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Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism”

Heidegger’s "Letter on Humanism" (1949) is perhaps his clearest statement from after his famous "turn" which involved an increased interest in the role of language–in particular poetry–in relating us to Being.

While Heidegger denies being a "humanist", he maintains that philosophy does make one more humane.  He also represents an interesting contrast to system-building and all "isms" in which (to him) real thinking has come to an end.  For Heidegger, it is language itself that is the "house of Being," that enables the poet or philosopher, through careful uses of it (aka, real thinking), to be a "guardian" of this house.

In this way, we return to doing philosophy like the Greeks, whom he claims simply "just did philosophy" without even calling it such.

essay here:


"It is time to break the habit of overestimating philosophy and of thereby asking too much of it. What is needed

in the present world crisis is less  philosophy, but more attentiveness in thinking; less literature, but more cultivation of the letter. The thinking that is to come is no longer philosophy, because it thinks more originally than metaphysin- a name identical to philosophy. However, the thinking that is to come can no longer, as Hegel demanded, set aside the name "love of wisdom" and become wisdom itself in the form of absolute knowledge. Thinking is on the descent to the poverty of its provisional essence. Thinking gathers language into simple saying. In this way language is the language of being, as clouds are the clouds of the sky".

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  • Rick O.

    One of the questions posed was why an understanding of Being to Heidegger is so important. From the reading of Tillich (pg99) for the upcoming Wed meet-up:
    "Man actually has become what [science] considers him to be, a thing among things, a cog in the dominating machine of production and consumption, a dehumanized object of tyranny or a normalized object of public communications. Cognitive dehumanization has produced actual dehumanization." (my use of [science] replaces Tillich's phrase "controlling reason").
    Or, in Heidegger's terms, a misunderstanding of Dasein's being with other beings leads us to think of ourselves as yet other objects encountered in the world.
    Another example of how Philosophers (the good ones, anyway) are all talking of the Same.
    ..and I agree - great meetup

    2 · August 18, 2013

  • Brian

    Mmmm, I'd rank this as an all-time favorite --- and it wasn't even Plato!

    2 · August 17, 2013

  • Brian

    I love this reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1 · August 17, 2013

  • Chad B.

    I challenge everyone to read the OCR version. Example transcriptions of the page headers:

    PATHMARKS --> I'.vniMARKS --> I'M ll\i\Kks

    1 · August 13, 2013

    • George

      What's "OCR"?

      August 16, 2013

    • Chad B.

      Optical Character Recognition. It's software that converts images (of pages in a book) into text (or garbage).

      August 17, 2013

  • Brian

    Not sure, but parking might be more difficult with the air and water show this weekend?

    August 16, 2013

  • Rick O.

    "What is strange in this thinking of being is its simplicity." Kind of sums things up. (?)

    August 15, 2013

  • Scott

    Arrgh I can't actually make this, I'll be out of town. I'll try to post some comments on the text soon.

    August 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This will be good to stretch my philosophy background a bit. Previous solo attempts at Heidegger were pretty sad.

    1 · July 18, 2013

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