"Letter on Humanism"--Reading 11


Here, in Reading 11, it seems fairly clear that the manifestation of
Being requires a metaphysical perspective. Only this way can Being be
revealed as the "transcendens pure and simple." "Only from such a
perspective does Being show itself in and as a transcending" (1977, 217).
Thus, it would appear that the emergence of metaphysics (a science of
beings) is the necessary condition for the disclosing of Being in
Heidegger's fundamental ontology. All of this seems pretty Derridean to
me, though, more to the point, it re-raises some earlier questions about
the necessity for beings to emerge from Being. I would like to restrict
my comments to this issue for a moment.

Lately, I have been playing with the Greek "cosmos" against the backdrop
of Levinas' critique of the totalitarianism of reason. Insofar as the
Greek "cosmos" represents a "rationally-ordered totality" governed by
nomos and logos, it is inherently closed. It seems to me that part of the
destiny of cosmos is to expand, assimilating everything into itself, and
leaving nothing undiscovered. If so, then the cosmos is inherently a
force that denies difference, that denies the stranger, and that
encourages all individuals to dissolve themselves into it. Evidence for
this reading of cosmos is all over Levinas, but it is also in
Kierkegaard, who contests Hegel's positive outlook of the unfolding of
Geist, and I seem to see traces of this in the Qumran Community Scrolls,
and of course there are all the references to this in Plato and
Aristotle. Cosmos is a rationally organized whole, uncreated, disclosed
by the logos, destined to assimilate the unknown encountered in the
desire to know into the order of knowledge. All of this adds up to the
notion--though I suspect more argument would help me here--that cosmos
destroys the individual by dissolving him into the universal.

Here in this reading, Heidegger suggests that Holderlin does not seek the
essence of "homecoming" in "the egoism of his nation. He sees it rather in
the context of a belongingness to the destiny of the West" (1977, 218).
Shortly thereafter, Heidegger writes, ""German" is not spoken to the
world so that the world might be reformed through the German essence;
rather, it is spoken to the Germans so that from a fateful belongingness
to the nations they might become world-historical with them. The homeland
of this historical dwelling is nearness to Being" (1977, 218).

These claims are loaded, and I cannot begin to unpack them here. However,
it now seems clear that in this "Letter" Heidegger has transcended his
German Nationalism. But he has not done away with imperialism, he has
merely changed his allegiance from Germany to the Western legacy. The same
gesture that assimilates or destroys the stranger that characterized Nazi
Germany also characterizes the entire Western legacy. The West has always
been the ever-expanding cosmos that assimilates; Heidegger's apparent
valorization of becoming "world-historical" which is "nearness to Being"
seems to me to be another form of totalitarianism, no longer German, but
now Greek. In either case, the person is dissolved into the universality
of Being, cosmos, logos, nomos, etc. (Indeed, this might precisely be the
fundamental characteristic of cosmos that caused early Christians to seek
in the person of Christ a redeemer for the cosmos. The concept of a
personal God outside the cosmos as Father and inside the cosmos as
incarnate son breaks the totalitarianism of the cosmos thereby "saving"
the world. My current research focuses on this movement and in so doing
tries to steer a course between Levinas and Heidegger, a course that is
not the one that Derrida took in "Violence and Metaphysics")

Hanging in the balance, and central to my own research, is the destiny of
Being, that it should of necessity give way to beings, and that, in turn,
this entry into metaphysics should make it possible to disclose Being as
the "transcendens pure and simple". So far, I have seen nothing in
Heidegger to suggest why this transformation is necessary. But it is vital
to my research that I come to terms with it. In addition, I think it is
necessary to understand this if we are going to understand this "Letter".
So, I was wondering if we might retrace the steps of that argument. Chris,
so far, you seem to be the one who is most familiar with it. Can you
provide us with some references or an outline of Heidegger's thoughts on
the matter? (I know we have been over this terrain once, but further
clarification on the matter seems necessary now.) What is at stake here
will become clear later in the "Letter" when Heidegger situates the
problem of agriculture next to the problem of the gas chamber. It seems to
me that Heidegger is dehumanizing the cosmos, and I wonder whether his
deconstruction of "humanism" might fail to recover the human from the
destiny of Being. I still remain concerned about the absence of the
individual in the determination of the dignity of the human. I think we
are still a long way from understanding "what is human" for Heidegger.

Sincerely,
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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