The Concept of Legitimacy and Its Place in the Debate between Schmitt, Löwith and Blumenberg over Modernity

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Associate Professor, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 PhD in Political Science, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran



The concept of crisis is rooted in German intellectual tradition, and has a long history that can be traced back to the reactions of Romantic thinkers to the philosophical ideas of Immanuel Kant. This enduring concept—as a byproduct of Kantian philosophy and Romanticism—persisted throughout the 19th century and reached its zenith in the early 20th century, and coincided with the burgeoning modernity and modernism. Carl Schmitt and Karl Löwith were the two prominent advocates of the idea of crisis during the 20th century, and presented a criticism of the fundamental principles of modernity and questioned its legitimacy by using the secularization thesis as their primary interpretive tool. The main objective of this essay is to reconstruct the debate between Carl Schmitt, Karl Löwith, and Hans Blumenberg on the legitimacy of the modern age and present an argument in its defense as Blumenberg might have done.
The Romantic scholars’ reaction to Kant, which underlies much of the concept of crisis, was shaped by their dissatisfaction with what they perceived as Kant's overly rationalistic philosophy. Romantics championed a worldview that emphasized emotion, nature, and the sublime, which they saw as neglected by Kant's emphasis on reason. This led to a period of intellectual crisis that lingered and evolved as the result of subsequent philosophical developments and social changes. Schmitt and Löwith in their unique ways viewed the advent of modernity as a crisis. Schmitt as a political theorist and jurist saw the crisis in the transition from the traditional forms of governance and social organization to the modern liberal democratic rule. For Schmitt, the essence of this crisis lay in the perceived loss of political unity and authority, which he saw as being undermined by the pluralism and individualism of modern democratic societies.
This essay will follow the intellectual journey of these three thinkers, shedding light on their debates about the legitimacy of the modern period, and will present a defense of Blumenberg's interpretation, arguing that the secularization thesis and the associated concept of crisis rely on a form of historical substantialism. This substantialism, which views historical periods as homogenous entities with essential characteristics is problematic. It oversimplifies the complex historical processes involved in the transition to modernity and neglects the heterogeneity and dynamism within each historical period. In conclusion, the authors will argue that the defense of the modern age, as Blumenberg elaborates, is not only possible but necessary. It will challenge the foundational assumptions of Schmitt and Löwith's critiques, arguing for a more nuanced understanding of modernity that acknowledges its complexity and dynamism and recognizes its unique legitimacy. This defense will proceed on the thesis that Schmitt and Löwith's discussion, which explains modernity according to the secularization thesis, involves a kind of historical substantialism which is apparently unjustifiable.


Main Subjects

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    ج) آلمانی

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