Tuesday 10 December 2013

Ferdinand Ebner (1882-1931)

I had first heard about Ferdinand Ebner from Massimiliano De Luca, a Salesian from the IME province. Ebner, Massimiliano told me, was known as the philosopher of the gift. I learn now that Ebner was, together with Buber, one of the philosophers of dialogue, of the I-Thou, something he discovered and coined quite independent of Buber. Ebner was a primary school teacher in Austria, and never became quite as well known as Buber, but it would seem that he did have a significant influence upon a host of well-known theologians, including Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger. So that is one more element in the background from which Ratzinger's work springs. In the sense that his thought was cognate to Christian theology, if not itself theological, Ebner is also mentioned together with Gabriel Marcel. He himself, though Christian and Catholic, had a complex relationship with the church, struggling with anti-clerical feelings all through life. He is known as a philosopher of the word, and much of his thinking centres around the Prologue of the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the word." (Wittgenstein instead played with this: Im Anfang war die Tat. In the beginning was the deed.) I find the little I have read strangely evocative. 

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