Re: "Letter on Humanism"--Reading 5



On Sat, 1 Apr 1995, Anthony F. Beavers wrote:

> 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

This is also my opinion, which I raised in a previous note. It is the
basis of my difference from those who maintain a Heideggerian anti-humanism.

> 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_.)

I again raised this point in an earlier note. In my mind, the change
from the early Heidegger's valuing of metaphysics vs. the later
Heidegger's devaluation of it is merely a word change, and not really a
change of substance. He has, more or less, decided that the tradition
does not offer any resources for the type of thinking he is pursuing.

A clue to his opposition to understanding human being as animal rationale
can be found in "The Overcoming of Metaphysics," section 26, where in the
context of the Nazi appropriation of Nietzsche, he states that reason (the
Ueber in Uebermensch) becomes a tool of the animalistic (the Unter in
Untermensch) so that the two become the same; thought more broadly, it
means that thinking/reason becomes a means to further our physical needs
and desires or more broadly, the good conceived of as pleasure (one might
go as far as to say the good itself). In my discipline this movement of
modernity has a proud father: Hobbes (yes, I know that Strauss said
Machiavelli, but Hobbes, his first choice, was the better choice).
Despite the obvious references to Nazism, the indictment is sweeping
enough to include just about every modern political movement of any
consequence; hence his line that communism, americanism, and fascism are
the same thing.

Can one find other resources in the tradition to counter this? It
depends on whether one accepts Heidegger's contention that the root of
the problem is truth thought of as correctness and the corresponding
thought of being as idea. Even if one finds such resources (and attempts
have been made in this direction), one is merely correcting Heidegger's
polemic, and not his conclusion as to the problem, or the solution.

Incidentally, the opposition raised in your text about necessity or
historical accident doesn't really hold in Heidegger, for whom the
Ereignis or event of being gives the necessity, but is itself unnecessary
(Heidegger's version of the Kantian problem of freedom and necessity).
As for the non-Heideggerian response to this, Heidegger does try to show
in at least one place that Plato's move from alethei as unconcealing to
correctness was itself necessary, but other than his repeating it numerous
times, I have as yet to discover the root of this necessity.

Chris


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