Richard Wisser = RW Martin Heidegger = MH
Herr Professor Heidegger, in our days voices were being raised, and get even louder, which claim that the change of the social conditions is the crucial task of the present day, and so is the vital point for the shaping of our future. What is your opinion on this orientation of the so called Zeitgeist, for example regarding the university reform?MH
Well, I will only answer to the latter question, because what you asked before is too big a topic and too vague. And the answer I will give you, is the answer I gave forty years ago in my inaugural lecture in Freiburg in the year 1929. And I will quote the sentence...from the lecture "Was ist Metaphysik?": "The fields of the sciences are highly diverse. The method of their inquiries is profoundly different. Today, this diversion of disciplines is only held together by the technical organization of universities and faculties and has its authority only due to the practical purposes of the disciplines. However, the roots of the sciences in their own origin have gone dead."RW
There are certainly different motives, which lead to the modern attempts of a re-orientation of the overall aims and of a restructuring of the facts of life on the social level. Obviously philosophy has been involved in this, for better or for worse. Do you think, that philosophy has a purpose for the sake of society?MH
No. We cannot call it a purpose in this sense. If you want to answer this question, you first have to ask: "What is society?" And you have to consider that today's society is only the hypostatization of modern subjectivity. Considering this, a philosophy, which has overcome the position of subjectivity, may not even join in this discussion. A different question is, to what extent can we, if at all, speak of a change of society?RW
The question about the postulation of the 'transformation of the world' is going back to a much-cited statement by Karl Marx, in "Thesen uber Feuerbach", and I will, to quote it correctly, go on and read it: "The philosopher has hitherto only interpreted the world differently." ....interpreted underlined ....however the point is, to change it."
When quoting and following this sentence, one overlooks the fact that a world-change presupposes a change of the world-conception, and that a world-conception is made only as a result of interpreting the world sufficiently. That means, Marx is based on a very specific interpretation of the world upon which he demands 'his' change. And thus, this sentence proves itself as not scientifically sound. The sentence creates the impression as if it is decisively directed against philosophy, while in the second part of the sentence the need for philosophy is, although implicitly, presupposed.
How can your philosophy nowadays take effect with regard to the concrete society, a society with concrete difficulties, and sorrows, hopes and expectations and with duties? Or do we have to agree with those critics of yours, who claim that Martin Heidegger is so concentrated with the question of being that he gave up on the conditio humana, the being of the human in society as a person?MH
Well, this last criticism is a great misunderstanding. For the simple reason that the 'question of Being' and the unfolding of this question presupposes an interpretation of "Dasein", that is: the nature of the human being. That the being, respectively the Openness of Being, needs the human; and that reciprocally the human is only human insofar he stands in the Openness of Being. Hence the question to what extent I am only concerned with Being and forgot about the human being should be answered once and for all. You cannot ask the question of Being without asking about the nature of human being.RW
So, Nietzsche once said, the Philosopher is the bad consciousness of his own time. Let it be anyone's guess what Nietzsche himself meant by this. But if one considers your attempt to clarify and to destruct the previous history of philosophy as a history of a downfall of being....someone could be tempted to call Martin Heidegger the 'Bad Consciousness' of occidental philosophy. In what do you discern the most characteristic symptom, not to say the most characteristic monument, of what you call the forgetfulness of Being and the downfall of and to being? ("Seinsvergessentheit und Seinsverfallenheit")MH
Firstly, I have to correct the question with regard to the way in which you talked about the 'downfall' of Being. I do not speak about a 'downfall' of Being, but rather about the fate of Being insofar as it hides itself more and more in comparison to the Openness of Being with the Greeks, until the unfolding of the Being as mere objectification for the sciences and nowadays as mere supply for the technical overcoming of the world. So, it is not a history of the 'downfall' of Being, but rather a withdrawal of being in which we stand. And the characteristic feature of the forgetfulness of Being....forgetfulness must always be understood from its Greek origin, in the sense of 'lethe', in the meaning of 'hiding itself', 'withdrawing' of being -- the characteristic feature of this fate of Being in which we stand, insofar as I can oversee it, is the fact, that the question of Being, which I ask, still isn't understood.
Now, there are two things, which you continuously raise to question and make questionable: Firstly, science's claim to power. And on the other hand, and understanding of technology which sees technology solely as a suitable tool....which can, preferably fast, serve its purpose to whoever uses it. But precisely in our time, when most people expect everything from science, and when it is demonstrated in worldwide, even world-remote television shows that the human being can achieve all that what he aimed for due to technology....your thoughts about science and the essence of technology cause a lot of people quite a headache. What do you want to say, firstly, when you claim: "Science does not think."?MH
Well, to begin with what you say about causing headaches: I think this is quite healthy. Nowadays there still is not enough headaches and worrying in the world and a great thoughtlessness, which has to do with the forgetfulness of Being. And this sentence; "Science does not think." which caused quite a stir when I said it in a lecture in Freiburg... means: Science is not moving in the dimension of philosophy. Nevertheless, science is without knowing it dependent on this dimension...For example physics....moves in the field of space and time and movement. What movement, what space, what time is, science cannot decide as science. So science does not think means: science just cannot think with their methods. I cannot, for example, physically..or with the methods of physics decide what physics is. What physics is, I can only think, say philosophically. (text: 'think in the way of philosophical questions.") The sentence: "Science does not think." is not an accusation, but rather an observation of the inner structure of science. That is: To the essence of science belongs, on the one hand, that science is dependent on what philosophy thinks, but on the other hand, forgets about this dependence and ignores it.RW
And what do you mean, secondly, when say: "Greater than the danger of the atomic bomb is the setting (Ge-setz) of technology."? The Framework (das-Ge-stell), how you call the essential feature of technology: to reveal that what is real in the way of putting it is 'always for the use." Or to say it, in another way: to put everything and anything in such a way, that it is available at the touch of a button.MH
Yes...At first it is to say that I am not against technology. I have never spoken against technology, not even about the so called demonical of technology. What I do is I try to understand the essence of technology. When you quote this thought..the danger of the atomic bomb and the even greater danger of the technology....what I mean by this is: what is today developed as biophysics: that we may soon have the possibility to create the human, that is ...regarding his organic nature...to construct him just as we need him to be. Skilled and unskilled, clever and stupid... this is going to happen. Today the technological possibilities are ready to do that, and Nobel Prize winners already spoke about them at a conference in Lindau, what I quoted years ago in a talk in Messkirch. So, above all the misunderstanding has to be cleared away as if I was against technology. Rather on the contrary, I see in technology, namely its essence...that the human being is standing in the range of influence of a power, which challenges him, and in regard to this power he is no longer free. With that something is indicated, namely a belonging to being and human. and this belonging, which is hidden in the essence of technology, someday maybe, in its unconcealment, comes to light. Whether this is going to happen, I don't know. So what I see in the essence of technology is the very first anticipation of a much deeper event, what I call 'das Ereignis' (event of appropriation). From that you will see that there cannot be a talk of a resistance to or a condemnation of technology. Rather than that, it is about understanding the essence of technology and of the technological world. And in my opinion this is not going to work as long as one philosophically moves in the distinction of subject and object. This means from the standpoint of Marxism, the essence of technology cannot be understood.RW
Now, every one of your questions originates and leads to the question, which is exactly the main question of your philosophy, to the question of Being. Again and again you insisted that you do not want to add a new thesis to the previous ones about what being 'is'; just because one has already defined Being in quite different ways, for example as an attribute, as possibility and actuality, as truth, even as God. You ask whether there is an understandable togetherness (Einklang), and that not in the sense of a higher synthesis, but rather as a question about the meaningfulness (Sinn) of Being. In what direction an answer is initiated through your thinking, to the question: Why are there beings at all, instead of nothing?MH
I must answer two questions. First the question of Being: I find there is an uncertainty in your way of asking. 'Seinsfrage' means two things; it means on the one hand, the question about beings as beings; and in this question it is determined what beings are. And the answer to this question implies an interpretation of Being. But the question of Being can on the hand also be understood in the following way..whereon is every answer to the question about beings based? That is, wherein does the Unconcealment of Being originate? To say it with an example: The Greeks interpret Being as 'presence' of the present. "Presence' indicates time." "Anwesenheit des Anwesenden", in "Anwesenheit" spricht "Gegenwart". In "Gegenwart" ist ein Moment der Zeit. Thus the interpretation of Being as presence is related to time. If I try to determine the presence of beings in relation to time, and if I look around in the history of thinking, then I will find, beginning with Aristotle...that time is already determined in relation to a certain (understanding of) Being. So, the traditional concept of time is not suitable to even raise the question. That is the reason why I tried to develop a new concept of time and temporality in the sense of the 'ecstatic openness' in Being and Time. The other question is a question which Leibniz already asked, and one which Schelling took up, and then again one I use word for word at the end of my already mentioned lecture "Was ist Metaphysik?" But…this question has a whole other meaning in my context. The traditional metaphysical conception of what is asked in the question is: Why is there beings at all, instead of nothing? That is: What is the cause or the reason for the fact, that there are beings at all, instead of nothing? I on the contrary, ask: Why is there beings at all, instead of nothing? Why do beings have the priority? And why is the nothing not thought of as identical with Being? That is: Why does the forgetfulness of Being dominate and wherein does it originate from? So this is a completely different question that the metaphysical question. That is, by that I ask: What is metaphysics? Strictly spoken, I do not ask a metaphysical question, but rather about the essence of metaphysics. As you can see, all these questions are immanently difficult; and at the bottom, for the immediate understanding inaccessible. And it calls for a lot of effort (Kopfzerbrechen), not only this, but also a long experience and above all, a genuine confrontation with the great tradition. And one of the great dangers of our thinking today is that the thinking, in the sense of philosophical thinking, has lost its real, genuine relationship to the tradition. How the fate of thinking is going to turn out, nobody knows. I have, in 1964, in a lecture in Paris, which i did not hold myself, but which has been given in French translation, used the title "The End of Philosophy And the Task of Thinking." You can see by that, I distinguish between philosophy, i.e. metaphysics, and thinking as how I understand it. This thinking is in its matter a lot simpler than philosophy, but in regard to actually doing it, a lot more difficult. And it requires a new carefulness of language; not an invention of new concepts as i once thought, but rather a going back to the genuine content of our own, yet always already-dying language. And a future thinker, who is perhaps facing the task of genuinely taking over this Thinking, which I try to prepare, has to submit to the following phrase, which has been written by Heinrich von Kleist. I wrote it down in my own notebooks:
"I step back from someone, who is not there yet, and bow, a millennium ahead of him, before his Spirit."
"Ich trete vor einem zurück, der noch nicht da ist, und beuge mich, ein Jahrtausend ihm voraus, vor seinem Geiste."