Re: "Letter on Humanism"--Readings 6 & 7

Dear Tony,

It seems to me that your own insights are more fruitful than your
Levinasian echoes. Levinas's critique is itself an exceedingly
violent interpretive appropriation, a fact which you seem to take no
notice of. For example, Heidegger emphatically denies that we can
learn an existential relation to death though the death of the
other. It is because it is always the other that dies, in fact,
that it is so easy for us not to face our own death. You criticize
an anonymity in the recognition of our common existential status--we
are all called orclaimed to respond to being. But you say that this
should not lead to an appropriation of my death for myself. But the
call of conscience is the call of our eigenste seinkoennen, our most
proper/authenticating ability-to-be. And this is our
being-toward-death. What is appropriated in the recognition that
the call of conscience calls us to face up to the facrt that we are
existentially projected into the possibility of no longer being able
to be? A structural fact about our existence, a fact that brings us
together insofar as all of us bear witness (hence the importance of
bezeugung) to it. And while ths structural commonality ios mutually
illuminating, it is nevertheless also the fact that differentates or
individuates us; for the relation to our ownmost ability-to-be is
nonrelational. No one can die for me; no other can die in my place.
Even if my sein displaces the there of an other--as Levinas has
it--and this of course happens with the mere fact of being in a
finite world, that other does not die for me, nor I for her. This
may in fact be what Levinas means by "the anteriority and uniqueness

the non-interchangeable".

Early on you suggest connecting Dasein's having a world with the
metaphhysical impulse of world-building. I would like to see that
idea extended. Here the pre-1930 lectures where Heidegger talks
about Dasein's original transcendence are worth examining.

And I think that Da-sein as ek-sistere is the standing-out *into*
being, rather than the standing out of being, as you have it.
Dasein, as the being whose being is an issue for it, folds
intelligibility back on itself. Hence Ereignis, as the
making-one's-own of (for lack of a better word) 'reality,' involves
an original doubling in terms of which being first becomes
intelligible. This coming into being of being is Heidegger's
structural answer to the question of Genesis, and explains the how
of our original worlding of the world. Dasein's being is
intelligible in its *having* a world; this is thus also how
Heidegger thinks being does differentiate beings (who have the
structure of existence, who stand out into being), forom things
(entities and animals (the last being exceedingly problematic, as
Heidegger himself occasionally acknowledged (when he wasn't
dogmatically pronouncing otherwise, as in the quote you gave).

I find the recognition of the structural commonality of all existing
beings an insight with much more profound consequences than the
insight into the death of the other, the entire bite of which is
given by the concentration camps (and thus implicitly in the fact of
Heidegger's ideological complicity with the same political group
that carried out the Holocaust). The point is extremely powerful,
but it seems to have quietly reinforced the permissability of the
counter-violence of the Levinasian misreading of Heidegger, a point
which should not be obscured by the unnameable name that cannot be

Iain Thomson
UCSD philosophy

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