LETTER ON "HUMANISM"

being on the basis of animalitas and does not think in the direction of his humanitas.

Metaphysics closes itself to the simple essential fact that the human being essentially occurs in his essence only where he is claimed by being. Only from that claim "has" he found that wherein his essence dwells. Only from this dwelling does he "have" "language" as the home that preserves the ecstatic for his essence. Such standing in the clearing of being I call the ek-sistence of human beings. This way of being is proper only to the human being. Ek-sistence so understood is not only the ground of the possibility of reason, ratio, but is also that in which the essence of the human being preserves the source that determines him.

Ek-sistence can be said only of the essence of the human being, that is, only of the human way "to be." For as far as our experience shows, only the human being is admitted to the destiny of ek-sistence. Therefore ek-sistence can also never be thought of as a specific kind of living creature among others — granted that the human being is destined to think the essence of his being and not merely to give accounts of the nature and history of his constitution and activities. Thus even what we attribute to the human being as animalitas on the basis of the comparison with "beasts" is itself grounded in the essence of ek-sistence. The human body is something essentially [156 {GA 9 324}] other than an animal organism. Nor is the error of biologism overcome by adjoining a soul to the human body, a mind to the soul, and the existentiell to the mind, and then louder than before singing the praises of the mind — only to let everything relapse into "life-experience," with a warning that thinking by its inflexible concepts disrupts the flow of life and that thought of being distorts existence. The fact that physiology and physiological chemistry can scientifically investigate the human being as an organism is no proof that in this "organic" thing, that is, in the body scientifically explained, the essence of the human being consists. That has as little validity as the notion that the essence of nature has been discovered in atomic energy. It could even be that nature, in the face it turns toward the human being's technical mastery, is simply concealing its essence. just as little as the essence of the human being consists in being an animal organism can this insufficient definition of the essence of the human being be overcome or offset by outfitting the human being with an immortal soul, the power of reason, or the character of a person. In each instance its essence is passed over, and passed over on the basis of the same metaphysical projection.

What the human being is — or, as it is called in the traditional language of metaphysics, the "essence" of the human being — lies in his ek-sistence.


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Pathmarks