Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics [386-87]

struggle with its disinhibiting ring. Through its belonging to the species, the encirclement of the individual animal is not merely extended further than it would be if the animal were simply individuated, but the species as such is thereby better protected and better equipped in relation to its environment. What sort of history then does the species possess and what sort o f history does the animal realm as a whole possess? Can we and should we speak of history at all where the being of the animal is concerned? If not, then how are we to determine this motility? You can see that one question gives rise to others, that one question is more essential than another, that each question is poorer with respect to its answer than the next. If we now think back from the domain of these essential questions and consider concrete biological research today, then we can see how everything is beginning to move here too, albeit hesitantly enough. It is not only the reliability and the import of the celebrated and notorious concept of 'development' which has become questionable, but we now have to confront quite new phenomena like those revealed above all through the investigations of Spemann, which have set the problem of the particular kind of occurrence involved in the organization of the organism upon a more comprehensive and more profoundly conceived basis.

In our task of determining the essence of the organism we deliberately avoided the question concerning the motile character of the living being as such. This question is not an arbitrary one and cannot possibly be dealt with by subsequently trying to insert it into the analysis as it were, for it is intimately bound up with the question concerning the essence of life. That this is the case can be seen if we consider something which belongs to the innermost essence of life, namely what we call death. The touchstone for the appropriateness and originary character of every question concerning the essence of life lies in whether or not this question has adequately grasped the problem of death and whether or not it is able to take it up into its own question concerning the essence of life in the correct way, and vice versa. Of course it would be just as foolish to try and explain life from death as it would be to try and explain death from life. Nevertheless, on the basis of its apparent negativity as the annihilation of life, death does initially possess the methodological function of revealing the apparent positivity in the problem of life. Just as every loss first really allows us to recognize and understand the value of something we possessed before, so too it is precisely death that illuminates the essence of life. Yet even if we ignore the question of whether death is simply or primarily something negative, death is still something which is intimately bound up with the motility of life. And the problem of the motility of life has to be unfolded in relation to death, although not death alone. The question concerning the essence of life in relation to the question concerning the essence of death is just as essential as the question concerning the essence of life in relation to the essence of the organism.

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