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Letter on Humanism by Martin Heidegger

Letter on Humanism by Martin Heidegger

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05/27/2014

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Letter
on
"Humanism"
Translated
by
FrankA.
Capuzzi'
[rqj]
tVe are still far from pondering the essence of action decisivelyenough. We view action only as causing an effect. The actuality of theeffect is valued according to its utility. But the essence of action is aci
,?
complishment. To accomplish means to unfold something into the fullnessof
its
essence, to lead-it forth into this fullness
-pmdt~ere.
Therefore onlywhat already is can really be accomplished. But what "isn above all is being.Thinking accomplishes the relation of being to the essence of the humanbeinp. It does not make or cause the relation. Thinkine
brinrs
this rela-
-
.
-
tion to being solely as something handed over to thought itself from being.Such
offer in^
consists in the fact that in thinking being comes to language.
-
-
Language isthe house of being. In its home himan
beings
dwell. Thosewho think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home.Their guardianship accomplishes the manifestation of being insofar as theybring this manifestation to language and preserve it in language throughtheir saying. Thinking does not become action only because some effect
1
issues from it or because it is applied. Thinking acts insofar as it thinks.Such action is presumably the simplest and at the same time the highestbecause it concerns the relation of being
m
humans. But all working orcffectinglies in being and is directed toward beings. Thinking, in contrast,lets itself be claimed by being so that it can say the auth of heing. Think-ing accomplishes this letting. Thinking is
/'mRaRp1~~rntpar~'~~epoar
'fitre
[engagement by being for being]. I do not know whether
it
is lingisticallypossible to say both of these ("pnrnand
"potlr")
at once in this way: penser.
91:iat edition,
1949:
\\'hat issaicl here was not
first
thoukht ap when this letter was written.
but
is
hased
on the course taken by a path that
was
Ilep~n
n
1936,
in the 'moment"
of
an
attempt to say
the
rmth
of
being in
a
simple manner. The letter continue to
speak
in
the lanpap
of
metaphysics, and <lorn
w,
L-nnrinply.
The
other Innpulp remains in thehackground.
 
clest I'engagement de l'ktre [thinking is the engaFment of being]. Herethe possessive form "de
I'
. .
."
is supposed to express both subjective andobjective genitive. In this regard "subject" and "object" are inappropriateterms of n~etaphysin, hich very early on in
[r46]
the form of Occidental"lo@cn and seized control of the interpretation of language.
\\k
today can only begin to descry what is concealed in that occurrence.The liberation of language from grammar into a more original essentialframework is reserved for thought and poetic creation. Thinking is notmerely
/'n~ga~qnnentanr /'action
for and by heings, in the sense of whateveris actually present in our current situation. Thinking is
I'nrgagemmt
byand for the truth of being. The history of heing is never past but standsever before us; it sustains and defines every
condition etrif~intion tm~aine. n
order to learn how to experience the aforementioned essence of thinkingpurely, and that means at the same time to carry it through, we must freeourselves from the technical interpretation of thinking. Thebeginnings ofthat interpretation reach back to Plato andAristotle.
They
ake thinkingitself to he a
rfxvq,
a process of deliberation in service to doing and mak-ing. But here deliberation is already seen from the perspective of
r.phSts
and
aoiqnrg.
For this reason thinking, when taken for itself, is not "practi-cal." The characterization of thinking as
Ocopin
and the determination ofknowing as "theoretical" comportment occur already within the "techni-cal" interpretation of thinking. Such characterization is a reactive attemptto rescue thinking and preserve its autonomy over against acting and doing.Since then "philosophy" has been in the constant predicament of having tojustify
in
existence before the "sciences." It believes it can do that most ef-fectively hy elevating itself to the rank of a science. But such an effort is theabandonment of the essence of thinking. Philosophy is hounded by the fearthat it loses prestige and validity if it is not a science. Not to he a science istaken as a failing that is equivalent to heing unscientific. Being," as the ele-ment of thinking, is abandoned hy the technical interpretation of thinking."I.ogic," beginning with the Sophists and Plato, sanctions this explanation.
[r47]
Thinking is judged by a standard that does not measure up to it.Such judgment may he compared to the procedure of trying to evaluate theessence and powen of a fish hy seeing how long
it
can live on dry land. Fora long time now, all
too
long, thinking has been stranded on dry land. Canthen the effort to return thinking to
in
element be called "irrationalismn?
"
First r<lition.
19+9:
Ileing
as
event
of apprupriadon
[Eniptir],
event
of
appropriation: thesaying
I~Su,~tl:
hinking: rununciativr saying in rcsponsc
[Entsn,rm]
o
the
saying of
the
event
of
lppn~prtntinn.
 
Surely the questions raised in your letter would have been better an-swered in direct conversation. In written form thinking easily loses itsflexibility. But in writing it is difficult above all to retain the multidi-rnensionaliry of the realm peculiar to thinking. The rigor of thinking: incontrast to that of the sciences, does not consist merely in an artificial, thatis, technical-theoretical exactness of concepts. It lies in the fact that sayingremains purely in the element of themth of' being and lets the simplicityof its manifold dimensions rule. On the other hand, written compositionexert5 a wholesome pressure toward deliberate linguistic formulation. To-day
I
would like to grapple with only one of your questions. Perhaps itsdiscussion will also shed some light on the others.You ask: "Comment redonner un sens au mot 'Humanisme'?" mowcan we restore meaning to the word "humanism"?] This question proceedsFrom your intention to retain the word "humanism."
I
wonder whether thatis necessary.
Or
is the damage caused by all such terms still not sufficientlyobvious? True, "-isms" have for a long time now been suspect. But themarket of public opinion continually demands new ones. We are alwaysprepared to supply the demand. Even such names as "logic," "ethics,"and "physicsn begin to flourish only when originary thinking comes to anend. During the time of theirgreatness the Greeks thought without suchheadings. They did not even call thinkingUphilosophy." Thinkingcomes toan end when itslipsoutofits element. Theelement is what enables thinkingto be a thinking. The element is what properly enables: it is the enabling
[das
Vmogm].
t embraces thinking and so brings it into its essence.
[I~R]
Said plainly, thinking is the thinking of being. The genitive says somethingtwofold. Thinking is of being inasmuch as thinking, propriatedb by being,helongs to being. At the same time thinking is of being insofar as thinking,belonging to being, listens to being.
As
the belonging to being that listens,thinking is what it is according to its essential origin. Thinking is
-
hissays: Being has embraced its essence in a destinal manner in each case. Toembrace a "thing" ora "person" in their essence means to love them, to favorthem. Thought in a more original way such favoring means the bestowalof their essence as a gift. Such favoring
[Mop]
is the proper essence ofenabling
[Vmop],
which not only can achieve this or that but also canlet something essentially unfold in its provenance, that is, let
it
be. It is onthe "strength"of such enabling by Favoring that something is properly able
First editir~n.
19qp:
"Thinking" already conceived here
as
thinkina of the mth of
bHg.
Firsf
edition,
1949:
Only
a
pointer in the Imgusge
of
metnphysirs.
For
=Emipir,"
"event
of
appropriation."
has
ken
the piding
word
of
my
thinking since
,936.

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