Archive for the ‘Tillich’ Category

The meaning of life as ‘ultimate concern’

October 10, 2008

Our ultimate concern is that which we worship most, that which is most important to us, that which we would sacrifice anything else for.

Here is Tillich on ultimate concern, from Ultimate Concern – Tillich in Dialogue by D. Mackenzie Brown

Student: Dr. Tillich, I feel that probably the basis of your whole philosophy is this “ultimate concern.” I am still not entirely clear, so far as I am concerned, as to what you mean by that term. Since it is so basic, could you explain further?

Dr. Tillich: You said, so far as you are concerned. Now immediately we have an example. You are concerned to a certain degree about following my ideas and going through this seminar. It is a problem for you. But it is not a question of which you would say that it is a matter of life and death — namely, of life in the ultimate sense of finding and actualizing the meaning of life. It is important, but not ultimately important. But the moment religion comes into the picture, then it is not a matter that is also important, or very important, or very, very important. For then nothing is comparable with it in importance. It is unconditionally important. That’s what ultimate concern means.

Student: Then you do not mean by ultimate concern anything that would transcend us? Can it be just something of everyday life? If we are willing to die for it, it is ultimate; and if we are not willing to die for it, then it is conditional?

Dr. Tillich: Oh, you see, I should not have used those words “life and death,” because actually I could die for the most unworthy cause. It is not life and death in that sense that I mean, but in the sense of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” which does not mean either to die or to live a few years longer, but to find an answer to the ultimate question of the meaning of life. I mean the words in this sense. …