d) On the proper approach to the
question of the human essence
Quite schematically, we can say that we are asking about man. This is the guiding question that we must pose in all our reflections, the question of historical man. In asking this question, we must ask in the correct way. This—asking in the correct way—is the task of the philosophy of the future. This asking is the fundamental happening, philosophizing.
Now, if we ask about man, we see that this question has, up to now, always been posed in the form: what is man? In this form of the question there already lies a quite definite advance decision. For in this, it has already been decided that man is something constituted in such and such a way, to which this and that component belongs. One takes man as an entity that is put together out of body, soul, and spirit. Each of these components can then be considered individually in definite forms of questioning. Biology asks about the body of man, plants, and animals; psychology asks about the soul; ethics asks about the human spirit. Everything can be summed up in an anthropology.
All these disciplines have accumulated a tremendous amount of information about man. Nevertheless, they are not in a position to answer the question of man, because they do not even ask this question anymore.
The authentic revolution in the question must be that the question as a question must already be posed in a different way. We do not ask, “What is man?” but “Who is man?”
With this question, we establish a direction of questioning that is different in principle. With this, it is posited that man is a self, a being that is not indifferent to its own mode and possibility of Being; instead, its Being is that which is an issue for this being in its own Being.
Man is a self, and not a living thing with some spiritual endowments, but a being that in advance decides about its own Being, in this or that way. This is a quite different fundamental position, based on man’s possibility and necessity of Being.
Only because man is a self can he be an I and a you and a we. Being a self is not a consequence of being an I. This self-character of man is at the same time the ground for the fact that he has his history.
I say that the question of man must be revolutionized. Historicity is a fundamental moment of his Being. This demands a completely new relationship of man to his history and to the question of his Being.
Terminologically, I have designated this distinctive characteristic of man with the word “care”—not as the anxious fussing of some neurotic, but this fundamentally human way of Being, on the basis of which there are such things as resoluteness, readiness for service, struggle,