Chapter Two


Ambiguity in the Essence of Philosophy (Metaphysics)


Our understanding of the title of the course and the specification of our task have thus been transformed, but also the fundamental comportment in which we are to maintain ourselves in all discussions. To put it more clearly: whereas we previously knew nothing at all of a fundamental comportment of philosophizing and merely entertained the indifferent expectation of acquiring some knowledge, we now for the very first time have some idea that something like a fundamental comportment is demanded. At first we might think that fundamental concepts of metaphysics or fundamental features of linguistics all presuppose interest, yet that they ultimately presuppose merely an indifferent expectation of something that can be more or less penetratingly acquired as knowledge. We, however, are saying that it is not like this at all. It is essentially and necessarily a matter of a certain readiness. Confused and groping though this fundamental comportment may be and must at first remain—it has in this uncertainty precisely its specific vitality and strength, which are needed here if we are to understand anything at all. If we fail to summon up enthusiasm for the adventure of human existence, an appetite for the entirely enigmatic nature and fullness of Dasein and of things, an independence from schools of thought and learned opinions, and yet in all this a deep desire to learn and to listen, then our years at university—however much knowledge we amass—are an inner loss. Not only that, but the years and times to come will then assume a tortuous and tedious course that will in the end become a smug contentment. This alone we understand: there is a different kind of attentiveness demanded here than when taking note of research results or of a scientific proof and memorizing them, or rather, merely accumulating them in the great box of our memory. And yet the extrinsic arrangement of everything is the same: lecture theatre, lectern, lecturer, listeners, except that there it is about mathematics, there about Greek tragedy, and here about philosophy. If, however, philosophy is something totally different from science, and yet the exterior form of science still remains, then philosophy hides itself so to speak, it does not appear directly. What is more, it presents itself as something which it is not at all. This is neither simply a whim of philosophy, nor a fault, but belongs to the positive essence of metaphysics. What does? Ambiguity. Our preliminary appraisal of philosophy is incomplete until we have provided some indication of this ambiguity which is a positive characteristic of the essence of metaphysics and of philosophy.

With regard to the essential ambiguity of metaphysics we shall discuss three things: [1.] The ambiguity in philosophizing in general; [2.] The ambiguity in


Martin Heidegger (GA 29/30) The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics

GA 29/30