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For Heidegger, the question of being and its meaning are what centrally found his whole philosophical

enterprise. His critique of the whole history of western metaphysics rests on the notion that philosophers had forgotten being (Sein) by focusing on beings (das Seiende), subjects which have being or are in being. Being (Sein) which is what determines such beings (das Seiende) as beings had fallen into complete oblivion. Thus in his effort to recapture the original meaning of being (Sein), he ventures to question the being in metaphysics, as for him metaphysics is what enquires into the being of beings. But this too, he feels is futile. He compares the whole history of western metaphysics as that study in the field of ontics and not the ontological, wherein being (Sein) itself is rendered asunder. In consequence, he poses the question What is metaphysics? and proceeds to show, as to why the fault lies in the way the question is structured. Given that it is posed as a What is question, it is presumable to say, that presupposedly it objectifies Being, by the way it is structured. Thus it is inevitable that one cannot use such an optic to consider being (Sein). Being (Sein) is beyond objectification and it is Dasein alone which can access being (Sein). The human being as Dasein is the only being where the question of its own being, is precisely that, a question. Heidegger seeks to show that in trying to struggle with the question of its own being, the human person as Dasein, provides a way of access to the problem of being in general. Man has a way into the truth of being because he exists1 wherein, he is like a clearing in being, the locus where being is lit up and becomes unconcealed.2

John Macquarrie, Twentieth-Century Religious Thought: The Frontiers of Philosophy and Theology, 19001980 (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1963), 353.


For Heidegger, being (Sein) itself as that which allows all beings to be, is not a being. To use Levinasian terminology, being (Sein) is not an existent, not a das Seiende. But given that the post-modern human person is a product, a child of the Modern Scientific Age of Reason, it is altogether conceivable that such a human person cannot help but think of being (Sein) as an existent. The epistemological bases and categories of understanding of the human person historically conditioned in such a way, views reality which one experiences as that which can be objectified into a what is, something that can be represented. In contrast, this is precisely what Heidegger challenges. In essence it can be summed up that Heidegger is trying to reach at the ground of metaphysics, that understanding of being (Sein) which transcends metaphysics precisely because it is more basic and fundamental than metaphysics. It can be said that he is trying to say that which is unsayable, and in so doing, open up in Dasein, the complete receptivity of Being. A receptivity that comes through such experiences of anxiety and sacrifice, where the horror of nothingness and the awe of wonder that we are, break through our categories of thinking and leads us to the truth of being; a place where one has to dwell in uncertainty and openness and allow being to be, whereby it is both hidden in its manifestation and revealed in its concealedness. In his Postscript to What is Metaphysics?, Heidegger emphasizes the idea that one can only reach such a place of uncertain dwelling by way of essential thinking. The fruits of the technological age have resulted in reason seeking ends which are made possible precisely because of a certain kind of thinking, which he calls, calculative thinking. Operative in such thinking is the logic of calculation which is ends-based. For Heidegger this mode of thinking cannot lead one to the truth of being, precisely because being (Sein) is not an object, an existent that can be grasped. Rather what he proposes is essential, meditative thinking which does not seek any objectification of beings in being.

Essential thinking which Heidegger proposes as a more adequate way for investigating being and realizing its truth, is the human response to the word of the silent voice of being. 3 It is a kind of thinking that makes possible the inquiry into the ground of metaphysics, which is the nothing. And this procedure, is not via any theoretical optic of objectification. But rather a letting be of the beings that show themselves, namely Gelassenheit. Essential thinking is in complete opposition to calculative thinking as it seeks to transcend the representational and the dialectical subject-object aspects of scientific or calculative thinking. The center in essential thinking is veered away from Dasein and it is Sein which calls out to Dasein. In fact, essential thinking is only a secondary movement, a response to that silent voice of being and it orients Dasein to open itself up to beings unconcealedness. This opening up within the Dasein, is precisely a clearing of all that clouds proper perception of Sein. A clearing that is facilitated by discarding and transcending, calculative thinking. This process is both mysterious and at the same time lucid and it is beyond representation. Nevertheless, Heidegger contends that it is still very real and that just because it cannot be reasoned out via calculative thinking, does not necessarily make it absurd. Heidegger hearkens to poetry, as that construct of human language which can lead one on the path to the truth of being. Given that the operative in poetry is the aspect of extra-linguistic reference, I feel it is safe to say that it is through poetry that one has access to being. Poetry is also capable of swerving away from reason and calculative thinking and can lead us to what an ends-oriented mindset might call pointless, useless, fruitless, etc. As a result, it can be said poetry thinks outside of itself and the poet at times, can name that which cannot be named by not naming it.

Heidegger, Postscript to What is Metaphysics?

Poetry brings to language and speech that which originates in the speechless and silent voice of being. Essential thinking lends itself to poetic grasp as poetry points outward and outside of itself. It creates space for the silent truth of being to echo and in echoing, Dasein is called to respond as essential thinking. Yet poetry and essential thinking are not alike, but rather are far removed from each other with respect to their essences. Thus it can be said, that poetry creates in one, a sense of the wonder that we are, and also at the same time familiarizes one with that which is closest to us all, but never truly grasped - the horror of the nothing. The human person, Dasein, thrown being is only ever cleared of his categories and truly receptive to Sein, when one is prepared to dwell poetically; when one is attuned to think essentially. Only then can one be aware that both nothing and being are one. Both Nothing and Being are beyond objectification, beyond grasp and remain as mystery and they both allow beings to be. Beings (das Seiende) are revealed in being (Sein) as nothing is concealed, and beings are hidden in being (Sein) as nothing is unconcealed.

Noel A. Jayanathan ID #107048 Ph 201: Advanced Reflexive Metaphysics Ateneo de Manila University July 22nd 2012.