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The Existential Situation of Our Time: Selected Essays, Volume 1

David Tracy is widely considered one of the most important religious thinkers in North America, known for his pluralistic vision and disciplinary breadth. His first book in more than twenty years reflects Tracy’s range and erudition, collecting essays from the 1980s to 2018 into a two-volume work that will be greeted with joy by his admirers and praise from new readers.

In the first volume, Fragments, Tracy gathers his most important essays on broad theological questions, beginning with the problem of suffering across Greek tragedy, Christianity, and Buddhism. The volume goes on to address the Infinite, and the many attempts to categorize and name it by Plato, Aristotle, Rilke, Heidegger, and others. In the remaining essays, he reflects on questions of the invisible, contemplation, hermeneutics, and public theology. Throughout, Tracy evokes the potential of fragments (understood both as concepts and events) to shatter closed systems and open us to difference and Infinity. Covering science, literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and non-Western religious traditions, Tracy provides in Fragments a guide for any open reader to rethink our fragmenting contemporary culture.

408 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Philosophy: Ethics, Philosophy of Religion

Religion: Christianity, Philosophy of Religion, Theology, and Ethics


“Consistent with Tracy’s earlier works, these articles display a breadth and depth of theological, philosophical, literary, cultural, and critical scholarship matched by few, if any, contemporary theologians. Each essay is an exercise in interpreting our times, sometimes by interpreting the past, sometimes by interpreting a text, sometimes by interpreting a current situation or flow of events. There are not many authors who share both the breadth of vision and depth of reading and scholarship that Tracy has.”

John McCarthy, Loyola University Chicago

"Tracy demonstrates the range of his philosophical interests in service of theology, particularly his profound attention to hermeneutics. . . [A] rich feast . . . We can be grateful for the insightful essays collected in this volume from one of America’s leading theologians."

Currents in Theology and Mission

“Tracy is himself a Rome-like theologian, whose intellectual imagination and wide-ranging interests entice him continually into new byways of thought, more and diverse thinkers, and revised perspectives on old interests. These latest volumes, comprised of essays and talks given over more than forty years, invite the reader into the ancient city of Tracy’s theology. . . . [The volumes] gather essays spanning five decades, imposing structure on a set of reflections from one of the most visionary and expansive living theologians. If we cannot by these volumes summit the mountain of Tracy’s theology, we must admit that is because there is no peak to crest. There is instead an ancient city to explore, teeming with gifts of erudition and liberality, pointing us to Alps upon Alps.”

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"To read [it] is to be educated and enriched by a remarkable breadth of inquiry and depth of analysis... Tracy's passion for theological conversation is... fuelled by a desire for justice and peace, but also by wonder at the unending love and creativity of God." 

Critical Theology

"David Tracy has a good claim to be the most prominent Catholic theologian of the last half-century in North America and one of the leading Catholic voices of his generation worldwide. . . . These substantial volumes of studies by Tracy spanning over four decades exhibit consistently one of the most appealing features of his work, a deep intellectual generosity that is willing to tease out from the work of figures to whom you would expect him to be antipathetic significant perspectives and questions deserving positive exploration."

The Journal of Religion

"Even as 'mere fragments' these essays are an imaginatively learned feast for virtually anyone interested in modern theologies... Each displays pieces of Tracy’s broad and deep reading and learning."

Modern Theology

Table of Contents


Part 1: The Existential Situation of Our Time

1          Fragments: The Spiritual Situation of Our Time
2          The Ultimate Invisible: The Infinite
3          Responses to Horror and Suffering: The Responses of Tragedy and Some Religions
4          Christianity and Suffering
5          Metaphysics, Theology, and Mysticism

Part 2: Hermeneutics

6          Hermeneutical Reflections in the New Paradigm of Theology
7          Western Hermeneutics and Interreligious Dialogue
8          The Dialogical Turn of Contemporary Thought
9          Paul Ricoeur: Hermeneutics and the Dialectic of Religious Forms

Part 3: Publicness and Public Theology

10        Theology, Critical Social Theory, and the Public Realm
11        Religion in the Public Realm: Three Forms of Publicness
12        Practical Theology: Its Mystical-Prophetic Character
13        Argument, Dialogue, and the Soul in Plato

Part 4: Religion, Theology, and Dialogue

14        Metaphor and Religion: The Test Case of Christian Texts
15        Mystics, Prophets, Rhetorics: Religion and Psychoanalysis
16        Contemplation, Speculation, Action: Reflections on Orthodox Theology


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