LETTER ON "HUMANISM"


But if one understands humanism in general as a concern that the human being become free for his humanity and find his worth in it, then humanism differs according to one's conception of the "freedom" and "nature" of the human being. So too are there various paths toward the realization of such conceptions. The humanism of Marx does not need to return to antiquity any more than the humanism that Sartre conceives existentialism to be. In this broad sense Christianity too is a humanism, in that according to its teaching everything depends on human salvation (salus aeterna); the history of the [153 {GA 9 321}] human being appears in the context of the history of redemption. However different these forms of humanism may be in purpose and in principle, in the mode and means of their respective realizations, and in the form of their teaching, they nonetheless all agree in this, that the humanitas of homo humanus is determined with regard to an already established interpretation of nature, history, world, and the ground of the world, that is, of beings as a whole.

Every humanism is either grounded in a metaphysics or is itself made to be the ground of one. Every determination of the essence of the human being that already presupposes an interpretation of beings without asking about the truth of being, whether knowingly or not, is metaphysical. The result is that what is peculiar to all metaphysics, specifically with respect to the way the essence of the human being is determined, is that it is "humanistic." Accordingly, every humanism remains metaphysical. In defining the humanity of the human being, humanism not only does not ask about the relation of beinga to the essence of the human being; because of its metaphysical origin humanism even impedes the question by neither recognizing nor understanding it. On the contrary, the necessity and proper form of the question concerning the truth of being, forgottenb in and through metaphysics, can come to light only if the question "What is metaphysics?" is posed in the midst of metaphysics' domination. Indeed, every inquiry into "being," even the one into the truth of being, must at first introduce its inquiry as a "metaphysical" one.

The first humanism, Roman humanism, and every kind that has emerged from that time to the present, has presupposed the most universal "essence" of the human being to be obvious. The human being is considered to be an animal rationale. This definition is not simply the Latin translation of


a First edition, 1949: "Being" and "being itself" at once enter the isolation of the Absolute through this way of saying things. Yet so long as the event of appropriation is held back, this way of saying things is unavoidable.

b Plato's Doctrine of Truth, first edition, 1947: But this "forgetting" is to be thought starting from Ἀλήθεια in terms of the event of appropriation.


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Pathmarks