FOM: real issues?
leo at math.berkeley.edu
Mon Oct 5 20:49:21 EDT 1998
The following probably does not belong on the list of books and papers
called for at the end of Friedman's posting: `FOM: real issues?', but
I am contributing it anyway since it seems relavant to the
correspondences on fom by and about Hersh.
"Martin Heidegger's Letter on Humanism"
(pg 193-242 of the book: Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings)
Here's some excerpts from pages 226-228.
(In the current context perhaps it should be mentioned that Heidegger
was a member of the Nazi party)
What is going on here? People hear talk about `humanism',
`logic', `values', .... They hear something about opposition to
these. They recognize and accept these things as positive. But with
hearsay - in a way that is not strictly deliberate - they immediately
assume that what speaks against something is automatically its
negation and this is `negative' in the sense of destructive. ...
But does the `against' which a thinking advances against
ordinary opinion necessarily point towards pure negation and the
negative? This happens, and then, to be sure, happens inevitably and
conclusively, that is, without a clear prospect of anything else - only
when one posits in advance what is meant by the `positive' and on this
basis makes an absolute and absolutely negative decision about the range
of possible opposition to it. Concealed in such a procedure is the
refusal to subject to reflection this presupposed `positive' in which
one believes himself saved, together with its position and opposition.
By continually appealing to the logical one conjures up the illusion
that he is entering straightforwardly into thinking when in fact he has
It ought to be somewhat clearer now that opposition to `humanism'
in no way implies a defense of the inhuman but rather opens other vistas.
... To think against `logic' does not mean to break a lance for
the illogical but simply to trace in thought the logos and its essence
which appeared in the dawn of thinking, that is, to exert ourselves for
the first time in preparing for such reflection. Of what value are even
far-reaching systems of logic to us if, without really knowing what they
are doing, they recoil before the task of simply inquiring into the
essence of logos? If we wished to bandy about objections, which is of
course fruitless, we could say with more right: irrationalism, as a
denial of ratio, rules unnoticed and uncontested in the defense of
`logic', which believes it can eschew meditation on logos and on the
essence of ratio which has its ground in logos.
To think against `values' is not to maintain that everything
interpreted as `a value' - `culture', `art', `science', `human dignity',
`world', and `God' - is valueless. Rather, it is important finally to
realize that precisely through the characterization of something as `a
value' what is so valued is robbed of its worth. That is to say, by the
assessment of something as a value what is valued is admitted only as an
object for man's estimation. But what a thing is in its Being is not
exhausted by its being an object, particularly when objectivity takes
the form of value. Every valuing, even when it values positively, is a
subjectivizing. It does not let beings: be. Rather, valuing lets beings:
be valid - solely as the objects of its doing.
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