What Heidegger Wishes To Transcend: Metaphysics Or Nietzsche

What Heidegger Wishes To Transcend: Metaphysics Or Nietzsche

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What Heidegger Wishes To Transcend: Metaphysics Or Nietzsche

ABSTRACT: In this paper, I shall focus first on Heidegger's attempt to tackle the problem of 'metaphysics' and his wish to transcend it. Then, I shall try to evaluate his thoughts about transcending metaphysics in connection with his interpretation of Nietzsche's anthropology, which he considers to be the highest achievement in metaphysics.

In my presentation today I shall focus first on Heidegger's attempt to tackle the problem of "metaphysics" and his wish to transcend it. Then I shall try to evaluate his thoughts about transcending metaphysics in connection with his interpretation of Nietzsche's anthropology which he considers to be the top achievement of metaphysics.

At the beginning of his main work Being and Time Heidegger has made clear that his aim in writing it, was to deal with the meaning of Being in a concrete way and posed the question of Being as the primary question of philosophy today. Therefore it would be useful, as a first step, to take a look at the main reason which has led Heidegger to this assumption and consequently to the inquiry into the meaning of Being.

Heidegger asks the question of the meaning of Being with respect to a fact which, to his mind, characterizes our times and which he calls "homelessness". This fact is due to "the oblivion of Being", as a result of which Being "has abandoned us". (1)

The basic problem that worries Heidegger is related just to the recognition of this fact. He maintains that although Being has been investigated since ancient times in different periods, it has not yet been elucidated, because the question about the meaning of Being has been neglected. (2) Due to this negligence of the meaning of Being, man has lost almost all his connections with Being and lives now in a technical, artificial world: man has lost his "ground", he is "homeless" . (3)

Heidegger tries to find a way to help man to transcend this homelessness, which he considers to be dangerous for the present and the future of the human being. This is the reason why Heidegger, already in 1929, asks the question of "what is metaphysics?". He thinks that this question itself can open the way he is looking for, because it plays a very important role in putting the question of Being correctly and in settling the problem of homelessness of the human being.

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What is the role that the question of "what is metaphysics?" is expected to play in putting the question of Being? According to Heidegger the basic error committed in connection with the question of Being stems from what he calls metaphysical thinking, which is a way of thinking we come across all along the history of philosophy. This way of thinking always asks "what is Being?", which is a wrong way of putting the question of Being; it has never asked what the meaning of Being is. (4) This is why Heidegger, in his Dasein analysis that he makes in Being and Time(1927) insists on investigating the meaning of Being. This investigation which is based on revealing the existential meaning of Dasein as anxiety (Sorge), (5) is a first step towards putting the question of Being adequately.

According to Heidegger, Being (das Sein) should not be investigated through an inquiry into entities (das Seiende) as is done in the history of Western philosophy until now, but through an inquiry into Nothing (das Nichts) which Heidegger assumes to be identical with Being. (6) Investigation of Being through Nothing presupposes the question of "what is metaphysics?". This latter question is very important, because it plays a double role: on the one hand it secures the possibility of investigating Being through Nothing, and on the other hand it makes possible to transcend metaphysics . (7)

Metaphysics, as the basic occurrence (Grundgeschehen ) of Dasein or Dasein itself, (8) is a way of thinking that has to be absolutely transcended. The possibility of transcending it, rests on its being a basic occurrence of Dasein. Such a transcending can occur only in Dasein. On the basis of this occurrence it is possible to go beyond entities ( das Seiende). But here we need to pay a special attention to the meaning of metaphysics.

'Metaphysics' in its initial sense -as the title of Aristotle's book- means "what comes after the issues of physics?", that is the issues which come after the issues treated in Physics. This meaning of metaphysics has changed in the Middle Ages: it was made to convey "what is beyond the physical". Heidegger finds this change in the interpretation of metaphysics -in which meta is understood in the sense of 'trans' and metaphysics in the sense of "what is beyond entities ('über' das Seiende)" very crucial for the history of metaphysics. (9)

Thus, on the basis of this meaning of meta - trans, Heidegger considers "metaphysics" both as an occurrence of Dasein as well as a way of thinking which has started with the end of Pre-Socratic philosophy, continued throughout the history of Western thought and found its accomplishment in Nietzsche's thought. (10) In order to transcend metaphysical thinking which has caused the oblivion of the meaning of Being, it is necessary to reveal the nature of this thinking, i.e. to show that this thinking is capable of grasping Being only as entity (Seiendes), and not Being as Being.

This way of grasping Being, by reducing Being to "spirit, matter, power, will, substance, subject, energeia, etc.", has concealed the "truth of Being". It has never managed to express "Being in its truth and truth as unconcealment (alhJeia). (11) Thus, in spite of the fact that metaphysical thinking aims at understanding Being, because of its incapacity to think of Being in its truth, has prevented the establishment of the relation between man and Being. (12)

Heidegger proposes another way of thinking, more adequate for the investigation of Being and for understanding its truth. This more adequate thinking starts investigating Being by asking the question of "what is metaphysics?". This question is more appropriate to begin with, because it questions both "what metaphysics is" and "what is beyond metaphysics", (13) in other words it inquires into Nothing.

This inquiry into Nothing presupposes a thinking capable of grasping "Being in its own truth and truth as alhJeia" and of reestablishing the relation between man and Being. This is what Heidegger calls substantial thinking (das wesentliche Denken). (14) Thus, inquiry into Nothing leads thinking beyond metaphysics and by attempting to reestablish the relation between man and Being is expected to change "the essence of man". (15)

The aim of Heidegger's ontological investigations appears to be a new anthropology which, by reestablishing the relation between man and Being, will save man from his homelessness. This is an anthropology which takes its point of departure from the question of Being as the sole and prime question of thinking, (16) investigates Being by means of a metaphysical question -the question of Nothing- and tries to reach the meaning of Being through the existential meaning of the concept of Dasein as anxiety (Sorge). Heidegger has followed a different way of thinking, because he believed that in order to save man from his homelessness we need to approach him in a way which is quite different from that of metaphysics, i.e. we need to approach man without asking the question of "what is man?".

Heidegger has attached great importance to the endeavour of grasping man without asking the question of "what is man?", because this sort of question has given rise to the homeless condition of man today. In connection with this point, it can be said that he has intended to reach an understanding of man which has an open horizon, i.e. an understanding which bears the possibility of further development. Only such an understanding of man can transcend metaphysical anthropology which , according to Heidegger, finds its culminating point in Nietzsche's philosophy.

Why does Heidegger consider Nietzsche's philosophy to be metaphysical? One reason is that he considers "metaphysical thinking" to be a thinking that goes beyond entities and another one that he assumes that there is an inner connection between the history of European thought and Nietzsche's philosophy. His conception of metaphysics leads Heidegger to consider also Nietzsche as a metaphysician, and as philosopher who must be overcome, in spite of the fact that he acknowledges his special place in the history of philosophy.

What makes Nietzsche a metaphysician in Heidegger's eyes, are the key concepts of his philosophy, such as the will to power, nihilism, the eternal recurrence of the same, the superman, justice etc. . (17) For example, according to Heidegger, "the eternal recurrence of the same", which constitutes "the concealed essence of Time", is "the last metaphysical name of Being". (18) Another example is the way that Heidegger understands Nietzsche's superman. Although Heidegger considers Nietzsche's concept of superman to be the culmination of metaphysics, he objects that this concept does not help to transcend metaphysical thinking and consequently cannot become a different new beginning, while his own concept of Da-sein that never refers to something real, but asks about the truth of Being (das Seyn), can become such a new different beginning. (19) But, this role of Da-sein as the enlightenment of Being itself(das Seyn) is something to be realized in the future. (20)

And now the question arises: is it Nietzsche's concept of superman a metaphysical concept in the Heideggerian sense, i.e. a concept that points at something "beyond entities (das Seiende)"? If we take into consideration some characteristics of superman, the truth of this Heideggerian claim seems doubtful: first of all superman is, according to Nietzsche, "one type of human being. In the Antichrist we read that this type is "a type of human being, whom we often meet at present and have met in the past, a type of human being who has come by chance, as an exception, but never because he was aimed at". (21) This is a type of man, who is " against metaphysics", "faithful to the earth", "early born", "new", "nameless", " fearless", " godless", " first maker", "stateless", "European"; he is the "tragic man", "the philosopher". This very much "valuable type" is one who has achieved to free himself from the value judgments of his time and can see reality as it is. This "tragic philosopher" who understands the meaning of "the eternal recurrence", says "yes" to life as it is, i.e. to life with all its problematic sides and suffering. He is not a stranger, he is not "homeless"; he is "reality itself". (22) This type of man is one who can see reality with his own eyes, who has his own thoughts, his own work. (23) He can create his own values, he can make a new evaluation of reality, he can "reevaluate values". Thus, this type of man is the "meaning of the earth". (24)

Now, if these are the main characteristics of Nietzsche's superman, it is hard to claim that this concept -as well as Nietzsche's anthropology in general- is metaphysical. Consequently it can be claimed that what Heidegger wishes to transcend is not Nietzsche's "metaphysics", but Nietzsche's anthropology and Nietzsche as a philosopher in general.

As a conclusion it is possible to say that what Heidegger tries to do, with the aim to transcend Nietzsche, is a "phenomenology of metaphysics" (25) -phenomenology understood here in Hegelian sense. In this way, he thinks, he can help man to reestablish his relation to Being and overcome his present condition, i.e. his homelessness. On the other hand, we can say that what Nietzsche does is a phenomenology of human reality: he looks at the different ways that human being evaluates reality and he builds his anthropology on this ground. (26) Thus, it is possible to ask: which of these two anthropologies is in fact more helpful in facing the problems of the human being, as well as those present-day world.


(1) Martin Heidegger, " Brief Über den Humanismus",Wegmarken. GA.bd.9.Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klosterman,1976, p.339.

(2) Heidegger, Sein und Zeit. GA, Bd.2 Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann,1977, p.3.

(3) Heidegger , "Profesör Heidegger 1933'te Neler Oldu?" translated by Turhan Ilgaz, Ýstanbul: Yapý Kredi Yayýnlarý, 1993, p.28.

(4) Heidegger, Metafizik Nedir? (Was ist Metaphysik?), translated by Yusuf Örnek, Ankara: Türkiye Felsefe Kurumu, 1991, p.11.

(5) Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, p.242.

(6) Heidegger, Metafizik Nedir? p.40.

(7) Heidegger, ibid, p.41.

(8) Ibid, p.41.

(9) Ibid, p.38.

(10) Ibid, p.11.

(11) Ibid, p.11

(12) Ibid, p.10,12.

(13) Ibid, p.43.

(14) Ibid, p.50.

(15) Ibid, p.10.

(16) Ibid, p.19.

(17) Heidegger, Nietzsche, GA. Bd.50, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann 1990. p.6.

(18) Heidegger, Metafizik Nedir? , p.18.

(19) Heidegger, Beitrage zur Philosophie ( Vom Ereignis ), GA. Bd. 65, Frankfurt am Main:Vittorio Klostermann, 1989, p.296.

(20) Ibid, p.297.

(21) Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Antichrist, 3, Werke in drei Banden, Hrsg. von Karl Schlechta Wissenschaftliche Buchgeselschaft, Darmstadt,1994.

(22) Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, Warum Ich Ein Schicksal Bin, 5, op. cit.

(23) Ýoanna Kuçuradi, Nietzsche ve Ýnsan, Türkiye Felsefe Kurumu, Ankara, 1995, p.75.

(24) Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Vorrede, 3. op. cit.

(25) Richard Wisser, "Martin Heideggers vierfaltiges Fragen. Vor-laufiges anhand von 'Was ist Metaphysik?' ", in: Metafizik Nedir?, p.67.

(26) Ýoanna Kuçuradi, ibid, p.20-26.
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