Monday, April 25, 2005

Martin Heidegger, "What is Metaphysics?" Part 3d

III. The Response to the Question

In classical metaphysics, the origins, legitimacy, and limits of Being are as little discussed as the nothing itself. Yet, Christian metaphysics (Heidegger was trained in and admired scholastic theology) confesses a nothing that is a complete absence of beings apart from God. Indeed, because this is so, the nothing designates the basic conception of beings; by the creative power of God, beings arrive ex nihilo. Unfortunately, Christian metaphysics do not go far enough (and there are questions about its absolute concept of God).

Therefore, we must go beyond classical metaphysics. The nothing is not the indeterminate opposite of beings, as classical metaphysics has claimed, but, rather, reveals itself as belonging to the Being of beings. As Hegel said, “pure Being and pure Nothing are the same.” Being and the nothing belong together because Being itself is essentially finite and reveals itself only in the transcendence of Da-sein which is held out into the nothing. Because the question of the nothing embraces the whole of metaphysics, it forces us to face the problem of the origin of negation - that is to question legitimacy of the rule of “logic” in metaphysics. The classic understanding of metaphysics, built upon the confession ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing, nothing comes), must become ex nihilo omne ens qua ens fit (from the nothing all beings as beings come to be). Only in the nothing of Da-sein do beings as a whole, in accord with their most proper possibility — that is, in a finite way — come to themselves.

Returning then to our opening comments. Science dictates our modern understanding of existence. Yet, in raising the question of the nothing, we have put this definition of our existence (and with it Science itself) in question. It is plain now that scientific assertions about existence make sense only because being holds itself out into the nothing. The beings which are the object of scientific investigation are only accessible because the nothing is manifest; Science rests on a metaphysical foundation.

Therefore, Science needs to do a double-take. The nothing can no longer be dismissed. Instead, science needs to return to its essential task, which is not to amass and classify bits of knowledge but to disclose in ever-renewed fashion the entire region of truth in nature and history.

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