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The Origins of Responsibility

Raffoul (OR:233-234) – meaning of being and truth of be-ing

De-subjectivizing Ethics

quinta-feira 1º de agosto de 2019, por Cardoso de Castro

[Extract from RAFFOUL  , OR2010:233-234]

How does Heidegger explain the shift from “meaning of being” to “truth of be-ing” in his thinking? In terms of a turning of the question of being, a turning that would have to part from a certain subjectivism and anthropocentrism which still threaten to affect the analyses of Being and Time  . As he puts it: “In Being and Time Da-sein   still stands in the shadow of the ‘anthropological,’ the ‘subjectivistic,’ and the ‘individualistic,’ etc.” (GA65EM  , 208). The initial position of the question of being in Being and Time in terms of “meaning of being” and “understanding of being” suffers, Heidegger tells us in §138 of Contributions, from an excessive dependence upon the language of subjectivity (GA65EM, 182-183). To that extent, it exposed itself to a series of misunderstandings, all sharing the same subjectivism: “Understanding” is taken in terms of the “inner lived-experiences” of a subject; the one who understands is taken in turn as “an I-subject”; the accessibility of being in an understanding is taken as an indication of the “dependency” of being upon a subject and therefore as a sign of idealism, etc. It is from this perspective that we are to understand Heidegger’s moving from the expression “meaning of being” to that of “truth of be-ing.” In 1969, Heidegger returned to this question in order to clarify it. In contrast with the metaphysical question concerning the beingness of being, Heidegger acknowledges that he attempted in Being and Time to pose the question concerning the “is-ness” of the “is” in terms of the meaning of being. For, precisely, metaphysics does not   ask about the meaning of being, but only about the beingness of beings (itself ontically determined as ground). The expression “meaning of being” is thus to be taken as a first attempt to step out of the metaphysical conflation of being with beingness (Seiendheit  ):

According to the tradition  , the “question of being” means the question concerning the being of beings, in other words: the question concerning the beingness of beings, in which a being is determined in regard to its being-a-being [Seiendsein]. This question is the question of metaphysics [. . .] With Being and Time, however, the “question of being” receives an entirely other meaning. Here it concerns the question of being as being.

It becomes thematic in Being and Time under the name of the “question of the meaning [Sinn  ] of being.” (FourS, 46)

Now, “meaning of being” is further clarified in Being and Time in terms of the project or projecting unfolded by the understanding of being: “Here ‘meaning’ is to be understood from ‘project,’ which is explained by ‘understanding’” (FourS, 40). At this point, Heidegger notes that this formulation is inadequate because it runs the risk of reinforcing the establishment of subjectivity: “What is inappropriate in this formulation of the question is that it makes it all too possible to understand the ‘project’ as a human performance. Accordingly, project is then only taken to be a structure of subjectivity—which is how Sartre   takes it, by basing himself upon Descartes  ” (FourS, 41). One recalls here the well-known passage from the Nietzsche   volumes where Heidegger, discussing the unfinished or interrupted character of Being and Time, explained that, “The reason for the disruption is that the attempt and the path it chose confront the danger of unwillingly becoming merely another entrenchment of subjectivity." [1] Heidegger thus engages in a turning that would de-subjectivize thought. He gives examples of such a “turning in thinking,” when, for instance in §41 of the Contributions, he explains that the word “decision” can be taken first as an anthropological human act, “until it suddenly means the essential sway of be-ing” (GA65EM, 58). Thinking “from Ereignis  " will thus involve that “man [be] put back into the essential sway of be-ing and cut off from the fetters of ‘anthropology’” (GA65EM, 58). In other words, in the attempt to think the truth of be-ing, at issue is the “transformation of man himself” (GA65EM, 58). Human Dasein is here de-subjectified, and the realm of ethics will have to be severed from the predominance of subjectivity.

In the Contributions, Heidegger is very careful to stress that “the projecting-open of the essential sway of be-ing is merely a response to the call” (GA 65, 56; GA65EM, 39), and one sees here how the realm of the ethical—of originary ethics—is located in the space of a certain call, a call to which a response always corresponds (and we will return to this). It was thus in order to avoid the subjectivizing of the question of being, that the expression “truth of being” was adopted. “In order to counter this mistaken conception and to retain the meaning of ‘project’ as it is to be taken (that of the opening disclosure), the thinking after Being and Time replaced the expression ‘meaning of being’ with ‘truth of being’” (FourS, 41). Heidegger is then able to conclude that,

The thinking that proceeds from Being and Time, in that it gives up the word “meaning of being” in favor of “truth of being,” henceforth emphasizes the openness of being itself, rather than the openness of Dasein in regard to this openness of being. This signifies “the turn,” in which thinking always more decisively turns to being as being. (FS, 41)

[Extract from RAFFOUL  , OR2010:233-234]


[1Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, ed. David Farrell Krell (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1991), vol. 4, 141.