‘Inner human being’ is one of the key concepts of Paul’s anthropology. On the hand, Paul describes it in 2. Cor 4,16 as part of being human, which is renewed daily, and, on the other hand, he locates it close to what he calls “law” in Rom 7,22. This motif has its origin in Plato’s politeia and is negotiated in works from Augustine to Martin Luther. While Plato describes it as being strongly linked to reason in opposition to instinct, it is Augustine who identifies a deeper connection between ‘inner human being’ and truth. Finally, Luther distinguishes between ‘inner’ and ‘outer human being’. Not surprisingly, he understands ‘inner human being’ as being in a deep connection to god while ‘outer human being’ is lost in sin. In summary, one can say that ‘inner human being’ is one part of being human itself, but it is also directed toward a transcendent sphere.
When researching that concept in current theological encyclopedias, it is either not mentioned at all or rejected as a Hellenistic estrangement of biblical anthropology. Considering its great importance in Paul’s anthropology, this neglect is surprising and likewise a symptom of anti-psychologism in philosophy and theology. This tradition reaches back to the middle of the 19th century. At that time, psychology developed from a philosophical into a scientific discipline. In this form, psychology has nothing to offer for the explanation of a theological motif.
To counter anti-psychologism in philosophy and theology, I am convinced that it is necessary to search for concepts within romantic traditions. They are prior to philosophical and theological anti-psychologism, emphasize inwardness, and, in the form of the Psychologievorlesungen (Lectures on Psychology) of Friedrich Schleiermacher, they offer a psychological concept that holds a fundamentally different starting point than the psychology which had arisen at the end of the 19th century: the term “living”. It derives from Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis and therefore can be considered a motif of romantic philosophy. Moreover, it has formative power over the psychological work of Schleiermacher. He does not strictly separate between body and soul but sees a connection between both in the “living”. What he understands under “living” can best be described as movement or as continuous interaction between subject and object. As Schleiermacher’s Psychologievorlesungen are grounded in the term “living”, he develops his concept from the “Denktätigkeiten” ( activities of cognition) toward the feeling of the sublime and the beautiful, culminating in religious feeling.
In my research, I want to conceptualize ‘inner human being’ as being part of the human conscience and explain how to understand its directedness toward a transcendent sphere. For this, Schleiermacher’s work is very productive because he presents an innovative conception of “inside” and “outside”. The two of them are connected in the unity of “living”. This connection is maintained by means of every mental action happening in both spheres, as action proceeds from “inside” to “outside” as well as in the opposite direction. Accordingly, Schleiermacher offers an exposition of the human inner workings, points out its context with “living”–instead of just with notional reflexion- -and presents an explanation of what can be understood as ‘inner human being’.
Matthis Glatzel is a PhD student at the University of Leipzig, Germany. He studied philosophy and theology in Mainz, Frankfurt and Leipzig and is mainly interested in philosophy of religion. In his research he examines the psychology of Friedrich Schleiermacher as a philosophical psychology, which is deeply grounded in romantic thoughts and ideas.