LETTER ON "HUMANISM"


Surely the questions raised in your letter would have been better answered in direct conversation. In written form thinking easily loses its flexibility. But in writing it is difficult above all to retain the multidimensionality of the realm peculiar to thinking. The rigor of thinking,a in contrast to that of the sciences, does not consist merely in an artificial, that is, technical-theoretical exactness of concepts. It lies in the fact that saying remains purely in the element of the truth of2 being and lets the simplicity of its manifold dimensions rule. On the other hand, written composition exerts a wholesome pressure toward deliberate linguistic formulation. Today I would like to grapple with only one of your questions. Perhaps its discussion will also shed some light on the others.

You ask: "Comment redonner un sens au mot 'Humanisme'?" [How can we restore meaning to the word "humanism"?) This question proceeds from your intention to retain the word "humanism." I wonder whether that is necessary. Or is the damage caused by all such terms still not sufficiently obvious? True, "-isms" have for a long time now been suspect. But the market of public opinion continually demands new ones. We are always prepared to supply the demand. Even such names as "logic," "ethics," and "physics" begin to flourish only when originary thinking comes to an end. During the time of their greatness the Greeks thought without such headings. They did not even call thinking "philosophy." Thinking comes to an end when it slips out of its element. The element is what enables thinking to be a thinking. The element is what properly enables: it is the enabling [das Vermögen]. It embraces thinking and so brings it into its essence. [148 {GA 9 315}] Said plainly, thinking is the thinking of being. The genitive says something twofold. Thinking is of being inasmuch as thinking, propriatedb by being, belongs to being. At the same time thinking is of being insofar as thinking, belonging to being, listens to being. As the belonging to being that listens, thinking is what it is according to its essential origin. Thinking is — this says: Being has embraced its essence in a destinal manner in each case. To embrace a "thing" or a "person" in their essence means to love them, to favor them. Thought in a more original way such favoring means the bestowal of their essence as a gift. Such favoring [Mögen] is the proper essence of enabling [Vermögen], which not only can achieve this or that but also can let something essentially unfold in its provenance, that is, let it be. It is on the "strength" of such enabling by favoring that something is properly able


a First edition, 1949: "Thinking" already conceived here as thinking of the truth of being.

b First edition, 1949: Only a pointer in the language of metaphysics. For "Ereignis," "event of appropriation," has been the guiding word of my thinking since 1936.


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Pathmarks