"Letter on Humanism"--Reading 5

I do not have a response to Reading 5 as much as I have a few questions.

1) Heidegger writes, "Metaphysics does indeed represent beings in their
Being, and so it thinks the Being of beings" (1977, 202). Here and
throughout this letter, Heidegger defines "metaphysics" on the ontical
level. This is further indicated by his continuation, "But it does not
think the difference of both. Metaphyiscs does not ask about the truth of
Being itself" (1977, 202-203). Insofar as _Being and Time_ does try to
represent beings in their Being--even if in a fundamental way--the
treatise would appear to be "metaphysical," according to this definition.
But insofar as it definitely tries to think the difference between Being
and beings, it would appear to be other than "metaphysical". Here is my
question: to what extent is Heidegger's work metaphysical? Insofar as it
is a representation (it is text after all) of Being must it also be
metaphyiscal? Is this the sense that should be assigned to the postmodern
claim that all understanding unfolds within metaphyiscs, even Heidegger's
understanding? [I have suspicions on how to answer these questions, but I
would like someone else's interpretation.]

2) Reading 5 ends, "...the essence of man is too little heeded and not
thought in its origin, the essential provenance that is always the
essential future for historical mankind. Metaphysics thinks of man on the
basis of *animalitas* and does not think in the direction of his
*humanitas*" (1977, 203-204). Presumably this means that insofar as all
humanism unfolds within metaphyiscs, then humanism itself does not think
in the direction of *humanitas*. This, then, would appear to be
Heidegger's main objection to humanism, namely, that it is not rooted in
*humanitas* and is, therefore, not really humanistic. This raises a
question in my mind concerning my first question and the last sentence in
the quote immediately above, "Metaphysics thinks of man on the basis of
*animalitas*..." Does Heidegger mean to suggest that this is necessarily
so, or does he mean to suggest that this is the historical fact? Could an
alternative metaphyiscs think in the direction of *humanitas*, or is all
metaphyiscs closed to this possibility because all metaphysics is a
closure or a forgetting of Being? What is at stake here is this
consideration: namely, that if all metaphyiscs is closed to *humanitas*,
then all humanism is destined to fail. This is due not to the way
metaphyiscs has played out in history, but to the structure of metaphyiscs
itself. If this is the case, then, there can be no humanism at all, in
which case, Heidegger is not trying to develop a humanism that is rooted
in Being, as it were. Rather, he is doing away with the idea of humanism
entirely. (Perhaps Heidegger will address these considerations in what
follows; what concerns me beneath this, however, is a possible underlying
supposition that it is impossible to gather a clearer or truer ontical
understanding of something even when the ontological has been made
explicit, in which case, Heidegger's position here represents a radical
point of departure from his attempt to make the meaning of Being explicit
in _Being and Time_.)


Anthony F. Beavers, Ph.D. / Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion
The University of Evansville / Evansville, Indiana 47722 / (812)479-2682
Metaethics, Metaphysics, Existentialism, and the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Visit the Academy of Human Arts and Sciences

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