. 

—. 1993a. Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie (1919/20). Vol. GA 58. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann.

—. 1993b. Phänomenologie der Anschauung und des Ausdrucks: Theorie der philosophischen Begriffsbildung. Vol. GA 59. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann.

—. 1994. Einführung in die phänomenologische Forschung. Vol. GA 17. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann.

—. 1995. Phänomenologie des religiösen Lebens. Vol. GA 60. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann.

—. 2005. Introduction to Phenomenological Research. Translated by Daniel O. Dahlstrom. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

—. 2010a. Phenomenology of Intuition and Expression: Theory of Philosophical Concept Formation. Translated by Tracy Colony. London: Bloomsbury.

—. 2010b. The Phenomenology of Religious Life. Translated by Matthias Fritsch and Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

—. 2012. Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Translated by Scott Campbell. London: Bloomsbury.

van der Heiden, Gert-Jan. 2014. Ontology after Ontotheology: Plurality, Event, and Contingency in Contemporary Philosophy. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press.

—. 2017. “The Experience of Contingency and the Attitude to Life: Nietzsche and Hei- degger on Paul.” In Rethinking Faith: Heidegger between Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, edited by Antonio Cimino and Gert-Jan van der Heiden, 166–77. London: Bloomsbury.

—. 2018. Het uitschot en de geest: Paulus onder filosofen. Nijmegen: Vantilt.
van der Heiden, Gert-Jan van der, and George van Kooten. 2017. “Epilogue: Saint Paul and Philosophy—The Consonance of Ancient and Modern Thought.” In Saint Paul and Philosophy: The Consonance of Ancient and Modern Thought, edited by Gert-Jan van der Heiden, George van Kooten and Antonio Cimino, 325–45. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Kisiel, Theodore. 1993. The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Marion, Jean-Luc. 2004. Sur le prisme métaphysique de Descartes. 2 ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Vedder, Ben. 2006. Heidegger’s Philosophy of Religion: From God to the Gods. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press.