International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture edition:16 location:Copenhagen, DK date:19-21 October, 2012
The twentieth century Roman Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx O.P. (1914-2009) famously employed the category of “contrast experience” in critical dialogue with the negative dialectics previously developed by the Frankfurt School. These experiences of “contrast” or protest against human suffering and oppression form the basis for thinking and speaking about the positive eschatological content of human salvation, the humanum, by grounding them in that original moment of contrast between present reality and a hoped-for future. Schillebeeckx illustrates that contrast experience itself is already grounded by an expectation of meaning in human history. He details the narrative character of human memory, which as tied to time consciousness is always oriented towards the future as it emerges out of past experiences. Memory of the past constitutes a matrix of interpretation for future experience, including explicit experiences of contrast. This past horizon of understanding is only possible, however, because of the schematization of experience on the basis of an anticipated “whole” of meaning that constitutes someone’s life story, or historical narrative. This paper proceeds in three steps wherein:  time consciousness necessitates the question of meaning;  meaning is reflexively realized through interpretation, and  this meaningful past exerts pressure on human experience and interpretation of the future. The interplay of new experiences and remembered experiences as a narrated past is a crucial element of Schillebeeckx’s thought as it is expressed in his later work. A renewal of this view of human subjectivity can be applied with critical force in contemporary theology and is well suited to ethical and religious action in a postmodern context.