"Letter on Humanism"--Reading 10


I would like to return to an earlier consideration brought forth by Chris
concerning the configuration of Being as a metaphysics of representation.

Here, in Reading 10, Heidegger seems to suggest that because Being is
still unthought, we can look at the history of metaphyiscs as the history
of Being made manifest to us by "essential thinkers." Heidegger writes,
"Absolute metaphyiscs, with its Marxian and Nietzschean inversions,
belongs to the history of the truth of Being" (1977, 215).

The suggestion here is that Being can never be reduced to representation,
and, as such, it can never be fully thought. So, Being remains the
unfulfilled telos of all thinking that allows Being to be manifest as a
metaphysics in one historical epoch, and then in another, and in yet
another. Now Being as "the transcendens pure and simple" must then always
be the unattained, or unthought, in any metaphysical system. As such, it
provides the middle term by which one metaphysical system can be compared
with another, thereby allowing us to glean from the history of metaphysics
a history of Being. However, this will not be possible for those who are
ensnared, those who forget "the truth of Being in favor of the pressing
throng of beings..." (1977, 212). Only those who can reach beyond a
metaphysical system to its roots in Being can see this history of Being.
The humanity of man appears to be this ability to transcend beings; of
course, it can never become a humanism, without replacing Being with
metaphysics.

Following this idea of the humanity of man, must we not then claim that
those who are ensnared by beings are inhumane? Furthermore, must it not
also be the case that those who take up a "humanism" are also ensnared?

I am beginning to see how it might be possible to arrive at an ethics (or
something like it) here. Metaphysics is violence so long as it forgets its
roots in Being precisely because it becomes a replacement for Truth itself
and thereby turns into dogmatism. However, once we realize that
metaphysics stands in Being and that there is something beyond
Metaphysics, we also loose any metaphysical justification for dogmatism.

I like the sounds of this, and I cannot help but think of the Socrates of
the _Meno_, who seems to open up the possibility of a similar ethical
stance.

I will spare the reader here a lengthy critique of the limits of this
"moral metaphysical skepticism," though it is interesting to note that
Plato had to slip the idea of the Good into his philosophy to provide the
animus to thinking that Being provides for Heidegger. It would be
interesting to exam Plato on Being and the Good a little more closely in
light of Heidegger's proposal here. I don't have time to attend to that
now. But it certainly seems right for Brad to mention this concern in his
commentary on this reading.

Thanks,
Tony

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