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Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
i
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Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
From God to the Gods
Ben Vedder
Duquesne University Press
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Copyright © 2006 Duquesne University Press
All rights reserved
Published in the United States of America by
D
UQUESNE UNIVERSITY PRESS
600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15282
No part of this book may be used or reproduced,
in any manner or form whatsoever,
without written permission from the publisher,
except in the case of short quotations
in critical articles or reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
∞ Printed on acid-free paper.
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Contents
List of Abbreviations ........................................................ vii
Introduction
.......................................................................... 1
One
•The Pre-Historical Heidegger ................ 11
Tw o
•Heidegger and the Philosophy of
Religion ....................................................
35
Three
• Philosophy and Theology as Mortal
Enemies ....................................................
67
Four
• Aristotle’s Ontology as Theology .......... 93
Five
• The Ideal of a Causa Sui...................... 113
Six
• Heidegger’s Interpretation of the Word
of Nietzsche: “God is Dead” ..................
133
Seven
• The Provisionality of a Passing Last
God ..........................................................
157
Eight
• Subjectivism or Humanism .................... 189
Nine
• A Phenomenology of the Holy .............. 215
Te n
• A Longing for the Coming of the
Gods ........................................................
237
Conclusion
.......................................................................... 265
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vi Contents
Notes ........................................................ 279
Bibliography ............................................ 317
Index ........................................................ 000
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List of Abbreviations
Volumes from Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe(Collected Works)
(Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main), are cited in the
text. English translations of Heidegger that are cited in the text,
as well as a few non-Gestamtausgabeeditions of his texts that
I have used, are listed in the bibliography under “Works by
Heidegger.”
GA 1Frühe Schriften,ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herr-
mann (1978).
GA 4Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung,ed. Friedrich-
Wilhelm von Herrmann (1981).
GA 12Unterwegs zur Sprache,ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von
Herrmann (1985).
GA 13Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens,ed. Hermann Heidegger
(1983).
GA 16Reden und andere Zeugnisse eines Lebensweges,ed.
Hermann Heidegger (2000).
GA 21Logik. Die Frage nach der Wahrheit,ed. Walter
Biemel (1976).
GA 22Die Grundbegriffe der antiken Philosophie,ed.
Franz-Karl Blust (1993).
GA 29/30Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik. Welt — Endlichkeit —
Einsamkeit,ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann (1983).
GA 34Vom Wesen der Wahrheit. Zu Platons Höhlengleichnis
und Theätet,ed. Hermann Mörchen (1988).
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viii List of Abbreviations
GA 39Hölderlins Hymnen ‘Germanien’ und ‘Der Rhein,’
ed. Susanne Ziegler (1980).
GA 41Die Frage nach dem Ding, ed. Petra Jaeger (1984).
GA 43Nietzsche: Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst,ed. Bernd
Heimbüchel (1985).
GA 44Nietzsches metaphysische Grundstellung im abendländis-
chen Denken: Die ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen,
ed. Marion Heinz (1986).
GA 48Nietzsche: Der europaïsche Nihilismus,ed. Petra Jaeger
(1986).
GA 50Nietzsches Metaphysik,ed. Petra Jaeger (1990).
GA 52Hölderlins Hymne “Andenken,”ed. Curd Ochwadt
(1982).
GA 53Hölderlins Hynme “Der Ister,”ed. Walter Biemel
(1982).
GA 56/57Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie,ed. Bern Heimbüchel
(1987).
GA 58Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie,ed. Hans-Helmuth
Gander (1992).
GA 60Phänomenologie des religiösen Lebens,ed. Claudius
Strube (1995).
GA 61Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles.
Einführung in die phänomenologische Forschung,
ed. Walter Bröcker and Käte Bröcker-Oltmanns (1985).
GA 65Beiträge zur Philosophie (vom Ereignis),ed. Friedrich-
Wilhelm von Herrmann (1989).
GA 66Besinnung,ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann (1997).
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Introduction
he relation between philosophy and religion has always been
problematic. It finds its expression in Plato and Aristotle,
on through the syntheses of the Middle Ages, to the rationalis-
tic reductions (religion within the limits of reason alone), fur-
ther through the concept of religion as representation, and
beyond. We find in each epoch more than enough examples of
religion in relation to philosophy. The status of religion in con-
temporary philosophy is a problem more than ever, a problem
connected with truth claims. Religion presents itself as the one
and only guardian of truth.
The presumption of this book is that in Heidegger’s philos-
ophy there is a concept of religion in which truth is a given
that moderates religion’s principal truth claims. From the
beginning of Heidegger’s studies and lectures (from 1919 onward),
his relationship to religion was a point of contention. Most literature
treating this theme approaches it from a purely theological
standpoint, either by way of the Christian faith, a general
theism, or an atheism.
1It has not, however, been taken up from
the perspective of the concept of religion, more specifically
from the perspective of a philosophy of religion.
It is well known that Heidegger’s personal relation to reli-
gion underwent a series of transformations. Out of the Roman
T
1
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2 Introduction
Catholic monotheistic faith, he developed ultimately into a
poetic polytheistic thinker. In Heidegger’s late work, a lan-
guage of divinity — exemplified by terms such as ‘a god,’ ‘the
god,’ ‘the divine,’ ‘the last god,’ and ‘the gods’ — plays a cen-
tral role in his philosophy. This general development in his
thinking implies a theory of religion and, furthermore, a frame-
work from which he understands religion. Once we trace out
this framework, we can also see its salience for formulating an
actual philosophy of religion. The philosophy of religion qua
philosophy already possesses its own specific framework for
understanding religion. When this framework is characterized
as ontotheological, then a predetermined, and therefore guiding,
conception of religion is operative from the outset. Yet what
use is this framework for understanding religion, especially
when a thinker attempts to overcome the traditional, i.e., onto-
theological, thinking of Western rationality? It is not my inten-
tion here either to prove or to test the truth of Heidegger’s
view of god, the gods, or theology; nor do I wish to discuss
his claim that Christian philosophy is impossible. These are
questions already treated at length in other texts. Instead,
my aim is to unfold Heidegger’s implicit thinking on religion
from out of his own philosophy: first by working through Heidegger’s
writings in order to uncover his thinking on religion; second by
asking what consequences such thinking has for constructing a
philosophy of religion.
2
Within the scope of this study, I will not take up the ques-
tion of Heidegger’s relation to religion from the perspective of
his supposed commitment to one or another religion. Nor will
I discuss his personal position with respect to Catholicism or
Protestantism.
3Whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant has
no bearing upon this project, for Heidegger the philosopher
maintained a personal distance from both standpoints, and this
study is limited to his philosophical writing.
4It is necessary,
however, to mark out the different positions he took with
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respect to Christianity in his work. Late in his life, in a letter
written to Karl Jaspers, he states that it was his intention to
explicate the religious tradition in which he had been raised.
5
To this end, Heidegger not only approached the Catholic the-
ology of the Middle Ages critically, but also addressed the the-
ology of the Reformation in his interpretation of Nietzsche’s
proclamation that “God is Dead.” He writes in this connection,
“At the beginning of the modern age the question was newly
raised as to how man, within the totality of what is, i.e., before
that ground of everything in being which is itself most in
being, (God), (vor dem seiendsten Grund alles Seienden) can
become certain and remain certain of his own sure continuance,
i.e., his salvation. This question of the certainty of salvation is
the question of justification, that is, of justice (iustitia).”
6
In deriving philosophical insights related to religion from
Heidegger’s work, I am myself working in the sphere of a phi-
losophy of religion. However, one tendency of a philosophical
understanding of religion is to make religion itself into a part
of philosophy. This is particularly apparent where all forms of
religion get absorbed into an ontotheological philosophy. In
such cases religion is understood from a concept of god, which
is, as a philosophical idea, the beginning and the end of philo-
sophical rationality. Hegel’s philosophy is perhaps the clearest
example of this tendency. When ontotheology is taken up in
this way, however, certain possibilities for understanding reli-
gion are foreclosed. Heidegger speaks as a philosopher about
god and the gods. Yet what is the status of his speaking? It is
not, I shall show, a description of religion. Is it a poetry of reli-
gion, then? Is it a metaphorization of religion? How is it that,
as a philosopher, he can say, “Only a god can save us!”?
It is my view that Heidegger’s thinking on religion occupies
a tension between the forms of poetic and philosophical speak-
ing. To understand the poetic aspect of Heidegger’s language,
one must turn to his interpretations of Hölderlin. And to give
Introduction 3
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4 Introduction
his philosophical expression its proper context one must refer
his “Letter on ‘Humanism,’” which locates religion in the
neighborhood of the thinking of being. Yet religion maintains
its own tension with regard to both sides: if we grasp religion
completely from a philosophical point of view we tend to neu-
tralize it; on the other hand, if we conceive it simply as poetic
expression, we tend to be philosophically indifferent to it. It
will turn out that Heidegger’s thinking in this sense is, in the
end, theological. His thinking of being tends toward a poetic
theology of naming the gods, which is both a praising and an
invocation of them. According to Heidegger the thinking of
being is a movement no longer in accordance with the think-
ing of faith, of religion, or of divinity (Gottheit). Each of these
is heterogeneous in relation to the other. The experience of the
thinking of being manifests itself rather as a topological dis-
position, that is, as an indication of a place characterized
by availability. It is a topological disposition for waiting for,
though not expecting, the reception of being, as a place for the
happening of being. Therefore Heidegger states that he does
not know god; he can only describe god’s absence. His philos-
ophy is a means for maintaining an openness toward the pos-
sible reception of religious gods. But this reception remains always
unconfirmed.
The question of transcendence for Heidegger is not an
immediate question about god but must be understood from the
perspective of temporality. Only from this perspective is it pos-
sible to determine the extent to which an understanding of tran-
scendence and being can be grasped the supreme and holy. It
is not, then, a question of proving the existence of an ontic
god. Rather, it is a question of analyzing the origin of the
understanding of being with respect to Dasein’s temporal tran-
scendence. Only from the essence of being and transcendence
can one comprehend the idea of being as primary. And we
should not mistake this for an explication of an absolute Thou,
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nor as a bonum, nor as a value or something eternal. Heidegger
states in his early lecture courses that he did not discuss these
questions about Christianity because he observed the extent to
which dialectic thinking, bound to inauthentic piety, dominated
the academy during that period. He was content to undergo
facile critiques of atheism by his critics, which, if intended in
an ontic sense, were not without justification. Heidegger’s response
came in the form of a question: is not ontic faith in god itself
in the end godless? That is, would not the real metaphysician
be more religious than everyday believers, the members of a
church, or even the theologians of any given religion?
7
In Heidegger’s case, we do find a persistent concern for
piety, yet not directed toward a god either in a theological or
in a philosophical sense; it is found only in thinking. This con-
cern runs throughout the entirety of his work. It is this concern
that allows Heidegger to write in Identity and Differencethat
“the god-less thinking which must abandon the god of philos-
ophy, god as causa sui, is thus perhaps closer to the divine
God.”
8From this perspective, we can see how philosophy is
for him atheistic in principle.
Christian theology is the point of departure from which Heideg-
ger unfolds his history of origination. As he frees himself from
this starting point, one may ask whether his movement away
from it is primarily biographically motivated, which Hugo Ott
claims.
9Counter to Ott, historical biography is not my guiding
interest, and my methodological procedure thus gives priority
to the course of Heidegger’s thought. Heidegger himself main-
tains in On the Way to Languagein 1959: “Without this theo-
logical background I should never have come on the path of
thinking. But origin always comes to meet us from the
future.”
10 Here Heidegger speaks bound to his hermeneutics
and therefore to his philosophical insight; it should not be
taken to mean that he is furthering his own theological insights.
Indeed, in the first chapter I will show the way in which
Introduction 5
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6 Introduction
Heidegger frees himself from the theological roots forming his
early education. There I emphasize that in this period his later
interest in historicality remains in embryo. For this reason, I’ve
entitled the first section ‘pre-historic.’
Once he begins his analysis of temporality in his early lec-
ture courses he devotes his attention in part to Paul and
Augustine. It is in this phase that Heidegger formulates a spe-
cial approach to factical life, which in turn gives him an array
of conceptual tools for investigating religion from a philosoph-
ical point of view as will be worked out in chapter 2.
In his early period Heidegger not only works out what
would later be published as his principal work, Being and
Time, but also his own particular vision of theology. During his
time in Marburg (1923–1927) he was in touch with a number
of theologians, most notably with Rudolf Bultmann. This nexus
of contact informed his thinking on theology, specifically his
task at that time of differentiating between philosophy and an
understanding of theology as an explication of faith. In chapter
3 it will turn out that Heidegger describes this relation as a
question of mortal enmity.
Heidegger did not limit his interest to explications of faith,
but sought also to reveal the structure of metaphysics, espe-
cially Aristotle’s metaphysics as both ontological and theologi-
cal. He took Aristotle to be the father of ontotheology, a form
of thinking that continues to dominate philosophical thinking
up to the present. The specific ambiguities of Heidegger’s
interpretation of Aristotle I will present in chapter 4.
The idea of ontotheology was intensified in modern philos-
ophy, where the human comes to be seen as the highest entity,
the creator not only of reality, but of himself as well. This
modern conception neglects, however, the finite and historical
characteristics of human life, which Heidegger takes up in his
vision of the human as Dasein. In chapter 5 I will contrast
these concepts of the human as the highest being and as his-
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torical Dasein. History reaches the point where the ontotheo-
logical god and the human subject are both declared dead; we
discover that gods, too, can die just as humans do. As a result
of this declaration, gods are placed inside the realm of the his-
torical as well. And in the end, the death of god means noth-
ing other than the lack of god. In chapter 6 I show how the
death of the ontotheological god and the human means an
openness for the historicality of gods and Dasein.
In an attempt to think the historicality of Dasein even more
radically than in terms of its mortality (as explicated in Being
and Time), Heidegger unfolds the idea of a last, passing god.
This idea reflects Heidegger’s use of theological language as a
means for bringing to light the essential characteristics of the
historicality of the event of being. In chapter 7 I interpret the
notion of the last god as a ‘concept’ with which Heidegger
emphasizes the historicality of the event of being.
In his rejection of subjectivism and in searching for an idea
of being as historical event, Heidegger seeks a new status for
the human as Dasein. This new attempt leads to the question
of what the consequences of a subjectivist approach to theol-
ogy and the appreciation of religion actually are. In chapter 8
I will point out that an understanding of religion from a sub-
jective point of view may seem modern but is just an intensification
of the ontotheological approach.
In order to get a nonsubjective approach to religion, Heideg-
ger introduces the notion of the holy. Heidegger marks out a
proximity to the holy and to the historical event of being pre-
cisely where he refuses to employ an anthropological approach
to religion. It is not the human who constitutes the holy; the
holy is given by the poets in order to create a place for humans
and gods to encounter one another. But is there such a thing
as a phenomenology of the holy? I work out this question in
chapter 9.
The historicality of being and the historical ground on which
Introduction 7
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8 Introduction
humanity poetically dwells implies a new meaning for the
word ‘theology.’ Theology, as Heidegger understands it, is the
poetic praising of the gods by which the poet creates a place
for both humanity and gods. The poet is the one who acts not
by his own power but rather is the one upon whom the gods
call. It is by this conception of the poet that Heidegger dis-
tances himself from an anthropological understanding of reli-
gion. That is, religion can never be understood as something
motivated by men; it is always motivated by the gods, as I
argue in chapter 10. In this sense, Heidegger’s understanding of
being proceeds in line with a kind of theology — as is the case
with all great Western thinkers.
By proceeding along the course outlined above, I wish to
make clear how certain tensions or paradoxes have to be approached:
on the one hand in the writings published by Heidegger during
his lifetime we find silence with respect to the question of
god as an ontotheological god. On the other hand, in his inter-
view with Der Spiegelhe states that only a god can save us.
Heidegger expressly subscribes to the problematic of the death
of an ontotheological god, as proclaimed by Nietzsche, but at
the same time he seeks to prepare the arrival of a new god
with the words of Hölderlin. If he is to overcome metaphysics,
Heidegger must reject the notion of god as causa sui, as a god
defined ontotheologically. However, he wants to issue a more
divine god to whom one can pray and sacrifice.
What I wish to be clear about is that Heidegger is in no way
mired in a theism, a deism, pantheism, or an atheism. Nor does
he appeal to the Greek gods or to the Christian God. Rather,
he sees his thinking as a godless thinking. Naming and invok-
ing the holy, and, moreover, explicating its content, is the task
of the poet, not of the thinker. The task of the thinker is to
clarify and explicate the place of the holy. The question of god
in relation to the question of being, and the question of the
holy in its relation to the question of being, need to be strictly
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separated. According to traditional metaphysics, god is the
highest entity; as an entity, he therefore stands in an ontologi-
cal difference with respect to being. On the other hand, what is
godlike is a cornerstone of the experience of the fourfold of
earth and heaven, divinities and mortals. There, divinity and
human come into a relation of mutual reliance and need. The
question of god for Heidegger is taken up into the encompass-
ing question of being, and this means that it is only to be
answered to the extent that the question of being is solved. And
yet the question of being has itself fallen into oblivion, and
therefore must first be reawakened and newly formulated. The
question must be raised now: where is the holy in Heidegger’s
thinking to be placed and what status does it occupy? In what
perspective does the holy stand to being and how does it stand
with respect to the gods and to god?
A wealth of literature has already been provided by theolo-
gians offering an overview of the relations between philosophy
and theology within Heidegger’s thinking, and also an over-
view of his general development.
11 The sheer number of titles
alone attests to the consideration that Heidegger receives on
this aspect of his work. Most of this literature discusses Heideg-
ger and theology, a pairing that provides ongoing, fruitful dis-
cussion.
12 However, the present study maintains a decidedly
different focus: understanding Heidegger with respect to what
he has to say as a philosopher on religion.
Within the field of philosophy of religion, such an undertak-
ing calls for us not only to move beyond the descriptive ap-
proach to religion but to step over the bounds set until now by
the dogmatic determinations of religion within any given meta-
physical or ontotheological system. This does not mean, how-
ever, that we are consequently committed to an anthropological
reduction of religion, in which god is conceived merely as a
human creation. This is an approach to and an understanding
of religion in its multiform and historical manifestations. Now
Introduction 9
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10 Introduction
more than ever it is necessary to gain an understanding of the
historicity and the pluriformity of religion. The insights
afforded by this approach will be formulated with an eye
toward making a postmetaphysical theory of religion visible.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The problem of religion in Heidegger’s work has attracted
my attention for a long time. It was not until my sabbatical
leave from the Theology Department of Tilburg University that
I had time to work out this study on Heidegger. The sabbatical
leave in 2001 was made possible by the Theology Depart-
ment for which I am very grateful to its director Lex Oostrom,
and by the Radboud Foundation, especially its director Stefan
Waanders. Next to this my sabbatical leave was made pos-
sible with the collegial support of my former colleagues in Til-
burg: Donald Loose, René Munnik, Rudi te Velde, Harald van
Veghel, Marijke Verhoeven, and Koos Verhoof.
During my sabbatical stay at Penn State University in State
College my wife Yolande and I were generously supported by
Jerry and John Sallis, Susan Schoenbohm, and Charles Scott
and by Monika Lozinska and Rick Lee.
After my move to the Philosophy Department of the
Radboud University Nijmegen, I was able to finish my project
on Heidegger with the help of the Department of Philosophy
and the collegial discussions of Gerrit Steunebrink, Ad Vennix,
and Gerrit-Jan van der Heiden.
For the editorial work I am grateful to Ryan Drake and espe-
cially to Karen Gover who has an excellent sense for language.
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ONE
The Pre-Historical
Heidegger
n ongoing relationship to theology, to faith, and the
church runs like a thread throughout Heidegger’s life.
Heidegger was born, so to speak, in the church. His father was
a sexton, who led both a vocational and a familial life under
one roof, in a house situated next to the church. As a young
child and schoolboy, Martin’s playtime was ever carried out
with the church as his backdrop. And later, as a young student,
Heidegger’s intellectual pursuits were inspired by his interest in
theology. It is highly likely that the relationship that Heidegger
maintained to faith, theology, and the church throughout the whole
of his work can be traced back to this early influence. What-
ever value this backdrop may have had for Heidegger at dif-
ferent points in his life, it is the environment out of which his
thought began.
In this chapter, I will discuss the way in which Heidegger
first attempted to conceptualize an ahistorical Catholicism,
and how he later came to the historicity of religion through
Friedrich Schleiermacher. Moreover, I will discuss Heidegger’s
A
11
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12 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
rejection of a theoretical approach to religion, while neverthe-
less endeavoring to preserve the piety of philosophy — includ-
ing the piety of the philosophy of religion. The term ‘pre-historical’
is to be taken here in reference to the timeless character of scholas-
tic and neoscholastic Catholicism, the intellectual environment
out of which Heidegger emerged, and the period prior to his
adoption of a historical perspective. The ontological and tem-
poral determination of the ‘earlier’ and ‘prior’ is to be under-
stood as piety (Frommigkeit).
THE EARLIEST PUBLICATIONS
Heidegger’s earliest published work borrows from the language
of Catholicism conveyed by his teachers, and he clearly iden-
tifies himself with this language.
1For example, in his first
review in 1910, “Per mortem ad vitam,” he rejects all tenden-
cies toward personality cult and individualism.
2Also, in a short
essay, “Zur Philosophischen Orientierung für Akademiker,”
written in 1911, Heidegger maintains that philosophy must be
a mirror of the eternal, as it is in scholastic philosophy. The
problem that he saw in the philosophical work of his contem-
poraries was that it served as a mirror for their subjective opin-
ions, personal feelings, and wishes. He reproached particular
worldviews that were grounded in life, rather than in the
eternal.
3
It is likely that his youthful aversion to modernism was bor-
rowed from Carl Braig, his mentor in theology during this
period.
4Despite having giving up his studies in theology in
1911, Heidegger continued to attend Braig’s lecture course on
dogmatic theology, and he recalled much later conversations
that he and Braig shared on scholastic and idealistic-speculative
theology.
5As a high school student, Heidegger had already
read Braig’s book, Vom Sein: Abriß der Ontologie. In this
book, Braig includes a passage from St. Bonaventure, which
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holds that just as the eye does not see light itself when it is
directed toward a manifold of color, the mind’s eye does not
see being itself when directed to entities singly or as a whole.
6
And yet, it is only by way of being that we can encounter enti-
ties in the first place. The mind’s eye receives, as it were, an
objectless impression, much in the way that one who only sees
light sees nothing per se. What later emerges in Heidegger’s
work as the ontological difference has its roots in this connec-
tion between transcendental philosophy and ontology. The for-
mer asks about the conditions for the possibility of knowledge,
seeking not to bring new objects of knowledge forth, but rather
what makes objects of knowledge as such possible. The latter,
seen from Bonaventure’s perspective, gives the transcendental
question an ontological answer through that nonobjective con-
dition which Bonaventure calls ‘being’ (and here, Bonaventure
also differentiates himself from Plato, who sought such a con-
dition in the idea of the good). Here we can see an opening up
of the difference between being and entities, which served orig-
inally to prevent the mistake of identifying being with the
highest entity or with the whole of entities. In the later chap-
ters of this study, we shall see how this theme becomes more
central in Heidegger’s work.
Braig himself was a notorious opponent of modernism,
and was credited with coining the term.
7Braig saw in mod-
ernism both a theology and a philosophy, which in the wake of
Schleiermacher’s influence places the essence of religion in the
impulses of feeling, where feeling mediates religious truth.
Braig opposed accounts seeking to conceive all images of
god as the result of the faculty of imagination. He saw in lib-
eral theology the tendency to simplify the truth claims of reli-
gion — especially those of Christianity — as a means of satisfying
our human desire for religion. Braig took a critical position toward
such forms of psychologism, which Heidegger in turn adopted.
As an outgrowth of his association with Braig, Heidegger went
The Pre-Historical Heidegger 13
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14 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
on to produce a dissertation entitled Die Lehre vom Urteil im
Psychologismus.
What counts as Heidegger’s first scientific work was Das
Realitätsproblem in der modernen Philosophie, published in 1912.
Here, Heidegger presents an overview of Kant’s contemporary
reception and poses the question of how the problem of reality
could be overlooked by scholars writing on Kant’s epistemol-
ogy.
8In Heidegger’s own interpretation of this problem, he betrays
his training in the scholastic tradition; yet at the same time, he
saw promise in the more direct approach to reality characteris-
tic of the natural sciences. His aim was to unite both of these
moments.
9He finds a tension between, on the one hand, philo-
sophical theory, realized in its most mature form in neo-Kantianism,
and on the other hand, the practice of science, which served to
undercut the tenability of philosophical theory. Heidegger takes
this tension to be the product of a misguided valuation of the
problem of reality on the part of the neo-Kantians, where the
existence of transsubjective objects is denied. At the time,
Heidegger’s aim was to defend Aristotelian-scholastic philoso-
phy, which had always made the problem of the real central,
and was therefore better equipped to form the basis of sci-
entific thought.
10 Due to Heidegger’s particular education, how-
ever, the realism that he sought to defend rested in the end
upon a theological form of metaphysics.
As Heidegger’s work branched out into the study of logic,
he retained his commitment to the basis of faith and theologi-
cal metaphysics, conceived as a timeless truth. In both his early
reviews and in Neuere Forschungen über Logik(1912), he con-
tinues to reject the standpoints of modern psychologism and
historicism. In this work Heidegger claims that psychologism’s
principal fault lies in its inability to distinguish between a psy-
chic act and its logical content; in other words, there is a dif-
ference between the process of thinking as a temporal development,
on the one hand, and the ideal meaning that corresponds to this
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act, on the other. In short, what psychologism overlooks is the
distinction between what in fact happens and what counts as
valid. Interestingly, Heidegger does not therefore classify Kant
as a subjectivist or a psychologist, for Kant asks about the log-
ical value of the validity of knowledge and not its psycholog-
ical origin.
11In his review of Charles Sentroel’s book Kant und
Aristoteles, Heidegger notes that contemporary work on Kant
lacks an adequate study undertaken from a Catholic perspec-
tive. From these early contributions onward, Heidegger’s close-
ness to this Kantian problematic, as well as to the problem of
ontology, shapes his own intellectual development.
Heidegger continued to oppose psychologism as he com-
posed his dissertation in 1913. As he characterized it, psychol-
ogistic investigation directs itself toward the conditions of the
possibility of judgment. Yet in its commitment to objectivity,
psychologism does not allow any subjective relation to judg-
ment to play a role.
12 Heidegger avoids both the exclusively
psychologist and the exclusively historicist alternatives, but
takes up elements of both by asking after the conditions of the
possibility of judgment where historicity is involved. He asks
for the necessary and sufficient elements that allow judgment to
be possible.
13 In this way, he wins a philosophical stance by
allowing truth to play a role in his investigation. For Heidegger
the question of truth is always a transcendental question; even
when he conceptualizes history, he asks about the conditions of
its possibility.
14
The fact that truth is to be sought in the realm of the ideal
arises not merely out of his approach to psychologism, but also
as something that is self-evident. Judgment lies on the other
side of change and development, as something that can be
grasped by a human subject, though not changed.
15 The ideal
is to be found, on he other hand, in the unit of meaning of
an assertion. The real preparation for logic, according to Heidegger,
must be found in the analysis of the meaning of a word.
16 Only
The Pre-Historical Heidegger 15
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16 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
from this point can the full extent of being be properly inves-
tigated. What is to be revealed, then, lies not in the sphere of
scientific evidence, but in the sphere of indication.
17
The question of truth is a guiding factor in Heidegger’s early
work, primarily in questioning the logical validity of the truth
of a judgment. This line of thought was continued in his 1915
Habilitationsschrift, Die Kategorien und Bedeutungslehre des
Duns Scotus.
18Ultimately, the book takes as its fundamental theme
what Heidegger calls ‘the real truth’.
19 By this point, however,
the scholastic timelessness that he had earlier found so com-
pelling was beginning to lose its influence. For, in line with the
question into truth, his book on Scotus begins with the reli-
gious experience of the truth of the Christian faith in the
Middle Ages. Since the primary structure of the medieval atti-
tude toward life lies in “the transcendental relation of the soul
to God,” a phenomenological application, i.e., a means of
freeing-up the calcified tradition of scholasticism, becomes
an exigent task for the present.
20From Heidegger’s earliest reviews
we find that he regards the modern subjective way of life as
obscuring the proper place for a truth that transcends the sub-
ject. Out of this concern, Heidegger became fascinated by the
contrast represented in the medieval temperament; during that
age, individuals were capable of devoting themselves to the
object of their investigation with a particular passion. The
devotion to the transcendent object overshadowed the human
subject’s commitment to his own perspective.
21
Through his study of Scotus, Heidegger forges a fundamen-
tally new relation to the concepts of reality and individuality.
For Scotus, what really exists is what is individual; it is the
irreducible, underlying given. Two apples in the same tree, for
example, do not have an identical status from the perspective
of the eternal; each is distinct from the other even if they are
completely equivalent in all spatial determinations.
22
Heidegger saw that medieval thought demands an approach
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fitted to its own specific character. The specific will toward life
and the spirit particular to that age call for a similar mode of
understanding as well as their own adequate philosophical
treatment. Heidegger understands these concepts as originating
out of an expression of inner life, an inner life anchored to a
transcendental, fundamental relation of the soul to god, a rela-
tion that took its own unique form during the Middle Ages. In
this sense, a “true reality” or a true worldview remains dis-
tanced from a theoretical construction that exists in alienation
from life. The spirit of an age is only comprehensible when the
whole of its acts, its history, is brought into view. The living
spirit as such is essentially the historic spirit in the broadest
sense of the word.
23 At the end of his study of Scotus,
Heidegger remarks that he sees his prospective task as elevat-
ing the Christian experience of piety into a philosophy of the
living spirit, the active love of, and the relation of worship to,
god. This task is to be situated against the background of the
experienced transcendence of individuals in the Middle Ages,
on the one hand, and of his own origin in faith, on the other.
Furthermore, Heidegger seeks to carry out this task without at
the same time nullifying this faith on a higher level of specu-
lative knowledge, as Hegel’s philosophy does.
On the basis of his conclusions in the Scotus study, Heideg-
ger notes that any purely formal approach to the problem of
categories is doomed to fail, since such formal approaches do
not take into account the culture and human experience of the
period in which said categories are discussed. In fact, an appro-
priate understanding of medieval category-theory also requires
a study of medieval mysticism and theology (for example, a
full appreciation of the human and religious or ontotheological
commitments of a concept like ‘analogy’), and vice-versa. Moreover,
a complete account of category-theory must comprehend the entire
range or cultural ‘history’ of the unfolding of the living spirit.
24
From the beginning, it is clear that Heidegger was motivated
The Pre-Historical Heidegger 17
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18 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
by the question of truth, which he first formulates as the ques-
tion after logical validity. This finds its full expression in the
afterword of his study on Scotus. There, he states that the “real
truth” is his focus. And the experience of religious Christian
conviction in the Middle Ages is the original region in which
Heidegger seeks such real truth.
25 In order to do this, Heideg-
ger was led to emphasize the role of history in understanding
the living spirit: in the last sentence of his study, he indicates
that historicity must enter the scene.
26 On this basis, he called
for an engagement with Hegel as a means of overcoming the
one-sidedness of a theoretical mentality with the help of a con-
cept of living spirit.
PIETY
Heidegger was drawn to the question of what kind of truth
would be the most original, and furthermore where this origin
lies. The material that he had at his disposal was primarily by
the mystics of the Middle Ages; he asked after the “basic rela-
tion of the soul to God.” Following Eckhart, Heidegger inves-
tigated the relation between god and time in the soul itself, the
soul which he refers to as the castle and dwelling of god.
27
Even though god is understood here through classical metaphysics
as the origin of the soul, the images derived from Eckhart’s
mysticism were nonetheless paradigms for the philosophy of
the “innerness of God” (Gottinnigkeit). Mysticism thus helped
Heidegger rise above classical metaphysics.
The perspective of Aristotle’s first philosophy, also called
theology, teaches that god and world exist. This idea was
shared as much by the Romans as by the Greeks. In addition,
this perspective set the scope of Christian thinking for the subsequent
millennium. It was not until the need to find evidence of god
emerged amidst the struggle on the part of the monastics
against a secularization of faith, that Christian thinking began
to change in this respect. Arguments like St. Anselm’s, in
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which the divine being is that other than which nothing greater
can be thought, were posed in an effort to retain what was first
asfirst. This tendency, along with the withering of piety in
European scholastic philosophy, furthered the misconception
that the first philosophy would be a science of god, scienta
Dei— as if a love for knowledge could ever reach the level of
a science and somehow achieve thereby an omniscience of the
divine (which was precisely Hegel’s pretension).
28
Heidegger’s research in this regard was not a guiding force
in his later thinking.
29 Yet this early work is emblematic of the
parochial world — dedicated to eternal truths — from which he
descended, and from which he wanted to free himself through
thinking. He later provided a sketch of this world in the essay
“Vom Geheimnis des Glockenturms.”
30 Throughout Heidegger’s
life, he states, the peal of the clock tower of St. Martin’s
Church in Messkirch resounded. This ringing bears witness to
the divine rhythm in which religious holy days interweave with
the course of the hours of the day and year.
31 It is the practi-
cally eternal rhythm that orders one’s life.
The notion of piety (Frömmigkeit) plays an essential role in
my explication of Heidegger’s thinking on religion, and in this
respect, I follow the direction set by Manfred Riedel in his
analysis “Frömmigkeit im Denken.”
32 ‘Frömmigkeit’ is etymo-
logically related to the Greek word promos,and subsequently
the Latin primum; the relation between piety and the concept
of ‘the primary’ guides the present investigation of Heidegger
and religion as a whole. This principle applies not only to
Heidegger’s thinking about religion and his determinations with
respect to it, but first and foremost to the fact that his thinking
is continually motivated to seek what is previous or earlier, in
short, the a priori.
As Thomas Sheehan has shown, three letters written by Edmund
Husserl also serve to shed light on Heidegger’s religious interests.
33
When Husserl arrived in Freiburg in 1916 and met the young
Heidegger, the latter had already presented his Habilitationsschrift
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20 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
to the department of philosophy. Husserl supported Heidegger
in publishing his book, although, because Heidegger was
drafted into military service at that time, there was little oppor-
tunity for the two to forge a significant acquaintance. When
Paul Natorp wrote to Husserl asking for candidates for a chair
in medieval philosophy in 1917, Husserl recommended Heideg-
ger, noting the latter’s personal religious convictions in his
reply. Subsequently however, Heidegger was passed over for
the position. In a letter to Rudolf Otto dated March of 1919,
Husserl mentioned Heidegger in connection with Otto’s work
on the holy. Husserl writes that Heidegger inclined strongly toward
problems of religion. However, as he puts it, “In Heidegger it
is the theoretical-philosophical interest which predominates.”
And it was Husserl who discerned in his student a gradual tran-
sition toward Protestantism.
34 On the basis of Husserl’s corre-
spondences, Sheehan concludes that Heidegger underwent a radical
religious transformation between 1916 and 1919, motivated pri-
marily by his theoretical pursuits. Though I agree with Sheehan
on this point, I will argue in the following that this change was
actually a transition from theory over into piety. Finally, in a
letter written to Natorp in February of 1920, Husserl comments
on Heidegger’s personal religious development, as well as on
his development as an intellectual. He notes not only that Heidegger
had distanced himself from Catholicism, but also that his devo-
tion to teaching had already distinguished him as an outstand-
ing lecturer, drawing one hundred or more students to his
lectures. It was during this time that Heidegger presented
his analysis of a hermeneutic of the facticity of existence in his
lecture course, “Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie.” It was
around this same issue that Heidegger went on to structure his
course in the following autumn and winter, entitled, “Einleitung
in die Phänomenologie der Religion.”
As another documented source for Heidegger’s intellectual
development, we can turn to Heinrich Ochsner, who states that
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Heidegger began his studies of Schleiermacher in 1917. 35 In
August of that year, Heidegger presented a lecture devoted to
the second of Schleiermacher’s essays from “On Religion,
Essays to its Cultured Despisers.”
36 From the point of view of
Heidegger’s earlier position, in which he typified Schleier-
macher as a representative of modernism — and therefore as
objectionable from a Catholic philosophical standpoint — it is
somewhat surprising that he then returned to this thinker.
If we consider Heidegger’s letter to Engelbert Krebs, his for-
mer professor and confidant, in early 1919, we get a clearer
picture of Heidegger’s path of thinking in this regard. In the
letter, he addresses his own development over the previous two
years, beginning with his study of Schleiermacher’s second “Speech
on Religion.” It is precisely here where we can discern a significant
tie between his thoughts on historicity and religion. Heidegger
confesses that epistemological insights concerning historical
knowledge made Catholicism problematic for him.
37 This letter
bears witness to a decisive turning point for Heidegger, then
29, both philosophically and religiously. Yet most importantly,
it marks the end of his career as an aspiring Catholic philoso-
pher, the course he’d set for himself since his dissertation in
1913. At this point, Heidegger found himself struggling to develop
his own perspective and to free himself from his earlier influences.
He describes this struggle in terms strikingly similar to those
of Descartes, in the latter’s resolution to break with his own
past. “It is difficult,” Heidegger writes, “to live as a philoso-
pher... [yet] I believe myself to possess the inner vocation for
philosophy.”
38
It was not, however, in his efforts to abandon Catholic
dogma that Heidegger turned to Schleiermacher, but in his
effort to engender a philosophical understanding of religion.
For Schleiermacher, the question of god takes its leave from
philosophy. What Schleiermacher offers Heidegger, therefore, is
a means of overcoming the philosophical framework within which
The Pre-Historical Heidegger 21
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22 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
he operated as a young student. In this respect, I do not agree
with Otto Pöggler, who saw in Heidegger’s study of Schleiermacher
a testimony to his farewell to Catholicism.
39 Rather, it was the
vocation of philosophy itself that alienated him from Catholic-
ism. In his second “Speech on religion,” Schleiermacher sets
philosophical theology, the root of philosophy from Aristotle on
through Hegel, aside in order to introduce what he sees as the
real religious dimension of life. Those who wish to follow him
in this undertaking must therefore abandon pre-given concepts
of god and immortality; Schleiermacher no longer allows for a
classical metaphysical concept of god.
According to Schleiermacher, the real essence of religion is
obscure; what is most often given the name ‘religion’ ends up
revealing itself as either philosophy, metaphysics, or morality.
In contrast to Kant, Schleiermacher rejects a reduction of reli-
gion to morality. For him, philosophy and morality are limited
to the finite; they deal with abstract considerations or daily
practical concerns. Religion, on the other hand, is involved in
the infinite, in the universe; it is not a matter of thinking and
acting, but of the unity of ‘intuition’ (Anschauung) and ‘feel-
ing’ (Gefühl). Contact with the universe or infinity, Schleier-
macher argues, is achieved through intuition. In a sudden moment,
one experiences all discrete things as an infinite totality, in
which one knows oneself to be included as well. Everything,
that is, is experienced as a unity, in which the separation
between subject and object is nullified. One simply abides in
the experienced unity, without being able to represent it con-
ceptually. Schleiermacher describes the union of intuition and
feeling in the experience of unification with the whole of
infinity in famous passage that is called the ‘love scene.’ Since
Schleiermacher’s theory provides an entrance point to religion
because of this unification with the whole of infinity, he was
consequently likened to Spinoza and accused of pantheism by
his opponents.
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Schleiermacher carefully avoids focusing upon separate ele-
ments of life or individuals in isolation, but rather aims at the
totality of humankind and its ‘eternal’ history. Ultimately, he
portrays the subject of religion as something that transcends
humankind, giving it different names: the one, infinity, the uni-
verse, the world soul, or world spirit. It transcends not only
humankind, but nature as well, though we can see it manifested
through both. In the final sections of his speech, Schleier-
macher attends to several themes that were then, as now, considered
to be essential to religion. Dogmas, miracles, inspiration, reve-
lation, and grace are reinterpreted in these passages from the
new perspective on religion that he has worked out.
Furthermore, and perhaps most shocking to his contemporaries,
Schleiermacher assigned new meaning to the ideas of immor-
tality and divinity. For him, neither god nor immortality are
“the hinge and the chief articles of religion.”
40 The idea of reli-
gion put forward, then, is not based upon the idea of a supreme
being. “To have religion means to intuit the universe, and the
value of your religion depends upon the manner in which you
intuit it, on the principle that you find in its actions. Now if
you cannot deny that the idea of God adapts itself to each intu-
ition of the universe, you must also admit that one religion
without God can be better than another with God.”
41
It is to this world of theoretical knowledge of god that Heidegger
wishes to bid farewell; he had to renounce it precisely because
he identified himself with it both as a student of theology and
in his early writings. And this distance from the timeless is also
his farewell to the pre-historical.
For Heidegger, the primary importance of this point was to
explicate the specific character of religion over and against the
modern misunderstanding of it as an origin of a moral and
metaphysical worldview. Through Schleiermacher, this possibility
was opened up for him: “Most often, and also now, one appre-
ciated the expressions, the documents of religion according to
The Pre-Historical Heidegger 23
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24 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
the profit they yielded for morals and metaphysics. So the cut-
ting opposition of faith to morals and metaphysics, of piety against
morality, is first to be shown.”
42 The origin and end of religion
is the infinite being, where god must necessarily be presup-
posed. Though god is not explicitly identified with it, god is
nonetheless presupposed in it.
43 According to Schleiermacher,
what is most important is “to get down into the innermost holi-
ness of life” to explore therein the original unity of contem-
plation and feeling.
44 This unity is to be found in the human
being itself; Schleiermacher writes therefore: “But I must refer
you to yourselves, to the grasp of a living moment. You must
understand, likewise, for your consciousness to, as it were,
eavesdrop on, or at least to reconstitute this state out of the liv-
ing moment for yourselves. You should notice here the becom-
ing of your consciousness, rather than somehow reflecting on a
consciousness that has already become.”
45
According to Heidegger, the task here is to uncover an orig-
inal dimension of living and acting grounded in feeling, in
which only religion is actualized as a particular form of expe-
rience. In this experience, the elements of religion are not
determined by teleological coherence and corresponding noetic
structures.
46 Rejecting metaphysical speculation, Heidegger uti-
lizes instead Husserl’s epoché,the method of phenomenologi-
cal reduction.
47
Because the phenomenological epochéeliminates all meta-
physical or ontological claims and identification, the percep-
tions of faith and the world of religious experience are placed
into a neutral domain. From the perspective of its content, no
particular religion is given precedence above any other. Reli-
gions are here distinguished primarily by the way in which
their content is experienced and how they are lived in the actu-
alization of faith.
For Heidegger, religious experience is never theoretical;
he therefore resists taking dogmas as truth as Catholicism, in
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his view, does. 48 He takes the immediate relation to religious
concepts as analogous to the immediacy of philosophical
understanding. “The ‘concepts’ of understanding, and all under-
standing in the genuinely philosophical sense, have not the
slightest to do with rationalization.”
49 It is this immediate un-
derstanding of the prior, signified by the term piety, which
determines the religious for Heidegger. Through thinking the
‘first,’ the primary, one marks out the space of the religious,
and this marking out must be itself undertaken piously. Thus,
Heidegger brings himself into conflict with the traditional con-
cept of the philosophy of religion as such: philosophy as meta-
physical theory and religion as immediate understanding of the
prior do not cohere with one another, as Schleiermacher maintained.
Alongside his study of Schleiermacher, Heidegger continued
his research in medieval mysticism. Mystics maintained that
their practice of taking the divine as an absolute object was not
irrational, precisely because they rejected the opposition be-
tween rationality and irrationality from the outset. Mysticism
moves outward beyond rationality because its object demands
this. “Not the not-yet-determinable and not-yet-determined —
rather, that which is essentially without determination in
general is the primordial object, the absolute.”
50 Taking this in-
sight — that only equality recognizes equality — as its basis, mys-
ticism explicates a theory of consciousness. Heidegger saw that
an empty consciousness paired with an object that is likewise
empty is the specific “seclusion” (Abgeschiedenheit) that lies at
the center of mysticism.
51
It was this involvement in mysticism that led Heidegger to
Schleiermacher’s concept of religion, taking over the latter’s
dictum that “The measure of knowledge is not the measure of
piety.”
52 God, thought from within the domain of knowledge as
the ground of knowing and the known, is not the same as a
pious relation to god, where ‘knowledge’ arises out of this
piety.
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26 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Schleiermacher succeeded in opening up the possibility of
an historical approach to subjectivity, wherein religion and
historicity are intimately tied to one another.
53The absolute, toward
which spirit directs itself, appears only ashistorical. The im-
portance of historicity, which became evident for Heidegger at
the end of his study on Scotus, is taken up once again in rela-
tion to Schleiermacher’s work. Yet as an actualization of the
absolute, historicity demands its own approach. For Heidegger,
religious experience must be engaged with its own means and
according to its own criteria, rather than with scientific criteria
imposed upon it from without. And Heidegger locates such cri-
teria precisely in historical consciousness. “Religion, just as
any world of experience, can gain its form only in historical
consciousness.”
54 It is not therefore possible to create a religion
with philosophy as its ground (erphilosophieren), nor can phi-
losophy here provide criteria for criticism. But if not philoso-
phy, then what?
Here the phenomenological approach offers help: “Over and
against this, only phenomenology can offer rescue in philosophical
need.”
55A relation to god based on feeling can therefore direct
the specific religious constitution of god as a ‘phenomenologi-
cal object.’
56 And this, once again, implies historicity: “The
absolute — determinable only in the respective sphere of experience.
Inside the respective sphere, it receives its full concretion only
in the way that it shows itself in a historicity.”
57 Therefore a
phenomenological analysis must refer ever back to the historic
as the primal meaning and determining element of living con-
sciousness. Thus an interpretation of Schleiermacher, Heidegger
sought to reformulate pious feeling in terms of phenomenology.
In this connection, Hegel’s treatment of religion is also re-
jected. For Hegel, morality is the leading aim, which religion
degraded to a means in its service.
58 Consciousness shows itself
to be historical in the fulfillment of the moment, and not in the
philosophy of the pure ego. In short, Heidegger took primal
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experience as his focus, rather than derivative theoretical expli-
cation. It is at this point that Heidegger recognized the impor-
tance of the historical, which manifests itself throughout as the
determining moment of consciousness.
A P IOUS ATHEIST
Heidegger recognized that the religious object demands an
approach that is loyal to religious experience itself. In his com-
mentary on Rudolph Otto’s The Holy,Heidegger writes: “[T]he
holy may not be made into a problem as theoretical — also not
an irrational theoretical —noema,rather as correlate of the act-
character of ‘faith,’ which itself is to be interpreted only from
out of the fundamentally essential experiential context of his-
torical consciousness.”
59 Heidegger’s phenomenology seeks to
justify the infinity of being, which Schleiermacher emphasizes
as a moment of meaning within religious life. The experience
and the observation of it are always, at each moment, histori-
cal. And as such, the historical is always a manifestation of
something other than what has come before. Thinking along
with Schleiermacher, Heidegger notes: “History in the most authen-
tic sense is the highest object of religion, religion begins and
ends in it.”
60 Religion here is, therefore, as an historical event,
a mystical moment of unarticulated unity between contempla-
tion and feeling, which withdraws from all conceptual analyses
that metaphysical theology might attempt.
By following Schleiermacher’s thinking on individuality,
Heidegger’s phenomenology of religion translates the piety of
his youth into an analysis of religious feeling and experience,
without sacrificing his thinking before the altar of a philosoph-
ical concept of god. Here phenomenological analysis is pious
precisely because its subject, the prior, is pious. The moment
of the piety of faith is preserved but is transformed into a more
original sympathy with life that commits one to confronting
The Pre-Historical Heidegger 27
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28 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
ultimate questions. Since observation does not necessarily ac-
company real questioning, what is essential to questioning is a
personal stake, wherein a question can be actualized. As Heidegger
writes in the winter of 1921, it is essential to know how to phi-
losophize and to work in a phenomenological mode, “and in so
doing, to be genuinely religious, i.e. . . . to take up factically
one’s worldly, historiological-historical task in philosophy, in
action, and in a concrete world of action, though not in reli-
gious ideology and fantasy.”
61 For Heidegger the question is
not whether philosophy is religious, in the sense of pious, but
whether philosophy is theistic or atheistic. To this he answers
unequivocally: “Philosophy, in its radical, self-posing question-
ability, must be atheistic as a matter of principle. Precisely on
account of its basic intention, philosophy must not presume to
possess or determine god. The more radical philosophy is, the
more determinately it is on a path away from god; yet precisely
in the radical actualization of the ‘away’, it has its own difficult
proximity to god. For the rest, philosophy must not become
too speculative on this account, since it has its own task to
fulfill.”
62
On the other side of this relation, Heidegger is careful not
to reduce philosophy itself to a kind of art or religion. “The
comparison of philosophy with science is an unjustified debase-
ment of its essence. Comparing it with art and religion, on the
other hand, is a justified and necessary determination of their
essence as equal. Yet equality here does not mean identity . . .
[W]e shall never grasp the essence of philosophy through
these comparisons, either — however much art and religion
are treated on a level equal to philosophy — unless we have
already managed to look philosophy in the face to begin with.
For only then can we differentiate art and religion from it.”
63
Heidegger’s determination of philosophy is prior to his deter-
mination of religion, precisely because he aims at a philosoph-
ical approach to phenomena.
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As I have shown above, Heidegger clearly rejects a theoret-
ical approach to understanding religion as a specific object for
phenomenological philosophy; instead to identifying himself as
a phenomenologist of religious experience. The most intimate
experience of the self is understood here as a religious experi-
ence, and vice-versa; religious experience is the most intimate
experience of the self.
64 Following from this idea, Heidegger
maintains that the scholar who studies the history of religion
understands Jesus as a pious person would regard him. That is,
the comprehension of Jesus is preserved as a religious form of
comprehension. The priority here lies in minimizing theory and
maximizing the preservation of the original situation with the
experience of the phenomenon itself in its originality.
65 Reli-
gion as a presentation of the absolute demands, then, a reli-
gious, i.e., a pious approach.
In order to resist theoretical theology and a theoretical approach
in general, Heidegger grounds his thinking in a more personal
stance. And in this stance, he finds the means for overcoming
the timeless metaphysical framework that governed religious
terminology as it had been passed over to him. Such a theore-
tical treatment was the result of the influence of Platonic-Aristotelian
philosophy, which had been taken up into Christianity by Augustine,
Aquinas, and their successors. As both believers and theorists,
the early Christian thinkers saw a truth in philosophy that was
not strictly separated from the truth of faith. It was precisely
because of this nondifferentiation that Greek philosophy could
be integrated into the truth of Christianity. This orientation of
patristic philosophy to Greek thinking first took its direction
from Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he states: “Ever since
the world began, His invisible attributes, that is to say, His
everlasting power and divinity, have been visible to the eye of
reason, in the things that He has made,” (Rom. 1:20). Reason
according to Paul has the capacity to trace God through His
works, because God presents Himself in His works. This single
The Pre-Historical Heidegger 29
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30 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
idea fundamentally determined philosophical and theological
thought for the next several centuries.
It is against this background that Heidegger’s study of
Luther must be considered. It is not by accident that Luther, as
a forerunner of modernity, strongly resists the theological posi-
tion that a harmony exists between faith and reason. In his
Heidelberger Disputationenin 1518, Luther defends forty prin-
ciples, of which twenty-eight are theological and twelve philo-
sophical. In his resistance to a fusion of faith and reason he
appears to refer to Paul’s letter mentioned above. The nine-
teenth principle reads: “The man who looks upon the invisible
things of God as they are perceived in created things does not
deserve to be called a theologian.” Access to the object of the-
ology is not gained through metaphysical reflection. In other
words, reason is not recognized here as a possible point of
access to God. And in the twenty-second principle, this thesis
reappears: “The wisdom, that looks upon the invisible things of
God from his works, inflates us, blinds us, and hardens our heart.”
66
Heidegger’s engagement with Luther in this regard deepened
in Marburg, where he visited Rudolf Bultmann’s seminar on Paul’s
ethics in the winter semester of 1923. In this course, Heidegger
was invited to give a two-part lecture entitled, “Das Problem
der Sünde bei Luther.”
67 It was in this lecture that Heidegger
aligned himself more closely with Luther in his critique of scholas-
tic philosophy. He posed the question of how the calcified
interpretations of scholastic philosophy can be overcome in
order to revitalize the origin of that very philosophy. The key
here, he concluded, is to return to the original messages of the
text without falling back upon dogmatic doctrines. And Heideg-
ger saw Luther himself as guilty of this failing where Luther
remains averse to Aristotle’s philosophy. Furthermore, this is a
more general orientation within theology itself, as he states in
Being and Time:Theology is seeking a more primordial inter-
pretation of man’s Being toward god, prescribed by the
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meaning of faith itself and remaining within it. It is slowly
beginning to understand once more Luther’s insight that the ‘foun-
dation’ on which its system of dogma rests has not arisen from
an inquiry in which faith is primary, and that conceptually this
‘foundation’ is not only inadequate for the problematic of the-
ology, but conceals and distorts it.”
68Therefore, it was not Luther’s
rejection of Aristotle that Heidegger supported, and it was
moreover not Luther’s religious faith that inspired him. He
saw, rather, an attitude toward theoretical philosophy that was
akin to his own. As philosophy does not offer knowledge of
god, according to Luther, so Heidegger maintained in similar
fashion that theoretical philosophy does not offer insight into
factical life.
69 In the theoretical approach to religion and to god,
the factical was displaced and concealed in the form of ques-
tioning after a metaphysical entity. Against this, Heidegger con-
sidered his own phenomenological approach to be pious and
religious. A few years thereafter, a remnant of this pious pre-
history was to emerge in Being and Time, where Heidegger
notes that if one were to say anything about god’s eternity,
then, according to Heidegger, it could only be understood as a
more primordial temporality that is ‘infinite.’
70 The most pri-
mordial is the pre-historic, which precedes even prehistory
itself.
For Heidegger, primary here is the explication of a basic
attitude of the philosophical life that tries to understand life’s
real meaning. This attitude demands piety, lies at the basis of
the inner call of phenomenology, and it must prove itself. In
Heidegger’s thinking, only by being true to these experiences
of life can one free oneself from the concepts that have been
alienated from life, yet at the same time serve as fetters for it.
71
This piety does not originate in the specific element of religion
taken as the object of phenomenology. It is, however, con-
nected with phenomenology, since the latter directs itself
toward the matter at hand. And this matter is what Heidegger
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32 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
saw as the absolute, which is nothing other than one’s own facticity.
Heidegger describes this facticity in almost sacral words to
Karl Löwith in 1921. It belongs to Heidegger’s facticity that he
is a Christian “theologian” and that he is this in the circum-
stances of the “university.”
72 Heidegger therefore seeks to take
up a relation to himself from the standpoint of his facticity,
which calls for a pious approach.
At this point, however, Heidegger’s language with respect to
religion is mired in structural ambiguity: where the object of
phenomenology is concerned, he attempts to remain radically
atheistic, yet when it comes to this same object, he seeks to be
pious and devoted. The pious person here is the devoted ascetic
who understands his object as it demands to be understood,
i.e., from out of its factical character. Only when philosophy
has become fundamentally atheistic can it decisively choose
life in its very facticity, and thereby make this an object for
itself.
73 Heidegger describes this philosophy as atheistic, “but
not in the sense of a theory such as materialism or something
similar. Every philosophy which understands itself in what it is
must — as the factical how of the interpretation of life — know
(and it must know this precisely when it still has some ‘notion’
of God) that life’s retreat towards its own self (which philoso-
phy achieves) is, in religious terms, a show of hands against
God. But only then is philosophy honest, i.e., only then is phi-
losophy in keeping with its possibility (which is available to it
as such) before God; here atheistic means keeping oneself free
from misleading concern which merely talks about religiosity.”
Because philosophy is concerned with the facticity of life, the
philosophy of religion must be understood from that same per-
spective. Therefore Heidegger continues, “[T]he very idea of
philosophy of religion (especially if it makes no reference to
the facticity of the human being) is pure nonsense.”
74 Such
nonsense evolves out of a lack of piety, i.e., a merely theoret-
ical approach that fails to attune itself to the facticity of life.
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Heidegger maintains this precisely because for him, philosophy
essentially directs itself toward the facticity of human being.
Through his explication of the notion of historicity, Heideg-
ger was able to find a path leading out of the closed religious
world in which he was raised. Through Schleiermacher’s think-
ing, Heidegger was offered the possibility of isolating the reli-
gious as the absolute; and in so doing, he was led away from
both theology and theoretical philosophy in his thinking. Out
of this engagement, Heidegger was able to conclude that the
religious is none other than the historical; the radicality of a
personal position is only to be uncovered within history.
Heidegger was always resistant to the fusion of theoretical
philosophy and theology, and he persisted in this conviction
throughout his later thinking. As he states in 1935, “A ‘Chris-
tian philosophy’ is a round square and a misunderstanding.”
75
Rather, he continues his understanding of thinking as piety.
“For questioning is the piety of thought.”
76
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TWO
Heidegger and the
Philosophy of Religion
s we observed in the previous chapter, Heidegger directed
his philosophy toward the facticity of human being. His
approach to religion must be understood from the standpoint of
this guiding interest. As the winter semester approached in
1920, Heidegger announced his upcoming lecture course, enti-
tled “Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion.”
1At the
time, the theological literature of Rudolf Otto and Friedrich
Heiler was widely circulated.
2Husserl had found Ott’s book,
The Holy,an impressive first beginning for a phenomenol-
ogy of religion, albeit little more than a beginning. “It would
seem to me that a great deal more progress must be made in
the study of phenomena and their eidetic analysis before a
theory of religious consciousness as a philosophical theory
could arise.”
3As I will show later in this chapter, Husserl was
committed far more to an eidetic orientation in the phenome-
nology of religion than Heidegger.
In this lecture course Heidegger presented an explication of
the fundamental event of the Christian experience of life as it
appears in the letters of Paul. In particular, Heidegger paid
A
35
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36 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
special attention to the fourth and fifth sections of Paul’s first
letter to the Thessalonians, with the aim of showing how this
earliest contribution to the New Testament marks a decisive
moment, wherein the Christian experience of life becomes
manifest in and through the question of the coming of Christ.
This coming is described as a sudden occurrence, like a thief
in the night. The suddenness and unpredictability for which one
must solemnly wait was a point of fascination for Heidegger.
In particular, he focused upon Paul’s notion of ‘kairos,’ which
signifies one’s delivery to a moment of decision, a moment that
cannot be reached through a calculation. The kairosdoes not
represent a mastery of time, but rather the uncertainty inherent
in the future. This defining characteristic of the kairosbelongs
to the history of life’s actualization, which itself rejects any attempt
at objectification.
4In the moment of kairosone’s life is at
stake. Attempts at mastery or control of this moment are sim-
ply express the wrong attitude with which this moment must be
encountered.
The question here, however, is how Heidegger, as a philoso-
pher, understood this conception within his philosophy of the
facticity of life. First, he formalized the fundamental Christian
experience of life. He does not choose a position with respect
to the particular content of this experience, but rather limits
himself to investigating the sustaining conditions of its possi-
bility. Heidegger asks whether the kairological moment can be
preserved within the history of the actualization of life and the
unpredictability of the eschaton. It could potentially be under-
stood as a possibility that we ourselves have or something that
is under our control, so that the future that withdraws from us
becomes part of our own planning. Yet, if it were to be under-
stood thus, the specific character of the kairoswould then be
lost in a totalizing form of calculation. The future would then
be conceived in the end as a horizon of consciousness out of
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which experiences evolve in a certain order. For Heidegger, the
kairoshas more to do with the conditions of the possibility of
facticity, which it goes on to determine in a formal way.
5For
what takes place — the content in the moment of the kairos—
can itself never be deduced. If it is possible to encounter prop-
erly the suddenness of the kairos,it must be accomplished
without the aid of deduction.
Given his emphasis upon the kairological moment in factic-
ity, how is one to understand Heidegger’s position as a philos-
ophy of religion? In a rough, Hegelian-inspired sketch, one
could say that religion is the domain of representation, of the
historical and situational context of human existence, and fur-
thermore that philosophy is the domain of conceptual thinking,
wherein one tends to withdraw from both representation and
history. In this picture, religious representations are taken to
refer to a content represented in the image, and the image itself
is a representation of the concept. Yet is it possible to repro-
duce the representation of religion on the level of concepts? Is
this conceptual approach the most suitable way to understand
the representations of life as they are presented in Christianity?
If so, then philosophy will certainly have a means for devel-
oping an understanding of religious images and representations.
Of course, this demands that we know what philosophy is in
the first place; only then can philosophy be a clear instrument
for our aims. In Heidegger’s thinking, philosophy as such has
never been properly examined in terms of what it really is or
should be. Precisely where Heidegger focuses his attention on
religion, he also begins his thought on the difference between
philosophy and science. He points out that philosophy carries
with it a certain terminology that is, on the whole, less clear
and stable than that of the sciences. Heidegger sees this ambi-
guity in philosophy not as a disadvantage, but rather as phi-
losophy’s own specific virtue.
6
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 37
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38 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
FROM THEORETICAL PHILOSOPHY TO FORMAL INDICATION
According to Heidegger, the primary which he seeks lies in
the facticity of life, and is to be approached precisely as pri-
mary. Formerly, philosophy had not involved itself with studies
of factical life and the experience thereof. “Insofar as philoso-
phizing transcends factical experience, it is characterized by the
fact that it deals with higher objects and the highest of them,
with the ‘first and ultimate things.’ ”
7What distinguishes Heidegger’s
approach is that he is resolved not to take a theoretical path in
order to reach the immediate experience of life, despite the fact
that the theoretical road is acknowledged to be the highest
expression of what philosophy is per se. Yet Heidegger under-
stands philosophy including the philosophy of religion to begin
and end in factical experience.
8
After the decline of Hegel’s objective idealism, historicism
and psychologism rose to prominence in the academy. As I
have discussed above, Heidegger had resisted these tendencies
from the outset of his career. To develop an alternative under-
standing of religion, Heidegger referred to the work of Ernst
Troeltsch. Against the proponents of psychologism and histori-
cism, Troeltsch sought to demonstrate the independence, as
well as the irreducibility, of religion by following Schleier-
macher and the neo-Kantians. Troeltsch criticizes Hegel explic-
itly for failing to do justice to the element of experience in religion.
Hegel’s doctrine relies upon a pure metaphysical construction
of reason and upon reason’s immanent logical structure in
order to deduce, through its inner necessity, the essence of his-
tory — and with this, the essence of religion. In Troeltsch’s
thinking, Hegel’s reason could not adequately access historical
reality, so a philosophy of religion had to take its point
of departure from a psychological analysis of religion. Yet,
in avoiding relativism and skepticism, this is, in Troeltsch’s
view, only one of four possible points of view — including the
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epistemological, historic-philosophical, and metaphysical — from
which a philosophy of religion can inquire after the essence of
religion. Psychology alone cannot address the question of
whether truth is contained in religious phenomena, but requires
an epistemology of religion as its supplement. This became the
core of Troeltsch’s philosophy of religion. Central to his phi-
losophy is the concept of a religious a priori. He seeks to mark
out religious life as a necessary element of human existence, so
that religious phenomena could no longer be regarded as prac-
ticing a form of self-deceit, wherein one is imprisoned in one’s
own projected images. Therefore, any philosophy of religion
must encompass two other aspects, namely the historic-philo-
sophical and the metaphysical. The historic-philosophical
aspect asks after the criteria of the history of religion. On the
other side, the metaphysics of religion questions the way in
which the idea of god, which for Troeltsch is only accessible
by religious belief, is integrated with a larger body of knowl-
edge. However, this means that the metaphysics entailed here
must be other than classical metaphysics; it must be, in the
end, a doctrine of faith.
9
Heidegger finds fault with Troeltsch in the latter’s consider-
ation of religion from the beginning as an object — as in the
practice of science — assigning it, in Heidegger’s view, a false
status upon this assumption. Here, the philosophy of religion is
not determined from within the experience of religion, but from
a certain concept of philosophy, and in particular, a scientific
concept thereof and the concept of religion becomes sec-
ondary.
10 In Heidegger’s view, any philosophical determination
of religion cannot take place prior to a factical approach.
Heidegger’s analysis of Troeltsch demonstrates that the rela-
tion between metaphysics and religion is no longer an obvious
one. In fact, Heidegger takes them to be expressly separate spheres.
As we saw in the first chapter, Heidegger found indications of
this divide in Schleiermacher, yet he found at the same time a
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 39
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40 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
clear connection between religion and history. In his lecture course
on the phenomenology of religion, Heidegger was unequivo-
cally committed to a view of the historical as a core phenom-
enon of religion from the outset.
11 However, he failed to offer
a legitimation for this view, seeming to accept it as if it were
obvious.
For Heidegger, the motives of philosophical understanding
are what we must identify, and these can be found only in the
factical experience of life. Out of this self-understanding, con-
structing a phenomenology of religion is possible. This task is
therefore bound up with the problem of historicity. And here
there arises the danger of falling into the objective world of
science, precisely because philosophy has tended to withdraw
from historicity, almost as if the philosopher were concerned to
defend himself against historicity. Historicity is particularly
problematic for philosophy because philosophers of old neg-
lected its influence in their search for eternal truths. Accord-
ingly, the defense against history comes by way of neutralizing
it, by turning it into an object with which one is theoretically
involved. This can be called an understanding of history, yet, it
is an attitudinal understanding and has nothing to do with phe-
nomenological understanding.
12
Nevertheless, it is this defense against history that leads to
insight into the meaning of historicity. This possibility appears
to resist the attitude of theory and to shed light upon the true
dynamism of life itself in order to reveal the phenomenon of
concern within factical life.
13
In order to accomplish this, Heidegger develops a special
terminology for the phenomenological approach as a means for
resisting a purely theoretical relation to historicity. He intro-
duces the concept of formal indication, which belongs to the
theoretical aspect of phenomenology: “The problem of the
“formal indication” belongs to the “theory” of the phenomeno-
logical method itself; in the broad sense, to the problem of the
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theoretical, of the theoretical act, the phenomenon of differen-
tiating.”
14 As a particular attitude, formal indication differenti-
ates itself from the theoretical attitude, given the latter’s insufficiency.
Therefore, according to Heidegger, the theoretical approach
emblematic of philosophy becomes a problem to be overcome.
We continue to question the specific way of thinking that needs
to be adopted in philosophy because this questioning is itself
part of philosophy. Heidegger writes, “Philosophy’s constant effort
to determine its own concept belongs to its authentic motive.”
15
The question of what philosophy is, is a question that every
philosopher must continue to pose anew.
The answer to this question cannot be given by describing
various models of philosophy, whether past or present. Nor is
it the actual state of affairs within philosophy. According to
Heidegger, the way in which we philosophize — including the
entire conceptual framework of philosophy as we know it —
produces an approach that blocks the very entrance to authen-
tic philosophy. For Heidegger, philosophy must start from the
‘situation of understanding’ in which the philosopher finds him-
self. Since the conceptual framework of philosophy hinders access
to this fundamental situation of understanding from which phi-
losophy itself is to begin, the question of method takes the
highest priority of philosophy, and ‘method’ is to be understood
in this connection in its original Greek sense, as a way of get-
ting somewhere. From this aspect, one is in a better position to
pose the questions, “Which way do we need to go?” “Must we
take a detour to reach our goal?” and so on.
Once we really begin searching, we discover that philosophy
is essentially an activity; it is something that we do, that we
carry out. We learn what philosophy is by performing the act
of philosophizing. It is, in short, a way of being. The way of
being from which we start to philosophize — this is the ‘situa-
tion’ of our philosophy, the situation that Heidegger calls fac-
ticity. We philosophize from our factical situation. In a certain
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 41
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42 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
sense, this word serves as a precursor to what Heidegger will
later interpret as ‘historicality.’ Philosophy, therefore, belongs
to the lived immediacy of life; to the extent that it tries to
locate its own situation of understanding, philosophy must clar-
ify its own facticity. In asking about the specific nature and
task of philosophy, the philosopher must also investigate the
way of being of factical existence itself. Philosophy becomes,
as it were, an introduction to the experience of life.
16 The
philosophical entrance to life and its facticity are tightly inter-
woven within Heidegger’s analysis.
Philosophy, then, is a way of being of factical life, but it
also returns to factical life, precisely because our lived situa-
tion has become for Heidegger a subject of philosophical
query. Factical life has to be understood from the experience of
life, but the experience of factical life is oriented in different
directions. Heidegger writes: “Philosophy’s departure as well as
its goal is factical life experience. If factical life experience is
the point of departure for philosophy, and if we see factically
a difference in principle between philosophical and scientific
cognition, then factical life experience must be not only the
point of departure for philosophizing but precisely that which
essentially hinders philosophizing itself.”
17 Philosophy, as a
way of being of factical life, is hindered by a tendency that is
characteristic of factical life.
To understand the obstructive tendency of factical life, one
must take note of the particular way in which we are familiar
with philosophy. It is familiar to us as a discipline at the uni-
versity, as a part of our cultural heritage, as a complex of val-
ues and ideas, and as a critical method for discerning sense
from nonsense. In the word ‘philosophy,’ a myriad of different
activities come together. In general, however, we can say that
philosophy is present to us in a rather obvious way. The obvi-
ous presence is an indication of the way in which we have phi-
losophy at our disposal. But it reaches beyond this, since it is
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within the framework of this obvious quality of philosophy that
we set about to understand life and ourselves. As a result, the
way that we understand ourselves is itself never discussed or
criticized. Factical life is understood within a conceptual frame-
work that is not neutral; the way in which we understand our-
selves has an effect on the way in which we live, as well as
providing us with an orientation for leading our lives. The
question that follows is what the orientation underlying philo-
sophical discourse actually is.
The way in which we philosophize bears witness to the fact
that while we are dealing with a theoretical relation to an
object, such a theoretical relation is nonetheless embedded in
the experience of factical life, which includes our actions, our
dreaming, our feeling, and so on. These activities cannot be
understood in isolation from the entities to which they are
related. As relations, they can only be grasped from their ori-
entation toward their respective entities. If we give up this ori-
entation, we are left with only an abstraction that owes its very
existence to this original orientation. When we speak of ‘sub-
ject’ and ‘object,’ for example, we are making such an abstrac-
tion. Though Heidegger does not reject this kind of abstraction
out of hand, he goes beyond it by seeking a more primordial
and fundamental relation to entities in human life, which he
describes as ‘care.’
Given that the relations we maintain in our factical life are
not primarily theoretical, taking up a theoretical relation to
entities obscures our understanding of facticity. Humans have
various relations with other beings through seeing, feeling, smelling,
and loving, just to name a few, and this is what the phenome-
nological approach repeatedly emphasizes. As an experience
becomes a phenomenon one can ask about the content (Gehalt)
of that experience, after the nature of the relation (Bezug) in
which something is experienced, and, after the way in which
this relation is enacted (Vollzug). A phenomenon is always
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 43
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44 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
given within these three orientations. In Heidegger’s thinking,
this means that a content-sense (Gehaltsinn) is always con-
nected with a relational-sense (Bezugsinn).
18 A seamless con-
nection of relational sense and content sense does not mean,
however, that in the theoretical orientation entities are always
characterized in the proper way. It means that the third orien-
tation, the enactment-sense (Vollzugssinn), remains hidden.
19
The hiddenness of this enactment owes its cause to philoso-
phy’s primary preoccupation with its object. Yet factical life
and authentic philosophy share the character of actualization; it
is precisely this basic feature of philosophy that is blocked by
a theoretical, purely conceptual approach.
20
On the basis of the introductory sketch I have provided thus
far, I will go on to give an account of the tendency in factical
life that hinders philosophy’s entrance to it and to history and
religion as well. This hindrance is constituted by the way in
which we keep philosophy at our disposal in our everyday
lives, as we become absorbed in the world, in entities around
us, and in all of life’s ‘pressing’ matters. The unreflective adop-
tion of the conceptual frameworks of traditional philosophy
also belongs to these ‘pressing’ and ‘important’ matters and blocks
the practice of authentic philosophy from access to the factical
situation in which it is practiced.
FROM FORMAL INDICATION TO FACTICITY
Heidegger’s quest to study human existence in its facticity
and historicality breaks with the classical structure of philoso-
phy in which concepts and theories are supposed to describe
and lead to an understanding of life as we actually live it. However
philosophy is situated in the facticity and fragility of human
existence, which cannot be understood through obvious and famil-
iar concepts. This is what we all too often tend to forget, espe-
cially when we use familiar concepts. Heidegger was perhaps
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the first to see how philosophy can be alienated from its own
situation: that is, philosophy is in constant danger of becoming
completely absorbed in its theoretical orientation. He states,
“But exactly because the formal determination is entirely indif-
ferent as to content, it is fatal for the relational- and enactment-
aspect of the phenomenon — because it prescribes, or at least
contributes to prescribing, a theoretical relational meaning. It
hides the enactment-character (das Vollzugsmäßige) — which is
possibly still more fatal — and turns one-sidedly to the content.
A glance at the history of philosophy shows that formal deter-
mination of the objective entirely dominates philosophy. How
can this prejudice, this prejudgment, be prevented? This is just
what the formal indication achieves.”
21 The facticity of human
existence, in its quest for real life, through its repeated employ-
ment of familiar concepts and frameworks, calls for its own
specific philosophical treatment. Formal indication is not a con-
cept in the usual sense of the word. It is rather a reference or
a guide that offers us a first glimpse of a particular phenome-
non. For Heidegger, this situational actualization must be our
original phenomenon of study, if we are to ask what philoso-
phy actually is. We go wrong in attempting to apply objective
concepts to a situational actualization, precisely because in
doing so, we turn into a theoretical object that which cannot be
an object. The formal indication directs us toward what we
must actualize in our situational understanding of the world.
From this perspective, the formal indication has two over-
lapping functions.
22 First, it indicates a phenomenon in such
a way that the phenomenon itself resists all premature or
external characterizations.
23 Heidegger writes, “The formal
indication prevents every drifting off into autonomous, blind, dog-
matic attempts to fix the categorical sense, attempts which
would be detached from the presupposition of the interpreta-
tion, from its preconception, its nexus, and its time, and which
would then purport to determine an objectivity in itself, apart
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 45
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46 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
from a thorough discussion of its ontological sense.” 24 That is,
the formal indication expresses how a phenomenon is not to be
understood. There is therefore always negativity in the formal
indication, as we will see as well in Augustine (where real life
is never this or that objective thing) and Paul (where the com-
ing of Christ cannot be expected as an event at a certain
moment in the future).
This negative function involves a second aspect: the provi-
sional indication of the phenomenon. Here as well, the famil-
iar habit of objectifying phenomena is resisted. What we seek
after, real life, or that to which one is awake — the coming of
Christ, to take Paul’s example — cannot be objectified, but
must be indicated in a specific and provisional manner. And
because the very ‘concept’ of philosophy is transformed in this
activity, so too is the philosopher himself transformed.
Heidegger uses the word ‘indication’ (Anzeige), because the
indicated content is not something that we already have at our
disposal, or something that we can grasp. Like a cue or a hint,
it gives us a direction; it cannot be made concrete by way of
examples. The indication, as a sign or a guide, precedes all
examples. It belongs essentially to the question in giving it an
orientation and a set of principles. Yet in preceding a question,
it is never to be mistaken for the object of the question.
Heidegger uses the term ‘formal’ here to emphasize that the
philosophical concept, as formal indication, is not fixed in advance.
25
What is formally indicated is not presented as something
brought to completion and understandable through comparison
or classification; on the contrary, what is formally indicated is
understandable only insofar as the philosopher himself realizes
or actualizes a certain activity.
26 In this sense, the concepts
serving as formal indications for what human existence is in its
actualization remain empty.
Generally, we understand human existence without the need
to pose questions. Yet it is precisely with respect to this general
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understanding that we need to win a distance, since, for Heidegger,
existence itself is a question.
27 Therefore, philosophy means
first and foremost asking, querying; it does not offer up any
answers. The formally indicating character of philosophy serves
to safeguard its own essence as questioning. These formally
indicating concepts demand to be rethought from out of the
philosopher’s concrete historical situation, since one can under-
stand something philosophically to the extent that one can
understand it within the perspective of one’s own situation.
Therefore, formal indications are always put into play in refer-
ence to one’s own historical facticity.
By reconstruing philosophy as formal indication, Heideg-
ger’s initial aim is not to remove the roadblocks within philos-
ophy that hinder our understanding of factical life; rather, he
wants to call attention to them as roadblocks. If we recognize
their tendency to hinder questioning, philosophical concepts
will provide access to what they conceal. The fragility and pro-
visionality of factical and historical life is therefore taken up
into the fragility and provisionality of formally indicating phi-
losophy. For the character of factical life is such that it can
only be indicated in this fragile, provisional manner. The ques-
tion of philosophy, then, concerns actualizing this provisional
life (vorlaufend), without getting mired in descriptive concepts.
To summarize what I have outlined above, formally indicat-
ing concepts are taken up ever again from out of the philoso-
pher’s concrete historical situation, precisely because I can only
understand something philosophically when I understand it
with respect to a concrete situation. And formal indications always
refer back to the specific historical facticity out of which they
arise.
For Heidegger, then, the philosopher must avoid the tempta-
tion to provide premature answers for questions about life,
even if such answers are lucid insights. One takes it as his task,
instead, to keep the primordial question of philosophy open. As
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 47
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48 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
he states: “The formal indication renounces the last understand-
ing that can only be given in genuine religious experience.”
28
In this respect, we must pose anew the question of Heideg-
ger’s relation to religion. As a philosopher concerned with fac-
tical life, he sees factical life in religion, the religion in which
he was raised, and which therefore belongs to the situation in
which he lives. The a priori is the prior situation in which he
exists, and not a general essential structure, as Troeltsch and
Otto believed.
If we turn for a moment to Otto’s book, The Idea of the
Holy,we can see Otto’s commitment to the direction set by
Schleiermacher, whose new edition of On Religionhe sup-
ported in 1899. Otto found a point of departure for revealing
the holy by beginning in the experience of feeling, as an expe-
rience of unknown quality. We find this, accordingly, in his
determination of the holy: “Anyone who uses it [the notion of
the holy] today does undoubtedly feel the ‘morally good’ to be
implied in ‘holy;’ and accordingly in our inquiry into that ele-
ment which is separate and peculiar to the idea of the holy, it
will be useful, at least for the temporary purpose of the inves-
tigation, to invent a special term to stand for the ‘holy’ minus
its moral factor, or ‘moment’, and, as we can now add, minus
its ‘rational’ aspect altogether.”
29 Like Schleiermacher, for Otto,
morality and rationality are not points of entrance to the holy.
Rather, entrance to the holy is gained by way of a ‘divination’
(Ahnung).
Otto’s insights into the holy are not theological, as a kind of
science founded in supernatural revelation, but are instead sci-
entific in the sense of a philosophy of religion. Otto refers to
a religious feeling as a religious a priori.
30 “Every religion
which, so far from being a mere faith in traditional authority,
springs from personal assurance and inward convincement (i.e.,
from an inward first-hand cognition of its truth) — as Chris-
tianity does in a unique degree — must presuppose principles
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in the mind enabling it to be independently recognized as true.
But these principles must be a priori ones, not to be derived
from ‘experience’ or ‘history’.”
31 According to Otto, these a
priori principles recognized as true are a testimonium Spiritus
Sancti internum. On this assumption, he understands his phi-
losophy of religion from the perspective of Christianity; the
principles are first and foremost religious principles. Formal
indication, on the other hand, is not religious; it is a concept
used for gaining access to what is religious.
32
Heidegger’s rejection of the a priori as Troeltsch and Otto
conceive it points to the fact that the philosopher qua philoso-
pher is, in principle, unfamiliar with the concrete content of the
experience that he investigates. Therefore, the explication of
formal indication is necessary, because it refers to the motivat-
ing situation, and not to its given content. Husserl used the
method of epocheto bracket our unreflective assumption of the
reality of being (what Husserl calls the ‘natural attitude’) in
order to carry out his phenomenological Wesensschau. In for-
mal indication, Heidegger makes a similar move, by giving up
the question of what is presupposed in the early Christian
experience of life, in terms of the content of its faith. As he
will later argue in Phänomenologie und Theologie,the problem
of the truth of faith — and with this its value — that makes
possible the kairological experience of life, is a problem that
must be left to faith and to the theological studies involved in
it. And this means in turn that the formal structure of tempo-
rality must be separated from the content of Christianity.
33 That
is, formal indications have to be repeatable without actualizing
the act of faith at the same moment.
34 In order for this formal
indication to succeed, however, it demands an understanding of
religion freed from its traditional theological-metaphysical
framework.
Heidegger not only leaves this framework behind, but he
also resists it as a philosophical framework for understanding
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 49
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50 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
facticity. Nonetheless, his commitment is completely philosophical.
He imports new philosophical concepts in order to comprehend
factical life.
35 These are not, however, new religious concepts,
but rather concepts aimed at unfolding a new philosophy of
facticity that resists all systems intent upon constructing a ‘sub
specie aeternitatis.’ To this end, he formulates a philosophical
interpretation wherein he explicates early Christianity from the
perspective of original temporality. This interpretation belongs
to his overall commitment, which remains ontological. The
explication of the experience of facticity is necessary in order
to uncover the implicit ontology of early Christianity and fur-
thermore to prepare a conceptual apparatus for a critical appro-
priation of the philosophical tradition.
Heidegger asks what a philosophy of religion’s specific approach
must be when it becomes a phenomenology of religion. It, too,
must become a philosophy of facticity, which means that reli-
gion must be understood from out of factical life. This phe-
nomenology is directed less toward its object, religion, than toward
a philosophy that, in its actualization, makes use of particular
concepts. Phenomenology must destroy philosophy and its
framework if religion is to be understood from its own lived
situation. Phenomenology’s grasp of preoccupation is necessary
to maintain its connection with history. It is particularly with
respect to history that such preoccupation can block our
attempts at gaining an original understanding.
In taking up this project, Heidegger lays out two basic deter-
minations for the object of his philosophy of religion. First,
early Christian religiosity is given in the early Christian expe-
rience of life and is itself an experience of life; second, the fac-
tical experience of life is historic, and Christian religiosity lives
temporality as such (‘live’ being understood as transitive).
36
These determinations are not theses standing in need of proof,
but rather phenomenological explications. As such, they must
be taken formally, and moreover, they must be allowed their
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instability in the beginning, in order that they may be safe-
guarded during phenomenological analysis. In the end, phe-
nomenological explication unfolds the ontology that is implied
in this experience of religion.
HEIDEGGER ?SINTERPRETATION OF PAUL ?SLETTER TO THE
THESSALONIANS
One may ask why Heidegger sees it necessary to analyze
Paul and Augustine in his study of the facticity of human
being. Looked at more closely, we can see how this direction
stems from Heidegger’s own position. There is a certain preju-
dice in relation to Christianity, caused by the thrownness,
which is part of the pre-structure of understanding as
Heidegger will go on to work out in Being and Time. He writes
in his lecture course on Paul: “Real philosophy of religion
arises not from preconceived concepts of philosophy and reli-
gion. Rather, the possibility of its philosophical understanding
arises out of a certain religiosity — for us, the Christian reli-
giosity. Why exactly the Christian religiosity lies in the focus
of our study, that is a difficult question; it is answerable only
through the solution of the problem of the historical connec-
tions. The task is to gain a real and original relationship to his-
tory, which is to be explicated from out of our own historical
situation and facticity. At issue is what the sense of history can
signify for us, so that the ‘objectivity’ of the historical ‘in
itself ’ disappears. History exists only from out of a present.
Only thus can the possibility of a philosophy of religion be
begun.”
37 To catch a glimpse of this original facticity,
Heidegger presents his explication of Paul’s letters. Here the
First Letter to the Thessalonians is central; by way of supple-
ments he also looks at the Second Letter to the Thessalonians,
as well as the Letter to the Galatians, and lastly, the Second
Letter to the Corinthians.
38
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52 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
In his interpretation of these letters, Heidegger reveals
the emergence of the actualization-sense, the third sense-orientation,
in early Christian life. In an attempt to access itself, philoso-
phy directs itself toward factical life. Heidegger emphasizes the
relation-sense in its directedness toward a meaningful content,
yet it is of utmost importance to understand life within the
coherence of all three sense-orientations.
39 The first two, as I
noted above, tend to conceal the third, actualization. Based on
the concept of ‘parousia,’ the second coming of Christ,
Heidegger demonstrates how the actualization-sense is to be under-
stood. An essential moment of the orientation of factical life shows
itself in the articulation of the actualization-sense, and it does
so as historicality. That is, the meaning of the orientation of human
existence appears in existence as historicality. Thus, the way in
which factical life lives time is historicality’s actualization.
In early Christian life, the actualization of factical life
coheres with the two corresponding sense-orientations; without
the coherence of these three, the essential facticity of factical
life cannot become visible. Heidegger locates a presentation of
factical life in Paul’s appeal to the community of faith of the
Thessalonians, an appeal to Christian life. Paul’s letter is essen-
tially a proclamation, in the form of an announcement to the
Christians of Thessalonia. This proclamation can itself be
understood as a kind of relation; it concerns a public announce-
ment of a specific content, and it takes place within a relation
between an individual and a specific audience. Important here
is that this proclamation is not simply a relation with a content,
but an actualization. This actualization is what Heidegger pri-
oritizes in his interpretation. This approach carries with it a
number of significant consequences, especially with respect to
how the preacher and his message are to be understood. From
the perspective of the relational sense, the preacher is the announcer,
and what is preached is the announced content. This per-
spective takes up the structure of two entities between which a
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relation exists. But when this preaching is understood as actu-
alization, then both the preacher and what is preached are
understood as particular moments in the event of preaching.
Heidegger writes: “Object-historical understanding is determi-
nation according to the aspect of the relation, from out of the
relation, so that the observer does not come into question. By
contrast, phenomenological understanding is determined by the
enactment of the observer.”
40 Phenomenological understanding,
determined by the actualization of the observer, refers to the
situation from which the observer listens.
By ‘situation,’ Heidegger does not mean the biography of
the person who speaks, but rather the circumstances in which
that person speaks. The aim here is to explicate this situation,
since it is only understandable from the perspective of the actu-
alization sense. Paul experiences himself as a fellow sufferer
and as a member of the community of faith in Thessalonia.
This is the situation from which he speaks. The community of
faith of the Thessalonians is coming into being, and the com-
munity is aware of this coming into being. This emergence of
the Thessalonians’ community is connected with Paul’s appear-
ance in Thessalonia. This coming into being is the acceptance
of his appeal, and with it, the devotion to God. That is, in this
event, the Thessalonians became Christians. For being a
Christian is not merely having an opinion about life, according
to Heidegger; it is a way of behaving, a type of factical life. It
concerns the “how” of behavior. The genesis of the Thessa-
lonians, with their devotion to God and their aversion to idols,
is connected with Paul’s own genesis — as the one who is a
disciple — in and by preaching. Paul’s speaking is not a theo-
retical speculation, of which he himself would not be a part.
His destiny is united with the destiny of the community. From
this ‘situation’ of solidarity, he speaks to the community. His
own place is part of his speaking. Paul speaks in a situation of
need, and this need is the concern about the coming of Christ.
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54 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
This need is strengthened all the more by his knowledge of
Satan as the one who fights against God’s will.
The need from which Paul speaks, the situation of the
preacher, cannot be isolated from that about which he speaks.
The need in which Paul finds himself and out of which he
speaks, as well as the coming of Christ as the content of which
he speaks, are moments of his preaching as actualization. The
crucial question in this connection, however, is: how are we to
understand the coming of Christ as a moment of actualization?
From the perspective of the content sense, the coming of Christ
is the content of an image that refers to a future event. The
sense orientation is that both the coming and that in which the
coming is to take place — time — are represented as entities
that are present at hand. In this case, relational sense and
content sense link up perfectly. Thinking means, then, having
or creating representations. A representation is filled with a
content that refers to something that will take place in the
future.
However, Paul does not give heed to this particular aspect.
This is not because he is unaware of it, but because his con-
cern is not with a coming that will take place at a certain time.
He writes, “For you know perfectly well that the day of the
Lord comes like a thief in the night.”
41 This knowing refers to
the actualization-sense of the coming. Against this background,
Paul stands opposed to two groups and two ways of living. The
first group is made up of those people who see the coming of
Christ as something that is to happen at a certain time. This
way of living is one that looks for certainty and peace; it is the
life of those living in darkness because they lack the illumina-
tion of authentic knowing. They are unaware that Christ comes
like a thief in the night. Members of the second group are
those who know about the coming of Christ as something inde-
terminate, and they live in insecurity and uncertainty. Accord-
ing to Heidegger, this latter is a moment of actualization-sense.
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Actualization is connected to historicality as the whole in which
this process of understanding takes place. It is necessary to
understand the actualization sense from the perspective of the
historicality of human existence. This is the point where the
two opposite ways of living become explicit. The apostates do
not accept this truth; they see the coming as something that
will happen in the foreseeable future. According to Heidegger,
they make the mistake of concealing the actualization-sense by
bringing only the relational-sense and the content-sense
together. And in this turning to the content of the world, the
turning away from the actualization sense is presupposed.
Where the apostates think that they can hold out for Christ’s
coming, the true Christians attune themselves to the uncertainty
of the coming; they understand it as an indication of the way
in which they have to live. This opens them up to the unex-
pected; they do without an understanding of the coming as a
particular content contained within a future moment. In this
way, they avoid neutralizing historicality. Those who do not
accept this truth are therefore unable to recognize the anti-
Christ, who clothes himself in the mere appearance of the
divine. Heidegger interprets the coming as an indication of fac-
tical and historical existence.
One significant aspect of historicality in this sense is that
Christian life extends itself between a beginning and an end.
The beginning of Christian life is preaching and the devotion
to God; the end is the coming of Christ. This beginning and
end, however, are not events, but rather moments of the actu-
alization itself. And in this actualization of devotion to God, which
must be actualized again and again, human existence becomes
historical.
Humanity can give up the meaningful world in which it
lives, for factical life also means being absorbed in the world.
‘Being absorbed in’ means being oriented to entities which
only appear meaningful. This does not change in Christian life,
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 55
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56 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
where relational sense and content sense do not change, but remain
as they are. The difference here is that they no longer deter-
mine Christian facticity. Together, the relational sense and the
content sense form the supporting orientation toward meaning-
ful entities. Due to this meaningfulness, the actualization sense
remains hidden. But if the perspective of content is given up,
the ‘empty content’ can indicate the way in which Christians
are to live their lives. Again, what is coming is not some antic-
ipated future moment. Christian life means standing before
God, in a devotion that must be ever renewed. In and through
this actualization, Christian life becomes historical. Christians
are those who relate to the world “as if they do not.”
42 As an
explanation for this, Heidegger borrows from Paul’s letter to
the Corinthians: “What I mean, my friends, is this: the time we
live in will not last long. While it lasts, married men should be
as if they had no wives; mourners should be as if they had
nothing that grieves them, the joyful as if they did not rejoice;
those who buy should be as if they possessed nothing and
those who use the world’s wealth as if they did not have full
use of it.”
43
This ‘as if they do not’ does not mean that the Christian has
to give up his relations to the world. It belongs to the facticity
of life that one becomes absorbed in the world and it is impos-
sible for the Christian to have relations other than the worldly.
This ‘as if not’ refers specifically to the actualization-sense.
Christian facticity cannot be experienced from the content-
sense. That is, Christian understanding lies not in the represen-
tation of God, not in the coming of Christ, nor does the
essence of Christian life lie in preaching as doctrine, dogma, or
theoretical standpoint. It refers instead to breaking through the
all-embracing tendency toward entities that is typical of theo-
retical representation. As a result of such breaking-through, the
actualization-sense can be made to appear. But this turning
does not mean that the theoretical approach as a mode of
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caring can be eliminated, either. It is simply not possible for
Christian life to be lived purely in actualization. But out of the
conversion to God, the fragility of life becomes visible. This
fragility is typical of authentic Christianity, which, according to
Heidegger, points to the facticity of human existence. Heideg-
ger writes: “Christian life is not straightforward, but is rather
broken up: all surrounding-world relations must pass through
the complex of enactment of having-become, so that this com-
plex is then co-present, but the relations themselves, and that
to which they refer, are in no way touched.”
44 Living a
Christian life means understanding life’s fragility, which means
being aware of the discrepancies within the sense orientations
of factical life. In the final analysis, factical life is this dis-
crepancy of sense orientations, which for the most part goes
unnoticed. The meaning of this turn to the actualization-sense
of factical life lies in the fact that the relational-sense, in its
orientation to the content as such, comes to light. This happens
as a result of the distance opened up between actualization-
sense and content-sense. Through this distance, the relational-
sense can be uncovered in its tendency toward the world of
meaningful entities. But this also entails that the actualization
sense is directed to ‘something meaningless.’
45 It is not by
chance that Heidegger will go on to speak of ‘no-thing.’
As I have shown above, the normal orientation in which human-
ity lives is indicated as the connection between the relational-
and the content-senses. In his situation, factical life does not
bear witness to its own actualization. The implication here is
that it lives indifferently both in relation to the actualization of
factical life itself, and in relation to the all-embracing absorp-
tion in the world. Humanity has to stay in the meaningfulness
that is and has been the adage of normal life up through the
present. The same goes for philosophy and science. The state-
ments made in those fields have to be both meaningful and cor-
rect. In everyday life and in everyday philosophy, humanity is
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58 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
concerned with this correctness. “In a specific situation, I can
factically listen to scientific lectures and, in the course of this,
than talk about quotidian matters. The situation is essentially
the same, except that the content has changed; and yet I do not
become conscious of a specific change of attitude. Scientific
objects, too, are always first of all cognized with the character
of factical life experience.”
46The connection between the relational
sense and the content sense refers to all modes of speech.
In philosophy, however, it is important to demonstrate the
all-embracing character of these sense-orientations. For this,
philosophy must withdraw from this content orientation, which
draws us into absorption. To this end, it seeks a context in
which this all-embracing character of speaking, as well as the
appearing of beings, can be experienced. If the all-embracing
character of the relational-sense and the content-sense resisted
all attempts to access it, philosophy itself would be rendered
impossible. The question of the possibility of philosophy
depends upon the possibility of finding a standpoint from
which the orientation of factical life can be understood.
In his interpretation of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians,
Heidegger tries to understand the coherence between the relational-
sense and the content-sense on the one hand, and the actual-
ization sense on the other. This coherence of the moments of
the orientation of human existence is found in its fragility. Whenever
this fragility of factical life is misunderstood due to the ten-
dency toward objectivity, the essence of the facticity of human
life is misunderstood. If one wants to remain true to this
fragility, the concepts that indicate factical life stand in need of
revision.
For Heidegger, the faith of the Thessalonians is not a con-
cern here, nor is the content of their faith. He is involved first
and foremost in the experience of historicity, which is implied
in such faith, as well as in the ontology implied in this expe-
rience. However, it remains in question whether this experience
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of historicity is accessible at all if we consider it in isolation
from its content: that is the unpredictability of history with
respect to the Christians’ hope for the coming of Christ. It
recoils utterly from calculative manipulation. This period of
waiting is oriented instead to a sudden, startling event, which
nullifies everything that we take to be predictable, certain, and
secure. Human beings live and die in the face of a future that
rejects objectification. Values, meaning, and totalities cannot be
deduced on the basis of this Christian experience of time.
47
HEIDEGGER ?SINTERPRETATION OF AUGUSTINE
Heidegger masterfully brings out the obstructive tendency of
philosophy in his analysis of Augustine’s Confessions. This
analysis was part of a lecture course he taught in the summer
of 1921, entitled “Augustine and Neo-Platonism.”
48 According
to Heidegger, Augustine, like Paul, approaches life from the
perspective of facticity.
49Augustine does not consider the beata
vita(the beatific life) from the perspective of its content, as
something in the external world, but from the actualization of
looking for it. Augustine transforms the question of how to find
God into the question of how to find the beatific life. This was
possible for him because he regarded the beatific life as real
life, and real life is the true life that he calls God. Heidegger
sought to illuminate the way in which people are related to
the content of beatific life, most commonly by looking forward
to it and hoping for it. Here we see that Heidegger ‘historil-
izes,’ to use a neologism, the relation that a believer maintains
to God.
While Augustine approaches the quest for God from life’s
facticity, he also displays a tendency to move away from fac-
ticity. This, however, as we shall see, is part of Augustine’s
conception of facticity. According to Heidegger, Augustine does
not radically question his quest for God because his situation
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 59
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60 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
is such that he operates with an objective conception of know-
ing.
50 Nevertheless, Augustine knows that the beatific life is not
present in the way that, for example, the town of Carthago is
present for someone who has visited it and subsequently retains
a mental image of it. The beatific life is present to us in such
a way that our understanding of it compels us to want to make
it our own. But it is difficult to find oneself in the right posi-
tion with respect to this authentic truth after which we search.
Augustine explains in his Confessionswhy it is so difficult to
put oneself into the right position, even though the quest for
truth seems to us to be so natural and straightforward. In fac-
tical life, people by and large operate according to their own
prima facie opinions. These may be determined by tradition,
fashion, convenience, or fear. The truth is hidden from human-
ity, in part because humanity itself flees from it. Yet on the
other side of this flight, Heidegger sees a concern for truth,
despite the fact that it is primarily hidden. This care, which is
typical of factical life, is actualized within a horizon of expec-
tations. For Heidegger, most important is the observation that
this care is actualized historically.
51 The human self is seen
from the perspective of historical experience because care itself
is historical. In the tendency characteristic of care, there is also
a constant danger of falling into inauthenticity. This means that
the individual is no longer directed toward God as the true
beatific life.
Heidegger especially sees a Neo-Platonic influence in Augustine
in the longing for pleasure because beauty, in Augustine,
belongs to the essence of being. Something is pleasurable and
provides enjoyment if it does not refer to anything beyond
itself, and if it is chosen purely for itself. Such pleasure is
directed toward eternal and unchangeable goods. This results in
a stance toward the world wherein peace and tranquility are the
true aims of life; real life is seen as the realization of peace
and tranquility. This aim is actualized historically because life
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actualizes itself in the direction in which its expectations move.
Nevertheless, it is difficult for the individual to actualize his
life in an authentic manner, because of the difficulty involved
in distinguishing one’s own tendency toward the true beatific
life from the tendency toward other kinds of pleasure and
enjoyment. To overcome this difficulty, Augustine proposes an
order of values, which Heidegger regarded as theoretically
motivated, and Greek in its origin.
The basic orientation of Augustine’s values is connected not
only with Neo-Platonism, but also the doctrine of the summum
bonum. He ties this Greek theoretical approach to the Christian
message. Heidegger points out, as we saw in the previous
chapter, that Paul’s text, in the Letter to the Romans at 1:20,
sets the foundation for patristic philosophy as a whole. The
fathers of the early Christian church laid down the Christian
doctrine within a Greek philosophical framework that has
endured up to the present. And because of the undeniable
Platonic influence on Augustine; it would be a mistake to think
that we could arrive at an authentic Christianity by simply
going back to Augustine.
52
Through this Greek influence, we can detect an ahistorical
conception operative in Augustine’s quest for the beatific life.
But Augustine is aware that the beata vitacannot be found in
what humans find easy to believe, in humanity’s ‘convenient’
tendencies. In the quest for the true beata vitaand the danger
in following convenient tendencies, the individual must even-
tually confront the question of who he or she is. This question
becomes exigent when one sees oneself undertaking things that
one does not want to carry through, and conversely, wanting to
do things that one finds oneself unable to do. That is, there are
processes at play within oneself that are beyond one’s own
control. This places a certain burden (molestia) on humanity, a
burden that belongs to the very facticity of human existence.
According to Heidegger, philosophical activity must start from
Heidegger and the Philosophy of Religion 61
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62 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
this aspect of facticity and not from theoretic notions like
‘body,’ ‘soul,’ ‘sense,’ ‘reason,’ and so on.
Understanding that there is a dark side, as it were, within us
means realizing that the individual is not completely accessible
to him or her self. It is not possible for me to see myself in
such a way that I am completely transparent; part of me
remains hidden from such attempts. I can never say what I
actually am in a moment where I have completely penetrated
into my own heart because I may always fall back again into
concealment in the next moment. Therefore, this moment of
having total self-awareness, if possible at all, is always only a
movement in the direction of life; it is both a moving forward
and backward. Yet it would be wrong to represent this total
self-awareness as a kind of hyper-reflexive solipsism. The self
is completely historical; it is not a tranquil, theoretical moment,
but rather historical actualization. In the theoretical approach to
philosophy, Heidegger sees humanity’s tendency to fall back
into its enjoyment of obvious things.
Augustine describes three such tendencies that we, as
humans, are subject to. The first he calls concupiscentia carnis,
the second, concupiscentia oculorum,and the third, ambitio
saeculi. In our quest for the beatific life, we are moved to put
ourselves into question. However, the danger in questioning myself
is that I may not really carry out authentic questioning, but
rather become carried away by the pleasure I find within my
quest. Such is the case, for example, when one sings in praise
of the Lord, where one forgets the praise itself and begins sim-
ply to enjoy the pleasure (concupiscentia carnis) of the singing
itself — the beauty of the tones and the songs. This intertwine-
ment of carnal life and truth in factical life comprises the dan-
ger of being directed toward something other than true life. Against
this background, there is a long tradition in which god is seen
as the highest light, and the highest form of self-possession,
wherein god is joyfully witnessed as the highest beauty. The
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being of god is understood in this tradition from the perspec-
tive presentation, of standing before someone’s eyes. Thinking
that is oriented toward seeing is directed toward what can be
presented, consequently missing the irreducible historical actu-
alization. What is visible is only what lasts and subsists. This
image is clearly expressed in the visio beatificaof the scholas-
tic tradition.
These Greek elements in philosophy hinder the understand-
ing of factical life: the theoretical approach is not able by itself
to undo its Greek framework in order to grasp factical life.
53
But as god is experienced in the actualization of the quest for
him, in the quest for the true life, the distance from the ‘high-
est’ god as beauty and light, grows. The quest for the vita
beata,rather than seeing beauty in a thing (in re), is directed
toward what we hope for, what we do not yet have in our
grasp. The question for Augustine is how to win access to God.
God is ‘present’ in the concern and care for the self ’s quest for
life.
54Any metaphysical representation of god as a ‘thing’ is to
be avoided. But in Heidegger’s view, Augustine’s explication of
the experience of god is Greek, in the sense that all of our phi-
losophy remains essentially Greek.
55
The second tendency, the concupescentia oculorum,has to
do with the pleasure of the eyes. As we saw above, singing to
praise god can be reduced to the pure enjoyment of notes and
sounds. A similar occurrence can take place with respect to our
eyes. Pure seeing as such, seeing out of sheer curiosity, can
overtake the quest for truth. This seeing is a mere looking, a
witnessing, informing, or objectifying. In this case, the rela-
tional sense is overtaken by seeing.
56
The third tendency, the ambitio saeculi,is worldly ambition.
In this tendency, the self, which is sought, takes itself to be
its prime object. Even though the quest for truth is directed to
the self, this self must not be considered from the perspective
of self-interest. The self in relation to the other sees itself as
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64 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
superior or looks for respect and esteem from others, demand-
ing the other’s praise. This enjoyment of praise is a form of
self-interest, and as such, a falling away from searching for the
true self. This happens most frequently when one is no longer
sure of oneself, where one stands in need of the praise of oth-
ers as a means of compensation. In asking after one’s real self,
one must discard one’s self-interest. It is precisely at the
moment where one approaches oneself with empty hands that
the true self can appear.
Against the background of these tendencies, humanity
always tends to fall into the objects of life; this is the molestia
of factical life. Molestiais a burden and an obstacle to self-
possession. This burden is not something objective, a thing that
one could simply cut away. The individual is in danger of los-
ing himself in objective things. In concrete, authentic actualization
there lies the possibility of a fall and yet at the same time the
possibility to receive true life. This means that the self should
be seen as important, yet the danger of self-interest is always
lurking around the corner. This burden is part and parcel of
life, and it belongs to human facticity, as it belongs to Augus-
tine’s notion of facticity. The tendency to understand the
beatific life within a Neo-Platonic framework therefore also belongs
to Augustine’s facticity. The radical possibility of falling is
built into the care for the truth of the self, yet it also provides
an opportunity for finding one’s true self. Although we can be
sure of ourselves, we are nevertheless fundamentally unsure beings;
we do not know how long we will live, whether life will let us
down, and so on.
In his analysis of Augustine’s description of the three ten-
dencies, Heidegger demonstrates how it is that we are always
absorbed in the world. The fact that factical life is absorbed in
the world does not mean that we are dealing with two separate
elements, namely factical life and the world. These two ele-
ments are actually moments of one and the same movement,
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which cannot be broken down into separate components. The
tendency toward absorption nullifies any distance between the
self and factical life. Being engrossed in the world destroys all
distance to the self as well as to factical life in the world. The
interdependence of relational sense and content sense is the ori-
entation in which everything happens, an orientation that is so
obvious and all-embracing that it is not seen as such. Distance
is necessary in order for this orientation to become visible. The
tendency of life toward the world, with its objects of pleasure,
of beauty and of praise, understands itself from the world as an
entity of the world; there is no motivation to search for another
means of understanding oneself. Every possibility for life to under-
stand itself out of another way of being disappears in and
through the tendency toward being absorbed in the world.
This absorption in the world stems, once again, from the
connection between the relational sense and the content sense
in factical life. It is also out of this orientation of life that phi-
losophy usually originates, because it starts with concepts that
are already at hand in the world. However, philosophy not only
originates from factical life, but is also hindered by the way in
which factical life is carried out. The relational sense as an ori-
entation to the world — insofar as it understands life as an
entity within the world — blocks access to the true way of
being, and from this perspective, it hinders the task of philos-
ophy. The relational sense, due to its one-sided orientation
toward its content, conceals the actualization sense of factical
life. Heidegger writes that “factical life experience manifests an
indifference with regard to the manner of experiencing. It does
not even occur to factical life experience that something might
not become accessible to it. This factical experience engages,
as it were, all concerns of life.”
57
As I have shown, Heidegger’s interpretation of Augustine
points out that the quest for true life tends to ossify as a result
of humanity’s devotion to obvious sensual preoccupations.
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66 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Heidegger’s quest for truth is no longer devoted to the highest
being, as was the case during his early studies in Freiburg. In
Heidegger’s thinking, the orientation toward the highest is
instead reformulated as a historical orientation. The historicity
of religion has to be understood out of its own situation and
out of the presuppositions contained within it. It should not be
taken up from a philosophical framework, as if from the stand-
point of some highest being, precisely because as we have
noted, the philosophical idea of a highest being hinders our
understanding of facticity, and with this, religion as an expres-
sion of facticity. We see this change actualized in Heidegger’s
earliest writings, and it involves as well the philosophical par-
adigm with which he approaches religion. What we are left
with, then, is a religion that is an expression of historicity.
The idea that Greek philosophy corrupts the original Chris-
tian faith is an idea found especially in Luther’s Protestantism.
However, this is not Heidegger’s position. Heidegger looks for
a better philosophy, but not for a new faith that would be a
faith without philosophy. Instead, the metaphysical paradigm is
put into perspective, where one can see how it opposes the
understanding of facticity. There is a collision between two
philosophical approaches, but not a collision between faith and
philosophy. Heidegger seeks an atheistic philosophy, or at the
very least, a philosophy without an a priori conception of god.
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THREE
Philosophy and Theology
as Mortal Enemies
n this chapter I will focus upon a text by Heidegger that
has received relatively little attention.
1Phenomenology and
Theologyis a short volume consisting of two texts: a lecture
and a letter.
2The lecture “Phänomenologie und Theologie” was
presented on March 8, 1927, in Tübingen, and then repeated in
Marburg the following February. The appended letter, written
in regard to an upcoming debate at Drew University from April
9 to 11, 1964, dates from March 11, 1964, and it offers a set
of reflections upon what Heidegger calls “The Problem of a
Nonobjectifying Thinking and Speaking in Today’s Theology.”
3
Heidegger presented the lecture during the period that Being
and Timewas first appearing in publication, and the concept
of phenomenology in the lecture is grounded solidly in the
account given in that work.
4He resists seeking the difference
between philosophy and theology in the separation between
faith and knowledge, between revelation and reason. If this
were the case, then philosophy would simply be the interpreta-
tion of the world free from revelation and belief; taken in this
I
67
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68 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
light, the problem of the relation between philosophy and theology
would be reduced to the relation between two different, com-
peting worldviews. Heidegger shifts the entire problematic to a
question of the relationship between two sciences. He proposes
an ideal construction of both sciences wherein the specific sub-
ject of each can be sought and isolated. This idealization con-
trasts with the particular mode of understanding within modern
science, which takes the form of logically valid statements. Instead,
science in Heidegger is seen as the unconcealment of a certain
isolated domain of being or of entities, akin to Aristotle’s
search for the specific domain of first philosophy in the doctrine
of being qua being in his Metaphysics. Here, every domain
demands an approach and a set of concepts corresponding to
its own particular nature. To Heidegger, the primary distinction
to be made is whether one is dealing with a science of entities
or a science of being. The latter he terms philosophy. Sciences
of entities, on the other hand, have the presupposition of a positive
5
entity, both present and available, always already revealed to us
in our understanding in one way or another. Philosophy, how-
ever, does not have a specific entity but rather being in general
as its field of research. In making this distinction, philosophy
radically differentiates itself from all other positive sciences.
Theology, too, falls under the category of the positive sciences,
and as such is essentially other than philosophy. “Our thesis,
then, is that theology is a positive science, and as such, there-
fore, is absolutely different from philosophy.”
6
Since this perspective classifies theology as a science of
entities, it is as such closer to natural science than it is to phi-
losophy. This is, of course, a rather extreme proposal on Heidegger’s
part. Yet it was necessary for Heidegger to break from the pop-
ular conception of philosophy’s relation to theology, as if both
shared the same theme, but one took it up from the standpoint
of faith and the other from reason. Nevertheless, Heidegger has
certain reservations in describing theology as a science: for
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him, the essential question is: is theology a science, and does
it have to be? This question, raised almost in passing, is not as
innocent as it appears, because he maintains that a philosopher
has a different object of research and cannot answer such a
question.
7In his lecture, Heidegger points out the fact that faith
does not necessarily ask for scientific explanation. Thus, Heidegger’s
proposal is best read as a kind of draft, should faith ever
require a scientific approach. By sketching an image of theol-
ogy as a science, it is easier to evaluate the question of
whether or not it should become a science at all. Because each
science of entities deals with present entities, i.e., the positum,
theology can only be seen as a positive science. And Heidegger
does not refer in any way to the possibility of a natural or
philosophical theology as the domain of the question of being,
as an element of metaphysics or ontology.
What is this positive character of science in Heidegger’s con-
ception? Here we can lay out three fundamental determinants:
1. There is an entity present to us, revealed in a particular way.
This entity is a possible focus of theoretical objectification
and research, as Heidegger has shown in the concept of
science given in Being and Time.
8
2. This present entity is already grasped on a prescientific
level. This understanding is already implied in the specific
scientific field itself, as well as in the nature of the being of
this entity. Preceding all theoretical understanding, it is
more or less unconsciously taken up into an understanding
of being.
3. This prescientific understanding implies a prior understand-
ing of being which determines the entity to be uncovered.
According to the way in which the uncovered entity, the
understanding of entities, and the understanding of the being
of entities vary, the theme of the science will change as
well.
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70 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
The problem where theology is concerned, is how to get from
the second determination listed above to the third. Because the
prereflexive understanding of being mentioned in the third
determination is explicated in the analysis of being (fundamen-
tal ontology), it can thereby function as the basis for the pre-
scientific approach mentioned in the second. But this given is
especially problematic when the positumof a science is not
given from a domain that was earlier (a priori) uncovered as
human being (Dasein).
9The positumcharacteristic to theology
is not something that Dasein can understand a priori. This is all
the more problematic because Heidegger himself rejects reli-
gious a priori phenomena in general, as we observed in regard
to Otto and Troeltsch in the previous chapter. Thus, Heidegger
is forced to reduce the ontological elements of theology to
something that can be only formally indicated without the con-
tent of its theological message.
Despite these difficulties, Heidegger seeks to determine a
relation between philosophy and theology. And in order to
carry this project out, he must determine the scientific, positive
character of theology. But what is the given positum,of theol-
ogy? Answering this question will not take us all the way to a
characterization of the whole of theology as a science. Yet only
on the basis of this answer can we go on to ask about theol-
ogy’s scientific character.
THE POSITIVE CHARACTER OF THEOLOGY
When we ask about the positive character of theology, we
do not have in mind those aspects of it that are determined by
a particular set of values. Positive science is the uncovering of
a present entity, already uncovered for us in one manner or another.
If we were to describe what theology’s positumis by saying
that it is Christianity as a historical phenomenon — as the his-
tory of religion and culture would confirm it — we would have
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to direct ourselves, then, to Christian customs, rites, and so on.
But this approach is insufficient, precisely because theology
itself belongs to Christianity. Therefore, Heidegger distin-
guishes theology from a science of religion. Theology is some-
thing that develops historically within Christianity; it belongs
to the history of Christianity, it is supported by Christianity,
and it determines Christianity in turn. But theology does not
belong to Christianity insofar as it appears on the scene within
the general structure of a given culture; neither is its positum,
as one may suppose, God.
Theology is the knowledge of that which first makes some-
thing like Christianity possible as an original, world-historical
event; it is a knowledge of what is termed ‘Christianness’.
10
Following Kierkegaard, Heidegger will make use of this dis-
tinction between Christianity and Christianness in his subse-
quent work.
11 But what, then, is Christianness? “We call faith
Christian. The essence of faith can formally be sketched as a
way of existence of human Dasein that, according to its own
testimony — itself belonging to this way of existence — arises
not from Dasein or spontaneously through Dasein, but rather
from that which is revealed in and with this way of existence,
from what is believed. For the ‘Christian’ faith, that being
which is primarily revealed to faith, and only it, and which, as
revelation, first gives rise to faith, is Christ, the crucified
God.”
12 Faith is Christian. It is a mode of existence of human
Dasein, which by virtue of its own testimony does not stem
from Dasein itself. This way of existence, according to its tes-
timony, arises out of what in and through this way of existence
reveals itself: faith. This entity is revealed for Christian faith
and only for it. What is revealed only for faith is Christ, the
crucified God; Christ determines the relation of faith in the
cross as Christian. This crucifixion is a historical event, one
that is documented in its specific historicity for the believer in
Scripture. Only a believer “knows” this event. What is revealed
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72 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
in this way has a certain message for those who factically and
historically exist, a message independent of whether its recipi-
ents exist contemporaneously with it or not.
13As an announce-
ment, the message (Mitteilung) does not convey knowledge of
real events, past or future, but allows one to partake in the
event, which is the revelation itself; such is the message
revealed in it. Here content and form come together and are
inseparable. This taking-part, actualized only in existence, is as
such always only expressed as faith, as given by faith. In this
taking-part of the event of crucifixion the complete human
Dasein is placed as Christian. This means that human Dasein
is drawn to the cross, placed before God. With this, touched by
revelation, human existence becomes aware of itself in its for-
getfulness of God. Being thus placed before God means a turn
of human Dasein in, and through the mercy of God that is
grasped in faith.
14
I am sticking closely to Heidegger here in his ideal con-
struction of theology. Faith understands itself thus only faith-
fully. The believer never understands his specific way of
existence based on theoretical constructions of his inner feel-
ings. The believer cannot become a believer out of a theoreti-
cal or philosophical reflection. As we will see as we move on
further, there is no rational, philosophical, or ontological reason
for faith. Faith is the only entrance to faith. In and by faith
human existence is touched by the possibility of an existence
that human existence does not possess solely on its own. However,
whether this is a Paulian-Lutherian view will not be taken up
here.
15 First and foremost, the relation between philosophical
reflection and faith has to do with insight into the relation
between philosophy and religion. As we have seen, Heidegger
notes tendencies in Luther which emphasize the deconceptual-
ization of theology, that Heidegger himself defends.
It is difficult to determine the relation between philosophy
and faith out of Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein. In what way
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can something be drafted in faith which can neither be preun-
derstood by the analysis of Dasein, nor preunderstood in
Dasein itself ? What relation does a philosopher have to this
problem? How does the philosopher relate to something that
happens to Dasein, like faith? He understands it as a possibil-
ity that is given to Dasein. But with regard to its content, the
philosopher remains aloof. He is only interested in the formal
indications to the extent that they can indicate the ontological
presuppositions of a phenomenon like faith. Once the message
of faith is accepted, the believer understands himself over and
against his prior situation, understands himself as rebaptized.
Since the philosopher does not follow the content of faith, he
cannot therefore follow such rebaptism. How are we to under-
stand this moment of rebaptism?
Against the background of our previous chapter it becomes
clear that Heidegger continues his understanding of history in
his understanding of faith. In his interpretation of Paul’s letters,
the kairological moment was a precondition for understanding
early Christianity. The temporal experience of original faith is
characterized by the expectation of the parousia. Unpredict-
ability and suddenness belong to the parousia. In the expecta-
tion of its arrival, the actualization of life through the original
believers is no longer characterized by a chronological order of
events, in which the present holds a dominant role. In the
expectation of the parousia,the believer is placed in a field
determined and limited by the expectation of the decisive
arrival. This arrival of an undetermined future is explicated and
ontologically formally indicated in Being and Timeas the
authentic future. The relation of time and history is changed by
it: in the chronological understanding of time, history with all
its events is classified in the indifferent stream of time. In the
kairological understanding, it is just the opposite: the stream of
time is structured from the historical, or from events that are
to be expected in history.
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74 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
It is obvious that the analysis of time in the early lecture courses
is developed in the direction of what appears later in Being and
Time. The destruction of the history of ontology in section six
of Being and Timeis dedicated to the unconcealment of the
temporal meaning of being. Nowhere does Heidegger expressly
contrast the meaning of the early Christian experience to the
Greek experience of time; he finds the kairological moment of
consciousness in Aristotle as well. It is important to see that
this experience of time implies, in addition, an experience of
history.
Heidegger ascribes a specific historicality (Geschichtlichkeit)
to the Christian faith in its original deconceptualized form. The
specificity lies in the kairological understanding of history, an
understanding that has both an existential and an existentiell
character.
16 It is existentiell insofar as it has to do with a con-
crete content which cannot be isolated from the life-world. It is
existential because it is, as the Christian understanding of time,
a figure of understanding of being that remains unthematized.
Christian messianism, which is based in constitutive historic events
for Christian faith, is only understandable for a philosopher
from the perspective of a kairological understanding of history.
This kairological understanding, however, is only made possi-
ble by events that are to be expected, i.e., the coming of Christ.
In this way there is a mutual implication of concrete content
and historic understanding. Yet Heidegger has no existentiell
relation to the Christian faith. He has an existentiell relation to
existentiality as it is explicated in Being and Time.
In accepting the message of revelation no knowledge is con-
veyed about the reality of past or future events. Rather, there
is an existentiell commitment to what is revealed. In this com-
mitment the kairos-moment is actualized. This actualization is
faithfully carried out as a rebirth. “Rebirth does not mean a
momentary outfitting with some quality or other, but a way in
which a factical, believing Dasein historically exists in that his-
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tory which begins with the occurrence of revelation; in that
history which, in accord with the very meaning of the revela-
tion, has a definite uttermost end.”
17
The authentic actualization of the existence of faith is con-
sequently rebirth as a mode of historical existence of the facti-
cal, faithful Dasein. This history begins with the event of revelation.
The event of revelation, which is handed down to faith and
consequently actualizes itself in faith, unveils itself only to
faith. Faith, as appropriation of revelation, is itself the Christian
event. Faith is that way of existence that determines factical
existence in its Christianness. “Faith is the believing-understanding
mode of existing in the history revealed, i.e., occurring, with
the Crucified.”
18 Factical existence offers the pregiven possibil-
ity of the kairological moment, which receives, in turn, com-
pletion from faith’s content.
So rebirth stands at the beginning of a new history, strangely
for someone who is not born twice — namely, the philosopher.
But it is possible to understand it ontologically as a new his-
tory from the pre-given possibilities of Dasein. The content
determined by Christianness remains alienated from the ques-
tion of the ontological presuppositions that make it possible in
the first place. The image of rebirth announces a separation between
an old and a new existence. Nevertheless, it is also necessary
to see the continuity between them. It is not a matter of an old
and a new Dasein, but of the continuity of an already given
Dasein, which is regarded with a new kind of view. The idea
of the kairos,which is connected to authentic temporality, takes
shape by an acceptance of the revelation of faith. The existen-
tial structure of factical Dasein is actualized by a content of
faith, and also by an existentiell commitment to it. But the philoso-
pher is not bound to actualize this existential structure through
faith.
No authentic understanding of temporality can guarantee the
truth of the content of faith. Heidegger clearly separates philosophical
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76 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
analysis and faith because there is no philosophical reason for
faith. Accordingly, Heidegger’s understanding of historicality
assigns no place to faith which originates from the claims of
thinking. Therefore, the understanding of historicality leaves
the question of the truth of faith completely to the credibility
of faith itself.
19
The whole of entities uncovered by faith is the positumof
theology. In this positumfaith itself belongs to the connection
of events of the faithfully uncovered entity. If we presuppose
that theology is imposed on faith, out of faith to serve faith,
and if we presuppose as well that science is a conceptual
uncovering objectification, then theology consists in thematiz-
ing faith together with what is uncovered in it, i.e., what is
revealed.
20 In other words, theology as a science is created only
from faith. As far as theology is imposed on faith as a science
it can only find its motivation in faith. If faith is not capable
of understanding and explicating conceptually, as science does,
then theology is completely inappropriate to its object, faith.
Without conceptual explication science is impossible. This also
means that theology cannot be deduced from a rationally
drafted system of sciences.
21
In “Phenomenology and Theology,” Heidegger writes about
theology in very concrete terms. What he writes, for instance,
on the theology of the cross implies a certain theology. Such
perspectives on faith are only possible if one is familiar with
faith. One could say that Heidegger writes here as a theologian,
although I have already shown this not to be the case, in view
of the fact that he separates the character of the message from
its content. Furthermore, the difference between theology and
philosophy is not neutralized here. At the end of his lecture,
Heidegger speaks quite consistently about a mortal enemy
(Todfeindschaft) of both.
22 So the problem bears upon the one
who wants to maintain both positions, not the one who is to
take the position of the philosopher, as Heidegger does. Only a
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ratio that abandons the revelation of faith is capable of actual-
izing the philosophical way of thinking. The existentiell com-
mitment to faith alone will never find the formal indications for
understanding the ontological structure of factical Dasein. Only
through the ontological analysis does it become understandable
that theology presupposes something that is not pre-given in
Dasein, or in being. Heidegger will go on to repeat this: “The
unconditional character of faith, and the problematic character
of thinking, are two spheres separated by an abyss.”
23 Heideg-
ger will claim that the question of being does not exist for the
believer because this question is already answered out of faith:
“For example, anyone for whom the Bible is divine revelation
and truth already has the answer to the question ‘Why are there
beings at all instead of nothing?’ before it is even asked:
beings, with the exception of God Himself, are created by
Him.”
24 This makes clear that the question of being should not
be confused with what is indicated as god in faith. The word
‘faith’ is for Heidegger only oriented to an existentiell commitment
to belief in revelation. A philosophical belief in Jaspers’ sense
25
does not exist for him. 26 Thinking and belief cannot be recon-
ciled in a unified concept, nor in a third given that encom-
passes both. “‘Being’ — that is not God,” is for Heidegger the
only thing that counts as valid.
27
As a philosopher, Heidegger unfolds an existential, ontolog-
ical analysis of Dasein. He continues this when he speaks
about theology. Religion, the ontological presuppositions of which
he seeks, takes place at the existentiell, ontic level.
THE SCIENTI ?CCHARACTER OF THEOLOGY
What does it mean that theology is a science of faith?
1. It is a science of what is revealed in faith, namely that
which is believed.
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78 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
2. With this, theology is a science of faithful comportment
itself, faithfulness; faithfulness that exists as a revealed relation.
3. Theology is a science of faith because it originates from
faith; it legitimates and motivates faith out of faith.
4. Theology is a science of faith because the objectification of
faith aims at building faithfulness.
Faith is, in its relation to the crucified, a mode of historical
human existence. Faith is historical in a history that discloses
itself in faith and only for faith. From there, theology exists as
the science of faith, as a way of being that is historical in
itself. It is a historical science of a specific kind, according to
the historicity that is implied in faith, namely the occurrence of
revelation.
28 Theology aims at what is revealed in faithfulness
and at the transparency of the Christian event, which is set
within its limits by faith itself. The object of this historical sci-
ence is Christian existence in its concreteness, and not a sys-
tem of valid theological statements on general relations within
some particular region of being. Rather, the transparency of
faithful existence is an understanding of existence and refers
only to human existence. This means that the process of mak-
ing transparent is founded in a capacity of Dasein, as under-
standing is a possibility of Dasein. As far as the understanding
of faith is a hermeneutics, it is given from a possibility of
Dasein. “In hermeneutics what is developed for Dasein is a
possibility of its becoming and being for itself in the manner
of an understanding of itself.”
29 In the same moment, theolog-
ical statements are faithful to their content. The particular state
of affairs of the object of theology demands that the theologi-
cal knowledge adjusted to it can never take effect as a separate
knowledge of another matter.
Heidegger understands theology as a self-clarification of
faith, and not a harmonizing of faith and reason. With this atti-
tude he continues to resist the kind of harmonization of philosophy
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and faith that is characteristic of neo-scholastic theology and
Christian philosophy. Therefore theology cannot found faith in
its legitimacy and strengthen it. It cannot lighten in one way or
another both the affirmation of faith and faithfulness itself. Theology
can only render faith more difficult; this means that faith can
only be attained by faith itself, and not by theology as a sci-
ence.
30All other sciences are incompetent in the field of theol-
ogy because they do not grasp the positumof theology. This
applies also to philosophy, Heidegger’s thinking included. An
apologetic science or philosophy is seen as an impossibility, in
view of the specific nature of theological science: “Likewise,
the shortcomings of the non-theological sciences with respect
to what faith reveals is no proof of the legitimacy of faith. One
can allow ‘faithless’ science to run up against and be shattered
by faith only if one already faithfully holds fast to the truth of
faith.”
31 If faith can be found in no way by thinking, nor even
made plausible, then there is for the non-believer and for the
believer alike no external reason for belief. If there were a nec-
essary philosophical reason for belief, this would be what Heidegger
refers to as the strike of lightning that would oblige him to
close his philosophical workshop.
32 In this case, we would
expect that there is a question of a kind of leap from philoso-
phy to faith to contend with.
33 Yet Heidegger never made this
leap. If thinking were to lead to faith, faith would then be
determined by thinking and thereby lose its specificity. An existentiell
commitment in thinking would not be possible anymore, pre-
cisely because the answers would already be determined by
faith, which aspires to bring the ultimate contents of the whole
of reality to words. Even if the content of this ultimate word
of faith were to be determined by thinking, the initiative would
no longer lie in faith; for faith would no longer stand in its
own roots, as Heidegger formulates it.
Theology is, according to its positumand from the specific
historicity of faith, a historical science. This does not mean that
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80 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
a practical and systematic theology is out of the question but
that theology is historical theology in all of its disciplines. Theology
is a conceptual explication of Christian existence. “To grasp the
substantive content and the specific mode of being of the
Christian occurrence, and to grasp it solely as it is testified to
in faith and for faith, is the task of systematic theology.”
34Theology
is not systematic because it divides the whole of the content of
faith into small pieces in order to summarize it systematically
and show its validity. Where it attempts to uncover the inner
coherence of the occurrence of Christ, theology is systematic in
avoiding a system. “The more historical theology is and the
more immediately it brings to word and concept the historicity
of faith, the more it is ‘systematic’ and the less likely is it to
become the slave of a system.”
35 Systematic theology succeeds
to the extent that it explicates the concepts and their coherence
out of the nature and the specific state of affairs of the entities
it objectifies. Systematic theology must understand faith in its
original historicity. Heidegger clearly distances himself from an
external system that could be imposed upon faith or from a
system of meaningful statements that aim at eternal claims. The
deconceptualizing that Heidegger applies to philosophy in order
to do justice to human historicity is also to be applied to the-
ology, as an explication of the historicity of faith. Eternal truths
should not slip into the explication of temporal existence. The
systematic design of theology has to correspond to the inner
historicity of its positum. “The more unequivocally theology
disburdens itself of the application of some philosophy and its
system, the more philosophical is its own radical (eigenbürti-
gen) scientific character.”
36 It’s scientific character originates in
and is born out of its positum.
In the first instance, theology as a systematic and historic
discipline has as its object the Christian occurrence in its
Christianness and its historicity. This occurrence distinguishes
itself as a mode of existence of the believer. Existence is
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always action and praxis. Therefore, “theology in its essence
has the character of a practical science.”
37As the science of the
acts of god in relation to the faithfully acting human being,
theology is always homiletical and preaching. Therefore, theol-
ogy can constitute itself as a practical theology, both in
homiletics and catechetics. It is not practical because of the
need to apply its theoretical propositions to a practical sphere.
Theology is historical, systematic, and practical because of the
nature of its positum.
With the foregoing claims in mind, it is obvious that in this
draft of theology, certain ideas about what theology is are excluded.
God is not the object of theology in the way that animals are
the objects of zoology. Theology is not speculative knowledge
of god, or at least not within the project of theology as a pos-
itive science. Theology could be a speculative knowledge of
god as a project of metaphysics, as ontotheology. There it
answers the question of the highest and first being. Nor is the
object of theology the relation of god to human and vice-versa.
In that case, theology would simply be a science of religion.
Moreover, theology is not a science of human beings and their
religious situations or experience, as a psychology of religion
would have it. According to such an analysis, god would be
found in human being. None of these interpretations of theol-
ogy is drawn from the proper positumof theology. They are
derived instead from nontheological sciences such as philoso-
phy, history and psychology. However, it remains difficult to deter-
mine the limits of theology from out of its object, in the way
in which the limits of every science are determined from out
of its fundamental concepts. The specific difficulty is that the
basis of theology cannot be found in the field of philosophy.
“Rather, theology itself is founded primarily by faith.”
38
Theology is specifically characterized by its positum, not
only with regard to the access it has to its object, but also with
regard to the evidence of its claims. Its specific conceptuality
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82 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
can only arise from the positumitself. It cannot lean on other
sciences in order to radicalize or strengthen its evidence, nor
can the evidence of faith by increased or justified by another
science.
If one reads Being and Timeas a transcendental fundamen-
tal ontology, then this universal science of being is constitutive
for all other sciences of entities. It would found these sciences.
But the positumof theology is not given from Dasein as a pos-
sibility that is already pre-given in Dasein from the start.
39However,
the formal structure of temporality, in which the content of the
revealed message is received, is given in Dasein a priori. The
formal structures of temporality also determine the structures of
hermeneutics as the interpretation of an announcement that addresses
Dasein. If there is a possible understanding and hermeneutics
of faith from out of faith, then it has to follow the dictates of
hermeneutics. Yet it is not possible from the perspective of fun-
damental ontology to decide whether the scientific character of
theology is in accordance with its positum. Whether and how
the positumof theology has to be developed scientifically has
to be answered by theologians, and not by philosophers. Thus
Heidegger rejects all religious a priori in Dasein. What is given
in Dasein, however, is a means for dealing with the positumof
theology.
THE RELATION OF THEOLOGY ,AS A POSITIVE SCIENCE ,TO PHILOSOPHY
Faith has no need for philosophy. This state of affairs
changes when the explication of theology sets itself the task of
becoming scientific. Science of faith needs philosophy in a
very particular way. As a science, theology’s concepts must
appropriately reflect the entity that it has undertaken to inter-
pret. But is that which has to be understood conceptually here
not inconceivable from the very beginning? Even so, this
inconceivability can be unconcealed in the proper way; other-
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wise, it remains utterly meaningless. Such inconceivability
should not arise from a lack of reason, but from the nature of
the positumitself; it is not something to be understood. It is
not a matter of the ‘thinkability’ of faith, but rather of its ‘credibility.’
But wouldn’t it be better to leave faith to itself? Why is
there a need for philosophy here? Heidegger writes: “Every
ontic interpretation operates on the basis, at first and for the
most part concealed, of an ontology.”
40 Theology is an ontic
operation. It is led by a more or less hidden understanding of
being. But the question of being is not raised in theology. Is it
possible to understand the meaning of the cross, of sin and
grace in another way than in faith? Faith cannot become the
criterion of knowledge for the philosophical-ontological ques-
tion. However, the basic concepts of theology are not com-
pletely isolated from philosophical questioning. The explication
of basic concepts is never an isolated matter, which, once iso-
lated, can be passed around like coins. How are to we to regard
this relation between the basic concepts of theology and philo-
sophical questioning?
As we have noted above, Heidegger indicates faith as a
rebirth. Does this mean that the pre-faithful existence of Dasein
has disappeared? Heidegger answers: “Though faith does not
bring itself about, and though what is revealed in faith can
never be founded by way of a rational knowing as exercised
by autonomously functioning reason, nevertheless the sense of
the Christian occurrence as rebirth is that Dasein’s pre-faithful,
i.e., unbelieving, existence is sublated (aufgehoben) therein.”
41
This sublating does not mean that prefaithful existence is removed,
but that it is lifted up into a new form, in which it is kept and
preserved. The ontological conditions of the prefaithful human
being persist in the faithful human being. In faith pre-Christian
existence is mastered at an existentiell level as rebirth. This
means that in faithful existence the conquered pre-Christian Dasein
is implied, not discarded, but is at one’s disposal in a new way.
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84 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Heidegger’s use of the term ‘aufheben’ here immediately calls
Hegel to mind. Does this mean that the relation between reli-
gion and philosophy must be understood from a Hegelian per-
spective? Obviously not, since in Hegel religion is regarded as
something preserved in the rationality of spirit. Religion is not
different from spirit; only the form differs. There isn’t a con-
siderable difference between religion and philosophy in Hegel
because the content of religion and that of philosophy remain
one and the same.
42 In Heidegger, on the other hand, continu-
ity exists between the two at an implicit ontological level, yet
at the ontic level, the difference between them is decisive, as
we shall see in what follows. In Heidegger’s analysis, what is
existential-ontological remains implied within what is religious.
This is also the reason why formally indicated temporality as
an ontological presupposition can be found in the historicality
of the occurrence of faith.
We can see the relation as follows: “Hence we can say that
precisely because all basic theological concepts, considered in
their fully regional context, include a content that is indeed
existentially powerless, i.e., ontically sublated, they are onto-
logically determined by a content that is pre-Christian and that
can thus be grasped purely rationally.”
43 The believer remains
anchored in the ontological presuppositions of Dasein. Theological
concepts necessarily include an understanding of being that human
Dasein possesses to the extent that Dasein exists. Heidegger
adds a key remark on the kinship between theology and phi-
losophy in a footnote: “All theological concepts of existence
that are centered on faith intend a specific transition of exis-
tence, in which pre-Christian and Christian existence are united
in their own way. This transitional character is what motivates
the multidimensionality of theological concepts.”
44 The transi-
tion characteristic to Dasein is obviously distinguished by Christian
existence in a particular way. Because of this, theological con-
cepts possess an ambiguity in which one can see pre-Christian
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concepts in and through Christian ones. As a result, the meta-
phor of rebirth gestures toward the characteristics of the first
birth, existentiality.
The concept of sin, for instance, is only meaningful within
faith; only the believer can exist as a sinner, since sin in Christianity
also presupposes a belief in the revelation of God. However, if
one wants to explicate sin in a conceptual way, then it demands
a step backward to the concept of guilt. In other words, if one
wants to explicate sin, one has to turn to the original ontolog-
ical existential characteristics of Dasein. In these existential
characteristics of existence, Dasein is determined as guilty. The
more originally and appropriately the basic condition of Dasein
is explicated and brought to light, that is, the more originally
and ontologically the concept of guilt is understood, the more
this concept of guilt can serve as a guide for the theoretical
explication of sin. Sin arises as a concept within the world of
faith when the act of the believer is seen in the light of a
revealing and forgiving god. It is an interpretation added to
what is ontologically experienced as guilt. Guilt arises in a new
light, namely in the light of a transcendental god. Guilt be-
comes sin, and the ambiguity of sin allows one to see guilt
within it. Sin is the faithful and existentiell interpretation of
what is existential-ontologically founded in the concept of
guilt.
Heidegger presupposes that the theological explication of sin
must remain oriented towards the ontological concept of guilt.
This does not mean that theology is patronized by philosophy:
“For sin, in its essence, is not to be deduced rationally from
the concept of guilt.”
45 Theology needs the ontological concept
of guilt from the pre-faithful Dasein, which is in turn sublated
in faithful Dasein. In Hegel the sublation proceeds from reli-
gion to spirit; in Heidegger it goes from philosophy to religion
and is not philosophically necessary. If the concepts of faith are
to be philosophically explicable, and are not to remain in a specific,
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86 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
yet meaningless, conceptuality, then what is said must be
understood from an existential-ontological perspective. In
Being and TimeHeidegger expresses this as follows: “Onti-
cally, we have not decided whether man is ‘drunk with sin’ and
in the status corruptionis,whether he walks in the status
integritatis,or whether he finds himself in an intermediate
stage, the status gratiae. But in so far as any faith or ‘world
view’ makes any such assertions, and if it asserts anything
about Dasein as Being-in-the-World, it must come back to the
existential structures we have set forth, provided that its asser-
tions are to make a claim to conceptual understanding.”
46Elsewhere
Heidegger formulates this separation even more sharply: “The
existential analysis of Being-guilty proves nothing either for or
against the possibility of sin. Taken strictly, it cannot even be
said that the ontology of Dasein of itself leaves this possibility
open; for this ontology, as a philosophical inquiry, ‘knows’ in
principle nothing about sin.”
47 The concept of guilt remains
silent about sin; not even the possibility of sin receives a bet-
ter understanding from it. “The theological concept of sin as a
concept of existence acquires that correction (i.e., codirection)
that is necessary for it insofar as the concept of existence has
pre-Christian content. But the primary direction (derivation),
the source of its Christian content, is given only by faith. Therefore
ontology functions only as a corrective to the ontic, and in par-
ticular pre-Christian, content of basic theological concepts.”
48
The philosopher who wants to understand the concepts of faith
has to understand them out of and by means of philosophical
concepts. These philosophical concepts are formally indicating
concepts, which are always empty not only with respect to reli-
gion, but also with respect to all human concerns. Therefore,
the question whether theological concepts are right is not for
the philosopher to judge.
Theological concepts, then, are examined only with regard
to their ontological presuppositions, not their specific content.
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We have already observed this in Heidegger’s analysis of the
parousia, where Heidegger analyzes the specific understanding
of temporality that plays a role in the expectation of the com-
ing of Christ. For Heidegger, it has to do with the underlying
ontology of temporality. However, the possibility of this spe-
cific understanding of being is connected with a certain faith:
the expectation of the coming or arrival is connected to the
concrete possibility of the coming of Christ. Yet, according to
Matthias Jung, a sharp distinction between historic genesis and
ontological validity cannot be made here,
49 due to the very fac-
ticity of the religion in which Heidegger himself was raised.
That is Heidegger’s hermeneutical departure. Heidegger, as a
philosopher, singles out the kairos-moment in a religious con-
text, and uses his analysis of the understanding of being in
order to do it. On the basis of this, he can also find in
Aristotle’s philosophy the kairos-moment.
50 This results in the
concept of the moment in Being and Time.
51At that point it has
to do with pure formal structures, emptied of all content.
Heidegger, as we have seen, uncovers essential structures of
Dasein from certain religious phenomena and contexts. The
world of the believer offers an expression of more fundamen-
tal existential structures. In themselves, such structures have
nothing to do with religion. This point legitimates Heidegger’s
entire intention. He does not, however, answer the question of
whether the ontological implications of these religious phenomena
are meaningful for the validity of faith. It is true that Heideg-
ger’s philosophy of guilt and the future is essentially developed
from out of his interpretation of Christianity, but it is his
explicit intention to analyze its philosophical meaning. His pro-
ject is not about theology, nor Christian faith, nor religion in
general; his references to the religious are always oriented
toward, and for the sake of, the ontological analysis.
For Heidegger, philosophical concepts can function as a cor-
rective for the understanding of theological concepts. And faith,
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88 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
in its turn, can give direction to empty philosophical concepts.
This indicates the specificity of theology with regard to other
positive sciences. “Here one must note, however, that this cor-
rection does not found anything, in that way, for example, that
the basic concepts of physics acquire from an ontology of
nature their original foundation, the demonstration of all their
possibilities, and hence their higher truth. Rather, this correc-
tion is only formally indicative; that is to say, the ontological
concept of guilt as such is never a theme of theology.”
52 The
ontological concept of guilt indicates the formal character of
the region of being in which the concept of existence moves,
and it is here that the concept of sin has its proper meaning.
The ontological concept of sin determines the space in which
sin can move in order to be ontologically understandable. For
its part, ontological understanding is neutral and atheistic. The
relation of philosophy to the other positive sciences, however,
is far more directive: “On the other hand, it can be shown that
philosophy, as the free questioning of purely self-reliant
Dasein, does of its essence have the task of directing all other
non-theological, positive sciences with respect to their ontolog-
ical foundation.”
53 The ontologically precedent (a priori) open-
ness, which is given with regard to the other sciences out of
Dasein, does not apply to theology. It has a positumin the rev-
elation of faith that is sui generis,a positumabout which phi-
losophy cannot speak. Therefore, it is not possible to find the
content of faith, the Christianness, in the analysis of Dasein.
In Heidegger’s analysis of Paul’s letters, the ontology of
temporality was derived from Christianity as formal indication.
Here, in “Phenomenology and Theology,” ontology as formal
indication of Dasein offers the limits within which the religious
concepts must be preserved as concepts of existence. Ontology
provides a formal indication, i.e., an indication free of ontic
representation, of the pre-Christian form of basic concepts of
theology. In theology, concepts like guilt, which according to
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Heidegger are philosophically seen as formal indicating con-
cepts, are interpreted anew as a whole by the sublating char-
acter of faith. The concepts are, as it were, born again. But the
theological conceptual contents are thus not an addendum to
what is philosophically understandable. In the concept of sin
the concept guilt is preserved, but it receives a new content. In
faith the pre-faithful Dasein is sublated. A comprehensive
understanding of this sublation is necessary in order to under-
stand the relation of philosophy and theology as Heidegger
sees it.
Because theological concepts always have out of their region
of being an ontologically determined and therefore philosophi-
cal, content, all religious concepts imply an understanding of
being that human Dasein has out of itself. From this understanding
of being, philosophy can eventually function as a corrective for
the ontic content of the basic concepts of theology, but it can-
not speak about its theological content.
Furthermore, it is not necessary for philosophy to serve a
corrective function with regard to theology: “But it is not of
the essence of philosophy, and it can never be established by
philosophy itself or for its own purpose, that it must have such
a corrective function for theology.”
54 In the ontological con-
cepts as formal indications there is no reference to, and also no
direction for, a possible meaning in theological terms. As ontol-
ogy, philosophy offers the possibility to function as this cor-
rective for theology, “if indeed theology is to be factical with
respect to the facticity of faith.”
55 If theology wants to belong
to the facticity of Dasein, then it must stay within the ontology
of facticity; without this, it can never be understood from the
perspective of an ontology of facticity. This is the reason that
Heidegger states early on that philosophy of religion is only under-
standable from the perspective of an ontology of facticity. He
persists in this conviction: “the very idea of a philosophy of
religion (especially if it makes no reference to the facticity of
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90 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
the human being) is pure nonsense.” 56 That theology seeks to
answer to this demand to limit itself within the borders of fac-
ticity does not originate from philosophy itself, but rather orig-
inates from theology, which strives to understand itself scientifically.
Out of itself, philosophy is not aware of a possible meaning for
theology because the theological positum,the revealed faith,
does not belong to its domain.
57 It is important to bear in mind
here Heidegger’s hesitation with regard to the question of
whether theology has to be a science. The need for philosophy
to serve as a corrective for theology arises only when theology
insists on being scientific.
Heidegger thus distances himself from religious philosophi-
cal approaches, in which a religious a priori is supposed, fol-
lowing Otto and Troeltsch. He distances himself as well from
a conciliation of faith and reason that would reduce faith to
reason, as is the case in the philosophies of Kant and Hegel.
Nor does he assume the harmony of faith and reason at which
Thomistic philosophy aims.
58
Heidegger understands faith as the natural enemy, as it were,
of philosophy: “This peculiar relationship does not exclude but
rather includes the fact that faith, as a specific possibility of
existence, is in its innermost core the mortal enemy of the form
of existence that is an essential part of philosophy and that is
factically ever-changing.”
59 What we see here is the fundamen-
tal opposition of two possibilities of existence, which cannot be
realized by one person in one and the same moment. Faith as
a possibility of existence, implies death to philosophy as the
possibility of existence. This does not mean that the scientists
in each field must behave like enemies: neither excludes a
factical and existentiell taking seriously of the other. The exis-
tentiell opposition between faith, on the one hand, and philo-
sophical self-understanding, on the other, must be effective in
its scientific design and in its explications. And this must be
done in such a way that each meets the other with mutual
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respect. This can be undertaken more easily where one sees the
different points of departure more sharply. Christian philoso-
phy, therefore, is in Heidegger’s view a “square circle.”
60
In an early lecture from July of 1924, where he addressed
the Marburger theologians, Heidegger put it thus: “The philoso-
pher does not believe. If the philosopher asks about time, then
he has resolved to understand time in terms of time or in terms
of the ‘aei,’ which looks like an eternity but proves to be a
mere derivative of being temporal.”
61 Therefore he mentions
expressly that his considerations are not theological. In a theo-
logical sense — and theologians are at liberty to understand it
in this way — a consideration of time can only mean making
the question concerning eternity more difficult, preparing it in
the correct manner and posing it properly.
Quite aside from whether the theological answers are true or
untrue from the perspective of faith, it can represent no answer
at all to this question, precisely because it bears no relation to
it. For faith, asking such a question is simply a form of fool-
ishness. Yet according to Heidegger, philosophy consists in
such foolishness. A “Christian philosophy” may well be a
round square and a misunderstanding. However, one can use
theology to thoughtfully question and work through the world
of Christian experience, the world of faith. Heidegger sees in
theology’s dependence on philosophy a lack of greatness in
theology itself. “Only ages that really no longer believe in the
true greatness of the task of theology arrive at the pernicious
opinion that, through a supposed refurbishment with the help
of philosophy, a theology can be gained or even replaced, and
can be made more palatable to the need of the age. Philosophy,
for originally Christian faith, is foolishness.”
62
There remains, however, a problem: if one wants to remove
all reflection from theology, claiming it is not allowed objec-
tively, then theology falls into a number of difficulties. What
about a language of swearing, or when one expresses oneself
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92 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
as a poet? Does the sense of speaking not become a question
of taste? The danger of arbitrariness and anarchy that threatens
in such cases is a considerable objection. For they do not admit
the power of evidence; it is impossible to refute or reject what
is expressed in them. The criterion here would then be the
authenticity of speaking itself. One ends up here in a kind of
subjectivist swamp. Would Heidegger even place theology in
this category? Reason as a kind of general authority of control
seems to disappear here. Obviously we know that theological
speaking does not speak out of itself, but the longing for
insight into the origin of this speaking brings with it a natural
tension. Is there more than a purely charismatic speaking?
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FOUR
Aristotle?s Ontology as
Theology
eidegger’s main motive is to raise the question of being.
Questions about being seem to have been discredited, not
only in the past century, but in the whole of Western philoso-
phy. Therefore, Heidegger very appropriately starts Being and
Timewith a reference to Plato’s Sophist: “For manifestly you
have long been aware of what you mean when you use the
expression ‘being.’ We, however, who used to think we under-
stood it, have now become perplexed.”
1After this quotation,
Heidegger continues: “Do we in our time have an answer to
the question of what we really mean by the word ‘being’? Not
at all. So it is fitting that we should raise anew the question of
the meaning of Being.”
2The question about being characterizes
philosophy.
As Plato in relation to Parmenides turns the previous under-
standing of being, Heidegger announces at the beginning of
Being and Timethe end of the tradition initiated by Plato. Heidegger
wants to be loyal to the tradition of the question of being. The
question, “What is the meaning of being?” is possible, on the
H
93
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94 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
one hand, by raising the question again, and on the other hand,
by going back to knowing about being. In such a repetition, the
metaphysical tradition is neither simply assimilated, nor forgot-
ten, not left behind, but recalled.
To understand Heidegger’s intention, first it must become
clear in what sense the present-at-hand ontology is no longer
tenable. Second, we must attend to how the question of being
is raised again by Heidegger’s analysis. Once one sees that the
calcified tradition is a possible answer to the question of being,
then it is visible as a construction. Seeing the tradition of meta-
physics as an answer to the question of being is not possible
when only one “real” perspective is permitted. The metaphysi-
cal tradition must be understood as one response to the ques-
tion of being. If we see metaphysics as a possible, rather than
necessary, answer to the question of being, then every biased
perspective is at stake.
Against this background, Heidegger differentiates between
the motive of philosophy (the original question of being) and
its tendency (the factical filling-in of the question). This differ-
ence contrasts what is originally intended, and the concrete
direction in which the ontology is worked out and filled in. The
tendency of the ontology is no longer tenable, not because of
an external or anti-metaphysical criticism, but because of the
motive of the question of being itself. Heidegger takes this motive,
the question of being, as a not-yet-actualized possibility of
ontology. The tendency of the tradition hitherto can no longer
be maintained, because the way in which the motive of the
question of being has yet to be followed is foreign to this
tradition.
The metaphysical-ontological question is, according to Heidegger,
the core of Western philosophy. Terms like ‘philosophy’ and ‘meta-
physics’ are used interchangeably in Heidegger’s thinking. In
the following, I work out the way Heidegger analyzes Western
philosophy as an ontology that is understood more and more
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as a theology. This view of Western metaphysics was not, how-
ever, grasped all at once. It took several steps before it landed
in Heidegger’s essay “Onto-theo-logical Constitution of Meta-
physics.”
3In this work, Heidegger sees philosophy and metaphysics
as chained in an ontotheological structure. The possibility of an
atheological philosophy, which the early Heidegger saw in Aristotle,
has completely disappeared. This possibility is saved for what
the later Heidegger calls ‘the thinking of being,’ as opposed to
philosophy and metaphysics.
THE THEOLOGICAL AS THE HIGHEST
For Heidegger, Greek philosophy reaches its climax in Aris-
totle, and will never be surpassed in the tradition that follows
from it. Therefore, Aristotle’s thinking is a normative point
from which the philosophical tradition can be determined more
precisely. The well-thought-out way in which Aristotle follows
the motive of philosophy marks the limit of the whole tra-
dition, which becomes visible now as a finite possibility for
thinking and as a temporary answer to the question of being.
In his earliest writings, Heidegger emphasizes the relation
between ontology and theology in Aristotle’s first philosophy.
4
In this earliest presentation from 1922, Heidegger sees the
metaphysical tradition as an ontotheological tradition that fol-
lows from the tendency for philosophy to forget its original motive.
Because understanding has its concrete possibility for being
actualized in being free from daily concerns, the possibility of
theorizing is placed against the background of the facticity
of life. “Theoreinis the purest movement which life has avail-
able to it. Because of this, it is something ‘god-like.’ But for
Aristotle the idea of the divine did not arise in the explication
of something objective which was made accessible in a basic
religious experience; the theionis rather the expression for the
highest being-character which arises in the ontological radicalization
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96 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
of the idea of being that is moved.” 5The highest way of being
has to be the highest way of moving: it is no_sis no_se_s. This
being must be pure beholding, free from every emotional rela-
tion. Therefore the divine cannot be envious, not because it is
absolute goodness and love, but rather because in its being as
pure movement it can neither hate nor love at all.
Being is understood from a normative perspective, from the
perspective of the highest way of being. Connected with this is
the highest way of moving, which is pure thinking. This also
determines the way Christianity speaks about the highest being
of God. The divine being is understood as actus purus,which
also relates to the inner-godly life, the Trinity. The actus purus
also determines the way human being understands its relation
to god and the way human being understands being as proper
to itself. According to Heidegger (in 1922) this means: “Chris-
tian Theology and the philosophical theology and the anthro-
pology which always also develops within such contexts all
speak in borrowed categories, categories which are alien to
their own field of Being.”
6
In the winter semester of 1924/25, Heidegger wrote a long
interpretation of Aristotle before he started an extensive commentary
on Plato’s Sophist. He mentions the duality in Aristotle’s first
philosophy; the first philosophy is both theologikeand the
science that considers on h∂on.
7Theology as well as ontology
claim to be first philosophy. This duality can be found through
the Middle Ages until the ontology of the modern period. The
question is why ontology and theology become the two basic
Greek sciences. According to Heidegger, “Theology has the
task of clarifying beings as a whole, the holon,the beings of
the world, nature, the heavens, and everything under them, to
speak quite roughly, in their origins, in that by which they
properly are.”
8Clarifying beings as a whole, by means of an
unmoved mover, has nothing to do with proving god through a
causal argument. Theology has the whole, the holon,as its
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theme, as does ontology, which considers its archai. As the
Greek understood it, both take their departure from beings as a
whole, as the holon.
9Theology considers beings according to
what they are already in advance, i.e., according to what con-
stitutes, in the most proper and highest sense, the presence of
the world. “The most proper and highest presence of beings is
the theme of theology.”
10 The theme of ontology is beings,
insofar as they are present in all their determinations, includ-
ing everything there is — mathematical beings as well as phys-
ical — that which constitutes presence in general. According to
Heidegger and his interpretation of the Greeks, the problem
here is not that first philosophy is theology, but that it is ontol-
ogy as well. The question is: “what is the sense of the charac-
ters of Being which pertain universally to all beings insofar as
they are, in relation to the individual concrete being?”
11 From
Aristotle and the Greeks up to the present, this question has not
come one step forward. In fact, the opposite is the case: “the
position the Greeks attained has for us been lost and we there-
fore do not even understand these questions any longer.”
12
For a more complete sketch of Heidegger’s earlier inter-
pretation of Aristotle, I turn to a lecture course from the sum-
mer semester of 1926, entitled “Die Grundbegriffe der antiken
Philosophie,” in which Heidegger offers an overview of Greek
philosophy and explicates more precisely the central ideas in
Aristotle.
13
At the beginning of this lecture course, Heidegger announces
his intention, to penetrate the understanding of basic scientific
concepts. These not only made possible but have determined
decisively Western philosophy until today.
14 From this perspec-
tive, philosophy starts with a repetition of the tradition. In this
analysis, he shows that the tradition formed by the Greeks neglects
the question of the being of factical life. In order to raise the
question of being more radically it is thus necessary to counter
the tradition.
15
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98 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Heidegger often explicates the question of being by a com-
parison with the sciences, by which he means the positive sciences.
In science, the object is always already given, already there
before it is approached scientifically. Without this already-given
object, science is not possible. The object of philosophy, how-
ever, is not and is never given. It is only there by differentiat-
ing between entities and being. Because of this, Heidegger
speaks of philosophy as a critical science (krinein= discern).
In philosophy, being is discerned from entities, without, how-
ever, understanding being as a positive given. Being concerns
something that is not there.
16 Being always remains the being
of an entity; nevertheless, it can be distinguished from it and
understood as such. In the same way the characteristics of
being, which can be sought, must not be understood as entities
themselves.
In Aristotle, philosophy is determined as the question of
being. He is the first who asks about being qua being, for being
as such, insofar as it is. On the one hand, he gathers together
and completes the whole tradition that precedes him. On the
other hand, with this question and the way he works it out, Aristotle
determines the orientation of the whole tradition that comes
after him. This outcome is unsurpassed. According to Heideg-
ger, Aristotle unites the basic motives of the previous philoso-
phy, but after him there is only decline.
17
In Aristotle’s Metaphysics,the question of being is formu-
lated and worked out normatively. This first philosophy is char-
acterized in two ways as both a science of being (ontology)
and as a science of the highest and most authentic being (theology).
Theology is the inquiry into the being that is most proper, that
corresponds in the highest way to the idea of being.
18 For its
part, ontology endeavors to determine the being of entities.
19Thus,
theology is also the search for an entity. They both concern a
double concept of fundamental science: the science of being
and the science of the highest and authentic entity.
20 But
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whereas in ontology an explication (understanding) of being is
intended in which the found characteristics are not to be under-
stood as entities, in theology there is an ontic explanation of
being. In this case being is reduced to an entity, and the dif-
ference between being and entity is not maintained. And pre-
cisely this difference — between being and entity — characterizes
and motivates philosophy.
Heidegger notices a strange moment of ambiguity between
the two different approaches of the question of being in Aristotle.
21
He understands this hesitation or wavering as a consequence of
the way in which Aristotle begins from the tradition that pre-
cedes him. According to Aristotle, his predecessors already ask
about being as the first causes of entities. This is the question
from which being as such is to be determined.
22 This question
can lead to an ontical explanation, to find a perfect entity as an
instance of being, but it can also lead to the maintained differ-
ence of being and entity. Heidegger interprets this wavering or
hesitation as a tension between the motive of philosophy and
its factical tendency. Aristotle works out the question of being
as a search for the entity that really and completely has being.
The result of this dominant tendency in the motive of first phi-
losophy, Heidegger points out, is that the highest entity is
determined as complete and perfect effectiveness.
Aristotle develops this idea of the highest entity against the
background of his search for causes and principles. The themes
of first philosophy are the archeand aitia,translated by
Heidegger as the first grounds and causes, as well as their
quantity and essence.
23Aristotle says that there are four causes,
but according to Heidegger the necessity of this is not shown.
The investigation of these four causes follows from the ques-
tion of being: what is really intended here is an investigation
of the causes of entities beyond entities. However, Aristotle
interprets his predecessors’ questioning of being as a question
into the ground of entities. He tends toward the ready-to-hand
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100 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
answers, a tendency from which he could not free himself.
Heidegger sees this hesitation and wavering between ontology
and theology as the highest possibility for Aristotle’s thought.
Heidegger then raises the question of why the inquiry into
being has taken the perspective of ground. Why is there a why,
a ground?
24 The Greeks did not raise this question: it is strange
to Greek thinking. Heidegger sees in this tendency an answer
to the question of being that motivates philosophy. This
demands an inquiry into the connectedness of ontology and
theology in Aristotle.
According to Heidegger, Aristotle’s ontology becomes more
explicitly a theology with his explication of being as possi-
bility and actuality. With the terms dynamisand energeia, Aristotle
thinks movement (kinesis), which is proper to being as a whole
and which is, as such, eternal. Every movement has a telos: a
goal and a completion. An eternal movement cannot be ended;
nor can it near its goal. The eternal movement of being as a
whole has to have a telos, if this eternal movement is to be
possible. But it is a goal from which it is always and continu-
ously removed.
25 Aristotle characterizes this telosas the first
mover, which cannot be moved by something else because then
it would be incomplete and imperfect.
Such a first mover, which is in no way characterized by pos-
sibility or incompleteness, is pure energeia: pure, real pres-
ence.
26It is an independent and continuous presence. 27The ontology
ends in the idea of an entity that possesses being in the most
perfect way. With this, the ambiguity of ontology and theology
is decided in favor of the latter. The explication of being
becomes an explanation from the perspective of an entity that
has being in the highest degree. Heidegger explains that
Aristotle looks for a more specific characteristic of this entity,
which he finds in pure contemplation (theorein). This pure con-
templation is subsequently explicated as thinking thinking itself
(no∂sis no∂se¨s). It refers to the knowledge that is proper to
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the highest entity, which is understood by Aristotle as a pure
and lasting contemplation of nothing other than this contemplation
itself. First philosophy in this respect is the kind of knowledge
that belongs to a perfect entity. Sophia is the highest understanding
and the authentic science; it is the most divine because it has
the divine in the most authentic way and refers to something
divine. God is, before all, something like origin and ground.
This science is absolutely free contemplation; because of this,
it belongs in the first instance to god, which itself is everlast-
ing contemplation, and contemplation of this contemplation. Sophia
is, in the end, theology.
28 Heidegger emphasizes that Aristotle
calls the unmoved mover the divine and real being, but that it
is not a religious consideration about the relationship of a per-
sonal creator-god to human beings and the world. Only since
Augustine, and after him in Scholasticism and finally in Hegel,
has the idea of the first mover been united with the idea of the
Christian God.
29 And yet this misses the point, because the
Aristotelian philosophical and conceptual framework offers a
preconceptuality that is inappropriate as an approach to the Christian
faith. Theology, according to Aristotle, is knowledge of the authen-
tic and most real entity, and accordingly a neutral science of
being.
30
Next, Heidegger raises the decisive questions: Why is the
problem of being necessarily pushed to the question of the
most authentic entity? Is there an ontology that is developed
without an orientation to a most excellent entity?
31 How is it
possible that the question of being (the motive of philosophy)
is worked out as the question of the authentic entity?
In Aristotle, the question of being becomes the inquiry into
the entity that represents being in the most perfect way. That
means: being has the meaning of perfect being. Being is inter-
preted as complete efficacy (energeia); it has pure actuality.
Therefore, Aristotle writes that reality (energeia) is earlier than
possibility (dynamis), and earlier than all of this is presence.
32
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102 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
In MetaphysicsVI.1.1026a29 he says: “. . . but if there is a sub-
stance which is immutable, the science which studies this will
be prior to physics, and will be primary philosophy, and uni-
versal in this sense, that it is primary.” This science intends to
investigate being as being (as ontology), but in fact it does so
as theology, because from the beginning it understands being
from the perspective of an entity that has being in the highest
way.
The science of being qua being poses an entity in which the
authentic being is shown in the purest way. Only out of this
entity can the idea of being be understood. Therefore, a disci-
pline is needed that studies the entity that is considered to have
authentic being. It is a science of what being really means, and
as such it has an ontological orientation. So first philosophy is
the science of being, and at the same time, a science of the
highest entity.
This ambiguity is characteristic; it is not confusion or the
side-by-side existence of two perspectives that are not con-
nected. It comes from the inner necessity of the problem,
which was not formulated or addressed by Aristotle and fell
into oblivion after him.
33The pure ontological problem has still
not been mastered completely — namely, whether every under-
standing of being presupposes an ideal entity in order to under-
stand the specific character of being.
Why is Aristotle then normative for the tradition of meta-
physics? From the beginning, being means for Aristotle pure
and permanent presence. Therefore, what Aristotle presents as
first philosophy is ambiguous; it is ontology and theology at
the same time. The question of being is also the question of the
perfectly qualified being. Aristotle started this project: the inter-
twining of the question of being that has to be distinguished
from entities and the question of the perfect quality of being as
something specific to the highest entity is the matter of meta-
physics. Heidegger will unravel both questions and think, in
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this way, against the tradition of metaphysics; but he will keep
them together as well, and continue metaphysics with it.
Aristotle is normative both because of his project of first
philosophy and because his determinations of being have never
been equaled. But he is especially so because he does not work
out the hesitation and the ambiguity between ontology and the-
ology, which cannot be articulated. It appears that he was
aware of the limits of his first philosophy, when he saw that
ontology and theology could not be distinguished. He could not
unravel both because the question of being, according to the
tradition in which he was situated, is also the question of per-
fect being, namely energeia. With this position, Aristotle came
to the limits implied in the problems of Greek philosophy.
34
Aristotle’s hesitation was the deepest insight possible within
the horizon of the Greek understanding of being: he doubled
that the question of being ipso factomeant the question of the
being in the highest degree. After him, however, this hesitation
is forgotten and being is explicated as ground and efficacy until
Heidegger. At the other side of Aristotle’s hesitation, Heidegger
starts again. To Heidegger, the question of being and the ques-
tion of god — ontology and theology — belong together but are
not the same.
So Heidegger sees in the theological question the inquiry
into a being. This is the knot of the problem: the double con-
cept of a science of being as both ontic explanation and onto-
logical explication. When the causes of entities are asked for,
the subject of the question is being. However, when the causes
of being are asked for, the subject is an entity.
35 The question
of the highest and most authentic entity is an ontic question.
The question of being itself is an ontological question. The
ontic question means explanation; the ontological question
means explication.
In this lecture course of summer semester 1926, Heidegger
mentions explicitly the possibility of the question of being
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104 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
without a theology. This possibility is presupposed in order to
raise the question of their connectedness. The possibility of an
atheological ontology leans on the hesitation with regard to this
question that Heidegger sees in Aristotle.
PHILOSOPHY AS THEOLOGY
Later on, in his last lecture course in Marburg in summer
semester 1928, Heidegger chooses to start with Aristotle in
understanding the origin of metaphysics
36because Aristotle framed
the elements of basic philosophical problems. As such, Aris-
totle’s philosophy contains a wealth of truly undeveloped and,
in places, completely hidden possibilities.
37 But Aristotle is far
from providing fulfillment or final clarity. According to Heideg-
ger this is seen in his very characterization of philosophy:
“There is a definite science which inquires into being as being
and into that which belongs to it as such.”
38 This is the first
philosophy; it is philosophy of the first order and genuine phi-
losophy. But the meaning of ‘being’ seems to remain obscure.
Almost everything is an entity, but it is difficult to identify the
being of an entity. “Being as the theme of philosophy is indeed
obscure. It can only be said negatively: the object of philoso-
phy is nothing belonging among beings as a particular being.”
39
So the original motive of philosophy as the question of being
would be kept alive if the answer were not prematurely found
in an entity or in a highest entity.
Aristotle, however, not only sees in philosophy an ontology
and a theology; he also calls the whole project of first philos-
ophy a theology.
40 To theionrefers to the heavens: the encom-
passing and overpowering, that under and upon which we are
thrown, that which dazzles us and takes us by surprise, the
overwhelming. It is clear that if the divine is present anywhere,
it is present in this kind of entity. Furthermore, the noblest
science must deal with the noblest type of being; the highest
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science must be science of the highest, the first. Heidegger now
understands Aristotelian first philosophy within a twofold
perspective: knowledge of being and knowledge of the ‘over-
whelming’ — Heidegger’s translation of the Greek theion(the
all-prevailing).
41 He links this with the twofold character in
Being and Timeof existence and thrownness.
42 Heidegger
thinks from the perspective of the overwhelming character of
existence and throwness in order to avoid understanding it as
an entity in the world. It is the kind of knowledge that never
can become a fixed possession but has to be sought anew each
time. First philosophy is ontological in its investigation of
being as being; it is theological insofar as it investigates the
overwhelming. However, Heidegger does not work this out further.
What does it mean that philosophy is also theology? Is it an
appendage, a finishing touch, a worldview? Is philosophy only
a theology so as to have a conclusion? Or is it both at once?
Does that which is sought under the term ‘theology’ in fact
reside in the essence of philosophy understood totally and rad-
ically? Or is what arises in Aristotle as theology simply a rem-
nant of his early period? These questions, raised by Heidegger,
mirror the discussion of Aristotle in the 1920s.
43With the Aristotelian
twofold description of philosophy as ‘ontology’ and ‘theology,’
either nothing is said or everything, according to our original
possibilities of understanding. To what extent theology belongs
to philosophy can only be understood if we radicalize the
notion of ontology.
44But as shown in the last chapter in Heidegger’s
ontology, which he simultaneously develops and unfolds in
Being and Time,there is no place for theology as an ontic sci-
ence in philosophy.
From the time of his interpretation of Kant and of German
Idealism, Heidegger seems to correct his earlier radical inter-
pretation concerning two disciplines in Aristotle’s Metaphys-
ics.
45 From then on, the two disciplines seem more united and
connected with each other. A doubling (Doppelung) appears
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106 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
precisely in the determination of the essence of “first philoso-
phy.” It is both knowledge of ‘being as being’ and also knowl-
edge of the most unique region of beings out of which being
as a whole determines itself. Both belong together as the lead-
ing problem of a first philosophy of being. Understanding
being means understanding it from the perspective of the high-
est entity that determines the whole of being. Therefore, Heidegger
can determine metaphysics in the wake of Aristotle as “the fun-
damental knowledge of beings as such and as a whole.”
46
In the same year, in his inaugural lecture “What is Metaphysics?”
Heidegger understands metaphysics as “the inquiry beyond or
over beings that aims to recover them as such and as a whole
for our grasp.”
47 With this definition Heidegger summarizes
the tradition that started with Aristotle. Heidegger writes: “This
is how the matter stands in Aristotelian philosophy. Philosophizing
proper is for Aristotle this dual questioning: concerning the on
katholouand concerning the timi¨taton genos, concerning
beings in general, concerning being, and concerning that being
which properly is. Yet the way in which these are intrinsically
connected was not further elaborated by Aristotle, and we find
nothing in what has been handed down from him that would
provide us with information as to how this unitary problematic
looks which takes as its object physisin this dual sense, nor
are we given any information as to how that problematic is
explicitly grounded from out of the essence of philosophy itself.”
48
So the question of the divine as a philosophical question is
not a religious question according to Heidegger’s analysis. This
philosophical theology, used as a paradigm in the structure and
further construction of the theological dogmas of the Middle Ages,
was made easier because Aristotle himself, in the sixth book of
the Metaphysics,divides first philosophy into two fundamental
orientations of questioning, without making their unity itself
into a problem.
49 The question is to what extent the dual ori-
entation of this questioning constitutes philosophising proper in
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a unitary way. “This question is open and is open to this day,
or rather is not even posed any more today.”
50 Heidegger
opposes the philosophical concept of god for which he devel-
ops a counter-paradigm. For Heidegger the intrinsic connected-
ness seems to be obvious and becomes more and more the paradigm
for Western philosophy as such. Thus, Heidegger no longer
asks why philosophy landed as ontology and as theology, but
he asks about the original unity of both disciplines.
51
THEOLOGY AS THE SEARCH FOR GROUND
In summer semester 1930, Heidegger starts to speak more
explicitly about the highest being as the ground of being.
52 The
words ‘world’ and ‘god’ are only used as orienting titles for the
totality of being and the ground of the totality. Heidegger indi-
cates the highest being as that being that is the most in being,
the beingest (seiendst).
53 He also mentions, once again, that in
Aristotle the real is higher than the possible.
54 Here Heideg-
ger’s philosophical opposition is fully directed against Aristotle
since Heidegger explicates in Being and Timethat the possible
is higher than the real. From this perspective, Heidegger devel-
ops a less open interpretation of and counterparadigm against
Western metaphysics. The more Heidegger interprets philoso-
phers of modern times, the more he sees the unity and con-
nectedness of ontology and theology. He also emphasizes, more
than before, the notion of the ground as the theological element
of ontology.
Heidegger understands philosophy more and more as theol-
ogy. He finds an expression of this in Hegel:
55 “For philosophy,
too, has no other object than God — and thus is essentially
rational theology — and service to God in its continual service
to truth.”
56 In Hegel, according to Heidegger, ontology becomes
the speculatively grounded interpretation of being, in such a
way that the actual entity (Seiendes) is the absolute theos. It is
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108 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
from the being (Sein) of the absolute that all entities are deter-
mined. Heidegger refers here to Aristotle, who already brings
philosophy (in the genuine sense) in very close connection with
theologikè episteme. But where Heidegger sees unity, he claims
that Aristotle is unable to explain the relationship between the
question concerning being qua being and the question of god.
Especially in his 1936 lecture course on Schelling, Heideg-
ger emphasizes the connectedness and unity of ontology and
theology: “Theo-logy means here questioning beings as a
whole. This question of beings as a whole, the theological
question, cannot be asked without the question about beings as
such, about the essence of being in general. That is the ques-
tion about the on h_ on, ‘ontology.’ Philosophy’s questioning is
always and in itself both onto-logical and theo-logical in the
very broad sense. Philosophy is Ontotheology.”
57 Here Heideg-
ger skips the reference to the highest being. The question of
being as such immediately implies the question of being as a
whole, because it presupposes an understanding of an entity
that represents the highest being, the beingest, which deter-
mines the whole of being.
In the question of being, the truth of being is asked for: that
which makes being in its essence open at all and thus compre-
hensible. This question of the truth of being is the fundamen-
tal question of philosophy in general, as long as philosophy is
determined as the question of what being is. This is the origi-
nal motive of philosophy; this question is therefore prior to
every concrete answer to it. The question of the truth of being
is thus essentially more primordial than the way this question
is answered by Aristotle and later thinkers. Aristotle, however,
first makes explicit the question that had always been asked by
philosophy, and he forces it into the formulation of what being
qua being is.
58
Heidegger places the tension between the question of being
and its possible answers in such a way that he can use the
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words ‘ontology’ and ‘theology’ for the basic movement of Western
philosophy. For him ontology means “only the question into
the truth and the question into being, and theology means for
us the question into the being of ground. The essential is the
inner connectedness of both questions.”
59 Heidegger’s concept
of ontotheology as a unity of being and ground implies pan-
theism where being and ground are united. This concept
belongs to the heart of Western metaphysics: because the ques-
tion of being cannot remain by itself, it turns into the question
of the being of the ground, and this is again the theological
question.
60
Heidegger’s interpretations of Aristotle, explicated above, are
ambiguous concerning the question of whether ontology has to
be theology. In his later period, he says that it is because meta-
physics has an ontotheological structure that the question of
being has not been raised. “Ontology means the question of the
truth and the ground of being, and “theology” means for us
the question of the being of the ground. What is essential is the
inner connectedness of both questions.”
61 The inner movement
of the questioning is a continuous playing back and forth
between the theological question of the ground of beings as a
whole and the ontological question of the essence of beings as
such, an onto-theo-logy revolving within itself.
62
This interpretation of Western philosophy as ontotheology
becomes more and more clear for Heidegger; in the later Heidegger,
for instance, to say that philosophy should not be ontotheolog-
ical is tantamount to saying that philosophy should not be phi-
losophy. In his 1944–46 treatise, “Nihilism as Determined by
the History of Being,” Heidegger begins to understand the
ontotheological structure of metaphysics from the perspective
of the history of being. Ontology and theology are then forged
together: “Because metaphysics, thinking the being as such, is
approached by Being but thinks it on the basis of and with ref-
erence to beings, metaphysics must therefore say (legein) the
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110 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
theionin the sense of the highest existent ground. Metaphysics
is inherently theology. It is theology to the extent that it says
the being as being, the on h∂on. Ontology is simultaneously
and necessarily theology.”
63
In the “Introduction to ‘What is Metaphysics?’” (1949),
metaphysics is characterized as “twofold and yet unitary” on
the basis of its ontotheological structure. “Because it represents
beings as beings, metaphysics is, in a twofold and yet unitary
manner, the truth of beings in their universality and in the
highest being. According to its essence, metaphysics is at the
same time both ontology in the narrower sense, and theol-
ogy.”
64 Metaphysics is the insight that being immediately refers
to beings in their totality, since with the beingness of being,
one refers to all entities. Understanding being as a whole pre-
supposes a normative concept of being, in which an under-
standing of a highest entity is implied. “In this manner, metaphysics
always represents beings as such in their totality; it represents
the beingness of beings (the ousiaof the on). But metaphysics
represents the beingness of beings in a twofold manner: in the
first place, the totality of beings as such with an eye to their
most universal traits (on katholou, koinon); but at the same
time also the totality of beings as such in the sense of the
highest and therefore divine being (on katholou, akrotaton,
theion).”
65
When he writes “The Onto-theological Constitution of Meta-
physics” (1959), the insight into this structure is completely
settled. In this essay, Heidegger definitely decides that the
ambivalent relationship and ambiguity of ontology and theol-
ogy are characteristic of first philosophy. Heidegger refers back
to his inaugural lecture, “What Is Metaphysics?” defining meta-
physics as the question about beings as such and as a whole.
The wholeness of this whole is the unity of all beings that
unifies as the generative ground. “To those who can read, this
means: metaphysics is onto-theo-logy.”
66Heidegger, without explic-
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itly saying it, but with his references to Spinoza and Hegel,
continues here his pantheistic interpretation of Western meta-
physics. Being and ground are two sides of the same coin. In
the sixties this insight does not change for Heidegger; in fact
becomes more and more obvious in his analysis.
67 In the early
Heidegger, ontology without a theology was thought to be a
possibility of philosophy. But because he raises the question of
whether ontology should be theological, in his later writings ontol-
ogy as theology belongs to the very constitution of philosophy.
It becomes obvious to him: ontology is theology.
How does the question of god belong to philosophical think-
ing? To what extent does theology belong to philosophy? How
and why does the philosophical question of god enter the tra-
dition? These questions are prepared in Aristotle, to whom
Heidegger was most oriented, in order to sharpen his ideas
with respect to the ontotheological question. But during the
years of his interpretation of Aristotle, Heidegger loses open-
ness with regard to that question, insofar as it is a metaphysi-
cal question. He does not see this possibility of the question of
being any longer in metaphysics. “Metaphysics has this twofold
character because it is what it is: the representation of beings
as beings. Metaphysics has no choice. As metaphysics, it is by
its very essence excluded from the experience of being.”
68It seems
to me that Heidegger contradicts himself here. Because the ontothe-
ological structure of metaphysics is an answer to the question
of being as the motive of philosophy, without an experience
of being, the ontotheological structure could never be an epoch
of the history of being. It may hinder the question of being, but
it could never make it impossible — otherwise, Heidegger
could not read Aristotle and the whole of Western philosophy
from the perspective of the question of being.
The question, “How does the deity enter into philosophy?”
is not to be answered with the idea of a god that comes from
outside. The god always is already in metaphysics. It belongs
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112 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
to the question of being which is characteristic of philosophy
as such. With the question of how the godhead enters into phi-
losophy, Heidegger discusses questions, which, once they are
well thought-out, make it possible to isolate the philosophical
question of god from religious speaking and thinking. Gener-
ally the question into the gods and the godhead is both intentionally
and unintentionally understood within an ontotheological para-
digm. This paradigm determines from the beginning the place
of religious speaking as the highest speaking. By defining
philosophical speaking in its ontotheological structure, it is pos-
sible to isolate this classic metaphysical anchoring from reli-
gious speaking.
The question whether there is ontology without a theology
for Heidegger is, however, no longer a question within the
domain of philosophy and metaphysics. Rather, it is within
what he calls the domain of ‘thinking.’ The motive of philoso-
phy, strictly speaking, has disappeared from philosophy, but it
has been preserved in the thinking of being. This domain of
thinking is, in a sense, a counterparadigm to philosophy in
which the question of being is not answered with an entity
that represents the highest way of being, the whole of being
and the cause of being. In the 1955–56 lecture course, “The
Principle of Reason,” Heidegger refers to the mystical words of
Angelus Silesius: “The rose is without why: it blooms because
it blooms, it pays no attention to itself, asks not whether it is
seen.”
69The “without why” is the counterparadigm of metaphysics
with which Heidegger presents an atheological ontology.
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FIVE
The Ideal of a Causa Sui
eidegger’s criticism of the metaphysical concept of god is
especially directed toward the concept of god as cause.
1
In the wake of Aristotle, being is understood as actualitas. The
highest representation of actualitasis an entity, which has this
actualitasin the purest way as a determining characteristic.
This means that it is actus purus.
2Being in the first and the
purest way is proper to god.
3Such a metaphysics does not tran-
scend the level of entities, because it does not understand the
ontological difference. On one hand, it speaks about being as a
characteristic of entities and is only understood as this charac-
teristic (actualitasas determination of the dominant under-
standing of an entity). On the other hand, it sets as the ground
of entities another entity, which possesses the criterion for
being an entity in the most perfect way. In a certain sense, god
is an exemplary instance of being as actualitas,of something
that actualizes completely. This idea of actualization is also
present in the modern ideal of the self-actualization of the
human being.
Classical metaphysics is ontotheological. In Aristotle it is
still both ontological and theological insofar as it understands
H
113
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114 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
the whole of being from the perspective of a ground. The unthought
unity of metaphysics lies in this idea, because the question into
the ground of entities gives rise both to the question into being
as such and into the highest entity. In this way, Thomas
Aquinas presents the unifying moment of god and the separate
entities in being, understood as actuality. The relationship between
god and the separate entities lies at the level of the formal sim-
ilarity of characteristics between two entities.
4Being itself is
identical to god’s goodness.
5Aquinas explicates the metaphys-
ical concept of creation in accordance with Aristotle’s concept
of the causa efficiens.
6The transcendence presented here is between
entities, and does not touch the problem of the ontological dif-
ference. He understands it as an emanation of the whole being
from a universal cause, which is god, and it is this emanation
which we indicate with the word ‘creation.’
7This concept of
creation remains within the domain of causality. “The real
appears now in the light of the causality of the causa efficiens.
Even God is represented in theology — not in faith — as
causa prima,as the first cause.”
8Heidegger wants to transcend
this with his understanding of being. Aquinas distinguishes sev-
eral forms of causality, but does not question causality as such.
He interprets god within this paradigm as causa universalis.
“The causal character of Being as reality shows itself in all
purity in that being which fulfills the essence of Being in the
highest sense, since it is that being which can never not be.”
9
It always refers back to “the question of God’s existence in the
sense of the summum ens qua ens realissimum.”
10Because Christian
theology works with this metaphysics, it has to reinterpret all
entities. The being of entities means in this case being cre-
ated.
11Therefore, Heidegger’s specific understanding of the divine,
about which he later speaks, cannot be explicated with this
kind of characterization of being.
The ontotheological structure of Western philosophy takes
on a specific form in modernity: it no longer refers to god as
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the highest entity, but to human being. Especially in his inter-
pretation of Nietzsche, Heidegger shows how ontotheology
leads to radical subjectivism in modern thinking. Anthropol-
ogy is the starting point for understanding reality in modernity.
The paragon of this is Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494).
In 1486, at the beginning of modernity, he writes a text that is
typical of the modern Western ideal of humanity. In his Oratio
de dignitate hominis,God speaks as follows: “We have given
to thee, Adam, no fixed seat, no form of thy very own, no gift
pecularly thine, that thou mayest feel as thine own, have as
thine own, possess as thine own the seat, the form, the gifts
which thou thyself shalt desire. A limited nature in other crea-
tures is confined within the laws written down by us. In con-
formity with thy free judgment, in whose hands I have placed
thee, thou are confined by no bounds; and thou wilt fix limits
of nature for thyself. I have placed thee at the center of the
world, that from there thou mayest more conveniently look
around and see whatsoever is in the world. Neither heavenly
nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal have We made thee.
Thou, like a judge appointed for being honorable, art the
molder and maker of thyself; thou mayest sculpt thyself into
whatever shape thou dost prefer. Thou canst grow downward
into the lower natures which are brutes. Thou canst again grow
upward from thy soul’s reason into the higher natures which
are divine.”
12
Mirandola represents God as permitting humanity to have
what it wishes and to be what it wants. Man’s will determines
what he is: he is able to make and to mold himself. In making
himself, the human being does not have a fixed abode, a face,
or a special task. He is completely in his own hands. The
human being is understood as an entity that is a causa sui:a
being that causes itself. The only fixed ground, as something
from which the human being can live out his life, is what he
makes of himself. The only certainty for human beings is
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116 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
human beings. Modernity is driven by the idea that human
beings produce their own reality.
The moment of subjectivity dominates the philosophy of moder-
nity with regard to religion as well. This can be seen explicitly
in Feuerbach’s work. He understands religious reality as an
image of humanity, placed by a human being outside of him-
self, and which the human worships as god.
13 Humanity makes
an object out of its essence, which it considers to be another
entity. Feuerbach writes in The Essence of Christianity;“The
object of any subject is nothing else than the subject’s own
nature taken objectively. Such as are a man’s thoughts and
dispositions, such is his God; so much worth as a man has, so
much and no more has his God. Consciousness of God is self-
consciousness, knowledge of God is self-knowledge.” Feuer-
bach adds to this: “By his God thou knowest the man, and by
the man his God; the two are identical.”
14 Thus, for Feuerbach
theology is anthropology.
Feuerbach was not solely responsible for subjectifying the
philosophy of religion. Freud’s work and the existentialist
interpretation of phenomenology influenced the field as well.
This anthropological approach to religion and theology became
widely accepted. It was seen as progress — as an answer to
god-is-dead theology. That it would be seen as a definitive
form of nihilism, as Heidegger interprets Nietzsche, was almost
impossible to imagine at that time. Nowadays the anthropolog-
ical interpretation of faith and religion is present in the field of
health, where faith seems to be important for mental health.
Heidegger refers to this in his letter to Erhart Kästner from
January 1, 1954, when he writes that nowadays the theologians
work together with psychoanalysis and sociology.
15
Heidegger sees ontotheology as a movement that little-by-
little has been applied to the human being. Therefore, he writes
in winter semester 1930/31: “The inquiry into the onwas onto-
logical ever since its beginning with the ancients, but at the
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same time it was already with Plato and Aristotle onto-theo-
logical, even if it was correspondingly not conceptually devel-
oped. Since Descartes the line of inquiry becomes above all
ego-logical, whereby the ego is not only crucial for the logos
but is also co-determinant for the development of the concept
of ‘Theos’ as it was prepared anew in Christian theology. The
question of being as a whole is onto-theo-ego-logical.”
16
Human being becomes, as an ego, the ground of reality par
excellence.
GROUND
The ultimate concern of human beings is to determine a
fixed ground and first and highest cause. In modernity, man
himself becomes these. Against this background, I will discuss
the concept of causality, especially the phenomenon in modern
thinking in which only what can be given an explanation and
a cause is considered valuable and to have the right to exist.
This requires making visible the hypertrophy of causality in
fields where causal thinking is not appropriate. In what follows,
I will consider the ideas of perfection and progress in the
human experience of sense and meaning.
Modernity searches for complete certainty in its knowledge
of reality. It is not surprising that in this period of Western
thinking, more than ever before, the principle of sufficient rea-
son was used to validate a judgment, an observation or a phe-
nomenon. All kinds of causality can be reduced to one cause,
in accordance with the principle of sufficient reason: everything
that exists has to have a cause, why it is and why it does not
notexist.
17 For Western man it is not difficult to understand the
claim, “nothing is without reason” because our understand-
ing is organized in such a way that our reason, when it under-
stands something, always and everywhere asks for its cause.
Only founded claims are accepted and are understandable. In
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118 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
this constellation humans automatically look for causes: often
only the most obvious, sometimes also the more removed
causes, and in the end also the last and first cause. In this con-
text, it is not important to distinguish different types of causal-
ity in order to get a better insight into it. Indeed it is hard to
gain insight into causality with a collection of the meanings of
the word cause,
18 since a preunderstanding of causality is prior
to the possibility of collecting different ‘causes.’
Still, to get a definition of the concept, it is useful to enter
into it with an everyday meaning, since that is the logical or
epistemic ground. It indicates the place where the truth of a
judgment can be founded. In this, the principle of sufficient
reason is operative: the principle that nothing is without reason
and that no claim can be made without ground.
19
Everything that is suitable to legitimize the truth of a judg-
ment can be called ground in one way or another. This founda-
tion can lean on other judgments already accepted as true, in
which logical deduction is a possible but certainly not exclusive
way: epistemic grounds are not necessarily logical grounds.
Judgments are also acknowledged as founded and grounded
when they are in accordance with experts, or with traditional
or historical connections. In a stricter sense, only the objective,
logical legitimations of a judgment are to be called ‘grounded’.
For example, sentences or judgments are accepted as grounded
when it is possible to deduce them logically from other sen-
tences or judgments accepted as true.
In all cases, the foundation is given by gathering the judg-
ments into a connection with other judgments that are accepted
as true. The principle of sufficient reason means that, with
regard to claims, one has to look for a foundation as far as
possible. It has to be the most satisfying in accordance with the
circumstances.
This postulate of founding is connected with the modern Western
understanding, that what is not founded is simply incomprehensible.
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Therefore, when something has to be made understandable, it
must be connected to and founded in an already existing con-
nection of thoughts.
Foundations do not normally appear isolated on the scene
but belong to a more encompassing connection of a theory of
foundations, in which general premises are deducible from
even broader presuppositions. From this perspective, one seeks
final insight. This is present most explicitly in the Cartesian
effort to achieve an unshakeable ground for all knowledge. The
absolute foundation — the unshakeable and fixed ground — is
found in the thinking ego, which becomes the fixed ground for
all judgments.
Leibniz formulated the ideal of absolute foundation through
the principle of sufficient reason. Every being has a reason to
be. The first, which causes all the others and gives them rea-
son to be, also has a reason to be. The highest being only can
be understood by Western man as being there when it is under-
stood as caused, since without being caused or founded, all that
exists does not really exist. Therefore, in Western thinking, the
highest being that bears all reality and all sense is, in the end,
thought and represented as caused by itself. In this formula, the
idea of the causa suigets its definitive form from Spinoza: “By
that which is self-caused I mean that whose essence involves
existence; or that whose nature can be conceived only as existing.”
20
Initially, the principle of sufficient reason applied both to
judgments and to the reality that corresponded to the judg-
ments; in modern epistemology causal relations are no longer
aspects of reality itself. It has become unusual to understand
the relations that are formulated as causal explanations, as rela-
tions of real grounds and their results. The rejection of this
realistic interpretation of causality leads to a reinterpretation of
the principle of reason. One begins to speak of a postulate of
explanation. According to its realistic interpretation, the princi-
ple of causation says that “everything necessarily has a cause”
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120 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
(meaning a cause in reality). But according to the principle of
explanation, the formula is: An adequate scientific explanation
has to be found for everything.
21
This can be criticized from the realistic point of view. Causal
explanations assume a reality that is independent from thinking.
A thinking that wants to apply a subjective logic in the under-
standing of real objects in the end does not have a criterion to
which it can measure its knowledge. It remains captured within
the projects and the limits of human thinking.
Thus, once the ground of knowledge is found in the modern
thinking subject, a gap appears with regard to reality. Reality
itself is no longer the criterion for knowledge; rather, a sub-
jective logic becomes the ground from which reality is under-
stood. Modern philosophy finds the answer to the inquiry into
being and the meaning of objects in the constitution and con-
struction of things for a human subject. The conditions for the
possibility of knowledge are found in human subjectivity.
With the shift from the objective, realistic foundation to the
subjective approach, the principle of reason changes. In the
subjective approach, human subjectivity as the ground of real-
ity makes objectivity possible. Human subjectivity appears as
the ground par excellence. When Kant asks for the conditions
of possibility of knowledge of reality, Heidegger sees this as a
further explication of the question of sufficient reason.
22
Against this background is also the question of meaning and
sense from the perspective of subjectivity. The moment of the
unity of the manifold within a whole of meaning lies in the
constitution of the objects. This unity of a whole of meaning
cannot be observed empirically, but results from a spontaneous
act of subjectivity which accompanies all representations.
23 The
synthetic effect of the “I think” is the ground on which objec-
tive experience is possible. It is a question of whether there is
experience of an object since all objectivity is already a project
of the subject. The human subject realizes the ground of
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meaning on which experience is possible. This is continued in
Neo-Kantianism and in Husserl’s phenomenology. All that is, is
only there for a human subject with the help of the acts of a
consciousness, which means by a constituting intentionality.
24
Human subjectivity is the supporting ground of all reality. This
also means that the whole from which reality is understood and
illuminated is constituted by human — and individual — sub-
jectivity.
25 In the end, the meaning of reality is the meaning
that the individual self gives to it. The principle of reason gets
its point of departure in the human being: a being is grounded
insofar as it is grounded in human subjectivity.
The principle of reason, as formulated by Leibniz, reads:
“nothing is without reason.” This principle has become so ob-
vious that everyone is used to it and fails to notice its pecu-
liarity. Heidegger speaks, therefore, in the wake of Leibniz
about the great and mighty principle of sufficient reason.
26 He
means that, within Western thinking, asking for the causes of
things leads to the idea that a thing or a reality whose reason
or ground cannot be shown does not have the right to exist.
Entities only have the right to exist when they are founded.
This means that everything that can be said to exist has to
have a ground or a cause. This principle is also the ‘principium
reddendae rationis,’ which means the principle of justification
and rendering account. All entities that exist can and must be
accounted for in principle. Ratiodoes not mean the same as
“cause,” but it does indicate that every entity is embedded in
account and justification, motivation and connection, need and
intention, aim and destiny, meaningfulness and ground.
This principle has mastered the whole of modernity. Modern
science and technology are only possible because of the domi-
nance of this principle. Technology is understood by Heidegger
as an utterly rationalized practice and as a way of thinking
which is capable of understanding everything by calculating
and taking into account.
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122 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
The modern university is based on this principle as well. 27
The university sees it as its task and purpose to do research
and to educate. In these endeavors, everything has a cause or
a reason. The raison d’être of the university is the principle of
sufficient reason. Thus, without knowing it, scientific research
and education may be embedded in a framework that limits
their freedom and creativity.
THE PROCESS OF SUBJECTIFYING
Heidegger understands the subjectivistic and anthropological
approach as a symptom of nihilism. The phenomenon of peo-
ple wanting to live in a meaningful world could only appear on
the scene because meaning has disappeared as a given. This, in
turn, is connected to the phenomenon of subjectifying. Heideg-
ger has precisely articulated the phenomenon of a meaningless
world as a situation in which human beings do not feel at
home anywhere and find a ground for their existence nowhere.
Human beings are in danger of becoming homeless, and disin-
herited, without dwelling, possession, or tradition. “The loss of
rooted-ness is caused not merely by circumstances and fortune;
nor does it stem only from the negligence and the superficial-
ity of man’s way of life. The loss of autochthony springs from
the spirit of the age into which all of us were born.”
28The phe-
nomenon of homelessness is typical of the time we live in and
is essentially connected with the subjectification of reality.
Heidegger expresses this precisely in his interpretation of
Nietzsche. He sees the uprooting and the loss of meaning in
connection with the subjectification of meaning, which is,
according to him, the peak of meaninglessness. When every-
thing has to do justice to human beings, then the era of com-
plete meaninglessness begins.
29 In several places in his work,
Heidegger points out that the anthropological character of
meaning is characteristic of modernity: “Today, then, anthropology
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is no longer just the name for a discipline, nor has it been such
for some time. Instead, the word describes a fundamental ten-
dency of man’s contemporary position with respect to himself
and to the totality of beings. According to this fundamental
position, something is only known and understood if it is given
an anthropological explanation. Anthropology seeks not only
the truth about human beings, but instead it now demands a
decision as to what truth in general can mean.”
30 In this mod-
ern age, we only know what something means when we know
what it means for human beings. In such a constellation or
framework, all search for truth becomes anthropology, as does
the theological search for truth, and the truth of religion.
Why is the phenomenon of subjectification a reason for Heidegger
to speak about meaninglessness? Meaninglessness is first char-
acterized by the fact that being does not come to truth. One
can see this phenomenon in the important thinkers of the mod-
ern age, such as Descartes and Kant. Modern humanity does
not know entities in their being, but only itself as the one who
determines its being. We see this also in Dilthey’s early con-
cept of hermeneutics: everything the human being talks about
and expresses is an expression of himself.
31 Meaninglessness is
the phenomenon of being not brought to light. Being does not
come into the open, because the truth of entities is already
decided in anthropology. Wherever the essence of the truth of
entities is decided, there the reflection on the truth of being
does not take place. Truth becomes certainty and is formulated
as that which is relevant and makeable for a human subject.
Human subjectivity decides what entities are and which entities
are; furthermore, it decides about truth and about what is true.
Understanding entities as produceable, as makeable material,
and understanding the human being as such an entity is charac-
teristic of modernity. Entities are modeled on their surrender to
unconditional planning, calculation, and organization. Modern
humanity sees its reality as produceable. Applied to humanity,
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124 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
this means that it makes itself. The idea of humanty as pro-
duceable by and for itself figures in the idea of the causa sui,
which generally refers to complete self-determination and self-
actualization.
The idea of causa suiis connected with the ontotheological
structure of Western thinking. Thinking means thinking of
being, but within the ontotheological framework it means that
if something exists, it is thought as something that has to have
a cause. Even the highest entity that exists has to have a cause.
From there it is decided that the highest only exists insofar as
it has its cause in itself: the first cause causes itself. The idea
that something could exist gratuitously and without reason dis-
appears from the scene. Grace becomes an exclusive theme of
theology.
Freedom is also understood from the perspective of causa
sui. Someone is free who exists because of him or herself.
Causa sui expresses the image of man who strives for his inde-
pendence. All kinds of dependency are, from the perspective of
this image of man, held in less esteem; even the dependency
of a needy body should be avoided. This is the ideal of a completely
undetermined human subject isolated from history, shaped in
modernity, who is able to place reality opposite to him as an
object.
Initially, the idea of the causa suiwas not applied to man,
but to god as the highest and first entity. In modernity this idea
is applied to the human being as the first and highest entity.
Human beings produce themselves by their own labor; humans
are the starting point of their own being; humans considered as
their own cause, have as their ideal total self-actualization.
Thus, modernity teaches that humans are both, the root and the
highest being.
32 Karl Marx writes: “To be radical is to grasp the
root of the matter. But for man the root is man himself... The
criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the
highest being for man.”
33 But Heidegger asks: How does one
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come from the first to the second thought, i.e. that man is his
own root, and that man is the highest entity for man — isn’t an
intermediate thought missing, namely that man is all there is?
A lot of people have already decided that this is the case. Not
without rhetoric Heidegger asks: “From where is this decided?
In what way? By which right? By which authority?”
34 Man as
an entity that produces himself is confronted with the question
of motivation. Why and for the sake of what does man produce
himself ?
Modern man seeks the answer to these questions in the gen-
eral structure of entities. In Western metaphysics generally, the
relation between meaning and entities is deduced from entities
themselves. Entities are characterized by self-persistence. Spinoza
puts this clearly: “Each thing, in so far as it is in itself, endeav-
ors to persist in its own being.” Furthermore, “The conatus
with which each thing endeavors to persist in its own being is
nothing but the actual essence of the thing itself.”
35 Every ori-
entation to a purpose, goal, or motive is understood as an off-
shoot of an entity’s own self-persistence.
36 The idea of finality,
which is criticized in modernity, is placed within the immanent
efficacy of the entities. The outcome is always the result of a
pregiven program.
37 This means that man is not able to tran-
scend his own domain.
The modern age is of the opinion that, as a consequence
of the idea of self-persistence, the criterion for and the answer
to the question of meaning is to be found in the human being
as a needy entity, who finds his destiny in the satisfaction of
all his needs.
38 In all dimensions of human existence, some-
thing becomes meaningful on the basis of human need. Mean-
ingfulness becomes an economic question that has as its
answer, the total satisfaction of needs.
Heidegger understands the relation between meaningless-
ness and anthropologism against this background. Where the
machination (Machenschaft), or makeability of everything, and
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126 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
meaninglessness rule, the disappearance of meaning has to be
replaced by posing aims and values.
39 Everything of value will
be under the control of the human subject because something
has a value only insofar as man assigns one to it. One of the
most important consequences of the experience of meaning-
lessness, according to Heidegger, is that being becomes a
value: this means that it comes under the control of human
subjectivity. Nihilism, the era of meaninglessness, is the unauthorized
claim that being, instead of existing as a ground, is under the
control of human subjectivity. The idea that everything gets its
value and meaning from human subjectivity presupposes that enti-
ties are originally placed in a state of indifferent worthlessness,
that on their own, things would not have meaning and value.
They are saved from this state by the meaning-giving and valu-
ing subject.
40
Since the nineteenth century, history has been understood in
the same way. One acts as if human beings on their own could
give meaning to history, which presupposes that history on its
own is meaningless and has to wait for human beings in order
to become meaningful. What man can do with regard to his-
tory, according to Heidegger, is to be aware that history with-
holds and hides its meaning from man.
41
In our era, entities as a whole are determined by meaning-
lessness, because the being of entities is already determined by
the ‘machination’ of the human will to power. Because the
question of being is forgotten, entities are handed over to an
unleashed machination that decides what they are. Humans
not only have to live without truth, but the essence of truth —
that something is revealed to them — has fallen into oblivion.
The era of complete meaninglessness has, according to Heideg-
ger, more talent for invention, more activism, more success,
and more plans to publicize all of this, than any previous era
before. Therefore, it has to fall back on the claim that it can
give a meaning to everything, a meaning to which it is worth
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dedicating oneself. The era of complete meaninglessness will fight
its own essence the hardest, with the claim that it is able to
give a meaning to everything.
42 Modernity has as its dominant
characteristics, “first, that man installs and secures himself as
subiectum,as the nodal point for beings as a whole; and sec-
ondly, that the beingness of beings as a whole is grasped as the
representedness of whatever can be produced and explained.”
43
When man becomes the giver of meaning, then being is meaningless.
The turning of the question of meaning into its giving and
causation is an effort to banish the crisis of meaning. Humanity
seeks the solid ground of meaning in itself. However the sub-
jectification of meaning increases the crisis of meaning rather
than answering it. When metaphysics, religion, and theology
are understood and explicated as anthropology then they are in
line with modernity, which is characterized by subjectivization,
anthropologism, and psychologism.
HUMAN BEING THAT CAUSES ITSELF
Let me turn back to the idea of ‘causa sui.’Causa suigen-
erally indicates self-determination and self actualization.
44It refers
to the idea of a radical freedom with which an entity posits and
makes itself. Someone is free, who is because of himself.
45
Freedom, then, means self-causation with regard to acting. How
current is Pico della Mirandola’s ideal?
In modern philosophy, the idea of causa suiis applied completely
to human beings. Man is produced by man’s own activity. This
implies the total self-realization of man. Subjectifying the prin-
ciple of sufficient reason in modernity leads to the human being
as the source and the site of the production of meaning. As a
result, humans become the center of reality in two ways. First,
they are the ground from which reality is actualized. Second,
as this ground, they are the most important material and there-
fore the primary object of investigation. Humans become raw
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128 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
material for humans, with all its consequences: “Since man is
the most important raw material, one can reckon with the fact
that some day factories will be built for the artificial breeding
of human material, based on present-day chemical research.”
46
The principle of sufficient reason has its biggest application
in technology. Therefore it is important to describe the consequences
that technology has in the domain of the experience of ultimate
meaning. To what extent are perfection and progress active in
the domain of ultimate meaning? History, which appeared in
Christian culture as the history of a process of salvation, was
rebuilt in a quest for a state of inner worldly perfection. His-
tory became a narrative of progress. The ideal of progress,
however, has no content; it is empty. The ultimate goal is to
create conditions in which an ever-new progress and perfection
can be achieved. But with this, the question to what purpose
remains unanswered.
47 The world of the perfecting of technol-
ogy is without a purpose. It develops into a world in which the
same happens all the time and in which there is no experience
of meaningfulness.
Heidegger understands this situation from the perspective of
expanding nihilism. It is a process in which, in the end, the
being of entities no longer appears. This is not to be under-
stood as the consequence of an error, of a deceit or self-deceit
of knowledge, but as a result of the oblivion of being. Hei-
degger understands the most dominant characteristic of the
general experience of meaninglessness comes from the devel-
opment in which being becomes a value. Everything of value
comes under the control of the human subject. This is also the
case in the principle of sufficient reason: the cause is only acknowl-
edged insofar as human beings acknowledge the cause. It is
this presupposition that in fact is at work in nihilism: things are
nothing in themselves. The place entities take is determined by
technology. Everything that exists is prepared for production
and is material for the needs of human subject.
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In technology what counts is the success of technical acting.
Everything that is important for man must be important for
technical success. The question of whether this leads to a simplifying
of the concept of being no longer arises. The homo faberitself
is also an object of technology. This means that the inventor
and perfector of everything ingeniously perfects himself, thus
completing human power. The application of technology to
man implies the perfection of the inventor and cause of technology.
Technology becomes the perspective on being as such. The
consequences of the progress of the total technologization of
man, however, run up against the finitude of human existence.
The idea of progress in technology and science inherently
looks forward to an endless progress of its movement into the
future. Progress, as a movement produced by itself, presup-
poses that what comes after outperforms that which preceeds it.
In that sense, technology is always progress. It is a pursuit of
permanent self-surpassing toward an endless goal. Because of
this ceaseless repetition, the question arises whether a basic
mood of boredom prevails in the technological society.
Man cannot be moved forward into a shade-less clarity
because of the given of human finitude. Here lies the error of
the technological ideal: it is unable to give meaning to the
‘now’ because it is always anticipating what is to come. This is
because every present is seen as a pre-history, in which every-
thing ever again is a means to an end in an endless future.
Every present is, in principle, inferior from the perspective of
future technical perfection. In this way, technological perfection
carries along unspoken, destructive power with regard to every
actual present.
48
MEANING AND FINITUDE
It is characteristic of Heidegger’s philosophy that human
being is understood as a finite entity that cannot found and
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130 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
cause itself. “The Self which as such has to lay the basis for
itself, can neverget that basis into its power...Thus Being a
basis means neverto have power over one’s ownmost Being
from the ground up.”
49 Human being cannot overtake its own
conditions of possibility which are more original and earlier.
The conditions of possibility are understood as that which
makes possible: they are a whole that always precedes human
being, and they offer the space within which human being can
be. “According to Being and Time,“meaning” designates the
realm of projection, designates it in accord with its own proper
intent (that is, in accord with its unique question concerning
the “meaning of Being”), as the clearing of Being, the clearing
that is opened and grounded in projection. Such projection is
that in the thrown project which propriates as the essential
unfolding of truth.”
50 Thrown projection is that which makes
possible our understanding of being, but we cannot appropriate
it, and we are not it in the end; it is earlier than us. This
condition of possibility is always earlier and prior and precedes
all wanting and planning of man. Asking for the meaning
of being means, according to Heidegger, asking for that which
already precedes as the way or the space that makes man pos-
sible as a historical being. This space is the ground on which
everything rests, that which is already present and supports all
entities.
51
Heidegger calls the question into the meaning of being a
trek. This trek is not an adventure but a turn homeward into
that which always already has preceded. In reflection, that is,
asking for meaning, we arrive where, without knowing it,
we already are. We enter a site from which the space that
determines our doings opens for us.
52 Reflection as a ques-
tion about meaning asks about the place where we are, in light
of which we appear as present. This place itself, however, can-
not be observed; it precedes us as that which reflection makes
possible.
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Especially in the reflection on the being of humanity, the ground
and the place on which it stands and which makes possible its
existence is asked for. Out of this space humanity is able to
approach itself as a self, and it is able to come to itself. Some-
times humanity loses itself in its worries and the things of the
world; in that case humanity has no time for it self. Someone
who has time for his self understands the space in which he
already is. Out of the time and the space that humanity has at
itss disposal, humanity is able to appear as a self, and it can
throw a light on its self, experience itself as an entity, and is
able to reflect upon itself. It can do this only out of the time
handed down to it.
The quest for meaning is a quest for the whole space in
which man can exist. This whole cannot become a fixed prop-
erty. In the end, we are not that which makes us possible, for
it is earlier than and prior to us. Humans are understood by
Heidegger as entities that cannot appropriate the whole of their
conditions of possibility, because they cannot appropriate a
time which is always earlier.
The project out of which someone experiences his life really
anticipates a temporarydestination or a provisionalend. This
provisional end provides the actual present with meaning and
place. The whole from the perspective of which someone
understands his life is not something that he himself can wind
up and cause. The future can hold a lot of possibilities, and
things can develop in a completely other way than what one
ever expected. The provisional and temporary whole that we
constantly anticipate mostly happens to us — it is handed down
to us, which means it is not the result of planning and calcu-
lation. This temporary meaning generally appears for living human
beings unexpectedly and suddenly. It is given to them, ap-
proaches them, or is handed down to them. This is the reason
why Heidegger speaks in Being and Timeabout ‘destiny’ and
‘inheritance.’
53 Therefore, meaning as embedded in tradition
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132 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
does not belong to the kind of “things” that one can make,
control, found, or bend to one’s will. Meaning and sense are
beyond the range of a planning and making will, but presup-
pose a receptive openness toward that which is handed down
to someone.
The question into meaning is not approachable by a calculation.
Meaning, in which human beings live, cannot be made a fixed
possession; it belongs to them, as finite entities to whom the
meaning is handed down. The ideal of Giovanni Pico della
Mirandolla was an important development in the modern age,
but it misses the fact than human beings cannot make them-
selves. Rather, it is important for human beings that they learn
to be the mortals that they are. For Heidegger this means
“those to whom being appeals. Only such beings are capable
of dying, that means, to take on death as death.”
54
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SIX
Heidegger?s Interpretation
of the Word of Nietzsche:
?God is Dead?
his chapter will work out the implications of the onto-
theological structure of metaphysics, which leads to the
subjectification of reality in modern times, on the basis of
Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche. Nietzsche also remains
under tribute to metaphysics. I will pay special attention to the
notion of the death of god.
In the text “Phenomenology and Theology,” discussed in the
third chapter, Heidegger begins with a reference to Nietzsche’s
Thoughts Out of Seasonwherein “the glorious Hölderlin” is
mentioned. He also refers to Franz Overbeck’s On the Chris-
tianness of Today’s Theology,which establishes the world-
denying expectation of the end as the basic characteristic of
what is primordially Christian. Heidegger continues with a dis-
cussion of Nietzsche’s phrase “God is Dead,” “European Nihilism,”
and “The Determination of Nihilism in the History of Being,”
1
T
133
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134 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
demonstrating that his understanding of theology and its rela-
tion to philosophy are in line with his later works.
The theme of the death of god plays an important role in
Nietzsche, often interpreted and commented upon. Heidegger
also mentions the death of god, in reference to Nietzsche, in
his inaugural Rectorial address.
2But I focus here on Heideg-
ger’s treatment of this theme in his essay “Nietzsche’s Word:
‘God is Dead.’ ”
3This text, in which Heidegger interprets the
story of the madman from The Gay Science,was written in
1943. Its content is based on the Nietzsche lecture courses that
Heidegger taught between 1936 and 1940.
4In a sense, Heideg-
ger offers in the essay a summation of these lecture courses.
That is the reason why this text is very significant for Heideg-
ger’s interpretation of Nietzsche. In these lecture courses, Heidegger
understands Nietzsche’s thoughts as the completion of Western
metaphysics. This completion does not mean that Nietzsche no
longer belongs to metaphysics; on the contrary, the completion
belongs to it as the end belongs to a route that has to be
covered.
In the preceding chapters, I presented the ontotheological
constitution of metaphysics. The logosas a logic is seen as the
exclusive entrance to being in metaphysics and marks the exe-
cution of an unspoken decision. For Heidegger, the logosin its
original meaning is “the gathering of beings and letting them
be.”
5The logos structures that which is into a possible unity or
connection (ordo entium).
6In its turn the connection motivates
the search for foundations and dependencies. Something is not
accepted as a being until it is presented as founded in some-
thing else; in this way the whole refers to a last, all-founding
ground. The anticipation of this founding of the whole lies in
the logos. In this way the tendency toward something like
unity, ground, and foundation is laid in the logos.
According to Heidegger, the connection of ontology and the-
ology that is characteristic of metaphysics is a given because at
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the very beginning of metaphysics, the openness of being is
actualized as logos. Metaphysics is logic because its ontology
and its theology have to be in accordance beforehand with the
logos:“They account to the logos,and are in an essential sense
in accord with the logos.”
7
As ontology, metaphysics thinks being in an undetermined
and general way, as that which is merely and purely present
(ousia). As theology, it understands this being of pure presence
as caused by the highest being. Therefore metaphysics thinks
“of the Being of beings both in the ground-giving unity of
what is most general, what is indifferently valid everywhere,
and also in the unity of the all that accounts for the ground,
that is, of the All-Highest.”
8
The logosguarantees for metaphysics the openness of every-
thing, and by virtue of its nature tends towards unity and
ground. Therefore, in the light and the openness of the logos,
being appears at its most general; and this generality is ex-
plained from an entity as if it were an entity itself. As the last
ground of being, only that entity is appropriate that is to be thought
in the presented order of entities as the highest entity, as sum-
mum ens:“This highest and first cause is named by Plato and
correspondingly by Aristotle to theion,the divine. Ever since
being got interpreted as idea,thinking about the being of
beings has been metaphysical, and metaphysics has been theo-
logical. In this case theology means the interpretation of the
‘cause’ of beings as god and the transferring of being onto this
cause, which contains being in itself and dispensing being from
out of itself, because it is the being-est of beings.”
9From the
beginning, metaphysical theology has thus determined the
essential characteristics of the divinity of god.
The metaphysical god is characterized as the highest entity.
It is the being-est amid all entities; it is the ens realissimum
and plenitudo essendi.
10 This means god is the entity that
most corresponds to the meaning of being and embodies this,
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136 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
because metaphysics, within the horizon of its logos,thinks
being as presence.
11 Therefore metaphysics thinks god as an
entity that, as pure presence, excludes every absence, as that
to which metaphysical thinking always can return. As pure
presence and as everywhere present it is always available as
ground. The first in itself is at the same time the most fixed
and as such the most knowable.
12
Against this background, god is determined as causa prima.
This implies that god as causa causarumis also the ground of
all causality. So the metaphysical god appears as the guarantee
for the principle of sufficient reason. God as first cause is at the
same moment determined as that cause that cannot be caused
from outside, but, as absolute cause, is the cause of itself.
13All
that exists appears in the light of the causa efficiens. In this
chain of causalities, god has the place of the first cause, as
causa prima.”
14
The understanding of god as causa prima,together with the
fact that causality is understood as facereand efficere,has
made it easier for philosophical theology to enter into Christian
dogma.
15 Therefore Heidegger considers the ens creatumas a
philosophical concept from the beginning. The ens creatumis
a determination of the caused entity for a certain period, but
the idea of entities as created disappears in modernity when
the idea of being as subjectivity or as objectivity for a subject
arises.
16
The ontotheological structure thinks being within the whole
of entities and from there within the perspective of a highest
entity. Under the influence of Christianity, this highest entity is
understood as the cause and producer of entities; all that exists
is caused by God the creator. All entities are reduced to the
cause that is the highest entity, called the divine. This, how-
ever, does not mean that the highest entity always appears on
the scene with that same name in metaphysics. It also appears
as ‘idea,’‘energeia,’ ‘substantiality,’ ‘objectivity,’ ‘subjectivity,’
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‘the will’ and ‘the will to power.’ In every epoch it is under-
stood and presented as the highest or ultimate entity.
17
In metaphysics all that exists is present for a divine or
human subject (the Middle Ages and modernity, respectively)
or is present for a transcendental subject. By positing a highest
entity, an order of ranking appears in entities: higher and lower
entities, real and unreal entities, entities that are observed with
senses and entities as such (as they are for god). Connected
with this doubling, forced by the order of ranking, is a notion
of truth. Something is true if the represented corresponds to the
real, or conversely, if the real corresponds to the represented.
Things correspond to the idea of them that exists in god. This
was the case especially in the Middle Ages. Human represen-
tation has to correspond to the thing in order to be correct. The
thing is correct insofar as it is in accordance with the intention
of god’s creation.
It is true that these moments are not immediately the most
important characteristics of the ontotheological structure of
metaphysics; nevertheless they are essentially connected with
it. Therefore, Nietzsche, who wanted to live on this earth very
intensively and remain loyal to it, announces the end of this
highest and doubled world. In his loyalty to this earth he
rejects the supersensible world and preaches the death of god
as the highest entity. It is in the wake of this thinker that
Heidegger shows the dominant characteristics of metaphysics.
CHRISTIANITY AS PLATONISM
Nietzsche thoroughly discusses Plato and Platonism, and he
shows Platonic philosophy in all its consequences. Plato sepa-
rates the true world — the intelligible worl of the ideas — from
the sensible, wisible world. This true world is placed beyond
the visible world and is not attainable by everyone. When this
true world gets lost, it becomes a postulate of practical reason,
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138 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
as is the case in Kant. What exists outside scientific knowledge
is not denied, but operates as idea,as thinkable thought. When,
after Kant, observation becomes the authority in thinking, ideas
and the supersensible world remain effective due to the in-
fluence of theology, which is formulated according to a Platonic
paradigm. Platonism is then conquered to the extent that the
true world as the supersensible world is abolished. The princi-
ple of the true world is abolished; in its place positivism shows
up. Positivism, however, remains in the double world, insofar
as it resists every supersensible world. Nietzsche solves this
problem; he abolishes the true world together with the apparent
world, in order to turn radically away from Plato.
18
The difference between the true and the apparent world is
the basic condition for metaphysics. In being as a whole, there
is a gap that separates one from the other. Plato’s philosophy
creates these two worlds that are so determinative for Western
thinking. The division that Christianity makes between a per-
ishable earth and an eternal heaven refers back to this division
between the true and the apparent worlds. Nietzsche’s criticism
of Christianity presupposes a Christianity that follows the Platonic
line. In this context, Heidegger agrees with Nietzsche’s state-
ment that Christianity is Platonism for the people.
19 Nietzsche
considers the ideaiand the supersensible to be values. In his
interpretation, all philosophy since Plato is a metaphysics of
values. Only the supersensible is acknowledged as a real entity.
This supersensible can be defined in multifarious ways: as the
Creator God of Christianity, as moral duty, as authority of rea-
son, as progress, or as happiness. Ever again the observable is
judged from the perspective of the ideal. This is why Nietzsche
considers all metaphysics to be Platonism: Christianity is just a
popularized form of it.
20
Christianity especially follows in the track of Platonic-meta-
physical thinking with the doctrine of creation a doctrine still
effective today. The real entity is reason itself as the creating
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and ordering spirit. Entities are the creation of this creator. 21
The gap between supersensible and sensible worlds and the
concept of truth that is connected with it are two of the
moments in metaphysics that are determined by Plato for the
whole of Western thinking. That representation is correct that
is directed towards the object, and this correctness of represen-
tation is in turn equated with truth. According to Heidegger,
Plato creates the possibility for this concept of truth in the
“allegory of the cave” at the beginning of the seventh book of
the Republic.
22 The ‘looks’ that show what things themselves
are, the eid¨(ideas), constitute the essence in whose light each
individual entity shows itself as this or that.
23 The being of
entities is understood as the idea.
The interpretation of being as ideahas dominated all West-
ern thinking throughout the history of its transformations up to
the present day. Truth becomes a correctness of vision, of
apprehension as representation.
24As correctness of vision, truth
becomes a characteristic of the human relation to entities. The
locus of truth becomes the assertion, and the essence of truth
lies in the agreement of the assertion with its object.
25 An
assertion is correct if it corresponds; the truth is this correspon-
dence. On the one hand, the thing accords with the representa-
tion or assertion. On the other hand, what is meant in the
assertion accords with the thing.
26 Entities are true insofar as
they correspond to the prethought order of creation of god. Because
god also creates human understanding in correspondence with
the ideas, human beings are able to have true knowledge. The
correspondence means an agreement with the order of cre-
ation.
27 This concept of truth as correspondence was present in
the Middle Ages. Even when the Christian worldview disap-
pears, these characteristics of truth remain in force.
The god-creator is replaced by universal reason, which pro-
vides entities with their essence. Truth is a correspondence between
reason and the nature of entities. An unreasonable truth is no
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140 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
truth at all. Propositional truth is always, and always exclu-
sively, this correctness.
28 Judgment becomes representing in the
right way. Heidegger asks what the nature of this representing
is, which means positing for oneself. Herein Heidegger sees an
all-controlling will to be operative. Representation extends over
all that is, and determines it.
29 Only what becomes an object in
this way, is,and is seen as existing. Since the beginning of the
modern age, the being of an entity has been understood from
the perspective of will, which is understood by Nietzsche as
will to power. The will to power is the last ground of entities.
It is because of this that Heidegger interprets Nietzsche as a
metaphysician. In the end, Nietzsche’s criticism of metaphysics
remains within metaphysics. “As an ontology,even Nietzsche’s
metaphysics is at the same timetheology, although it seems far
removed from scholastic metaphysics . . . Such metaphysical
theology is of course a negative theology of a peculiar kind. Its
negativity is revealed in the expression ‘God is dead.’ That is
an expression not of a-theism but of ontotheology, in that meta-
physics in which nihilism proper is fulfilled.”
30
Heidegger approaches Nietzsche and his declaration that
“God is dead” from the perspective of nihilism. He places Nietzsche
within Western metaphysics — significantly, at its end. In a cer-
tain sense, Nietzsche executes the end of metaphysics. What
happens when the history of metaphysics ends? One of its
dominant characteristics is that the supersensible becomes a
product of the natural; in other words, the supersensible is
reduced to the sensible. Therefore the discrepancy disappears
between sensible and supersensible, idea and observation. This
devaluation, this pulling-down or reduction of the supersen-
sible, ends for man in a world without meaning. This means
that the framework and the space from which human beings
can live disappears. This meaninglessness, however, remains
the unthought and unconquerable presupposition of the blind
effort to withdraw from meaninglessness by the mere giving
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of meaning. The project of giving meaning and valuing, in
which everyone nowadays has to be and wants to be engaged,
is itself a symptom of a history of metaphysics that has become
meaningless.
31
The truth of being has changed and altered in the course of
history. Nietzsche observes a change in the history of metaphysics;
that is to say, he sees a change in the history of ontology, the
interpretation of all that exists. The fact that he sees the rise
and unfolding of nihilism means that Nietzsche himself has a
theory of the being of entities. A reflection on Nietzsche’s
metaphysics enables us to better understand the situation and
the place of present human beings. This is especially so be-
cause the actual situation of present human beings is hardly
expressed or experienced, as is the case with all things that are
most near: they are first overlooked.
It is important to explore the land and the ground on which
metaphysics could reach its full growth. Metaphysics, through
its dominance, forgets to think the truth of being; it thinks
while forgetting the ground on which it stands. It forgets the
space in which and through which it grows, its specific pre-
suppositions. Therefore, a reflection on Nietzsche’s metaphysics
asks for what remains unthought as presuppositions of his
metaphysics.
Nietzsche’s metaphysics is characterized as nihilism, a doc-
trine of the being of entities that Nietzsche recognizes as dominating
for centuries and up to the present. Nietzsche summarizes the
interpretation of it with the word: “God is dead.”
32
This is not only a personal position of the so-called atheist
Nietzsche, whom one can contradict by pointing out church
attendance or Christian political parties, and add the fact that
Nietzsche became insane in 1888. Rather, Nietzsche expresses
something that has been implicit and unspoken for a long time
in Western metaphysics. It is a judgment about the destiny of
Western thinking, something that is not easy to change.
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142 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Nietzsche expresses the word “God is dead” most clearly in
the story of the Madman in the third book of The Gay Science.
It is the story of a man who in broad daylight walks into a
market square with a lantern in his hands, and constantly calls
that he is looking for god, while the bystanders ridicule him.
The text is from 1882. During the same time, Nietzsche starts
to compose his main work, which he provisionally indicates as
“will to power” with the subtitle “Attempt at a Re-valuation of
all Values” (Versuch einer Umwertung aller Werte). This subti-
tle is important for Heidegger’s subsequent interpretation.
However, the idea of the death of god was not completely
new in 1882. One can find this idea already in the young Nietzsche.
In some notes from the time of the origin of his writing The
Birth of Tragedy,Nietzsche writes in 1870: “I believe in the
ancient German saying: ‘All Gods must die.’ ” If one goes fur-
ther back in time, preceding Nietzsche, one reads in the young
Hegel, in his essay Faith and Knowledge (1802), the following
sentence: “the feeling on which rests the religion of the mod-
ern period — the feeling God himself is dead.”
33 Also Blaise
Pascal (1623-1662) writes in a reference to Plutarch: “Le grand
Pan est mort” (Great Pan is dead).
34 Gods can die and disap-
pear; they are as perishable as human beings and eras are.
Against this background Heidegger develops the notion of “the
last god,” which makes space for the coming god.
35 This theme
will be discussed in the next chapter. So far nothing new is
said in Nietzsche’s phrase, that gods are mortal and can disap-
pear was more or less already present in the consciousness of
Western philosophy.
Four years after the publication of the four books of The
Gay Science,Nietzsche completed them with a fifth, which
starts by saying: “The greatest recent event — that “God is
dead,” that the belief in the Christian God has become unbe-
lievable — is already beginning to cast its first shadows over
Europe.”
36 With these words it becomes clear that by the death
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of god Nietzsche means the death of the Christian God and the
supersensible world.
37 God is the name for the domain of the
ideas and the ideals, since Plato and Christian Platonism, con-
sidered to be the true and real world. This world is opposed to
the world of change, appearance, rhetoric, and power. That god
is dead means that this supersensible world no longer has sense
and strength. Metaphysics, seen from the perspective of Plato,
comes to an end. Thus Nietzsche understands his philosophy as
an anti-Platonism. When god, as the supersensible ground and
purpose of all reality, is dead — when the supersensible world
has lost its compelling and constraining powers, its inciting and
constructive capacities — then there is nothing to which human
beings can direct and orient themselves. Therefore it is written
in the story of the Madman: “Are we not straying as through
an infinite nothing?”
38 This nothingness means the absence of
an ideal and obligating world.
NIHILISM
The death of god and nihilism are connected in Heidegger’s
interpretation of Nietzsche. To understand that the word “nihil-
ist” is not only a term of abuse, it is important to know what
it means in Nietzsche. The word “nihilism” is brought to the
philosophical scene by Jacobi (1743–1819). Nihilism according
to Nietzsche is thus a historical movement, something that hap-
pens in the history of Europe. But it is not just one movement
among others; it is the movement of European thinking as
such. It is the destiny of the modern age and of modern man,
but it does not simply belong to the nineteenth and twentieth
century or to certain countries or groups. It belongs to the omi-
nousness of this cheerless guest that it cannot recognize: its
own origin.
Nihilism is not defined by the denial of the Christian God,
the suppression of Christianity, or the preaching of atheism. As
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144 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
long as one sees in the death of god only the phenomenon
of unbelief, which turns away from Christianity and all that
is connected to it, one looks at it from the outside; this theo-
logical-apologetic perspective misunderstands what Nietzsche
wants to say from the beginning. The story of the Madman
demonstrates that the death of god has nothing to do with the
chatter of the unbelievers who are unaware of it. According to
Nietzsche, the death of god is a pronouncement upon the end
of the ideal world and its meaning for human beings.
The event of the death of god is, according to Nietzsche,
something that happens in metaphysics. Metaphysics has deter-
mined the being of entities as the supernatural world, the ideal,
god, moral law, the authority of reason, progress, and the happiness
of the majority, respectively. This frameork now loses its con-
structive power and falls down.
In one of his notes from the planned but never completed
major work, The Will to Power,Nietzsche asks, “What does
nihilism mean?” He answers: “That the highest values are
devaluing themselves.”
39 He explains that there is no longer an
aim in reality and that there is no answer to the question of the
‘why.’ God, the supernatural as the true real world that deter-
mines everything, the ideal, the aims, the reasons, etc.: all of
these become worthless. This process of devaluating is not a
sign of decline but is, rather, the basic process of Western
thinking. Thus Nietzsche is not worried about the result, which
he considers to be the inner logic of Western history.
Nietzsche thinks that human beings will inevitably assign
new values. Now that the highest values have fallen down, a
revaluation of all values will occur. The ‘no’ against the old
values arises from the ‘yes’ with respect to the new ones. This
new valuation is also seen by Nietzsche within the perspective
of nihilism. Indeed, he designates the new valuation, next to
other characteristics of nihilism, as the complete (vollendete)
nihilism.
40
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When the position of god is emptied it does not mean that
the position itself disappears. The empty position invites reoc-
cupation and the filling in of new ideals. Examples of this,
according to Nietzsche, are theories concerning universal hap-
piness, socialism, and other utopian ideals. This is incomplete
nihilism, which changes the old values, but leaves the meta-
physical framework as it was. Attempting to avoid nihilism
without revaluating radically the old values does not change
anything in the end. Thus complete nihilism must change the
positions of the values and revaluate them. In this figure of nihilism
another valuation of life is hidden.
Nietzsche’s nihilism centers around values: their founding,
devaluation, revaluation and creation. The highest purpose, the
causes and principles of entities, the ideals and the supernat-
ural, god and the gods, all of this is understood in terms of
value. Therefore, according to Heidegger, knowing what Nietzsche
means by value is the key to understanding his ontology.
At the beginning of the last century a philosophy of values
arose under Nietzsche’s influence. It spoke of an order or pri-
ority of values (Hartmann, Scheler). While in Christian theol-
ogy God is considered as the highest entity, the highest good,
and the highest value, Nietzsche’s metaphysics considers a
value to be a precondition from which one is able to maintain
and increase life.
41 Therefore, a value always represents a cer-
tain perspective, namely the perspective from which one can
maintain and increase life. As such it is part of the whole of
growing life.
42
Values are not first something in themselves, they are only
valid to the extent that they are assigned, given, or founded as
a precondition of that towards which one is directed. In West-
ern philosophy since Leibniz this perspective is understood
as striving, from which every perspective or representation
is determined. According to Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche,
values are always preconditions for maintaining and increasing,
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146 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
because they are constitutive of life. If an entity’s striving were
limited to just maintaining itself, then it would already be
decreasing. This maintaining and increasing are parts of the
whole of life’s constitution. Becoming is the permanent change
that Leibniz already identifies in the entities.
Nietzsche considers this becoming to be the basic character-
istic of all entities, which he understands as “the will to
power.” The will to power is the basic feature of life. Will to
power, becoming, life, and being all mean the same for Nietzsche.
43
This will shows itself in forms of power such as art, politics,
religion, science and society. Therefore Nietzsche says that a value
is always connected to the perspective of the increase or the
decrease of these centers of power. The values and the changes
of values are connected to the growth of power of the one who
lends or gives the value.
44
Now we know that the source of values is the will to
power. This will to power means for Nietzsche a new founda-
tion of value. It is new because it manifests itself with its own
name; what had always already been working in the back-
ground now appears on the scene. At the same time from the
perspective of the older values it s a revaluation of all values,
because the old values were realized from the supernatural,
which was determinative for metaphysics. With this new
insight, metaphysics is turned round and Nietzsche claims
this turn to be the overcoming of metaphysics. Heidegger
argues, however, as we shall see, that this turn remains within
metaphysics.
We have already discussed nihilism as a process of devalu-
ating the highest values. This devaluation is seen from the
perspective of a revaluation of all values; this means that
Nietzsche sees nihilism within the possibility of lending or
founding values. This leads to the conclusion that the death of
god isonly understandable from the perspective of the will to
power. Therefore the question arises: What is the meaning of
the will to power?
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WILL TO POWER AND THE OVERMAN
Nietzsche talks about the will to power in the second part of
Thus Spoke Zarathustra,which was published a year after The
Gay Science(1883). He writes, “Where I found the living,
there I found Will to power; and even in the will of those who
serve I found Will to power; and even in the will of those who
serve I found the will to be master.”
45 Being a servant means
wanting to be a master. This will is not a wish, but a com-
mand. As a command it is about disposal and the ability to dis-
pose. The possibility of total self-disposal lies in obedience to
someone else or to oneself. The will to power, in the end, is
the desire for total self-disposal. In this way the commander is
always superior. In the end, the will wants itself. Therefore
Nietzsche writes that wanting means wanting to become
stronger, wanting to grow. This means more power but is only
possible through ever-increasing power, because only then does
it remain power. Standing still means falling down.
The will to power is the inner essence of the being of enti-
ties, by which we mean entities as a whole. Wanting means
wanting the means to become stronger. The means are the pre-
conditions founded by the will to power, and these precondi-
tions are the values. Therefore Nietzsche can say that in all wanting
lies a valuing. So the will to power is understood as a value-
founding will. Nietzsche determines the will to power as the
ultimate truth about the being of entities. Therefore Heidegger
can say that Nietzsche, despite all turns, remains on the path
of metaphysics with his theory about the truth of the will to
power as the being of entities. In Nietzsche, truth is used by
the will to power. It is a necessary value because everything is
always related to maintaining and increasing of the will to power.
46
But, according to Heidegger, because Nietzsche sees meta-
physics as the history of the foundation of values, he cannot
think the essence of nihilism.
47This means that he does not see
the ground on which he stands.
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148 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Nietzsche understands nihilism negatively as the devaluation
of all values, but also positively, as the revaluation of values.
This revaluation overcomes nihilism in its completion. The will
to power becomes the origin and measure of all founding, giv-
ing, and lending of value.
In the story from The Gay Science, the Madman says, con-
cerning the act of human beings by which god is killed: “There
has never been a greater deed; and whoever will be born after
us — for the sake of this deed he will be part of a higher his-
tory than all history hitherto.”
48 Man moves over to another
history, because in the new and other history, the principle of
the foundation of value, the will to power as the principle of
the being of entities, is accepted. With this, modern man takes
a final step: he wants himself, as the executor of the uncondi-
tional will to power. Incomplete nihilism, in which the higher
values are devaluated, is conquered. The name of this higher
history is Overman (Übermensch).
Without knowing it, man is poised to take control over the
earth. Formerly, human beings did not experience the will to
power as a characteristic of being, nor did they adopt it. The new
human being takes over the will to power in his will. This
means that everything that exists, every entity, exists as founded
by and in this will. The old ideals and aims lose their
efficiency. They do not give rise to life any longer: the world
of ideas and ideals itself became lifeless, dead, inefficient. That
is the meaning of the metaphysically intended claim that god
is dead. The first part of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra
from 1893 ends with the words: “Dead are all Gods: now we
will that overman live.”
49
This does not mean that man takes the place of god. The
position that the Overman takes is another domain: it is the domain
of subjectivity.
50 From this position every entity becomes arep-
resented object, an object for the I, the ego cogito. Everything
that exists, becomes something that exists for a human subject,
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even the human subject itself. Human beings, who take the
position of subjectivity, make an object of the world. The earth
is only visible and understandable, then, as an object of grasp-
ing. Nature appears everywhere as an object of technique. Even
the nature of subjectivity itself becomes an object for man. This
is the reason why subjectivity becomes the being-est entity.
What is going on in the era of the struggle for the earth? In
other words: what is the ground upon which subjectivity determines
the being of entities? According to Heidegger, being has be-
come a value which blocks every experience of being. If being
is a value given by man, then being in and of itself is nothing;
it only gets its value from a value-founding will to power.
Nietzsche’s understanding of the completion of nihilism, in
the value foundation of the will to power, merely intensifies
nihilism as Heidegger understands it — namely, that being
itself is nothing. The worst stroke against god and the super-
natural world is not that he is conceived as unknowable or that
his existence is shown to be improvable, but rather the deval-
uation of god to the status of highest value. This stroke comes
from theologians and philosophers in particular: they are the
ones who primarily see god as a value.
The story of the Madman urges the question of how human
beings can kill god. It is obviously Nietzsche’s point of view
that human beings do it. The text of the story emphasizes this
point by putting into italics the following sentences: “We have
killed him,” and, further on, “and yet they have done it them-
selves.” Human beings killed god, even though they are not
aware of it.
51
The announcement in Nietzsche’s story that god is dead is
not just a mere message that there is no god. For Nietzsche empha-
sizes that god is killed, murdered, that it is an act of human
beings; he has not just disappeared. The message that is pronounced
by the madman appears for the first time in a note from the fall
of 1881,
52 which says that we have to bear the loss of god. 53
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150 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
The loss of god is understood as something that must come
from a specific act of human beings. God’s death is ‘indeed
actual’ (tatsächlich); this means it is a reality that is the con-
sequence of an act. This is the terminology with which the
death of god is articulated in the story.
54 Many of Nietzsche’s
fragments confirm that this death of god, this lack of purpose
and orientation that has befallen us, must be understood as a
specific act. We have created this complete world in which we
really are involved, in which all possibilities of our life are
rooted. But because we forget this after creating the world, we
invent a creator.
55
When the retroactively-created inventor of this world dies,
then man has to remind himself of his creative power. It is a
recollection of his own power to act, and not just of a simple
fact. Nothing else than the actuality of their own acts has been
left to humans; there is no other compass and orientation than
their own deeds. God’s death becomes real only when there is
a perpetrator. Only then it can be asked whether man must
become an almighty and holy poet.
56
Indeed, man has to become the almighty and holy poet, but
the individual human being is still too weak to take on this
gigantic act. This poet appears initially in the figure of Zarathustra.
57
Obviously Nietzsche hesitated over who should announce this
gigantic act. The message says that an event in the past must
become an act of man. What took place without man’s knowl-
edge must be transformed into “I wanted it that way.”
Nietzsche evaluates this act: “There has never been a greater
deed; and whoever will be born after us — for the sake of this
deed he will be part of a higher history than all history hith-
erto.”
58 From now on, history is the result of the acts of human
being; in this it is “indeed actual” (tatsächlich). It is a new his-
tory, not only because it results from the older, but because it
destroyed the bottom of the older history by making human
beings the actors of history.
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That human beings kill god is almost unthinkable, even for
Nietzsche. We see this in the story of the Madman, when he
announces, “We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his
murderers.” Then the Madman asks rhetorically, “But how have we
done this?” Nietzsche adds three questions to this: “How were
we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe
away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained
this earth from its sun?” The last image refers to Plato’s alle-
gory of the cave, in which the sun is the place from where enti-
ties can appear. The sun shapes and limits the field of vision, the
horizon, in which entities show themselves and become visible.
The horizon is the supersensible world. It is both the highest
and most real entity and time the whole that encompasses
everything and gathers as the sea does. The earth as the abode
of human beings is released from the sun. The domain of the
supersensible is no longer a normative light above them. This
horizon is wiped out. The whole of entities, the sea, is emptied
by human beings because man has become the ‘I’ of the ego
cogito. With this, every entity becomes an object. Entities are,
as the objective, absorbed in the immanence of subjectivity.
The horizon no longer shines. All that remains is the perspec-
tive that arises from the value foundation of the will to power.
The idea that weare the ones who killed god belongs exactly
to the same subjectivism from which the will to power controls
the earth. The killing of god has its home in the philosophy of
value, in which values are given and assigned from subjectiv-
ity. In the foundation of value, the final stroke is inflicted on
the being of entities. Everyone in that time thinks from the
framework of value-foundation; therefore Nietzsche can say:
“We have killed him — you and I.” From this perspective Nietzsche
understands the will to power as nihilism, because the transvaluation
of all values in which god is devaluated is realized.
According to Heidegger, the foundation of value is the rad-
ical destruction of the question concerning the being of entities.
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152 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Being itself is radically removed; at most it can count as a
value for the value-founding human being. Philosophy of value
is destructive because it does not allow being to appear. The
death of god is seen within a framework of value-giving, as though
human subjectivity were able to call god out of being. This
presupposition is characteristic of nihilism, in which the will to
power is the absolute point of departure and the Overman becomes
the norm for all sense and value-giving. So in Heidegger’s
analysis, Nietzsche appears within the paradigm of the meta-
physics of modernity. It is the metaphysics of subjectivity as
causa sui.
But, Heidegger asks, where does being in its truth appear,
and where is it brought up? Nowhere, since the history of
being starts — necessarily, according to Heidegger — with the
forgetting of Being.
59 Philosophy as philosophy does not suc-
ceed in bringing up the truth of being, because being as differ-
ence withdraws from identification.
In this analysis of and reflection on Nietzsche some aspects of
nihilism have become clear. Nietzsche does not see the essence
of nihilism; he does not see that entities within the framework
of the will to power are nothing in themselves. Through his
doctrine of value he is not able to see the nothingness of enti-
ties, which, as a presupposition of his doctrine of the being of
entities, affects his thinking. This presupposition is the ground
of his thought. He has to think god and the gods as human
products. The basic experience or mood from which he thinks is
the godlessness and wordlessness of modern man.
60 Heidegger
interprets Nietzsche as a child of his time, in line with modern
subjectivism in a way that he himself was not aware.
The Madman, however, persists in seeking: probably Nietzsche’s
Madman sensed something of being amidst the desert of all
entities. Since the madman unceasingly cries, “I seek God, I
seek God,” in what sense is this man mad? He is torn away
(Heidegger alludes here the German verrückt) from the old domain
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of human beings, for whom the reality of the ideals is enfee-
bled and does not count any longer. This torn-away human
being has nothing in common with those who were standing
around and who do not believe in god. These onlookers are not
unbelieving because god became incredible to them, but be-
cause they gave up the possibility of faith since they cannot
seek god anymore. They cannot seek anymore because they
cannot think anymore, Heidegger concludes. For Heidegger, think-
ing is a questioning and seeking movement, which does not
preclude the notion of god. The public onlookers abolished
thinking and replaced it with chatter and gossip about nihilism,
because they see nihilism everywhere where they consider their
own opinion to be in danger. This is also blindness for nihil-
ism, because they chat in response to being anxious about
thinking. The madman, however, is clearly seeking god. He
cries out to him. Heidegger interprets this as follows: “Has a
thinking man perhaps here really cried out de profundis?”
61
THE DEATH OF GOD AND THE LACK OF GOD
Speaking of the death of god in the way that Nietzsche
preaches it, does not refer to faith. It names the experience
of an event in Western philosophy, in which the divine lost
its normative control over entities and the destiny of human
beings.
62 The Christian God is the primary referent for the
supernatural in general and all that is connected to it: the
ideals, norms, principles, rules, aims and values. It implies all
that is established above entities to give to entities as a whole
an aim, an order, and a sense: god is the name for the super-
sensible domain of the ideas and the ideals. Since Plato, this
supersensible world has been seen as the true and real world,
but it is now without effective power.
63 The god of morality,
the god who determines good and evil — that god is dead. And
with the death of god, guilt also disappears as a phenomenon
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154 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
that divides the whole of entities. 64And yet, when the name of
god disappears, then new values replace it. The position of the
supersensible is maintained and the ideals are kept. The empty
place demands filling and new gods take the old positions; new
ideals are presented.
65
The position for the metaphysical god is the position of the
causing creator and maintainer of entities. The ground of the
supersensible world is seen as the effective reality of the whole.
This supersensible reality has become unreal. Together with the
death of god, the powerlessness of the supersensible has come
to light, and this powerlessness means the loss of the estab-
lished order. Against this background it would be a mistake to
think that the assertion “God is dead” is a plea for atheism.
Insofar as metaphysics receives a specific theological interpre-
tation by Christianity, the downfall of the highest values has to
be expressed theologically by this claim. Here, god stands for
the supersensible, which positions itself as the eternal world across
from the earth as its real and eternal aim. The position of god
disappears, as well as the authority of conscience, reason, and
progress.
66
The connection between theology and ontology in the es-
sence of metaphysics becomes especially visible where meta-
physics indicates its basic movement: transcendence. The word
‘transcendence’ names the surpassing of an entity into what
that entity is in its essence. Transcendence, however, also means
the transcendent, in the sense of a first existing ground of enti-
ties that surpasses the entity and, as surpassing, exceeds the
entity. “Ontology represents transcendence as the transcenden-
tal. Theology represents transcendence as the transcendent.”
67One
always sees this movement in theology, which presents itself,
generally without reflection, as theistic; it presupposes a god as
a transcendent entity.
As indicated in the previous paragraph, Heidegger considers
Nietzsche, just like all great thinkers in philosophy since Plato,
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to be a theologian. Entities are only entities out of the will to
power, according to Nietzsche. Furthermore, Nietzsche’s meta-
physics is an ontology, and, at the same time, a theology. The
ontology of entities as such understands the essence of entities
as will to power. However, this metaphysical theology is, as I
have already mentioned, a specific kind of negative theology,
shown in the pronouncement: “God is dead.”
68 Nevertheless it
remains metaphysics, be the god living or dead.
69
Where god is dead, he is absent. This is something different
from the denial of god in atheism, which remains tributary to
ontotheology. The loss of god, however, is not thought within
metaphysics, that is, as ontotheology. Heidegger thinks of this
experience of the absence of god as an experience of the poets.
Metaphysics cannot experience the loss of god because it is
theologically structured. For the poet, on the other hand, the
absence of god is not a lack; it is not an empty space that
needs completion.
70 Nor is it necessary to appeal to the god
that one is used to. It is about presenting and holding out the
absence of god. The poet can live in a domain of decision
where ontology is not necessarily theologically structured,
since in poetry the poet has to seek; but not into the divine. In
poetry there is no a priori divine. It is the poet’s care to face
up to the lack of god without fear. With the appearance of god-
lessness, “he must remain near to the god’s absence.”
71 The
poet has to stay in this no man’s land until an original word is
offered from the nearness of the missing god, which is capable
of naming the high one.
The notion of the absent god means that there is no god vis-
ible for man; there is nothing that gathers man and things
together. The world has become groundless.
72 No trace is left
of the holy. Because the experience of the unconcealment of
being remains withdrawn, the disappearance of the hale drags
along the holy; it hides every trace of a godhead. This concealment
is so strong that the absence of god is not experienced. The
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156 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
absence of god and the divine must lead to the appropriation
of the hidden fullness of that which has been. What happens
there has to be put into words.
73
The god of metaphysics, which is assimilated with the
Christian God, is also a god. This god is shown to be histori-
cal by his mortality. The god of metaphysics, and everything
that is implied with that name, is dead. In Heidegger’s view,
Nietzsche is not the preacher of a-theism. Nietzsche’s under-
standing of being implies that a historical Daseincould not be
possible without god and the gods. But a god is only a god
when he comes and has to come. The sentence “God is dead”
is not a negation of god or the divine, but the most intimate
affirmation with regard to the coming god.
74
Therefore, Heidegger can say that the gods and the godhead
are assimilated into the destinies of the temple as formed historically.
But in Heidegger’s view the ontotheological temple of meta-
physics is crumbling. According to Heidegger and Nietzsche,
the death of god is a historical event, which means a history
(Geschichte), a story. It is an event that makes history. The
nature of this history can be continued, be it the history of a
god or a hero, but it is a history next to other histories. This
history is the history of the bereavement of a god. This does
not mean that this history itself has a god, for god is also sub-
jected to the destinies of history (Geschick).
75 It is a history
that makes history. In Heidegger’s view, historicity is con-
nected with the historicality of Dasein. This historicality is still
there when god is dead, and even when the human being, as
causa sui,is dead. The death and coming of the gods are
expressions of the historicality of Dasein.
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SEVEN
The Provisionality of a
Passing Last God
have already mentioned the notion of the last god at the
end of the previous chapter. In this chapter, I will investi-
gate more explicitly what Heidegger means by this. This phrase
is particularly important in Heidegger’s so-called ‘second mag-
num opus’, namely: Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis),
translated as “Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning).
1
This work, published in 1989 in commemoration of Heideg-
ger’s hundredth birthday, was written between 1936 and 1938.
It is a private text in which Heidegger introduces, among
others, the notion of ‘the last god.’ This book does not present
a systematic and clearly developed theme, but is, rather, a com-
pilation of fragments and contains a great deal of repetition.
Even by Heidegger’s standards it is a difficult book.
2This
seems to have been intentional on Heidegger’s part, for he
writes: “Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.”
3
Intelligibility seems for Heidegger to be connected to an ontic
approach to being. Using entities where being is supposed to
I
157
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158 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
be thought is like confirming philosophy with facts. Those who
idolize facts never notice that their idols shine is borrowed.
We find in the Beiträgethat the notion of the last god is tied
to understanding being as the event of enowning (Ereignis).
The word Ereignisis, according to Heidegger, a polysemy with
eight different meanings: “Enowning always means enowning
as en-ownment, de-cision, countering, setting-free, withdrawal,
simpleness, uniqueness, aloneness.”
4At this point it should be
fairly obvious that this polysemy does not render the notion of
the last god clearer. Because the notion of a last god appears
in a private text, one could ask whether it was ready for publication.
In that case the danger of the text not being understood is obvi-
ous. The thinker is in danger of not being understood and, even
worse, of being misunderstood is lonely, as he writes to Jaspers
on June 22, 1949.
5
Heidegger describes the structure (Gefüge) of the Beiträge
as a fugue consisting of six sections (Fügungen).
6These six
sections are framed by a further two sections, namely, sec-
tion I, Preview (Vorblick) and section VIII, Being (das Seyn).
The theme of the last god is present from the beginning in
the Beiträge. The fragments that are gathered in the first sec-
tion of the book function as a preface, and are a look forward
(Vorblick). There is no foreword per se, but rather a look taken
at, or into, something by which one gets an impression of what
is offered. Heidegger summarizes the content and the plan of
the book in the following words: “And here this inceptual
thinking can only say little ‘from enowning’ (Vom Ereignis).
What is said is inquired after and thought in the ‘playing-forth’
(Zuspiel) unto each other of the first and the other beginning,
accordingly to the ‘echo’ (Anklang) of be-ing in the distress of
being’s abandonment, for the ‘leap’ (Sprung) into be-ing, in
order to ‘ground’ (Gründung) its truth, as a preparation for the
‘ones to come’ (Zukünftigen) and for ‘the last god’ (der Letzte
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Gott). 7Although the notion of the last god is present in all six
sections, Heidegger gives it particular attention in the last.
As its name indicates, the “Vorblick”is a preview of the
issues Heidegger wants to address in the Beiträge. The second
section, “der Anklang,” is concerned with the first beginning,
which is Heidegger’s term for Western philosophy from Plato
to Nietzsche. The first beginning of Western philosophy has
been dominated by what Heidegger calls the “Leitfrage,” the
‘leading’ or ‘guiding question,’ namely, what are entities? Heidegger
holds that Western metaphysics arrives at a conception of being
by searching for a common substance underlying all individual
entities. Western metaphysics is the metaphysics of presence,
that is, an understanding of being as a suprahistorical and
enduring presence, undergirding all that is. For Heidegger, this
concern with the underlying, enduring substance of entities
means that Western philosophy has been concerned, not — as it
has erroneously supposed — with being, but with an abstract
form of entities. The consequence of this identification of being
with entities is that Western thought has now forgotten being.
Nevertheless, there remains a dim resonance, an “Anklang” or
echo of the question of being in Western philosophy, which
Heidegger sees as his task to recover.
The third section is concerned with the transition from the
first beginning to ‘the other beginning.’ This transition accounts
for the title Zuspiel,which is a sports term denoting the pass-
ing of the ball from one player to another: the question of
being is, as it were, passed from the first beginning to the other
beginning. A new beginning is being made, a beginning that
takes up the first beginning but transforms it. Thinking the
question of being from the other beginning means dispens-
ing with thinking about being in terms of entities or substance.
It means not interrogating entities, but rather posing what
Heidegger calls the “Grundfrage”: the ground or fundamental
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160 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
question. This fundamental question asks the question of the
truth of being, namely, ‘Wie west das Seyn?’ (How does Being
essence?), as opposed to “What is Being?”
This transformation of the question of being is the theme of
the remaining sections of the Beiträge. The transition from the
first to the other beginning is achieved by means of a leap (Sprung)
in which the realization dawns that being has been forgotten.
This marks the beginning of a new positing of the question of
being. This new beginning, however, is not a direct transition,
but a leap in which being is understood not in metaphysical
terms but as an event of appropriation, an event of enowning
(Ereignis). By means of this leap into the event of enowning
of being, the grounding of the place of the moment (Augen-
blicksstätte) becomes possible. This grounding is to be under-
taken by the ones to come, the future ones (die Zu-künftigen).
The task of the ones to come is to prepare for what Heidegger
calls the passing-by (Vorbeigang) of the last god.
8
Because of the mystifying aspects of this text, it is not
always clear what Heidegger means by ‘the last god.’ I under-
stand this notion as an indication of the passing moment, in
which a decision about being and the coming of god takes
place. This moment has always already passed when human
being (Dasein) has opened itself to the coming of the last god,
and thus it is only visible as a trace and a hint. In passing, the
last god effects a change in the understanding of being to the
perspective of the other beginning. The last god is always a
god who has passed, because it is not graspable in its presence.
The notion of the last god is an expression of the historicality
of Dasein and being.
This chapter contains four sections. The first section deals
with Heidegger’s view of the Christian God; the second is
about the need for being of the gods; the third treats the notion
of ‘the last god’; and the fourth deals with the notion of ‘the
few forerunners.’
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THE CHRISTIAN GOD
The Christian God, according to Heidegger, hinders the
experience of the last god. The long period of Christianization
has undermined the possibilities for experiencing the coming of
the last god. Seen within a Christian point of view, God is
understood in terms of a transcendent reality; he is thought of
within a theistic paradigm, as something that goes beyond
being and man. This way of thinking is present even where it
is denied since it determines secularized visions of life, as was
shown in the previous chapter. The last god has nothing to do
with the Christian God, because the last god cannot be found
from within the forgetfulness-of-being.
9However, Christianity,
with its own particular concept of God, has contributed to this
forgetfulness-of-being.
For Heidegger, the idea that entities are created originates in
Christianity since, according to it, everything — including
being as such — is understood this way.
10 All being is origin-
ally understood as ‘ens creatum,’ with the ‘Creator’ as the
highest, most certain entity, and the first cause. Every entity is
an effect of this cause, which is itself the most real entity.
11
Even when the idea of creation is omitted, the understanding
of entities as caused, made, and produced still remains. The
relation of cause and effect becomes completely dominant, per-
fected in the idea of god as ‘causa sui.’ This idea marks an
essential difference from the original concept of ‘physis,’ and
at the same time introduces the concept of making as the
essence of being in modern history. Mechanical and biological
ways of thinking are always merely the result of the dominant
explanation of entities as makeable.
12 Heidegger sees in this the
forgottenness-of-being and nihilism.
Forgetfulness-of-being is strongest where it hides itself most,
and this happens particularly in Christianity. In modern history,
entities, which were once created by god, become products of
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162 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
man — objects to be understood and mastered. From this per-
spective of mastery and control, man speaks of increase and
progress. But it is a progress without future, because it pro-
motes an endless repetition of the same.
13 In the concept and
practice of progress, openness to the other beginning does not
arise; in fact, it hides it. This is why Christianity and its secu-
lar descendants hide and deny the forgetfulness-of-being most
of all.
Heidegger also sees the nihilistic consequences of Chris-
tianity in the domain of historical thinking. According to him,
the Christian apologetics of history, learned and mastered since
Augustine’s Civitas Dei,intensify Christianity’s nihilistic
effects. Almost all secular, modern historical thought, which wants
to subsume everything under the concept of progress, is subject
to this Christian view of history and thereby hinders every
essential decision.
14 The idea of progress will, to an immense
extent, result in the exploitation and consumption of the earth
and in breeding and training people as human specimens. The
emergence of the ideal of progress is not to be impeded by a
romantic memory of the past.
Heidegger focuses on the concept of machination (Machenshaft),
sometimes called Jezuitism, in his struggle against Christianity
and the Church.
15 The concept of the last god also plays a part
in this polemic, because it is “the totally other over against
gods who have been, especially over against the Christian
God.”
16 Therefore, one of the purposes of the Beiträgeis to
regain a new concept of transcendence and a new space for the
divine in opposition to the long-since Christianized concept of
God. So the fight against nihilism is at one and the same time
a fight against Christianity: “The preparation for the overcom-
ing of nihilism begins with the fundamental experience that
man as founder of Da-sein is usedby the godhood of the other
god. But what is most imperative and most difficult regarding
this overcoming is the awarenessof nihilism.”
17
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Heidegger is quite extreme in his determination of Chris-
tianity as a precursor to nihilisim. The demolition of churches
and monasteries and the slaughtering of people is not the
essential characteristic of nihilism, “rather, what is crucial is
whether one knows and wants to know that precisely this tol-
erating of Christianity and Christianity itself — the general talk
of ‘providence’ and ‘the Lord God,’ however sincere individu-
als may be — are merely pretexts and perplexities in that
domain which one does not want to acknowledge and to allow
to count as the domain of decision about be-ing or not-be-ing.
The most disastrous nihilism consists in passing oneself off
as protector of Christianity and even claiming for oneself the
most Christian Christianity on the basis of social accomplish-
ments.”
18 Against this background it is clear that Heidegger
does not expect any salvation from Christianity.
In a way that is reminiscent of Nietzsche (and Heidegger
wrote this text during the years that he was lecturing on Nietzsche),
Heidegger sketches the consequence of Western thinking as it
is formed under the influence of Christianity. In Western think-
ing, the beyond-being as the beginning of being has the char-
acter of the divine and of god.
19 Ontology, the theory of being
as such, is therefore inevitably ontotheology. This means that
the first beginning in Platonic-Aristotelian philosophy also pro-
vides the framework for the Judeo-Christian faith and all secu-
lar forms of the Christian and Western understanding of being
and man. In the Platonic understanding of the beyond-being as
the good, Heidegger sees a fundamental negation of the ques-
tion of being because the idea of the good is the organizing
principle of all understanding of being in relation to its desti-
nation and shape.
20 This Platonism has continued in Chris-
tianity until today. It was Nietzsche who identified Platonism in
its hidden form: “Christianity and its secularisations are gener-
ally ‘Platonism for the people.’”
21 Christianity is also present in
the determination of truth as certainty, correspondence, and
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164 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
similarity: this theory of truth is required for those who look
upwards from beneath, but not for those with the opposite
point of view.
22 One can find analyses of this kind in Nietzsche
and in Heidegger’s lectures on Nietzsche, as was shown in the
previous chapter.
The insight into the connections between Christianity and
the understanding of being is important because these connec-
tions remain the same in the metaphysics of the modern age.
They remain the same even where the medieval form of the
creed of the Church has long since been abandoned. In partic-
ular, the frequently changing forms of Christian thinking that
dominate the secularized world complicate every attempt to get
away from this soil or ground and to consider the relation of
being and truth from a more original experience.
23 Christianity,
with its implicit opinion that being is makeable, with its unspo-
ken ideal of progress and its concept of history, hinders the
experience of being as an event of enowning.
THE GODS AND BEING
To Heidegger, the notion of the gods involves a domain of
questions: “The talk of ‘gods’ here does not indicate the
decided assertion on the extantness of a plurality over against
a singular but is rather meant as the allusion to the unde-
cidability of the being of gods, whether of one single god or
of many gods. This undecidability holds within itself what is
question-worthy, namely, whether anything at all like being
dare be attributed to gods without destroying everything that is
divine. The undecidability concerning which god and whether
a god can, in utmost distress, once again arise, from which way
of being of man and in what way — this is what is named with
the name ‘gods.’”
24 For Heidegger the question is whether
there will be gods, not whether there will be one or more. He
asks if it is possible to grant being to the gods without
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destroying divinity as such. In metaphysics, god is represented
as the most real being, as the first ground and cause of being.
These determinations, however, do not arise from the divin-
ity of god. They arise from a doctrine of being insofar as
this being is represented as a presence, as an object and as
subsistent.
25
In what sense is there a relation between the gods and
being? Heidegger says that the gods need being. This means
that being is not equated with the godhead and that being is
not situated above the gods, nor the gods above being. The
gods do not need it as their property. Nevertheless, the gods
need being in order to belong to themselves. This being is
something that is wanted by the gods, but is never caused or
determined by them. It is a very unclear and dark concept of
divinity because the characterization of the gods as those who
need being does not belong to a domain of foundations and
proofs but is rather a first thing to hold on to.
26
With regard to the relation of being and god, being is never
a determination of god himself, but is that which god needs in
order to become itself. In this way, god is completely distinguished
from being. Being is not, as the concept of being in meta-
physics, the highest and purest determination of the divine:
neither is it the most common or emptiest roof for all that ‘is.’
Being gets its specific determination and magnitude when it is
acknowledged as something that is necessary to god, the gods,
and the entire realm of the divine.
27What is this being that the gods
need? Further on I will interpret this being as the possible.
28
The gods need being, understood as an event of enowning.
The gods do not need determinations that are taken from enti-
ties, such as the cause, foundation, absolute, unconditional, and
infinite; nor is it a question of identification with being, not
even with being as an event of enowning.
The passing-by of the last god is the movement that opens
the space for a new birth of the gods; it is a true godding (götterung)
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166 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
of the gods. The gods ‘god’ (göttern). This plural indicates the
undecidedness of the being of the gods, of whether there will
be one or many.
29 With regard to the gods, nothing can be
decided, because one cannot decide on being. As a thinker one
does best to remain in this undecidedness, without representing
it as a realization or a completion. “If we knew the law of the
arrival and the flight of gods, then we would get a first glimpse
of the onset and staying away of truth and thus of the essen-
tial swaying of be-ing.”
30 The law of the gods is that they need
being as that which withdraws because they are no longer or
they are not yet. For its part, being gets its greatness “when it
is recognized as that which the god of gods and all godding
need.”
31 God does not need being in order to become an entity.
“Gods do not need be-ing as their ownhood, wherein they
themselves take a stance,” Rather, god completely exists in the
need for being. “Be-ing is needed by gods: it is their need. And
the needfulness of be-ing names its essential swaying — what
is needed by ‘gods’ but is never causable and conditionable.”
32
This is contrary to the metaphysical meaning of god as the
highest being.
Withdrawal and need belong together; otherwise the relation
would be based on a negative moment of entities or on a reg-
ulative idea. The withdrawal of being, more original than tran-
scendence, is a departure from metaphysics, an entry into
another history. By this departure the saving of the West can
be realized.
33 But what does saving mean here? Since the dan-
ger has grown to the extreme and since everything is being
uprooted and — what is even more disastrous — since the
uprooting is already engaged in hiding itself, the beginning of
the lack of history is already here.
34 It is the uprooting itself
that has to be understood in such a way that the West can
begin to be our history. The turn in the history of being (or of
the West) is the beginning of an era in which the existential
finitude of Dasein reveals the historical finitude of being. This
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is not only done by the destruction of ontotheology or by the
overcoming metaphysics, but also by an openness to this his-
torical finitude.
Later in 1966, in the well-known “Der SpiegelInterview,”
35
Heidegger talks about gods: “Only a god can save us,” is his
exclamation. Heidegger does not say “only god can save us,”
or reason, or science, or the experts. He was talking about a
god, a finite mortal god who inspires the actions of man in
such a way that dedication is possible, not to abstract ideals
and the idea of progress, but to other possibilities which are
situated beyond and before the origin of metaphysical nihilism.
The question is whether there are enough individuals who are
open to another possibility of the history of being and to per-
ceiving being as an event of enowning.
When gods and man meet each other, then man is knocked
over from his Western place as rational animal; he is located
and understood from a different point of view or another
horizon. In such a place, there is no essential room for both
the animality and rationality of man.
36 The strongest hindrance
to arriving at being as an event of enowning is not only found
in Christianity, but also in the self-concept that present-day
man has of himself. Man understands himself as a member
of the human species. Where this interpretation of man pre-
vails, every place and call for an arrival of a god is absent;
there is not even an experience of the flight of the gods which
would indicate man’s consciousness that the truth of being has
disappeared.
Heidegger locates man as ‘animal rationale’ standing in opposi-
tion to man as ‘Dasein.’ As Dasein, man does not count the
number of the gods, nor does he count on them, particularly
not on a special god, as one counts on the one and only God
of Christianity, who governs everything. ‘Dasein’ does not
count but is attuned to unexpectedness, though this does not
mean being indifferent to everything. This not-calculating is
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168 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
already the result of a more original Dasein, which is open
to and concentrated on being as an event of enowning.
37As Dasein,
man is open to what happens and understands that he does not
know the rules of the god.
With the turn from man as animal rationaleto Dasein as a
historical being, space is created for the experience of another
history. It is the room and the place where decisions are made
about the advent or abeyance of the gods for man. In this sense
the gods need the place for being in order for the gods to be
able to be. The place for being is the realm of possibilities that
man can see only if he returns from the metaphysical project
with its one and only actual god. But from the perspective of
this realm of possibilities, the metaphysical god has become a
god, one among others. This god needs being as possibility;
otherwise, there would only be the eternal god of ontotheology
and its eternal presence. And this would mean that there are no
gods at all.
The absence of the gods, however, is not a simple forget-
fulness-of-being. It is also an indication, just as total control
and makability is an indication or a trace of the flight of the
gods. Furthermore, when the one and only god as ‘causa sui’
is discussed in metaphysics, the gods as a plurality have fled.
These indications are only meaningful if we are able to bear
the desolation-of-being and are open to the decision concerning
the absence or the advent of the gods. Heidegger pleads for
openness to this advent, which is outside the sphere of make-
ability.
38 A trace of the gods, and an indication that could
silence and bring reflection, is nowhere to be found: nature has
become a desolate object.
According to Heidegger, nature was the place of the coming
and the dwelling of the gods when it was still understood as
physis,the essence of being. Now nature has become an object,
and as such is the opposite of grace. After this demotion,
nature is completely at the mercy of calculative making and
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thinking. 39 In the original understanding of physis,grace and
nature were united. Similarly, in the original event of being, the
Ereignis,and in the learning of the truth of being, insight and
understanding happen to man as a gift; grace is not opposed to
natural knowledge. This means that the modern understanding
grace, if it is understood as separate from nature and calculati-
ve thinking, is a result of the forgetfulness-of-being. The cleav-
age between knowledge and grace in this sense is a symptom
of nihilism and even stimulates it.
With this paradigm we can understand what the conditions
are for grace as separated from nature. Grace, as a concept
opposite to natural and philosophical knowledge, is made pos-
sible by the forgottenness of being. And is it not true that the
mastering of nature by science and technology has turned grace
into something obscure and dark? In that case, both the mas-
tering of nature by technology and the obscurity of grace are
symptoms of nihilism as well.
We have seen more of these separations in the history of
philosophy with regard to religion. When Kant made knowl-
edge of things-in-themselves impossible by his Critique of Pure
Reason(1781), he broke with the classical claim of meta-
physics to offer knowledge of the nature of things which denies
that the things we know and see are already schematized or
interpreted by our understanding. But after Kant, our mind is
not merely passive in the act of knowledge; it is active to the
point of imposing on nature its own laws of logic. The idea
that the world we know in a sense depends on the conceptual
projection of our categories is a revolutionary idea that indi-
cates a shift to pure subjective knowledge, where we do not
have access to the things-in-themselves, but only to interpreta-
tions of things such as they appear to us and after they have
been subjected to our conceptual apparatus.
40
This has led to different developments, for example to the
position of Jacobi (1743–1819). He finds a notorious contradiction
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170 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
in Kant’s doctrine of the thing-in-itself: Kant excludes any
notion of the thing-in-itself from his system, since it is essen-
tially unknowable, yet he needed some objective base in real-
ity in order to avoid a form of absolute idealism. Jacobi,
following indications he found in Kant, comes to fideism. If
reason cannot bring us to reality, the only thing that can give
us any sense of an objective and stable world is faith in an
authority higher than our limited reason. By faith, and by faith
alone, we can get access to the true foundation of being. From
Heidegger’s perspective, this is a symptom of nihilism. This fideis-
tic reading had some appeal at the time of Jacobi and one can
observe that it still manifests itself today. Many forms of reli-
gious fundamentalism clearly stem from the fear or anxiety
produced by the subjective and perspectival nature of our
knowledge. It is only through the leap of faith that one gets
reacquainted with, and thus reconciled to, reality.
In Jacobi we see the connectedness of a call for faith and
the nihilistic situation of natural and philosophical knowledge.
Both go together as a result of the impossibility of knowing
things-in-themselves. This leads us to the heart of Heidegger’s
‘philosophy of grace.’ It seems to me that, according to Heidegger,
when presented as opposite to natural and philosophical knowl-
edge, grace is itself a symptom of the desolation-of-being. This
would mean that, with the passing of the last god, something
other than grace as opposite to calculative and natural knowl-
edge could be possible.
THE LAST GOD
The subject of the last god runs like a thread through the
Beiträge,and it may be the most fascinating theme in it.
41
There is no other text in which Heidegger talks about it. Is this
a new mythology, with which Heidegger tries to conquer the
god that is determined as causa sui— a figure to whom one
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can neither pray nor sacrifice? Is it necessary that the other
thinking or the thinking of the other beginning reinterprets the
divine? Is it necessary to carry out this task by the invention
of a new god or a new mythology? Is the idea of a last god a
myth in Heidegger’s thinking? Is it connected with Heidegger’s
project to think being as historical?
So the question of this notion of the last god presses upon
us. How does the last god enter into the question of being, or
into the truth of being, or even more into the historicity of
being? This concept of the last god is undoubtedly connected
with thinking being as an event of enowning; it has to do with
the emphasis on the eventuality and the critical rejection of an
essentializing or hypostasising history of being. The last god
has its main character in passing-by (Vorbeigang).
When Heidegger talks about the passing or passing-by of the
last god, it is not the first reference to a passing god in Judeo-
Christian or Western literature. It is a term that one can find in
the Old Testament, in Exodus 33.22–23: “and while my glory
passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover
you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away
my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be
seen.” At Marburg in 1924, Heidegger commented on this bib-
lical text in a seminar led by Bultmann.
42 Moses is allowed to
see God passing by and to see just a glimpse of Him. Also the
first book of Kings 19.11 mentions that the Lord passed by. In
this passing-by of the Lord almost nothing happens: no storm,
no big transformations; only a quiet small voice can be heard,
and then silence.
Nevertheless, it is important to find the origin of this notion
against the background of Heidegger’s specific philosophical
development, from The Phenomenology of the Religious Life
and to the experience of godlessness as it is worked out in the
Beiträge. The experience of godlessness, the darkening of the
earth that leads to a complete subjectivistic immanentism, together
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172 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
with the withdrawal of the godhead, are the moments in which
Heidegger decisively draws upon Hölderlin.
43 It is well known
that Hölderlin was greatly important for Heidegger. In the next
chapters this will be worked out in more detail. Heidegger
writes in 1941 that Hölderlin’s words became his destiny at the
moment in which he rejected the last misinterpretations of
metaphysics.
44 Thus Heidegger’s notion of the last god has its
origin partly in Hölderlin.
The idea of the last god’s passing is already foregrounded in
the first Hölderlin lecture course from winter semester 1934/35
on the hymn “Friedensfeier,” in which the heavenly is called
“quick-transient” (schnellvergänglich). Only for a moment does
god touch the dwelling of man. Thus Heidegger finds with Hölderlin
the place of the heavenly or the godlike in the fleetingness of
a hardly understandable hint. This place is not aeternitas(the
gathering of the temporal out of its dispersion into a remaining
order), nor is it sempiternitas(the endless continuity). Rather it
is a passing-by that happens in a moment.
45
It is difficult to trace from where exactly Heidegger gets the
notion of ‘the last god.’ In addition to Hölderlin, one may also
think of Nietzsche’s idea of the ‘last human.’ Heidegger asso-
ciates the last god, which is essentially passage, transition, and
passing-by, with the problems of Aristotle and Paul, kairosand
crisis, the decisive moment, our moment: it is the moment in
which the gods pass by and visit us. It is also in the moment
of our death. Nietzsche and Hölderlin are thus each in their
own way present in Heidegger’s Beiträge.
As I said at the beginning of this chapter, the moment of
transition from the first beginning to the other beginning plays
a dominant role in the Beiträge. The concept of transition is
connected to the question of the passing-by of the god-
head. The unfolding of the truth of being as Ereignis(event
of enowning) shows the other beginning, or at least its trace.
Only if one has left metaphysics, is it possible to see this:
“With this knowing-awareness of be-ing, thinking attains for
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the first time the trace of the other beginning in crossing out
of metaphysics.”
46
Nevertheless, it is important to question how it is possible that,
in the question of being or its deepening in the history of
being, something like a passing god can arise. As I have
already mentioned, Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche is opera-
tive in the background of the Beiträge,especially in the analy-
sis of nihilism. The gods have fled; words like ‘Not’ (need),
‘Notwendigkeit’ (necessity), ‘Nötigen’ (necessitate), and ‘Notlage’
(distress) dominate the diagnosis of the present juncture. There
is unrootedness, godlessness, darkening of the earth, humiliation.
The world is controlled by machination and calculation. After the
death of god discussed in the previous chapter comes the situ-
ation of godlessness. Heidegger begins his winter semester 1936/37
lecture course on Nietzsche rather grandly with: “Almost two
thousand years and not even one new god!” (“Der Antichrist,”
1888).
47
The coming of the passing god is not for Heidegger neopa-
ganism or a return to German Romanticism, which also speak of
a coming god.
48 It is, rather, as in Being and Time,an effort to
think transcendence as temporality. Therefore it concerns the pos-
sibility of knowing a god in a postmetaphysical era. “Coming
from a posture toward beings that is determined by ‘meta-
physics,’ we will only slowly and with difficulty be able to
know the other, namely that god no longer appears either in the
‘personal’ or in the ‘lived-experience’ of the masses but solely
in the ‘space’ of be-ing itself — a space which is held to abground.”
49
Heidegger is involved in a post-metaphysical theology of god. This
is at first formally indicated, and is, like all formal indications,
nameless and without content. Because of this it is foreign to every
institutional church. The most appropriate attitude towards a
god in the era of technology is refusal (Verweigerung), which
is why Heidegger prefers to remain silent with respect to it.
The question, “What or who is the last god?” engenders a
lot of negative answers, for it is not the last in the sense of the
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174 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
most recent, as one speaks of the recent fashion or the last of
a countable series. Gods are not objects of calculation in which
only one is calculated; that would be blasphemous. Nor does
the last god, who is unique, know the calculation of monothe-
ism, pantheism or atheism: “The multitude of gods cannot be
quantified but rather is subjected to the inner richness of the
grounds and abgrounds in the site for the moment of the shin-
ing and sheltering-concealing of the hint of the last god.”
50
The last god essentially is as passing-by, and as passing-by,
the question of quantity is irrrelevant. The last god is not an
end but rather a beginning, and thereby has a temporal mean-
ing. This god isonly as the decisive moment of its future pass-
ing-by.
51 For this reason the last god does not manifest itself as
something present, but is only there as a hint.
52
The last god is connected to the experience of being as an
event of enowning, that is, with the unfolding of the truth of
being. This bears on the finitude of being,
53 which Heidegger
thematizes in Being and Time in the existential analysis of
being-toward-death. Just as we understand the passing-by of being
in death, so too does the radical finitude of being manifest
itself in the hint of the last god. With this, Heidegger contin-
ues the polemic against the Christian idea of God, who is seen
as infinite in contrast to the finitude of His creation. To the
question of what or who god is, Heidegger answers, in the con-
text of understanding being as an event of enowning, that god
is a hint, and nothing but a hint.
A hint is something that gives the possibility of meaning.
54
Heidegger explicates this notion of understanding in Being and
Time,where he writes: “Meaning is that wherein the intelligi-
bility (Verständlichkeit) of something maintains itself.”
55 So the
image of the last god is an image that provides a hint or a clue
in order to understand something. “The image is never intended
to stand for itself alone, but indicates thatsomething is to be
understood, providing a clueas to whatthis is. The image pro-
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vides a hint — it leads into the intelligible, into a region of
intelligibility (the dimension within which something is under-
stood), into a sense(hence sensory image). However, it is
important to bear in mind: whatis to be understood is not a
sense, but rather an occurrence. ‘Sense’ (Sinn) says only: it is
a matter of something intelligible. What is understood is never
itselfsense; we do not understand something assense, but
always only ‘in the sense of.’ Sense is never the topicof the
understanding.”
56 The hint of the last god refers to the histori-
cality of Dasein and being, to the paradigm or horizon within
which Dasein is to be understood.
Thus, in talking about the last god, we do not mean the last
of a series of gods or a final synthesis.
57 The notion of the last
god refers to a moment of decision in which the experience of
the last god’s passing-by opens the room for other possibilities
of being. Out of this experience, man could learn to be open
and to look forward to another beginning. However, people do
not know what this means, and they are not able to know as
long as they are imprisoned, just like the people in Plato’s
cave, in a method of calculative knowing through which they
understand things, circumstances, and themselves.
In the experience of the total objectivity and makeability of
being and truth, there is a moment of decision. On the one
hand, one is far away from the last god; on the other hand,
paradoxically, this means that one is in the presence of the god,
since it is in the distress of the desolation of being that the last
god is near.
58 Heidegger thinks the desolation of being and the
possible advent of the gods together in the event of the enown-
ing of being. They are two sides of one coin.
The word ‘last’ has no ontic meaning. It indicates something
that anticipates very far into the future towards the deepest
beginning, that reaches out the farthest and cannot be out-
stripped. The last god therefore withdraws from every calcula-
tion and has to bear the burden of the loudest and most
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176 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
frequent misinterpretations. 59 The hint of the last god springs
from a moment that is beyond calculative thinking, “Given that
as yet we barely grasp ‘death’ in its utmost, how are we then
ever going to be primed for the rare hint of the last god?”
60
With the last god we arrive in a domain of decision that is
more difficult to reach than death. But just as in Being and
Timedeath opens the appearance of being as possibility, so
does the passing of the last god.
61 Likewise, both are difficult
to understand authentically. Because of this difficulty, the
domain of decision is perceptible to only a few people. After
all, everything has been made convenient to the planned con-
trol and the correctness of a safe and successful outcome. If we
calculate towards the last god out of this background and
regard the ‘last’ as conclusion and outcome, then all understanding
of it is misunderstanding.
The image of the last or the extreme limit is an essential
aspect of Heidegger’s concept of the enowning of the event of
being. This event is marked by a turn that takes place at the
limit. It is in such an extreme situation that Dasein becomes
conscious of the potential for a change, a turn towards another
possibility or another beginning. In this turn, enowning needs
Dasein and, needing it, must place it into the call and so bring
it before the passing of the last god.
62 The turn is the moment
of decision in which another beginning can come to pass.
Dasein must be brought out of the desolate situation of meta-
physics into the understanding of the other beginning.
Because of this ‘transitional’ meaning, the last god has its
own uniqueness and stands beyond the calculating determina-
tions indicated by terms such as monotheism, pantheism, and
atheism. Monotheism and all other kinds of theism have only
existed since Judeo-Christian apologetics, which have meta-
physics, or objectifying calculation, as their philosophical
presupposition. With the death of this metaphysical god, all
kinds of theism disappear. The multitude of gods cannot be
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quantified, but are, rather, subjected to the inner wealth of the
grounds and the abysses that appear at the moment in which
the hint of the last god lights up.
Therefore, “the last god is not the end but the other begin-
ning of immeasurable possibilities for our history.”
63 This
stands in contrast to the history of progress, in which every-
thing is a repetition of what went before. In the openness to
these other possibilities and in the mood of reservedness, a hint
of the last god can be understood. A permanent seeking is nec-
essary in order to be ready for the event of the enowning of
being and to not turn away from being, as happens in the meta-
physical concept of truth and being.
64
The passing of the last god as historical moment is not an
ideal situation, because an ideal situation moves against the essence
of history as a realm of possibilities; an ideal situation stops
history by a repetition of the everlasting same.
65 But there will
be a long and very relapsing and exceedingly hidden history
until this unpredictable moment arrives. The beginning of this
event of enowning of being is not to be visualized as a goal,
which is a superficial phenomenon compared to what happens
historically.
66 Nor is the passing-by of the last god a goal that
realizes itself or that one can wait for. One can only acquire a
reserved susceptibility to it, in which one is open to the other
beginning. Concepts like ‘goal’, ‘aim’ and ‘end’ imply the con-
tinuity of metaphysical nihilism.
As a moment of transition, the passing of the last god is not
an end but a beginning. The end is only where being has been
separated from the truth of being. There, every question, which
means every ontological difference, is denied: everything is
endlessly repeated and multiplied. The end is the endless and-
so-forth; the notion of the last has nothing to do with this. ‘The
end’ never sees its own end, but understands itself as a comple-
tion. Therefore it is not prepared to expect and to experience
‘the last,’ because the last is only to be experienced in the
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178 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
fore-running (Vor-laufen). This fore-running is pro-visional
(vor-läufig), and so it is only understandable as having passed-
by. This moment of provisional forerunning is the moment of
the experience of the hint of the last god.
The passing of the last god opens the perspective of the pos-
sible. Only in be-ing as an event of enowning does the possi-
ble hold sway, as be-ing’s deepest cleavage. It is in the shape
of the possible that be-ing must first be thought in the thinking
of the other beginning. In metaphysics the ‘actual’ as entity has
been taken as the starting point and goal for the determination
of being.
67 But in opposition to the metaphysical understanding
of being as actuality, Heidegger’s offers his counterparadigm of
the possible: “The possible — and even the possible pure and
simple — opens out only in the attempt. The attempt must be
totally governed by a fore-grasping will...That being is and
therefore does not become a being; this is expressed most
sharply thus: Being is possibility, what is never extant and yet
through en-ownment is always what grants and refuses in not-
granting.”
68 Being, as a place for the godhead and man, is a
wealth of possibilities.
69
To understand this, one has to leave metaphysics, and get
away from objectifying calculative thinking. From a metaphys-
ical position it is difficult to understand the other; namely, that
god no longer appears either in the personal or in the lived
experience of the masses but solely “in the space of be-ing
itself...”
70 No heretofore existing ‘cults’ and ‘churches’ and
the like can provide the essential preparation for the colliding
of god and man at the midpoint of be-ing. For the truth of
be-ing itself must at first be grounded, and for this assignment
all creating must take on another beginning.
71
With the phrase the last god, Heidegger thinks the possible
appearance of a god that depends on being as the event of
enowning. This last god is not itself this event but needs it
because it is that to which human being as Dasein, belongs.
72
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The unfolding of the truth of being as an event of enowning
indicates the other beginning or a trace of the other beginning.
One sees these traces of the other beginning only if one has
abandoned metaphysics: “With this knowing awareness of be-
ing, thinking attains for the first time the trace of the other
beginning in crossing out of metaphysics.”
73 The transcendence
is always a transcendence from . .
.towards . . .; from metaphysics
towards the other beginning. This transition can only take place
when human being is understood as Dasein.
74
ONLY A FEW FORERUNNERS
As Dasein human beings are open to the possible; indeed,
their task is to take care of the possibility of the possible. This
does not happen as long as man is understood as animal ratio-
nale. Against this background, Heidegger introduces the notion
of a “few forerunners.” There are only a few who understand
Dasein from out of and within its historicality, which implies
understanding Dasein in its provisional anticipation.
Understanding being as an event of enowning is only possi-
ble when Dasein is open to the moment of the passing-by of
the god. Every moment of the passing-by of the god is a
moment to see something new, a different possibility, one that
is other to the realized and actualized possibility of the first
beginning. Only a few can experience the moment of the last
god’s passing and see another beginning because, at the
moment of the passing of the last god, the highest motivation
of man is gone and burned out and shown to have been mor-
tal. Those who have this openness are the ‘ones to come’ or
the ‘future ones’ (die Zukünftigen): they are the stillest wit-
nesses to the stillness in which an inaudible gust moves the
truth towards its origin out of the confusion of all calculated
correctness. The ‘ones to come’ are those who understand the
hint of the coming of the last god.
75They are the ones who can
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180 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
bear and endure the passing-by of a god whose arrival is at the
same time a farewell. The arrival of the last god is seen in the
same event as the end of calculating and technical thinking.
As we have said, there are only a few who are able to expe-
rience the inessential character of the ontology of the present-
at-hand, and who are able in this experience to make way reservedly
and distantly for the passing-by of the last god. One is lonely
in the awareness of this problem, if one perceives the nearness
of the last god. From that moment on, one sees the gods as
mortal and as plural, which in turn implies the mortality of the
metaphysical project as aproject. But on the other hand, the
mortality of the metaphysical project opens up space for possi-
bilities that are beyond and before metaphysics. Being close to
a god is not a matter of fortune or misfortune; it depends on
the event of being. Those who question here are lonely and
without help.
76 They give up all curiosity and inquisitiveness:
their seeking loves the abyss, in which they know the deepest
ground. They have to bear this loneliness in the highest hour,
the hour in which one is open to another beginning.
77
The encounter with the last god is especially tuned to “restraint”
(Verhaltenheit).
78 Restraint stands midway between fear and
diffidence; in this mood Daseintunes itself to the stillness of
the passing of the last god.
79This concept of reservedness turns
up again in Heidegger’s later works as ‘letting-be’ (Gelas-
senheit). If man wants to be delivered from the desolation of
being and wants to exist historically, then this can only happen
in the hidden history of the stillness in which the reign of the
last god opens and gives shape to being. Therefore, stillness
must come over the world. This stillness originates in keeping
silent, and this keeping silent arises from reservedness.
80 This
again is connected with the refusal (Verweigerung).
81In the refusal,
one prefers to keep silent about the metaphysical idea of god.
The reservedness has to be discerned from wondering; won-
dering used to be the basic mood from which the Greeks
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started to philosophise. 82Wonder is the mood of the first begin-
ning of philosophy, not of the other beginning.
To understand Heidegger’s interpretation of those who have
the experience of a passing god and are in the mood of
reservedness, the notion of provisonality or temporarity is very
important.
83 In Zur Sache des Denkens,Heidegger emphazises
this once again. For thinking that is understood from being as
an event of enowning it is provisional (Vorläufig). It is a
preparing thinking, but in its deepest sense it is a fore-running.
This provisional character of the forerunning concerns the
finitude of thinking and that which must be thought. The more
adequate the step backwards, the more adequate the provi-
sional forerunning or anticipating thinking.
84 This provisional-
ity is also mentioned at the end of his Letter on Humanism:
“Thinking is on the descent to the poverty of its provisional
essence.”
85
Because of the dominance of the calculating culture there
are only a few of these ‘ones to come’; their guessing and
seeking is hardly recognizable, even to themselves. However,
this seeking bears a certainty that is touched by the shiest and
remotest hint of the last god.
86 Hölderlin is their poet who
comes from farthest away and is therefore the poet most futural
of the ones to come. And, coming from so far away, he tra-
verses and transforms that which is greatest.
87 So Hölderlin is
for Heidegger a true foregoer (Vorgänger). A foregoer creates
the space in which man can live by finding words and ways of
understanding that are different from the ‘realistic and actual’
paths of the current culture. But the foregoer is also someone
who reaches out to the future by guessing and seeking a human
destiny that is other than the continuing progress of a planned
history. Only those who stand outside the borders of the first
beginning are capable of experiencing both the monotony of
this history and at the same moment the possibility of an alternative
history. But this experience is only weak and provisional.
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182 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Because of this dual experience of the beyond of the first
beginning, the arrival of the last god exists also in the flight of
the gods and their hidden transformation.
88 Those who experi-
ence the monotony of Western history are trying to find the
way back (die Rückwegigen) out of the desolation of being. In
doing this, they prepare the ones to come, who have the expe-
rience of the last god. Without those who are on the way back,
there would not even be the dawning of the possibility of the
hinting of the last god. “Those who are on the way back are
the true forerunners (Vorläufer) of those who are to come.”
89
The connection of those on the way back and those to come
makes clear that the passing of the last god is only under-
standable after it has taken place. In the provisional forerun-
ning of the foregoers, what is anticipated is so weak and silent
that it can only be understood afterward. What is anticipated is
so indeterminate and far away that the last god cannot be objectified
or planned, but can only be experienced on the way back, and
only in such a way that the last god has passed-by. So the last
god can only be understood as a god who has come and gone.
The farthest anticipation (vorlaufen) can therefore only be
understood as already gone-by (vorlaüfig): what remains is a
trace or a hint.
A long period of preparation is needed for the great moment
of the passing of the last god, for this turn in the understand-
ing of being from the perspective of the other beginning. Once
we understand Hölderlin as the forerunner, Heidegger’s next
passage becomes understandable. “With the question of be-ing,
which has overcome the question of beings and thus all ‘meta-
physics,’ the torch is lit and the first attempt is made for the
long run. Where is the runner who takes up the torch and car-
ries it to the forerunner? All runners must be fore-runners; and
the later they come, the stronger fore-runners they must be —
no followers, who at most only ‘correct’ and refute what is
first-attempted. The fore-runners must be inceptual,more and
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more originarily inceptual than the ones who run ‘ahead’ (i.e.,
who run behind them) and must more simply, more richly,
and unconditionally and uniquely think the one and the same
of what is to be questioned. What they take over by taking
hold of the torch cannot be what is said as ‘doctrine’ and ‘sys-
tem’ and the like, but rather what obliges (das Gemüßte), as
that which opens itself only to those whose origin is in the
abground and who are one of the compelled.”
90 Those who are
forerunners feel obliged and compelled to seek and to guess
and to reach for the farthest future and with that for the deep-
est past to find another origin. So, therefore Heidegger writes
about the ‘last’ of the last god: “The last is that which not only
needs the longest fore-runnership but also itself is: not the
ceasing, but the deepest beginning, which reaches out the fur-
thest and catches up with itself with the greatest difficulty.”
91
The last god is the horizon that is farthest away, which sur-
rounds as the uttermost possibility which cannot be overtaken
and which must anticipated in provisionality, because as such
it cannot be outstripped.
92 This recalls the discussion of death
in Being and Time. Since death cannot be outstripped, its antic-
ipation must be provisional: “Being-toward-death is the antici-
pation of a potentiality-for-Being of that entity whose kind of
being is anticipation itself.”
93 So it is contradictory to the struc-
ture of ‘Vorlaufen’ as an essential characteristic of Dasein’s his-
toricality that it could be outstripped or objectified; it only can
be provisional (Vorlaüfig). For this experience of the historical-
ity of being, only the ones to come — the few — are called up.
Only the great and unrevealed individuals will provide the still-
ness for the passing of the god and, among themselves, for the
reticent accord of those who are prepared.
94
It is a matter of stepping backwards into the direction of the
other beginning. The first beginning has to be freed from its
unspoken understanding of being as eternal presence so as to see
itself as a possibility together with the possibility of another
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184 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
beginning. This is a task of those who are to come. They take
over and preserve belongingness to the event of enowning, and
they come to stand before the hints of the last god.
95
We have seen that the last god has a temporal meaning. 96
This temporality is not understood from the perspective of
Dasein as is developed in Being and Time,but here it is under-
stood from the perspective of being as an event of enowning,
which presupposes Heidegger’s explication of Dasein. To radi-
calise this notion of temporality, Heidegger calls upon the ser-
vices of a god who is characterized as passing-by. As an essentially
momentary and historical transition, the passing of the last god
is not an end, but offers the possibility of a beginning. This
god is only in the decisive moment of passing by, because
passing-by is the way of presence of this god. It is the fleet-
ingness of a hardly understandable hint that can show all hap-
piness and fear in the moment of going-by. This god has its
own measures. It is only (for) a moment, hardly touching the
dwellings of humans, and those do not really know what it is.
And they cannot know, as long as they are caught in that way
of knowledge according to which they understand things and
situations and themselves. Passing-by — and not presence, nor
arrival — is the being of the last god. This means that the last
god does not manifest himself, he is present only as a hint. The
innermost finitude of be-ing reveals itself in the hint of a last
god.
97
For Heidegger, the gods are an expression of human fini-
tude, just as death is. The gods are involved in the historical-
ity of humans: they do not appear after death, but through it.
‘Through death’ means that they appear not in the process of
deceasing, but by the fact that death inheres in Dasein.
98Anticipating
god is even more difficult than anticipating death. Just as death
is not to be outstripped, a god cannot be outstripped either.
The god who enters into its history of being — by passing-
by — is not the last god in a metaphysical sense, which would
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imply a transcendental foundation, but is god insofar as it is
pure withdrawal that cannot be outstripped. The finitude of
being is the true issue in the lastness of the god. This last god
is marked by death. It is not the death of Christ, because Christianity
is over, but death as the possibility that cannot be outstripped.
“Only man ‘has’ the distinction of standing before death,
because man inabides in be-ing: death is the utmost testimonial
for be-ing.”
99 Thus the last god is not a god that became
human. Rather, human beings receive their historical essence
in the passing-by of the god, which means in its not being
present.
100
Metaphysical theology understands the ‘last’ as the highest
by comparing the one with the other. Heidegger wants to free
the divine from this comparison by referring it to the experi-
ence of temporarinessty just as Daseinhas in the anticipating
(vorlaufen) of death.
101 The adjective ‘last’ in the word ‘the last
god’ has to keep open how to speak about the divine. What
Being and Timesays about the anticipation of death counts for
the ones to come: in this anticipating and forerunning every
orientation gets lost with regard to the given. The future ones,
or the ones to come, do not anticipate something real or pre-
sent, but ‘something’ possible that has yet to be decided.
The divine that has its essence in passing-by gives itself to
Daseinin a hint; that means in something that is to be inter-
preted, in which one is uncertain and provisional. The hint is
something that disappears in the distance in such a way that the
divine withdraws when it gives itself to man — suddenly and
briefly, as ungraspable and unavailable.
102 Those originally in a
relation to being determined by metaphysics will slowly under-
stand the other beginning, which does not appear in a personal
or in a massive experience of the godhead, but only in the
abyss of being. All worship and churches together are not able
to assist the essential preparation of the meeting of god and
man in the centre of being.
103 The last sentences of the Beiträge
Provisionality of a Passing Last God 185
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186 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
suggest that man is waiting for god, but only a few know that
god waits for the change in the foundation of the truth of being
and the corresponding change of man into Dasein. Philosophy
pretends to prepare the site of moment for the hint of the gods,
without wanting to decide about whether man and god will
historically answer each other. Only a few know that the god-
head is waiting for the foundation of the truth of being as an
event of enowning and thus await man’s leaping-into Dasein.
“Instead it seems as if man might have to and would await
god.”
104 However, Heidegger suggests that this is the most
insidious form of the most acute godlessness.
That the last god is totally other to the Christian God, pre-
supposing that this god is not explicable from the perspective
of entities, whether the entity be anthropological or ontological.
Understanding the divine from a perspective or framework in
which god is in the end the fulfilment of a maladjusted human
need for certainty goes against the possibility of experiencing
the last god. This leads, for example, to the philosophy of reli-
gion understanding religion from the perspective of a func-
tional social need.
105
Is it possible to see any theology here in this historizing of
the godhead? It only could be a hermeneutical theology with-
out reference or presupposition of ‘something’ eternal and unchange-
able. This would be a theology that is completely historical,
because its subject is historical: a passing god. It is therefore
not a question of whether these gods are pagan or Christian.
106
What is at issue is the historicity of being, which implies the
historicity of the gods. Therefore any talk of theology here is
not to be taken seriously. Heidegger would never call this ‘the-
ology,’ because all theology presupposes the theos,the god as
an entity; and it does this so certainly that everywhere where
theology arises, the god already flies.
107
In thinking from the perspective of the ontological differ-
ence, from the difference of being and entities, the last god is
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not an entity, not even the highest one. Nor is it being itself,
nor the truth of being in its being as an event of enowning. The
god that is thought within ontological difference is different
from being. Nevertheless, this god appears within being as an
event of enowning and within its truth. This could be called the
‘theological difference’ of god and the truth of being.
108 But it
is too simple to see in the other beginning a task for theol-
ogy.
109 That would turn the whole project of a provisional pass-
ing god into a theistic theology.
The true future points to an event that can never really
begin, because we always already are it.
11 0 It is not sufficient
to say in the era of nihilism that god is dead or that transcen-
dental values pass away; rather, one must learn to think a god’s
being, as well as its truth, as passing-by. Who or what is this
god? It is no longer the god of metaphysics or the theistic God
of Christianity.
Provisionality of a Passing Last God 187
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EIGHT
Subjectivism or Humanism
he “Letter on ‘Humanism’ ” (1947) plays a crucial role
with regard to Heidegger’s position toward the gods and
the holy. The Gesamtausgabeedition of the essay includes
a marginal comment by Heidegger which explains that the
“Letter on ‘Humanism’ ” was first conceived long before it was
written. It is based on a path of thinking whose course Heideg-
ger began in 1936, in the moment of an attempt to say the
truth of being in a simple manner.
1
In the “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” Heidegger asks how the
thinking of being makes possible the thinking of the divine. It
is important to follow this because it may be that in Heideg-
ger’s philosophy something like an ontotheological structure
appears. It is no accident that Heidegger rejects the reproach of
atheism with regard to his thinking: “With the existential deter-
mination of the essence of the human being, therefore, nothing
is decided about the ‘existence of God’ or his ‘non-being’ no
more than about the possibility or impossibility of gods.”
2Heidegger
rejects the charge of atheism because it is not a reproach in
which he recognizes himself. He does not speak out about the
existence of a god or godhead, but this is because he thinks
T
189
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190 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
about the possibility and framework within which something
like a god has to be thought. To stress this, Heidegger refers
expressly to an earlier footnote in “On the Essence of Ground.”
Philosophy as the analysis of Dasein and facticity does not
speak to the human relationship with god. “Through the ontological
interpretation of Dasein as being-in-the-world no decision, whether
positive or negative, is made concerning a possible being
toward God. It is, however, the case that through an illumina-
tion of transcendence we first achieve an adequate concept of
Dasein, with respect to which it can now be asked how the
relationship of Dasein to God is ontologically ordered.”
3This
is not a plea for a kind of indifference. He wants to keep the
question of Dasein’s relation to god undecided. It is important
not to make a decision, because the gods themselves are a
domain of decision.
Heidegger does not show himself to be an atheist or an
agnostic. He wants to avoid every prematurity with regard to
the divine. Before one decides about god or the gods, one has
to think of being. We do not know what we ask for as long as
we do not know what being is, and how the divine is related
to being. Does this imply that every thinking about and of
being is also a thinking of the divine? In what way does this
relationship have to be thought? If it has to be thought as
ontotheology, Heidegger will not see the divine in it.
Because being is normally understood as an objective thing,
this is all the more reason not to see the divine in it. The dom-
inant understanding of being is blamed for the fact that
in Western philosophy something like the divine cannot be thought.
God is understood as the highest being, the highest thing. The
highest and first thing in ontotheology is seen as the founda-
tion and explanation for all that is. In the chapter on the idea
of causa suiwe saw this kind of thinking in the overwhelm-
ingly technological approach to the world. The hypertrophy of
causal thinking rules the whole world.
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Heidegger sees the highest moment of nihilism in the total
dominance of technology. He finds a kinship between Nietzsche’s
philosophy, technology, and nihilism. Everything that exists is
taken up by a process of progress, in which it is understood as
material for production. And this production, understood as
progress, is a goal in itself.
Against this background the question arises to what extent a
relation to god can be thought in Heidegger’s thinking. Where
metaphysics as philosophical theology traditionally thinks the
philosophical relation to god, nowadays it has become a nihil-
ism, in which one cannot, according to Heidegger, be related
to a god. In the “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” he expressly speaks
out about this. A god cannot be thought in its own terms,
because thinking is not able to dispose of the ontotheological
framework; therefore it does not succeed in thinking the divine.
This situation recalls Nietzsche’s preaching that god is dead. In
particular, the cry “I seek God, I seek God” means for Heideg-
ger a possible relation to god. Heidegger comments on this
with the question: “Has a thinking man perhaps here really
cried out de profundis?”
4This does not imply that Heidegger
sees a possibility for a relation to a god, but that thinking
reaches its bottom when it has lost the metaphysical god. A
new way to a godhead has to be found from this bottom.
HOW TO THINK THE DIVINE
In the “Letter on ‘Humanism’ ” Heidegger describes some of
the steps required to reach that kind of thinking of the divine.
He resists the indifference that is attributed to him. For him it
is about indicating that the thinking of being, which thinks
from the perspective of the truth of being, thinks more origi-
nally than the ontotheology of metaphysics: “Only from the
truth of being can the essence of the holy be thought. Only
from the essence of the holy is the essence of divinity to be
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192 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
thought. Only in the light of the essence of divinity can it be
thought or said what the word ‘God’ is to signify.”
5Some
authors see this as a place to introduce the notion of “theolog-
ical difference” in Heidegger, because the truth as the openness
of being is not god itself, but the space in which the holy, the
divine, and god can appear or withdraw.
6God is not being, but
nevertheless there is a relation between the truth of being and
god, for instance in the insight that gods need being. There is,
however, no immediate relation and implication between being
and god, as is the case in ontotheology, where the truth of
being is related to the holy. So it is important to make clear
what the truth of being is.
7Therefore it is important to find a
trace of the holy in the truth of being.
How is the holy found in the truth of being? The truth of
being can be found in what appears, in the unveiled, as well as
in what withdraws: in the phenomenon that, in unveiling,
something withdraws. The being-there of appearing is the first
beginning of Western philosophy. From there, the philosophy
of presence spreads optimally in technology. The reference to
the holy has to be sought on the other side. Truth has a rela-
tion with concealment, and in this concealment, that is, in the
forgottenness, or l∂th∂, the holy has to be found. The holy is
that dimension of truth in which the phenomenon of the with-
drawal would appear. This is clarified in Heidegger’s essay on
Trakl, “Language in the Poem.” There Heidegger discusses
how Trakl’s poem brings to language the tension in twilight
between light and dark. In twilight, the dark appears: “Ghostly
the twilight dusk / Bluing above the mishewn forest.” The poet
talks about “Clarity sheltered in the dark” as blueness.
8The
interplay of light and dark in the blueness corresponds philo-
sophically to the interplay of lighting and concealment in the
event of truth, of al∂theiaand l∂th∂. The holy shines out of the
blueness, even while veiling itself in the dark of that blueness.
Blue is not an image indicating the sense of the holy. Blueness
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itself is the holy, in virtue of its gathering depth which shines
forth only as it veils itself.
The holy is not only that which appears, the unveiled. The
holy is, rather, in the dimension where the truth of being tends
to hide, where the lighting disappears in the dark, where light-
ing is experienced as lighting of the hidden, as unconcealed, as
a-l∂theia. The depth that shines in the concealed, which ap-
pears as concealment, opens the dimension of the holy. The
trace of the holy leads to the origin of the truth of being. This
origin has its twilight in the dimension of the holy; it is the
twilight of the sun that sets, which calls deeper into the setting,
calls deeper into the withdrawing.
9The holy gleams in the
dark. It calls back in the silence, completely different from
what appears, and the wondrous, which asks for an ever-more-
intense mastery. This withdrawing asks for a step backwards, it
asks for reservedness, that silently accepts what withdrawing
offers to understand.
This kind of appearing of the divine is the appearing of the
withdrawal within the truth of being in the sense of lightning.
The appearing of god happens thus within the truth of being
from the dimension of the godhead. With this, the theological
difference is guaranteed. Being and god are different. Heideg-
ger clearly says that the godhead as essencing (Wesendes)
receives its origin from the truth of being.
10 Therefore the god
needs being. This is emphasized again: “the admission by god
that it needs be-ing, an admission that does not relinquish
god or its greatness.”
11
What does the word “need” (brauchen) mean here? It does
not mean that something of the godhead’s greatness is given
away. It is not a lack or a shortage. It does not mean some-
thing absent or a negative. Therefore, Heidegger can write: “Proper
use (brauchen) is neither a mere utilizing, nor a mere needing.
What we merely need, we utilize from the necessity of a need.
Utilizing and needing always fall short of proper use. Proper
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194 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
use is nearly manifest, and in general is not the business of
mortals.”
12 With regard to the original meaning of the word
“brauchen” Heidegger writes, “So understood, use (brauchen)
itself is the summons which demands that a thing be admitted
to its own essence and nature, and that the use keep to it. To
use (brauchen) something is to let it enter into its essential
nature, to keep it safe in its essence.”
13 In the “Anaximander
Fragment,” the interpretation is as follows: Brauchenmeans “to
place in someone’s hands or hand over, thus to deliver, to let
something belong to someone. But such delivery is of a kind
which keeps this transfer in hand, and with it what is transferred.”
14
By this brauchenof being, the godhead gets its essence.
This kind of brauchendoes not need something but gives and
grants something. In this way god (as the essence of the god-
head) gets its origin from the event of the truth of being, that
is, from the lighting of being. Therefore, Heidegger can say
that god is waiting for human beings and for the foundation of
the truth of being, and not the opposite. “How few know that
god awaits the grounding of the truth of be-ing and thus awaits
man’s leaping-into Da-sein. Instead it seems as if man might
have to and would await god.”
15
So it is important to raise the question of god where it
belongs — in the dimension of the holy. Heidegger raises the
question of the holy especially with regard to and in dialogue
with Hölderlin. One needs a certain sense of the holy to raise
the question of god in an appropriate way. In the technological
era and world, human beings have lost their sense of the holy.
Therefore it remains fixed as a specific dimension for human
beings: “But this is the dimension of the holy, which indeed
remains closed as a dimension if the open region of being is
not cleared and in its clearing is near to humans. Perhaps what
is distinctive about this world-epoch consists in the closure of
the dimension of the hale (des Heilen). Perhaps that is the sole
malignancy (Unheil).”
16 As long as the ontotheological frame-
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work rules, the holy cannot reach into the nearness of human
beings. The god of ontotheology is in the end a very godless
god. For instance, a proof for the existence of god can be con-
structed by means of the most rigorous formal logic and yet
prove nothing, since a god who must permit his existence to be
proved in the first place is ultimately a very ungodly god. The
best that such proofs of existence can yield is blasphemy.
17
Precisely because technological thinking always implies a
highest god, Heidegger introduces a godless thinking. This is a
move that we also saw in the earlier Heidegger. He pleads for
thinking that gives up the ontotheological structure of philoso-
phy. Such a godless thinking is closer to the divine, according
to Heidegger. It is more free for god.
18
Heidegger wants to separate the certainty of faith and the
questions of philosophy. He rejects the certainty of faith when
this certainty is the result of philosophical reasoning. He does
not resist a god of faith; he resists a god that is a part of a nec-
essary conclusion of thinking. Consequently, he resists a meta-
physical approach within a theology that understands itself as
explication of faith. God as a necessary philosophical moment
has no message for the believer. “Man can neither pray nor
sacrifice to this god. Before the causa sui, man can neither fall
to his knees in awe nor can he play music and dance before
this god.”
19
THE LOSS OF THE GODS AND THEOLOGY
The feeling for the holy has disappeared because man is
unable to experience it. Ontotheology is a symptom of the
absence of the holy: every possibility of relating to the holy in
a thinking way seems to be absent. Human beings in this
period of time are condemned to seeing the holy and the divine
as meaningless. As Heidegger explains in his essay “What are
Poets For?” “The era is defined by the god’s failure to arrive,
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196 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
by the ‘default of God.’ But the default of god that Hölderlin
experienced does not deny that the Christian relationship with
god lives on in individuals and in churches; still less does it
assess this relationship negatively. The default of god means
that no god any longer gathers men and things unto himself,
visibly and unequivocally, and by such gathering disposes the
world’s history and man’s sojourn in it. The default of god
forebodes something even grimmer, however. Not only have
the gods and the god fled, but the divine radiance has become
extinguished in the world’s history. The time of the world’s
night is the destitute time, because it becomes ever more des-
titute. It has already grown so destitute, it can no longer dis-
cern the default of god as a default.”
20
Here it is clear that Heidegger, as a philosopher, does not
speak out about the faith of the believer. The disappearance of
the gods does not depend on believers but is a symptomatic
characteristic of the modern age. Heidegger describes this
clearly in his essay, “The Age of the World Picture,” when he
says that, “A fifth phenomenon of the modern age is the loss
of the gods (Entgötterung). This expression does not mean the
mere doing away with the gods, a gross a-theism. The loss of
the gods is a twofold process. On the one hand, the world pic-
ture is Christianized inasmuch as the cause of the world is
posited as infinite, unconditional, absolute. On the other hand,
Christendom transforms Christian doctrine into a worldview
(the Christian worldview), and in that way makes itself mod-
ern and up to date. The loss of the gods is the situation of
indecision regarding god and the gods. Christendom has the
greatest share in bringing it about. But the loss of the gods is
so far from excluding religiosity that rather only through that
loss is the relation to the gods changed into mere ‘religious
experience.’ When this occurs, then the gods have fled. The
resultant void is compensated for by means of historiographi-
cal and psychological investigation of myth.”
21
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When Heidegger enumerates the characteristics of modernity
in “The Age of the World Picture,” and sees the objectification
of being as predominate, he not only refers to the positive sci-
ences but also the humanities, including theology.
22 Another
feature of modernity that applies to theology is the idea that
something is only known and understood when it has been
given an anthropological explanation. Modern man finds his
certainty by liberation from the revelational certainty of salva-
tion. This applies to Bultmann, who thinks concepts like self-
understanding, care, and anxiety not from the perspective of being,
but from the perspective of the ‘I’ of the person.
23 Because
Bultmann mainly understood Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein as
an anthropological analysis of basic structures of the human being,
he could use this basic structure for his demythologising of
religion.
24When Bultmann speaks in his theology about the human
being, he understands the human being as it appears in Heidegger’s
analysis in Being and Time,which he knew from contacts and
conversations at Marburg.
25 He saw in Heidegger’s analysis
liberation from revelation, by understanding it as a human pro-
ject. But to this liberation from revelation Heidegger answers:
“Hence liberation from the revelational certainty of salvation
had to be intrinsically a freeing to a certainty (Gewissheit) in
which man makes secure for himself the true as the known of
his own knowing (Wissens). That was possible only through
self-liberating man’s guaranteeing for himself the certainty of
the knowable.”
26
Through this anthropological certainty two domains of ques-
tions arose in the center of theology.
27 First, the questions:
What really happened? What is historically fixable? What is
really true? And second, the questions: How is that which
really happened historically verifiable? And how can what can-
not happen historically be understandable and explainable?
What is the meaning of the historical and the unhistorical for
faith?
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198 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
The first domain is supported by historical-critical method-
ology/research. There human beings try to ascertain objectively
the truth and reality of past history through source criticism,
criticism of sources and questions; consequently, this applies
also for the questions that are posed in the sources. This sec-
ond domain of questions is therefore decisive. Man as subject
has a certain projection of reality which applies for both sci-
ence and history. What does not fit into the projection, is there-
fore unreal or is at best an exception. But whoever thinks
historico-critically does not permit the facts that are exceptions.
The Leben-Jesu-Forschung,for example, has as its basis the
anthropological project of reality. In an effort to avoid dog-
matic thinking, it describes several images of Jesus; however,
it stems from the idea that reality has to have a human mea-
sure. In the rational explanation, in the cult mystery, in the
teacher of ethical attitudes, in the preacher of the eschaton,in
every case the inquiring man, as a human subject, looks for
truth and ascertains truth by giving an account of himself in
what can be seen.
The second domain of questions is also anthropologically
motivated. To assert that everything is a lie and a fantasy, and
that nothing has really happened, still remains within a para-
digm in which human reality is most indicative of truth. The
historical is unimportant; only the meaning of the message
matters for the believer. A rupture between the historically pos-
sible and real and the historically impossible and unreal gener-
ally arises from the modern concept of reality. Against this
background it is possible to gather what is important for faith
by reduction to the historic, and to point out the historically impos-
sible as something meaningless for faith. Or one does the
opposite: the unhistoric and unreal is interpreted as important
for faith. Idealistic, psychological and existential interpretations
are three names for the same process in which the historic-
ally impossible has been made important for anthropological
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thinking. The historical Jesus is here in one line with the idea
of demythologizing. Only what fits within contemporary man’s
concept of reality is acceptable and real in the interpretation of
the historically impossible. Therefore, the current philosophy of
that moment has to help and to support the interpretation.
28
Moreover, it is especially striking that theologians understand
hermeneutics as a process of actualization of the message to
the current understanding of reality.
This anthropological orientation in theology is, in Heideg-
ger’s view, a symptom of the absence of the gods. But in its
turn, the absence of the gods reflects a moment of undecided-
ness with respect to them. As we have mentioned before, the
situation of undecidedness is what Heidegger indicates as the
absence of the gods: “The loss of the gods is the situation of
indecision regarding God and the gods.”
29 This statement
requires special attention, along with the statement in the Con-
tributions that the gods are a domain of decision. As a philoso-
pher, Heidegger indicates this problem of the absence or arrival
of the gods without taking a position. He does not want to
decide; for him, the gods are present as philosophical items,
and never as something or someone to worship. Heidegger’s
philosophy remains parasitic with regard to this ‘degodization’
and the situation of undecision that is given with it. It is the
undecidedness of a neutral philosophical subject. If he had to
worship a god, he is afraid that he would have to close the
workplace, because gods would then have an identity.
The phenomenon of ‘degodization,’ according to Heidegger
has nothing to do with the relation between belief and unbelief.
Christendom is encompassed by and stimulates the process of
degodization. It is a process by which the current forms of
belief are also encompassed. The degodization is not an athe-
ism; it is not the same as the disappearance of Chistianity out
of Western culture. It is connected with the centralization of
feeling as subjective religious feeling. Further on, I will pay
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200 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
attention to this phenomenon, in which Christendom plays an
important role.
The process of degodization has two important characteris-
tics. At first degodization is characterized by a Christian-
izing of the world picture where the metaphysical systems of
modernity understand the ultimate ground of reality from the
perspective of God and the Bible. The ultimate cause is under-
stood as the infinite, the unconditional, and the absolute. This
happens in Descartes, Kant, and Hegel. Degodization is sup-
ported by the ontotheological structure of metaphysics. This is
what Heidegger calls nihilism. Being is understood as value,
and in ontotheology, as the highest value. “When one pro-
claims ‘God’ the altogether ‘highest value’ this is a degradation
of God’s essence.”
30 The god of the philosophers is, as the
highest value, connected with the God of Christianity. But with
this the godhead is downgraded at the same time. Philosophy
thinks god only because of the specific structure of Western
ontotheology. God enters into philosophy because philosophy
as ontotheology thinks a necessary, highest entity. Especially inso-
far as Chrsistendom connects itself with this ontotheology, the
Christianizing of the world implies a degodization and gives
support to and promotes this degodization.
Initially Christian theology adopted a lot of elements from
Greek philosophy. However, god does not appear in philosophy
because of theology or Christianity. Because of the specific
structure of metaphysics as ontotheology, Greek philosophy
could be used within the framework of a Christian theology.
Therefore, degodization has its origin in metaphysics.
The second characteristic of the Christianizing of the world
is that Christendom itself becomes secularized. Christianity
wants to be current. Degodization implies that Christendom
becomes a worldview. Faith gives its life in order to be well
adapted to the spirit of the new time. As we have seen before,
Heidegger marks the difference between Christendom and
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Christianity. Christendom and Christianness are not the same.
Christianness is located in the original faith of the New
Testament. Christendom is the historic and political appearance
of the Christian church. This church has social power and a
great influence on the education of Western man; therefore it
also has significant cultural influence. Christendom refers, ac-
cording to Heidegger, to the socio-cultural and political incor-
poration of Christian faith. Christianness refers to the original
Christian experience. It alludes to the time of the early Chris-
tians, the time in which the gospels were not yet redacted and
in which Paul did his missionary work.
As we have seen, Heidegger presents pure Christianness as
an attitude that lives on the faithful expectation of the coming
of Christ. It is a way of living that is directed towards an open
future, and does not count on a guaranteed reality to come. The
god that is involved here is not one that lives in another world
or is a highest entity. Heidegger also does not understand what
is believed in faith to be a project of Dasein. It is a message
that is revealed, and whose content man does not determine. It
is a move that cannot be made by philosophy, but that has to
find its possibility in Dasein. The attitude of faith can find its
justification only in faith. It is not something that can be made
or projected by man.
This is completely different from a metaphysics in which
god is calcified into a highest entity. Faith is dragged along by
metaphysics to become a worldview that functions as an expla-
nation for the world. This worldview offers a guideline to
understand man’s place in the world. It is also used as ideol-
ogy to bring political control. The original Christianness is no
longer recognizable here. This means that a relativization of
Christendom does not imply a rejection of Christianness. Here
Heidegger recognizes his position in Nietzsche: “Christendom
for Nietzsche is the historical, world-political phenomenon of
the Church and its claim to power within the shaping of
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202 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Western humanity and its modern culture. Christendom in this
sense and the Christianity of New Testament faith are not the
same. Even a non-Christian Life can affirm Christendom and
use it as means of power, just as, conversely, a Christian life
does not necessarily require Christendom. Therefore, a con-
frontation with Christendom is absolutely not in any way an
attack against what is Christian, any more than a critique of
theology is necessarily a critique of faith, whose interpretation
theology is said to be. We move in the flatlands of the conflicts
between world views so long as we disregard these essential
distinctions.”
31 Because Christianity becomes a worldview, it
receives an ontotheological structure and functions as a prin-
ciple of explanation for reality. That is the place of the
degodization implied by metaphysics, which ends in technol-
ogy as nihilism.
The fact that thinking becomes something proper to the
human subject also plays an important role. In this process of
subjectification, degodization introduces another phenomenon:
namely, religious feeling. Metaphysics in modernity goes along
with religious experience. The relation to the divine becomes a
subjective-affective mood in man. Religion loses the framework
in which the religious can be thought as an objective reality.
As the objective system of metaphysics disappears in the sub-
jectification of the modern age, so too does the relation to the
divine become a purely subjective matter. God is no longer
seen as something that is present in reality. Reality itself loses
its sacral dimension. The last place for the divine is the sub-
jectivity of the believer. The domain of the divine is indicated
as feeling, personal experience, individual conviction, and exis-
tential pathos.
32
Therefore, the gods are fled once religion has become reli-
gious feeling. Because religion withdraws in subjectivity, it is
withdrawn from the world. Even though the religion of subjectivity
protests against the degodization of the world, degodization is
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actually a symptom of the very religion that protests against it.
The logic of subjectivity rules in both degodization and mod-
ern metaphysics. Christendom itself stimulated the subjectification
of metaphysics. “The fact that the transformation of reality to
the self-certainty of the ego cogito is determined directly by
Christianity, and the fact that the narrowing of the concept of
existence is indirectly determined by Christian factors only
proves how Christian faith adopted the fundamental trait of
metaphysics and brought metaphysics to Western dominance in
this form.”
33 Thus Heidegger identifies Kierkegaard and Hegel
within the same perspective.
34 Kierkegaard is called a religious
writer who corresponds to the destiny of his era. He writes dur-
ing the same time in which Hegel’s metaphysics and Marx’s
system rule. It is the era in which we still are: the era in which
subjectivity rules in Western thinking. Although Kierkegaard
as a religious writer and Hegel as a thinker are deeply differ-
ent from each other, both belong to the same paradigm of
Western philosophy: in one giving rise to a religious subjectiv-
ity and in the other a rational subjectivity. Both are located in
the degodization of the world. Even though the subjective feel-
ing resists the increasing degodization, in the end it is a symp-
tom of it.
So the process of degodization appears in two forms. It ap-
pears in the figure of rational subjectivity by way of Descartes,
Kant and Hegel. And we find the figure of passionate subjec-
tivity in the line that includes Pascal, Jacobi, and Kierkegaard.
The essence of modern religion and modern metaphysics are
connected. Both lines express a deeper process: degodization,
which is the result of the ontotheological structure of meta-
physics, and the modern thinking of subjectivity that is con-
nected with it.
The disappearance of the divine from the world has as a
consequence the commencement of historical and psychological
research of myth and religious phenomena. By the sociological
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204 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
and historical study of religion, one can indicate in what way
religion still exists, but this is nevertheless a symptom of degodiza-
tion. The modern scientific analysis of religious representation,
both individual and collective, is also connected to the culture
of subjectivity, because the question of being of the gods is no
longer raised. The scientific and the philosophical approaches
to religion are highly reductionistic.
35 Mostly the religious is
understood from the perspective of nonreligious phenomena
using words like projection, ideology. However, the scientific
approach to religion is not, according to Heidegger, the cause
of degodization. The emptiness in which degodization arises
creates space for the reductionistic approach. The relation with
the divine is replaced by a scientific explanation of the history
of religion. This becomes obvious in biblical research and the
psychological and sociological research of what historically is
understood as mythical. As myth, religion is neutralized and
degodded. Such an approach is only possible when the gods
are fled. This flight, however, has its grounds in what is called
the essence of metaphysics.
This also offers some insight into what Heidegger means in
his essay “The Age of the World Picture,” when he says that
“The loss of the gods is the situation of indecision regarding
God and the gods.”
36 The time of degodization is a time in
which thinking cannot understand the divine and the relation to
the divine as mortal. There is no dedication to a question; ded-
ication, devotion, and deepening are left behind, for everything
has become an objectifiable and calculable value. Because man
has to give meaning to everything, devotion and dedication become
an impossibility.
Heidegger wants to conquer this indecisive subjectivism by
not making man responsible for it. It is not man that fails. If
this were the case, then it would be caused by man, and would
imply a continuation of the subjectivism. Indecisiveness is
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something that happens to man. It is connected with the
essence of metaphysics, understood here not in the sense of
essential, but in the sense of being about and wandering. This
wandering and the destiny of metaphysics are wanted or caused
by human thinking. Nobody decided about the meaning of the
word ‘subject’ in modernity. Nevertheless, it happens in human
thinking. It originates from the historicality of being; it is a dis-
position of being: “Whether the god lives or remains dead is
not decided by the religiosity of men and even less by the the-
ological aspirations of philosophy and natural science. Whether
or not God is God comes disclosingly to pass from out of and
within the constellation of Being.”
37
Against this background Heidegger can say that it is too
early to speak about the divine. We have to prepare a non-
metaphysical speaking of the god. For this it is necessary that
the thinker learn to open his mind for the word of the poet.
This word is, according to Heidegger, that of Hölderlin, the
pre-eminent poet. The poets can prepare us for a new openness
for the holy, the place within which the divine can be spoken
about and make possible a speaking of a nonmetaphysical god
outside ontotheology. To make this possible, man has to learn
to stay in the nearness of being: “In such nearness, if at all, a
decision may be made as to whether and how God and the
gods withhold their presence and the night remains, whether
and how the day of the holy dawns, whether and how in the
upsurgence of the holy an epiphany of God and the gods can
begin anew. But the holy, which alone is the essential sphere
of divinity, which in turn alone affords a dimension for the
gods and for God, comes to radiate only when being itself
beforehand and after extensive preparation has been cleared
and is experienced in its truth.”
38 This passage clearly indicates
that Heidegger’s thinking of being has an openness for the
holy, the divine, and the godhead.
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206 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
IN THE NEARNESS OF BEING
Only from the nearness to being may an openness for the
holy be accessible. Heidegger defines being as the nearest and
the human being as the neighbor of being. The relation of
being to human beings is the truth of being, as the nearness
itself.
39 In the metaphysical approach, human beings are under-
stood as created, as finite in relation to the absolute. We have
seen this already in the Beiträge,where human beings have to
become Dasein to be able to have a historical relation to the
gods. The translation of the Greek z∂ion logon echondefines
human being as a combination of animality and rationality for
the rest of Western history.
40 This animal rationale is deter-
mined as subject and it actualizes the presentation of the real-
ity that is understood as object. Moreover, man as rational,
presenting subject is understood as willing. This determination
also unifies the Platonic metaphysical determination and the
theological. The philosophical determines the human being as
presenting subject, while the theological doctrine of man deter-
mines the human being as person.
The anthropomorphic approach is also dominant nowadays in
the interpretation of the ancient Greek world: “The ‘anthropo-
morphic’ conception of the Greek gods and the ‘theomorphic’
conception of Greek men, who have neither humanized nor
anthropomorphized god nor divinized themselves into gods, are
equally groundless answers to deficient questions. To ask
whether the Greeks anthropomorphized the ‘divine persons’ or
divinized human personalities into divine persons is to inquire
into the ‘person’ and ‘personalities’ — without having deter-
mined in advance, even provisionally, the essence of man and
of the divinities as experienced by the Greeks and without
giving a thought to what is in fact first, namely that for the
Greeks no more than there are ‘subjects’ are there ‘persons’
and ‘personalities.’ ”
41
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The fundamental essence of the Greek divinities, in distinc-
tion from the Christian God, consists in their origination out of
the presence of present being. This essential characteristic is
the reason the Greek gods, just like men, are powerless before
destiny and against it. By contrast, in Christian thought, all
destiny is the work of the divine providence of the Creator and
Redeemer, who as creator also dominates and calculates all
beings as the created. And so Leibniz can still say: cum Deus
calculat, fit mundus.
42
Human beings in the era of the forgottenness of being speak
of the worth and dignity of man, but they always understand
their humanity at an anthropocentric and ontic level. Man is
therefore alienated from his ontological essence, which leads to
an understanding of the human being as subject and king of
entities, not as the shepherd and neighbor of being which is
authentic humanism. As a consequence of the forgottenness of
being and the alienation of the human essence that is connected
with it, human beings roam about in an endless nothing,
finding no place for their dwelling. The roaming about is attrib-
uted to the forgottenness of being; Nietzsche attributes it to the
death of god. People need gods to be able to dwell, but the
ontotheological god is burnt out and is not able to give human
beings a place on earth. Human beings have to find a place to
dwell after ontotheology in the nearness of being. “The home-
land of this historical dwelling is nearness to being. In such
nearness, if at all, a decision may be made as to whether and
how God and the gods withhold their presence and the night
remains, whether and how the day of the holy dawns, whether
and how in the upsurgence of the holy an epiphany of God
and the gods can begin anew. But the holy, which alone is
the essential sphere of divinity, which in turn alone affords a
dimension for the gods and for God, comes to radiate only
when being itself beforehand and after extensive preparation
has been cleared and is experienced in its truth. Only thus does
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208 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
the overcoming of homelessness begin from being, a homelessness
in which not only human beings but the essence of the human
being stumbles aimlessly about.”
43
The order that is presented here would be: being (nearness),
the holy, godhead, gods or god. The dimension of the holy will
remain closed as long as being does not lighten and draw near
to human being in this lightening. Perhaps the particularity of
our current time is that the whole (Heile) is cut off; perhaps
this is the only threat. The question of the holy together with
the arrival or the flight of the gods is secondary with regard to
the question of being. The trace of the holy is tied to this near-
ness of being as the time-space play in which the holy can
appear. If this nearness remains closed then the holy cannot appear,
then there is no place for the godhead, and then god and gods
cannot be experienced, not even as distant or fled gods.
The forgottenness of being is not a forgetfulness of human
being, but arises from the given that being itself withdraws.
This is especially the experience of Hölderlin. In the poem
“Bread and Wine” Hölderling calls his time a “destitute time”
(dürftige Zeit), which is defined by the gods’ failure to arrive,
by the default of god. This is, however, connected with Hölderlin’s
experience of the holy. Hölderlin does not understand the night
as opposite to the day, but as the place in which the gods stay
away and withdraw. On the other hand the night is also the
time-space in which the godlike withdraws, and from which
a new day of the holy, a new arrival of the gods or of the
god, can be handed. Therefore the night is called the mother of
the day.
44 The default of god and the divinities is absence.
But absence is not nothing; rather it is precisely the presence,
which first must be appropriated, of the hidden fullness and
wealth of what has been.
45 This turns the night into a holy
night. Heidegger situates the night as a place of decision: the
absence is the ‘no more’ of the fled gods and the ‘not yet’ of
the arriving gods.
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The default of god means: “that no God any longer gathers
men and things unto himself, visibly and unequivocally, and by
such gathering disposes the world’s history and man’s sojourn
in it.”
46This is precisely what the god of ontotheology did. The
default of god also means in a more radical sense that the
divine radiance in the world’s history has been extinguished.
With this a place for the presence of a god is closed. The
world becomes groundless: it hangs in the abyss.
47 However,
“The turning of the age does not take place by some new god,
or the old one renewed, bursting into the world from ambush
at some time or other. Where would he turn on his return if
men had not first prepared an abode for him? How could there
ever be for the god an abode fit for a god, if a divine radiance
did not first begin to shine in everything that is?”
48 The god
only has an abode when there is a divine radiance in which he
can dwell.
That the holy does not manifest the divine, may become evi-
dent wherever the holy appears but the divine stays away, as
Heidegger writes in his interpretation of “Homecoming”
(Heimkunft).
49 The holy is not an attribute of the divine; it is
the dimension in which the godlike can appear. Not only the
trace of the divine but also the trace of the holy has become
unrecognizable.
50 The expression ‘the trace of the holy’ is
ambiguous by virtue of the genitive that is used. It is the trace
that brings us to the holy, in the sense of a trace into the holy,
and at the same time it is a trace that is owned by the holy, in
the sense of a remnant or a radiance of the holy. Those rem-
nants or radiances lead to the holy. This means that the expe-
rience of the divine becomes more difficult when the trace of
the holy becomes more unclear.
It was not unclear in the Greek experience. Man as Greek
Dasein, and only he, was in his essence and according to the
essence of al∂theiathe god-sayer. This can only be under-
stood insofar as the essence of al∂theiaprevails in advance
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210 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
throughout the essence of Being itself, throughout the essence
of divinity and the essence of humanity, and throughout the
essence of the relation of Being to man and of man to beings.
If the originary divinity emerges from the essence of Being,
should not the oblivion of Being be the ground for the fact that
the origin of the truth of Being has withdrawn itself into con-
cealedness ever since, and no god could then appear emerging
out of Being itself? Atheism — correctly understood as the absence
of the gods — has been, since the decline of the Greek world,
the oblivion of Being that has overpowered the history of the
West as its basic feature. “Atheism,” understood in the sense of
essential history, is by no means (as people like to think) a
product of freethinkers gone berserk or the proud posturing of
philosophers. “Atheists of such a kind are themselves already
the last dregs of the absence of the gods.”
51
As long as the night of the world lasts, the intact and
unharmed whole of being remains in darkness. “The whole-
some and sound withdraws. The world becomes without
healing, unholy. Not only does the holy, as the track to the
godhead, thereby remain concealed; even to track to the holy,
the hale and whole, seems to be effaced. That is, unless there
are still some mortals capable of seeing the threat of the
unhale, the unholy, as such.”
52 The hale of the holy remains
unmarked; that is the biggest threat for human being. Only
when the danger is recognized as danger can the saving arrive,
as reflected in Hölderlin’s hymn, “Mnemosyne.” It is impor-
tant to experience in the forgottenness of being the disaster and
the godlessness as such, the danger as danger, and the threaten-
ing doom. This experience leads us to the trace of the near-
ness of being and lays a trace to the trace of the whole of the
holy. Heidegger expresses this at the end of “What are Poets
For?”: “The unholy, as unholy, traces the sound for us. What
is sound beckons to the holy, calling it. The holy binds the
divine. The divine draws the god near.”
53 Being a poet in this
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destitute time means being on the way to the trace of the fugi-
tive gods.
The gods disappear because being withdraws, nor can they
arrive on their own. As the hymn “Mnemosyne” says, the heav-
enly are not capable of everything. For this it is necessary that
human beings prepare a place for the gods. The divine and the
mortals depend on each other; they need each other to arrive
at their essence. This is only possible when human beings and
gods enter into a pact with each other and celebrate the wed-
ding about which Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Rhine” speaks. This
wedding, as a pact of human beings and gods, has its ground
in the holy. In the wedding the holy brings gods and human
beings to their essence and settles them into what is convenient
to them, that is, in what they properly are in their together-
ness.
54 The wedding festival is not something in history among
other events, but is itself the ground and essence of history. It
is the historic event of the holy. In the wedding festival of
human beings and gods, Hölderlin founds a new beginning of
a new history.
55
HUMANISM IN THE NEARNESS IN THE FOURFOLD
The subjectivistic interpretation of humanity is most radi-
cally rejected in Heidegger’s notion of the fourfold (Geviert).
This idea intensifies the notion of the nearness of being; an
idea that apparently goes back to Hölderlin.
56The fourfold indi-
cates the unity of earth and sky, divinities and mortals. The
earth is the building bearer, nourishing with its fruits, tending
water and rock, plant and animal. The sky is marked by the
sun path, the course of the moon, the glitter of the stars,
the seasons of the year and the light and dusk of the day. The
divinities are the beckoning messengers of the godhead. Out of
the hidden sway of the divinities, the god emerges as what he
is, which removes him from any comparison with beings that
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212 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
are present. The mortals are the human beings. But human
beings are not mortal because of the finitude of life; they are
mortals because they can die. To die means to be capable of
death as death.
57 And this means to experience death as the
shrine of Nothing. As the shrine of Nothing, death harbors
within itself the presencing of Being. But this is something of
which man as causa suiis not capable. Therefore, Heidegger
writes at the end of his address, “The Principle of Reason”: “It
depends on us, so it is said. But not on whether we live from
atoms, rather whether we can be the mortals that we are,
namely, those to whom being appeals. Only such beings are
capable of dying, that means, to take on death as death.”
58
The four are so deeply connected that each automatically
indicates the other three. All four are dependent on each other;
there is no sky without earth, no divinities without mortals, etc.
An intervention into one of them always has consequences for
the other three: they are related as a mirror-play.
59 In the four-
fold, things are at their place; the thing gathers itself as thing.
Then human beings dwell in the nearness of being. Heidegger
expresses this with words like nearness, dwelling, and neigh-
bor. This is the reason why Heidegger can say that the human
being dwells poetically.
Against this background, Heidegger uses words like home-
lessness (Heimatlosigkeit) and home (Heimat) in his “Letter on
‘Humanism.’ ” He connects this with the poetical experience of
Hölderlin, understood from the perspective of the historicality
of being. The experience of the distance of being becomes an
experience of nearness insofar as this distance is expressed in
Hölderlin’s poetry.
Almost at the same time in which Heidegger writes the
“Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” he writes his essay “What are Poets
For? (1946). There he writes that the time remains destitute not
only because god is dead, but because mortals are hardly aware
and capable even of their own nature. Death withdraws into the
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enigmatic. The mystery of pain remains veiled. Love has not
been learned. But the mortals are. They are, in that there is lan-
guage. Song still lingers over their destitute land. The singer’s
word still keeps to the trace of the holy.
60
Heidegger will always resist a kind of thinking in which
human beings become the measure of things. He rejects every
anthropocentrism and subjectivism. This also has consequences
for the understanding of religion. In Heidegger’s approach, reli-
gion has to be understood from the perspective of the histori-
cality of being and not from the perspective of a human
anthropocentrism or subjective anthropology.
61Heidegger stresses
the difference of these approaches, presenting his approach
from the perspective of the historicality of being as opposite to
the modern approach from the perspective of the human sub-
ject.
62 The question arises what the difference is between a
religion that is understood from the perspective of the histori-
cality of being as opposed to Aristotelian-scholastic-Hegelian
metaphysics. Are not both evidence of unbelief with regard to
belief? Is this not an effort to give faith a support and a crutch?
Is faith not in Heidegger’s own understanding an act of god?
Why use concepts like “understanding of being,” “history of
being,” and “ontological difference”? One might object that
there is no doctrine of being in the Bible. Whoever sees an
ontology in the Old Testament words “I am who I am” does
not know what he is doing. Is not this use of philosophy a
way of little faith? Heidegger believes that modern theology is
looking to make Christianity contemporary, but what about
Kierkegaard?
From the perspective of man in the nearness of the fourfold,
Heidegger prefers to keep silent with regard to theology inso-
far as it is dominated by a subjectivistic anthropology: “Some-
one who has experienced theology in his own roots, both the
theology of the Christian faith and that of philosophy, would
today rather remain silent about god when he is speaking in the
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214 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
realm of thinking.” 63 With these words, Heidegger points out
that keeping silent is not always due to a lack of knowledge.
He dissociates himself from ontotheology and its fusion with
Christian theology. Whether there is a place here for negative
theology is very doubtful, because negative theology remains para-
digmatically connected with ontotheology. It is premature to
look for a kinship between Heidegger and negative theology.
64
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NINE
A Phenomenology of the
Holy
aving examined the tension between humanism and sub-
jectivism, it is clear that the notion of the holy plays an
important role in Heidegger’s view of the divine. Nevertheless,
it seems that there is no direct connection between naming
the holy and thinking of being. In the Postscript to “What is
Metaphysics?” Heidegger writes that thinking, obedient to the
voice of being, seeks from being the word through which the
truth of being comes to language. “The saying of the thinker
comes from a long-protected speechlessness and from the care-
ful clarifying of the realm thus cleared. Of like provenance is
the naming of the poet. Yet because that which is like is so
only as difference allows, and because poetizing and thinking
are most purely alike in their care of the word, they are at the
same time farthest separated in their essence. The thinker says
being. The poet names the holy.”
1This kinship and difference
make further examination of the relation between being and the
holy more urgent.
H
215
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216 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
It is important to notice that references to the holy only
begin to appear in Heidegger’s work in 1934.
2In particular, the
holy appears in conjunction with the words of the poet who
names god: Hölderlin.
3In the later Heidegger, the most impor-
tant texts that mention the holy are found in the Elucidations,
especially in the essay, “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry.”
4
Heidegger finds that Hölderlin’s poetry articulates the es-
sence of poetry itself. “Hölderlin is for us in a preeminent
sense the poet’s poet. And for that reason he forces a decision
upon us.”
5When we read further, we see what Heidegger
means by the essence of poetry: “Human existence is poetic in
its ground. But we now understand poetry as a founding — through
the naming of gods and of the essence of things. ‘To dwell
poetically’ means to stand in the presence of the gods and to
be struck by the essential nearness of things. Existence is
‘poetic’ in its ground — which means, at the same time, as founded
(grounded), it is not something earned, but is rather a gift.”
6
Hölderlin’s expression of the essence of poetry is not as a time-
lessly valid concept. This essence of poetry belongs to a
definite time, and yet it does not merely conform to that time
as something already existing. Rather, by providing anew the
essence of poetry, Hölderlin determines a new time. It is the
time of the gods who have fled and of the god who is coming.
It is the time of need because it stands in a double lack and a
double not: in the no-longer of the gods who have fled and in
the not-yet of the god who is coming.
7This is the importance
of Hölderlin for Heidegger.
But what is the meaning of the holy according to Heideg-
ger’s interpretation? And what is the relation between the holy
and being? This last question is important because the thinker
is focused on being. In Heidegger’s interpretation of Hölder-
lin’s “As When On a Holiday . . .” we read that Hölderlin con-
nects the notions of nature and the holy. “The poetic naming
says what the called itself, from its essence, compels the poet
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to say.” 8Why should the holy be the word of the poet? Be-
cause the poet has to name all that to which he listens as a div-
ination. What he listens to is nature, which in awakening
unveils its own essence as the holy.
9
Heidegger understands nature as earlier than the era we live
in. It is older than the ages (Zeiten), it is more original than
time, and yet it is not supertemporal in the metaphysical
sense.
10 Nature is more primordial, earlier, and more temporal
than the time with which man reckons and calculates because
it clears and opens everything that can appear in it. It is not
the eternity of Christian metaphysics. It is above the gods, not
in the sense of an isolated domain of reality, but because in
nature as lightening all things can be present. Hölderlin names
this nature the ‘holy’ because it is older than time and higher
than the gods. “Thus ‘holiness’ is in no way a property bor-
rowed from a determinate god. The holy is not holy because it
is divine; rather the divine is divine because in its way it is
holy. . . The holy is the essence of nature.”
11 The gods are not
on a higher level than the holy.
12 Even god and the gods are
subjected to the law of the holy. A god is not the legislator or
the cause of all order; the holy is the law. This makes it clear
that it is not about a metaphysical god because here the holy
is not a property of god; it is rather the opposite. In its awak-
ening, nature awakes as the holy, and there is no reality that is
earlier than the openness of nature.
The holy (Heilige) is what is always earlier. It is the pri-
mordial, and it remains in itself unbroken and “whole” (heil).
This originary “wholeness” gives a gift to everything that is
real by virtue of its pervasiveness: it confers the grace of its
own abiding presence. But the primordial wholeness, which
thus grants holiness, still enshrouds all fullness in itself as the
immediate. It holds in itself the fabric of the essence of all —
thus it is unapproachable by any individual, be it god or man.
“The holy, as the unapproachable, renders every immediate
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218 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
intrusion of the mediated in vain. The holy confronts all expe-
rience with something to which it is unaccustomed, and so deprives
it of its ground.”
13 One cannot approach the holy by the medi-
ate and the familiar. It deranges or displaces one from any
ground. “Deranging in this way, the holy is the awesome itself.
But its awesomeness remains concealed in the mildness of its
light embrace. Because this light embrace educates the future
poets, they as the initiated ones, know the holy. Their knowl-
edge is divination. Divining concerns what is coming and what
is rising, that is, the dawn.”
14 But is knowledge of the holy not
lost as nature is forgotten and misunderstood? For man subjects
the earth and nature to his will, and with this pervasive nature
is placed in bondage. And yet, Heidegger replies, nature has
allowed this: she left it to men to misconstrue the holy.
15
The holy expressed by the poet concerns what is coming,
which is expressed with the words, “But now day breaks.” The
holy itself comes. Hölderlin’s poem says: “But now day breaks!
I awaited and saw it come, And what I saw, may the holy be
my word.”
16
However, the poet does not have the power to name the holy
immediately, for this the poet needs something that is higher
than what is nearer to the holy, and is nevertheless different
from it: a god must throw the kindling lightning-flash into the
poet’s soul. Since neither men nor gods by themselves can ever
achieve an immediate relation to the holy, men need the gods
and the heavenly ones need mortals.
17 They cannot exist with-
out each other. In spite of the fact that the gods are not the
holy, they are needed for man in order to name it.
This lightning flash is not the result of the poet’s creativity
or power. It strikes the poet suddenly. “So ‘struck,’ he would
be tempted to follow only the good fortune and to lose himself
in the sole possession of the god. But that would be misfor-
tune, because it would signify the loss of his poetic being; for
the essential condition of the poet is grounded not in the recep-
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tion of the god, but in the embrace of the holy.” 18 The holy
encompasses the poet. When the holy ray strikes him, he is not
carried away into the blaze of the ray but is fully turned toward
the holy. The poet quakes and is shocked by the opening up
of the holy that takes place. What happens in the opening up
of the holy? “The shaking breaks the peace of silence. The
word comes to be.”
19 This is what happens in the hymn. Here
the togetherness of god and man appears. Mediated by god and
men, the song bears witness to the holy. In the hymn the holy
becomes word, and appears.
When does this coming happen? The appearing of the holy
is not the empty continuation of current affairs. It is the coming
of the beginning. As coming, the primordiality of the beginning
is the abiding before which nothing else can be thought.
20 It is
important to hear what is said at the end of the poem: “But
now day breaks! I awaited and saw it come, And what I saw,
may the holy be my word.”
21 This “now” is not 1800, the year
in which the poem was written. It is Hölderlin’s time as the
time whose tone is set by his words. The “now” names the
coming of the holy, which indicates the time in which history
decides essentially. One cannot date such a time, and it is not
measurable by historical dates and periods. Historical dates are
merely a peg for human calculations. They happen at the sur-
face of history, which is an object of research. This history,
however, is not the event of occurring itself. The event of
occurring is only there when there is a primordial decision on
the essence of truth.
The holy, which is older than time and higher than the gods,
is founded in its coming from another beginning and another,
more primordial history. The holy takes a decision from its
beginning in the matter of men and gods: whether they are and
who they are, how they are and when they are. The coming is
named in its coming through a calling. Hölderlin’s word is now
a calling word. This gives another meaning to the Greek word
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220 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
hymnos, normally translated by the words ‘praise’ and ‘cele-
brate.’ But now the poetic word is a foundational saying. The
word of this song is no longer a hymn to something, to the
poet, to nature; it is the hymn of the holy. The holy bestows
the word, and itself comes into word. “This word is the primal
event of the holy. Hölderlin’s poetry is now a primordial call-
ing which, called by what is coming, says this and only this as
the holy. The hymnal word is now “compelled by the holy,”
and because compelled by the holy, also sobered by the holy.”
22
This sobriety is the basic mood that is always ready for the
holy. Hölderlin’s word conveys the holy, thereby naming the space
of time that is only once: the time of primordial decision for
the essential order of the future history of gods and humans.
THE FOURFOLD AS A COUNTERPARADIGM
The holy, as the fourfold of gods and mortals of heaven and
earth, encompasses the speaking about god, the gods, and the
godlike. Since god is always a god in relation to mortals, the
flight of the gods is a dissonance of the fourfold. The fourfold
functions as a counterparadigm to ontotheological thinking and
its anthropocentric and subjectivistic forms.
23As I have said before,
the different positions of the fourfold are understood from the
perspective of their counterparts.
24 Each of the four mirrors and
is mirrored in the others.
25 In these mirror-relations, things
come to their essence in losing themselves. “Their interplay is
the span that man traverses at every moment insofar as he is
as an earthly being.”
26 The things which man has to meet do
not lead to the earth. Indeed, the earth is no longer land and
bottom but refers to a relation between earth and heaven, in
which one is turned to the other and in which the one mirrors
in the other. “The ringing out of the earth is the echo of
heaven. In resounding, the earth by its own movement replies
to heaven.”
27 Likewise, the water in the river, which is spanned
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by the bridge, comes from heaven and raises back to heaven.
Both enter into a play in which they belong to and differ from
one another.
The godlike and the mortals also relate to each other in a
mirror-play. In this way, the godhead appears in its presence
and withdraws in its concealment.
28 Its absence is as present as
its arrival. The mortals are capable of death as death, whereas
so long as man is oriented to and focused on metaphysics, he
is not capable of death as death. “Metaphysics, by contrast,
thinks of man as animal, as a living being. Even when ratio
pervades animalitas, man’s being remains defined by life and
life-experience. Rational living beings must first become mor-
tals.”
29 Man has to learn to die in order to become the mortal
who he is. This image functions as a counterimage that has to
strive against the classical images of metaphysics. Mortals are
brought to the nothingness that becomes clear as the secret of
being itself, since death is never an entity yet nevertheless
presences.
30
The four of the fourfold are in a certain sense equal to each
other. There is no subordination of higher and lower. However,
there seems to be more kinship between heaven and the god-
like, on the one hand, and the earth and mortals on the other.
Nevertheless, no two couples are against each other and each
finds itself from the coming together of the four. In this way
they are connected to each other. “Each of the four mirrors in
its own way the presence of the others. Each therewith reflects
itself in its own way into its own, within the simpleness of the
four.”
31 Above and under are no longer placed statically in
front of each other; rather, they mirror each other in an ‘in-
finite’ circular relation. “In-finite means that the ends and the
sides, the regions of the relation, do not stand by themselves
cut-off and one-sidedly; rather, freed of onesidedness and
finitude, they belong in-finitely to one another in the relation
which “thoroughly” holds them together from its center. The
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222 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
center, so called because it centers, that is, mediates, is neither
earth nor heaven, God nor man. The in-finity that is to be
thought here is abysmally different from that which is merely
without end, which, because of its uniformity, allows no growth.”
32
Yet none of the four stays and goes one-sidedly by itself. In
this sense, none is finite. None is without the others. They hold
themselves to each other, they are what they are from the in-
finite relation; they are this whole relation itself. Consequently,
earth and heaven and their connection belong in the richer rela-
tion of the four.
33
With the in-finite movement of the fourfold this figure gets
a specific form. But I do not understand this as Heidegger’s
eschatology, since this notion is too strongly connected with
classical theology. In my view, it is better to understand it as a
counterparadigm with regard to ontotheology and the doctrine
of two worlds, which we saw explicitly in the chapter on the
death of god. But it is also a counterparadigm to the notion of
the technical “enframing” (Gestell). There is no longer a divi-
sion between this life and the other world. The fourfold is that
situation in which being is understood as historic event and
man as Dasein. In this situation the gods are also seen from the
perspective of being as historic event. “For even the god still
stands under destiny. The god is one of the voices of destiny.”
34
What is coming is not a god as an isolated element. “But what
comes is not the god by himself alone. What comes is the
whole in-finite relation in which, along with god and mankind,
earth and heaven belong.”
35 Is it still possible that this God
comes especially now that technical-industrial domination has
already covered the entire earth? The earth and heaven of Hölderlin’s
poem have vanished. The in-finite relation of earth and heaven,
man and god, seems to have been destroyed. Or has it never
yet appeared within our history as this in-finite relation, purely
joined together by the gathering of the voices of destiny, never
yet become present, never yet been founded as a whole?
36 The
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appearing of the infinite relation as a unified whole remains denied
to us. This is why we are hardly able to hear the “voices of
fate” from their unity.
37 Heidegger does not say that it is
impossible for the god of the fourfold to come, but that we
hardly hear the voices of fate. And it is not the god to come
but the fourfold as a whole that has to arrive.
This whole is thought as a coming kairological moment. It
is not to be understood as the coming of Christ, but as a com-
ing of a world in which mortals, the godlike, heaven, and earth
are connected as fourfold. If this kairological moment is to be
compared with what was mentioned in the early Heidegger as
the coming of Christ, then the coming of Christ has to be
understood as the arrival of the fourfold. “We only half-think
what is historical in history, that is, we do not think it at all,
if we calculate history and its magnitude in terms of the length
of duration of what has been, rather than awaiting that which
is coming and futural in what has first been as the commence-
ment.”
38 This coming is not the arrival of something that has
never been before; it is the coming of something that is con-
cealed in the beginning. This double structure of presence and
absence enfeebles the idea of hope, because the idea of hope
presupposes an absence that has to be filled.
Sometimes it seems that the divine has a special position. It
seems as if the godhead ducks out of the notion of the four-
fold, exempting itself from destiny by being the element that
rules it. This is suggested, for example, in the Der Spiegel
interview, “Only a God Can Save Us,” and where Heidegger
says that “the divinities are the beckoning messengers of the
godhead. Out of the holy sway of the godhead, the god appears
in his presence or withdraws into his concealment.”
39 Here the
divinities, the godhead, and god are spoken of without any
explanation of their relation in the fourfold. Yet a certain order
is discernable. The godhead seems to be the first by its holy
sway. Its beckoning messengers are the divinities, and the god
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224 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
who appears and withdraws, appears only out of the holy sway
of the godhead. It seems as though the godhead steps out of
the whole of the fourfold, and is not to be found in it, but in
the holy. The holy does not inhere in the fourfold, nor in the
divinities or the mortals. Rather, the holy is the whole relation
that comes as the fourfold.
40 Only in the lightning of the holy
can the whole be present. “The holy primordially decides in
advance concerning men and gods, whether they are, and who
they are, and how they are, and when they are.”
41 The holy is
not holy because it is divine; rather, the divine is divine be-
cause it is holy in its way.
42 The divine is holy because it par-
ticipates in the holy, which is the whole of the fourfold.
From the perspective of the notion of the fourfold that arises
from the later interpretations of Hölderlin, it is strictly speak-
ing inconsequent to say that the god is nearer to the holy. What
is said here is that the god is placed under the holy and that
the relation to the holy can only be held in common with
man.
43With this, the mortals as well as the divinities are placed
in the fourfold under the holy. The holy indicates the whole of
this relation.
The fourfold is not a counterparadigm like an eschatological
moment that has to be fulfilled in the future; it is a counter-
paradigm of ontotheology in the way of a concealed beginning
that still has to come. The fourfold is already; as beginning it
precedes everything that is present.
44 Yet it is not a priori and
formal. Just as Dasein is what it already was, so is the four-
fold already in its concealment. Dasein is a counterparadigm
for the animal rationale. The fourfold becomes the counter-
paradigm for ontotheology. Even though the four of the four-
fold belong together, this togetherness nevertheless has to be
guarded. To guard and to save is a task for the mortals.
45 This
saving is a counterparadigm to the mastering and subjugating
of the earth. In this way, human beings dwell like a guard and
save the earth. Human beings as mortals dwell, insofar as they
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are capable of death as death, so as to lead their nature into the
use and practice of this capacity so that there may be a good
death. This does not mean making death the goal.
46 In short,
the notion of the fourfold is the counterparadigm to the make-
able world (Macherei).
The counterparadigm of the fourfold no longer implies a
subjectivistic relation to the divine and the holy. Human beings
dwell insofar as they await the divinities as divinities. In hope,
they hold up to the divinities what is unhoped for. They wait
for intimations of their coming and do not mistake the signs of
their absence. They do not make their gods for themselves and
do not worship idols. In misfortune they wait for the salvation
that has been withdrawn.
47 Under certain conditions one can
speak here of theology, but only in a non-ontotheological way.
It is impossible to define the holy here ontotheologically, since
all ontotheology presupposes a theos,or god, as an entity. It
does this so certainly that wherever ontotheology arises, the
god has already fled.
48 In the next chapter, I will show in what
sense one can speak of theology here.
THE POETICAL DWELLING OF MAN
As was shown in the former chapter, the poet has a place in
the fourfold.
49 It is within the fourfold that the poet can name
the holy. When a human being lives in the fourfold, he dwells
on earth poetically.
50 What is meant by “. . . poetically man
dwells . . .”? This question presents another aspect of Heideg-
ger’s concept of man.
51 The words are taken from a late poem
by Hölderlin. It is a statement on the essence of man, not of
something accidental. When Hölderlin speaks of dwelling, he is
focused on the basic character of human existence. What is
more, he sees the poetic by way of its relation to this dwelling,
thus understood in its essence. The poetical is not a decoration
of, or ancillary to, the dwelling. It is poetry itself that first
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226 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
causes dwelling to be dwelling; it is poetry that lets us dwell.
We are now faced with a double task: first, we are to conceive
of man’s being through the nature of dwelling; second, we are
to think of the nature of poetry as a letting dwell, as a kind of
building.
Man gets his insight into the nature of dwelling and poetry
from language, if language is respected in its own nature. This
does not mean that man is master over language, as it is usu-
ally understood. Language is not the means of expression: “For
strictly, it is language that speaks.”
52 Man can only speak when
he responds to language by listening to it presenting itself It is
this ability to listen to the appeal of language that determines
the poet and his poetry. A poet is more poetic when he listens
to the words spoken in language. Obeying and submitting, the
poet tunes into the words to come, which makes him prepared
for the unforeseen. Only then can he be far away from merely
propositional statements that are considered as correct or incorrect.
53
To explain the broader context of Hölderlin’s words, Heideg-
ger listens to the whole phrase from which the words are taken:
“Full of merit, yet poetically, man dwells on this earth.”
54 The
words ‘Full of merit’ are not to be explained as referring to
man’s cultivating, caring and building, activities that can be
meritorious, because building and erecting are not meritorious
activities in themselves. The farmer’s growing things, the erect-
ing of edifices and works are already a consequence of the
nature of dwelling. This dwelling significantly takes place on
this earth. Merit for building can never fill in the nature of dwelling,
because the essence of dwelling is dwelling on this earth. Dwelling
indicates the way the mortals are related to the earth.
This does not mean that poetry, as something fantastic and
nonrealistic should be ‘down-to-earth.’ Poetry does not fly above
and scale the earth in order to escape from it and hover over
it. “Poetry is what first brings man onto the earth, making him
belong to it, and thus brings him into dwelling.”
55 Heidegger,
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however, is concerned with rethinking what Hölderlin says in
poetic words. He wants to know to what extent and when man
dwells poetically.
Heidegger finishes the quotation of Hölderlin’s poem with
the words: “Is there a measure on earth? There is none.”
56 Man
is a being looking for a measure, and this is done in poetry.
Taking measure is what is poetic in dwelling. But what is the
meaning of measuring here? Obviously we must not subsume
it under just any idea of measuring and measure. What takes
place in poetry lies at the basis of the very essence of all mea-
suring; to write poetry is to take measure, and through this
measure, the breadth of man’s being unfolds. Man’s measure
is ultimately given with his death. Man is mortal, and he dies
so long as he stays on this earth, so long as he dwells. His dwelling,
however, rests in the poetic.
In listening for the words to come, the poet waits for the
unknown. “For Hölderlin, God, being who he is, is unknown
and it is precisely as this Unknown One that he is the measure
for the poet.”
57 But the unknown can be a measure only insofar
as it manifests itself. God’s manifesting himself is mysterious:
he is manifest like the sky. Thus, the unknown god appears as
the unknown in the sky’s manifestness. This appearance is the
measure against which man measures himself. The godhead is
the measure with which man measures out his dwelling, his
stay on the earth beneath the sky. Insofar as man takes the
measure of his dwelling in this way he is able to be commen-
surately with his nature. “Man’s dwelling depends on an
upward-looking measure-taking of the dimension, in which the
sky belongs just as much as the earth”.
58
As long as man is, his being must now and again be mea-
sured out. This requires a measure, which involves at once the
entire dimension. To discern this measure, to gauge it as the
measure, and to accept it as the measure is for the poet to
make poetry. Poetry is this measure-taking for the dwelling of
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228 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
man. The distinctive measure taking of poetry has nothing to
do with numbers; measure and numbers are mostly understood
as quantitative. The measure of the poetry, is not something
tangible; it is the experience of something issuing forth from
what has been dealt out.
59
Poetically dwelling on this earth means that the sky is the
measure, not the earth. But the sky is an appearance of the
unknown god. Dwelling occurs only when poetry happens and
is present, and indeed in a way whose nature we now have
some idea of, as taking a measure for all measuring. There is
no a priori, given measure from which man knows how to
dwell. Dwelling as poetry is itself an authentic measure-taking
since in poetry, man finds his most fundamental way of dwell-
ing. It happens through listening for the words to come, to pre-
sent themselves to the mind. In this poetical dwelling, man is
looking for a measure, a point of orientation that cannot be
found on earth. The measure for poetical dwelling is found in
the unknown coming. This means that there is no a priori
measure on earth. In poetical dwelling, the poet awaits and
reaches out for that which comes. This makes dwelling some-
thing historical.
In Heidegger’s comment on Hölderlin’s poem “Remembrance,”
it becomes clear that poetical dwelling is connected with man
as a poet who lives on earth. The poet dwells near to the ori-
gin so that he shows what draws near in the coming of the
holy. The poet can discern this coming. The poet is open for
divinity and humanity; his gaze shows the opening in which
gods first come as guests and men can build a housing for the
true, where they may be able to secure themselves. “The poet
shows this open realm of the between in which he himself
must dwell in such a manner that his saying, showing, follows
the origin, and thus is that which endures, securing itself in the
holy which is to come into words... Adwelling which founds
in this way is the original dwelling of the sons of the earth,
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who at the same time are the children of heaven. Those are the
poets.”
60 Writing poetry means fastening the origin. With this,
the holy is understood as making fast and grounding everything
in the groundless abyss, in the sight of an unknown god.
61
It is important to understand that the holy is not related to
religion as confession. Faith has no place in thinking.
62The thinker
is focused on being, the poet on the holy. In this way, Heideg-
ger’s “theology” is not an offshoot of his thinking of being, but
of his interpretation of the poet. It has no origin in faith.
63 The
suggestion that Heidegger’s philosophy has itself theological
or religious elements must be understood in the right way.
Notions like “listening,” “obedience,” “piety,” and “holy” are
not introduced to give place to a Christian God; they are intro-
duced only in the thinking of being. In this way, one could say
that Heidegger makes these theological or religious notions an
element of his thinking. These notions are no longer positioned
in a domain that is different from philosophy — not, at least, if
this philosophy is understood as the thinking of being.
A P HENOMENOLOGY OF THE HOLY ?
The phenomenon of the holy is, according to Heidegger,
embedded in the question of being and understood in relation
to being. This refers also to the relation between the poet and
the thinker. To sharpen this kinship between both, I ask: Is it
possible to see in Heidegger’s thought a phenomenology of
the holy, and to find this meaningful for a philosophy of reli-
gion? Heidegger himself does not present an extensive phe-
nomenology of the holy.
64 He never intended to present a
phenomenology of the holy as such; nevertheless, one can ask
whether it is possible to find some indications of it in his
writings.
We must ask what specific problems appear in a phenome-
nology of the holy. And is a phenomenology of the religious
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230 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
possible in this context? Can one connect here the holy and the
religious? Is there a specific religious domain for the thinker of
being? What exactly does Heidegger say, and what are the
implications of his position?
In a phenomenological approach, there is an interaction between
act and intended object. This also applies for religious intentionality,
as we have seen in Heidegger’s analysis of early Christianity.
This act is the condition of the possibility that something
appears. This means that, with regard to the phenomenology of
religion, one can only intend the religious reality in acts of
worship. Consequently, this means that someone who wants to
say something about god or the gods but does not know what
worship means (and so does not know what the holy is), does
not know what he is speaking about. The god that is displayed
upon neutralizing the act of worship, the god of proofs or sociological
analyses, is not the reality of the divine that is connected to
worship. We see this in Heidegger’s understanding of the onto-
theological god to whom one can neither pray, sacrifice, or fall to
his knees in awe, nor to whom one can play music or dance.
65
For such are the human activities that constitute worship.
However, the inverse is also important. It is impossible to
worship something religiously that is not an element of
religiosity. To indicate this reality one needs to use the word ‘holy’.
Phenomenological thinkers have always resisted this explana-
tory way of thinking. One can find evidence of this throughout
Heidegger’s body of work. The phenomenological approach to
worship is never an explanation of the religious act, for
instance from a psychological or a sociological perspective. It
is about the quality of the act and its object. Just as one will
never understand what color is merely by the description of
chemical processes, one loses the quality of the religious act if
one thinks one can describe the object and the act from a psy-
chological or sociological perspective, or from an ontotheolog-
ical perspective.
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Moreover, the religious act as an act of faith is, especially
in Christianity, understood as gratia infusa. The hoping and the
loving one, if he believes, loves and hopes in a faithful way
and knows that he has to thank for his faith the one in whom
he believes, whom he loves and in whom he hopes. Heidegger
formulated this very clearly in “Phenomenology and Theol-
ogy.” But in Heidegger this knowledge about the call of being,
thanking, etc., is not a specific religious act. It is a character-
istic of thinking as such. “To the most thought-provoking, we
devote our thinking of what is to-be-thought. But this devoted
thought is not something that we ourselves produce and bring
along, to repay gift with gift. When we think what is most thought-
provoking, we then give thought to what this most thought-
provoking, matter itself gives us to think about.”
66 He finds that
what phenomenology of religion regards as characteristic of
religious thinking, feeling, and acting, is a general characteris-
tic of human thinking, especially the thinking of being. Tran-
scendence is a transcendence that comes to meet human beings.
However, a phenomenology of religiosity is about showing
and thematizing the specificity of the religious. Therefore, it is
impossible to reduce the religious act to other acts with other
objects. This applies also for art, science, politics, and music,
etc. But is it possible to unite all these different regions? Is the
identity of the thinker also at stake? What defines the unity of
the ‘I’ of the thinker from the perspective of all these different
approaches? Is it not necessary to reduce them all to the truth
of one domain? Is it not possible to surpass this in an encom-
passing unity of a general ontology? This is the question that,
in phenomenology and especially in Heidegger, generates a
special interest for a general ontology. In Being and Time,Heidegger
attempts to clarify the connectedness of phenomenology and
general ontology.
Human activity originates in existence. The way in which we
learn that something exists is founded in wonder, in a listening
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232 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
and obedient questioning attitude. What calls up those kinds of
questions? The human being is claimed by being, and he tries
to answer this claim. That which gives us the word to answer
the claim of being, is the holy: “The Holy bestows the word,
and itself comes into this word. This word is the primal event
of the holy.”
67 Only when the holy bestows the word is man
able to answer the call of being and to verbalize this claim. In
this region we remain seekers; we do not become skeptics, but
remain ones who ask. This is why, for Heidegger, questioning
is the piety of thinking: a philosophical piety formulated in
religious words.
68
How is this significant for a phenomenology of religion?
Heidegger presupposes, together with the history of philosophy,
that our thinking and speaking is in correspondence with what
shows itself. This appears in Heidegger’s interpretation of the
word phenomenology. Phenomenology is necessary to uncover
the hidden. What is hidden in an egregious sense is the being
of entities.
69 In “On the Essence of Truth,” we read that the
hiding shows itself as the most hidden, that “concealing ap-
pears of what is first of all concealed.”
70 Concealing appears as
the hidden.
General phenomenology as ontology and the specific phenomen-
ology of religion are structurally connected in Heidegger. The
showing of itself appears in the way of concealing itself. What
appears in religion is always in the way of concealing. In the
case of god, gods and the holy, it is clear that they are con-
cealed. For Heidegger, ontology is hermeneutics, and herme-
neutics is hermeneutics of facticity. However, it is not possible
to say that religion is therefore an unfolding of human life. Nor
is it correct to say that Heidegger has anthropologized religion
from the beginning.
71 Religion does not explicate human life; it
explicates the message of god or the gods. That is why the
question of the anthropological reduction is so important. It is
something that always lurks, both for religion as well as for
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ontology. It is obvious that Heidegger sees a relation between
religion and the question of being when he explicates the
meaning of the word hermeneutics.
72 The expression “herme-
neutic” derives from the Greek verb hermeneuein. It is con-
nected with the Greek divine messenger Hermes, who brings
the message of destiny. It is an exposition that brings tidings
to someone who can listen to a message, an interpretation of
what has been said earlier by the poets, who are messengers of
the gods. Because Heidegger’s thinking as a whole wants to
avoid reductionism with its phenomenological approach, it can
therefore function as a model or framework for a philosophical
understanding of religion. The poet can name the holy only
when it is not understood from an ontotheological perspective.
The holy has been an object of the philosophy of religion
for a long time, as Rudolf Otto shows. Everything can become
an object of worship of the holy: stones, trees, houses, persons,
etc. Historical experience teaches us that specific objects do
not characterize the religious world. Religiosity is constituted
instead by the way the object appears. The religious object has
to show itself as holy for the subject. Therefore the question
arises, how is something experienced as holy? How should
something be in order to show itself as holy?
For Heidegger the question would be: is an experience of
the holy possible within the technical world? Entities can be
dominated and made. It seems that in such a world, the expe-
rience of something that shows itself as holy is impossible because
such an experience is only given to acts of worship. Religious
experience as an experience of the holy has become an object
of anthropological study. Its proper place is on a reservation:
a private, protected area away from the cultural mainstream.
Within this context, the word holy can indicate a holy tree, a
holy day; it indicates the dimension from which this behavior
or manner springs: one approaches and treats something as
holy because it is holy. But, in Heidegger’s view, the holy is
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234 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
not only a domain of certain protected subjects and objects.
Heidegger adds a third dimension to this: the dimension that
makes it possible to thematize the divine.
73Thus, the holy indi-
cates a condition of the possibility for the appearing of the
divine. The interwovenness of contrasts, the foundation of life
and the power to kill, the beginning life and its limits, all
belong to the phenomenon of the holy. Therefore the holy hes-
itation belongs to the manner in which the holy is experienced.
The rise of opposite reactions of feeling, such as fascination
and fright, belongs to the presence of the holy. We see this in
Heidegger in the metaphor of twilight.
Against this background religions always have a history because
their external circumstances change. Whether their message
will be received by new generations depends on this. They
have a history because the way the holy appears (hierophany)
is connected with the openness of the situation in which it
appears. It is historical because it is taken up in the destiny and
historicity of being. The systematic place of speaking about the
holy in the phenomenology of religion is, on the one hand, the
definition of the essence of that reality, which makes it possi-
ble that the religious can appear and, on the other hand, the
showing of the historical development in which the history of
religions is rooted. Religions are historic. This cannot be under-
stood ontotheologically, because in that case the religious man-
ifestations would be a manifestation of a highest entity that
transcends every entity.
Religion and religions have to be understood from the per-
spective of Heidegger’s understanding of being. The understanding
of being is a claim, a demand from being: “Such thinking responds
to the claim of being.”
74 Thinking, in its saying, merely brings
the unspoken word of being to language. The phrase “bring to
language” employed here is now to be taken quite literally.
Being comes, clearing itself, to language. It is perpetually
under way to language.
75 The poetic is an answer in which
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being comes to language. In this the holy plays a role. “The
holy bestows the word, and itself comes into this word. This
word is the primal event of the holy.”
76 It is important here for
the thinker to listen to the poet. This relation, which is founded
in the greeting of the holy and in the answering greeting of the
human being, is not constituted by human acts nor commanded
by human works, but is celebrated in a festival. “The fes-
tival is the primal event of the greeting, in which the holy
greets, and in the greeting appears.”
77 The holy celebration, the
religious festival, is a remembrance of the meeting with the
origin. And as remembrance, the origin is present in the celebration.
Religions are not assaulted by external powers; they free the
dynamics of history. Therefore, the connection between hiero-
phany and the history of religions is a central theme in the phe-
nomenology of religion. In this way Heidegger connects the
holy and the historicity of being. Only he who sees the twi-
light, sees the holy in its tension of decision. Therefore, it is
important not to regard historic changes as variations of the
eternal same. In that case phenomenology would misunderstand
historicity as onto-theology does.
It is important in understanding religions and their gods to
understand them historically. The era of the forgottenness of
being is also the era of the absence of god from the perspec-
tive of the history of religions. As long as there is a forgotten-
ness of being in ontotheology, there is also a forgottenness of
the historicality of the gods. Ontotheology is an understanding
of being in which god and the gods do not have a place. Such
a time needs the poets to get an entrance to the holy. Therefore
Heidegger can say: “Rather, by providing anew the essence of
poetry, Hölderlin first determines a new time. It is the time of
the gods who have fled and of the god who is coming.”
78 The
poets keep open the nearness of the distant god. “Thus for the
poet’s care there is only one possibility: without fear of appear-
ing godless, he must remain near to the god’s absence, and
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236 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
wait long enough in this prepared nearness to the absence till
out of the nearness to the absent god there is granted an orig-
inative word to name the high one.” Therefore it is important
to stay near to the nearness of questioning and seeking. In this
the future remains open and is expected as the future of being.
Thinking is tuned to such an arrival of the future. Therefore,
human beings are not swept away by a greeting of the holy as
an ahistoric being, but are called to account in their historic
essence.
From the perspective of the question of being, all religious
phenomena remain tied to the correspondence of claim and answer.
With this the human being is called into the provisionality of
his answer and called to account in his historicality. In other
words, man is called into the unfinished course of his history.
The implication of historic existence is that he is in danger of
getting onto a wrong track and of being mistaken. The godhead
then can lose its holiness and highness, its secret and its dis-
tance, by the way it is represented.
The holy has to appear as that in which human being can
find its wholeness. The holy is not god, the godhead, the high-
est entity of metaphysics, or the divine grace. It is an ontolog-
ical phenomenon that is expressed in the thinking of being. The
holy is a phenomenon that is easily neglected and overseen by
the fideistic man. Nevertheless, the religious man would not
understand himself without the holy. The holy as an ontologi-
cal phenomenon can be the entrance to the religious. Without
understanding the holy we behave with respect to it like
tourists and visitors of a museum. Further, where the under-
standing of the holy has withdrawn, the central place of the
sacrifice is once again attributed to arbitrariness and barbarian
cruelty. However, understanding it from the perspective of the
historicality of being is an entrance to understanding religion
and the religions, god and the gods.
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TEN
A Longing for the Coming
of the Gods
heology, as part of metaphysics, is not something that has
a place in the historicity of the event of being, according
to Heidegger. Instead, Heidegger develops the paradigm of the
fourfold. The counterparadigm of the fourfold no longer
implies a subjectivistic or ontotheological relation to the divine
and the holy. However, this does not mean that mortals or
human beings, as understood from within the fourfold, have no
relation with the gods. In a certain sense, they have a theology
when they sing and praise the gods. We can see this especially
in what Heidegger says about the poet, particularly Hölderlin.
The poet waits for the word that comes, and with it, the poet
can name the gods. Heidegger describes this situation as fol-
lows: “Mortals dwell in that they await the divinities as divini-
ties. In hope they hold up to the divinities what is unhoped for.
They wait for intimations of their coming and do not mistake
the signs of their absence. They do not make their gods for
themselves and do not worship idols. In the very depth of mis-
fortune they wait for the weal that has been withdrawn.”
1
T
237
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238 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
So we have two moments: first, the waiting of the poet, and
next, the naming of the gods. I want to begin by examining the
notions of awaiting and hope that are mentioned above. In
order to do this, I show how the notion of desire can be traced
through Heidegger’s works, because the notion of hope and
awaiting presuppose Dasein as a desiring human being. After
having traced the notion of desire, I will examine the way this
structure is present in the praising and naming of the gods.
LONGING FOR THE POSSIBLE
At first sight, the notion of desire would appear to be completely
absent in Heidegger’s thought. The question is whether there
are traces in Heidegger’s work that permit us to assign the
issue of desire a place in his thinking about human existence.
2
It is obvious that the “early” Heidegger interprets the notion
of desire in Plato from the perspective of care. “The soul is
desire (Care is the Being of Dasein!)”
3This means that care
also takes up the notion of desire. Indeed, it is not accidental
that Heidegger refers to Plato’s description of the soul’s rela-
tion to being as an eporeksis:“This passage shows that we do
not attain the primary kind of being-determinations through the
bodily organs, but the soul itself, purely of itself, according to
its intrinsic freedom, relates to being. Of itself the soul extends
itself out of itself toward being, i.e., it is the soul, purely by
itself, that, in the manner of eporeksis(stretching out towards),
understands anything like being.”
4Thus the soul understands
something like being in the manner of desire. Thus, although
the notion of desire is almost absent in Heidegger’s work, nev-
ertheless we can find traces of it, as in the example cited
above.
In The Basic Problems of Phenomenology,
5a lecture course
from 1927, Heidegger refers to the notion of oreksisin his
interpretation of the feeling of respect in Kant.
6To understand
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this idea, Heidegger points out that antique philosophy already
understood practical behavior as oreksis. Oreksisin Aristotles’
view is characterized by dio¨ksisand phug∂.
7Dio¨ksiscon-
cerns pursuit and following, striving for, and aspiring to some-
thing. Phug∂means receding, fleeing from, stepping back,
withdrawing, and moving away from. Kant’s description of respect
comes, in Heidegger’s view, from these characteristics of orek-
sis. Kant uses ‘inclination’ for dio¨ksisand ‘fear’ for phug∂.
He says that the feeling of respect is analogous with both phe-
nomena, inclination and fear, moving towards and moving
away.
In his book on Kant, Heidegger writes that no further steps
are necessary to see that the basic structure of respect shows
the original figure of transcendental imagination.
8Heidegger points
out that transcendental imagination projects the total range of
possibilities in which Dasein exists. In Heidegger’s view, this
imaginative capacity is not an independent given, but exists in
the execution of original temporality and is as such produc-
tive.
9Respect refers to that which, as transcendental imagina-
tion, projects possibilities and that to which Dasein subjects
itself. Heidegger sees a striving in the motion of forming a pro-
ject and in the subjection to the formed project. As a striving,
the imagination projects images as prototypes (pre-images). In
the light of these prototypes, entities can appear.
Heidegger understands the whole of possibilities projected
by Dasein as ‘something’ towards which Dasein transcends in
understanding. He talks about this whole as the ‘world.’ In Dasein’s
transcending activity, this world surpasses every real entity.
10 It
is the project that precedes the entity so that the entity always
appears in the light of some project. This pre-project (initial
project) is effected by Dasein’s transcending activity. In “On
the Essence of Ground,” Heidegger states: “Dasein transcends
means: in the essence of its being it is worldforming, ‘forming’
(bildend) in the multiple sense that it lets world occur, and
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240 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
through the world gives itself an original view (form (Bild))
that is not explicitly grasped, yet functions precisely as a par-
adigmatic form (Vorbild) for all manifest beings, among which
each respective Dasein itself belongs.”
11 The whole of the
essentially possible is presented to being as a pre-image, or an
example, as it were.
Heidegger also uses the characterization of oreksisin his
discussion of Kant’s understanding of the will. “This surpassing
that occurs ‘for the sake of ’ does so only in a ‘will’ (Willen)
that as such projects itself upon possibilities of itself.”
12 This
will provides Dasein with its ‘for-the-sake-of,’ its motive, by
projecting the whole of possibilities as pre-images to which Dasein
subjects itself. With the stipulation of transcendence as willing,
this willing is not a normal ‘act’ like proposing, judging, enjoy-
ing oneself, etc. Heidegger states that will, as a surpassing and
in surpassing, shapes that which wills it. This means that the
whole of possibilities is projected in the willing of Dasein, in
which the projection of possibilities is the motive for this will.
At the same time, Dasein subjects itself to the possibilities,
pre-projected by this will, which serve as the light in which the
entities can appear, including Dasein itself as entity. This is a
double movement similar to that indicated by Heidegger in the
structure of oreksis.
Nevertheless, the will is not seen here as an ontic or sub-
jective act. Heidegger, in all periods of his thinking, wrestles
with a conception of being in an elusive middle voice, that is
to say, being as an event that is neither objective nor subjec-
tive, neither passive nor active in the strict sense, neither inde-
pendent of human existence nor grounded in the human. So far,
we have seen in what direction Heidegger explores the move-
ment of transcendence.
In Heidegger, Dasein is interpreted as motion. This means
that it never finds itself at rest. That toward which the willing
of Dasein is directed, namely the whole of possibilities as the
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for-the-sake-of-which, never becomes a permanent, fixed pos-
session. For Heidegger the structure of Dasein as ‘being con-
cerned with’ is the only issue. This ‘being concerned with’
is a ‘being related to’ the ‘why.’
13 In this condition of not hav-
ing permanent possession of the ‘for-the-sake-of-which’ and the
‘why,’ Heidegger stipulates Dasein as a persistent being-as and
being-in-relation to possibility. Projecting toward the possible is
prior to having and appropriating the actual. That is why the
projection of possibilities, by virtue of its being, is always
richer than the possession already appropriated by the projector
(the one projecting).
14
This aspect of the primacy of the possible runs through
Heidegger’s entire work.
15 The entire analysis of temporality is
written from this insight into the persistence of the possible. It
is not the content of the projects that makes projecting so
important.
16 Heidegger maintains that the richness of Dasein
lies in the projection of possibilities, not in their actualization.
This concept of possibility must be distinguished from the logi-
cal concept of possibility and the concept of possibility as acci-
dent. Heidegger’s characterization of the possible is such that
the realized entity is insufficient by comparison. For him, the
possible is always higher than the actual.
A D ESIRE OF THE MORTALS
The ‘original will’ that projects of preceding possibilities is
focused on the persistence of the possible because of its prior-
ity over the actual. This insistence on the primacy of the pos-
sible distinguishes Heidegger from the Western metaphysical
tradition, which is primarily concerned with the actual and the
possession of the real. In the phenomena of seeing, observa-
tion, theoria,idea, and intuition, Heidegger sees no possibility
of thematizing transcendence adequately. Instead, he sees the
possibility for thematizing transcendence in the will.
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242 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
In this context, we need to introduce an aspect of striving
that is understood by Heidegger from the preference for seeing
in the Western constellation of knowledge. This preference for
seeing brings about an ontology of its own. Heidegger starts
his analysis of seeing and the ontology belonging to it with the
beginning of Aristotle’s Metaphysics: ‘pantes anthropoi tou
eidenai oregontai phusei.’ He translates this as, “The care for
seeing is essential to man’s Being.”
17 The result of this begin-
ning is that Western philosophy holds to the thesis that pri-
mordial and genuine truth lies in pure observation. Heidegger
calls this phenomenon ‘curiosity.’ The notion of curiosity in
Being and Timeis a further elaboration of curiosity in
Augustine, as we saw in chapter two. In Being and Timeit is
interpreted from the perspective of the possible and the actual.
This curiosity seeks novelty only in order to leap from it anew
to another novelty. Curiosity wants to make things present: it
cannot endure — it cannot stand — absence. Heidegger con-
nects curiosity to ‘falling,’ which means that it is related to
presence. It cannot leave a possibility alone without trying to
actualize it.
18In this knowledge constellation, things are thus made
present for the sake of having them present.
When Dasein is essentially regarded as a projector of possi-
bilities, as is also the case in Heidegger’s analysis of the possibility
of death, then, Dasein which is essentially being-possible, in the
‘curiosity-structure,’ in which all that counts is the actual, must
always, without delay, look for and actualize new things.
19 In
this ontology of the present-at-hand, which is connected to the
primacy of seeing, the structure of the possible in Dasein is
neglected, though it certainly remains active. This is not so because
of the greed (Neu-gier) that lies in curiosity, but simply
because in Dasein’s ‘curiosity-constellation’ there is an ontol-
ogy operative that leads Dasein and entities to be absorbed
(submerged) in an actualization by neglecting the possibility-char-
acter of Dasein. Therefore, it is not the endless immensity of
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what has not yet been seen, by which curiosity or eagerness for
knowledge is instituted as a basic structure of the Western
knowledge-constellation; rather, it is the structure of temporal-
ization of the present in which being-possible has lost its
primacy. Against this background, only the present is important
for Western knowledge. The curiosity-constellation neglects the
primordial temporalization of Dasein. Because Dasein is stand-
ing in the temporalization, and because the overall view, the
panorama, to which it is striving in this constellation suspends
things, it has to look for new entities to actualize again and
again. Insofar as theoretical observation stands in this tradition,
human beings in this ontology will keep searching, without
delay, always eager to move on to that which is not yet seen.
Heidegger conceives of seeing as an offshoot of projecting
understanding. He thereby points out the primacy of seeing in
Western philosophy and its knowledge-structure. This corresponds
to an ontology of the present-at-hand.
20 Insofar as Western
thinking is characterized as ‘intuition,’ and intuition is regarded
as the goal of desire, desire is also directed towards the actu-
alization and imagining (visualizing) of entities. A desire that is
structured in this way is not able to hold on to the possible as
such. Therefore, such a desire cannot abide with entities and is
pushed into an unceasing further searching. The actualization
of the possible makes desire a restless moving, in which the
possible has always fled toward a present made ever anew.
The dominance of seeing has structured desire to be focused on
a present-at-hand goal. Desire has become the desire to see
the real, supremely represented in the human desire directed
towards the “visio beatifica Dei,” the ultimate realization of
desire in the ontotheology of metaphysics and anthropology.
However, in Heidegger’s stipulation of transcending as willing,
the persistence of the possible is the main goal.
Just as Heidegger subsumes an ‘original will’ in understand-
ing, he likewise designates thinking in particular as that which
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244 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
is desired. When he asks: “What is called thinking?” he points
to the following meanings of ‘calling’: “instruct, demand, allow
to reach, get on the way, convey, provide with a way.”
21 The
call implies an anticipatory reaching out for something that is
reached by our call, through our calling. It means: what desires
that we think? What calls us to thinking? Authentic thinking
comes about as a desire that is aware of its being desired. That
which in the early Heidegger appears from the retention of the
possible as the projection towards possibility, is not, in the later
Heidegger, treated as a project initiated by Dasein, but as
something to which it is called and empowered from being and
made possible from there. It returns in the notion of desire,
seen as something that does not want a well-defined object, but
is rather attuned to that which will come. This attunement to
that which will come and into the possible comes about when
we desire ‘being’ authentically. We desire ‘being’ authentically
when this ‘being’ itself desires us. From this desire, man can
think authentically. Against this background Heidegger can
affirm that “Who the deepest has thought, loves what is most
alive.”
22 Heidegger intends a kinship between thinking and lov-
ing. This love makes authentic thinking possible.
Precisely because this desire is a mutual event, Dasein is not
always capable of it. On the one hand, we desire authentic
thinking too little; on the other, that which we desire authenti-
cally has to desire us first. This temporalization does not lead
to a present-at-hand-actuality that is to be made present and to
be made into a possession. As a source of possibility it is not
absorbed in the actual, but withdraws from human control and
always remains higher than all actual things. Thus being as ‘the
quiet force of the possible’ is always retreating from actual
reality. Nevertheless, it is not completely absent for human beings;
as a source of possibility it attracts us. Accordingly, Heidegger
outlines the relation of Dasein to being in terms of attracting
and withdrawing. Being attracts Dasein precisely because it is
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withdrawing: what attracts us has already expressed its coming.
Heidegger writes, “What withdraws from us, draws us along by
its very withdrawal, whether or not we become aware of it
immediately, or at all. Once we are drawn into the withdrawal,
we are drawing toward what draws, attracts us by its with-
drawal. And once we, being so attracted, are drawing toward
what draws us, our essential nature already bears the stamp of
‘drawing toward.’ As we are drawing toward what withdraws,
we ourselves are pointers pointing toward it. We are who
we are by pointing in that direction — not like an incidental
adjunct, but as follows: this ‘drawing toward’ is in itself an
essential and therefore constant pointing toward what with-
draws. To say ‘drawing toward’ is to say ‘pointing toward what
withdraws.’ ”
23 What is withdrawing here, in Heidegger’s per-
spective, is the coming and the possible, in that it can never be
presented as real. It remains, as persistent coming and as per-
sistent possibility, unovertakeable. In this way, it is preserved
for man in its own nature.
The ontology of the present-at-hand is inclined to change the
possible into the actual without holding on to the possible. The
essential structure of desire on the other hand , is such that
the possible remains standing above the actual. With this expla-
nation of desire Heidegger positions himself in opposition to
Western ontology, which, he claims, is ever concerned with
dominance of the actual over the possible. From Greek philos-
ophy on, being-in-act, the actual, has been placed above the
possible. Heidegger, in contrast, wants to define the actual from
the measure of the possible.
THE POETIC THEOLOGIA
As I mentioned before, openness for the possible is some-
thing that is present throughout Heidegger’s work. In his inter-
pretation of Hölderlin’s poem, “Remembrance,” Heidegger mentions
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246 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
this priority of the possible and sees a special task here for the
poet.
24 The possible in Heidegger is situated in the dream; it is
the ‘place’ where the possible appears. Instead of reducing the
dream to something unreal, and measuring the dream by actual
reality, Heidegger suggests the opposite: the dream determines
the perspective in which the actual appears. The unreal is given
priority over the actual. Heidegger confirms the place of the
possible in the dream when he writes that the dream brings
about the not-yet-appropriated fullness of the possible.
25 “Their
nonreality must be thought according to the meaning of the
poet. However the nonreal is for that reason never a mere nul-
lity because it can be either the no-longer actual or the not-yet-
real... This dream shows itself to the poet because the dream,
as this divinely terrible nonreality, is the poem of the holy that
cannot be composed in advance... The becoming-real of the
possible, as the becoming-ideal of the actual, in the realm of
the free imagination of poetry, has the essential character of a
dream . . . But the poets can compose that which is in advance
of their poem only if they utter that which precedes everything
real: what is coming... The holy which is foretold poetically
merely opens the time for an appearing of the gods, and points
into the location of the dwelling of historical man upon this
earth.”
26 In Heidegger’s view it is the poet who can wait and
long for the coming; he is, based on this longing, capable of
naming the holy. In naming the holy, the poet creates a holy
place to prepare an abode for gods and mortals.
The traditional interpretation of poetic thinking and speak-
ing, from the perspective of the power of imagination, stems
from representational thinking.
27 Heidegger says that language
speaks in order to reject representing thinking. To understand
this, one has to listen to the speaking of language; this means
that the poet does not have to look for the image but has to
listen to what is already said. When we understand language in
this way, then we do not understand it as founded in something
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that is no longer language. Language is not an entity that can
be founded in another entity, for the being of entity is not an
entity itself.
28 If we consider poetic activity as depicting an
exemplary image, then this explication is completely tied to
representational thinking.
29
Heidegger places the theological element of thinking in the
work of the poet. Heidegger’s philosophy thus has its own the-
ology within the thinking of being. How this is connected is
the second point I want to work out in this chapter. For this, it
is necessary to analyze what Heidegger writes about theology
as poetry. This is something especially present in Heidegger’s
later work and in his interpretations of Hölderlin.
Heidegger not only uses the word theology with regard to
poetry, but also with regard to a hermeneutics of faith as
we saw in chapter three. The second meaning of theology is
the metaphysical meaning, which I discussed in the chapters on
the causa sui. Theology also has poetic meaning: “Theol-
ogos, theologiamean at this point the mytho-poetic utterance
about the gods, with no reference to any creed or ecclesias-
tical doctrine.”
30 Heidegger’s use of the word ‘theology’ there-
fore has three meanings: theology as a hermeneutic of faith,
theology as ontotheology, and theology as the poetic naming of
the gods.
Heidegger understands this concept of theologiaas a logos
from and about the gods, a mythical and poetical naming of the
gods. In poetry something is named. What is this naming? This
naming does not hand out titles, it does not apply terms, it calls
into words. Calling brings closer what it calls.
31 Such a calling
is an original naming, which calls into presence something out
of the hidden. This naming is a glorifying. Glory in Greek is
doxa. Doke∂means: I show myself, appear, enter into the light.
Here the emphasis is on sight and aspect, the regard in which
a man stands. To glorify, to attribute regard to and to disclose
regard, means in Greek to place in the light and thus endow
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248 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
with permanence, being. Heidegger wants to show that for the
Greeks, appearing belonged to being, or more precisely that the
essence of being lay partly in appearing. In the other Greek
word for glory, kleos,the emphasis is on hearing and calling.
Thus glory is the fame (call, reputation) in which one stands.
32
For the Greeks, glory was not something additional that one
might or might not obtain; rather, it was the mode of the high-
est being. For the moderns, glory has long been nothing more
than celebrity and is as such a highly dubious affair, an acqui-
sition tossed about and distributed by the newspapers and the
radio — almost the opposite of being.
LOGOS AS GATHERING ,P RESENCING ,AND KEEPING
Heidegger understands theo-logy as the utterance of a logos
about the gods. To understand this, it is important to explicate
Heidegger’s concept of logos more precisely. Generally we
tend to define the Greek word logosas ratio:as thinking about
and judging about reality, sometimes even as the calculating of
reality. This has developed within onto-theology. But Heidegger
wants to point out the original meaning of the word. Logos
originally means ‘word,’ ‘language’; it is connected with the
word legein. Logoshas nothing to do originally with speaking.
Lege¨, legein, legereis the same as the German word lesen(to
gather, collect, read): “Ähren lesen,Holz lesen, die Weinlese,
die Auslese” (to glean, to gather wood, the vintage, the cream
of crop); “ein Buch lesen” (to read a book) is only a variant of
lesenin the strict sense, which is to put one thing with another,
to bring together, in short, to gather. It is a selective gathering
in which the pros and cons are weighed.
33
Logosis that which executes the activity of gathering. Thus
logosdoes not mean in the first place something like word or
doctrine; rather it indicates that gathering takes place.
34 Logos
means the gathering which is in itself permanently dominant.
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Gathering is never a mere driving-together and heaping up, nor
is it the neutralizing of differences. The logosas gathering
activity does not let what it holds in its power dissolve into an
empty freedom from opposition, but by uniting the opposites
maintains the full sharpness of their tension.
35 It is an activity
in which the extremes are gathered and yet stay apart.
36 The
activity of logosis more subjectively indicated by what we
mean by the word synthesis. The logosgathers together in such
a way that the differences in reality are not equalized; there
is meaningfulness and harmony together with the maintain-
ing of the differences. “It is proper to every gathering that the
gatherers assemble to coordinate their work to the sheltering,
and — gathered together with that end in view — first begin to
gather. The gathering (die Lese) requires and demands this
assembly. This original coordination governs their collective
gathering.”
37
The original gathering still can be heard, in a very faded
way, in indicating judgment as combination of subject and
predicate.
38 So when we hear today the words being and unity
we do not immediately think of uniting and gathering from the
logos. This gathering of the logos pervades and is earlier than
all judging reasoning, meaning and being convinced. Only
within the gathering of the logoscan man exist in the world as
a domain of meaning.
But logosis not only a gathering. Legeinindicates gathering
as well as laying, in the sense of bringing to lie. Thus to lay
is also at the same time to place one thing beside another, to
lay them together. To lay means to gather (lesen). The lesen
better known to us, namely the reading of something written,
remains but one sort of gathering, namely as letting-lie-
together-before.
39For the Greeks, saying is especially lying-before
and lying open. Saying is thought in a Greek way as bringing
out, as showing something as it appears. What is laid-before
becomes visible in lying-before, and is therefore presented. The
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250 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
logospresents the presence of what is laid-before and shows it
in its presence. “Saying means, when thought in a Greek man-
ner, “to bring to light,” “to let something appear in its look,”
“to show the way in which it regards us,” which is why a say-
ing clarifies things for us.
40 Speaking does not mean the trans-
mission of what someone has in his head. For a long time, speaking
has been considered as the expression of inner thoughts or as
the giving of meaning to external entities. Saying and speaking
are now determined as what let things and entities lie-before;
they are gathered into entities by speaking and saying and so
become visible in their presence. This is what Heidegger calls
the being of entities: in the logos the being of entities is shown
and made visible.
41 Heidegger himself expresses this concisely
when he interprets a poetical experience of Stefan George: “Where
word breaks off no thing may be.” Heidegger connects logos
and being: “The word is logos. It speaks simultaneously as the
name for Being and for Saying.”
42
Thus in order to work out the concept of theologiaas
it appears in the later Heidegger, I must explicate the concept
of logos. From the preceding it should be clear that this
word indicates the presencing of entities. Theologiacan then
be understood as the language of the gods. What happens in
language? The logosin language is that which evokes the
presence of something around and before man. Especially inso-
far as man is, and is related or is able to relate to entities,
man needs word and language. “In the Greek definition of the
essence of human being, legeinand logosmean the relation
on the basis of which what is present gathers itself for the first
time as such around and for human beings. And only because
human beings are insofar as they relate to beings as beings,
unconcealing and concealing them, can they and must they
have the “word,” i.e., speak of the being of beings.”
43 Human
being is a being that has logos. Language shows, lets appear,
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and lets hear. The wording lets appear. In language an unconcealing
happens — in Greek, a-letheia. “Because the logos lets lie
before us what lies before us as such, it discloses what is pre-
sent in its presencing. But disclosure is aletheia.”
44 The uncon-
cealing draws the present out of the hidden and the dark.
In speaking out the word, the gathering happens in such a
way that the present is presented in its presence. Saying and
being, word and thing belong together in an inscrutable way
because this relation is prior to the searching thinker. To indi-
cate this, Heidegger uses the aforementioned poem by Stefan
George: “Where word breaks off no thing may be.”
45 Things
are only in word and in language: “In the word, in language,
things first come to be and are.”
46 The searching thinker only
investigates questions that are already there, because the rela-
tion between word and thing is earlier than scientific research.
Therefore, speaking as Heidegger sees it cannot be considered
as something in which meaning is given afterwards, or another
mark given to an already familiar or present thing.
When mortals speak language, the world and things get their
place and difference.
47 The saving in the word happens simul-
taneously with the opening of being: language happens and
there is putting-into-words. Language starts where man awakes
in being. Language as a mortal, poetical work is a proto-poet-
izing. However, it is not only the bringing into light of entities,
but also the safekeeping of the entities in the light. What
awakens arrives in the word, is gathered in it, and is kept saved
in it. Especially with regard to the safekeeping function that
language has, there is the possibility of dissoluteness, reckless-
ness and loss. Language comes not only as an unconcealing
poem, but also as chatter and talk. Instead of the opening of
the being of entities, it functions as the concealing of them. Instead
of selecting, gathering, and synthesis, there is dispersion into
unfittingness.
48
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252 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
THE A P RIORI CHARACTER OF THE LOGOS ,L ISTENING AND BEING
ATTUNED
When we employ the usual understanding of language, namely
that it is man as subject who speaks, then we assume that it is
man who is the maker and master of language. This is why
man can see language as a mere means of expression of his
inner thoughts.
49Heidegger problematizes this position, and asserts
that on the contrary it is language that dominates man.
50“Language
speaks” is a well-known and amazing statement by Heideg-
ger.
51 In the tradition of language in which man is situated and
in the environment in which he grows up, language has always
already spoken. It is earlier and prior, a priori.
Man would be indifferent to the priority of language were
he not attuned to what is said there.
52 The addressed is itself
that which lies before us as gathered. In order to really under-
stand really what is said, man must concentrate. Hearing is
actually this gathering of oneself which composes itself on
hearing the pronouncement and its claim. What is heard comes
to presence in hearkening.
53 Here it is not so much a matter for
research, but rather of paying thoughtful attention to simple things;
man can hear wrongly insofar as he does not catch what is
essential. It is not about a physiological process in the ears; we
hear, not the ear.
54 When we listen, we are in the room of the
spoken word. In this room, the words spoken in the addressed
open up. Heidegger says that words are a wellspring, not terms,
and thus are not like buckets and kegs from which we scoop a
content that is there. Words are wellsprings that are found and
dug up in the telling, wellsprings that must be found and dug
up again and again, that easily cave in, but that at times also
well up when least expected. If we do not go to the spring
again and again, the buckets and kegs stay empty, or their con-
tent gets stale.
55 This going to the spring means listening to
what is said in the tradition and its words.
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Listening to the words is something different from a mere
activity or investigation of words, as happens in philology. Listening
to the words in this way is difficult because we tend to direct
ourselves to the commonplace. When we hear something, we
are immediately directed to that about which something is said,
the thing or the object that is there, without hearing what is
said in the word itself.
In words very akin to Heidegger, W. F. Otto describes this
process.
56 Otto points out that the poets, however they appear
to us as the ones who create and make, experience themselves
as those who receive and listen to something that precedes
them. What the poet says was addressed to him; he has listened
to the mythical word. Myth is a truth that is not examined. It
immediately interferes with life and determines man as a
whole.
57 The language of the poet is originally not a means to
make something understandable. The language of the poet is
the open figure of truth in the myth. This truth is not found by
an investigating subject or by the research of man; this truth
reveals out of itself. Furthermore, the god reveals itself and is
revealed by its word.
58 Because the unconcealment of the word
precedes all speaking, it is said that in poetry man himself does
not speak, but the godhead. It is the muse who sings, whereas
the poet only echoes the tune. Therefore it is not man who
finds the words to speak out reality and the divine character of
reality. The muses indicate the divine wonder that being speaks
out from itself. Heidegger expresses this as follows: “The writ-
ing of poetry is the fundamental naming of the gods. But the
poetic word only acquires its power of naming, when the gods
themselves bring us to language.”
59
Myth, poetry, and music are experienced as being executed
without reason. They let truth appear from themselves. Because
they happen by and from themselves, their disclosing is attrib-
uted to the gods only when man has received from the gods is
he able to speak.
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254 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Nietzsche also pointed out the importance of music, rhythm,
and myth. Poetry to him means the rhythmicising of lan-
guage.
60 The rhythmic prayer is more understandable and bet-
ter heard by the gods. Rhythm is a compulsion; it provokes
assent and surrender in which the whole soul is involved.
Earlier than philosophy, music has the power to cleanse the
soul. According to Nietzsche, there is a kinship between myth
and music. This is the reason why he speaks of the myth-build-
ing spirit of music.
61
The myth, the original word that is said because of itself, is
related to the rhythm of music insofar as it evokes assent and
surrender for its own sake. Therefore, the word was spoken
originally with rhythmic song. Rhythm and music are not
placed in the service of something else; they are said and done
because of themselves. That is why the work of the poets and
singers is claimed by the gods. Wherever people sing, the
human singer is primarily someone who listens; he attunes his
voice before he starts to sing. In this phenomenon a knowledge
appears that something precedes human speaking, something
that has to be received and to be heard, before a mouth can say
it for an ear.
62
Therefore language appears as something without any object
because it existed at first musically and as singing. This is
because singing is self-sufficient and does not want to produce
something. The music-making man has to speak sounds with-
out an object and without being heard by others. What applies
for music in general has to apply for language as well, because
language is a kind of music, even though it is deprived of
every melody.
Spoken, everyday language does not flow anymore; it is stopped
by a tendency toward the static. The melodic sentence is
divided into independent words. Once the word has become a
specific sound combination and has become a calcified element,
then it appears as a thing and an object. Where there is no lan-
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guage, there are no things, and there is no thinking of things.
Only in language are things present as things. In myth and
music, conversely, the being of the world appears not like an
object or representation. Myth is the primal phenomenon of human
thinking and knowing. Gods and myth are not invented; they
appear and show themselves because of themselves. They
appear with singing speaking, which does not stem from a self-
willed power, but is experienced as something to receive and
to hear. Rhythm and music that originally belong to language
show the basic tone of human speaking.
Modern theories of language generally locate the origin of
language in the need for communication. With that one passes
easily to other linguistic expressions that do not fit into this
category. The idea that language is communication presupposes
that there are things in themselves and that these things receive
a meaning from language in order to remember them and to
inform others. However a thing really exists only in language-
thinking. Language does not give meaning to the things, but
lets them appear.
63
Poetic speaking, therefore is not at first a communication of
something, but exists, like music, for its own sake. The poet
and the original speaker speak because language itself speaks
through them. Therefore, every verbal expression can be con-
sidered as a living organism and as a melodic whole. This orig-
inary speaking is prior to communication, just as singing is
primarily a singing for its own sake and is not in service to
something else.
Both rhythm and speaking provoke assent from their own
accord.
64 Poetic speaking is attuned to what is said in the logos
in order to correspond to it. This correspondence is a listening,
by which an original speaking is made possible, as the musi-
cian listens to the possibilities that are handed down to him and
that come over him in making music. The musician is in the
first place in service to the music, not the opposite. Similarly,
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256 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
language is not at the service of human beings but the reverse; human
beings are at the service of language.
65 So the human being
only speaks when he corresponds to language, and when he lis-
tens to what language says and addresses to him. This corre-
sponding to language occurs, according to Heidegger, in the saying
and speaking that is pronounced in poetry. The more poetic a
poet is, the more his saying is at the service of listening. But
by the same token his speaking is distanced from statements
about which one can only say that they are true or false.
66
Therefore, speaking itself is already a listening, which
means listening to the language we speak. Listening to and
hearing language is prior to every other kind of listening. To
be able to listen to a language, the human being has to be
attuned to what is said in language. We not only speak a lan-
guage, we speak by way of it. We can do so solely because we
have always already listened to the language.
67
When we turn back now to Heidegger’s concept of theolo-
gia,then we have to conclude that it has all the characteristics
of logos. In this case, it is a logosof the gods. To speak the
logosof the gods, the poet has to be attuned and to listen to
what is said in the theologia. With this reference to the logos
of theo-logia, we try to clarify its original meaning. At first, we
saw that the logosof theo-logiapresents the appearing of the
gods and gathers them in their presence. In theological speak-
ing, the gods come into their being; they are unconcealed and
saved in it. Secondly, it is not the subjective will of the human
being that calls up the gods like a kind of magic or by an inde-
pendent action of the human being. In speaking the language,
the gods appear. When the human being listens to the language,
he or she listens to what language says about the gods. After
this rather formal characterization of theo-logiaas the poetic
presentation of the being of the gods, we need to ask who,
according to Heidegger, is a theo-logos. Who names and
praises the gods and offers them presence?
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THE POET AS A THEOLOGOS ,L ONGING FOR THE RIGHT WORD
The concept of poetry has a broader meaning than verbal poetry,
from Heidegger’s perspective. All art, as the letting happen of
the advent of the truth of what is, is essentially poetry.
68
Linguistic poetry is only one way of the lightning project of
truth, of poetry in the broader sense. Nevertheless, poetry in its
narrow sense as a work of language has a special place in the
domain of art. Language alone brings what is, as something
that is, into the open for the first time. Where there is no lan-
guage, there is also no openness of what is. Language first
brings entities to word and to appearance. Only this naming
nominates beings to their being from out of their being. Such
saying is a projecting of the clearing, in which the entities that
come into the open are first announced. Entities like water,
stone, and god are called forward by naming them. That which
is gathered and laid down in the name, by means of such lay-
ing, comes to light and comes to lie before us.
69 The poet
knows about the relation between word and thing. The relation
between word and thing is not such that the word is situated
on one side and the thing on the other side: “The word itself
is the relation which in each instance retains the thing within
itself in such a manner that it “is” a thing.”
70 The verb “is” has
here a transitive meaning. The word is involved with the thing
in such a way that it “is” the thing that it means, as it presents
the thing. Hölderlin especially writes poetry from the perspec-
tive of the relation between word and thing. Through Hölderlin,
Heidegger invites language itself to speak, in contrast to con-
sidering language as a sign of something else, as has been the
case since Aristotle.
Because man has to listen to what is said in language, not-
hearing and being mute are also possible. Therefore language
also gives the possibility of the loss of being.
71 Because the
openness of entities has to be saved in language by listening to
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258 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
what language says to us, the openness of entities can get lost.
That the poet has to listen to language means also that he has
to stay in its track; he has to listen to what is announced, he
has to be attuned in the right way, but therefore he is also
exposed to error.
The requirement of listening is at first present in conversa-
tion. A conversation has as a condition that one be able to lis-
ten and be attuned to the word that comes from elsewhere.
This means being directed towards what is said and announced
in a word. Being able to talk and being able to hear are co-
originary. Only then is a conversation possible.
72
Against this background, Heidegger brings up the appearing
and the arrival of the gods in Hölderlin’s words. Gods are not
constituted out of or with the help of language. The words in
which they are named are not experienced as an act of man,
but as an answer to a call of the gods. But the gods can come
to expression only if they themselves address us and place us
under their claim. A word that names the gods is always an
answer to such a claim.
73 Myth and logos,which are prior, and
to which the poet listens and is attuned, call for naming and
praising the gods.
The naming of the gods is executed as poetry. What is expressed
by the poet attuned to the word of the logo,is experienced as
a gift, a gift of the gods. Now it becomes clear that poetry
is a founding: a naming of being and of the essence of all
things — not just any saying, but that whereby everything first
steps into the open, which we then discuss and talk about in
everyday language. “Poetry is the sustaining ground of history,
and therefore not just an appearance of culture.”
74 Poetry
proper is never merely a higher mode of everyday language;
everyday language is a forgotten and therefore used-up poem,
from which there hardly resounds a call any longer.
75 In lan-
guage as poetry, human existence gets a ground, a ground that
is experienced as a bestowed gift. It is a gift that is handed
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down to man and that comes over to and is sent to him.
Wherever language provokes mortals to listen, it is the gods
who call and commit to the right word. The poet experiences
himself as compelled by the claim of the gods, and as called
up to answer this claim and to be attuned to it. The listening
of the poet to this claim is both a reception and a hearing. The
poet is placed in an intermediate area between the man to
whom the poet offers a ground and the gods who call the poet
up to say the right word and to express it.
Heidegger’s explication of the naming of the gods is con-
nected with his question of the destiny of being. Being is not
an all-controlling agency; that would not correspond to the idea
that it happens as an overcoming destiny. Nor should the nam-
ing of the gods be considered as a level still to be transgressed
in order to reach a complete understanding of being. It lies in
the destiny of being whether the right word will appear to
name the gods. Only when words are addressed to the gods
and offered to name them, only then will the poet be able, by
listening to the language, to find the right names.
Consequently the poet is only able to say a poem when the
poet is able to put into words the coming and what is offered
to the poet as a gift. Then the poet’s word is the foretelling
word. In that sense the poet breaks new ground and is pro-
phetic, not in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word but from
the essence of poetical foretelling.
76 In going out and reaching
out to the unknown and strange, and in the listening to the
coming, the shining light of the holy rises. The holy has to be
caught by the poet in the right word. Only then can the appear-
ing show itself as it complies with and saves itself in the right
word. The poet listens to what is said in the offered address;
expecting and listening (not planning or calculating) he realizes
the real saying.
The poet would not be able to say the right word and be
open to it if he or she were not attuned to the gods. That the
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260 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
poet is attuned means that the poet is in a mood. Man is
already in a mood before being able to think and to choose.
Because human beings are fundamentally in an attuned mood,
they can be moved: the things that happen can play on them.
So humans can be played upon and can assent to the words
that call them, entering into the play and the mood in such a
way that he is attuned to the play. The poet is the one who
hopes for and longs for the corresponding attunement. Thus attuned
to the words of the gods and directed towards an expression of
them, he is in a mood of desire with respect to the gods, look-
ing for a corresponding word in answer to this desire.
The poet is the one who, in his outreaching search, is on the
way. The longing of the poet realizes itself as being on the
way. Heidegger expresses this as follows: “To a thinking so
inclined that reaches out sufficiently, the way is that by which
we reach — which lets us reach what reaches out for us by
touching us, by being our concern. The way is such, it lets us
reach what concerns and summons us.”
77 The longing for the
corresponding attunement in the claim of the gods is realized
as being on a way. There we long for what concerns us. What
we long for reaches out to us, claims us and demands us, and
lets us come in that place where we are at home. The way is
what brings us to our concern. It is the poet’s concern to be
attuned to the claim of the gods and to find his home there.
The saying and naming of the gods is not an arbitrary
process. The gods are only put into words when there is an
authentic speaking. In poetry the authentic conversation takes
place. The poet names the gods when the words are handed
down, and the gods are confirmed in their being. When the
poet speaks the essential word, then by this naming the entity
is named as what it is; thus is the entity known as an entity,
and the god as god.
The poetic naming of the gods is more than just pointing out
the holy. The holy is the place where gods can appear; when
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this place fails, gods cannot be named. Naming the gods means
letting them appear. “To name poetically means to let the high
one himself appear in words.”
78 The poets have to prepare a
shelter for the gods in the holy. In explicating the holy, the
poet is called to name it as holy by listening to it. “The poet’s
word is the pure calling of what those poets who are always
divining wait and long for. The poetic naming says what the
called itself, from its essence, compels the poet to say.”
79 The
gods need the word of the poet in order to appear, so that
they can be as gods in their appearing. As we have already
mentioned, Heidegger sees Hölderlin here as the poet par
excellence. “Hölderlin’s poem gathers poesisunder a holy com-
pulsion: naming the present gods, gathering them into a saying
which is needed by the heavenly ones and ordained by them.
Since Hölderlin spoke it, it speaks in our language, whether or
not it is heard.”
80
Heidegger describes theology as the poetical naming of the
gods; but to make this possible, the holy names fail. It is a
time in which the gods are fled. The poetical desire looks for
a right attunement to say the right word, but the right word is
difficult to find.
Humans are never able to speak on his own, because as a
mortal they are always the addressed one. This is the important
difference between Heidegger and all philosophy of intentional-
ity and will. He rejects a transcendental and constituting conscience,
as is there for Husserl and the German Idealists, because of
the given that man is always already addressed. According to Hegel,
language is neutralized into a pure, immaterial concept; in Heidegger,
on the other hand, entities would not appear in their being
without language. Not only language and temporality are ear-
lier than human being, but also the longing attuning that looks
for its right attunement and destiny. Humans are always already
situated in language and addressed by language; they are
always in a certain mood when he looks for attuning.
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262 Heidegger?s Philosophy of Religion
Especially because Hölderlin experiences language as some-
thing given and as already spoken before him, he is able to be
open for the word that is able to name the high. Longing for
attuning and being in the language in which one looks for the
right word are inseparably connected in Heidegger. The word
is not constituted by acts of conscience, but it falls to man’s lot
and comes over to him. From the desire for attunement, the
word that does not come over can be experienced as failing.
Whether that word will come or not disposes the destiny of
being.
The gods who appear get respect and esteem upon their
appearance. The Greek word doxameans regard, the regard in
which someone is held and the standing he has. Therefore doxa
means splendour and praise. Praising means showing that
someone is held in high regard; it means giving regard to
someone. The poet says the praise and in praising, the gods
become what they are. The praise turns into a song and
announces someone’s name; the song celebrates the advent of
the gods. Song is not the opposite of a discourse, but rather the
most intimate kinship with it.
81 Singing in particular cannot be
understood on the basis of human intentionality. Singing and
praising are motivated and called by the overcoming.
The poet knows that he or she is called by the gods in order
to praise their name. This implies that the poet at first has to
be a listener to know how to receive and to get the word like
a gift and an endowment. Theologiain this respect is at first
instance a praising that springs from the knowledge that he is
called, without a connection to a dogma or a church. This poet-
ical theologiadoes not ask for the first cause or the totality of
entities. This theologiais the song that is sung by the poet
when he is called up by the gods for whom he longs and
whom he praises when he finds the right word.
Heidegger not only writes about theology as poetry, but also
as has been shown in the earlier chapters, about theology as a
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hermeneutics of faith and as metaphysics. Theology is logosof
and about the gods. This means that much of what Heidegger
says about logosalso applies to the logosof theo-logia. I have
pointed out that the logosgathers together, presents, and saves
entities. It has the character of something that happens prior to
that in which human being is situated, and on which he or she
depends to present reality. This implies that the human being has
to be attuned to this prior being to be able to put something
into words. One tunes into language and into what is addressed
in language by listening to the words. Language is originally
for its own sake. This means that it is not its aim to commu-
nicate thoughts out of someone’s mind, but just as music is a
goal in itself, so too is language. And just as music provokes
assent and attunement, so does language; human beings
responds to this demand for attunement by listening to it.
The theologiais a poem insofar as it longs for the right
attunement with which to name the gods, so that what has to
be said about the gods can be put into words in a right way.
This presupposes in the poet a desire for the right word to be
passed down. As far as this wording succeeds, right names will
be handed down; but it can also happen that the names of the
gods stay away because the space does not fit. When the
attunement succeeds, then the poet is the one who finds the
right word in praising and presents the gods in it.
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Conclusion
n deriving philosophical insights related to religion from
Heidegger’s work, I am myself working in the sphere of a
philosophy of religion. However, one tendency of a philos-
ophical understanding of religion is to make religion itself into
a part of philosophy. This is particularly apparent where all
forms of religion get absorbed into an ontotheological philoso-
phy. In such cases religion is understood from a concept of
god, which is, as a philosophical idea, the beginning and the
end of philosophical rationality. Hegel’s philosophy is perhaps
the clearest example of this tendency. When ontotheology is
taken up in this way, however, certain possibilities for under-
standing religion are foreclosed. Heidegger, too, speaks as a
philosopher about god and the gods. Yet what is the status of
his speaking? It is not, as I showed, a description of religion.
Nor is it a poetry of religion or a metaphorization of religion.
Nevertheless, it is a philosopher that proclaims: “Only a god
can save us!”
It is my view that Heidegger’s thinking on religion occupies
a place between the forms of poetic and philosophical speak-
ing. To understand the poetic aspect of Heidegger’s language,
one must turn to his interpretations of Hölderlin. And to give
his philosophical expression its proper context one must refer
I
265
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266 Conclusion
his “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” wherein religion is located in the
neighborhood of the thinking of being. Yet religion maintains
its own tension with regard to both sides: if we grasp religion
completely from a (ontotheological) philosophical point of
view we tend to neutralize it; on the other hand, if we conceive
it simply as poetic expression, we tend to be philosophically
indifferent to it. These tensions urge us to take up the question
of Heidegger’s position. It turns out that Heidegger’s thinking
is, in the end, a theological thinking of a specific kind. It is a
theology in which he avoids every connection to an ontotheo-
logical concept of god. His thinking of being tends toward a
poetic theology of naming the gods, which is both a praising
and an invocation of them. According to Heidegger the think-
ing of being is a movement no longer in accordance with the
thinking of faith or of divinity (Gottheit). Each of these is het-
erogeneous in relation to the other. The experience of the
thinking of being manifests itself rather as a topological dis-
position, that is, as an indication of a place characterized
by availability. It is a topological disposition for waiting for,
though not expecting, the reception of being, as a place for the
happening of being. Therefore Heidegger states that he does
not know god; he can only describe god’s absence. His atheis-
tic philosophy (in the sense of an ontotheology) maintains an
openness toward the possible reception of religious gods.
In the first chapter I looked for the roots of Heidegger’s thought.
I discussed the way in which Heidegger first attempted to con-
ceptualise an ahistorical Catholicism, and how he later came to
the historicity of religion through Friedrich Schleiermacher. More-
over, I discussed Heidegger’s rejection of a theoretical ap-
proach to religion while nevertheless endeavouring to preserve
the piety of philosophy — including the piety of the philosophy
of religion. I called this the pre-historical Heidegger. The term
pre-historical refers to the timeless character of scholastic and
neoscholastic Catholicism, the intellectual environment out of
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which Heidegger emerged, and the period prior to his adoption
of a historical perspective. Heidegger’s persistent questioning
towards the ontological and temporal as the ‘earlier’ and ‘prior’
is to be understood as piety (Frommigkeit).
Heidegger’s language with respect to the phenomenon of
religion, however, finds itself mired in a pious atheism: where
the object of phenomenology is concerned, he attempts to
remain radically atheistic, yet on the other hand, he seeks to be
pious and devoted when it comes to this same object. The
pious person here is the devoted ascetic who understands his
object as it demands to be understood, i.e., from out of its fac-
tical character. Only when philosophy has become fundamen-
tally atheistic can it decisively choose life in its very facticity,
and thereby make this an object for itself. Because philosophy
is concerned with the facticity of life, the philosophy of reli-
gion must be understood from that same perspective. For Heidegger
the very idea of philosophy of religion (especially if it makes
no reference to the facticity of the human being) is pure non-
sense. Such nonsense evolves out of a lack of piety, i.e., a
merely theoretical approach that fails to attune itself to the facticity
of life. Thus, Heidegger’s endeavours to destruct ontotheology
have their roots in his experience that theistic conceptuality is
not appropriate to understand the facticity of life.
Through his explication of the notion of historicity, Heideg-
ger was able to find a path leading out of the closed religious
world in which he was raised. This rupture takes place with his
encounter with Schleiermacher. Through Schleiermacher’s
thinking, Heidegger was offered the possibility of isolating the
religious as the absolute; and in so doing, he was led away
from both theology and theoretical philosophy in his thinking.
Out of this engagement, Heidegger was able to conclude that
the religious is none other than the historical, due to the fact
that the radicality of a personal position is only to be uncov-
ered within history.
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268 Conclusion
Heidegger directed his philosophy toward the facticity of human
being, which will be developed as the historicality of Dasein.
The attempt to think facticity was his guiding interest during
this early period, and it is from the standpoint of this interest
that his approach to religion must be understood. As the win-
ter semester approached in 1920, Heidegger announced his upcom-
ing lecture course, entitled “Introduction to the Phenomenology
of Religion.” The question here, however, is how Heidegger, as
a philosopher, understood this conception within the horizon of
his philosophy of the facticity of life. The first answer that
must be given is that he formalized the fundamental Christian
experience of life. He does not choose a position with respect
to the particular content of this experience, but rather limits
himself to investigating the sustaining conditions of the possi-
bility of this experience. Heidegger asks whether the kairolog-
ical moment can be preserved within the history of the actualization
of life and the unpredictability of the eschaton. It could poten-
tially be understood as a possibility that we ourselves have or
something that is under our control, so that the future that
withdraws from us becomes part of our own planning. Yet, if
it were to be understood thus, the specific character of the
kairoswould then be lost in a totalizing form of calculation.
The future would then be conceived in the end as a horizon of
consciousness out of which experiences evolve in a certain
order. For Heidegger, the kairoshas more to do with the con-
ditions of the possibility of facticity, which it goes on to deter-
mine in a formal way. For what takes place with regard to the
content in the moment of the kairoscan itself never be
deduced. If it is possible to encounter properly the suddenness
of the kairos, it must be accomplished without the aid of
deduction.
Heidegger’s interpretation of Augustine is an elucidation of
this. This interpretation points out that the quest for true life
tends to ossify as a result of humanity’s devotion to sensual
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preoccupations. We can see here that Heidegger’s quest for
truth is no longer devoted to the highest being, as was the case
during his early studies in Freiburg. Rather, the historicity of
religion has to be understood out of its own situation and out
of the presuppositions contained within it. It should not be
taken up from a philosophical framework, as if from the stand-
point of some highest being, precisely because the philosophi-
cal idea of a highest being hinders our understanding of
facticity, and with this, religion as an expression of facticity. In
Heidegger’s thinking, the orientation toward the highest is
instead reformulated as a historical orientation. We see this change
actualized in Heidegger’s earliest writings, and it involves as
well the philosophical paradigm with which he approaches reli-
gion. What we are left with, then, is a religion that is an expres-
sion of historicity.
Heidegger looks for a better philosophy, but not for a new
faith that would be a faith without philosophy. In his complete
devotion to philosophy, he distances himself from religious
philosophical approaches, in which a religious a priori is sup-
posed. He distances himself as well from a conciliation of faith
and reason that would reduce faith to reason, as in the philoso-
phies of Kant and Hegel. Nor does he assume the harmony of
faith and reason at which Thomistic philosophy aims.Instead,
the metaphysical paradigm is put into perspective, where one
can see how it opposes the understanding of facticity. Heideg-
ger seeks an atheistic philosophy, or at the very least, a phi-
losophy without an a priori conception of god.
Heidegger understands faith as the natural enemy of philos-
ophy. Faith appears as a possibility of existence, yet one which
implies death for the possibility of the existence of philosophy.
In chapter 3 we saw the fundamental opposition of two possi-
bilities of existence, which cannot be realized by one person in
one and the same moment. Yet neither excludes a factical and
existentiell taking seriously of the other. This does not mean
Conclusion 269
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270 Conclusion
that the scientists in each respective field must behave like ene-
mies. The existentiell opposition between faith, on the one
hand, and philosophical self-understanding, on the other, must
be effective in its scientific design and in its explications. And
this must be done in such a way that each meets the other with
mutual respect. This can be undertaken more easily where one
sees more sharply the different points of departure. Christian
philosophy, therefore, is in Heidegger’s view a “square circle.”
Nevertheless, one can thoughtfully question and work
through the world of Christian experience, the world of faith.
This would be, then, theology. Heidegger sees in theology’s
dependence on philosophy a lack of greatness in theology
itself. Only ages that really no longer believe in the true great-
ness of the task of theology arrive at the pernicious opinion
that, through a supposed refurbishment with the help of phi-
losophy, a theology can be gained or even replaced, and can be
made more palatable to the need of the age. Philosophy for
originally Christian faith is foolishness.
If Heidegger rejects the philosophical paradigm with which
religion usually is approached, the question arises from where
stems the ontotheological philosophical approach of religion?
This ontotheological approach is at work even today. Heidegger
sees its origin in Aristotle’s philosophy. For Heidegger, Greek
philosophy reaches its climax in Aristotle and is decisive for
the whole of Western philosophy. Therefore, Aristotle’s think-
ing is a normative point from which the philosophical tradition
can be determined more precisely. The well-thought-out way in
which Aristotle follows the motive of philosophy marks at the
same time the limit of the whole tradition, which becomes vis-
ible now as a finite possibility for thinking and as a temporary
answer to the question of being.
Already, in his earliest writings, Heidegger emphasizes the
relation between ontology and theology in Aristotle’s first
philosophy. Heidegger sees the metaphysical tradition as an
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ontotheological tradition that follows from the tendency for
philosophy to forget its original motive. This tendency is due
to the fact that understanding has its concrete possibility for
being actualized in being free from daily concerns, which
places the possibility of theorizing against the background of
the facticity of life. Theoreinis the purest movement which life
has available to it. Because of this, it is something “god-like.”
But for Aristotle the idea of the divine did not arise in the
explication of something objective which was made accessible
in a basic religious experience; the theionis rather the expres-
sion for the highest being-character which arises in the onto-
logical radicalization of the idea of being.
Being is understood from a normative perspective, from the
perspective of the highest way of being. Connected with this is
the highest way of moving, which is pure thinking. This also
determines the way Christianity speaks about the highest being
of God. The question whether there is ontology without a the-
ology for Heidegger is, however, no longer a question within
the domain of philosophy and metaphysics. Rather, it is within
what he calls the domain of ‘thinking.’ The motive of philoso-
phy, strictly speaking, has disappeared from philosophy, but it
has been preserved in the thinking of being. This domain of
thinking is, in a sense, a counterparadigm to philosophy in
which the question of being is not answered with an entity that
represents the highest way of being, the whole of being and the
cause of being. The “without why” is the counterparadigm of
metaphysics with which Heidegger presents an atheological
ontology.
Heidegger’s criticism with regard to the metaphysical con-
cept of god is especially directed toward the concept of god as
cause. In the wake of Aristotle, being is understood as actual-
itas. The highest representation of actualitasis an entity, which
as a determining characteristic has this actualitasin the purest
way. This means that it is actus purus. Being in the first and
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272 Conclusion
the purest way is proper to god. Such a metaphysics does not
transcend the level of entities, because it does not understand
the difference between being and entity (ontological difference).
On one hand, it speaks about being as a characteristic of enti-
ties and is only understood as this characteristic (actualitasas
determination of the dominant understanding of an entity). On
the other hand, it sets as the ground of entities another entity,
which possesses the criterion for being an entity in the most
perfect way. In a certain sense, god is an exemplary instance
of being as actualitas,of something that actualizes completely.
This idea of actualization is also present in the modern ideal of
the self-actualization of the human being.
But Heidegger doesn’t understand human being from the
perspective of self-actualization. The quest for meaning is a
quest for the whole space in which man can exist. This whole
cannot become a fixed property. In the end, we are not that
which makes us possible, for it is earlier than and prior to us.
Man is understood by Heidegger as an entity that cannot
appropriate the whole of his conditions of possibility, because
he cannot appropriate his temporality which is always earlier.
The project out of which someone experiences his or her life
really anticipates a temporarydestination or a provisionalend.
This provisional end provides the actual present with meaning
and place. The whole from the perspective of which one under-
stands one’s life is not something that one can wind up and
cause oneself. The future can hold a lot of possibilities, and
things can develop in a completely other way than what one
ever had expected. The provisional and temporary whole that
we constantly anticipate mostly happens to us — it is handed
down to us, which means it is not the result of planning and
calculation. This temporary meaning generally appears for a
living human being unexpectedly and suddenly: it is given to,
approaches, or is handed down to one. This is the reason why
Heidegger speaks in Being and Timeabout ‘destiny’ and
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‘inheritance.’ Therefore, meaning as embedded in tradition does
not belong to the kind of “things” that one can make, control,
found, or bend to one’s will. Meaning and sense are beyond the
range of a planning and making will; they presuppose a
receptive openness toward that which is handed down. It is
important for human beings that they learn to be the mortals
that they are. For Heidegger this means those to whom being
appeals are capable of dying, that is taking on death as death.
The implications of the ontotheological structure of meta-
physics, which leads to a subjectification of reality in modern
times, are worked out on the basis of Heidegger’s interpreta-
tion of Nietzsche. Heidegger considers Nietzsche, just like all
great thinkers in philosophy since Plato, to be an ontotheolog-
ical philosopher. Entities are only entities out of the unifying
principle of the Will to power according to Nietzsche. There-
fore, Nietzsche’s metaphysics is, as ontology, at the same time
a theology. This metaphysical theology is a specific kind of
negative theology, its negativity shown in the pronouncement
“God is dead.” Nevertheless it remains metaphysics, be the god
living or dead.
Where god is dead, he is absent. This is something different
from the denial of god in atheism, which remains tributary to
onto-theology. The loss of god, however, is not thought within
metaphysics, that is, as ontotheology. Heidegger thinks this
experience of the absence of god as an experience of the poets.
Metaphysics cannot experience the loss of god because it is
theologically structured. For the poet, on the other hand, the
absence of god is not a lack; it is not an empty space that
needs completion. Nor is it necessary to appeal to the god that
one is used to. It is about presenting and holding out the
absence of god. The poet can live in a domain of de-cision
where ontology is not necessarily theologically structured,
since in poetry the poet has to seek, but not into the divine. In
poetry there is no a priori divine entity. It is the poet’s care to
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274 Conclusion
face up to the lack of god without fear. With the appearance of
godlessness, he must remain near to the god’s absence.
In Heidegger’s view the ontotheological temple of meta-
physics is crumbling. According to Heidegger and Nietzsche,
the death of god is a historical event, which means a history
(Geschichte), a story. It is an event that makes history. The
nature of this history can be continued, be it the history of a
god or a hero, but it is a history next to other histories. This
history is the history of the bereavement of a god. This does
not mean that this history itself has a god, for god is also sub-
jected to the destinies of history (Geschick). It is a history that
makes history. In Heidegger’s view, historicity is connected
with the historicality of Dasein. This historicality is still there
when god is dead, and even when the human being, as causa
sui, is dead. The death and coming of the gods are expressions
of the historicality of Dasein.
The difficult notion of the last god is also an expression of
the historicality of Dasein and Being. That the last god is
totally other to the Christian God presupposes that this god is
not explicable from the perspective of entities, whether the en-
tity be anthropological or ontological. Understanding the divine
from a perspective or framework in which god is the fulfilment
of a maladjusted human need for certainty goes against the
possibility of experiencing the last god. The last god is histor-
izised without a reference or presupposition of ‘something’
eternal and unchangeable. This points to a ‘theology’ that is
completely historical, because its subject is historical: a pass-
ing god. It is therefore not a question of whether this god is
pagan or Christian. Heidegger would never call this ‘theology,’
because all (metaphysical) theology presupposes the theos, the
god as an entity; and it does this so certainly that everywhere
where theology arises, the god already flies. It is not sufficient
to say in the era of nihilism that god is dead or that transcen-
dental values pass away; rather, one must learn to think a god’s
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being, as well as its truth, as passing-by. It is no longer the god
of metaphysics or the theistic God of Christianity.
The “Letter on ‘Humanism’ ” (1947) plays a crucial role
with regard to Heidegger’s position toward the gods and the
holy. Here he asks how the thinking of being makes possible
the thinking of the divine. It is no accident that Heidegger
rejects the reproach of atheism with regard to his thinking.
With the existential determination of the essence of the human
being, nothing is decided about the ‘existence of God’ or his
‘non-being’ any more than about the possibility or impossibil-
ity of gods. He does not speak out about the existence of a god
or godhead, but this is because he thinks about the possibility
and framework within which something like a god has to be
thought.
With regard to the framework of the highest entity and the
self-actualized human being, the subjectivistic interpretation of
humanity is most radically rejected in Heidegger’s notion of
the fourfold (Geviert). The fourfold indicates the unity of earth
and sky, divinities and mortals. The earth is the building bearer,
nourishing with its fruits, tending water and rock, plant and
animal. The sky is marked by the sun path, the course of the
moon, the glitter of the stars, the seasons of the year and the
light and dusk of the day. The divinities are the beckoning
messengers of the godhead. Out of the hidden sway of the
divinities, the god emerges as what he is, which removes him from
any comparison with beings that are present. The mortals are
the human beings. But human beings are not mortal because of
the finitude of life; they are mortals because they can die. To
die means to be capable of death as death. And this means to
experience death as the shrine of Nothing. As the shrine of Nothing,
death harbors within itself the presencing of Being. But this is
something of which man as causa suiis not capable.
From the perspective of man in the nearness of the fourfold,
Heidegger prefers to keep silent with regard to theology insofar
Conclusion 275
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276 Conclusion
as it is dominated by a subjectivistic anthropology. Someone
who has experienced theology in his own roots, both the the-
ology of the Christian faith and that of philosophy, would
today rather remain silent about god when he is speaking in the
realm of thinking. With these words, Heidegger points out that
one keeps silent is not only due to a lack of knowledge but
to dissociate oneself from ontotheology and its fusion with
Christian theology. Whether there is a place here for negative
theology is very doubtful, because negative theology remains
paradigmatically connected with ontotheology.
After having examined the tension between humanism and
subjectivism, it is important to ask which role the holy plays
in Heidegger’s view of the divine. It seems that there is no
direct connection between naming the holy and thinking of
being. In the postscript to “What is Metaphysics?” Heidegger
writes that thinking, obedient to the voice of being, seeks from
being the word through which the truth of being comes to lan-
guage. The saying of the thinker comes from a long-protected
speechlessness and from the careful clarifying of the realm thus
cleared. Of like provenance is the naming of the poet. Yet
because that which is like is so only as difference allows, and
because poetizing and thinking are most purely alike in their
care of the word, they are at the same time farthest separated
in their essence. The thinker says being. The poet names the
holy. This kinship and difference make further examination of
the relation between being and the holy more urgent.
Heidegger links the experience of the holy to the experience
of being as wholesomeness. Ontotheology is an understanding
of being in which god and the gods do not have a place. As
long as there is a forgottenness of being in ontotheology, there
is also a forgottenness of the historicality of the gods. It is
important in understanding religions and their gods to under-
stand them historically. Such a time needs the poets to get an
entrance to the holy.
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The holy has to appear as that in which human being can
find its wholeness. The holy is not god, the godhead, the high-
est entity of metaphysics, or the divine grace. It is an ontolog-
ical phenomenon, expressed in the thinking of being, that can
be the entrance to the religious. Without understanding the
holy, we behave with respect to it like tourists and visitors of
a museum. Therefore an understanding of it from the perspec-
tive of the historicality of being is an entrance to understand-
ing religion and the religions, god and the gods.
The last chapter developed the paradigm with which Heideg-
ger approaches the gods as historical. Theology, as part of
metaphysics, is not something that has a place in the historic-
ity of the event of being, according to Heidegger. Counter to
this, Heidegger develops the paradigm of the fourfold. The counter-
paradigm of the fourfold no longer implies a subjectivistic or
ontotheological relation to the divine and the holy. However,
this does not mean that mortals or human beings, as understood
from within the fourfold, have no relation with the gods. In a
certain sense, they have a theology when they sing and praise
the gods. We can see this especially in what Heidegger says
about the poet, particularly Hölderlin. In Heidegger’s view it is
the poet who can wait and long for the coming; he is, based
on this longing, capable of naming the holy. In naming the
holy, the poet creates a holy place to prepare an abode for gods
and mortals. Mortals dwell in that they await the divinities as
divinities. In hope they hold up to the divinities what is un-
hoped for. They wait for intimations of their coming and do
not mistake the signs of their absence.
Heidegger’s interpretation of the poetic word has a theolog-
ical element in it. He places the theological element of think-
ing in the poetical work of the poet. Heidegger’s philosophy
thus has its own theology within the thinking of being. Theol-
ogos, theologiamean at this point the mytho-poetic utterance
about the gods.
Conclusion 277
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278 Conclusion
The saying of the poet is only possible when he listens to
the word. The poet knows that he or she is called by the gods
in order to praise their name. This implies that the poet at first
has to be a listener, to know how to receive and to get the
word like a gift and an endowment. Theologiain this respect
is at first instance a praising that springs from the experience
that it is called, without a connection to a dogma or a church.
This poetical theologiadoes not ask for the first cause or the
totality of entities. This theologiais the song that is sung by
the poet.
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Notes
NOTES TO INTRODUCTION
1. See J. O. Prudhomme, God and Being: Heidegger’s Relation to
Theology(Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1997).
2. In order to avoid the immediate identification of the word god with
the concept of a highest being I lowercase the word god in almost all
cases, except where I quote from authors who use uppercase. This means
that I lowercase all references to the metaphysical god.
3. Pero Brkic, Martin Heidegger und die Theologie: Ein thema in
dreifacher Fragestellung(Mainz: Matthias Grünewald, 1994), 39. Rudolf
Bultmann remarks on this in a letter: “Das Seminar ist diesmal besonders
lehrreich, weil unser neuer Philosoph Heidegger, ein Schüler Husserls,
daran teilnimmt. Er kommt aus dem Katholizismus, ist aber ganz Protestant.”
Quoted in Antje Bultmann Lemke, Rudolf Bultmanns Werk und Wirkung,
ed. Bernd Jaspert (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1984),
202.
4. Martin Heidegger and Elisabeth Blochmann,Briefwechsel 1918–1969,
ed. Joachim W. Storck (Marbach am Neckar: Dt Schillerges, 1989), 32:
“So muß uns der heutige Katholizismus u. all dergleichen, der Protestantismus
nicht minder, ein Greuel bleiben.”
5.Martin Heidegger—Karl Jaspers, Briefwechsel 1920–1963,ed.
Walter Biemel and Hans Saner (München: Piper, 1992), 157: “und sonst
sind ja auch zwei Pfähle — die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Glauben der
Herkunft und das Mißlingen des Rektorats — gerade genug an solchem,
was wirklich überwunden sein möchte.”
6. Martin Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche ‘God is Dead,’ ” in The
Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays,trans. William Lovitt
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 90.
279
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280 Notes to Pages 5?13
7. Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundation of Logic,trans.
Michael Heim (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 165fn.
8. Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference,trans. Joan Stambaugh
(New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 72.
9. Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie
(Frankfurt a.M.: Campus, 1988), 42.
10. Martin Heidegger, On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz
(New York: Harper & Row, 1982), 10.
11. The most extensive study can be found in Anne Marie Gethmann-
Siefert, Das Verhältnis von Philosophie und Theologie im Denken Martin
Heideggers(Freiburg: Karl Alber, 1974). This study, however, had to
limit itself to Heidegger’s writings published before 1974. See also: John
D. Caputo, “Heidegger and Theology,” in The Cambridge Companion to
Heidegger,ed. Charles Guignon (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1993), 270–88 and Richard Schaeffler, “Heidegger und die Theologie,”
in Heidegger und die praktische Theologie,ed. Anne Marie Gethmann-
Siefert and Otto Pöggeler (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1988), 286–309.
12. See Brkic, 11–27.
NOTES TO CHAPTER ONE
1. Alfred Denker, Omdat Filosoferen leven is, een archeologie van
Martin Heideggers Sein und Zeit(Best: Damon, 1997), 10.
2. Martin Heidegger, Reden und andere Zeugnisse eines Lebensweges,
vol. 13 of the Gesamtausgabe(Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann,
2000), 3–6. (References to the Gesamtausgabeindicated hereafter by GA
followed by volume number and page number).
3. GA 16: 11–14.
4. Richard Schaeffler, Frömmigkeit des Denkens? Martin Heidegger
und die katholische Theologie(Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft,
1978), 3ff.
5. Martin Heidegger, Zur Sache des Denkens(Tübingen: Max
Niemeyer Verlag, 1976), 81.
6.Itinerarium mentis V,3, quoted in Schaeffler, Frömigkeit des
Denkens, 7: “Wie das Auge, wenn es sich den vielfältigen Unterschieden
der Farben zuwendet, das Licht nicht sieht . . ., so bemerkt auch das Auge
des Geistes, wenn es sich auf die Seienden im Einzelnen und im Ganzen
richtet, das Sein selbst . . . nicht,... obgleich nur durch das Sein alles
andere ihm begegnet... Das Auge unseres Geistes . . . hat den Eindruck,
nichts zu sehen . . . ebenso wie der, der das reine Licht sieht, nichts zu
sehen meint.”
7. Schaeffler, Frömigkeit des Denkens,3.
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8. GA 1:2–3: “so wird begreiflich, daß in seiner Erkenntnistheorie
das Realitätsproblem keinen Platz finden konnte.”
9. Matthias Jung, Das Denken des Seins und der Glaube an Gott
(Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1990), 21.
10. GA 1:15.
11. Ibid., 22.
12. Ibid., 106: “Wird aber trotz dieser wesentlichen Um- und Fortbildung
der Urteilslehre das Wesen des Urteils in dem vom Gegenstand gefor-
derten Verhalten des psychischen Subjekts gesehen, dann ist der Psychologismus
nicht überwunden.”
13. Ibid., 179: “Die Frage nach dem elementaren logische Urteil kann
nur so gestellt werden: welches sind die notwendigen und hinreichenden
Elemente, die ein Urteil überhaupt allererst möglich machen?”
14. Ibid., 417: “Der Zeitbegriff in der Geschichtswissenschaft”:
“Welche Struktur muß der Zeitbegriff der Geschichtswissenschaft haben,
um als Zeitbegriff dem Ziel dieser Wissenschaft entsprechend in Funktion
treten zu können?”
15. Ibid., 179: “Wir wissen, das Urteil der Logik ist Sinn, ein stati-
sches Phänomen, das jenseits jeder Entwicklung und Veränderung steht,
das also nicht wird, entsteht, sondern gilt; etwas das allenfalls vom
urteilenden Subjekt ‘erfaßt’ werden kann. Durch dieses Erfassen aber nie
alteriert wird.”
16. Ibid., 186: “Die wahre Vorarbeit für die Logik und die allein
fruchtbringend verwendbare wird nicht von psychologischen Untersuchungen
über Entstehung und Zusammensetzung der Vorstellungen geleistet, son-
dern eindeutige Bestimmungen und Klärungen der Wortbedeutungen.”
17. Ibid., 165: “Grundsätzlich ist aber zu bemerken, daß das Wirk-
liche (worunter hier alles zu verstehen ist, was Gegenstand wird und un
der Möglichkeit zur Gegenständlichkeit steht, also auch das ‘Unwirk-
liche’) als solches nicht bewiesen, sondern allenfalls nur aufgewiesen
werden kann.”
18. About the fact that this book, the Grammaticus Speculativa,on
which Heidegger’s research is based, cannot be attributed to Duns Scotus
see: Pero Brkic, Martin Heidegger und die Theologie(Mainz: Matthias
Grünewald Verlag, 1994), 48.
19. GA 1:406.
20. Ibid., 193.
21. Ibid., 198: “Dieses mutige sich ausliefern an den Stoff hält gle-
ichsam das Subjekt in einer Richtung festgebannt, benimmt ihm die
innere Möglichkeit und überhaupt den Wunsch zur freien Beweglichkeit.
Der Sach-(Objekt)wert dominiert vor dem Ich-(Subjekt)wert.”
22. Ibid., 252–53.
Notes to Pages 14?16 281
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282 Notes to Pages 17?21
23. Ibid., 407–08: “Der lebendige Geist ist als solcher wesensmäßig
historische Geist im weitesten Sinne des Wortes. Die Wahre Weltan-
schauung ist weit entfernt von bloßer punktueller Existenz einer vom
Leben abgelösten Theorie. Der Geist ist nur begreifen, wenn die ganze
Fülle seiner Leistung, d.h. seine Geschichte, in sich aufgehoben wird, mit
welcher stets wachsenden Fülle in ihrer philosophischen Begriffenheit ein
sich fortwährend steigerndes Mittel der lebendigen Begreifung des absoluten
Geistes Gottes gegeben wird.”
24. This is the way it is summarized in Roderick Stewart, “Significa-
tion and Radical Subjectivity in Heidegger’s Habilitationsschrift,” in A
Companion to Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time,ed. Joseph
Kockelmans (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1986), 14.
25. Manfred Riedel, “Frömmigkeit im Denken,” in Herkunft aber
bleibt stets Zukunft, Martin Heidegger und die Gottesfrage,ed. Paola-
Ludovica Coriando (Frankfurt a.M.: Klostermann, 1998), 29.
26. GA 1: 410–11: “Die Philosophie des lebendigen Geistes, der tatvollen
Liebe, der verehrenden Gottinnigkeit, deren allgemeinste Richtpunkte nur
angedeutet werden konnten, insonderheit eine von ihren Grundtendenzen
geleitete Kategorienlehre steht vor der großen Aufgabe einer prinzipiellen
Auseinandersetzung mit dem an Fülle wie Tiefe, Erlebnisreichtum und
Begriffsbildung gewaltigsten System einer historischen Weltanschauung,
als welsches es alle vorausgegangenen fundamentalen philosophischen
Problemmotive in sich aufgehoben hat, mit Hegel.”
27. GA 60:336.
28. Riedel, “Frömmigkeit im Denken,” 31.
29. It is not important here to discuss different periods; we are con-
cerned with the gradual change in Heidegger’s thinking on religion. Van
Buren speaks about three different periods in John van Buren, “Martin
Heidegger, Martin Luther,” in Reading Heidegger from the Start, Essays
in His Earliest Thought,ed. Theodore Kisiel and John van Buren
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), 159–74.
30. GA 13:113–16.
31. Riedel, “Frömmigkeit im Denken,” 24.
32. Ibid., 26.
33. See Thomas Sheehan, “Heidegger’s Introduction to the Phenomenology
of Religion,1920–21” in A Companion to Martin Heidegger’s Being and
Time,41 ff.
34. Ibid., 43.
35. C. Ochwadt and E. Tecklenborg, eds., Das Maß des Verborgenen.
Heinrich Ochsner (1891–1970) zum Gedächtnis(Hannover: Charis-
Verlag, 1981), 92.
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36. Remainders of this study are published in M. Heidegger, The
Phenomenology of Religious Life. Translated by Matthias Fritsch and Jennifer
Anna Gosetti-Ferencei. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004),
231–54.
37. Cf. Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie
(Frankfurt a.M.: Campus Verlag, 1988), 106: “Erkenntnistheoretische
Einsichten, übergreifend auf die Theorie des geschichtlichen Erkennens
haben mir das System des Katholizismus problematisch u. unannehmbar
gemacht; nicht aber das Christentum und die Metaphysik, diese aller-
dings in einem neuen Sinne.” See also Thomas Sheehan, “Reading a
Life,” in The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger,ed. Charles Guignon
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 72.
38. Ott, Martin Heidegger,107: “Es ist schwer zu leben als Philo-
soph — die innere Wahrhaftigkeit sich selbst gegenüber u. mit Bezug auf
die, für die man Lehrer sein soll, verlangt Opfer u. Verzichte u. Kämpfe,
die dem wissenschaftlichen Handwerker immer fremd bleiben. Ich
Glaube, den inneren Beruf zur Philosophie zu haben u. durch seine
Erfüllung in Forschung und Lehre für ewige Bestimmungen des inneren
Menschen u. nur dafür das in meinen Kräften Stehende zu leisten u. so
mein Dasein u. Wirken selbst für Gott zu rechtfertigen.”
39. Otto Pöggeler, Neue Wege mit Heidegger(Freiburg: Karl Alber,
1992), 22.
40. F.D.E. Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers,
ed. Richard Crouter (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 51.
41. Ibid., 52.
42. M. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,trans.
Matthias Fritsch and Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 2004), 242.
43. Ibid., 243.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid.
48. Ibid., 236–37.
49. Ibid., 236
50. Ibid., 240.
51. Ibid., 241.
52. Ibid., 242–43.
53. Ibid., 244.
54. Ibid., 244.
55. Ibid., 245.
Notes to Pages 21?26 283
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284 Notes to Pages 26?32
56. Ibid.
57. Ibid., 246.
58. Ibid., 248.
59. Ibid., 252.
60. Ibid., 244.
61. Martin Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle,
Initiation into Phenomenological Research,trans. Richard Rojcewicz
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 148.
62. Ibid.
63. Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, World,
Finitude, Solitude,trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington,
Indiana University Press, 1995), 2.
64. GA 58:208: “Religiöse Lebenserfahrung erfaßt mich in meinem
innersten Selbst, die Erfahrung tritt in die unmittelbare Nähe meines
Selbst, ich binsozusagen diese Erfahrung.”
65. GA 56/57:207.
66. Martin Luther, Disputatio Heidelbergae Habita1518, vol. 1,
D. Martin Luthers Werke, kritische Gesamausgabe(Weimar: Böhlau,
1883), 354. Quoted in The Phenomenology of Religious Life,213.
67. Bernd Jaspert, Sachgemäße Exegese, Die Protokolle aus Rudolf
Bultmann Neutestamentlichen Seminaren 1921–1951(Marburg: Elwert
Verlag, 1996), 12, 28–33.
68. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1962), 30.
69. Martin Heidegger, “Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aris-
toteles(1922),” Dilthey-Jahrbuch6 (1989): 250. In English as “Pheno-
menological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle,” trans. Michael
Baur, Man and World,25 (1992): 372. (Now called Continental Philos-
ophy Review).
70.Being and Time,499 n. xiii.
71. Riedel, “Frömmigkeit im Denken,” 40.
72. Dietrich Papenfuß and Otto Pöggeler, eds., Zur philosophische Aktua-
lität Heideggers,vol. 2. (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann: 1990), 29:
“Zu dieser meiner Faktizität gehört — was ich kurz nenne —, daß ich
‘christlicher theologe’ bin. Darin liegt bestimmte radikale Selbstbeküm-
merung, bestimmte radikale Wissenschaftlichkeit —inder Faktizitätstrenge
Gegenständlichkeit; darin liegt das ‘geistesgeschichtliche’ Bewußtsein, —
und ich bin das im Lebenszusammenhang der Universität.”
73. “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle,” 367.
74. Ibid., 393n.
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75. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,trans. Gregory
Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 8.
76. Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology,” in The
Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays,trans. William Lovitt
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 35.
NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO
1. Cf. Thomas Sheehan, “Heidegger’s Introduction to the Phenomenology
of Religion,1920–21” in A Companion to Martin Heidegger’s Being and
Ti m e ,ed. Joseph Kockelmans (Washington, DC: University Press of America,
1986), 45 ff.
2. Karl Lehmann, “Christliche Geschichtserfahrung und ontologische
Frage beim jungen Heidegger,” Philosophisches Jahrbuch74 (1966): 128 ff.
3. Quoted in Sheehan, “Phenomenology of Religion,” 59.
4. Otto Pöggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers(Pfullingen: Neske),
36.
5. Lehman, “Christliche,” 135. Here it is about structures of his-
toricity, which are placeless with respect to content. (This has made pos-
sible Bultmann’s interpretation of demythologizing). Whereas Heidegger
wants to understand human historicity as facticity, the problem is solved
for Bultmann: “die Geschichte ist die Geschichte des Menschen;” their
acts arise from the “Intentionen der menschlichen Individuen,” and “das
Subjekt der Geschichte ist der Mensch.” For Heidegger the essence of
humankind has still to be explicated in his research. Bultmann’s approach
abandons Heidegger’s real problem from the beginning. See Rulolf Bultmann,
Geschichte und Eschatologie (Tübingen: Mohr, 1958), 171.
6. Martin Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life. trans.
by Matthias Fritsch and Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei. (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 2004), 4. This text is a lecture course by
Heidegger presented in Freiburg during winter semester 1920/21 and
summer semester 1921.
7. Ibid., 11.
8. Ibid., 11.
9. Werner Schüßler, ed., Religionsphilosophie(Freiburg: Karl Alber,
2000), 17–18.
10. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,20.
11. Ibid., 22.
12. Ibid., 33.
13. Ibid., 35.
Notes to Pages 33?40 285
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286 Notes to Pages 41?49
14. Ibid., 38.
15. Ibid., 7.
16. Cf. Theodore Kisiel, “Die formale Anzeige, Die methodische Geheim-
waffe des frühen Heidegger,” in Heidegger—neu gelesen,ed. M. Happel
(Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1997), 30.
17. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,11.
18. Ibid., 43.
19. Heidegger sees a cause of this hidden enactment-sense in religion.
GA 58:261: “Der Vollzugssinn ist verdrängt, die Situation verläuft im
Bezugssinn. Das findet sich in ästhetischen und religiösen Welten.”
20. Sheehan sees in these three concepts of content-sense, relation-
sense and enactment-sense a primitive articulation of the later distinction
between das Seiende(the thematic entity), Seiendheit(the beingness of
that entity = the Greek ousia) and das Sein selbst(the event of being
itself). See “Heidegger’s Introduction,” 51.
21. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,43.
22. D.O. Dahlstrom, “Heidegger’s Method: Philosophical Concepts as
Formal Indications,” The Review of Metaphysics47 (1993/94): 782–83.
23. During the winter semester of 1921/22 Heidegger again queries
the facticity of human existence. Martin Heidegger, Phenomenological
Interpretations of Aristotle, Initiation into Phenomenological Research,
trans. Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001).
24. Ibid., 105.
25. Ibid., 25–26.
26. Dahlstrom, “Heidegger’s Method,” 784.
27. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,184.
28. Ibid., 47.
29. Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, trans. John W. Harvey
(London: Oxford University Press, 1958), 6.
30. Ibid., 112 ff.
31. Ibid., 175.
32. Carl-Friedrich Gethmann, “Philosophie als Vollzug und als Be-
griff. Heideggers Identitätsphilosophie des Lebens in der Vorlesung vom
Wintersemester 1921/22 und ihr Verhältnis zu ‘Sein und Zeit,’ ” Dilthey-
Jahrbuch(1986/87): 44.
33. Matthias Jung, Das Denken des Seins und der Glaube an Gott
(Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann), 53.
34. Heidegger later repeats this point in his analysis of Aristotle’s phrone-
sis. See the “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle,”
trans. Michaul Baur, Man and World25 (1992). (Now called Continental
Philosophy Review). When Heidegger was asked to apply for a job in
Marburg or in Göttingen in 1922, the problem was that he had not pub-
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lished much. The only publications were his dissertation and his
Habilitationschrift. To solve this problem, he was asked to write some of
his ideas and his plans for the future. This resulted in the “Phänomenologische
Interpretationen zu Aristoteles.” Those who had to judge this paper
reacted in a different way. In Göttingen they were rather critical and
skeptical, saying that Heidegger presented only his own ideas and that it
was not really research on Aristotle, so he became second on the list. In
Marburg the reaction was different: there they were enthusiastic, and they
praised Heidegger’s new approaches to philosophy. It was Natorp, a pro-
fessor in Marburg and Neo-Kantian, who gave the paper to Gadamer,
who was Heidegger’s assistant in Marburg. Unfortunately, this copy was
destroyed by an air raid in the Second World War. However, the copy
Heidegger sent to Göttingen has been saved in the archives of a student
of Nicolai Hartmann. In his estate was the copy that is now published in
the Dilthey Jahrbuchwith an introduction by H.G. Gadamer, and an
afterword by Hans Ulrich Lessing. “Phänomenologische Interpretatio-
nen zu Aristoteles (Anzeige der hermeneutischen Situation),” Dilthey Jahrbuch
6 (1989).
35. Sheehan, “Heidegger’s Introduction,” 314.
36. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,55.
37. Ibid., 89.
38. The first letter is important for an analysis of the early Christian
experience of life, because it is the oldest New Testament writing, prob-
ably written in Corinth between 50 and 52 AD. The authenticity is not
questioned, in contrast to the second letter to the Thessalonians, accord-
ing to historical critical exegesis.
39. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,43.
40. Ibid., 57.
41. 1 Thess. 5:2.
42. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,85.
43. 1 Cor. 7:29–31.
44. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life, 86.
45. Ibid., 87.
46. Ibid., 10.
47. Walter Strolz, “Martin Heidegger und der christliche Glaube,” ed.
Hans-Jürg Braun (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1990), 28.
48. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,115–227.
49. I am following Heidegger here; the references are not to Augus-
tine’s work.
50. Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life,142–43.
51. Ibid., 153.
52. Ibid., 212.
Notes to Pages 49?61 287
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288 Notes to Pages 63?77
53. Ibid., 193.
54. Ibid., 219.
55. Ibid., 222.
56. Heidegger developed this notion further in Being and Time,§36.
57. Ibid., 9.
NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE
1. Matthias Jung, Das Denken des Seins und der Glaube an Gott
(Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1990), 113.
2. Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” trans. James
G. Hart and John C. Maraldo, in Pathmarks,ed. William McNeill (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
3. It is likely that Hans Jonas was invited for this meeting. See Hans
Jonas, Heidegger und die Theologie,ed. Gerhard Noller (München:
Kaiser Verlag, 1967), 316.
4. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 39: “In the Introduction
to Being and Time(1927) §7, pp. 27ff., one finds a discussion of the
notion of phenomenology (as well as its relation to the positive sciences)
that guides the presentation here.”
5. From the Latin positum(positioned).
6. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 41.
7. Ibid., 42: “The most central question is whether, indeed, theology
in general is a science.”
8. Heidegger, Being and Time,§66b.
9. Jung, Das Denken des Seins,118.
10. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 43.
11. As appears in a letter from December 28, 1945; GA 16:416.
12. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 43–44.
13. Ibid., 44.
14. Ibid.
15. Jung emphasizes this constantly: cf. Jung, Das Denken des Seins,120.
16. For this analysis see Jung, Das Denken des Seins,122 ff.
17. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 44.
18. Ibid., 45.
19. Jung, 125.
20. Ibid., 44.
21. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 413–14.
22. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 53.
23. Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?trans. J. Glenn Gray
(New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 177.
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24. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,trans. Gregory
Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 7.
25. Karl Jaspers, Der philosophische Glaube angesichts der Offenbarung
(München: Piper, 1962).
26. Jung, Das Denken des Seins,128.
27. Martin Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” trans. Frank A. Capuzzi,
in Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 253.
28. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 46.
29. Martin Heidegger, Ontology—The Hermenutics of Facticity,
trans. John van Buren (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 11.
Cf. Ben Vedder, Was ist Hermeneutik?(Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2000),
93–113.
30. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 46.
31. Ibid., 49.
32. Eduard Landolt, Der einzige Heidegger. Eine Deutung nach dem
systematischen Index (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1992), 30: “Das ‘Heideggerische
Sein’ ist nicht das ‘biblische Sein,’ wenn Heidegger sagt, daß er sonst
‘seine Werkstatt hätte schließen können,’ da er (d.h.) der Mensch ganz
vom Glauben beschlagnahmt wäre und die Philosophen, bzw. die Philosophie
keinen Platz mehr im Dasein des Menschen hätte.”
33. Jung, Das Denken des Seins,132.
34. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 47.
35. Ibid.
36. Ibid., 48.
37. Ibid.
38. Ibid, 49.
39. Jung, Das Denken des Seins,135.
40. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 50.
41. Ibid., 51.
42. G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the philosophy of Religion, Translated
by R.F. Hodgson and J.M. Stewart (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1984–1987).
43. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 51.
44. Heidegger, Being and Time,365 n. 2.
45. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 52.
46. Heidegger, Being and Time,224; Jung, Das Denken des Seins,
141.
47. Heidegger, Being and Time,496 n. ii.
48. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 52.
49. Jung, Das Denkend des Seins,143.
50. One can see this in his lecture course from winter semester 1921/
Notes to Pages 77?87 289
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290 Notes to Pages 87?95
1922. Martin Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle,
Initiation into Phenomelogical Research,trans. Richard Rojcewicz
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 138–39.
51. Heidegger, Being and Time,387.
52. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 52.
53. Ibid., 53.
54. Ibid., 52–3.
55. Ibid., 53.
56. “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle,”
trans. Michael Baur, Man and World25 (1992): 393.
57. Jung summarizes this concisely: “Wennsich aber aus dem
Glauben heraus einen Wissenschaft der Theologie konstituiert hat, dann
kann die Philosophie vorab eine Bedeutung für diese Wissenschaft
beanspruchen, insofern in ihren Begriffen ein nichttheologischer, vorgläubiger
Gehalt aufgehoben ist.” Jung, Das Denken des Seins,146. On page 147
n.73, Jung describes how superficially this text by Heidegger is for the
most part read.
58. Ibid., 147.
59. Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” 53.
60. Ibid. Heidegger has always taken the position of a philosopher in
his conversation with theology. As a philosopher he keeps faith at a dis-
tance, according to his contention: “Wenn ich vom Glauben so ange-
sprochen wäre, würde ich die Werkstatt schliessen.” In: Gollwitzer and
Weischedel eds., Denken und Glauben,2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer,
1965). Quoted by François Fédier, “Heidegger et Dieu,” in Heidegger et
la Question de Dieu,ed. R. Kearny and J. O’Leary (Paris: Bernard
Grasset, 1980), 37.
61. Martin Heidegger, The Concept of Time,trans. William McNeill
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 1–2.
62. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,8.
NOTES TO CHAPTER FOUR
1. Plato Sophist244a.
2. Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and Edward
Robinson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 19.
3. Martin Heidegger, “Onto-theo-logical Constitution of Metaphysics,”
Identity and Difference,trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper &
Row, 1969).
4. Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect
to Aristotle,” trans. Michale Baur,Man and World25 (1992) 358–393.
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5. Ibid., 386.
6. Ibid.
7. Martin Heidegger, Plato’s Sophist,trans. Richard Rojcewicz and
André Schuwer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 153.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid., 437–38.
10. Ibid., 154.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. For the following analysis I owe a large debt of gratitude to my
former assistant Koos Verhoof.
14. GA 22:1: “Absicht: Eindringen in das Verständnis der wissenschaftlichen
Grundbegriffe,die nicht nur alle nachkommende Philosophie bestimmt
haben und entscheidend bestimmten, sondern die abendländische Wissenschaft
überhaupt möglich machten und heute noch tragen.“
15. Ibid., 13: “Notwendigkeit einer radikaleren Fragestellung gegen-
über der griechischen. Das nur, wenn wir zuvor die griechische Philo-
sophie ganz aus ihr selbst verstanden haben, nicht moderne Probleme
hineindeuten.”
16. Ibid., 6: “Und wenn Philosophie auch ihr Thema vorfindet und
nicht erfindet, dann muß etwas zum Thema gemacht werden können, was
nicht vorliegt, d.h. kein Seiendesist.”
17. Ibid., 22: “Er vereinigt positiv die Grundmotive der vorangehen-
den Philosophie, nach ihm Abfall.”
18. Ibid., 149: “das der Idee von Sein am angemessensten genügt.”
19. Ibid., 249: “das Sein des Seienden überhaupt... zu bestimmen.”
20. Ibid.: “Der Doppelbegriffder Fundamentalwissenschaft: 1. Wissenschaft
vom Sein; 2. Wissenschaft vom höchsten und eigentlichen Seienden.”
21. Ibid., 149: “ein merkwürdiges Stadium des Schwankens.”
22. Ibid., 150: “von woher Sein als solches zu bestimmen ist.”
23. Ibid., 31: “Warum soviel und warum diese?”
24. Ibid., 223: “Warum gibt es ein Warum, einen Grund?... Die Griechen
haben diese Frage nicht gestellt.”
25. Ibid., 328: “von dem sie ewig und ständig gleichmäßig entfernt
ist.”
26. Ibid.: “reine energeia,reine, pure Anwesenheit.”
27. Ibid., 178: “eigenständige ständige Anwesenheit von ihm selbst
her.”
28. Ibid., 30: “Es bleibt dabei: sophia ist das höchste Verstehen und
eigentliche Wissenschaft. Sie ist die göttlichste.”
29. Ibid., 325.
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292 Notes to Pages 101?07
30. Ibid., 179.
31. Ibid., 329–30: “wie das Problem des Seins notwendig auf ein eigentlich
Seiendes gedrängt wird; ob es überhaupt eine Ontologie gibt, die rein
gewissermaßen sich aufbaut ohne Orientierung an einem ausgezeichneten
Seienden.”
32. Aristotle MetaphysicsIX. 8; 1050 b3 ff.
33. GA 22:180: “Doppelbegriff der Fundamentalwissenschaft ist nicht
eine Verlegenheit oder das Zusammenbestehen zweier verschiedener Ansätze,
die nichts zu tun haben miteinander, sondern immer sachliche Notwendigkeit
des Problems, das Aristoteles nicht bewältigte, als solches auch nicht for-
mulierte, weshalb es künftig auch völlig in Vergessenheit geriet.”
34. Ibid., 22: “an die Grenzen vorgestoßen, die mit dem Probleman-
satz der griechischen Philosophie überhaupt gegeben sind.”
35. Ibid., 150: “Hier liegt der Knoten des Problems, der Doppel-
begriff von einer Wissenschaft vom Sein als ontische Erklärung und
ontologische Auslegung. Ursachen für Seiendes: Thema ist das Sein des
Seienden. Ursachen für das Sein: Seiendes ist Ursache für das Sein.”
36. Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic,trans.
Michael Heim (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984).
37. Ibid., 9.
38. Aristotle, MetaphysicsIV. 1; 1003a 21 ff.
39. Heidegger, Metaphysical Foundations,10.
40. Ibid., 11.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid.
43. Ibid., 14.
44. Ibid.
45. Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics,5th ed.,
enlarged, trans. Richard Taft (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1997), 5. This book (from 1929) contains the lecture course from winter
semester 1927/28 on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
46. Ibid.
47. Martin Heidegger, “What Is Metaphysics?” trans. David Farell
Krell, in Pathmarks,ed. William McNeill (New York: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press, 1998), 93.
48. Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, World,
Finitude, Solitude,trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1995), 34.
49. Ibid., 42–43.
50. Ibid., 33.
51. Ibid., 34.
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52. Martin Heidegger, The Essence of Human Freedom, an Introduc-
tion to Philosophy,trans. Ted Sadler (New York: Continuum, 2002), 1n.
53. Ibid., 61–62.
54. Ibid., 75.
55. Martin Heidegger, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit,trans. Parvis Emad
and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 98.
56. W.F. Hegel, Aesthetics,trans. T. Knox (London: Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1975), 1:101.
57. Martin Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human
Freedom,trans. Joan Stambaugh (Athens,Ohio: Ohio University Press,
1985), 51.
58. Ibid., 64.
59. Ibid., 65.
60. Ibid.
61. Ibid., 66.
62. Ibid.
63. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche,vol. 3/4, ed. David Krell (San Francisco:
Harper & Row, 1991), 209.
64. Martin Heidegger, “Introduction to ‘What Is Metaphysics?’ ”
trans. Walter Kaufmann, in Pathmarks,ed. William McNeil (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1998), 287.
65. Ibid., 287–88. Here also Heidegger emphasizes that this concept
of theology has nothing to do with Christian theology. It is because of
the theological structure of ontology that Christian believers can use it;
but “will Christian theology one day resolve to take seriously the word
of the apostle and thus also the conception of philosophy as foolishness?”
66. Heidegger, Identity and Difference,54.
67. We see this in 1961 in Heidegger, “Kant’s Thesis about Being,”
trans. Ted E. Klein Jr. and William E. Pohl, in Pathmarks,ed. William
McNeill (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 340.
68. Heidegger, “Introduction to ‘What Is Metaphysics?’ ” 288.
69. Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,trans. Reginald Lilly
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 35 ff.
NOTES TO CHAPTER FIVE
1. Hans Köchler, Politik und Theologie bei Heidegger(Innsbruck:
Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Wissenschaft und Politik, 1991), 32 ff.
2. In this way Thomas Aquinas understands also the biblical “Sum
quod Sum.” Summa contra Gentiles I,c. 22; S. Theol I, qu. 13, art. 11:
“Utrum hoc nomen qui est sit maxime nomen Dei proprium.“
Notes to Pages 107?112 293
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294 Notes to Pages 113?20
3. Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones disputatae: De potentia,qu. 1,
art. 1. “Deo autem convenit esse actum purum et primum.”
4. Köchler, Politik und Theologie,33.
5. Thomas Aquinas, Quaest. disputatae: De veritate,qu. 22, art. 2,
ad 2: “ipsum esse est similitudo divinae bonitatis; unde inquantum aliqua
desiderant esse, desiderant Dei similitudinem et Deum implicite.”
6. Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,trans. Reginald Lilly
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 79.
7. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I,qu. 45, art. 1: “emanatio
totius entis a causa universali, quae est deus; et hanc quidem emana-
tionem designamus nomine creationis.”
8. Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and
Other Essays,trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper & Row, 1977),
161.
9. Martin Heidegger, The End of Philosophy,trans. Joan Stambauch
(London: Souvenier Press, 1975), 15.
10. Ibid., 65.
11. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,trans. Gregory
Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 207.
12. Pico della Mirandola, On the Dignity of Man, On Being and the
One, Heptaplus,trans. Charles Glenn Wallis, Paul J.W. Miller, Douglas
Charmichael (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merill, 1965), 4–5.
13. Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity,trans. George
Eliot (New York: Harper & Row, 1957), xxxvii.
14. Ibid., 12.
15. Martin Heidegger and Erhart Kästner,Briefwechsel, 1953–1974,
ed. Heinrich W. Petzet (Frankfurt: Insel Verlag, 1986), 23: “aber die
heutigen Theologen meinen, sie müßten ihre Geschäfte mit der Psychoanalyse
und der Soziologie machen.”
16. Martin Heidegger, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit,trans. Parvis
Emad and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988),
126.
17. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,3 ff.
18. Martin Heidegger, “On the Essence of Ground,” in Pathmarks,ed.
and trans. William McNeill (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 98–99.
19. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,passim.
20. Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics,Chapter I. def. 1.
21. Wolfgang Stegmüller, “Das Problem der Kausalität,” in Probleme
der Wissenschaftstheorie, Festschrift für V. Kraft,ed. Ernst Topitsch
(Wien: Springer, 1960), 189.
22. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,71–72.
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23. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason,trans. Werner S. Pluhar
(Indianapolis: Hackett, 1966), 134, 139.
24. Edmund Husserl, Formal and Transcendental Logic,trans. Dorion
Cairns (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1969).
25. Jean Paul Sartre, Existantialism and Humanism,trans. Philip
Mairet (London: Eyre Methuen, 1989).
26. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,23.
27. Ibid., 24.
28. Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking,trans. John M.
Anderson and E. Hans Freund (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 49.
29. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, ed. and trans. David Krell (San Francisco:
Harper & Row, 1991), 3: 174.
30. Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics,5th ed.,
trans. Richard Taft. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 147.
31. Ben Vedder, Was ist Hermeneutik?(Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2000),
69–91.
32. Martin Heidegger, Four Seminars, trans. Andrew Mitchell and
Francois Raffoul. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 73:
“Marxism as a whole rests upon this thesis, Heidegger explains. Indeed
Marxism thinks on the basis of production: social production of society
(society produces itself) and the self-production of the human being as a
social being.”
33. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “Contribution to the Critique of
Hegel’s Philosophy of Law,” in Collected Works(London: Lawrence &
Wishart, 1975), 3:182.
34. Heidegger, Four Seminars,76–77.
35. Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics and Selected Letters,trans. Samuel
Shirley (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1982), 109.
36. Ibid., 156.
37. Robert Spaemann and Reinhard Löw, Die Frage Wozu? Ge-
schichte und Wiederentdeckung des teleologischen Denkens(München:
Piper, 1981), 290.
38. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,”
in Collected Works(London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1989), 24:75–99.
39. GA 66:16–25.
40. Heidegger, Nietzsche, 3:174–75.
41. Martin Heidegger Parmenides, trans. André Schuwer and Richard
Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 56.
42. Heidegger, Nietzsche,3:177–78.
43. Ibid., 178.
44. P. Hadot, “Causa sui,” in Historisches Wörterbuch der Philos-
ophie(Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1971), 1:976.
Notes to Pages 120?27 295
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296 Notes to Pages 127?36
45. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra GentilesII.48: “Liberum est
quod sui causa est.”; cf. Aristotle Metaphysics,I. 2. 982 b 26.
46. Martin Heidegger, “Overcoming Metaphysics,” in The End of
Philosophy,trans. Joan Stambauch (London: Souvenier Press, 1975), 106.
47. GA 48:131.
48. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, 122.
49. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 330.
50. Heidegger, Nietzsche,3:174.
51. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,127.
52. Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, 180–82.
53. Heidegger, Being and Time,§74.
54. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,128.
NOTES TO CHAPTER SIX
1. Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” trans. James
G. Hart and John C. Maraldo, in Pathmarks,ed. William McNeill (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 40. The article “The Word of
Nietzsche: ‘God is dead’ ” is published in Martin Heidegger, The
Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays,trans. William Lovitt
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 53–112; The texts “European
Nihilism” and “The Determination of Nihilism in the History of Being,”
are published in Martin Heidegger, Nietzschevol. 4, ed. and trans. David
Farrell Krell (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982).
2. Martin Heidegger, “The Self-Assertion of the German University,”
trans. Karsten Harries, Review of Metaphysics 38 (1985) 474.
3. The quotations from Nietzsche are taken from this article.
4. These lecture courses are published in GA 43, 44, 47, 48 and 50.
5. Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference,trans. Joan Stambaugh
(New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 57.
6. Rainer Thurnher, “Gott und Ereignis — Heideggers Gegenparadigma
zur Onto-Theologie,” Heidegger Studies8 (1992): 90.
7. Heidegger, Identity and Difference,59.
8. Ibid., 58.
9. Martin Heidegger, “Plato’s Doctine of Truth,” trans. Thomas Sheehan,
in Pathmarks,180–81.
10. Heidegger, Identity and Difference,69. Thurner, “Gott und
Ereignis” 92.
11. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,trans. Gregory
Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 206 ff.
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12. Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics6.1.1028a31 ff.; 7.3.1029b3 ff.; Physics
1.1.184a 17 ff.
13. Heidegger, Identity and Difference,72.
14. Martin Heidegger, “Science and Reflection” in The Question Concerning
Technolog and Other Essays,161.
15. Martin Heidegger, The End of Philosophy, trans. Joan Stambaugh
(London: Souvenir Press, 1975), 12–14.
16. GA 41:110–11.
17. Heidegger, Identity and Difference,66.
18. Martin Heidegger,Nietzsche,ed. and trans. David Farrell Krell
(San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1991), 1:203–05.
19. Heidegger, Nietzsche,3:60; Introduction to Metaphysics,111.
20. Heidegger, Nietzsche,3:202.
21. Ibid., 226.
22. Heidegger, “Plato’s Doctrine of Truth,” 155.
23. Ibid., 170.
24. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,197; “Plato’s Doctrine of
Truth,” 176/177.
25. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1962), 257.
26. Heidegger, “On the Essence of Truth,” trans. John Sallis, in Pathmarks,
138.
27. Ibid., 139.
28. Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Poetry,
Language, Thought,trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row,
1971), 51.
29. Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking,trans. J. Glenn Gray
(New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 91.
30. Heidegger, Nietzsche,4:210.
31. GA 48:76–80.
32. GA 43, 190–93.
33. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 58.
34. Ibid., 58–59.
35. GA 43:191: “Der Satz ‘Gott ist todt’ ist keine Verneinung, son-
dern das innerste Ja zum Kommenden.”
36. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science,trans. Walter Kaufmann
(New York: Vintage, 1974), 279.
37. GA 44:67–71.
38. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche,ed. and trans. Walter
Kaufmann (New York: Viking 1980), 95.
39. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 66.
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298 Notes to Pages 144?55
40. GA 48:101.
41. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 71.
42. GA 48:108–13.
43. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 74.
44. GA 48:107.
45. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 77.
46. Ibid., 80.
47. Ibid., 93.
48. Ibid., 60.
49. Ibid., 99.
50. GA 50:50.
51. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 105–06.
52. Cf. Guörgy Tatár, “Gott ist tot,” in Wege und Irrwege des neueren
Umganges mit Heideggers Werk, Ein deutsch-ungarisches Symposium,
ed. István M. Fehér (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1991), 193–203.
53. Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke. Kritische Studienausgabe,
vol. 9, ed. G. Colli und M. Montinari (München: Dt Taschenbuch-Verlag,
1980), 577: “Wenn wir nicht aus dem Tode Gottes eine großartige
Entsagung und einen fortwährenden Sieg über uns machen, so haben wir
den Verlust zu tragen.” (abbreviated as KSA)
54. KSA 9:590: “Gott ist todt — wer hat ihn dan getödtet? Auch dies
Gefühl, den Heiligsten Mächtigsten getödtet zu haben, muß noch über
einzelne Menschen kommen.”
55. KSA 9:624: “noch einen eigenen Schöpfer, oder zerquälten uns
mit dem Problem des Woher”.
56. KSA 9:590: “Muß er nicht der allmächtigste und heiligste Dichter
selber werden?”
57. KSA 14:256. The original manuscript of the The Gay Science
reads: “Einmal zündete Zarathustra am hellen Vormittage eine Laterne an,
lief auf den Markt und schrie: Ich suche Gott! Ich suche Gott!...”
58. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 60.
59. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 109.
60. GA 50:105–15.
61. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 112.
62. Heidegger, Nietzsche,1:156.
63. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 61.
64. Heidegger, Nietzsche,2:77.
65. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 69.
66. Heidegger, Nietzsche,3:203.
67. Heidegger, Nietzsche,4:211.
68. Ibid., 210.
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69. Heidegger, “On the Question of Being,” trans. William McNeill,
in Pathmarks,306.
70. Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry,trans. Keith
Hoeller (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2000), 46.
71. Ibid.
72. Heidegger, “What are Poets for?” in Poetry, Language, Thought,
91.
73. Heidegger, “. . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .,” in Poetry, Language,
Thought,214.
74. GA 43:191: “Die gewöhnliche Auslegung des Wortes ‘Got ist
todt’ lautet: Nietzsche sagt hier ganz unzweideutig: Der einzig mögliche
Standpunkt ist heute nur noch der Atheismus. Aber genau das Gegenteil
und noch einiges mehr ist die wahre Meinung Nietzsches. Die Grundstellung,
aus der heraus er zum Seienden stand, war das Wissen, daß ein
geschtliches Dasein ohne den Gott und ohne die Götter nicht möglich ist.
Aber der Gott ist nur der Gott, wenn er kommt und kommen muß, und
das ist nur möglich, wenn ihm die schaffende Bereitschaft und das
Wagnis aus dem Letzten entgegengehalten wird, aber nicht ein übernom-
mener und nur noch überkommener Gott, zu dem wir nicht gedrungen
und von dem wir nicht gezwungen sind. Der Satz ‘Gott ist todt’ ist keine
Verneinung, sondern das innerste Ja zum kommenden.”
75. One does not see the radicality of Heidegger’s position if one
places above this history a God that is the Master of history, like Tatár
does. See Tatár, “Gott ist tot” 200.
NOTES TO CHAPTER SEVEN
1. GA 65, Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis),in English as
Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning),trans. Parvis Emad and
Kenneth Maly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999). Mainly, I
follow the translation of Emad and Maly, because it is the most available
one. Other individual translations of parts of the Beiträge have also been
made. Therefore I translate the German “Ereignis” as enowning and not
as appropriation. See for instance Joan Stambaugh, trans. The Finitude of
Being(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 111–51.
2. Cf. David R. Law, “Negative theology in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur
Philosophie,” in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion48
(2000): 139.
3. Heidegger, Contributions,307.
4. Ibid., 332.
5. Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers, Briefwechsel, 1920–1963,ed.
Notes to Pages 155?58 299
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300 Notes to Pages 158?66
Walter Biemel (München: Piper, 1992), 171–72. “Die Wächter des
Denkens sind in der steigenden Weltnot nur noch wenige; dennoch
müssen sie gegen den Dogmatismus jeder Art ausharren, ohne auf
Wirkung zu rechnen. Die Weltöffentlichkeit und ihre Organisation ist
nicht der Ort, an dem das Geschick des Menschenwesens sich entschei-
det. — Man soll nich über Einsamkeit reden. Aber sie bleibt die einzige
Ortschaft, an der Denkende und Dichtende nach menschlichem Vermögen
dem Sein bei stehen.”
6. Cf. David Law with regard to the translation of these German
words and their original meaning. Law, “Negative Theology” 154.
7. Heidegger, Contributions, 6.
8. See for the previous summary Law, “Negative Theology” 140–41.
See also Heidegger, The Finitude of Being,111–51.
9. Heidegger, Contributions, 63.
10. Ibid., 88.
11. Ibid., 77.
12. Ibid., 88.
13. Ibid., 79.
14. Ibid., 107.
15. This clearly appears in the correspondence with Elisabeth Blochmann
from June 22, 1932. Martin Heidegger and Elisabeth Blochmann, Briefwechsel
1918–1969,ed. Joachim W. Storck (Marbach am Neckar: Dt Schillerges,
1989), 52.
16. Heidegger, Contributions, 283.
17. Ibid., 98.
18. Ibid., 97.
19. Ibid., 147.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid., 153.
22. Ibid., 156–7.
23. Ibid., 245.
24. Ibid., 308.
25. Ibid., 309.
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid., 172.
28. See also: Ben Vedder, “Heidegger on Desire,” in Continental
Philosophy Review31 (1998): 353–68 and Kearney, “Heidegger and the
Possible,” in Philosophical Studies27 (1980): 176–95.
29. Heidegger, Contributions,309.
30. Ibid., 166.
31. Ibid., 172.
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32. Ibid., 309.
33. Ibid., 69.
34. Ibid.
35. “Only a God Can Save Us: Der Spiegel’s Interview with Martin
Heidegger,” in Philosophy Today20 (1976): 267–84.
36. Heidegger, Contributions,337.
37. Ibid., 207.
38. Ibid., 178.
39. Ibid., 195.
40. See Jean Grondin, Sources of Hermeneutics(Albany: State University
of New York Press, 1995), 4.
41. See Christian Müller, Der Tod als Wandlungsmitte, Zur Frage
nach Entscheidung, Tod und letztem Gott in Heideggers “Beiträgen zur
Philosophie,”(Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1999).
42. Jean-François Courtine, “Les traces et le passage du Dieu dans les
‘Beiträge zur Philosophie’,” in Filosofia della rivelazione,ed. Marco-M.
Olivetti (Padova: CEDAM, 1994), 523–24.
43. Otto Pöggeler, Heideggers Begegnung mit Hölderlin,Man and World
1 (1978): 15.
44. Courtine, “Les traces” 519.
45. GA 39: 54, 111.
46. Heidegger, Contributions,332.
47. GA 43:1.
48. Manfred Frank, Der kommende Gott, Vorlesungen über die neue
Mythologie(Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp), 1982.
49. Heidegger, Contributions,293.
50. Ibid., 289.
51. GA 39:111: “sondern gerade das Vorbeigehen ist die Art der
Anwesenheit der Götter, die Flüchtigkeit eines kaum faßbaren Winkes,
der im Nu des Vorüberganges alle Seligkeit und alle Schrecken zeigen
kann. Der Gott hat eigene Maße, einen Augenblick nur währt er, kaum
berührend die Wohnungen der Menschen, und diese wissen eigentlich
nicht, was es ist, und sie können es auch nicht wissen, solange sie in der
Art des Wissens festhängen, nach der sie die Dinge und Umstände und
sich selbst allemal wissen.”
52. Heidegger, Contributions,289.
53. Heidegger, The Finitude of Being,139–44.
54. Günter Figal, “Forgetfulness of God: Concerning the Center of
Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy,” inA Companion to Heidegger’s
‘Contributions to philosophy,’ed. Charles Scott et al. (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 2001), 206.
Notes to Pages 166?74 301
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302 Notes to Pages 174?80
55. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 193.
56. Martin Heidegger, The Essence of Truth, On Plato’s Cave
Allegory and Theaetetus,trans. Ted Sadler (New York: Continuum,
2002), 12–13.
57. Otto Pöggeler, “Destruktion und Augenblick,” in Destruktion und
Übersetzung, Zu den Aufgaben von Philosophiegeschichte nach Martin
Heidegger,ed. Thomas Buchheim (Weinheim: VCH, Acta Humaniora, 1989),
26–27.
58. Heidegger, Contributions,17.
59. Ibid., 285.
60. Ibid.
61. Heidegger, Being and Time,§53.
62. Heidegger, Contributions,287.
63. Ibid., 289.
64. Ibid., 290.
65. Ibid., 292.
66. Ibid.
67. Ibid., 334.
68. Ibid., 335.
69. Ibid.
70. Ibid., 293.
71. Ibid.
72. Ibid., 287.
73. Ibid., 332.
74. Ibid., 181.
75. Ibid., 277.
76. Ibid., 10.
77. Ibid. It is obvious that Heidegger saw himself as one of the few.
See for instance the aforementioned letter to K. Jaspers: “Die Wächter
des Denkens sind in der steigenden Weltnot nur noch wenige; dennoch
müssen sie gegen den Dogmatismus jeder Art ausharren, ohne auf
Wirkung zu rechnen. Die Weltöffentlichkeit und ihre Organisation ist
nicht der Ort, an dem das Geschick des Menschenwesens sich entschei-
det. — Man soll nich über Einsamkeit reden. Aber sie bleibt die einzige
Ortschaft, an der Denkende und Dichtende nach menschlichem Vermögen
dem Sein bei stehen.”
78. Heidegger mentions this other basic mood of the other beginning
as opposite to wonder as the basic mood of the first beginning. See
Martin Heidegger, Basic Questions of Philosophy, Selected “Problems”
of “Logic,”trans. Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1994), 4; 131–55.
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79. Heidegger, Contributions,13.
80. Ibid., 25.
81. Ibid., 285.
82. Heidegger, Basic Questions of Philosophy,135. Heidegger
describes the phenomenon of wonder, in which he refers to Plato
(Theaetetus155d2 ff) and Aristotle (Metaphysics982b11ff) where won-
der expressly is mentioned as the beginning of philosophy.
83. See Ben Vedder, “Die Faktizität der Hermeneutik: Ein Vor-
schlag,” in Heidegger Studies12 (1996): 95–107.
84. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 35. “A further characteris-
tic of the thinking which is also decisive for the realization of the ques-
tion of Being is closely bound up with the fact that thinking receives its
decisive determination only when it enters Appropriation. Echoes of this
can already be found in the discussion of the step back. This character-
istic is its provisionalness. Above and beyond the most obvious meaning
that this thinking is always merely preparatory, provisionalness has the
deeper meaning that this thinking always anticipated — and this in the
mode of the step back. Thus the emphasis on the provisional character
of these considerations does not stem from any kind of pretended mod-
esty, but rather has a strict, objective meaning which is bound up with the
finitude of thinking and of what is to be thought. The more stringently
the step back is taken, the more adequate anticipatory Saying becomes.”
85. Martin Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism’,” trans. Frank A.
Capuzzi, in Pathmarks,ed. William McNeill (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1998), 276.
86. Heidegger, Contributions,280.
87. Ibid., 281.
88. Ibid., 288.
89. Ibid., 289.
90. Ibid., 292.
91. Ibid., 285.
92. Otto Pöggeler, Martin Heidegger’s Path of Thinking,trans. Daniel
Magurshak and Sigmund Barber (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press
International, 1995). I doubt therefore whether Otto Pöggeler is right
when he writes on page 214 that, “the ‘last god’ is also not simply
another god compared with the gods that have been; rather, he gathers
these others into the final and highest essence of the divine.” It seems to
me that Heidegger does not mean such a gathering god.
93. Heidegger, Being and Time,307. See also footnote 1:
“. . . dessen Seinsart das Vorlaufen selbst ist.” The earlier editions have
‘hat’ instead of ‘ist.’
Notes to Pages 180?83 303
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304 Notes to Pages 183?87
94. Heidegger, Contributions,291.
95. Ibid., 57.
96. GA 39: 111: “sondern gerade das Vorbeigehen ist die Art der
Anwesenheit der Götter, die Flüchtigkeit eines kaum faßbaren Winkes,
der im Nu des Vorüberganges alle Seligkeit und alle Schrecken zeigen
kann. Der Gott hat eigene Maße, einen Augenblick nur währt er, kaum
berührend die Wohnungen der Menschen, und diese wissen eigentlich
nicht, was es ist, und sie können es auch nicht wissen, solange sie in der
Art des wissens festhängen, nach der sie die Dinge und Umstände und
sich selbst allemaal wissen.”
97. Heidegger, Contributions,288. With regard to Heidegger’s inter-
pretation of the gods Karl Jaspers had his doubts; in January 1950 he
wrote after reading Holzwege:“Was . . . ihr eigentliches Absehen ist, das
könnte ich nicht sagen . . . Ich bleib in der fragenden Spannung: ob es
eine phantastische-täuschende Möglichkeit von Denken-Dichten werde, oder
ob hier ein behutsames Öffnen der Pforte beginne, — ob gnostische
Gottlosigkeit hier Wort finde oder das Spüren zur Gottheit hin.”
98. Martin Heidegger, “Das Sein (Ereignis),” Heidegger Studies15
(1999): 9. “Nicht nachdem Tod, sondern durchden Tod erscheinen die
Götter. Durch den Tod — will sagen: nicht durch den Vorgang des
Ablebens, sondern dadurch, daß der Tod in das Dasein hereinsteht.”
99. Heidegger, Contributions,163.
100. Costantino Esposito, “Die Geschichte des letzten Gottes in Heideggers
‘Beiträge zur Philosophie’,” Heidegger Studies 11 (1995): 52.
101. Otto Pöggeler, Neue Wege mit Heidegger(Freiburg: Karl Alber,
1992), 475.
102. Ibid., 476.
103. Heidegger, Contributions,293.
104. Ibid.
105. Pöggeler, Neue Wege,478.
106. For instance Hans Jonas considers Heidegger’s gods as pagan
gods. See Heidegger und die Theologie,ed. Gerhard Noller (München:
Kaiser Verlag, 1967), 327.
107. GA 52:132.
108. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermann, Wege ins Ereignis Zu Heideg-
gers ‘Beiträge zur Philosophie,’(Frankfurt a.M.: Klostermann, 1994),
366.
109. As is the case in David J. Krieger, “Das Andere des Denkens
und das andere Denken — Heideggers Dekonstruktion und die Theol-
ogie,” in Martin Heidegger und der christliche Glaube, ed. Hans-Jürg
Braun (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1990), 89–114.
110. Esposito, “Die Geschichte des letzten Gottes” 49 ff.
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NOTES TO CHAPTER EIGHT
1. Martin Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” trans. Frank A. Capuzzi,
in Pathmarks,ed. William McNeill (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 239.
2. Ibid., 266.
3. Ibid., 267.
4. Martin Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche: ‘God is dead,’ ” The
Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays,trans. William Lovitt
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 112.
5. Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” 267.
6. See Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermann, Wege ins Ereignis, zu Heideggers
‘Beiträge zur Philosophie,’(Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1994),
39, 61, 97, 350, 366, 385. See also Paola-Ludovica Coriando, Der letzte
Gott als Anfang. Zur ab-gründigen Zeit-Räumlichkeit des Übergangs in
Heideggers ‘Beiträge zur Philosophie,’(München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag,
1998), 117.
7. Holger Helting, Heidegger und Meister Eckehart. Vorbereitende
Überlegungen zu ihrem Gottesdenken(Berlin: Duncker & Humblot,
1997), 37.
8. Martin Heidegger, On the Way to Language,trans. Peter D. Hertz
(San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982), 164–65.
9. Helting, Heidegger und Meister Eckehart,44.
10. GA 13:154: “Dies sagt für das sinnende Denken: Der Gott als
Wert gedacht, und sei er der höchste, ist kein Gott. Also ist Gott nicht
tot. Denn seine Gottheit lebt. Sie ist sogar dem Denken näher als dem
Glauben, wenn anders die Gottheit als Wesendes seine Herkunft aus der
Wahrheit des Seins empfängt und das Sein als ereignender Anfang
Anderes ‘ist’ denn Grund und Ursache des Seienden.”
11. Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning),
trans. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1999), 291.
12. Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?trans. J. Glenn Gray
(New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 115.
13. Ibid., 187.
14. Martin Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking,trans. David Farrell
Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1975),
51–52.
15. Heidegger, Contributions,293.
16. Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” 267.
17. Heidegger, Nietzsche,ed. and trans. David Farrell Krell (San Francisco:
Harper & Row, 1991), 2:106.
Notes to Pages 189?95 305
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306 Notes to Pages 195?206
18. Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference,trans. Joan Stambaugh
(New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 72.
19. Ibid.
20. Martin Heidegger, “What are Poets For?” in Poetry, Language,
Thought,trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 91.
21. Martin Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” in The
Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays,trans. William Lovitt
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 116–17.
22. Gerhard Noller, “Ontologische und theologische Versuche zur
Überwindung des Anthropologischen Denkens,” in Heidegger und die
Theologie,ed. Gerhard Noller (München: Kaiser Verlag, 1967), 292.
23. Ibid.; With regard to Bultman’s reception of Heidegger see: Annemarie
Gethmann-Siefert, Das Verhältnis von Philosophie und Theologie im Denken
Martin Heideggers(Freiburg: Karl Alber, 1974), 140 ff.
24. Noller, “Ontologische” 26.
25. Bernd Trocholepczy, Rechtfertigung und Seinsfrage, Anknüp-
fungen und Widerspruch in der Heidegger-Rezeption Bultmanns(Herder:
Freiburger theologischer Studien, 1991) 6, 114, 102–130. See also John
Macquarrie, An Existentialist Theology, a Comparison of Heidegger and
Bultmann(Harmondworth: Pinguin Books, 1973).
26. Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” 148.
27. Noller, “Ontologische” 295.
28. Noller, “Ontologische” 299.
29. Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” 117.
30. Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” 265.
31. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,”in The Question Concerning
Technology,63–64.
32. See Ludwig Heyde, The Weight of Finitude, On the Philosophical
Question of God,trans. Alexander Harmsen and William Desmond
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), 120 ff.
33. Martin Heidegger, The End of Philosophy,trans. Joan Stambaugh
(London: Souvenir Press, 1975), 67.
34. Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche,” 94.
35. See Ben Vedder, “Religion and Hermeneutic Philosophy,”International
Journal for the Philosophy of Religion51 (2002): 39–54.
36. Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” 117.
37. Heidegger, “The Turning,” in The Question Concerning Tech-
nology,49.
38. Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” 258.
39. Ibid., 252, 253, 261.
40. Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?68, 61, 93.
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41. Martin Heidegger, Parmenides,trans. André Schuwer and Richard
Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 110.
42. Ibid., 110–11.
43. Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” 258.
44. Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry,trans. Keith
Hoeller (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2000), 133.
45. Heidegger, “The Thing,” in Poetry, Language, Thought,184.
46. Heidegger, “What Are Poets For?” 91.
47. Ibid., 92.
48. Ibid.
49. Heidegger, Elucidations,46.
50. Heidegger, “What are Poets For?” 97.
51. Heidegger, Parmenides,112.
52. Heidegger,“What Are Poets For?” 117.
53. Heidegger, Elucidations,141.
54. Ibid., 126.
55. Emil Kettering, “Nähe als Raum der Erfahrung des Heiligen. Eine
topologische Besinnung,” in Auf der Spur des Heiligen: Heideggers
Beitrag zur Gottesfrage,ed. Günther Pöltner (Wien: Böhlau Verlag,
1991), 18.
56. Heidegger, “The Thing,” in Poetry, Language, Thought,178.
57. Heidegger, “Building, Dwelling, Thinking,” in Poetry Language
Thought,150.
58. Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,trans. Reginald Lilly
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 128.
59. Heidegger, “The Thing,” 180.
60. Heidegger, “What Are Poets For?” 96.
61. Walter Strolz, “Martin Heidegger und der christliche Glaube,” ed.
Hans-Jürg Braun (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1990), 48.
62. Heidegger writes to Strolz: “Ist im Prinzip der Unterschlupf ins
seinsgeschichtliche Denken etwas anderes als der in die aristotelisch-
scholastische-hegelsche Metaphysik? Ist dies alles nicht ein Beweis des
Unglaubens an den Glauben, ein Versuch, diesem eine Stütze und eine
Krücke von welcher Art auch immer, zu verschaffen? Ist der Glaube
nicht nach dessen eigenem Sinn die Tat Gottes? Wozu ‘Seinsverständnis’
und ‘Seinsgeschichte’? ‘ontologische Differenz’? Es gibt in der biblis-
chen Botschaft keine Lehre vom ‘Sein.’ Wer aber — ich meine in diesem
Fall nicht Sie — aus dem alltestam. Wort ‘Ich bin, der Ich bin’ eine Ontologie
herauszaubert, weiß nicht was er tut. Ist solches Hantieren mit der Philosophie
und das Schielen nach ihr nicht einen einzige Kleingläubigkeit? Mir
scheint, die moderne Theologie beider Konfessionen sucht nur immer die
Notes to Pages 206?213 307
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308 Notes to Pages 213?16
Zeitgemässheit des Christentums, aber nicht die von Kierkegaard in der
Verzweiflung gedachte Gleichzeitigkeit mit dem Christlichen.” Quoted
from Strolz, 51, from a letter by Heidegger addressed to him, dated June
14, 1965.
63. Heidegger, Identity and Difference,54–55.
64. See the work of John Caputo. See also: Holger Helting,
Heidegger und Meister Eckehart, Vorbereitende Überlegungen zu ihrem
Gottesdenken(Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1997). In 1986 Derrida pre-
sented an interpretation of the dimension of the “Verneinung” in
Heidegger’s thinking. He related this with Dionysius Areopagita and
Meister Eckehart. The text is published in Jacques Derrida, Psyché. Inventions
de l’autre(Paris: Galilée, 1987).
NOTES TO CHAPTER NINE
1. Martin Heidegger, “Postscript to ‘What Is Metaphysics?’ ” in Pathmarks,
trans. and ed. William McNeill (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 237. About the difference between the poetic and the thinking
experience, see Martin Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” in On the
Way to Language,trans. Peter D. Hertz (San Francisco: Harper & Row,
1971), 69–70.
2. Emilio Brito, Heidegger et l’Hymne du Sacré(Leuven: Leuven
University Press, 1999), 29. For references on the issue of the holy in
Heidegger see also: Jean Greisch, “Hölderlin et le chemin vers le Sacré,”
inCahier de l’ herne, Martin Heidegger,Ed. Michel Haar (Paris:
Editions de L’Herne, 1983), 543–67; Emilio Brito, “Le Sacré dans les
‘Éclaircissemnets pour la poésie de Hölderlin’ de M. Heidegger,” in
Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses71 (1995): 337–69; Holger
Helting, Heideggers Auslegung von Hölderlins Dichtung des Heiligen,
Ein Beitrag zur Grundlagenforschung der Daseinsanalyse(Berlin:
Duncker & Humblot, 1999).
3. However, Heidegger had already mentioned the notion of the holy
earlier, namely with respect to the work of Rudolf Otto. See chapter 1
on the pre-historical Heidegger.
4. GA 4: 33–48. The English translation of this volume appears as Martin
Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry,trans. Keith Hoeller (Amherst,
New York: Humanity Books, 2000). These elucidations are a result of
Heidegger’s lecture courses from 1934–35. The oldest text of this vol-
ume, “Holderlin and the Essence of Poetry” resurrects the important parts
of sections 4–7 of the lecture course from 1934 published in GA 39,
Hölderlins Hymnen “Germanien” und “Der Rhein”;See also GA 52,
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Hölderlins Hymne “Andenken,” and GA 53, Hölderlins Hymne “der
Ister.”
5. Heidegger, Elucidations, 52.
6. Ibid., 60.
7. Ibid., 64.
8. Heidegger, Elucidations,80.
9. Ibid., 80–81.
10. See Besinnung,GA 66: 253: “Ewige Götter sindkeine Götter,
wenn ‘ewig’ gedacht wird in der Bedeutung des aei und der aeternitas
und vollends gar der sempiternitas, des neuzeitlichen fortschreitend
öderen Und-so-weiter.”
11. Heidegger, Elucidations, 82.
12. Helmut Danner, Das Göttliche und der Gott bei Heidegger(Meisenheim
am Glan: Verlag Anton Hain, 1971), 66.
13. Heidegger, Elucidations, 85.
14. Ibid., 85–86.
15. Ibid., 87.
16. Ibid., 94.
17. Ibid., 90.
18. Ibid., 91.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid., 97.
21. Ibid.
22. Ibid., 98.
23. Rainer Thurnher, “Gott und Ereignis — Heideggers Gegenparadigma
zur Onto-theologie,” in Heidegger Studies8 (1992): 81–102.
24. Martin Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” in On the Way to
Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982),
106–08; D. Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbst und die Zeit danach. Zur Kritik
der Tekstgeschichte Martin Heideggers 1910 –1976(Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp
Verlag, 1990), 829 ff.
25. Martin Heidegger, “The Thing,” in Poetry, Language Thought,
trans. Albert Hofstader (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 178.
26. Heidegger, “. . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .” in Poetry, Language,
Thought,223.
27. Heidegger, Elucidations,191.
28. Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” in Poetry Language
Thought,150.
29. Heidegger, “The Thing,” in Poetry, Language, Thought,179.
30. Ibid., 178.
31. Ibid., 179.
Notes to Pages 216?21 309
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310 Notes to Pages 222?29
32. Heidegger, Elucidations, 188.
33. Ibid., 194–95.
34. Ibid., 194.
35. Ibid., 200.
36. Ibid.
37. Ibid., 202.
38. Martin Heidegger, Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister,”trans. William
McNeill and Julia Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996),
55.
39. Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” in Poetry, Language,
Thought,150.
40. Heidegger, Elucidations,94ff.
41. Ibid., 98.
42. Ibid., 82.
43. Ibid., 90.
44. Heidegger, “The Thing,” 173.
45. Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” 150.
46. Ibid., 151.
47. Ibid., 150.
48. GA 52: 132.
49. See Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” 98–101.
50. Cf. Emil Kettering, “Nähe als Raum der Erfahrung des Heiligen.
Eine topologische Besinnung,” in Auf der Spur des Heiligen, Heideg-
gers Beitrag zur Gottesfrage,ed. Günther Pöltner (Wien: BöhlauVerlag,
1991), 9.
51. Heidegger, “. . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .,” 213–29.
52. Ibid., 216.
53. Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” 72.
54. Heidegger, “. . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .,” 216.
55. Ibid., 218.
56. Ibid., 220.
57. Ibid., 222.
58. Ibid., 221.
59. Ibid., 224.
60. Heidegger, Elucidations,169–70.
61. Jörg Splett, Die Rede vom Heiligen, über ein religionsphilosophisches
Grundwort(Freiburg: Verlag Karl Alber, 1971), 144.
62. Martin Heidegger, “The Anaximander Fragment,” in Early Greek
Thinking,trans. David Farrell Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi (San
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984), 56.
63. According to Löwith, Heidegger’s philosophy has a religious
Vedder_f14_279-315 8/23/06 9:49 PM Page 310

motive which is separated from Christian faith, which in its undogma-
tic dissoluteness appeals to those who want to be religious without being
a Christian. That is the reason for his broad effect. Karl Löwith,
Heidegger—Denker in dürftiger Zeit(Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1965), 111.
64. For the following see: Schaeffler Richard, “Der Gruß des
‘Heiligen’ und die ‘Frömmigkeit des Denkens’ Heideggers Beitrag zu
einer Phänomenologie der Religion,” in Auf der Spur des Heiligen Heideggers
Beitrag zur Gottesfrage,ed. Günther Pöltner (Wien: Böhlau Verlag,
1991), 62 ff.
65. Heidegger, Identity and Difference,72.
66. Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?trans. J. Glenn Gray. (New
York: Harper & Row, 1968), 146.
67. Heidegger, Elucidations,98.
68. Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology,” 35.
69. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1962), 59.
70. Heidegger, “On the Essence of Truth,” in Pathmarks,148.
71. As Richard Schaeffler does: Schaeffler, “Der Gruß des Heiligen,”
72.
72. Heidegger, On the Way to Language,29.
73. Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism,’ ” in Pathmarks,267.
74. Heidegger, “Postscript to ‘What Is Metaphysics?’ ” 236.
75. Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” 274.
76. Heidegger, Elucidations,98.
77. Ibid., 128–30.
78. Ibid., 64.
NOTES TO CHAPTER TEN
1. Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” in Poetry, Language,
Thought,trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 150.
2. For a more detailed interpretation of the notion of desire in
Heidegger, see Ben Vedder, “Heidegger on Desire,” Continental Philos-
ophy Review31(1998): 353–68.
3. Martin Heidegger, Plato’s Sophist,trans. Richard Rojcewicz and
André Schuwer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 446.
4. Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic,trans.
Michael Heim (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 143; Plato,
Theaetetus,186 a. See also GA 34:200–33. There Heidegger presents an
extensive interpretation of the notion of erosin Plato.
Notes to Pages 229?38 311
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312 Notes to Pages 238?47
5. Martin Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology,trans.
Albert Hofstadter (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 136.
6. Immanuel Kant, Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, Werke in
zehn Bänden,ed. W. Weischedel (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buch-
gesellschaft, 1975), 6:28.
7. Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, VI. 1139 a 20.
8. Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics,5th ed.,
trans. Richard Taft (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 112.
9. Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic,210–11.
10. Ibid., 192.
11. Martin Heidegger, “On the Essence of Ground,” in Pathmarks,
trans. and ed. William McNeill (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 123.
12. Ibid., 126.
13. GA 21:234–35.
14. Heidegger, “On the Essence of Ground,” 128.
15. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time,trans. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1962), 63; The Basic
Problems of Phenomenology,308; The Metaphysical Foundations of
Logic,216.
16. Heidegger, Being and Time,185.
17. Heidegger, Being and Time,214–17.
18. Ibid., 397.
19. Martin Heidegger, The History of the Concept of Time,trans. Theodore
Kissiel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 317; Being and
Time,305.
20. Heidegger, Being and Time,187.
21. Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?trans. J. Glenn Gray
(New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 117.
22. Ibid., 20.
23. Ibid., 9.
24. Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry,trans. Keith
Hoeller (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2000), 135–36.
25. Ibid.; See also Martin Heidegger, Basic Concepts, trans. Gary E.
Aylesworth (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 22, and Hölderlins
Hymne ‘Andenken,’GA 52:118–22.
26. Heidegger, Elucidations, 136–37.
27. See also Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, “Dichterische Ein-
bildungskraft und andenkendes Denken,” in Wege ins Ereignis: zu
Heideggers ‘Beiträge zur Philosophie’(Frankfurt a.M.: Klostermann, 1994),
264–306.
28. Heidegger, Being and Time,25.
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29. Heidegger, “Language” in Poetry, Language, Thought,197.
30. Martin Heidegger, “The Onto-theological-constitution of Metaphysics,”
in Identity and Difference,trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper &
Row, 1969), 54.
31. Heidegger, “Language,” 198.
32. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,trans. Gregory
Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000),
108–09.
33. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,131.
34. Ibid., 136; Martin Heidegger, “Logos,” in Early Greek Thinking,
trans. David Farrell Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi (San Francisco: Harper
& Row, 1984), 66 ff.
35. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,143.
36. Heidegger, “Anaximander,” in Early Greek Thinking,18.
37. Heidegger, “Logos,” 62.
38. Martin Heidegger, Die Frage nach dem Ding(Tübingen: Max
Niemeyer, 1962), 146.
39. Heidegger, “Logos,” 61.
40. Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,trans. Reginald Lilly.
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 107.
41. Heidegger, Being and Time,§7b; “Logos,” 63.
42. Martin Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” in On the Way to
Language,trans. Peter D. Hertz (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982),
80.
43. Heidegger, “On the Essence and Concept of Phusis,” in Path-
marks,213.
44. Heidegger, “Logos,” 70.
45. Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” 57–108.
46. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,15.
47. Heidegger, “Language,” 209.
48. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics,184.
49. Heidegger, “Language,” 192.
50. Heidegger, “. . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .,” in Poetry, Language,
Thought,216.
51. Heidegger, “Language,” 190.
52. Heidegger, “Logos,” 65.
53. Ibid.
54. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason,47.
55. Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?130.
56. W. F. Otto,Die Musen und der Göttliche Ursprung des Singens
und des Sagens(Düsseldorf: Dietrichs, 1955); W. F. Otto, Das Wort der
Antike(Stuttgart: Klett, 1962).
Notes to Pages 247?53 313
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314 Notes to Pages 253?60
57. Lawrence J. Hatab, “Heidegger and Myth: a Loop in the History
of Being,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology22 (1991):
45–64.
58. Otto, Das Wort der Antike,369–71.
59. GA 4:42: “Dichten ist das ursprüngliche Nennen der Götter. Aber
dem dichterischen Wort wird erst dann seine Nennkraft zuteil, wenn die
Götter selbst und zur Sprache bringen. Wie sprechen die Götter?” Remarkably
this passage is not given in the English translation by Keith Hoeller,
“Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry,” in Heidegger, Elucidations, 63.
60. Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft,in Kritische Studien-
ausgabe,ed. G. Colli and M. Montinari (München: Dt. Taschenbuch-
Verlag, 1980), 3:439–40.
61. Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie,in Kritische Stu-
dienausgabe, ed. G. Colli and M. Montinari (München: Dt. Taschenbuch-
Verlag, 1980) 1:153–56.
62. Otto, Die Musen,72.
63. Ibid., 72–79.
64. Ibid., 85.
65. Martin Heidegger, Was ist das—die Philosophie?(Pfullingen:
Neske, 1966), 29.
66. Heidegger, “. . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .,” 216.
67. Heidegger, “The Way to Language,” in On the Way to Language,
124.
68. Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Poetry, Language,
Thought,72.
69. Heidegger, “Logos,” 72.
70. Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” 66.
71. Heidegger, Elucidations,55.
72. Ibid., 57.
73. Ibid., 58.
74. Ibid., 60.
75. Heidegger, “Language,” 208.
76. Heidegger, Elucidations, 136–37.
77. Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” 91. Parts of the German
text are omitted in the English translation. The complete text is as fol-
lows. “Der Weg ist, hinreichend gedacht, solches, was uns gelangen läßt,
und zwar in das, was nach uns langt, indem es uns be-langt. Wir verste-
hen freilich das Zeitwort ‚belangen’ nur in einem gewöhnlichen Sinne,
der meint: sich jemandem vornehmen zur Vernehmung, zum Verhör. Wir
können aber auch das Be-langen in einem hohen Sinne denken: be-lan-
gen, be-rufen, be-hüten, be-halten. Der Be-lang: das, was, nach unserem
Vedder_f14_279-315 8/23/06 9:49 PM Page 314

wesen auslangend, es verlangt und so gelangen läßt in das, wohin es
gehört. Der Weg ist solches, was uns in das gelangen läßt, was uns be-
langt.” In Unterwegs zur Sprache,197.
78. Heidegger, Elucidations,45.
79. Ibid., 80.
80. Ibid., 219.
81. Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” 78.
Notes to Pages 260?62 315
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318 Bibliography
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